Mike Hilton, also known as, “Beast,” is a two-time national boxing champion, has an 11-0 record in professional bouts with 7 knockouts, and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. Hilton has fought all across the country, from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, but still lives, breathes and bleeds for his hometown of Trenton.
“There’s a fighting spirit in this city,” said Hilton. “Let’s take some of that fighting spirit, and start putting it into something more positive.”
Hilton grew up in East Trenton, and after initially getting into boxing to lose weight, he found a deeper calling for the sport through his spirituality.
“I was in the ‘game;’ sex, money, [you name it],” Hilton said. “I decided to change my life, started going to church… that’s when I started taking it more seriously.”
Hilton has had a decorated run thus far in his 14-year career, and has etched his name in boxing history by being the first heavyweight national champion from New Jersey.
Beast has worked tremendously hard for himself to maximize his talents and achieve greatness in the ring, yet he feels he owes something to his hometown.
“It’s time for me to give back to my community, my city,” Hilton said.
Hilton is an outreach worker for the Trenton Restorative Street Team under the Salvation and Social Justice initiative, a community-based violence intervention and prevention initiative that treats violence as a public safety issue. His responsibilities include working with residents and connecting them to support and services.
During the summertime, Hilton’s gym, Beast Mode Boxing and Fitness, with support from the Transformation Church of Trenton, the Trenton Fire Department, the Black Ivy League and the Ike Williams Boxing Academy, hosts a free, 8-week boxing camp for children aged 7-18 called Guns Down Gloves Up.
Hilton and his coaches teach the group of 30 the basics of boxing, and more importantly, give them tools to settle their differences without guns.
“There is a lot of gun violence because a lot of people can’t fight,” Hilton said. “People are going to fight, but I’d rather it be a fight without having someone lose their life.”
Along with coaching on the ropes, Hilton serves as a mentor for his young boxers. The program aims to teach campers the importance of emotional well-being, the impact that emotion can have on decision-making, better avenues for conflict resolution, as well as the ability to defend themselves.
Beast hopes his gym will become a haven for people to hash out their problems that will help rid the plague of gun violence in Trenton.
“A lot of these kids have beef with certain hoods. Alright, well take the toughest guy from your hood that’s within this weight limit, and take the toughest guy from their hood that’s within this weight limit, y’all go in here and box it up,” Hilton said. “What happens here, stays here. You get a different type of respect for a man when you put on the gloves.”
Though Mike Hilton has made a career out of fighting, Beast has found his purpose in care for his community.
“These kids, man, they come up to me like, ‘Coach Beast! Coach Beast!’ They come up and always show me a lot of love,” Hilton said. “Just stuff like that, man. That’s where I get the joy.”