New gym allows club to realize dream

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Jo-Anne Newman remembers the humble beginnings of the North Augusta Police Athletic League organization.

While it might not have started at the most impressive facility, its origins had a helpful side effect for its boxers.

"Before we actually rented a gym, we just decided that we would first start training on the back concrete patio," Newman said. "Sparring out on the concrete, we had some tough boys. They knew they couldn't hit the floor."

That was 19 years ago. Newman and her husband, Noah, founded the organization after getting involved with the amateur career of their son. Noah Newman Jr., now 42 and living in Colton, Calif., became interested in the sport and eventually became a national champion.

Meanwhile, his parents used his success as an opportunity to stay involved. Noah Newman Sr. has since been a coach for young aspiring boxers, and Jo-Anne Newman has become the only female international referee in the country.

They have been able to reach numerous youngsters through the program. For 19 years, they rented a building in Clearwater, S.C., but one stretch of sizzling summer weather this past year made them realize that they needed an upgrade.

"We had to close the gym for two weeks," Jo-Anne Newman said. "You're in a metal building with no insulation. It would be 108, 110 degrees inside. We would turn the fans on, but they would have to run ... three hours before we could train in the building. And it would still be 100 degrees inside."

On Dec. 1, a process she said was more than 10 years in the making finally became a reality in Burnettown. There, thanks to a $50,000 contribution from the Knox Foundation, various area dignitaries joined the Newmans and their boxers at the ribbon cutting for the organization's new facility.

Now, there is no rent to pay. Air conditioning and modern bathrooms, with showers, are available for the current group of 60 boxers who train with the organization.

The day after the ribbon cutting, training at the new facility began. The new gym is not yet ready to play host to an event. However, the work toward making the gym competition-ready is about 75 percent complete, according to Jo-Anne Newman.

It should be ready for the South Carolina PAL championships in May.

"We're still doing some work with it. We've worked weekends just trying to get it ready," she said.

The organization has come a long way and its founders have been able to fulfill a lifelong purpose through the program.

"This is finally a dream that is coming true," Jo-Anne Newman said. "We have worked just about all of our lives, and almost 30 years in boxing, and this is how we know how to reach kids. This gym will help us continue to do that."

Reach Justin Williams at justin.williams@augustachronicle.com.

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