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Saturday night face-off pits Kane sheriff against community advocate in charity boxing bout

The Beacon-News - 9/11/2020

Sep. 11--Marcus Banner, founder of Our Neighborhoods Empowered, and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain have plenty to say when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system, ending gun violence and breaking the pattern of repeat offenders.

But Saturday night they plan to let their fists do the talking.

The pair plan to face off in the boxing ring as the main event in the Hands Up, Guns Down Charity Fight Night fundraiser to benefit Our Neighborhoods Empowered and Kane County jail to community re-entry programs.

Hain and Banner will fight three rounds at the O.N.E. Fitness Center in Elgin. Theirs will be the final of seven bouts scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

"That's what I hope people take from this: the unity between the most unlikely allies," Banner said. "Community advocate and law enforcement. We're perceived as being on different sides of the fence, but at the same time we are fighting for the same things."

Said Hain: "Marcus and I are not going to hold any punches back, literally and figuratively."

The two first met when Hain ran for county sheriff in 2018. Since then, they've worked together on programs in which Banner mentors inmates and works to recidivism.

"We began to build our relationship through (the programs)," Banner said. "He knew about Hands Up, Guns Down. We used to poke each other that we would fight on one of the fight nights. And one day, we just said let's do it."

The local Hands Up, Guns Down effort started at the home of one of Banner's nephews, the goal being to choose boxing rather than street violence to settle disagreements while honing other skills, like discipline, Banner said.

"Put the gloves on, step into the ring, exert that energy in a positive way," he said in a video promoting Saturday's event. "When you do it that way, nine times out of 10 you end up finding another brother, another friend, another family member in that moment of fighting."

Both men say they've been working out and training three days a week for months in advance of the fight.

"It's a totally different kind of workout," said Hain, who doesn't have any boxing experience. "The cardio is probably the most intense -- and I'm a runner."

"I lost 25 pounds in the process of getting ready," said Banner, who has boxed on and off for 21 years. "I like to tell people all the time that it's more about the journey to the fight. I spent a lot of time saying, 'Oh, I'll get in shape, start watching my diet, I'm going to start doing this.' But it took the challenge of fight night to finally start doing this."

Originally scheduled for August, the match was pushed back to September because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing means only 50 people will be allowed to see the fight in person but it's also being livestreamed.

Our Neighborhoods Empowered, which operates the O.N.E. Fitness Center and is headed by Banner, provides programming for at-risk youth, including boxing, jujitsu, weight training, coding and graphic design.

"Nobody can do what needs to be done in this community alone. It takes all agencies, it takes all community members, all businesses to network together," Banner said.

"This is a very important, symbolic event for us, Marcus being a leader in the Elgin community and me being the county sheriff," Hain said.

Tickets are $50 to attend in person and $15 to livestream. They can be be purchased at Eventbrite,


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