Kronk: A Gym in the Rough

By Steven Malik Shelton on December 22, 2014
Kronk: A Gym in the Rough
Although it was only two o’clock in the afternoon, I wondered if the place was still open.

Once inside, a receptionist directed me down several flights of stairs into the basement gym to meet with Kronk’s veteran boxing trainer…

From a distance it looked more like of an 18th century fort than a gym. Set back off of McGraw and Junction Streets on Detroit’s southwest side, it stood as an urban island of boxing lore and legend.

The area immediately surrounding Kronk Recreational Center was quiet and austere; so much so that, although it was only about two o’clock in the afternoon, I wondered if the place was still open.

Once inside, a receptionist directed me down several flights of stairs into the basement gym to meet with Kronk’s veteran boxing trainer, Floyd Logan.

On the metal door leading into the gym is stenciled the epitaph: THIS DOOR HAS LED MANY TO PAIN AND FAME. And on the walls of the gym itself were plastered the slogans NO PAIN NO GAIN and WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GET GOING. They would have been trite clichés in other places, but not here. The Kronk mystique and tradition of turning out champions infused the words with renewed urgency and vitality.

I shook Floyd Logan’s hand and sat next to him amidst the charged atmosphere of fighters involved in the age-old regiment of training for battle.

Logan told me that he arrived up north while still a teenager, seeking what southern Blacks generally believed offered a better life. What he discovered was that racism did not end at the Mason-Dixon Line. He did find one treasure, however, which would develop into a lifelong passion.

He discovered the sport of boxing.

Logan broke off our conversation to admonish a youngster not yet 12 years old, who was punching away at a heavy bag.

“Keep your hands up when you back up from that bag, son. You’re opponent won’t care if your arms are tired. In fact, he’ll be looking forward to it. Treat that heavy bag just like you would somebody in the ring.”

I saw a picture of Thomas Hearns, the former world champion, on one of the walls. He looked skinny and boyish. It was apparently taken when he was just starting his pugilistic career.

“Does Hearns still come down here to train?” I asked.

“Very seldom,” said Logan, “but he’ll drop in every now and then to make an appearance and encourage the fighters. He’s always polite. Even after he became world champion and made millions, he never put on airs like some do after they think they’ve made it. Tommy was always nice. In all the years I’ve known him, I never saw him get mad.”

Logan stopped a boy that looked about 11.

“Son, please forgive me for watching you, but I’ve noticed that you haven’t done your three rounds of jumping rope.” The youngster shrugged, picked up the plastic beaded cord and began his routine.

“This gym is all a lot of these youngsters have,” Logan told me. “It’s a ray of promise in an area where there seems to be little hope. At the very least it keeps them out of the drug dens and off the streets. And who knows, maybe some of them will be world champions.” He swept his hand at the likenesses of former champions on the Gym’s walls. “No one can say that it hasn’t happened before.”

Another youngster, about 14, walked over and asked Logan to wrap his hands. Logan gently and expertly smoothed out the strips of cloth as the youngster spreads his fingers.

“I make sure they widen their hands, otherwise the wrap will be too tight.”

In the middle of wrapping the right hand, Logan stops as though remembering something. He stared hard at the boy.

“How well you doing in school?” he asked.

The youngster smiled slightly. “Good,” he said. Logan nodded his head. “Well, keep it that way. Even if you become a world champion one day, it won’t last forever. And it’s important to have an education to fall back on.”

Although it was the Brewster Recreation Center and not Kronk Gym that gave the immortal Joe Louis his start, I thought of of him and posed a question. “Did you ever see Louis fight?” Logan’s face lit up and his eyed stare off into the distance.

“No, I never had the honor,” he said. “But we used to gather around the radio and listen to the blow by blow. When Louis fought, it was so quiet you could hear a feather fall. If you had a cold or a cough they’d put you out of the room for fear you might sneeze or clear your throat and they’d miss something.”

Logan pointed to a lightweight shadowboxing in Kronk’s solitary ring. He feinted his head and shoulders expertly. His quick hands blurred in motion.

“Louis had hands as fast as his; maybe faster.” Logan shook his head in amazement. “Then when you factor in his power… He carried a six-inch knockout punch in both hands, and Louis was a stalker and very patient. He’d follow his opponent all over the ring, corner him and blip-blip-blip — hit him with a combination. And few ever walked out of that corner after a Louis combination. Many people don’t remember this, but it was Louis who was the first heavyweight to punch in combinations. And he was so fast that even if he didn’t land solidly, just the speed of his punch would shake you up. Almost like a hard slap. Pow! Shoot, that can be worse than a punch.”

It occurred to me that most fighters, apart from their controlled brutality in the ring, are gentle and well-mannered. Perhaps the Spartan discipline of fighting keeps them focused on something greater than the normal, petty agitation that haunts most lives. Also admirable is their willingness to endure the fire of battle and to conquer their fears in order to pursue a difficult and elusive goal. Kronk, at the very least, offered them the opportunity to be in condition to reach it.

Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate. He can be reached at:

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  1. Eric 03:27pm, 12/23/2014

    Progressivism at work, in fifteen to twenty years, Des Moines = Memphis, Memphis = Detroit, and Detroit = Port-au-Prince. And what is wrong with sharpton? Good Lord, the guy looks like he weighs 100lbs and half of that is his head. The “reverend” always looked like a large mouth bass to me, even more now than ever with the huge weight loss. His gaunt face actually accentuates the fishy features.

  2. Clarence George 02:24pm, 12/23/2014

    Good one, Irish!  One of my favorite Youngman jokes is about the lady of modest beauty who sidled up to him with, “Nobody loves me and my hands are cold.”  Said Henny, “God loves you and you can sit on your hands.”

  3. Clarence George 02:10pm, 12/23/2014

    But, Robert, don’t you think Chesterton is knocking down a straw man?  After all, the full quote (by Carl Schurz) is:  “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”  That strikes me as quite reasonable.  Besides, I don’t understand what G.K. means to convey by “My mother, drunk or sober.”  Well…yeah.  I mean, you’d rather have her sober (I assume), but you don’t abandon or reject the old gal just because she’s in her cups.  None of this applies to my mother, by the way, whose capacity for alcohol is very much that of Ralph Kramden, who once “had a two-day hangover from a slice of rum cake.”

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:51pm, 12/23/2014

    Clarence George-Here is a joke just for you, courtesy of your former neighbor, Henny Youngman: A guy complains of a headache. Another guy says, “Do what I do. I put my head on my wife’s bosom and the headache goes away.” The next day the guy asks,“Did you do what I told you to do?” “Yes, I sure did, by the way, you have a nice house.”

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:24pm, 12/23/2014

    The reason Jews are good surgeons is simple….it’s in the genes… takes a delicate touch to perform Bris….don’t even think for a minute that after centuries untold of performing this surgery (oh yes it is) on millions of tiny schmeckles that this “talent” hasn’t been transmitted down through the ages via those marvelous, teeny, tiny, little things we call genes. I’m betting Jackie Mason would agree with me and if he doesn’t….who cares?

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:57pm, 12/23/2014

    Sharpton looks like death warmed over since his gastric bypass and George Soros is the brother from another mother to Star Wars Emperor Darth Sideous…both of these fukers will live as long as evil exists in the world. BTW both Farrakhan when he got his gonorrhea ravaged prostate reamed out and Sharpton loved their Jewish surgeons, when they were under anesthesia that is.

  7. Eric 11:35am, 12/23/2014

    Irish…Well said. It always baffles me how someone could be against the death penalty but be pro-abortion/pro-choice. Speaking of mass genocide, it also baffles me at how the media and so-called human rights organizations had no problem condemning apartheid in South Africa but they are fine with the genocide of white South Africans in 2014. They even had a World Cup championship there recently, and the slaughtering of white South Africans wasn’t even mentioned. I guess white racism trumps white genocide. Where is Bono, Little Stevie, Bruuuuuuuuce Springsteen & company now? These do-gooders are very selective in who they support or what they protest against.

  8. Robert Ecksel 11:31am, 12/23/2014

    Clarence, for the record, the same G.K. Chesterton also said, “‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:16am, 12/23/2014

    The author is a “human rights advocate”....let’s hope that his advocacy extends beyond the very narrow interpretation of human rights that only includes the rights of certain categories of what he and others may consider to be “put upon” human beings. In my view, the most sacred human right is the right to life…..if you don’t believe that, you’d be a piss poor human rights advocate, now wouldn’t you? As for me, another very important human right is the right to be left the fuk alone!

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:45am, 12/23/2014

    Kinda confusing…Is this the original KronK?....which reminds me…..Gerald McClellan still hasn’t landed a right hand on Toney in the video above…’s too bad and it’s too sad it wasn’t Toney shoulder rolling, countering, confusing, frustrating and all round whipping Benn’s ass instead of Gerald receipting for those murderous punches all those years ago. Logan says, and I concur that Joe Louis was the first heavyweight that consistently punched in combinations which speaks volumes about those that came before like Johnson and Dempsey.

  11. Clarence George 10:25am, 12/23/2014

    Eric:  As wise and merry fat man, G.K. Chesterton, once observed:  “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes.  The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

  12. Eric 09:00am, 12/23/2014

    Clarence… Total truth there. How they ever came up with the term “progressive” is beyond me.

  13. Clarence George 08:41am, 12/23/2014

    Eric:  Perhaps you’ll get a kick out of this alliterative putdown that I saw online, in reference to the unspeakable de Blasio:  “Leftism breeds death, destruction, decay, disease, and Detroit.”

  14. Eric 08:06am, 12/23/2014

    It really is a shame what has happened to the town that men like Henry Ford put on the map. Detroit, would probably rank only behind Philly and the Big Apple in producing top notch fighters over the years. It would take a miracle for Detroit to regain the status it was enjoyed. I believe it was our fifth largest city back in its peak years. Maybe someone like “reverend” sharpton, obama, holder, and mayor wilhelm aka deblassio can put their heads together and work on a plan how to rebuild this city. I’m sure all those protesters they inspired could use a job. Be a change for that bunch to be productive instead of destructive.