Boxing trainer James Redman knows some things are worth fighting for.
➼ One day, in the early 1990s, James Redman was walking through Sunnyside with his cousin when they spotted a white sign that just said BOXING.
He had stumbled on Simon’s, a gym run by Morgantown boxing trainer and promoter Steve Simon. For reasons he can’t quite articulate, Redman was drawn in. He was an athlete, playing baseball and running track in high school, but had no connection to boxing. He wasn’t a scrappy kind of guy, either. “I was never really a fighter in school or on the street. I just wanted to see what it was about,” he says. “Once I did, I fell in love with it.”
After some months training with Simon, Redman began his amateur career. He was 22 years old at the time—young for a 21st century human, middle-aged for an amateur boxer, but practically ancient for a beginning pugilist. Yet Redman had talent.
The Early Rounds
His first big fight happened at the now-closed Palace Inn in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. “I got rocked toward the end of the first round. I don’t remember anything ‘til the third round,” he laughs.
Still, Redman stayed on his feet. By the time he regained his senses in the third round, his opponent tried to hit him with the same punch that dazed him in the first. This time, Redman ducked it—and knocked his opponent out.
He spent the next four years appearing on cards in West Virginia and surrounding states. By 1998, Redman boasted a 15–1 amateur record.
Then his career hit a snag. Simon closed down the gym and moved away. Redman went to a gym in Clarksburg a few times but it was just too far away, especially since he didn’t have a car at the time. He hung up his gloves. Yet, his love for the sweet science never went away.
Redman started working as a weight trainer. It wasn’t a good fit. “It was boring to me. You stack the bar and you lift.” So, in 2011, he started training boxers. Without a formal gym to use, he held his classes outdoors. Trainees did their roadwork by pounding the pavement up and down Frat Hill. They practiced their footwork and learned to throw punches on the lawn of the Mountainlair.
Redman’s classes met three times a week, rain or shine. He told his fighters, “if it’s not thundering and lightening, we’re not stopping. If you want this, I’m here to give it to you.”
Meanwhile, he continued looking for a gym to train his boxers. For a while he borrowed space at other gyms around town, but the arrangements never quite worked out. Not ready to be counted out, Redman volunteered for two drug studies with Mylan to raise money for a deposit. Then he got a Sunday edition of the Dominion Post, turned to the classifieds, closed his eyes, and pointed to a property—landing on a listing for a space on Greenbag Road.
He opened his first gym in 2011, dubbing it Redman’s Pound 4 Pound. Within six months, he had already outgrown it. He moved to a space on Fayette Street and then, three years later, to a location on Don Knotts Boulevard. Last year, the gym moved to its current location at 227 Chestnut Place, beneath Apothecary Ale House & Café.
Worth Fighting For
Although his address has changed, Redman’s belief in grit has not. “Boxing is all about discipline. It’s all about heart. If you don’t have the heart for the sport, you’re not going to go far,” he says. “I’m not training you to kick somebody’s butt. I’m training you to be a better you.”
Redman has no time for people who don’t have heart. He’s found that many would-be boxers change their minds after taking just one punch. That’s why he instituted a rule: Every new boxing trainee at Redman’s Pound 4 Pound—young, old, male, female—must spar with Redman first. “We go at it. And if you’re able to take a punch, we can talk about other stuff,” he says.
Of course, there are other members of Redman’s gym who will never take a fight. He provides strength and conditioning training for local high school basketball and football players. They might not need to know how to throw a punch, but a boxing-style workout can help young athletes develop better hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular endurance, and core strength.
Redman also has students who aren’t looking to get better at a sport—they’re just looking to get healthy. Not long ago, local teacher Kristen Green showed up at Pound 4 Pound. Her husband had recently died and, as she sorted through her grief, she watched the numbers of her bathroom scale steadily climbing.
Green weighed in at 254 pounds at her visit. She told Redman she wanted to be under 200 pounds. He promised that, if she didn’t reach that goal weight after six months in his gym, he would refund all her membership fees. “She came to the gym three days a week and I gave her a meal plan she followed to the letter,” he says.
Six months later, there was no refund necessary. Green’s new fighting weight? One hundred sixty-five pounds.
No matter their reasons for signing up, Redman expects the same level of dedication from all his students. His philosophy is summed up in a slogan he adopted back in the bad old days when he was still training fighters in borrowed space. He had his then-four-year-old daughter, Ne’Vayah, sitting on his lap when a fighter started complaining that the workout was too painful.
The little girl piped up: “If it hurts, it works.”
Now those words are emblazoned on Redman’s banners and business cards.
227 Chestnut Street, 304.906.1090, @RedmansP4P
photographed by Kayse Ellis