SPOKANE, Wash. - With a one-two punch, a Spokane man is teaching local youth a lot more than just boxing in East Spokane.
Rick Welliver is a lightweight boxer with 10 years experience and more than a dozen professional fights under his belt.
When it came time to hang up his gloves, he found he couldn't quite put them down.
"I knew that I was going to wrap up my career as a professional boxer and that I wanted to work with kids, so I found this space down here and contacted the landlord and signed a lease and the rest is history," Welliver said.
As soon as Welliver retired, he opened Spokane Boxing on East Sprague in the International District.
He wanted the gym to be a place where young lives could be transformed. A place where unresolved anger could be directed into fierce competitiveness and where those with no role models in their lives could find a coach in their corner.
Coral Devereaux came to Spokane Boxing for the first time four years ago. Devereaux was in trouble, he was caught underage drinking and he stole his mom's car and crashed it into the side of a house. He also did some time in an in-patient rehab center. With Welliver's help, he's been fighting to stay clean and sober.
"I always looked back to that moment and if I didn't have anything to go to in my life at that moment, I could have killed that entire family and things would have been way different for me. I wouldn't be where I am today," Devereaux said.
"I've always held him [Devereaux] accountable, and he's always answered. He's put in the work and he's earned whatever's he's gotten," Welliver said.
Shadle Park High School freshman Gage Anderson has been coming to Spokane Boxing since elementary school. Growing up through middle school was a challenge, but Anderson learned problems are best resolved in the ring.
"I'm not gonna go out and start fights myself," Anderson said. "Rick teaches all his fighters to be modest and not to go out and talk trash to people, never start anything."
Welliver wants to teach his students life lessons outside the ring too.
"I think as a society, we're dropping the ball as men, we don't know how to mentor, we don't know how to be fathers, we don't know how to be husbands, men," Welliver said. "Boxing is just a metaphor for life."
Just like life itself, at Spokane Boxing these young boxers are learning a sport filled with extremes, both painful and glorious, tragic and triumphant.
Rick Welliver is our first Everyday Hero. If you know an Everyday Hero, send you story idea to NadineW@kxly.com.