CINCINNATI — Nate Tubbs used to be one of the bad guys growing up on the streets of Cincinnati. He’ll tell you that himself. He’ll also tell you he made a conscious decision to stop being that guy. There was one day in particular that stands out for that decision.
Sept. 3, 1980. Nate’s older brother Derrick was murdered that day.
The name Tubbs is well known in Cincinnati. Tony Tubbs, Nate’s older brother, was a one-time world champion. Nate went 18-4 himself and was a long-time sparring partner of Mike Tyson, who is still a close friend.
Tubbs is now trying to pass along what he has learned through the sport to a younger generation not simply to teach about the ring but as a means of offering alternatives to life choices that too often lead to crime, drugs and violence. As part of his efforts to re-establish his foundation, the Nate Tubbs Group Home & Amateur Boxing Program, Tubbs is organizing and promoting a charity boxing card Saturday in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood.
A portion of the proceeds from Saturday’s "Put Down the Guns & Pick Up the Gloves" event will go to benefit Tubbs’ cause. Doors at the Hope 4 Change Building, 4100 Reading Road in Avondale, open at 7 p.m. and the first bout is scheduled for 8 p.m. The event is in part being sponsored by the U.S. Army.
"I used to be one of those kids. Don’t get me wrong, I made some mistakes in my life but you only learn from your mistakes," said Tubbs. "But I had some good people around me and boxing saved my life."
Tubbs began his charity in 2000 and was focused on it until 2008. That’s when gun violence again hit him too close to home.
On Sept. 26, 2008, 20-year-old Nate Sanders was found shot to death in an alley on the city’s West End. This past April, Dwayne White pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Sanders, Shedrick Brookins and Quinton Wathel within a span of less than two months in 2008. White was indicted on three counts of murder but because witnesses either recanted their stories or decided not to testify, prosecutors had to settle for the lesser manslaughter charges.
White was sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison for the three deaths. Tubbs said that with some time served, White is only going to do 11 years in prison.
"I feel like I was cheated by the system," said Tubbs. "The most important thing is that (White)’s off the street for the next 11 years. I really don’t accept that but I have to deal with it. That’s the hand life has dealt."
Tubbs’ son was a part of the lifestyle that got him killed. Tubbs knows that and knows the pressures kids growing up in similar situations face. He said he has become re-focused on his mission to help end the gun violence throughout Cincinnati.
"The problem is that the kids don’t have nothing positive to be a part of," said Tubbs. "You’ve got followers and you’ve got leaders. Then you’ve got bosses. I was one of the bosses. Most people know my story. That’s why they bring their kids to me. They know that if I can change anyone can change."
The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) is a collaborative effort between multiple agencies within Cincinnati along with community groups throughout the city for the purpose of reducing gun-related violence as quickly and dramatically as possible.
"Gun violence is a concern for many cities in the U.S. and Cincinnati is not immune to that," said Cincinnati Police Lt. John Cordova, project manager of CIRV. "This is a proactive measure. We talk about this daily. If we feel something is starting to pop up we get in there and try to put out the fires before it gets too crazy. This is an on-going process. It doesn’t stop."
CIRV has gotten a boost of support from Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and police chief Jeffrey Blackwell.
"It’s our opinion as a police department, city officials and a community as a whole, even if we lost one person due to gun violence that’s one too many," said Lt. Cordova. "The way we policed before was ‘how many people can we put handcuffs on and put them in jail?’ and that’s not the way we do business anymore. We try to do business a lot smarter and try to address these problems before they become huge problems."
Saturday’s boxing matches aren’t directly connected with CIRV but the methodology is the same.
"I’ve been dealing with this stuff all of my life," said Tubbs. "I’ve got passion for what I’m doing. I’m going to do each and every thing I can to save the next person’s child."