NEWPORT - Justin Dube spends his days in a makeshift boxing gym even though he last fought in 2013.
The former boxer mentors around 20 young fighters about faith and discipline as the head of Resurrection Boxing Club.
"There (are) kids who aren't going to prison today because of this gym and this ministry," Dube said. “We teach the kids don’t quit. Don’t quit, keep going. Fight the good fight.
"That’s how the church and the boxing (work) together.”
Dube, who leads the group at the Youth Center behind the Newport Church of God, describes boxing as a lifestyle.
"You can’t just do it, you have to live it," Dube said. “Our ministry is about changing lives on purpose for a purpose.
Resurrection boxer Bryson Conard credits the club with turning his life around.
“Well, I was heading down the wrong path," Conard said. “I was thinking about doing some really bad things. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Just doing unsavory things you know.
"Angry, unstable, ready to blow at any time."
Conard says the older boxers in the gym and Dube served as the positive role models he needed to overcome his personal struggles.
“You’re able to do what you thought you never could before," Conrad said. "I never thought I could do what these boys are teaching me, but the Lord helped me out."
As for mixing violence and religion, Conard said the two make a better pair than one might believe.
“The only way I can say it is what these men are doing and help empower me and all these boys here," Conrad said. "It’s awesome.
“Every practice, coach will pray us in, pray us out. I’ve learned to always trust in the Lord. Never to give up and to just keep on fighting the good fight no matter what. I did not have can-do confidence. Now I do."
Dube says the program is able to run thanks to donations. Most of the boys do not own their own gloves and other equipment. However, he says what others put into the program only increases what his boxers get out of it.
“It gives them courage. It gives them character and it teaches them to not quit even when life gets tough, don’t quit," Dube said.
In March, most of the boxers are training for regional fights around East Tennessee and Kentucky.
The mixture of church and fighting, which brought together this unlikely family, also inspired Conard's message to someone who questions mixing God and boxing.
“I’ll be praying for you!" he said.
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