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Two young boxers bring home national titles to Umar center


Add Tavon Sol, 10, and Jeff McCalla, 15, to the roster of Baltimore's boxing champions.

The two young men from the Umar Boxing Program in West Baltimore won national Silver Glove championships in their respective weight classes last weekend.

"My boys are baaad now. I got some bad boys," said Marvin McDowell, coach and program founder. "I think that we will come back with five, or six, or seven belts next year."

McDowell took four boxers to the championships in Olathe, Kan. All had won championships in the eastern regionals last month. McCalla and Sol were the only boxers from Region 3, which runs from Maryland to Florida, to win championship belts, said McDowell.

Besides bringing fighters to the tournament, Umar also brought its reputation. In three years, McDowell and his colleagues, many of them retired boxers, have made the program a vital part of the community.

More than 200 young men and women are enrolled in Umar, which is run out of a converted rowhouse in the 1500 block of Fulton Ave.

The program, which demands academic excellence from its fighters, has become a local success story and a routine stop for professional boxers and trainers. A recent issue of Ring magazine profiled the program, known for its slogan, "No Hooks before Books."

"We were the talk of the tournament because of our program," said McDowell. "They were very impressed."

Next up on Umar's schedule is a regional competition for older fighters, to be held Friday and Saturday at Harlem Park Middle School.

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