A local church is working to purchase and renovate the building of a former Pikeville native’s boxing gym, transforming it into a faith-based after-school program for local youth while maintaining the original gym’s legacy.
Pikeville’s New Beginnings Fellowship Church is currently working to purchase and renovate a building, located at 227 Redale Road, that will house the BattleLine Boxing Gym, which is a developing ministry that the church has offered through word-of-mouth for about five years so far. As the church purchases the building, it plans to renovate the gym space and expand it into an after-school program for local youth.
Jared Arnett, lead pastor for New Beginnings Fellowship Church, said they want to transform the space into something special for everyone to enjoy in the community, and that they have dreams of eventually creating a boys and girls club from what they’ve created so far.
“We thought about moving the gym. We could have just rented somewhere else and just moved it but that place is where our heart is,” Arnett said. “We’re going to give something nice on that side of town, that place that everybody can be proud of. We’ve had building inspections, appraisals and all that kind of stuff. Everyone’s been asking, ‘Why are you buying this?’ For us, we feel like God wants us to and it doesn’t make sense, exactly, but we’re just following His lead.”
The BattleLine Boxing Gym used to be known as Mayfield’s Boxing Gym, which the late Mayfield Pennington fought to keep open for local youth from the 1990s until his death in 2013. Local Pikeville doctor Dr. Jody Brown started training with Mayfield at his gym in 2008, and he said he deeply supported Mayfield and his mission in providing a space for at-risk youth.
“We got to become close, basically like brothers, and I just love his mission that he was doing,” Dr. Brown said. “He was taking these kids off the street. It didn’t matter if you had something, you didn’t have anything, who you were, what color you were, anything — we’re going to help you. His dream was to have this boxing gym, but his real dream, which he kind of passed onto me, was actually have it turn into a huge boys and girls club here.”
Once the original gym permanently closed, Dr. Brown said that he wanted to continue Mayfield’s mission. He eventually sought the help of New Beginnings Fellowship Church in order to create a ministry that utilized the boxing gym as a way to reach young people who may need an outlet.
“When he came to our church several years ago, at that point, they had taken everything out, there was nothing left in the gym and it was in terrible shape,” Arnett said, referring to Dr. Brown. “We leased it, bought a new boxing ring to put in it, repainted the inside and we changed the name to the BattleLine, which is from 1 Samuel 17. When David ran toward Goliath, he ran toward the battle line. While the kids that we’re dealing with have all kinds of personal struggles and broken families, that’s kind of the core component of the message: Where our strength really comes is from God.”
Dr. Brown said he hopes the ministry can expand into offering other programs, in addition to boxing, to more participants from the community. He said that he regrets the fact that he does not have the ability now to teach and connect with as many students as he would like to at the gym.
“I’d love to get a boys and girls club so we could help more kids because it’s not only the boxing area, but other venues and outlets for these kids to do,” Dr. Brown said. “Not everybody is a baseball player, a basketball player, a football player or a cheerleader. There needs to be other stuff to do for these kids.”
Along with the gym, the church plans to renovate two apartments in the building that are located underneath it. One apartment will be renovated to house a professional boxing trainer that will be hired for the gym, and the second apartment will provide transitional housing. They also plan to construct a pond that would be located behind the building on the property.
Arnett said they plan to provide classes and potentially offer scholarships to young people who may want to participate in the boxing lessons, but who may not be able to afford it. The cost is currently free for the participants who take part in the ministry.
Along the walls of the BattleLine Boxing Gym, quotes from the late Mayfield Pennington are currently displayed in memorial to him, and Arnett said those displays have sparked conversations with the gym’s young participants about Mayfield and the legacy he left behind.
As Mayfield was a spiritual man, Arnett explained why it is significant for a church to take on his faith-based mission and continue where he left off.
“It was called Mayfield’s Boxing Gym, but I think God was in that place from the very beginning and Mayfield was a steward of it for some time,” Arnett said. “Then, God put it in Jody’s heart and life breathed back into the place. Now, all of a sudden, there’s new kids that are saying, ‘Who’s Mayfield?’ They’re seeing the name up there, they’ve never met him and they don’t know anything about what happened for decades there. But the influence, the legacy, is still leaving an impact. … I think God just calls the right people and resources and He just puts things together.”
New Beginnings Fellowship Church is requesting donations for the purchasing and renovations of the building in order to continue and expand the ministry of the BattleLine Boxing Gym. For more information on how to donate, call, (606)727-2100, email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit, www.nbfc.church/give. Checks can also be postmarked to P.O. Box 1398, Pikeville, KY 41502.