There's nothing elegant about the Hamilton Eagles Boxing Club Gym just off Main Street in Hamilton. The humble hole-in-the-wall has the necessities — a ring that takes up most of the front third of the building; a host of different punching bags, many suspended by chains from a make-do wood beam.
But there's a hushed sense of pride the some dozen boxers and their volunteer coaches have about the hall and the fighters that call it home. Their voices show it — sometimes — but particularly when they talk about one of their own: Bryson Kearney.
"He would much rather be in the gym than do anything else. Unless he has to work, he’s in here. There are days that he’s here before I’m here," said Bret Taggart, head coach and president of the nonprofit Hamilton Boxing Club, said of Kearney.
"...He’s the kind of kid that could be an Olympic boxer."
Kearney is the kind of kid that lives and breathes hard work. It's understandable that a no-frills gym is his boxing abode, and a place he's spent every free moment he's had the last two months.
"I’ve been down here the past five or six weeks, seven days a week," said Kearney, a 16-year-old Darby High School junior.
That means a lot of driving — and work — for Kearney. The boxer lives up Lost Horse Road, a rural subdivision between Hamilton and Darby, where he drives in to school every day. Then it's off to the job at Beck Construction before boxing practice in the evening. School, work, punch bags — then the clock — and repeat.
"He’s that kid that’s really devoted to the sport," Taggart said. "He likes the science behind it. He really works hard on the mechanics of it and he spends a lot of time working on it and being in shape and preparing for the next thing."
The next thing is a rematch with Canadian light-middleweight National Junior Champion Janick Lacroix. The two met at the Montana State Silver Glove boxing card last December. Lacroix won the fight by decision, using a bevvy of body blows that Kearney hopes he's prepared to counter.
"I went down and sparred a guy out of Butte last month and he taught me a lot of good stuff. We must have sparred a good 30 rounds over there," Kearney said. "I know I can't take the body punches now."
The two will be a must-see fight on Saturday night when they have a match bout during the two-day Montana State Junior Olympics Boxing Tournament starting Friday. Fights start at 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.
"Last time they fought you couldn’t hear anything in there the crowd was so loud," coach Taggart said. "I think you’re going to see the same thing. Both of them know how tough the other one is."
While the match isn't technically for a tournament title — Kearney is already through to the Region 10 Junior Olympics in Casper, Wyoming on May 2-3 — the bout should be a good measuring stick for the Montana fighter. Lacroix is one of the best boxers his age in Canada.
And Kearney is among the best in the United States.
USA Boxing has Kearney ranked No. 7 in the country at the youth 165-pound age and weight division. That's impressive all its own.
But considering Kearney fights out of a not-for-profit club's part-time gym in the small corner of Southwest Montana, it makes sense coaches can't help but beam about the boy.
"He's competing against kids that go to Floyd Mayweather's gym; gyms that are open (all) day," Taggart said. "(Meanwhile) we filled sandbags (last month) to raise funds for our gym."
Kearney is also one of the few his age in Montana still carrying the boxing torch. That's why the high school student has to cross the state — or go out of the country — to find a match.
The personal drive to stick with the sport — one that has a strong history and roots in Montana but is certainly not nearly as popular as its heyday — is respectable.
"I’m one of the only kids my age (and weight class) that fights in Montana, but I really like coming down here and sparring and helping with the kids," Kearney said. "The competition. Every time I do get to step in the ring, I love the adrenaline rush you get. It’s like you’re addicted to it kind of."
It also helps that Kearney's family is big into boxing. His uncle, Marlin Mosbrucker is a former state Golden Gloves champ, Kearney said, and Kearney's two siblings and his mom, Misty, are active members the Hamilton club.
But the drive and passion Kearney shows for the sport are certainly unique. On Tuesday at the club, the only break Kearney would take from his circuit-training workout was to show a younger boxer a technique or offer a helping hand.
"If (he) sees somebody who can’t do something, (he figures) out how to help them," Taggart said of Kearney and his boxers in general. "That’s the attitude I want to cultivate."
Which makes the sweltering and small Hamilton Eagles Boxing Club Gym fertile ground, as it has grown one of the best boxers in the country.