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Going for the Knockout

He was homeless and overlooked. Not anymore.

Success in life takes focus and commitment. Darryl Lane, 22, a boxer with big dreams, knows this better than most people.

He’s also come by this knowledge the hard way.

Growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Lane began boxing as a little kid. He sparred with his father, just the two of them.

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“My father used to box. He used to be a fighter,” said Lane. “I like the sport. I like the adrenaline it brings, and the competition.”

By 17, Lane was starting to take boxing seriously. But by that time, he and his father also found themselves in dire straits, with no roof over their heads, nowhere to live, no money.

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Father and son ended up in a shelter in Washington, D.C. It was June 2010.

They spent a great deal of energy trying to gather the basics most of us take for granted — food, shelter, jobs to pay the bills. One day during this time, a shelter security guard spotted Darryl and said to him, “You’re too young to be here.”

Most of all, Darryl Lane is beating not just homelessness, but hopelessness.

She handed him a flyer for Sasha Bruce Youthwork (SBY), the area’s only youth-focused 24-hour shelter. It’s one of the largest providers of service to youth in Washington, D.C. Since the 1970s has committed itself to helping those in need through counseling, safe housing, support and more.

Receiving that flyer was a defining moment in this young athlete’s life. It was a turning point, but Lane didn’t know it yet.

Lane and his dad continued to seek safe and stable housing, moving between D.C. and North Carolina. These were tough times. But the young man had an ace up his sleeve. During his travels, he kept in contact with Charles Dark, a program director at Sasha Bruce Youthwork. Dark runs the organization’s D.C. Prevention Center and saw a spark of something in the young boxer. He saw a light, a hope, a driven young man, and he reached out to help.

“Mr. Dark made sure I was connected to TLP,” said Lane, referring to the organization’s Transitional Living Program. Darryl Lane ended up spending 18 months there.

He also became a committed participant of yet another Sasha Bruce program, called Youthbuild. It matches young people with career counselors. That is how Lane got a job with Harris Teeter, a grocery store chain, where he works today.

But that’s just when he’s not boxing. After all the hardship, his ability in the ring is taking him places. Most of all, he is beating not just homelessness, but hopelessness.

At this moment, Lane is in the City of Brotherly Love, taking the well wishes and hopes of a lot of people in Washington, D.C. with him, including those at Sasha Bruce, who have supported him ceaselessly. Many people have cheered him through the hurt, the pain, the suffering and the hard times, to where he stands today, poised for greatness.

“They gave me this opportunity. Not too many people have this opportunity — to compete at this level. They believe in me.”

Lane is now a Golden Gloves winner with 30 fights under his belt. He is taking the first step in the path toward the Olympic trials for boxing at a tournament that’s being held as we speak, through Saturday.

“I have to win,” said Lane, calm yet self-possessed. “I’m planning on winning this tournament.”

He has just won two bouts in the tournament, which began Sept. 7. He has three more to go.

Afterward, he is flying out to Washington State to fight “the winner of a big Colorado match that was actually held a few months ago,” he said. If he is wins that match, he will have earned the right to attend the Olympic tryouts.

“I have the focus, and the determination, and thanks to a lot of help, the skills to take this all the way,” he told LifeZette.

Some of that help came from his first boxing gym, House of Champions, in D.C. It was there, within a few months of joining, that he fought his first amateur fight as a teenager.

“My trainer saw my commitment, saw that I had the skills,” he said.

His inspirational drive and ambition have inspired people around him.

Today, this handsome, soft-spoken young man trains at the Enigma gym in D.C. under famed boxer Gary Russell. Enigma is “very famous in the boxing world,” he shared proudly, his infectious smile spreading as he speaks.

“They gave me this opportunity. Not too many people have this opportunity — to compete at this level. They believe in me.”

Clearly there is no lack of support for him now, much to his credit. His inspirational drive and ambition have inspired people around him.

“We are very proud of Darryl,” says Larry Fullerton, a board member of SBY. “He is such a great young man.”

When he isn’t training, he is spending time with his girlfriend Nikeah Graham, 23. He calls her “his support system.”

“She helps me keep my focus. She doesn’t get in the way of this — she supports it. She definitely helps to keep me on track,” he said.

As for this young man’s Olympic dreams?

“He’s going to go all the way,” said Jim Beck, vice president of planning, development and evaluation for SBY, who playfully sparred with Darryl on a recent sunny August afternoon in the gym of the Randall Recreation Center in D.C. “He’s going to do it, and we’re here to help in whatever way we can.”

A young man can’t go wrong with support like this, especially this focused young man.

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