Published: Sunday, 12 April 2015 11:45
Written by Minnie Larry
It’s a mad scramble to get busy at the very mention of his name. “Barry’s here!” sends boxing prospects to their posts, when a Headbangers Gym employee shouts the famed trainer’s arrival. What kind of person can scare young men and women into submission, by the mere introduction of his presence? Once Mr. Hunter walks in, he flashes a warm smile, and immediately begins shaking hands with everyone he comes in contact with. There’s something about him though, a story behind his resolute stance that commands respect.
Hunter possesses a street smart and academic richness that makes him easily connect to the businessman, and politician as well as the inner city. A glimpse into his childhood may answer some of the mystery behind this force, and offer insight as to why he has devoted his life to helping troubled youth. Opposite of the cities grandeur, Mr. Hunter grew up on the side of town that shines its most illuminating essence, on the contradiction of the American Dream. Growing up in the ‘Districts’ projects, introduced him to a side of manhood so frequently shunned by popular ideals. The neighborhood men would leave a profound effect on the young man, who would become one of boxing’s most respected trainers. “In the projects, I was raised by pimps; they could be thugs, pimps, pushers, killers, but at the end of the day they had a certain code they all lived by and they taught me that code, and that’s the same code I taught these kids here.”
While the “The Code” stems from the unlikeliest of childhood mentors, the simple phrase is palpable throughout the gym. The young men and women greet every visitor with respect. The teens and young adults shake hands; look you square in the eyes, and meet guest with a “sir” or “ma’am”. This type of youthful candor is not foreign to the members here; it’s a way of life. “Self-preservation, self-respect, love of God, love of self, then love everything else. I teach the kids to respect themselves first because if you don’t respect yourself, how are you going respect anyone else?”
“Barry don’t play that!” is often echoed around the club. His most noted fighter, Lamont Peterson, says “as boxers, Barry wants us to leave our problems at the door.” Once you enter Headbangers Gym, ego, selfishness, self-pity, and any other distraction is separated from the individual. The prospects know that here, whatever burdens shackle them, can be released if only for a training session.
In a sport, where accolades are sought out, Hunter veers away from the typical attention seeking celebrity type. His motto is simple; the entire team shines as a unit. “This is never about me, it’s about all of us. I trained so many people that you don’t know, because I do not look for the credit.”
While making his rounds, Mr. Hunter stops in his tracks, noticing one of his fighter’s mishaps while sparring. He methodically walks over summoning the teen to come and speak with him. While instructing the young man on the importance of “ring etiquette” he emphasizes tactics and technique, incorporating the grim reality, of prospects not taking the sport seriously. The warmth from his initial introduction, now gone, as he explains to the young man, how losing site of boxing fundamentals, whilst in the midst of battle, can lead to one dying inside the ropes. Before long, most of the members gather encircling him, as they too want the lifesaving information as well.
Hunter never anticipated coming into contact with the Peterson brothers, but after meeting them, his calling in life became clear. Before leaving to New York, to attend the Fashion Institute (FIT), he visits a friend’s gym, and his life was forever changed.
“When you hear these things, and these are young people who don’t have a choice in the matter (because they’re kids), what do you do? “Do you turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to it, or do you get up and do something about it. What we gotta realize is that you can do that, but it will come back and affect you and yours in a negative way, and I didn’t want that to happen.”
The Peterson brothers have become household names in boxing under Hunter’s tutelage. While he may shy away from speaking about the role he has played in the young men’s lives, the reality is, if not for his selflessness, and faith, the Peterson’s story could’ve ended up altogether different. “We will sit around and cry and moan and complain about what we see on the news and how foul it is but nobody steps up. They are too few and we need a lot more because this is a war.” While trying to extract information about the growing pains of raising two teens in addition to his already settled family, Hunter takes a deep breath, then coolly speaks of his better half.
If we hold what President Abraham Lincoln said to be true, that “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” Then, the woman standing beside him is his strength, lending her arm to steady him.
It’s often said that beside every great man, is an equally great woman. This is especially true when he utters the very critical role Mrs. Cologne Hunter plays. Hunter sits in awe of his wife’s commitment and love toward the brothers. While he may not have had a well thought out plan of caring for them, his wife provided the landscape for making it happen. Those times when the boys would go without clothing, or electricity in the home, Mrs. Hunter would step in, ensuring their basic needs were met. The “team” theme is back, front and center. For the Petersons, the small village that helped groom them into the men they are today started with a young couple who had four children of their own, who didn’t have a well-established financial plan for helping anyone, Yet, the pair in spite of their circumstances made the boys a part of their family, made them their sons.
“She is their surrogate, times where they were in a situation…rumors that they may have to go back to foster care, we (decided) we cannot let this happen, and she was all aboard. “it wasn’t something that you plan or think out, I just saw the need, not knowing really what I was getting into, and all of what it entailed. We have our own kids 2 boys and 2 girls…on my quest (it) took away from them. I was trying to save the world and lost sight of priorities… in all of that, my wife was holding things down at home”
Hunter wants to reach as many disadvantage kids as he can before “hellfire gets them”. The war he speaks of is not being fought abroad, but it’s the domestic one, glaring each American in the face. The war we are losing with regard to our Nation’s youth. Mr. Hunter doesn’t believe waiting until at risk children are entangled in the system before one can step in to make a positive difference.
Lamont (Havoc) Peterson faces Danny (Swift) Garcia Saturday Night, at the Barclay Center in New York. In what will be his highest profile fight on NBC, as part of the Premier Boxing Championship series. With respect to the bout, Barry believes, “Lamont is a more versatile fighter than Danny Garcia. Lamont has learned much since his loss to Lucas Matthysse. In the Matthysse defeat, Lamont abandoned his boxing mechanics once he was hit in the back of the head. In this bout, Lamont will not panic but will remain focused pulling out the victory.
And with this impending fight, the journey continues.
While you may not have the ability to suit up the gloves, you do have the ability to get in the ring and help; to ensure generations of capable athletes continue to attend the gym, free of charge, donations are graciously accepted.
Address: 100 Joliet Street SW Washington DC 20032
Phone Number: 800-745-3000