The important lessons in life are sometimes accompanied by pain, either physical or emotional.
Last June, amateur boxer Jah-yae Brown received a lesson in humility that was like a punch in the gut.
The Schenectady High School freshman had just earned a win in his first bout, getting the nod from each judge, but his opponent was the one whose arm was raised.
Brown was being taken down a peg because he had been showboating. He had chosen showmanship over sportsmanship, and forfeited the right to the glory that could have been his.
“I just was mad, and I started crying,” Brown said. “It made me better, too. Don’t showboat, throw more punches, stop running a lot.”
About a year ago, Brown started coming to the gym at Crosstown Plaza with his brother and his cousin to train with Vincent Kittle. Before long, his brother and cousin had stopped coming, and Brown said that’s when he realized if he really wanted to be a boxer, there was a lot of hard work to be done.
Kittle said he embraces the work, and he’s got the athletic gifts to make it pay off.
“He has a combination of power and speed,” Kittle said. “If you’re a good big puncher, normally, you’re a slow puncher, if you’re a heavy hitter. He’s very strong for such a young fellow, and he’s strong in both hands, and he has some lightning-fast speed.”
The 5-foot-6, 144-pound 14-year-old used that speed and strength last fall as a defensive end on the Patriots’ junior varsity football team, prompting his father to start calling him “The Beast.” If he can eventually build a career as a professional fighter, he said he wants that to be his nickname.
That’s the goal, he said. He wants this to become his profession, and for now, he’s focusing on his training, although Kittle points out he could spend that time playing scholastic sports, if he wanted.
“His dedication to training so he can actually be a national-level boxer is, for a 14-year-old who has options — for him to be the physical specimen that he is, he has options. He can play basketball or he can play baseball,” Kittle said. “But he’s found a spot in his heart for boxing, and I think this is what he really wants to do.”
Now that he’s had that heart stepped on in the ring, Brown said he’s realized it’s better for him to put on a show than become one. Training with Kittle has taught him if he’s going to act like the great showmen of the sport, it’s better to emulate their fists than their mouths.
“He’s a very good trainer,” Brown said of Kittle. “When I first came here, I wasn’t good at fighting. Now, I’m good. He also taught me how to be humble, no cockiness. I want people to look up to me. He taught me to just do all my talking in the ring, with my actions.”
Brown will climb into the ring at the OTB on Central Avenue in Albany on Tuesday for a rematch of his first bout. He said the judges will see a change in him from his first outing.
That will show he’s learned that lesson.
The next lesson, one that is taught and learned over many hours, is how to maintain his dedication to the sport. It’s one thing to say a fighter has to work hard. It’s another to do it, and then another to work even harder. These are the lessons Kittle sprinkles in between all the shadow boxing, the weights and the sparring.
“After [Floyd] Mayweather’s last fight, he was talking about how people always talk about him, talk about his money, but they never talk about how hard he works to get it,” Kittle said. “That’s one thing I started to echo to this young fighter, and it clicked for him. Hard work will get me to this level. He really actually got it. ‘Oh, so that’s what I have to do, work really,
really hard every day? I can be one of the greatest fighters in the world?’ Yeah, actually, you can. If you’re willing to work that hard. And he hasn’t stopped, yet.”