Chicago-area boxing fans are in for a treat.
With backing from the Chicago Celtic Boxing Club, the United States Military Academy collegiate boxing team will compete against a team of local boxing All-Stars at the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 1431 W. Taylor St., on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 6 to 10 p.m.
“People who come out for the event should expect to see some exciting fights,” Celtic Boxing Club Manager Mike Joyce said. “We had a lot of fun with it last year. We’re pretty excited to have the event again. These fighters from West Point are very impressive.”
The event has been named “A Tribute to the Greatest” and will honor the memory of boxing legend Muhammad Ali who died in June at the age of 74.
Joyce is married to Ali’s daughter, Jamillah. Given a chance to honor his father-in-law and one of the greatest boxers of all time, Joyce could not pass up the opportunity.
“This January would have been his 75th birthday. My wife was really flattered that we would do it as she’s going through the grieving process,” Joyce said. “Stuff like this helps because he impacted so many people in his life. He was friendly, funny, a jokester. He fed off people, and people loved him.”
The event will feature 10 bouts with the schedule and card still to be determined.
Tickets are $100 each. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Celtic Youth Foundation, a charitable organization with the mission of mentoring at-risk Chicago-area youths.
The West Point boxing team is seven-time National Collegiate Boxing Association champions.
“The South Side of Chicago is a neighborhood with a lot of military connections, generational connections,” Joyce said. “Grandfathers, fathers and sons, there aren’t many families without some connection to the military. For the West Point team to pick to fight here on the South Side, and not some place that is super glitzy, we’re honored they chose us.”
Joyce was especially impressed last year with the West Point boxers who met with inner-city youth groups to talk to area children, both those involved with boxing and those who aren’t.
“These cadets are working with inner-city youths, talking about their lives and how they straightened things out,” Joyce said. “That is the message they are trying to deliver. Where you’re from does not define you. If you keep working, you are going to go out and reach your goals. Not everyone can be Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali, but you can achieve your goals.”
Joyce is a St. Cajetan Elementary and Leo High School graduate. He founded the Celtic Boxing Club in 1993.
West Point won six of eight matchups at the event last year.
“Last year, they shocked us,” Joyce said. “This year, we are treating it like the Army-Navy football game. We will be ready for them.”
For more information or tickets, visit the Web site at celticboxing.com.