It’s the hundredth anniversary year for Happy Hollow Playground in Germantown (the official party is coming up in September), but if you go there most afternoons you’ll see history of a different sort. The history of science.
The sweet science, that is.
Happy Hollow’s boxing program has been slugging away for 40 years now, and even on a hot night like yesterday you’ll find men and women, boys and girls doing their lab work.
“Jab… jab,” the word comes from 73-year-old Eugene Pearson’s mouth like a spear cutting through the air. “Jab-body-body.”
He is holding a heavy bag for a teenaged boxer who stops occasionally to ask advice about how to throw those punches, how they should be landing on the hard-packed cotton.
Pearson ought to know, he’s worked with every boxer who came through the program, including world cruiser weight champ from 1995 to 1997, Nate Miller, who trained at Happy Hallow and lives nearby.
On this hot Monday evening sweat flowed like a river in that big room and boxers worked out in every free space they could find, with each other, with bags big and small, and in the ring that dominates fully one half of the old facility.
Trainer Melvin Mayfield Jr. worked with a collection of fighters from age nine to 19 in that ring. They sparred shark-bait, in short periods with rotating partners, as Mayfield shouted commands not loudly, but in a tone each boxer seemed specially tuned to hear.
College student Mira Colquitt has been coming to the program only a few months, already she spars in the ring working on footwork, movement and throwing shots.
Ten year-old Darryl Jones and nine-year-old Jaleel Haynes take a longer round together, moving carefully around each other, throwing punches that blur the air.
When the champ, a 6’ 2” and still fit looking Miller, comes though the open double doors from Wayne Avenue none of the work inside stops. He holds court quietly, one by one, taking pictures with friends and old trainers, handing out the occasional signed promotional card of him with the World Boxing Association belt.
A documentary film is in the making about the local hero, and this fall Happy Hollow will hold an appreciation dinner for all the trainers like Pearson and Mayfield who keep the program punching. But most days the work at the Happy Hollow boxing program is about that sweet science that keeps kids engaged and coming back day after day, year after year.