Mack Allison III pauses for a few seconds and laughs after being asked how many Baltimore City kids he thinks he has taught to box over the years.
Having turned 46 in July, Allison spent 16 years as a trainer at Upton Boxing Center, working for the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.
"Oh, man," he said. "Over 1,000? It's a lot of them."
The Baltimore City native, who graduated from Southern, wanted to reach out to the youth on a more personal level. At a place he could call his own.
On June 23, Time 2 Grind Boxing Gym had its first session.
It's Allison's very own gym, located at Transforming Life Church of God on Sipple Avenue in northeast Baltimore. It's where Allison and his family worship and where he now trains anybody who wants to learn how to box or simply work on fitness.
The first workout had 15 participants, aged 6-19 years old, and since then he has had more than 20 show up for sessions, which regularly run Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The room is equipped with a portable ring, heavy bags and posters on the walls to give it an authentic feel.
"I live down the street and when I would come home [from Upton] some of the kids would ask me questions about boxing and they were like 'Man, I wish we had a gym around here,'" Allison said.
"So I got with the pastor and told him what I wanted to do to help kids not only in the church, but in the neighborhood and he said 'Great, lets try it.' It's been a good atmosphere and it's a chance for them to do more than just get in trouble. It allows them to utilize their talents. If you give them something positive, they'll grab onto it because they just want something to do."
Allison, who grew up boxing and competing in the martial arts, is big and strong with a clean-shaven head and perfect goatee.
Referred to as "Coach Mack" by most, he can come off as intimidating at first, but his soft tone and big heart quickly take over.
Raised by his mother with seven siblings, he said it was often hard to get the attention he needed. He makes sure everybody he works with gets his time.
"My main goal is to teach them to have high self-esteem and be able to say they are special and can do whatever they want to do," he said. "That's what I get most out of it, when I see one of my older kids become a police officer or driving a bus or something. I know they're doing something good in life. So when it comes to coaching, that's what I look at. I'm in the business to help."
For Malik Titus, a recent Forest Park graduate, boxing is his first love. His grandfather was a professional fighter and his father also boxed. He remembers watching his first match when he was 3 years old. He's been working with Coach Mack since he was 11 and his love for the sport has only grown.
"He's far beyond just a boxing coach," Titus said. "He's really helped my development in becoming a young man and he makes sure everybody feels good about themselves. So to me, he's far beyond a boxing coach and more of a role model."
One of Allison's most successful fighters is his son, Mack IV, who has fought 115 amateur bouts since starting out when he was 6. He has won five Golden Glove state championships and three Junior Olympic crowns.
The 18-year-old City graduate now attends UMES.
"[My dad's] a good mentor and does everything to keep the kids going in the right direction in life," he said. "He just wants to help a lot of people. We work very hard, everybody stays busy and we work on a lot of conditioning."
Allison III knows the ins and outs of boxing with an extensive resume. In addition to being a trainer, he has worked the corner in more than 100 professional fights as a cut man and has written two how-to books to help amateurs train and break into the business professionally. During the day, he works in maintenance at senior-living Memorial Apartments in Bolton Hill.
"It's great. I help the elderly during the day and kids at night," he said.
The gym is his true second home, and it shows with his enthusiasm.
Sean Robinson, a parent volunteer for Allison who has four sons that train with him, sees it on a regular basis.
"Coach Mack is very dedicated, committed and a 100 percent go-getter," Robinson said. "We used to go to another gym and my boys weren't as enthused going there because they got bored. But when Coach Mack took them under his wings, I saw how enthused they were just going to the gym. I thought they may get tired, burned out and kind of back off. But they want to come to the gym every day because they know Coach Mack is going to push them."