Michael Imhoff wants Hamilton and its neighboring communities to know there’s no pressure or intimidation at the Imhoff School of Boxing.
“Everyone starts at the same point. Come in, we’ll show you how to box and how to defend yourself. We’ll get you to the point if you want to keep going, you can keep going.”
Imhoff, who is a licensed school psychologist, chemical dependency counselor, and mental health counselor, has over 30 years’ experience in boxing. It was while working as a school psychologist for Edgewood City Schools that he realized how beneficial an after-school boxing program could be to boost the confidence and self-esteem of middle school students who were being bullied.
“I began seeing that our anti-bullying efforts weren’t very effective,” Imhoff recalled. “I started teaching kids who were being bullied how to box. It was hugely effective and popular.”
The Imhoff School of Boxing is currently located at 190 N. Brookwood Ave. within Elite Performance. The school began providing training and lessons to 20 boxers a week. Today, the school provides onsite training and lessons to around 80 clients a week.
“We had more students than I could train, so we opened our gym. Soon, parents started joining us in the workouts and trainings, especially the moms.”
“We do a lot of self-defense,” Imhoff explained. “Kids, as well as their parents, like to know they can take care of themselves. Boxing changes a person’s physical health, mental health, and sense of community.”
An integral part of Imhoff’s community is Dr. Jeff Baker, two-time national amateur champion, former professional boxer, licensed clinical psychologist, and chemical dependency counselor. Baker and Imhoff work together to train boxers and offer treatment programs for victims of bullying (individual and group programming).
“As both Dr. Baker and I are psychologists, we also work with people with various psychological struggles, via boxing (anxiety, depression, lifestyle changes, trauma-based problems, etc.).”
“Jeff Baker is the shoulders that we stand on. We’ve made a great team over the years. Jeff is still supporting the program.”
Credit: Nick Graham
Credit: Nick Graham
Straight from the shoulder
Boxing at the school is affordable with no strings attached: the cost is $20 per boxing session and there are no contracts or hidden fees. When asked how most clients arrive to the school, Imhoff explained that word-of-mouth has been the best referral program.
“The best feedback is when a current or previous client says ‘I’m gonna send a friend over to you. Take good care of them,’” Imhoff said.
“In the last six months, we’ve taken big steps forward,” Imhoff continued. “We have such a good community. The city is really trying to help us grow.” Imhoff mentioned that Hamilton’s mayor and vice mayor attended the first Friday Fight Night, held last January at The Benison at 100 S. 3rd St. in Hamilton.
But don’t let the fight nights intimidate you.
“Boxing’s not the violent sport it can be,” Imhoff stated. “Less than 10% of people who come in here actually spar.”
Imhoff and the school maintain they are “exclusively inclusive,” meaning anyone can enroll who is interested in individualized or group training, boxing or self-defense.
Rolling with the punches
The school is also home to the Iris Project, a non-profit organization Imhoff founded with Pam Taylor. The Iris Project, inspired by Taylor’s child who lives with cerebral palsy, provides adaptive boxing lessons to children with disabilities and therapeutic needs for recreational therapy.
“We work hand-in-hand with a group called May We Help,” Taylor said. “They adapt anything to help.”
May We Help is a Greater Cincinnati volunteer team composed of engineers and doctors who assess environments and adapt equipment for people with disabilities. They have provided the School with a tilt table to assist with abdominal workouts, a customized-chair for boxers who are wheelchair-bound, and a boxing glove for those whose hands can’t open enough to fit into a boxing glove. The punching bags have been modified to make sounds when they have been hit to help blind and visually impaired boxers.
The Iris Project and the School further serve the adaptive sports community by hosting adaptive boxing clinics. Fred Neurohr, a program coordinator in a joint appointment with the Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, brings dozens of program participants to the School each month for free adaptive boxing classes. The participants, who are school-age children, have serious uncorrectable vision problems, but the clinics focus on strengthening usable vision.
“It’s really a place for everybody. It’s the epitome of inclusiveness,” Neurohr said. “Mike [Imhoff] meets people where they are. Every kid to their ability.”
Neurohr further explained the clinics are safe and the kids, as well as their parents, get a lot out of them. Each clinic has “just as many girls as boys,” and all the participants work hard and have fun.
“My kids don’t need things to be easy, they need them to be possible,” Neurohr emphasized.
In the near future, Imhoff and Taylor want to explore opportunities to serve more disabilities at the School and raise funds for scholarships to help students who are being bullied.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Imhoff School of Boxing can visit their website, and stay up-to-date on developments and events promoted on their Facebook page.
The Hamiltonian Magazine is a content partner of the Journal-News.
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