From “labeled” to leader: How Arthur Blackmore overcame his past to help troubled youth
Bits of popcorn sailed through the air as bags suddenly became pom-poms. Young Arthur Blackmore struck out the final batter to win the game. Exhilarated, he searched for Dad in the stands. Then he remembered.
It didn’t matter if Arthur Jr. was pitching, manning home plate, or playing third base—Arthur Blackmore, Sr. was an empty seat at every game.
Even as a kid, Arthur knew that the man who busted his hump on the St. Louis streets for his wife and five kids punched out the moment he walked through the front door. Stony indifference kept Arthur Jr. at arm’s length as he tried to connect with his dad. How could he confide his hopes or the daily hell he faced being bullied at school? “My father wasn’t the most positive person for me to have as a mentor. What I do remember is that he would always be reading The Ring magazine,” says Arthur.
One day, Arthur asked about the boxing magazine. Arthur Sr. laid it down and looked at his boy. “See, Arty?” Arthur Sr. said, pointing to the page. “This is Jersey Joe Walcott fighting Ezzard Charles.” Boxing’s greatest fights played out that night in the minds of father and son as Arthur Sr. shared his passion. He offered to take Arthur to see a friend’s son fight.
“Next thing I know, I’m sitting at the fights with my dad, Starburst candy in one hand, popcorn in the other. First fight of the night, two little kids get in the ring and the lights went out. I was like, ‘Wow, those little kids are my age. I want to be that,’” Arthur remembers.
All Go, No Anchor
Arthur’s natural athletic ability and quick mind combined for a potent mix in the ring. Fueled by the desire to please his dad and coaches, Arthur barreled through eighty-nine fights, losing only six in three years. He won three consecutive titles in the Silver Gloves Regionals during that time—all by the age of fourteen.
Outside the ring, life improved for Arthur as he gained the confidence to stand up for himself. He confronted the bullies at school, and they stopped bothering him. At home, Arthur went from overlooked middle child, sandwiched between four sisters, to the son who could do no wrong. “My dad was so proud I was a boxer. I’d go into a place where my father would be hanging out, and people would say, ‘That’s Arty! Your dad talks about you all the time,’” says Arthur.
Even with all the attention, Arthur still felt a gnawing hole in his heart. Despite how proud his dad was, Arthur still lacked someone to show him the ropes of manhood. Parental neglect was replaced by uninhibited freedom. In the absence of guidance, Arthur drifted towards unhealthy friendships and a darker life.
Instead of mowing lawns or delivering morning newspapers, eleven-year-old Arthur began selling drugs. Hungry to emulate his older friends, he added stealing cars and burglary. To Arthur, their money and toughness equaled respect. “I learned how to make money as a kid because of what I’d see my father do as well. He was a booking agent—a bookie. He would come home and place a gun on the table and set a big wad of money next to it,” Arthur explains.
Eventually, the boy with boxing dreams hardened into a calloused young man. “I had a lot of experience with people, with that kind of life, so before long I got desensitized to it and I got comfortable with it,” says Arthur. He spent most of his high school years bouncing from St. Louis to Illinois, in and out of institutions.
But no matter where he was sent, he couldn’t seem to escape the person he’d become. Finally, at eighteen, Arthur decided to “reclaim a life with no labels.” He moved to Arizona, leaving “criminal,” “thief,” and “drug dealer” behind. Determined to rediscover himself, Arthur got back in the ring. In 1983, he won gold at the Pan Am Games. Three years later, Arthur claimed the Arizona Golden Gloves state title and turned professional. He fought for five years, with a 9–1 record in his first year.
Building a Power House
Today, Arthur can look back on his tumultuous childhood with peace, having reconciled with God, himself, and his father. “I feel no guilt because I’m always putting my best foot forward and because I’ve been forgiven by God for my sins and for my past,” says Arthur. Before his father died in January 2010, Arthur sat down with him and “put things straight.” After he spoke his past grievances, Arthur forgave his father and embraced him.
Moving forward, Arthur is determined to be what his father couldn’t be—a positive role model for young people. In 2011, at Easter church service, Arthur felt God directing him back to the ring.
“Through boxing you learn the game of life. Boxing is hard—it takes discipline, it takes respect, and it takes follow through. You learn these things, and you’ll be able to use them in anything you decide you’re interested in doing,” Arthur says. For so many years, boxing had been his life. He savored the sweet moments when hard work and listening to his coach brought him victory.
Now it’s Arthur’s turn to encourage others.
Powerhouse Boxing and Conditioning is a charitable athletic organization dedicated to “building contenders for life.” Arthur formed Powerhouse in August 2012 under his POWER philosophy: Peace with God, Optimism, Work, Expression, and Respect. His mission is to empower youth, through boxing, to overcome the challenges they face in life. Bullies, neglect, parental divorce, jail time—Arthur experienced it all.
“What’s driven me to do this is that I know what bad is. You can’t necessarily relate to a child who is in an institution or running the streets unless you’ve been there. I can not only sympathize, I can empathize. It’s so important to me to give at-risk youth, who don’t have positive role models, an opportunity to express themselves. To experience success and be able to tell them what they can do, not what they can’t do,” explains Arthur. “My number one thing I teach is a relationship with God because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”Arthur works with youth, from the angry five-year-old whose parents are divorced to the young man inches way from being forever labeled “criminal.” His passionate dedication reassures them that he’s not going to be an empty seat in their lives. Arthur’s in their corner.