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Hankinson Boxing Gym provides Outlet for Aiken Youth, Works to Combat Gun Violence

By ALEXANDRA KOCH/The Aiken Standard

In 2015, James and Brittany Hankinson started a nonprofit boxing gym in their backyard to combat gun violence in Aiken County. Six years later, their trainees include half a dozen professional boxers and 13 state champions.

James Hankinson, co-founder of Hankinson Boxing Gym, started boxing when he was 8 years old.

The first gym Hankinson trained at was owned by a local couple. He said that experience inspired him to mimic the program with his wife, Brittany, in Aiken County.

“Seeing how my coach and his wife took us in and how they loved us, I wanted to keep that same love,” Hankinson said.

Growing up boxing, he said he recognized the impact the sport can have on youth and saw a need in Aiken County.

“I never played any other sport, so boxing was one of the things that I knew how to do,” Hankinson said. “With all of the violence that was going on around Aiken at the time, my wife and I wanted to make a difference – all of the kids were carrying around guns and killing each other. So we named the gym ‘Gloves up, guns down.’

Hankinson said the gym is more of a family than anything. Photos of young boxers fill the walls around the ring.

“It’s history,” Hankinson said while looking at the photos on the wall. “When the kids that come through the program leave, we follow them. When you get grown, that doesn’t mean me and Brittany are out of your life. We go to all of the graduations and it’s nice to remember those memories.”