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The Good Fight

My Volunteer Experience with PD Fight Club at Juarez Boxing

Article by Thomas Stroud

Photography by Sam Evans, Rhythm Creative

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

“You gonna help out with the PD fight club today?” 

My normal “I have to get back to work” was moot. I was officially conscripted into service at Juarez Boxing with seniors battling Parkinson’s Disease on my day off.  

At noon, instructors Martin, Dany and Molly greeted all the incoming boxers. I said hello to a slight man with a shock of gray hair. His countenance had the long stare created by the “mask” of Parkinson’s. Bony fingers danced with tremors as we talked. After our exchange, he trundled over to the other boxers. 

A loose line formed for warmups. Stretching the brain came first. Martin pronounced the day’s “memory words” from a whiteboard at the front. The class repeated them back. 

Time to warm up the body next. Dany stepped up and demonstrated the first exercise. Then he yelled, “Thunder Punch!”  

The boxer known as Thunder Punch counted off 10 reps with the gusto of a drill sergeant. Other boxers counted with equal zeal when called to lead.

Then, the boxers gloved up. Some needed no assistance; others needed a quick tug of the glove and a wrap of Velcro. Failing fine motor skills were overcome through teamwork, with fellow boxers and volunteers helping those struggling. 

Workout stations challenged the boxers with pushups, speed bags, planks and mitts. I held mitts alongside Dany. The padded leather seemed heavier than usual; a weight of responsibility was attached to them. 

The first few boxers honestly surprised me with the force of their punches, and then my new friend stepped up. His slight frame belied a vicious cross and a mean hook that popped loudly and stung my mitts. Coaches shouted encouragement, and boxers fed off each other’s energy. Each fought their own fight, buoyed by teammates battling the same opponent. 

Five rounds, nine exercises of 30 seconds each, 15 seconds to move between stations. Over and over again, Ruthless Ruthie, Outlaw, and B.A. hammered my mitts as they repeated their memory words. My wrists ached with their fervor. 

One more trial awaited — two minutes of ferocity known as a “punch out.” Boxers picked a bag, punched and moved their feet. Fists flew, feet shuffled, and sweat poured. Finally, Martin ended the training with his trademark shout — “Beautiful!”
Next, boxers degloved and cooled down. Their limb rigidity was now overridden by the intense dopamine release of vigorous exercise. Like any great team after a win, they celebrated. Dany led the group in a mantra three times: “I say fight, you say back! Fight! Back! Fight! Back!”

Then, “PD Fight Club on three! One, two, three!” 


The man I greeted earlier emerged from the crowd and thanked me for volunteering. I thanked him for allowing me the privilege. We shook hands; his hand was sturdy. He walked out the door, waiving to a fellow boxer, palm raised strong and steady in a temporary respite from the tremor. It was a well-deserved reward for his hard work.  

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  • Coach Dany with a boxer
  • Thunder Punch
  • Thomas Stroud, left, with a boxer

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