July 17, 1999
AUBURN — A fight had broken out near his home, and Quadir Muntaqin had been through enough fights in his life not to fear for his safety. He didn't hesitate as he went outside to investigate.
"I heard a lot of ruckus outside. I said, 'Let me go out and see who's making all this noise,'" Muntaqin recalled. "I went outside and I saw this kid on the ground. I told the two that beat him up that they'd done enough to this guy. Just leave out of the area, I told them, and go about your business. They didn't give me no words, they didn't give me no problems."
That was the first meeting between Muntaqin and Shane Stokes. The 16-year-old Stokes was a product of the streets, and that was just another fight where he got the better of someone else.
The two men would meet again three years later.
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Stokes came around the gym where Muntaqin was training fighters. He, too, wanted to become a fighter, and a partnership began that is flourishing today.
The 28-year-old Stokes is the best amateur boxer that Auburn has produced in a generation. He is a three-time regional champion in the light-heavyweight division, one of the favorites in that weight class for the upcoming Empire State Games, and he will make two trips in the fall to fight in Finland and Switzerland.
Muntaqin works his fighters in a small gym in an abandoned warehouse off of East Genesee Street. With posters and motivational slogans dotting the walls, students jump rope, spar, and hit the heavy bag under the watchful eye of the dreadlocked trainer — who was himself an excellent light-heavyweight contender in the early 1980s.
"I spent my life in boxing. I gave it a lot of time, and I think I can pass it on," Muntaqin said.
"The name of our gym is Better Opportunities Exist, and that's true," Stokes said. "There is better opportunities out there, you just have to look for them."