Talk therapy is great for some, but for others, punching and kicking can be the best way to work through problems. This idea of punching out emotions is exactly what Jeffrey Meadows and Sky Wood had in mind when creating Black Sheep Boxing.
Jeffrey Meadows has had a rollercoaster of a life. From fighting alcoholism and addiction to incarceration to rehabilitation — Meadows has been through it all. Throughout his constant struggle, his best friend since the age of eight, Sky Wood, has been all in for Meadows’ journey.
“He was my best friend and became a brother to me, so he’s witnessed a lot,” Meadows says. “He’s been through the pits of hell with me.”
Wood had an early start to the combat sports lifestyle as his parents owned their own martial arts studio which he then took over. When Meadows expressed his vision of starting his own boxing gym, Wood was all over it.
Then, while Meadows was working in a rehabilitation treatment center, he became quick friends with another individual in recovery, Tony Trevino. Since physical fitness was a big part in both of their personal recovery stories, they started dreaming about a gym that focused on addiction recovery. They began planning together and building up the vision long before they even had a name for the project.
But with Meadows’ and Trevino’s vision and Wood’s previous knowledge of running a gym, their plan took off. However, Black Sheep Boxing didn’t immediately become what it is today.
In fact, the journey began in Meadows’ friend’s garage as “Warrior Boy Boxing.” What was originally a small group of people letting off steam soon grew into a full-blown boxing gym. The growth was so rapid that, before long, they were kicked out of the garage by the homeowners association (HOA) and started back from scratch.
When the project finally transferred to Montopolis Recreation Center to appease the HOA, Meadows’ friend couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced life of owning a growing gym. It was then that Meadows took over the program and transitioned it into what is now Black Sheep Boxing.
After moving to the recreation center, Meadows finally gained enough momentum to buy his own boxing ring in November of 2020. He didn’t want to open just any boxing gym, but a place like the one he had always dreamed of — a place where the stigma around mental health could dissipate. He wanted anyone who was willing to make a change to have a gym and a support system to help them through.
“A lot of people ask, you know, ‘Why boxing?’” Meadows says. “Well, it’s the most natural way to ground yourself. As someone in recovery, I’m constantly worried about everything but the present. Boxing forces you to live in the present.”
Meadows wanted rehabilitation patients to have a place to let their feelings out and rebalance the neurochemistry makeup that had previously been altered through drug misuse. He explains that, through boxing, they are able to naturally produce those “feel good” hormones that the brain needs and craves.
“Instead of forcing [the chemicals] to come out through drugs, sex, whatever it is, we can create that chemical balance and ground ourselves through boxing,” Meadows says. “These are the two things that people with mental health issues really struggle with.”
Trevino initially started with Black Sheep not knowing much about boxing. He explained that the intimidation factor is what prevents a lot of people from starting combat sports. With Black Sheep, he was able to see that experience doesn’t matter when you have a supportive community.
“For a lot of addicts, we have a problem with ego,” Trevino says. “At Black Sheep, it’s really calming to see that the biggest, baddest guy in the gym is the most supportive of a newcomer. It means the world to people who are just starting out — finding out that they’re not egomaniacs and they actually are really supportive and caring.”
Although many gyms can be pretty expensive, Black Sheep is working to make it affordable and accessible to all. Meadows explains that the goal is to help people who are willing to be helped, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
“It’s really simple — we’re in the business of helping people,” Meadows says. “We’ve never turned anyone down. We train first and talk about expenses after. We chase the purpose, we don’t chase the dollar.”
In fact, Meadows and Wood have a donation fund that provides free shoes for kids who sign up. They work hard to make sure that anyone who wants to join can without any limitations. Even if you do not have mental health issues or aren’t in a recovery program, you can still find your tribe at Black Sheep. As Meadows says, they are in the business of helping and supporting people no matter what.
“I honestly feel like I’m a better version of myself than I would be if I was still five and a half years sober but not participating in combat sports,” Trevino says.
If you are not in the Austin area, Meadows and Wood still have you covered. They are currently working on a documentary about boxing gyms around the world that have the same goal of service as they do. Episode one features a gym in Southampton, New York, called Hill Street Boxing.