Tafari Beard, of Zachary, is a teacher but his classroom doesn’t have any desks or a chalkboard and his students don’t learn from books.
Beard’s classroom is BREC’s North 14th Street Boxing Facility in Baton Rouge and his Red Stick Boxing Club students are learning to be pugilists — boxers, in more common vernacular.
And Beard, 35, teaches lessons that go far beyond the boxing ring.
“I try to give them confidence and build up their self-esteem,” Beard said. “I teach them how to act in public. I’m teaching them manners and how to be productive young men and role models and good citizens.”
He also teaches the youngsters a little something about boxing. June has been an amazing month for the Red Stick club members.
Over the weekend of June 8-13, Tavorian Anderson won the gold medal in the 80-pound division for 9- to 10-year-olds at the USA Boxing National Prep/Junior Olympic Tournament in Charleston, West Virginia. Treyvean Beard earned a silver medal in the 95-pound class for 11- to 12-year-olds, losing a close match in the final. Tafari Beard Jr. earned a bronze medal in the 85-pound division for 9- to 10-year-olds. Michael Anderson just missed out on a medal, losing in the quarterfinals. All four boxers became nationally ranked.
Most recently, the Red Stick club traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the National Title Boxing Championship Tournament June 17-20. Four of the boxers who made the trip won titles. Treyvean and Tafari Beard Jr. and Tavorian and Michael Anderson won their classes, while Shannon Helaire Jr. just missed out.
Tafari Beard is a detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department in the Financial Crimes unit. He retired from professional boxing in 2007 with a 6-0 record and five knockouts after an amateur career with 160 bouts. He said he quit because his promoter was giving him the run-around and he was not fighting enough. Plus, he was burned out.
“I was tired of dealing with that and the money was not that great,” Beard said. “I wanted to do something different.”
When his brother Tarik’s son, Treyvean, was 7 years old, he started bugging his uncle to teach him how to box.
“I thought that was (a) chapter of my life that was closed,” Beard said. “But I started training him and fell in love with coaching little kids.”
He also started training his sister Takiyah’s sons, Tavorian and Michael, and later his own son, Tafari Jr., who is going into fifth grade at Copper Mill Elementary.
Now, the Red Stick club has eight boxers and Beard trains the kids along with David Pichon at the 14th Street gym. They qualified for the national tournament by winning at the state tournament in April in New Orleans and the regional tournament May 23 in New Orleans. Boxers from across the country qualified for the national event and battled for medals and national rankings over a five-day period.
“They’re all good students,” Beard said of his boxers. “I take these kids and work with them any way I can to make them better individuals. Not every kid will be a world champion. If they lack confidence to get in the ring at first, I teach them how to overcome their fear and get in the ring.”
At this level for amateurs, Beard said, the most important thing is to get experience. The Red Stick boxers will next compete at the Ringside Championships in Independence, Missouri, over Aug. 4-8, the Paul Murphy Tournament in Atlanta in September, the National Brown Gloves Tournament in Dallas in November and the State Silver Gloves qualifier in December.
“We had fights we won but didn’t get decisions, but I don’t worry about wins and losses at this age,” Beard said. “It’s more about getting experience. Self-esteem is important, and teaching them to walk with their heads up if kids are bullying you. That’s the satisfaction I get.
“If they win a few fights, that’s great, too. I enjoy taking them to these tournaments. The knowledge and experience I have and passing that on to other kids and seeing them excel is very gratifying. It’s overwhelming to see them grow from being afraid to being No. 1 or No. 2 in the country for their age.”
“I teach them boxing as a hobby,” he added. “I don’t want to force it on them to be in the gym all day. When they’re not in the gym, I want them to be kids. I don’t want it to be a job. When they’re away from the gym, I don’t want them to think about boxing. Just be kids.”
Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.