His Future’s so Bright

FullSizeRender (1)When someone changes your life you want to do everything you can to repay them.  Sometimes you just have to settle for paying it forward.  This is the case of Zach Walters of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.  Walters, a former professional boxer, received the gym from his previous coach, Chuck Horton.  The two made a plan for the gym that included Jack O’Brien and Bob “Bing Bang” Pritz, two coaches with deep ties to Walters.

When “Jungle Boy” Walters was boxing, O’Brien made some minor tweaks to his technique that lead to major improvements in the ring.  Outside the ring his impact was felt just as strong, as it was on most boxers with whom he was involved.  O’Brien’s passing in September of 2015 rocked the gym.  Knowing there was no way they ever could have repaid him for all he did over the years, they instead vowed to keep his legacy going.

And that is exactly what is happening.

Walters, Horton, and Bing Bang are working with recently added coach Mike Bockovich to continue in O’Brien’s spirit.  They’re providing a safe and chemical-free environment in which young people can learn and train in the “sweet science”.  The coaches aren’t in it for the money.  They certainly aren’t in it for the fame.

So why do they do it?

It’s the never-ending spirit of giving back, paying it forward.  When someone touches your life so deeply, you want to do good to pass that along in some way, shape, or form.  For the guys at Jungle Boy Boxing, it’s teaching these young people how to deal with set-backs in a positive manner and how to set goals to be successful in life.  Not what most people picture happening in a boxing environment.

But these aren’t just regular guys.  They’re very special people.  They’ve had some tough times and they had someone reach out and help them.  They’ve come through to the other side, and now it’s time to be the example, the role model.  

Bing Bang says it’s about getting kids off the streets and keeping them off.  When he pulls a kid out of trouble and they thank him, that feeling of gratitude is “what it’s all about”.  Walters agrees.  By having the boxers sign the chemical-free pledge, he’s making them accountable not just to the coaches, but also to the other youth.  They watch each other and hold each other accountable.  It is a great group dynamic.  And Walters knows firsthand that it takes focus and drive to get through the tough times.

Jack O’Brien gave selflessly of his time and of himself.  Walters wants to carry on this tradition.  Those are big shoes to fill.  But he’s got a few decades left to do it.

Carry on, Zach, carry on indeed.

Author: Roxanne Wilmes


Roxanne is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and avid boxing fan. She first met Chuck Horton when she ran his wife’s campaign for MN House of Representatives. Past experiences have led her to be a strong advocate for anti-bullying and substance abuse issues. You can reach her at roxannewilmes@gmail.com or @rocketwilmes on Twitter.