These days, 19-year-old Winfred Harris Jr. spends most of his time in the gym, but just a few years ago he was simply rolling with the punches.
“I was like 14. Ninth grade. And I felt like I was too cool for school,” said Harris.
It wasn’t until he took up boxing that his life began to change.
“I can’t always go out and have fun and everything because I’m at the gym. I’d rather be at the gym anyway,” said Harris.
The gym is where he met the man that would take him from lost teenager to pro athlete: His coach Ali Haakim.
“I saw a young man hitting on the heavy bag. So one day I walked up to him and said ‘bring your left hand up more’ and from that day on, we developed a relationship,” said Haakim.
Harris says Coach Ali is like a father to him.
“We talk about everything. He pretty much steered me in the right direction,” Harris said.
It’s safe to say boxing has impacted nearly every facet of Harris’ life. Now he’s taking all the hard work he’s done in the gym and trying to make a career out of it.
“We had a very spectacular entrance. A very spectacular win. This young man came in and put on a great show,” Haakim said as he reflected on Harris’ pro debut.
Harris had his first pro fight a couple weeks ago, and Haakim says they couldn’t have asked for a better result.
As far as the future goes, right now Harris and Haakim believe the sky is the limit.
“In five years, I probably should have a title by then,” said Harris.
“I think this young man is going to be champion of the world,” said Haakim.
Harris opened up a world of opportunities by simply stepping into the ring.
When asked where he would be if he hadn’t taken up boxing, Harris said “I don’t even want to know. I hope I wouldn’t have been in jail, probably somewhere like that.”