Boxing an outlet for young man, his family touched by violence: “I wanted to be the one to break that cycle”

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MILWAUKEE -- As of December 18th, there have been 134 homicides in Milwaukee in 2016 -- but those numbers aren't just statistics for a young boxer. They're personal. He's fighting for his future -- and a fallen brother.

"It's all about the underdog. It's all about the guy that everyone says can't win," Ernie Haines said.

On any given day, in a cramped, sweaty gym in the basement of the King Center there's a steady rhythm that cuts through the air -- the staccato of quick jabs -- the powerful thud of hands on a heavy bag, and the sharp breaths.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

It's what it sounds like to push things to the limit.

"Watching him win. That`s the excitement about it," Haines said.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

21-year-old Akeem Black doesn't say a word when he's busy working his way through another training session. He lets his fists do the talking.

"He just keeps coming at you like a Terminator. I mean, you hit him and he just keeps coming," Haines said.

On the rare occasions when he does open up, Black has quite the story to tell. It's one of perseverance, tragedy and trying to break a cycle of violence with his fists.

"For me, I feel like it`s the only path -- so that`s why I do what I do," Black said.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

As the youngest of seven, Black's could've been led in any number of directions. Some of his older brothers spent time in jail and his father is currently in prison.

"Watching my brothers and my father go to jail, I didn`t want to be in those type of situations because that`ll mess up your whole life," Black said.

But still, Black had his own run-in with the law when he was 16, for what he calls "hanging with the wrong crowd."

"They was robbing somebody with a BB gun, and the police caught us. I was party to a crime," Black said.

Black was charged with a misdemeanor, which didn't end up on his permanent record. He spent a month in a detention center and another three at St. Charles Youth and Family Services.

"It was a big wake-up call because I hated it. I didn`t have no freedom," Black said.

Ernie Haines

Ernie Haines

What he did have, though, was a mentor who supported his interest in boxing. No longer behind bars, Black chose the confines of a ring instead -- eventually finding his way to Haines and the Al Moreland Boxing Club.

"Nobody can make you lose but yourself -- so as long as you train hard, then you shouldn`t be able to lose," Black said.

"He`s pretty fast. Like, `Man, is that really my son doing that?'" Black's mother, Karen Ewing said.

Black, now a young father of two, rose quickly through the amateur boxing ranks and won his first two professional bouts earlier this year. He is 154 pounds of coiled muscle -- always ready to strike.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

"He`s unpredictable. But when he does fire a shot, it`s accurate. It`s right on the money," Haines said.

"No matter how hard you hit me, I`m a just come back and hit you with something harder," Black said.

But at the end of August, Black was hit with a blow you can't dodge.

"And I didn`t think it was real until I got down there -- and then I see my mom and my auntie and all of them crying," Black said.

On August 27th, Black's brother, 30-year-old Antonio Ewing was murdered in Milwaukee near Richards and Wright.

Akeem Black and Antonio Ewing

Akeem Black and Antonio Ewing

"Nobody knows the real reason why he got killed. It was just over, it was nonsense. It was pointless," Black said.

Antonio Ewing was one of 24 homicides recorded in Milwaukee in August alone -- the city's deadliest month in 25 years.

To this day, the killer has yet to be found.

Antonio Ewing

"It hurt everybody because we never had a homicide in our family. Especially by it being him, because he never did nothing to nobody," Black said.

"I`m still grieving. I`m still grieving. I`m still crying every other day," Karen Ewing said.

Black said he was lost, but once again, boxing was there for him at a critical moment.

"We just sat in silence for maybe 30, 40 minutes. And then he opened up a little bit, and we talked," Haines said.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

"If I think about him, if I think about the guy that did it, then that will let out the anger on the person that I`m fighting," Black said.

But what Black won't do is let that anger consume him.

"If I was to think about doing something bad, I could mess up my whole future -- and it could be over for boxing," Black said.

Instead, that fury has turned into fuel that gets him through the long workouts and the rounds of punishment between the ropes to carry his family to what he hopes will be a better life for all of them.

Akeem Black

Akeem Black

"I wanted to be the one to break that cycle, because I`m still young -- and I found a passion that I can be able to do it with," Black said.

The trials have continued for Black since FOX6's interview with him. He was scheduled to fight for the first time since his brother's death on Saturday night, December 17th, but was robbed at gunpoint while stopped at a gas station last weekend.

The assailants broke his nose in the process, so he had to postpone his next bout until February.


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