Feature | Jul 16 2018

Sugar Hill – Rebuilding Detroit

'Everybody knew all about the gold and red of the Kronk gym.' Javan Hill tells Chris Walker about his plans to revive boxing in Detroit

A son of Detroit and a nephew of fighting royalty, Javan “Sugar” Hill’s dedication to establishing boxing once again in The Motor City is unrivalled. A figurehead at the illustrious Kronk gym, where tough men were churned out as frequently as the automobiles in the nearby, now defunct, motor factories, Hill knows all about rise and falls, but it’s his expertise in the former that fills him with a glowing confidence that the Michigan region can come again.

“The whole mindset in this city has got to change,” declared a knowing Hill referring to the problems currently gripping not only Detroit, but the vast majority of working class American neighbourhoods. “Kids don’t fight no more. They either go grab a gun or pull a knife because they ain’t man enough or strong enough to look themselves in the mirror and tell their sorry ass that they just been fucked up. It’s ok to lose a fight. We lose in life.”

Hill’s apprenticeship in boxing came under the studious eyes of his uncle and mentor, the late Emanuel Steward. A young boy in a female family dominated environment, Hill was pulled away from jovial encounters with Steward’s two daughters and thrust straight into a world of fistic combat that has refused to ease its vice’like grip on him ever since. The Kronk production line, situated in the basement of a Detroit community centre named after John Kronk, a Polish born councilman, was school for Hill, and the education he received there has made a greater contribution to his existence than any of the classes he was sometimes bothered to take at more formal educational institutions.