4 min read

A Century of Sporting Excellence: Milwaukee Athletic Club’s Signature Boxing Night

A Century of Sporting Excellence: Milwaukee Athletic Club’s Signature Boxing Night

The Milwaukee Athletic Club proudly continues its over 100-year tradition of hosting the Annual Boxing Night on February 23rd. This year’s event is once again sold out thanks in part to sponsors like Palermo’s, Baird, Landmark Health, Kriete Group, Gallagher Insurance, J Jeffers, Interstate Parking and Saint Brady Vodka.

The event will be a celebration not only of the sport, but also to the Club’s longstanding commitment to community and youth development in boxing. Over its storied history, the event has donated well over $100,000 to regional boxing clubs, helping to develop young athletes and dedicated community members. This enduring legacy is a hallmark of the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s dedication to fostering sporting talent and community spirit.

The 2024 event will feature a collaboration with Crown Boxing Club and Ali Easley from East Lansing, alongside participation from Milwaukee’s United Community Center boxing club and Jared Bell from Milwaukee’s City Champs.

 

212A7666

Photo credit: Samer Ghani MAC Maker

Crown Boxing

Located in Lansing, Michigan, right off the campus of Michigan State University, Crown Boxing was established in 1976 and is one of the oldest boxing gyms in the Midwest. To further enhance the services offered at Crown, Ali Easley established the Help A Willing Kid (H.A.W.K.) Foundation in 1994 to uncover the potential in youth, providing both the tools to nurture their talents and opportunities needed to thrive.

Ali’s passion for boxing began when he was 11 at his first boxing gym in downtown Pittsburgh where he learned the importance of coach and athlete relationships. The lessons learned eventually led him to take over as head coach at Crown Boxing in 1998.

Both Ali and his wife Trisha teach in the Department of Education at Michigan State University. Ali is a faculty member in the Kinesiology department and Trisha holds a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counselor Education with expertise in neurodevelopmental disabilities and family counseling. Her work aligns seamlessly with the mission of Crown Boxing, which provides an array of support services to young individuals and their families, ranging from addressing fundamental needs like food and hygiene to offering assistance in job skills and tutoring and of course, boxing. Ali and Trisha both specialize in working with underprivileged and impoverished youth from the surrounding communities.

 


“For our kids, MAC Boxing Night is one of the highlights of their year.” 


 

“The kids embrace the opportunity to travel and stay in a hotel and compete at such a historic venue. The event connects our Members in multiple ways. Not only will team members come to compete, but members of our autism spectrum disorder (ASD) job skill training program design and print shirts every year for the event that we give away.  This event really allows participation on so many levels from our members.”

Crown will be bringing seven kids, ages 16-24 years old, to Milwaukee on February 23rd. “We’ll bring boxers to compete in the event as well as some new kids who we bring for the experience. We’ve gotten to know so many members of the MAC over the years, some who have become personal friends, and so many who are very supportive of our mission. Being able to connect with them and coming to the MAC is such a great experience for everyone.” 

212A7845

Photo credit: Samer Ghani MAC Maker

The United Community Center

For Angel Villarreal Sr. (68) and Angel Villarreal Jr. (46), their boxing family stretches beyond the two generations of father-son Villarreals at the United Community Center.  On a typical weeknight, there are about 50 people at the gym – every square inch is occupied by a moving body.  Each age group has their own time slot between 4-8 p.m., but nationally ranked amateurs, emerging professional boxers and kids just starting off all coexist. Just like a family, they lift each other up and the elders act as role models by showing up, staying committed and helping with skill development. 

Most members of the boxing gym pay a small monthly fee to train there. Funds raised from the MAC’s Boxing Night support travel to national tournaments that are otherwise cost-prohibitive to many of the boxers. 

 

“For a lot of these kids it’s about having a place to go after school to be a part of something and the sport is secondary” 

 

Local boxing legend Israel Acosta and Villareal Sr. were pioneers of the boxing program at the UCC in 1974. Now it has over 200 members and is ranked the third-highest gym in the country for national championships.

After moving from New York City to Milwaukee when he was 12, Villarreal Sr. started boxing when a friend from church introduced him to the sport. His first fight was when he was 14. 120 fights (with a 111-9 record) and three Golden Glove titles later, he stopped competing but stayed active in the sport as a coach and official. Boxing has taken him all over the world, including to two Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro (1996) and Tokyo (2021) as an official. 

Villarreal Jr.’s first fight was when he was 11. When he started boxing in 1989, Wisconsin State law required all competing boxers to be 17 years old. Villarreal Jr. had to travel to South Dakota to fight on a Native American Reservation since they are sovereign governments. After about five years of advocacy work, Villarreal Sr. and others from the UCC were able to have new legislation created and passed to allow children as young as 8 years old to compete.

Villarreal Jr. works full-time during the day at Marquette University’s Dental School as a sanitation specialist and still puts in 20 hours a week or more coaching and traveling with boxers to tournaments. Because he’s committed to growing the sport in Milwaukee, he recently formed and coaches the Marquette University Boxing club that he has incorporated into his UCC family.

212A7872

Photo credit: Samer Ghani MAC Maker

City Champs Foundation

The City Champs Foundation was founded by local business owner and MAC Member Jared Bell in 2017. Its mission is to open the door to martial arts training for underserved youth by offering free martial arts classes all over Milwaukee and surrounding areas.

City Champs has two permanent locations in Milwaukee that offer free, weekly martial arts classes for underserved youth. Additionally, it has partnerships with MPS, the Boys and Girls Club, 16th Street Community Health Centers and additional local organizations. City Champs teaches eight-week programs at partner locations and provides the gear, programming and trained coaches to ensure the kids have a positive experience.

Bell believes that the best, proven method to solve societal challenges is to instill knowledge and strong values in children – values like perseverance, achievement, confidence, respect, goal-setting and more that are all a part of martial arts training.  

City Champs has grown from hosting sporadic classes to helping over 2,000 kids in 2023. This incredible growth in six years was fueled almost exclusively from events like MAC Boxing Night. Bell uses boxing night (and events like it) as a platform to gain awareness for his cause. If not for the generosity of MAC Members, City Champs would not have grown into what it is today. See Bell participate in this year’s boxing night. 

Also at this year’s Boxing Night event, don’t miss the poignant tribute to  Senator Herb Kohl and Bill Kalmer, esteemed longtime Members of the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Their legacies will be celebrated as part of this signature MAC event.

A Night of Connection and the Spirit of Competition

1 min read

A Night of Connection and the Spirit of Competition

Thank you to all who joined us for our signature Boxing Night event. It was an evening packed with action, delectable plated dinners, and the making...

Read More
Pickleball Excitement Growing at the Milwaukee Athletic Club

Pickleball Excitement Growing at the Milwaukee Athletic Club

The MAC has a rich history of racket sports as a part of its athletic culture. Now, with the help and enthusiasm of new member Victor Gainor,...

Read More
Courtside Conversations to Corner Office: The MAC Legacy of PS Capital’s Pioneers

Courtside Conversations to Corner Office: The MAC Legacy of PS Capital’s Pioneers

In the bustling city of Milwaukee, where the chill of Lake Michigan is as familiar as the warmth of its community, the Milwaukee Athletic Club (MAC)...

Read More