Legendary boxer Archie Moore, one of San Diego’s all-time top athletes, left quite a legacy. More than 16 years after his death, he remains the longest-reigning Light Heavyweight world champion of all time.
Moore lives on in another way: Through his prized creation, the Any Body Can Youth Foundation. Here are four things to know about this extraordinary organization devoted to turning around the lives of San Diego’s inner-city kids:
1. Archie Moore Understood Urban Life
Archie Moore learned first-hand about the temptations facing kids in urban neighborhoods. He grew up in a St. Louis slum and spent almost two years in a reform school after being caught filching coins from a streetcar driver.
“I don’t say I enjoyed it, but I’m grateful for what it did for me,” he told New Yorker magazine in 1961. “It was a glorious thing in my life, because it forced me to get eight to 10 hours of sleep every night; it gave me an opportunity to have three hot meals a day; it gave me a lesson in discipline I would never have got at home.”
As an adult, Moore used his celebrity status to help kids avoid making the mistakes as him. He created the Any Body Can (then called Any Boy Can) program in 1957, the same year he met with President Dwight Eisenhower to discuss juvenile delinquency.
“He told him that U.S. was heading for a gang and drug epidemic, and if we go to prevention, we could save billions of dollar and millions of lives,” recalls Moore’s son Billy, who now runs the ABC Youth Foundation.
2. Boxing Promotes Discipline and Dignity
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The ABC Youth Foundation will be holding its “Bridging-the-Gap” summer break enrichment program the entire month of July for youth between 5th and 11th grades. The purpose is to keep the lives of its youth members enriched with art, culture and athletics while they take a break from their academics. You may also contact Tom Courtney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-778-0770.
This is where boxing comes in. Reflecting its founder’s priorities, the goal of boxing at ABC Youth Foundation is to build both mind and body through discipline and hard work.
On the physical front, “it makes a difference when they know they can defend themselves,” Moore said. That’s not all; boxing also gives kids a reason to come in from the streets.
“Instead of eating candy and hanging out with friends, they’re here learning how to throw punches, jump rope and bounce around in the gym,” says physician Dr. Robert Murad, an ABC board member and volunteer. “This teaches them to put aside their immediate needs for long-term gain. And it increases their self-esteem, making them much more courageous and able to say ‘no’ to people.”
3. Kids Do More than Box
Moore estimates that only about 40 percent of kids who visit ABC Youth Foundation actually box. Many others take advantage of its after-school programs and its library, computers, and free tutoring.
In the spring and summer, ABC’s “Bridging the Gap” programs bring dozens of kids together to boost their academic skills and offer lessons in subjects like art, chess, science, yoga and more. Participants also go on field trips to places like the San Diego Bay, the Old Globe Theatre, SeaWorld and the ballpark.
The goal is to build discipline and self-esteem to help kids cope with challenges of life in the inner city.
“If a kid lives on National Avenue, they’ve got to come across the zones of four youth gangs to get here on Market Street,” Moore said. “If you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re going to have a problem.”
4. ABC Isn’t All About Boys
Everyone can benefit from ABC Youth Foundation’s services.
“Girls are our best students,” Moore said. “We probably have as many girls as we do boys, and our best boxer is a girl.”
Moore says girls face plenty of threats these days, but the good news is that their challenges have “created something in them, that ability to fight if they have to.”
In the big picture, Moore says, “We teach our youngsters to step off in life with their best foot forward, without cowardice, but with courage and dignity.”
Learn more about ABC Youth Foundation’s sponsor, SDG&E.