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Even though they are young and have been boxing for less than a year, brothers Jabohir and Hyotbek Sodikov can already point to their progress since arriving at Knockout Sports Club.

Jabohir, 8, touts his ability to do 20 sit-ups and push-ups — up from three. Hyotbek, 10, is proud of his overall increased conditioning.

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“My muscles are growing,” Hyotbek says proudly at the end of a recent practice. “And I can do more push-ups and I’m faster.”

The brothers are part of a dedicated group of 20 youths ages 5 to 12 who have found a home in Bel Air’s new boxing and kickboxing gym.

Youths account for almost half of the regulars at the 2,300-square-foot gym since it opened in January, according to Jonathan Gainey, owner of the Delaware-based Knockout Sports Club LLC, which owns similar gyms throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Mila Robinson, 7, center, works out with instructor Eric Stamper, left, as Aubry Wands, 12, from right, and Callie Cordwell, 5, wait for their turns at Knockout Sports Club in Bel Air. The gym, opened since January, has attracted a sizable youth boxing following.
Mila Robinson, 7, center, works out with instructor Eric Stamper, left, as Aubry Wands, 12, from right, and Callie Cordwell, 5, wait for their turns at Knockout Sports Club in Bel Air. The gym, opened since January, has attracted a sizable youth boxing following. (Kenneth K. Lam)

“We’re offering something a little different and traditional,” Gainey says. “We’re going to progress the kids differently. We want them to be able to experience boxing and its conditioning and to apply it in the ring. A lot of kids suffer from self-confidence and bullying. Boxing is a great way to counter that.”

Hyotbek says he wasn’t suffering from a lack of self-esteem before entering the program.

“I was already confident,” he says firmly. “I just want to train. I don’t want to be a professional. I just want to train to be stronger.”

Their instructor, Brandon Fisher, who owns the Bel Air franchise, has been impressed with the duo from Bel Air.

“The fundamentals they have down pat. They are way past that point,” he says. “They are able to do longer combinations and we’re preparing them to spar if their parents are OK with that. They have progressed really well.”

Knockout Sports Club is a rectangular space with white-hued walls, hardwood floors and sleek, black weighted punching bags, and black and blue tear-dropped bags for practicing uppercuts and other techniques. To the right of the entrance are assorted equipment, kettle bells and dumbbells. In the back is an 18 foot-by-18 foot square boxing ring with the business’ logo in the middle of the black zebra mat.

Classes for youths typically consist of conditioning and technique. In addition to sit-ups, push-ups and lifting weights, students jump rope and work with the weighted punching bags to perfect their punching form. The classes do not include sparring, which requires the permission of parents.

Betsy Dean, whose 10-year-old son Jonah has taken classes at the gym since it opened, says she would consider allowing her son to spar in the future.

“Right now he doesn’t do any boxing,” she explains. “It makes me nervous. But I’d be open to exploring that option in the future.”

Mitchell Nguyen, 12, left, works out with Hyotbek Sodikov, 10, at Knockout Sports Club in Bel Air.
Mitchell Nguyen, 12, left, works out with Hyotbek Sodikov, 10, at Knockout Sports Club in Bel Air. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Dean says she would recommend the classes to other children.

“I definitely say give it a try,” she says. “It’s so convenient for us. ... Jonah really enjoys it.”

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Gainey realizes that all of the children learn at different levels so his instructors look for ways to work with all levels.

“Instructors have a lot of energy and we teach them multiple ways,” he says. “It’s all about the effectiveness.”

Usually instructors will see a difference in the youths in about two weeks.

“Some kids are naturals,” he says. “Other kids it takes a little bit of time. We can pull it out of them.”

Fisher adds: “It takes a little bit of time. They are just quiet and then they open up.”

Knockout Sports Club owner Brandon Fisher, center, demonstrates a workout for Al Robinson, left, and Kelly Cordwell at the gym, which opened in January.
Knockout Sports Club owner Brandon Fisher, center, demonstrates a workout for Al Robinson, left, and Kelly Cordwell at the gym, which opened in January. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Dean has noticed positive changes in Jonah since he began taking classes at the gym in January.

“When he first did it, he lost 7 pounds,” she recalls. “It has given him some extra confidence.”

Dean says her son jumps at the chance to go to the class.

“He really loves it. He tries to go when he’s available. He enjoys the instructor,” she says. “He enjoys the other kids. Ninety-five percent of the time he comes out of there sweating and bright red.”

The gym offers packages including a year membership for $129 a month that includes three classes a week and a six-month membership for $450 that includes 25 classes. The gym also has an introductory offer where the first class is free.

Fisher says his gym bucks the stereotypical perception of a boxing gym.

“Some of them are run-down,” he acknowledges. “When you walk into our gym, it’s comforting. There’s music. Nice flooring. We’re trying to change the way that people view boxing and kickboxing. When people come in they are shocked with the way it looks.

“People can come in and have fun and learn,” Fisher says. “That’s why it’s been a big hit so far.”

Knockout Boxing and Fitness

223 Brierhill Drive (Greenbrier Shopping Center), Bel Air. 443-819-3024. knockoutboxingde.com

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