The Protector: Detective Tim Stanton of “Boston’s Finest”

By Cheekay Brandon on April 16, 2013
The Protector: Detective Tim Stanton of “Boston’s Finest”
Detective Tim Stanton went on to a long amateur career before joining the police force.

Boxing trainers are immortalized in popular culture as wise men that spout life philosophy masked in boxing technique…

“If someone didn’t have the courage to take me into the boxing gym, I could have found myself on the other side of the law.”

On Monday afternoon, April 15, a blast shook downtown Boston, taking several lives, injuring many more and leaving a city (and nation) in shock, searching for answers.

I write from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Aside from a rumor about a suspicious package found near Harvard Square (not far from where I live and work), life here was mostly back to normal just hours after the attack. People were coming and going from work just like any other day, my favorite coffee shop crawling with its usual mix of physicists, literature professors and boxing writers.

Its one of those moments where you understand two important facts of life at the same time: how unstable the world is and how privileged you are. Perhaps my sense of security is poorly founded, but it probably isn’t: at that Cambridge coffee shop, both the woman typing to my right and I felt safe. The reason we felt safe is because our safety is not only ours to protect; there are people whose responsibility it is to do so, chief among them the local police departments.

It is a privileged society’s propensity to take these institutions for granted that is the motivation for Boston’s Finest (TNT Wednesdays, 9pm EST), a documentary reality show covering the lives of Boston police officers, produced by native son Donnie Wahlberg. The show capitalizes on the artistic space created by fictional depictions like Blue Bloods, The Wire and documentary series like Brick City, programs that owe their popularity to society’s interest in the dynamics of cities and their police departments.

Boston’s Finest moves between various different departments and units, taking you inside the lives of police officers from both genders, various ethnic backgrounds, in different neighborhoods. One of the officers profiled, Detective Tim Stanton, occupies a unique space: he is a dedicated member of the Boston Police Department and the owner of TNT Boxing in Braintree, Mass., where he trains dozens of young fighters. He deftly walks the fine line between the professions, fighting crime on one end, training young men to fight opponents (and their own personal demons) on the other.

Physically imposing, stoic in temperament and armed with the characteristic South Boston accent, it’s easy to see how Detective Stanton’s many selves became a focus of the show: he looks and acts the part. Serving the Boston Police Department for 24 years, he hails from the rough corners of South Boston, and entered the police force eager to serve the community that he grew up in.  He describes the show as a “good opportunity to show the work that Boston Police Department does, how the units and different branches work together. Shows how things have changed in 21st century.” He says that the show itself hasn’t changed too much about his daily life, other than him being lightly teased by colleagues, nicknamed “Hollywood” and such.

Tim Stanton was introduced to boxing by the famed Bernie Doherty of South Boston, who he credits with keeping him off the street and out of trouble. Doherty was also a Boston police officer who trained many young champions out of the Boston Police Athletic League (PAL). Stanton went on to a long amateur career before joining the police force and switching roles from fighter to trainer. He began training fighters over a decade ago before opening TNT Boxing seven years ago.

That boxing and law enforcement can work together is not altogether surprising: many of boxing’s most famous protagonists found boxing as a refuge from social or personal demons that threatened to throw them off course. Mike Tyson was famously discovered by Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention center counselor and former boxer. Another, Bernard Hopkins, became a boxer while incarcerated in Graterford prison in Pennsylvania. 

But the tragedy in both of these stories is that they found boxing after trouble with the law. That salvation can come even for those who have lost their way is inspiring, yet problematic in a sense—where are the stories of active interventions that prevented young people from needing redemption?

Enter Detective Tim Stanton, who mentions that law enforcement has caught onto the idea that boxing can be used as a crime prevention tool:

“We have the chance to do some much with the kids. I just got called into a judge’s chambers, to assist with a program for kids that are on the fringe, that you can grab, all they need is for someone to step in and influence them.”

But we must not forget: Detective Stanton is a police officer, dedicated to serving and protecting Boston’s citizens. And his work as a boxing trainer has certainly helped his police work:

“Boxing has given me the ability to communicate with people that I wouldn’t have been able to talk to. They don’t have a problem talking to me. They don’t feel like it’s ‘snitching’. It helps. In all areas of police work.”

“Good policing” involves a sixth sense. Being able to read people, understand their needs, what their potential is. Detective Stanton must carry this out daily in his assessments of young people, in his attempt to maximize their potential.

“Owning a gym and training fighters gives young people an opportunity to approach me about something other than policing. Kids come up to me and want to know how to get into the fight game. There’s a level of respect, they realize ‘I don’t want to push this guy’s buttons.’ They know that I can handle myself.”

Stanton proudly talks about how he’s created a culture of honor in his gym, where everyone feels welcome to train.

“The main lessons we teach are discipline and respect. Boxing can be seedy sport. Not in our gym.”

He speaks thoughtfully about changes in boxing and is especially excited about the rise of women who participate at his gym.

“There’s been a huge surge in female interest in boxing. They come to respect the sport often more than they guys. The women will come down to our gym and they work side-by-side with the fighters. The biggest compliment to the way my gym is run is how they come in and feel welcome.”

And like most boxing trainers, Stanton is armed with his Confucius-esque philosophies on the sweet science:

“Boxing a human form of chess; its strategy, its one-on-one. The ability to stand in front of someone and make them miss. There’s a difference between a fighter and boxer: A boxer knows how, where and when to punch. A fighter doesn’t.”

Boxing trainers are immortalized in popular culture as wise men that spout life philosophy masked in boxing technique. In some settings, we think of them as community parents who watch over our young and facilitate the transition from childhood to adulthood. 

While many of these analogies are apt, people like Detective Tim Stanton highlight another critical characteristic of the boxing teacher: they are protectors. Between the ropes, their advice can be the difference between victory and defeat.  In the case of Detective Tim Stanton, this responsibility extends outside the ring to his daily life, where the work of he and his peers can be the difference between safety and danger, life and death.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. jimmy santry 09:26pm, 06/11/2016

    timmy is the best,  i just saw Bernie Daugherty name and spoke with mike blythe , what a trip down memory lane, tks, jimmy santry

  2. kid vegas 11:47am, 04/17/2013

    Thanks Mr. Brandon. My heart and prayers reach out to my family and friends in Boston.

  3. Mike Casey 04:42am, 04/17/2013

    I echo your sentiments, NYIrish, and wish my pals in the Boston area the very best. We have our own London marathon here on Sunday and I’m happy to say that the general mood of all concerned is one of ‘up yours’ to the perpetrators of this cowardly act.

  4. NYIrish 03:32am, 04/17/2013

    Guys like Bernie Doherty and Tim Stanton do a lot of good and don’t toot their own horns. They change a lot of lives for the better. It’s no small feat keeping a gym open and running. They’re not in it for the money. The money is always short. For every kid that goes on to a productive life, there’s a kid that goes off to a sad story. Thanks for positive story out of Boston. Your timing is impeccable.

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