Mike Englert was a teen on those rough city streets of Rochester, N.Y., when a cop yanked him right off the pavement into the back of a squad car. The cop told Englert he was going to jail.
"I started crying, 'No,'" Englert recalled.
The cop said the only alternative was the boxing gym.
More than 20 years later, Englert is still boxing. The gym is now the fetid, dank beauty of the Rock Hill Boxing Club at the Emmett Scott Community Center on Crawford Road.
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But now before Englert puts on those training clothes, he has to take off his uniform. And gun belt. After a hitch in the Marines, then years with special operations in the Army, Englert is in his seventh month as a Rock Hill police officer.
He works patrol, on the streets. Then he comes into the gym -- like all great gyms, this one is a dungeon -- to try and save a kid just like him. That kid could be named Robert or Mykai or Dashawn, tiny kids all younger than 11, learning boxing from Mike Englert, boxer, cop and friend.
"If I don't try to help these kids, who will?" asked Englert. "I got help when I was young. Boxing saved me."
Englert, a former Empire State Games champ, ended up in the South because he was based in the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He first was a police officer in Florence County, then in the summer Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory hired him.
Immediately, Englert talked about boxing. Gregory -- a boxing trainer himself in High Point, N.C., in the 1970s -- pointed out the boxing club at Emmett Scott.
At the boxing club, Englert met Marge and Charlie Hammond, who opened the Rock Hill gym more than two decades ago. Charlie is a former boxer and Marine, and lifelong trainer of fighters. Marge is a boxing judge who has been involved in the fight game just as long. Both are in the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame after years of bringing youngsters in off the streets for a chance at something better.
"I knew Mike was a Marine the minute he walked in here," Marge Hammond said. "Just the way he stood. He's great for us here. Great for the young boxers."
Englert had found a home.
Gregory said Englert in just a short time on the job has shown himself to be a good officer. But Englert's devotion to kids by helping out during his personal time will pay off both in the city and for every kid Englert teaches.
"Boxing teaches self-discipline, respect, finishing what you start," Gregory said. "I've run into people from 30 years ago who remember what we did in High Point, thanked me for helping them. That can happen here. Mike deserves credit for giving back."
Englert's way is, if want something done, do it yourself. His sister, in Iraq in the Army years ago, was wounded by a bomb. His brother was in the Army in Iraq, too. Englert left the Marine Corps reserves and enlisted, active duty Army.
"Quickest way to Iraq," Englert said.
He's still in the military, a member of the Alabama National Guard. And this soldier-turned-cop, known for never taking a step back in 99 amateur fights -- 86 of them wins -- is still at age 37 a professional boxer. Englert has a 12-3 pro record, fighting around 160 pounds.
"Tough," said Rock Hill Boxing Club's Charlie Hammond, who has trained boxers for about 50 years and knows a tough guy with an iron jaw when he sees one. "Skilled. Guts. The real thing."
Englert has a fight coming up in March in Rochester, then hopes to set up fights locally.
But his own boxing career isn't Englert's focus anymore.
It's those boxers who hear, "Get in shape, come on, push harder," from his throat in that sweaty gym. Boxing for Englert now means young kids from Rock Hill who he never saw until a few weeks ago. A few older guys who need help with training also get his expertise.
Maybe with a little luck, and a lot of sweat, that boxing ring can help a few end up like Mike Englert.