There was a time when seventy-five, a hundred kids worked out every day in Jimmie Howell's gym. Come Golden Gloves tourney time it was all Howell could do to tape the fists fast enough for his boys to get in the ring and fight. Of course, that was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. To keep ten kids on the roster regularly today counts as success. "It's a tough, tough sport," says Howell, founder of the North County Athletic Association. "There's so many distractions today, we're lucky if 10 percent stick around." But that doesn't mean Howell's punching out anytime soon. On the other side of 70 years old, he's still got plenty left to give. "My father ran the gym when I was a kid, and I would like to keep giving back some of what was given to me," he says. And how: Howell and his three fellow trainers run the gym at no cost to fighters. To pay the rent, they depend on donations, fundraisers and door charges at fights. Though Howell's known for his soft side in a violent sport, he's respected by fighters, trainers and refs alike.
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