Attack Mode cofounder and coach Lonnie Haile likened Hooks’ style to boxing legend Tommy Hearns. “Our main strategy with him is to work his jab,” Haile said. “His style forces other fighters to fight his fight. Once we get that, it’s all downhill. He’s coming out to victory.”
Cofounder and coach Rick Terrell heaped praise on Dacres, characterizing him as a “slick southpaw.” At 230 lbs, Dacres is deceptively mobile for his size and Terrell knows that will be an advantage for him as well as his versatility as a fighter.
“I call him the chameleon because he can adjust to any style,” Terrell said. “He’s very elusive and very hard to hit.”
While both coaches have high expectations for their fighters, they understand that Attack Mode is about more than producing top fighters. The gym also stands as an alternative to a life on the street for many area youths. The boxing club operates around two central themes: winning and discipline. Fighters can begin boxing at age 8. Haile and Terrell are joined by fellow coaches Ricky Diaz and Kenny Mayfield.
Terrell said he believes the gym stands to teach some valuable life lessons. “Most importantly it’s about dedication and hard work,” he said. “We instill that as coaches. Life is going to bring you trials and tribulations, but if you stick to it, just like in the ring, at the end of the day you’ll get the victory.” Terrell went on to state that the lessons learned in the ring can be life-changing.
Haile added that the gym also provides mentoring to the young boxers who attend, especially to the young boys who may not have a male role model in their life.
“Sometimes they come in with problems,” Haile said. “The kids could be out here doing whatever, and we’re here to deter the kids from going out into the streets.” Haile, who spent 28 years in the Army and has a background in law enforcement, instills discipline in his Attack Mode boxers.
The two fighters representing Attack Mode Saturday have learned their share as well from the sport.
“You’re either going to do two things in life,” Hooks said. “You’re either going to work for it or wait for someone to hand it to you.” Hooks said he believes that boxing helps to foster the work ethic needed to succeed in life.
Dacres, a father of two with a third child on the way, said he hopes boxing will help him to raise his family. “Long term, this is all for them,” Dacres said in regards to his hopes to one day box professionally.
Attack Mode coach in training, Daniel Chery, was the gym’s first fighter and he said he feels that it is a beautiful thing to see where the gym has come. Chery characterized the gym as a “sign of hope,” for young people in the community.
Chery has a formula which he shares with many of the young fighters who walk through Attack Mode’s doors. “Practice plus repetition equals experience,” Chery said. “That’s not only with boxing. That’s with life, period.” Chery applies many of his lessons learned in the ring to his current pursuit of a degree in Psychology.
The close-knit, intimate nature of Attack Mode fosters a strong sense of family in the gym. Interestingly, Terrell and Haile found out after the gym’s founding that they are actually cousins.
The atmosphere at Attack Mode exists to build winners in the sport of boxing and also in the game of life.
Raymond Boyd is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.