A new documentary is shining a light on a once popular Kalamazoo boxing gym
The Kalamazoo Boxing Academy is also the subject of a special exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Dacia Bridges’ family was heavily involved with the famed Kalamazoo Boxing Academy. The gym no longer exists but back in the 70’s, it was a popular hangout for boxers and boxing fans alike. Bridge’s grandfather, Eddie Bridges, was a well-known amateur trainer there. Her dad, uncles, and many family friends were all boxers at the KBA. Dacia’s dad says she started the project because of their family connection to the school.
After living abroad for years as a European singer/songwriter, Dacia returned home with her sights set on something new, yet familiar. Documenting her family legacy. She had recently taken an interest in filmmaking. She moved back in with her dad, Danny Bridges, and started interviewing many of those involved in the KBA. She was in the process of completing the documentary when she died suddenly in 2019. Lawrence Productions, Incorporated, the company she was partnering with, took Dacia’s interviews and finished the project for her.
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum hosted a private screening for the result of that joint effort. The documentary is titled Forgotten Fighters. The Kalamazoo Boxing Academy is also the subject of a special exhibit at the museum. Danny Bridges, Dacia’s father says the sneak-peak was bittersweet.
“It just hurts that she wasn’t here to see the final product. To be able to go wow, man. I did this!”
The famed gym ironically, once stood where the museum is now located. Torn down years ago, nothing from the glory days of the KBA remains. Dacia’s uncle, Lionell Ford, was also in attendance at the sneak-peak. Ford, a retired professional boxer, featured in the documentary still lives in the area. He says when he visits the museum, the memories of the KBA haven’t faded.
“Every time we set foot in there, we can’t help but stop and reminisce where the gym was, where the offices were, where the training rooms were. It’s like just like being back there once again.”
The KBA catered to both amateurs and pros alike. It attracted some well-known boxers like Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, and Floyd Mayweather Sr. It also trained local youth. Ford says he’s thrilled that they have a permanent record of the gym that meant so much to him. Most of the interviews were conducted at Ford’s house in Kalamazoo or at boxing gyms around the country, including Las Vegas, Detroit, Nevada, and Grand Rapids. Ford says he hopes the documentary hits its mark on the future of Kalamazoo boxing.
“I’m very hopeful, that for one all the sweat, blood and tears that was put into that time not be forgotten and we can really learn from some of the occurrences from that great time.” He also thinks that boxing can still have a positive impact on Kalamazoo, like it did in the past with its troubled youth. “To be able to take them off the streets even now who may be involved in crime and violence and give them something constructive to do, like boxing!”
For Danny Bridges, the screening packed an emotional punch, having him thinking of his daughter and his dad.
”I know Dacia’s smiling from heaven right now, she sees it. You know my dad. Oh. They would have loved it. They would have loved it.”
The documentary is broken into 12 rounds in tribute to the structure of a boxing fight. The film was funded through the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and in part by the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation. A public screening is set for September 10th but excerpts from the documentary can be found on the museum’s website. Click here for more information.