Meridian Star

Sports

December 11, 2012

Collins finds home, Hall of Fame from boxing

MERIDIAN —     Freddie Collins never wanted to box, it was just the only sport that would take him. At 75 pounds, the 13-year-old Collins was too small to play his preferred sport of football, and at no bigger than 5-foot-4, he was far too short to play basketball.

    Life in Meridian during the mid-70s didn’t offer much to a boy deemed too small for sports. In fact, all Collins really remembers before his boxing days was going to school and coming back home. That was until his brother Eddie took him to the Meridian Boxing Club to meet trainer Hubert Rivers — there Freddie found a home and a mentor.

    “Really, I wasn’t trying to box, I just wanted to get out of the house,” Collins said. “I went down there and watched everyone work out. Before I knew it, I was boxing.”

    

The early days

    In tears, Collins pleaded with his mother to allow him to join his brother Eddie at the gym. At first she replied no, fearing the slight young boy could get hurt. However, seeing her son upset and once again told he was too small to participate, Thelma Grace Collins allowed her son to join his bother — but only to watch.

    Collins tagged along, but it wasn't long until the eager youngster started receiving looks himself. While he didn't have the size of some of the other athletes in the gym, Collins' talent was easy to spot. Hungry to compete, he trained tirelessly in the gym, working from 5 p.m. after school until he went home to eat supper and go to bed.

    “The best I can remember, he only weighed about 75 pounds,” Rivers said. “He was a little energetic kid, real polite, nice and eager to learn. We took kids of all sizes, and he just worked really hard. He just started to progress along into boxing, moving from his age group into the senior tournaments and on from there.”

    Rivers, or Sarge as the members of the gym called him, took the young brothers under his wings, teaching them not only to be better boxers, but better men as well. The sergeant at the Meridian Police Department had one rule — if you couldn't keep your grades up in school, you couldn't box.

    The trainer motivated Collins to work even harder, as the young boxer continued to improve in the ring and remain trouble-free outside of it. After all, Collins had very little time to get into any mishaps. Spending his whole afternoon at the gym, he was far too tired to do anything other than box, nor did he really want to.

    Collins finally got his first opportunity to box in 1975 when he traveled to Gulfport with Rivers and the team. The fight came as a surprise to the young boxer, who originally thought he was attending the tournament as a spectator.

    “Rivers walked up to me and said try it,” Collins said. “They just kind of threw me in there, and after that I thought it was alright.”

    While Collins lost the fight, his potential was still bright. It wouldn't be long until the young fighter continued to grow and work his way up the amateur ranks.

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