By: Maximillian Boudreaux
Mike Steadman is uplifting his community through his love of boxing and teaching inner city kids about entrepreneurship.
Steadman launched his Ironbound Boxing gym in Newark, NJ in 2017. The goal was to offer a free boxing gym to young men and women of color while teaching them about entrepreneurship. Although some people would think of his gym as a place where kids can learn fighting techniques, Steadman has a belief that Ironbound Boxing “is a refuge where kids are taught about being resilient while building their confidence.”
The evolution of Ironbound Boxing was a seed that was planted in Steadman’s life from the very beginning. Steadman grew up in a single-parent household where life wasn’t easy but according to him, his mother did the very best she could.
After high school, Steadman signed up for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. It was in the academy that Steadman was introduced to the sport of boxing. During his time in the service, he became a 3-time National Champion, won Most Valuable Boxer twice and was deployed to Afghanistan, Japan and Philippines as a Marine.
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“I went from being an insecure kid who shied away from conflict to someone who feels confidently equipped to rise to every occasion. I didn’t just go to school; I went to the US Naval Academy. I didn’t just enlist; I became a US Marine. Boxing did that for me. Boxing could do that for everyone,” Steadman said.
The vision for Ironbound Boxing became clear after years of training in inner city boxing gyms and witnessing kids with no escape out of their reality. Steadman moved to Newark, NJ not knowing a soul there, but with a passion about the academy he wanted to start. With the help of the city of Newark, he was able to get a free space that was later transformed into the boxing gym he envisioned.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the gym was closed for a year and half. In that time, Ironbound Boxing develop the entrepreneurial side of their program. So far, the program has given out close to $15,000 in microgrants through their program “Thrive” and cultivated 30 new young entrepreneurs of color. Steadman would like to see the program reach between 5,000 to 10,000 more kids within the next 5 to 10 years.
“We are really there as an anchor to support these kids. Our organization recently gave one kid $1,000 and he burst into tears because his dad had been laid off work. Our goal is not to make professional boxers but give kids the courage [they need] to succeed in life,” Steadman said.
Ironbound Boxing is a nonprofit run by three people. Steadman’s business partners are Gary Bloore and Keith Colon, who handles the boxing training. Steadman is one of the main fundraisers for the organization and fights to keep the program running.
Steadman was able to get a military buddy of his who runs a coffee shop in Atlanta to teach finance classes for the kids and mentor them. In the future, he wants more mentors of color to help coach in entrepreneurship.
Steadman would like to raise $1 million in the future to branch out into a new space and develop the Ironbound Courage Academy. A vast majority of support for the program comes from the veteran community and DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation.
Steadman’s core purpose was sowed in him by his family. “I believe in lift as I climb. I have no desire to be the only one on the mountain top. I feel a strong desire to my community to lift up as many I can.”
The gym serves a safe haven for inner city children. They are welcome into the boxing gym five days a week with no charge for equipment or transportation. All that is required of them is a desire to learn.