Kale & Right Crosses: Plant-Powered Boxing

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Photo- Guy Roland

In Spring 2014,  I began training and fundraising as a contender in Aprons for Gloves. Affectionately referred to as Aprons, AFG was founded in 2012. Based within the DTES, the Aprons for Gloves Boxing Association is a non-profit organization focused on providing community outreach through boxing. “ The organization was developed by a small group of professionals and entrepreneurs who seized an opportunity to re-establish a historic boxing program for at-risk women and youth, “ reads the main site. “ Aprons for Gloves offers free mentorship and training to individuals who may otherwise not have the resources or support to participate in such activities. The sport of boxing teaches discipline, respect, hard work and self-control. Training results in positive self-esteem, good health and camaraderie for its practitioners.

Within a few weeks after training began, I quickly became known as the token vegan contender. (The containers of yams and dates may have been a dead giveaway.) The questions and comments that came up from my cohorts as a result of this realization, instigated a personal investigation into the world of plant-based boxing, whether or not it existed, and who the key players were. Lo and behold thanks to the power of the virtual world, I discovered two pillars in the community: Ami Mackey ( Program Director – St Louis All City Boxing, a gym which runs a very similar program to Eastside Boxing), and Cam Awesome (11 time National Boxing Champion, Captain of US National Team.) Further fueled by the powers of the virtual world, so began my quest into the world of vegan boxing.




Who are you? (Name + title.)

AM: Ami Mackey – Program Director – St Louis All City Boxing.

CA: 11 time National Boxing Champion, Captain of US National Team.


What made you decide to become vegan?

 AM: A health scare for my husband persuaded us to give it a try.

CA: Lost a bet and after the Engine 2 28 day challenge I felt great.


How long have you been boxing?

AM: I’ve been helping boxers improve their nutrition for 2 years now.

CA: I have been boxing for 8 years.


Cam, you mentioned that Ami was your intro to not only veganism, but boxing as a vegan. Can you talk about connecting with one other? (How did you meet, etc.)

Well, I was boxing before as a carnivore successfully but I feel as if becoming vegan gave me the edge on my opponents. Bill Mackey (Ami’s husband) came to me to teach him how to box. He said he was going to lose 40 pounds and he did it with ease and I inquired how he did it.


The program running at St. Louis All City Boxing is very similar in goals and initiatives to Aprons for Gloves (which I trained in to support the Eastside Boxing Gym.) AMAZING to see what you are doing there. Can you talk about the background of the gym?

AM: The gym was a conversation that my husband Bill, Cam and I had during a road trip two years ago. We had talked of buying an old warehouse, starting a vegan boxing gym, having a tutoring/mentoring program, with a commercial kitchen and community garden so we could grow food to feed the kids and their families if needed.  It would be a comprehensive program centered around boxing.  This was our dream and it’s just starting to become a reality here in St Louis.  We are working on getting our 501(c)3 designation from the IRS (nonprofit), then we plan on growing our program to include all of the things mentioned above.  Right now we have healthy snacks every day.  Eventually, healthy dinner after tutoring and before boxing.


You’re also a Food Coach with Engine 2, and run www.plantbasedadventures.com. Boxing and plant-based food- do these two worlds intersect at the gym, and if so- how?

AM: Most boxers need to make weight.  Following a low calorie density plan filled with nutrients can make cutting weight a lot easier.  It makes much more sense to be walking into a week long tournament, fully fueled and at weight, then sweating it off in the pre-dawn hours each day before weigh-ins.  I help the boxers learn how to eat smarter so they can train harder, recover faster and gain the edge on their opponents.


Cam- have you always boxed as a vegan? If not, what are the differences you observe boxing as a vegan vs. non-vegan?

I have only been vegan for 2 years and the difference I can tell is besides the obvious practice of discipline, my recovery time is a lot faster. I feel as if I run smooth and I can minipulate my weight up or down easily.


How do you see a plant-based diet benefiting boxers, and athletes in general?

AM: Athletes use their bodies to become successful.  Treating their machine to premium fuel makes so much sense, reduces inflammation and allows them to perform better, regardless of the type of sport.

CA: I feel as if it’s not just for athletes. It’s a healthier lifestyle for people in general. Not just the lack of meat and dairy products but the lack of extra chemicals in the food. That’s why it’s plant based and not just “vegan”.


What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about boxing?

AM: Parents think that it is super dangerous and that their kids will just be getting hit in the head the whole time. Boxing requires more time training than actually competing, unlike a lot of sports.  It requires a lot of discipline, strength, endurance and determination.  With proper training, supervision and discipline, boxing doesn’t have to be dangerous.


CA: That someone has to be angry, ignorant and uneducated to be a boxer. I pride myself in being articulate and a friendly person to stop the misconceptions of boxers being overly tough. I box in a pink skirt (breast cancer awareness)


What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about eating a plant-based diet?


AM: People think we just eat salads. People are convinced we must have a TON of protein to survive when that’s actually not true at all.  People know very little about how the digestive system works and fall prey to marketing ploys and fads.  Eating real food, unprocessed and nutritious is sadly far removed from the standard American diet these days.


CA: That someone has to be angry, ignorant and uneducated to be a boxer. I pride myself in being articulate and a friendly person to stop the misconceptions of boxers being overly tough. I box in a pink skirt (breast cancer awareness). People think because I’m vegan all I eat is lettuce. When I go to someone’s house they have no idea what to offer me to eat. They don’t know about all the spices, grains and other things they have no idea what it is that they are missing.


AM: The kids in our program get an apple each day.  In the beginning, I thought maybe half of the apples would be eaten.  Every single day, we run out. Many of the kids in our program come from low income families and often have little to eat outside of the free lunch program at school.  Providing healthy choices for the kids daily in turn, the kids choose healthy options when they can.  I’ve had kids leave with an apple in each pocket to take home.  This makes my day.  The alternative is junk food from the gas station up the street from the gym, or sometimes nothing at all.  Many of the kids have told me that they don’t have any food at home.  We are looking forward to being able to provide them with dinner as soon as we secure more funding


To find out more about Eastside Boxing, please follow @eastsideboxing on Twitter. The gym is currently being re-built at its new location, and the crew is always accepting more volunteers for construction and some electrical projects. Contact Zoe.

Email- zoe@theveganproject.com

Insta- @zoemarg


Kale and Right Crosses 2.0 coming soon…featuring local Derek McKenzie.



Article by

Ami Mackey, FNS






Cam F. Awesome

11 Time National Champion

Captain of US National Team



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