Photo by Kristin Wall, via Flickr

At an anti-gun violence rally on Sunday with other local officials, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young offered a very quotable Willie Jones-like take on how to steer kids away from guns to resolve their conflicts: Have them “box it out” downtown.

If Baltimore’s youth want to settle a disagreement, instead of picking up guns, “we can have them down at the civic center [now the Royal Farms Arena], put a boxing ring up and let them go and box it out,” Young told The Sun and WBAL-TV while lamenting Baltimore’s persistent bloodshed from gun violence. “Those kinds of things, you know? And the best man wins and the beef should be over.”

He also suggested mediation as an option.

One day earlier, a yet-unidentified 17-year-old male became Baltimore’s 128th homicide victim of the year. He was gunned down in a double shooting that also left a 20-year-old woman wounded in the 2400 block of W. Franklin Street in West Baltimore.

While Young’s public boxing match proposal was part of a larger statement about the need for outlets for young people to express themselves and sort out conflicts with others, in a vacuum it’s drawn some critics.

Some are questioning the logistics (what if the fighters aren’t physically matched?), others are adopting a public health angle (is being punched in the head really a healthy alternative?), and still others are taking aim at The Sun for even entertaining the idea as worth considering, as the paper did in a tweet promoting its coverage. (The Sun‘s editorial board has since come out swinging against the idea, for what it’s worth.)

CTE used to be called “dementia pugilistica.” Why would we subject black students in the city to early, painful deaths just to MAYBE squash beef?

Training for boxing is fabulous exercise, but getting hit repeatedly in the head causes chronic pain, and eventually, death. Period.

— The Adversary (@daveforbmore) June 3, 2019

It’s so very telling that @mayorbcyoung, the mayor of #Baltimore, thinks the solution to conflict resolution between young people is to have them punch each other in the face rather than learn how to communicate w/o violence.

P.S. Anger does not necessarily equate to violence.

— #FreeKeithDavisJr (@expandyourfocus) June 3, 2019

Baltimore… known for it’s brilliant policy choices… is thinking about putting up public boxing rings so its citizens can fist fight instead of shoot/stab each other.

What could possibly go wrong?

— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) June 3, 2019

This reminds me of the Mayor Dinkins “name-tag fiasco” on Seinfeld.
Baltimore Mayor Young suggests boxing bouts to settle street beefs

— Todd Karpovich (@toddkarpovich) June 3, 2019

Baltimore Mayor Young suggests boxing bouts to settle street beefs. This is faulty logic dismissing that there’s far more deeper issues than simply settling a “street beef.” These youth need leaders that understand their needs. Don’t be dismissive ask the youth what they need.

— Ebony Grey (@ebonyagrey) June 3, 2019

No. Just no. He is not on to anything.

Are you still a grown-ass newspaper? Or am I on to something?

— David Simon (@AoDespair) June 3, 2019

Local blogger A. F. James MacArthur, streaming live from his boxing gym this morning, cut the mayor a little slack and actually sided with him, nodding to existing programs that do train kids how to box and get them away from street violence. “Unless you have a good solution yourself, ease up a little bit, because most of you don’t have anything.”


— MacArthur For Baltimore (@BaltoSpectator) June 3, 2019

The city’s Department of Recreation and Parks is lacing up its gloves for the mayor. The agency put out a statement this afternoon touting programming at the Upton Boxing Center, which famously helped train Gervonta “Tank” Davis and countless other pro fighters over the years.

“Through knowledgeable staff like Coach Calvin Ford, the facility has shaped the lives of young fighters allowing them to advance even at the professional level,” Rec and Parks’ statement said. “Boxing can be a transformative outlet for youth and young adults and we invite community members, parents, teachers, and mentors to come by to learn more about what we have to offer.”

Walker Gladden, youth coordinator for the Rose Street Community Center in East Baltimore, said he supports Young’s suggestion, but wants to see the mayor put it into action. “We support the idea. We’ve got 100 youth already that we can get to deal with these differences in a more rational way [than gun violence]. Those are the types of resources that we need.”

Young’s suggestion to put kids in the ring to hash it out has picked up some national press, including from Fox News—which wrongly characterized the event Young was attending at as an “anti-gun rally”—and the AP wire.

We’ve reached out to Young’s office for comment on the tide of response.

The mayor who helped push for the city to create its own $12 million Children and Youth Fund, made the suggestion on the tail end of yet another grisly weekend for the city. The police tally of weekend violence included three homicides and 11 people wounded in shootings or stabbings from Friday through Sunday evening.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...