The county’s newest boxing center has opened for business. This one, however, is geared toward area youth and is the only one in Loudoun with a business location that’s registered with USA Boxing.
Craig Fladager opened the Ashburn Boxing Academy in an office park off Red Rum Drive on May 4 with a goal of teaching kids ages 7-17 not only the fundamentals and advanced techniques of boxing, but also to provide underprivileged kids with a sort of safe haven and to give them all the help they need to become productive and respectable members of society.
“I’m trying to teach them something … whether they’re in the ring or not,” Fladager said. “I want there to be authenticity to what we’re doing.”
The academy is literally split in half—with the front, lobby-area acting as a training zone for youth boxers; and the back, warehouse-like section featuring multiple punching and speed bags and a fully-functional boxing ring for Fladager’s adult students.
In the front portion of the academy, Fladager’s younger students—12 are already signed up—learn how to box with a focus on speed, agility and strength. They even have the opportunity to work their way from white to yellow to green to purple to blue to red to black boxing gloves in a four-year advancement system Fladager modeled after the Taekwondo belt system.
In the advanced back section of the academy, Fladager’s adult boxers take their training
straight to the bags and into the ring where they’re free to box—something no other boxing center in the area allows. While Loudoun is home to TITLE Boxing at Loudoun Station and the 9Round kickboxing gym at Moorefield Station, neither have boxing rings nor allow for boxers to make contact. The closest boxing rings to Loudoun are the Annandale Boys and Girls Club and the Alexandria Boxing Club.
Fladager’s passion for boxing began when he was a skinny teenager living in the Washington, DC, ghetto. At the age of 13, Fladager latched onto boxing and grew his skills and knowledge of the sport throughout the next four decades, becoming an amateur fighter and competing in 70 fights throughout his youth. “I did that for many, many, many years,” he said.
It wasn’t until Fladager, who became known as “Slim” to his friends and competitors, was in his 40s that he first thought about coaching the sport he loved. Once he did, though, he went on to coach several Golden Gloves champions and professional boxers, including former World Boxing Council middleweight champion and Ashburn resident Tori Nelson. “Coaching was just a natural progression,” he said.
After moving to Ashburn, Fladager, now 58, rebranded his electrical service company as Ashburn Electric and opened an LA Boxing franchise off Ashburn Road in 2006. That venture lasted him only three years, when he sold the franchise after realizing that the corporate boxing world wasn’t for him. LA Boxing was eventually bought by UFC Gym and closed in Ashburn.
Fladager said the dream of opening a boxing academy where he can teach kids the ins and outs of the sport became a reality when the Red Rum Drive location became available for lease this year. Now, he’s focused on helping to give underprivileged kids the instruction and camaraderie they’ve been searching for.
He said he strives to help families who might not be able to pay for their kids’ boxing dreams on a case-by-case basis. “We’re not going to let anyone come in here and feel like they’re not getting helped, because I was that kid,” he said.
With a Sheriff’s Office storage center next door, Fladager said he’s already talked with the deputies about the potential for troubled youth to attend Ashburn Boxing Academy a few times a week as part of their court-ordered sentencing. “It’s going to be a good marriage [between us and the Sheriff’s Office],” Fladager said.
On July 27 at the Dulles Sportsplex in Sterling, Fladager will also host a Tristate Boxing Challenge for teams across the DC, Maryland and Virginia area to compete in front of their families for a chance to emerge as DMV champions. Fladager said he would make the competition even more fun for the teams with professional-grade, smoke-filled introductions as each team walks to the ring.
In general, Fladager hopes that a boxing academy with an inner-city soul will fit in well in Loudoun’s most suburban community and that residents will see boxing’s “good image.”
“This is my passion, this is something I do because I love it,” he said. “I’m here to help people, I want to change lives.”