“Spider” Jones Pickering, Ontario, Canada Former heavyweight boxer Spider Jones has sparred with Muhammad Ali, George Chuvalo and other boxing greats. He’s a member of the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. However, his favorite achievements are mentoring youths, motivating others and serving as a member of the Durham Region Community Lions Club in Durham, Ontario. Jones reflects on a career that led him to a nobler calling. 10-year-old Hustler I had a learning disability. I dropped out of school in fifth grade. But I could hustle in the streets with the kids in Detroit, steal and run numbers. I had two first cousins and close friends murdered, and my brother was shot. He still has the bullet in his back. Becoming a Man Boxing was something that came naturally to me. In the 1960s, I went to Toronto and started working out at Sully’s Boxing Gym. Muhammad Ali trained there, and I got to practice with him. He let me pound on him. He had red leather gloves that would whip at you, like flash—it was his speed that surprised me. Music in the Soul I loved music, especially Motown. Ali encouraged me to host a radio show someday. I wasn’t sure. There were racial barriers in the ’60s. But Ali told me, “When I fought Sonny Liston, nobody thought I would win. But I didn’t listen to them. I knew what I could do.” I learned from him that you don’t need other people’s approval to be successful … just your own. College Bound For years, I sang in a band that opened for acts like Roy Orbison, Percy Sledge and the Rascals. I also emceed boxing matches. In 1978, I met up with Ali at a sports dinner. He said, “Have you gone to broadcasting school yet?” And I said no. He said, “I ought to whoop you. You’re good.” So in 1979, I went to college. It was frightening, but my professors helped me. I graduated and got my own radio show. I interviewed Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, James Brown, LL Cool J and so many other celebrities. Passing on the Inspiration I give motivational speeches at Lions clubs, and I founded a nonprofit, Believe to Achieve, for kids 8 to 16. We help them with homework, teach them music, keep them engaged. I tell kids and adults what Ali told me: “Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I challenge them: “How much will you sacrifice to be what you want to be?” It makes you feel good when people come to you 20 years later and say, “I’ll never forget when I heard you speak. You changed my life.” Jones won three Golden Glove Championships; boxer George Chuvalo is a close friend. He wrote the book “Out of the Darkness” about his youth in the streets. He speaks at corporations, schools and churches, telling others to follow their dreams. Do you know a Lion who you think has a great story or deserves a bit of recognition? Email us a brief description of the Lion and the reason you’re making the nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “One of Us” in the subject line.
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