’92 Olympian and former world champ recounts his days on Chicago’s South Side, training with Ali and boxing on world’s biggest stage

Chicago Scene

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Montell Griffin considered Windy City Boxing Club the best place in the world to be.  His dad purchased it from former Bantamweight champion Johnny Coulon. Well-known fighters such as Ernie Terrell, Alonzo Johnson, Renaldo Snipes, Leroy Murphy and Eddie Perkins frequented the space. 

The pinnacle of the Windy City Boxing Club was when, arguably, the greatest athlete and boxer of all time, Muhammed Ali would come in and train, quickly befriending Griffin and his father.  

Growing up at the gym, Griffin remembers spending a lot of time with Ali. But when Griffin was 13, his father passed away and life as he knew it changed. The days boxing at the gym were no longer.  As a teenager, Griffin experienced the ups and downs of living in a tumultuous neighborhood in Chicago and losing friends to gang violence. 

“The funny thing is, when I look back, there’s not a thing I would change,” Griffin said.  “The highs, the lows, the wins, the lessons…How many people can say they lived their dreams?  I never knew boxing could love me back in the way it did. But if I had the chance to do it all again, I would.”

It took a few amateur fights in a sport he had been absent from for almost eight years and a win against John Ruiz for Griffin to make the Olympic trials.  However, his win against future heavyweight contender Jeremy Williams at the Olympic Box-Offs secured his spot on the 1992 United States Olympic Boxing Team at light-heavyweight. 

While the Olympics experience was something he never could have imagined, his loss by decision for a controversial penalty against the eventual gold medal winner is something that has stuck with him to this day. 

Over the course of his career, Griffin, nicknamed “Ice,” compiled a respectable resume with a record summary of 51-8, which included 30 defeats by knockout.  Triumphs over big-name fighters like Toney and Jones Jr. along with contenders Ka-Dy, Ray Lathon and Randall Yonger have helped him transition from professional fighter to a world-class trainer where he is focused on bringing the sport of boxing back to a state of prominence in Chicago.


Today, his father’s legacy lives on. Griffin reopened Windy City Boxing Club, now in a permanent space in Pilsen. Griffin spends his day training boxers and everyday people while also partnering with Chicago Park District’s After School Matters and the Windy City Youth Foundation to host boxing programs for kids living on the South Side.  

Griffin’s remarkable journey documented in the book “The Ice Life.” To purchase the book and read about his journey, head to www.TheIceLifeBook.com.

Windy City Boxing Club
2150 S Canalport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60608

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