HAMMOND | Something quite special is happening at 250 Ogden St., and it's not a massive yard sale where one person's garbage is another's treasure.
Nestled among several older, stately-looking mansions is Dennis Hardesty's Hammond Boxing Club, which opened in August of 2009 with the all-out support of Mayor Tom McDermott Jr.
HBC could be a last bastion for local fighters.
It is an impressive layout with two rings, countless speed and punching bags, weights, meeting and training rooms -- one with a sign that read 'Torture Room' which I did not enter -- and a staff of instructors that includes ex-fighters Jack Callahan, Ruben Galvan, Erik Jakubowski and Amy Yuratovac.
But there's more. Much more.
The former YWCA building, showing its age but still functional, averages 35 to 45 individuals each week, ages 7 through 50, who come for lessons.
Hardesty and staff also work with Parkinson's patients to help improve their focus and coordination.
They even offer free tutoring to students.
Last week, Hardesty felt like he'd won Super Lotto. HBC was the only facility in this country chosen by the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville for "character education" by its tutors, who paid a personal visit.
OK. OK. Hardesty knows a World Boxing Club big shot who referred the Ali Center to his Hammond operation. And they like what they heard and saw, according to senior director Marcel Parent.
"Muhammad Ali was amazed at how people reacted to him in terms of how he inspired them," Parent said. "As he got a little older, he wanted people to be inspired without him being around forever.
"That's when our core principles started coming together, the things that really made Muhammad Ali great -- confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality."
We all have greatness deep within us and the Ali Center curriculum, designed for middle- and high-school age youth, plus young adults, draws that to the surface with its teaching.
The HBC, a perfect fit, is more concerned with developing strong character and discipline among its youth than finding the next champion.
But don't call Dennis Hardesty a hero for "saving" the sport, locally. He won't have it.
"I wake up every day and this is where I head," he said. "We work it every day, the same concept as I did before (in Whiting) except with this gym, we expanded it.
"I never really thought about keeping boxing alive. It's something I've been doing since 1978. I don't think of anything else than what I do here -- helping people."
One In A Million Inc. had made region boxing relevant once again until it pulled up stakes and moved out West in 2009.
"It's not dead. It's in a lull. That's the way boxing's always been," Hardesty argues. "It's a roller coaster ride. My thoughts are, as long as we have the kids here, let's give 'em something else.
"That's why we opened the tutoring program and expanded to Parkinson's patients, because we have the opportunity now. I don't have time to think about whether boxing's dead.
"All I know is, for me, boxing's alive."
The proof's right there at 250 Ogden St.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org