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A FIGHTING SPIRIT: Barnum boxing, fitness centers come back bigger and better after flood

Cross Beaulieu (top), practicing here with his dad and coach, Chad Beaulieu, has been boxing since he was 10 years old and competes all over the country. His next competion is early January in North Dakota. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal1 / 5
Cloquet’s Dominic Johnson takes aim during a recent Wednesday night boxing practice.Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 5
Jada Johnson, 15, pauses a moment to focus on the punching bag, a part of the warm up before the students get into the ring.Jamie Lund/Pine Journal3 / 5
Coach Chad Beaulieu (far right) strikes a pose with some of his fighters during a recent Wednesday night practice at the C&C Northland Boxing Club in Barnum. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal4 / 5
Josh Petersen works up a sweat during a recent practice with Coach Chad Beaulieu. Jamie Lund/ Pine Journal5 / 5

BARNUM — It is a cold snap like none in some time when Moose Lake’s Jeremiah Chavez stepped into the C&C Northland Boxing Club’s new home on main street, just around the corner from the rest of the burgeoning C&C empire: the fitness center, the car wash and the construction company headquarters for C&C Builders (the bell cow of the empire).

Chavez had been there just the day before to pick up a couple of friends. Needless to say, the place left an impression on him. He went there on a dark December evening to begin to learn how to fight and train like a boxer.

“It’s pretty sweet here,” said Chavez, already lean and mean, but polite and humble, too, in the face of C&C’s owner and boxing trainer, Chad Beaulieu.

It’s pronounced bOHL-yUU, but you get the feeling Beaulieu — still built like a brick outhouse — spent his fighting days practicing a style that was just a slight modification of his own name in that were you to step into the ring opposite him he’d likely want to “bull you.”

“It’s a great confidence booster,” Beaulieu said of boxing and its power to attract newcomers like Chavez. “We don’t just talk boxing, either. We talk about trying to be decent people, who are good all-around kids and treat others with respect.”

Beaulieu’s name is synonymous with fitness in Barnum. Since the 2012 flood that ravaged his fitness center along with much of the rest of the town, the fighter has proven his mettle by coming out of the corner even stronger. The 24-hour fitness center — every member is given his or her own security swipe card — has doubled in size with the moving of the boxing gym and contains some of the most impressive equipment money can buy.

Joe Sandstrom is the center’s personal trainer and its Facebook guru. He’s responsible for bringing the tandem cardio and strength training of the CrossFit craze into the Barnum lexicon, and he’s as comfortable talking to marathoners and elite prep athletes as he is senior citizens and injury rehabilitators. He’s even brought spin classes, boot camps and other modern conventions into the fold. The equipment he now oversees is all state of the art; Sandstrom points out that “everything moves with you,” as a way of explaining how joint-conscious the

new machine designs have become.

“This is all big-city type of equipment; we strive to be a big-time gym in a small town,” Sandstrom said as he surveyed the various Hoist machines, LeMond spin bikes and something called a “lateral motion trainer” that elicited Sandstrom to say fondly, “I love that machine.”

Love is what brings Cross Beaulieu to the gym nearly every day. He’s the son of Chad and his wife, Candy, and a two-time state Silver Gloves champion to boot. Like his dad, he dabbled in prep sports but didn’t have his competitive fire truly lit until he stepped into the boxing ring.

“It’s the first thing I’ve been truly good at when it came to sports,” said the Barnum sophomore. “I found my niche in boxing and it just feels right.”

Cross is not unlike a lot of the C&C boxers, in that socially he is all about the “yes sirs/no sirs,” when it comes to communicating with adults. That’s the respect Chad Beaulieu gets out of his


“With boxing, that’s important,” Beaulieu said, explaining that a fighter has to be able to be humble enough to take direction from trainers and others who’ve done it

before him.

Beaulieu is on the board of directors for the state’s Office of Combative Sports, and he works closely with other clubs in the Twin Cities and Duluth to get his boxers fights and even to bring fight cards to Barnum High School, which he tries to do once or twice a year.

“Boxing’s a tight-knit community,” said Beaulieu, who fought a couple times as a pro and who now pours his energy into his boxing gym — mostly in the evening after long days with the construction business.

“That’s work,” he said with his pristine boxing ring and heavy steel 14-bag rack over his shoulder, “This is love.”

You learn quickly to take Beaulieu seriously when he says he’s sowing the seeds for future Olympians to come out of C&C Northland Boxing. Beaulieu reckons that there is no reason it couldn’t happen.

“It’s a sport for everybody,” he said. “There’s a weight class for everybody. You don’t have to be 7 feet, 3 inches tall; you don’t have to be 320 pounds.”

What it boils down to then, in Beaulieu’s mind, is what’s inside the person.

“In this sport, a person can make to the Olympics,” he said, “if he works hard and dedicates himself.”

Fortunately for Barnum, they’ve got a man in Beaulieu who does the same.