Bridges Beyond Boxing: Irish boxers and Detroit talent square off in exchange program

It was a packed house in Shed 5 at Eastern Market for Bridges Beyond Boxing.

Think of it as a pugilists' foreign exchange program -- this year, 12 amateur boxers from Northern Ireland made the trip across the pond  to train and fight in Detroit against some of our up and coming talent.

"I'm fast, I've got the hand movement and footwork," said Rakeem Campbell.

One of the more anticipated matchups is between 19-year-old Rakeem Campbell from the Downtown Boxing Gym and 18-year-old John Paul Hale. This is his second trip to the Motor City and he's been loving minute of it.

"The crowds are crazy in this place," he said. "The food is really good in this place."

While metro Detroit and Northern Ireland are seemingly worlds apart, Bridges Beyond Boxing organizer Joe Lowe says their biggest cities, Detroit and Belfast, and consequently these kids have a lot in common.

Come May, kids from Detroit will head to Northern Ireland.

"Team Detroit that visited Ireland still talks about it. They still keep in touch with their host Irish families," said Erik Olson.

As much as this exchange and these bouts are helping young boxers sharpen their skill sets, they're also broadening their horizons. Detroiter and WBC light middleweight champion Tony Harrison was in the building Wednesday night and praised the boxing program that's building bridges.

"Half of these kids have never been on a plane so it's teaching them other experiences," he said.