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Nonprofit Hopes To Revive Portland Gym Where Ali (Probably) Trained

A building where it's rumored Louisville-native Muhammad Ali once trained could see new life thanks to a local nonprofit.

Paul Coffey, an instructor for the nonprofit Jutsu Aiki Martial Arts, is managing the project. Coffey said he discovered the building when walking around the Portland neighborhood. He bought it and hopes to eventually move his classes and programs inside.

Coffey said the programs could revive the people and the neighborhood by giving back through community service and empowerment. He hopes the neighborhood will eventually attract people — like Germantown or the Highlands have.

“We’re going to enrich this neighborhood, we’re going to clean this neighborhood up and we’re also going to help them enrich themselves,” Coffey said. “We’re going to give them some job training so that they learn a skill so that they can go back and be enfranchised as opposed to disenfranchised.”

Located at 617 North 27th Street, down the street from the Portland Park and Community Center, the building was erected as a grocery store nearly a century ago. It was eventually turned into a gym, where Coffey says boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis trained. Now the structure is in disrepair; its windows are boarded, sidewalks overgrown and some bricks are missing.

Coffey said the classes would be offered for free in exchange for students devoting community service hours.

To prepare the building for classes, Coffey hopes to raise up to $18,000 for construction costs. He’ll also host paid programs like archery tag to raise money to pay for class instructors.

Classes in the gym could start by Spring 2018.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.

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