Daring to Dream Big

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Eighteen-year-old Slade Corvin is 5 feet 4 inches tall and 110 pounds. When you meet him you aren’t immediately going to think “boxer.” You would be wrong. He’s not only a boxer he is a three-time world champ.

Roger Hilley is a rising star out of the toughest neighborhoods in Chattanooga. “Without the Y-CAP Boxing Club I’d be dead or in jail,” he says, plainly. Roger is a world champion for the second year in a row. “These young men are success stories for the Chattanooga Y-CAP Boxing Club, a program of the Metropolitan Chattanooga YMCA,” says Joe Smith, Y-CAP’s regional director. “Boxing has been a way out for them and the entire community is coming together to support their dreams.”

Roger and Slade fought their way to a gold medal in their respective weight classes in the world’s largest amateur boxing tournament, the Ringside World Championships held in Independence, Missouri in August. More than 1,500 boxers and 500 coaches from all 50 states and 10 countries competed for 230 championship belts according to experience, age and weight. Two scrappy kids from Chattanooga, with their coaches from the Y-CAP Boxing Club, walked away with two of those championship belts and immediately started training for a golden opportunity to take a few steps closer to the USA Boxing Team and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Slade “White Chocolate” Corvin
Why boxing? “I get asked that a lot,” Slade says. “I am the youngest of four brothers and when I was 10 I knew that my size was working against me and truthfully (he grins) I wanted to fight without getting in trouble or hurting anyone.” Slade’s dad took him to a local boxing tournament when he was in elementary school. They met Andy Smith, a boxing coach who works with at-risk youth for YMCA Y-CAP.

Andy is Joe Smith’s son and together they have coached more than 2,000 youth who wanted to learn to box and taken over half of them into the competition arena earning nine boxing World Championships, 14 Golden Gloves Championships and 14 other national titles.

Slade Corvin

Slade Corvin

Andy and Joe specialize in scrappy kids, some as young as 10 years old. Most are referred to the Y-CAP student intervention program by the juvenile courts or by school administrators. Y-CAP, Youth Community Action Project, has been around for 17 years. Together with lean staff and dozens of volunteers, they have saved Chattanooga’s at-risk youth from a never-ending cycle of violence and despair.

When the adolescents graduate from Y-CAP, often they need a way to stay connected and to focus on something positive, and many of them join the Chattanooga Y-CAP Boxing Club.
“Here they learn about discipline, respect and hard work,” says Coach Andy. “These kids need a way to succeed. Y-CAP and boxing are tools they can use to make that happen.”

That’s Slade Corvin’s plan and he’s working his plan both physically and mentally.
“It’s 90% mental. My opponent might be taller or stronger, but not smarter than me,” says Slade. “You need a fight plan and the ability to adjust as you go. I’d rather be the little guy with a brain than the big guy who isn’t using his.”

The short term goal for 2016 is to make the U.S. Olympic Team, but Slade’s long term goal is to build a career as a professional boxer.

“I always felt I was meant for this,” Slade says. “I hope I can be a role model for all the little guys who can see what happens when you set your mind to something. None of this would have been possible without Y-CAP. They’ve paved the road and I just have to walk it.”

Roger “The Hit Man” Hilley
Roger Hilley, 21, came to the Chattanooga Y-CAP Boxing Club as a young kid struggling to survive in the inner city. “I was the youngest of six kids and my mom had her own problems, so we were all running wild, skipping school, fighting kids on the block,” says Roger. “Once I got in trouble for stealing food because I was hungry and there was no food in our house.” Here comes Joe Smith, who had Roger’s older brother Joseph in the YMCA Y-CAP school-based program. Eventually he took the both brothers into his own home for several years.

Roger Hilley

Roger Hilley

“It was my chance to get out of the neighborhood and see a different way of living,” says Roger. “Kids from the ‘hood don’t go rock climbing, ride mountain bikes or travel around for boxing events.”

Joseph Francisco, Roger’s brother, became one of Chattanooga Y-CAP Boxing Club’s success stories, earning two Golden Glove championships and was someone for Roger to look up to.

“He was my idol. I was boxing to impress him,” Roger says. “By the time I was 16, I started working harder for me. Never got involved with gangs and got my high school diploma.”

Roger and Slade are competing in the Pathway to the Podium #2 boxing event in Philadelphia and then potentially in Memphis at Pathway to the Podium #3 hoping to secure one of eight spots in their respective weight classes for the U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials in February 2016. If they win at the Trials they will become members of the USA Boxing Team!

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About Author

Barb Bowen is a professional writer and fundraising consultant who uses her talents as a storyteller and wordsmith to give voice to the people who benefit from the humble services of Chattanooga nonprofit organizations and to touch the hearts of the people who can make a difference.

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