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Joe Maddon’s Respect 90 charity boxing event a hit

Cubs manager Joe Maddon poses with Cubs players at his Respect 90 charity boxing event Thursday night. | Elan Kane/For the Sun-Times

Five years ago, Englewood resident Ivry Hall was about to get swallowed up in a world of gangs, drugs and violence. But then Crushers Club changed that trajectory.

Now, Hall, a 17-year-old student at Tilden High School, has a 4.0 GPA and plans to become an OB-GYN.

“I learned integrity from boxing,” Hall said. “Because whatever you say, you got to do it.”

Crushers Club was one of the beneficiaries of Cubs manager Joe Maddon and his wife Jaye’s annual Respect 90 charity boxing event held Thursday night at the Wintrust Building downtown. Cubs players, coaches and staff were in attendance at the event, which featured bouts, auctions and donation opportunities in an effort to raise money and awareness for youth boxing programs in Chicago’s underserved communities.

In 2004, Sally Hazelgrove wanted to come up with a way to get kids in the South Side off the streets. She asked kids what was something they wanted access to that they didn’t have. Boxing was the overwhelming response.

“In the beginning, it was basically about how can I get them off the block,” Hazelgrove said. “They’re already doing fighting and what have you, boxing is a way to control that, harness that anger and that energy and also try to work on discipline, accountability, unconditional love, respect, family model.”

Maddon’s Respect 90 Foundation provides Chicago’s inner-city children with opportunities to “develop championship attitudes through sports while encouraging fitness, academics and community engagement.” Maddon said he chose to have a boxing event because he believes kids can learn a lot of lessons from the sport.

“Any time you are increasing self-awareness and self-discipline, that’s always a good thing,” Maddon said. “So when you get a kid having to show up and be accountable to a very difficult workout and a method, I mean boxing itself there’s so much technique involved. So there’s all these micro lessons involved in participating in this sport that once they leave the gym, the arena, whatever, I believe is going to help them significantly in their regular lives.”

For Hazelgrove, Maddon’s support has been crucial.

“He’s been a game changer, that’s all I can tell you,” Hazelgrove said. “My organization has kind of been able to bolt to the next level, service more at-risk boys and we’re now looking to the future to replicate our model.”

But Maddon was quick to give the credit back to Hazelgrove.

“Sally and her group, they’re the stars, man,” he said. “We just are able to do this, one night during the course of the year, raise some money to help the infrastructure of the building itself.”

Regardless of who gets the credit, kids like Hall are now able to avoid a life filled with danger and fear.

“It’s just young men who are using a sport to change their lives,” Hazelgrove said.