Last updated: August 23. 2013 4:33PM - 78 Views

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Tucked away behind two buildings in the rear of a parking lot is a small, grayish-brown brick building.

There are no markings or sign above a semi-hidden doorway.

Inside a short, narrow dark hallway, you take a left.

Out of nowhere appears a gym, which is more like a big garage with punching bags and a ring in the middle. A powerful heat blower roars through the pop-pop-pop of youngsters hitting punching bags.

This is the home of the South Side Spartans Boxing Club and 13-year-old Akeliante McClellan.

It’s here that McClellan has learned to box from trainer/coach/proprietor Lonnie Rettig.

McClellan, who attends West Middle School, has had a tough few weeks, including being moved out of his home after his house sustained smoke damage from a grease fire.

But through it all, McClellan kept boxing.

“I like punching the bag and it lets my take out my anger and aggression,” he said with a big smile.

Last week McClellan defeated Kentucky’s Shaden White on a unanimous decision to win the 125-pound intermediate (12-13 age group) division in the Silver Gloves regional championship.

He advances to the Silver Gloves national championships Feb. 2-5 at Independence, Mo.

McClellan first came to the South Side Spartans just over two years ago.

“His mom brought him up here,” Rettig said. “He was getting in a lot of fights and his mom didn’t know what to do with him. He was loud and obnoxious and a lot of it was a broken family. Now he lives with his grandparents. ... He’s had a tough way to go.

“He needed something that could keep him structured and focused. Boxing is it. Once he realized what he could do with boxing, he kept going with it.”

McClellan lost his first fight.

“It was in Cincinnati and I was scared,” McClellan said. “The boy had more experience than me. As soon as I got in the ring, he hit me in the stomach and the coach threw the towel in. ... After that, my coach told me to train harder and next time I could get him.

“Then in my second fight (at Toledo), I won and got a big trophy and it’s still in my room right now. It felt good.”

McClellan was hooked.

His record stands at 9-5, but most of his losses came early.

“He’s come a long way,” Rettig said. “As soon as he started boxing, we knew we had something.”

McClellan won the state Silver Gloves crown on a split decision in Cleveland a few weeks ago.

He had to overcome the fact his family was living at the Travel Lodge after a fire swept through the kitchen early one morning.

“I woke up and smelled the stuff (grease burning in the kitchen) and ran next door. The firefighters came and put it out,” McClellan said.

Last week he won two matches for the regional championship.

“He came off the state with a hand injury,” Rettig said. “He jammed his (right) thumb. We worked through that.”

The regional championship match against White came down to the third and final one-minute round.

“I told him, ‘This is for your grandpa. Make your grandpa proud,’’’ Rettig said. ... “He dominated the third round.”

McClellan added, “Ever since I was little, my grandpa (Edward) has been there,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”

McClellan recently moved back at home with his grandparents. He said he was lucky he didn’t lose a lot in the fire.

“People cleaned it and painted the walls and it’s all good now,” he said. “It smelled real bad for a while, but we didn’t lose our clothes.”

Next up, providing Rettig can raise close to $1,000 for the trip, is the nationals in Missouri. He’ll be one of eight in his age group.

“I’m so happy because I get to get on a plane,” McClellan said. “I’ve wanted to get on a plane since I was a kid.”

To help sponsor McClellan’s flight to the Silver Gloves nationals in Missouri, call Rettig at 419-234-0120.

Tom Usher: McClellan battles long odds
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