Don’t call it a comeback, more so a come up. When #86Boxing visited the Last Round Boxing Club on May 11, 2019, it was for a grand re-opening. Located around 23 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., the Last Round Boxing Club is in the town of Waldorf, Maryland. A mix of both urban and farming communities, Waldorf is a fast developing town in the state and was ranked by USA Today as #18 of America’s 50 Best Cities To Live In. With more opportunity comes more people. At a 53% African American population per 2010 census data, the town is also rooted in the fight game. #mypeople
This is in large part made possible via the efforts of one Derwin ‘Dino’ Neal, the President, CEO, and Head Coach of Last Round Boxing Club. “The previous building was smaller,” stated Dino, “this building has lots of potential.” This was in reference to the premises of the new location as Dino showed us his vision for the outside training area. Last Round Boxing Club first opened in 2008, here in the same town, on the same road, and as interest grew so did the need for a larger venue.
The event on this day was the re-opening of the gym in this larger location. There were a number of local businesses with representatives in attendance to support the event. This ranged from Chic-Fila to the Ameyn Apparel Brand. This, like any boxing gym, was a welcoming place for kids from all walks of life. There was face painting (even I participated) and several mascots there to keep the charisma at a high. The epicenter, though, was the sport of boxing.
To perfect a craft, one must dedicate a great deal of time and resources into fulfilling such ambitions. Dino has been around the sport since 1984 when he too was boxing. He’s now fully transitioned to coach and official, since 1998. This is where our paths crossed as he was under the Potomac Valley Association banner under USA Boxing, which governs Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Montgomery County, Maryland, until moving to South Atlantic Association 2015, which the Last Round Boxing Club falls under. Sometimes moves have to be made for the greater good.
Dino wanted a rustic and rugged look for Last Round Boxing Club, taking it back to the days when the gyms made the fighters. This was and has primarily been because of coaching. There are different levels of boxing skill as you look around Last Round Boxing Club. Some fighters, by virtue of age, are new to the game. Last Round Boxing Club has a great team in place. Whether it’s Coach Chris, Coach Mike or Coach Smoot, the attention to detail is astute.
In his opening statements prior to the start of pad-work demonstrations, Dino reassured all in attendance of his commitment to the community. “As we embark on this new endeavor, there are definitely great things coming,” he stated, “not just for Last Round, but also for this Waldorf community and Charles County (Maryland) as well.”
The coaches show a level of love and respect for the game that only those who’ve gone through the grind know the feeling. Ultimately, Last Round Boxing Club is building men an women. The basis is the character, integrity, strength, conditioning, and endurance, all taught within the gym, all things that will come into play at some point in life. When there are no coaches around, nor are there any lights or cameras, the foundations that are taught in this very gym will help to ensure proper decisions are made.
“Youth, the kids,” stated Dino, when I asked what made him choose to start Last Round Boxing Club, “giving back to the community, is my passion and drive.” Like many of the great you’ve seen in the past, it all started at the grassroots level. Having worked the corners of professional and amateur boxers alike, Dino and the staff know what it takes to aim for greatness. And for those seeking such greatness, they’re prepared to assist on said journey.
I lingered around a bit longer after the event had ended. It was pretty much the coaches and their spouses. This situation, like all of the work that goes into a boxers career, shed light on the fact that even when all are gone there is still work to be done. As the coaches cleaned up all of the trash and put everything back to order, things became more apparent. The relationship between coach and fighter is that of family. And family matters…