Pioneer Valley Boxing School founder retires from training

  • A photograph taken of G. Djata Bumpus in the late 1970s. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Boxing trophies won by G. Djata Bumpus and his son, Kwame, throughout his career, at Bumpus’ home in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A photograph of G. Djata Bumpus and his son, Kwame Bumpus, taken in the late 1970s. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • G. Djata Bumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  •  G. DjataBumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • G. DjataBumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • G. Djata Bumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • G. DjataBumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • G. DjataBumpus talks about his career as a boxer and coach. He recently retired and closed the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton, which he founded. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2019 11:36:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — G. Djata Bumpus estimates that he has trained about 3,200 fighters in the Pioneer Valley since he began teaching boxing here in 1988. Now, that period of his life has ended.

“In boxing you really have to discover your inner powers,” Bumpus said. “You have to have the integrity to keep a promise to yourself to not allow anyone to abuse you.”

Bumpus, who founded and ran the Pioneer Valley Boxing School on 518 Pleasant St., closed the business on March 31. Speaking in his Northampton apartment last week, Bumpus, 65, said that he has no intention of teaching boxing classes any longer, although he may do something through YouTube.

“It was starting to actually cost me to keep it open,” said Bumpus, on why he chose to close his school.

Instead, the father of three and grandfather of five said that he intends to focus on his grandchildren, and write poems for them that will help educate them about the world.

Bumpus said that he informed his students in February that he would be closing the business. “They trained until the end,” he said.

He also said that one of his daughters, John Hopkins University School of Medicine Professor Namandje Bumpus, and her husband had offered to help support the school, but he refused.

“I’ve given a lot,” he said.

Asked who he would recommend people learn boxing from locally now, Bumpus said he wouldn’t recommend anyone, saying that boxing has many instructors who have never fought.

Bumpus grew up in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. He came from a family of scholars, and he said that his method of teaching boxing comes from a scholarly mindset.

“I teach boxing sequentially,” he said. “You build the person so that they understand what they’re doing.”

Some of his students have been mixed martial arts figure Kirik Jenness, Daily Hampshire Gazette photographer Jerrey Roberts, Northampton police officer Brendan McKinney and his own three children, including his son Kwame Bumpus, who became a professional fighter.

“He was the baddest dude around,” said Bumpus.

Bumpus also trained United States troops in Iraq.

Bumpus said that, as a strong believer in evolution, he evolved as a teacher, and noted the lesson of Confucius that teaching is half of learning.

“You always learn something teaching your student,” he said.

Bumpus’ path to the Pioneer Valley was not a direct one. He began his official amateur boxing career in 1977, although he began fighting in 1969. Bumpus turned professional in 1978 and had his last professional fight in 1979. For part of his career he trained in the gym of legendary heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in Philadelphia. He also had at least two fighters fight under his name without him knowing about it.

He was a light heavyweight as an amateur and a heavyweight as a professional.

Bumpus said that he wanted to use boxing as a platform for his politics, but he chose to leave boxing to focus on his family.

A former member of the Black Panthers, Bumpus met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a young man, and he’s also gotten to know the noted scholars Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornel West.

Today, Bumpus continues to be a political and philosophical thinker. He believes that society’s structure should shift from a vertical to a horizontal structure.

“We don’t need any more presidents,” said Bumpus. “Donald Trump is simply the example of what human civilization ends up being like because of vertical structure.”

He is also a staunch critic of the Abrahamic faiths, white supremacy and male supremacy.

In addition to male fighters, Bumpus said that he’s trained about 800 women to box in the Valley, including his two daughters.

“I’ve trained more females than anybody in history,” Bumpus said.

Before moving to the Valley, his careers included selling insurance and working as a bouncer in the red light district of Philadelphia.

“I was the man,” said Bumpus. “Everyone knew me.”

Bumpus said that he moved to the Valley because he did not want to send his daughters to school in Philadelphia. He began teaching boxing after he received a call from an executive director of a school in Holyoke that was putting on a play about boxer Jack Johnson. He asked Bumpus if he could show the cast a few moves to make the play more realistic, and Bumpus quoted him a price of $500 for six hours, not thinking he would agree.

“He said, ‘No problem,” said Bumpus. “A new career was born.”

Bumpus started teaching and founded the Amherst Boxing Academy, which became the Amherst Executioners Boxing Club in 1994. He and his family then moved to Springfield, and he taught at a number of locations there under the name the Boxing Salon. In 2002, Bumpus began teaching boxing at 518 Pleasant St. Originally it was called the Pioneer Valley Boxing Center, and it became the Pioneer Valley Boxing School in 2006.

Bumpus said he was most proud of teaching a student with cerebral palsy, who he said was able to “walk like everybody else” after training with him.

“I taught people to recognize their inner powers,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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