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The thump has just begun: Meet Brentwood’s latest nonprofit

Written by: Alexa Figueroa 🇸🇻



A member of The Thump Yard working out in Brentwood, Maryland on May, 3. 2024. (Alexa Figueroa)


Sunlight streams in through the various windows at The Thump Yard Boxing & Fitness in Brentwood, Maryland. The heavy bags hang from the ceiling as children of all ages circle them before dispersing and entering the two boxing rings, one on each side of the 6,000-square-foot gym.  


The smell of rubber and sweat engulfs the gym while adults and children begin their workouts. A typical aroma that Jonathan De La Cruz, 36, one of the gym’s founders, remembers from his childhood boxing days in Miami and Rockville, Maryland. 


After taking a break from boxing, he was supposed to return to the gym in February 2009, but decided to stay home to study for his real estate exam. During a home invasion that day, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down and is a wheelchair user. 


Jonathan De La Cruz and his brother Rigo De La Cruz, 33, began organizing backyard boxing events in 2021, in an effort to engage the community and raise awareness about gun violence. This was the beginning of The Thump Yard which had its grand opening on Friday. 


Backyard boxing


When Jonathan De La Cruz thought of the gym's name, he drew from his experience growing up in Miami. The Thump Yard initially started out in a commercial yard with trucks that were open to anyone looking to fight. In Miami, “thump” means fight, and “yard” refers to their first location in Prince George's County. 


In 2022, they transitioned over to sanctioned events with trained fighters, a referee and a doctor on-site. As of last year, the gym has a nonprofit status. 


“I will always open the event with my story to set the tone and remind everyone why we are all coming together; to basically put the guns down and put the gloves up,” said Jonathan De La Cruz.


The brothers come from a boxing background with their father Wilfredo De La Cruz being a former professional boxer. Rigo De La Cruz lived and trained with their father in Maryland while Jonathan De La Cruz lived with their mother in Miami after moving there at the age of 11.  


They were separated by distance but came back together to battle out what they learned while training in separate gyms. 


“Our little battles was fun and would always make it competitive for us,” said Rigo De La Cruz.


Jonathan had two homes growing up. The Miami gym, as well as the house where he lived with his mother after his parents separated. 


“I really fell in love with boxing when my parents separated. It was kind of a way for me to be connected to my dad, from afar, and I loved it.” he said. 


Rigo De La Cruz, isn’t just a co-founder of The Thump Yard. He has four children, owns a construction company, works as a home improvement contractor and is a mechanical HVAC technician. 


“To do this, it's a big sacrifice as well. This is not easy to own a gym, especially with doing this on our own,” he said. 


Jonathan De La Cruz also manages a variety of roles as the father of one and a real estate professional.


Carmen Jaureui, the brother’s mom is a commercial realtor who helped find the Brentwood space which is next to Dutch Mill Catering and adjacent to Agape Early Childhood Learning, Development and Family Life Center.


“I've always been supportive, so whatever they want to do, I'm here to help them out. I'm here to make sure that the gym is successful, and that it grows,” said Jaureui. .


More than boxing 


Rigo De La Cruz says that The Thump Yard is more than just a gym. The wooden table laid out across from the multi-colored boxing gloves is where Jim Delgado offers his tutoring services to the children. 


“These kids need this additional help. You got these members coming in here, they go home, they're tired, they either go to bed and the homework isn't done,” said Delgado. 


Many adults who train in the back room take breaks after jumping rope or hitting the heavy bag to watch the kids spar in the boxing ring. Their deep breathing pauses to admire the young smiling faces. 


The back portion of Thump Yard's gym in Brentwood, Maryland on May, 3. 2024. (Alexa Figueroa)


Dr. Aliya Subhit, a children's therapist, who started coming into the gym in March and  Louis Dell, a Brentwood resident, heard that the gym was kid-oriented and were immediately intrigued. 


“Kids can come after school and have things to do and activities, and I saw that there was also tutoring here. So, I just want to support that, ” said Subhit, a Washington, D.C. resident. 


Dell, who has been boxing for six years, said that this gym is different from any other ones he's been to. “It's rare that you have a strong community like this,” he said. 


Kylle McMillan, who has been a coach at The Thump Yard for a year, said that when he first arrived at the gym after moving from New York he was greeted with open arms. 


“I decided from then I'm gonna train here, and ever since then, it's been a great journey,” said McMillan. 


He currently coaches the children at the gym and is also training there, pursuing a world championship title. “They [the kids] do look up to me. That's a good feeling,” said McMillian. 


The thump ahead


Jonathan De La Cruz said that they’re currently developing a senior program which will allow them to get fit, learn coordination and balance. Additionally, they’re working on an adaptive boxing program with the goal of turning it into a paralympic sport in the future. This will allow them to compete with other boxing gyms if they implement a similar program. 


“It's only right that I include something that serves the community that I'm a part of,” said Jonathan De La Cruz. “There's a lot of wheelchair users that didn't think – don't even think – it's possible to still be able to box from a wheelchair.”


Rigo De La Cruz hopes that the gym expands to become a sportsplex one day, where they can implement different sports and have in-house shows. 


“We need a media room to involve the media with boxing where kids could do work, and we could have extra curriculum on other things outside of boxing,” he said.


Jonathan De La Cruz said that boxing is more than just punching and hitting. He attributes his mental strength to the life skills he learned while boxing throughout his childhood, which he wants to share with the children at the gym. 


 “Boxing teaches discipline, it teaches courage, and it teaches hard work, never to give up,” he said. “We want to build champions inside the ring, but if anything, outside the ring, more importantly, champions in life.”


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