PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A former Golden Gloves champ turned crime fighter is making his pro-boxing debut Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
His comeback is thanks, in part, to a former police officer turned gym owner.
WATCH: Former Golden Gloves Champ Wins In Pro-Boxing Debut In Pittsburgh —
Stand outside Jack’s Boxing Gym in Pittsburgh and you can almost feel each and every punch, and you can certainly hear them.
Few words describe this crucible of combat’s owner, but tough is a good choice.
“Everything is business in there, everything,” owner Jack Mook said.
These days, boxing is Mook’s business, but it wasn’t always.
“It just seemed like through boxing, I was giving much more to the community than I was as a police officer and as a detective,” Mook said.
Case in point, two brothers, Jessie and Josh, walked into Jack’s gym one day.
“Most of the kids that come in this gym are street kids. Many of them have been born into poverty,” Mook said. “They have had it as worse as any other kid that’s ever lived in the city of Pittsburgh, living conditions wise, and that just… I had enough of it.”
Mook, a lifelong bachelor, adopted the boys. Not long after that, a marriage and three stepchildren.
“Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s the best thing I ever did in my life,” Mook said.
As for the gym, Mook says he enjoys “taking people in that need guidance and maybe just an extra hand in this boxing world.”
That brings us to Apollo Sydnor, a former Golden Gloves boxing champion from New York City.
“I’m going pro. It’s my first time back in the ring in over two years,” he said.
Everybody in the fight game seems to have an interesting back story. Sydnor is no exception.
New to Pittsburgh in 2014, he was working at a 7-Eleven when police say Leverette Johnson walked in with the intention to rob it.
Sydnor has fast hands, as Johnson found out firsthand.
“Yeah, he got slammed. He wasn’t trying to do too much after that,” Sydnor said.
When not knocking out armed assailants, Sydnor trained with his eyes on the prize.
“Time to go pro. It’s time for the money,” he said.
For that, he went to Mook.
“One day I was working here at the gym, Apollo walked in,” Mook said.
“I chose a man who was willing to work with my style and work with me, my availability and everything. Jack was just the perfect mix,” Sydnor said.
“He says, you know who I am. And I’m like, yeah, you’re a winner. He says well, I’m looking for a trainer,” Mook said. “You can say we took him in. This is his home now.”
So the former bachelor/retired police detective turned family man and the convenience store knockout artist went to work together.
“We just hit it off. He spoke to me about how he wanted to turn pro. I said, let’s take it slow,” Mook said.
Slow at first, but never easy.
“He’s always on me,” Sydnor said.
Watching from ringside, Sydnor’s girlfriend and rock, Jalice Shedrick.
“I try to stay here to motivate him throughout all that even when I’m tired,” Shedrick said.
Shedrick’s weariness is understandable considering that Sydnor’s corner is about to get a bit more crowded.
“So I am six months pregnant with twins,” she said.
Nothing is simple about Sydnor’s boxing dream — work, family and training — but this interesting trio are one when it comes to Sydnor’s dreams inside the squared circle.
“He’s a very hard worker. He goes for what he wants and he’s very ambitious,” Shedrick said.
“If he keeps working hard like he does, I see him having a promising career,” Mook said.
“My dream is to be a great father to my twins that are on the way in December,” Syndor said. “My boxing dream, honestly, I’m just gonna try as hard as I can, make Jack proud of me, make everyone understand that I’m trying. I’m trying very hard. Any fight with me, you’re gonna know you’re in a fight.”