NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some local kids in Newark are hopping in the boxing ring and lacing up for a better life.

A retired Marine and national boxing champion started the Ironbound Boxing Academy, with the goal of giving inner city youth facing extreme poverty and tough odds a chance to change their future.

The boxing gloves give Elvin Alicea, 18, a fighting chance. His family is among the nearly 25 percent in Newark living below the poverty line.

“I also was homeless for two months and I started coming here,” he said.

The academy is underneath an abandoned stadium, and was started by U.S. Naval Academy graduate and NCAA boxing champion Mike Steadman.

It really speaks to kids that we’re targeting and the communities that we’re targeting,” Steadman said. “They want to box, they want to learn how to fight. So once we get them in the door, then we get to mold them into better individuals.”

Ironbound’s mission, says Steadman, is to provide free recreation for inner city youth.

“Everybody needs a coach,” he said. “Everybody needs somebody in their corner, I don’t care who you are.”

The training goes beyond jabs and hooks, diving into basic life skills.

“What boxing does is get them in the habit of coming to the gym,” Steadman said. “One of the first things we try to teach them, more than anything in life, is just showing up. Whether it’s a job interview, you want to do better in school.”

Elvin says he rarely misses a day.

“It was a lot of emotions, roughed up, so I would come here and it would disappear from working, hitting the bags, and doing something I love,” he said.

It’s all part of the academy’s “more than boxing” philosophy.

“I’m more of a go-getter now,” Elvin said. “I’m more aware of who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses. I see a goal and then there’s nothing stopping me from reaching it.”

Elvin says he dreams of boxing in the olympic and plans to study criminal justice at Rutgers University.

There are about 25 regulars who work out at Ironbound, according to Steadman. He is also part of WeWork’s Veterans in Residence, a program that helps veterans with entrepreneurial endeavours.