Corey Thompson’s goals in boxing have changed throughout the years. A bartender with four kids, he saw his professional boxing career fade away in a matter of months. He went from chasing championship belts to giving free lessons at the Holiday Inn to first responders.
Now he has his eyes set on something bigger – bringing the sport of boxing to Alexandria.
Thompson started boxing in his hometown of Detroit Lakes before moving to Colorado Springs to begin training to become a professional fighter.
“I trained at the Olympic Training Center when I was 18,” Thompson said. “I wanted to move back to Minnesota, so I went to the Cities and turned pro.”
Thompson had over 70 fights as an amateur boxer and three professional fights. Just when his career was getting going, he didn’t receive any favors from his scheduled opponents.
“I had three different fights booked. All of them backed out on me for whatever reasons,” he said. “I was traveling back and forth to the Cities and Alexandria twice a week. I went all in and took off work and sold tickets. It really took a lot out of me.”
Thompson continued to try and keep his professional career alive. He was working out with his training partner around town when he was approached by a law enforcement student.
“He came up to me and asked if I could train him. He said that he had seen me around at the Holiday Inn and that he needed to get in shape,” Thompson said. “I guess that’s where it kind of started. He talked to his friends and they joined in. I was working with five law enforcement students. I didn’t charge them anything. I was just trying to help out.”
Thompson was holding regular sessions at the Alexandria Holiday Inn roughly a year ago. When he realized that he needed a bigger place to hold the punching bag, he moved to an actual gym.
“I asked all four or five of them if they had Anytime Fitness memberships,” Thompson said. “All of them but one guy had one. He went and bought one so he could keep working with me.”
The small crew got bigger as the weeks went on. By the time he was training 20 people, he learned that he could no longer train people for free.
“I had a deal with the old management that I could train the people I brought in for free,” Thompson said. “After they got new management, I was told I had to start charging people.
I was so nervous that nobody was going to show up. We ended up having our biggest class the first time they had to pay.”
Thompson had 24 people come to his weekly class. Once he realized that he could potentially make a living off of his coaching, he decided to take another leap of faith.
“I always wanted to have a long professional career and then open up a gym when I retired,” Thompson said. “I think all of that was God telling me to get into training now. That’s when I became a certified trainer and opened up my own gym.”
Thompson moved his sessions into a building on 7th Avenue West in downtown Alexandria. A space that had been occupied by junk for some time looked like a paradise to Thompson. The gym was scheduled to open on Dec. 1, 2018. However, Thompson wasn’t able to start setting up his equipment until later than he expected.
“We had about a week to clear everything out before we were scheduled to open up,” Thompson said. “It was stressful. The place was loaded with machinery and skid loader parts. It was just dirty. We had to tear down some walls and wash all of the floor. This place was a mess. I was working on getting this ready while also working 80 hours a week at two different jobs.”
His perseverance pushed him through any adversities he came across. Thompson was able to bring the people that he worked with at Anytime Fitness to his own gym. The Nordic Warriors Boxing Academy was officially in business.
“I had about 50 or so members when we first started out here. We did a whole open house thing that got some more people through the door,” Thompson said.The gym is located directly across from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. After weaving through the hallways, members arrive at a hollowed-out warehouse garage. Over a dozen punching bags hang from the ceiling. A full-sized boxing ring sits in the right-hand corner. Thompson’s gym looks exactly the way he wants it to look.
“It’s gritty. I love that word. It’s exactly what I had in mind when I saw it,” Thompson said. “We are right next to the sheriff’s department, too, and I still give out free lessons to first responders. I couldn’t be a more perfect setup.”
His training expands further than just people trying to get in shape. At the Nordic Warriors Boxing Academy, classes are held for kids, adults, competitive boxers and mixed martial arts athletes. One boxer in particular has benefitted from working with Thompson.
Ezra Anderson is a 22-year-old welder and part-time corrections officer in Fergus Falls who began training with Thompson six months ago.
“Corey just gets more out of me than anyone else I know,” Anderson said. “He works hard and he gets us to work hard. He’s a pretty swell guy.”
Anderson started competing competitively in Golden Gloves, a nationwide amateur boxing league. He recently qualified for the Upper Midwest Tournament of Champions. Anderson was able to take down the two-time defending champion of the Upper Midwest.
“Corey gave me the tools to be successful. He was so big for me,” Anderson said. “He always tells us that iron sharpens iron. He's going to push us as hard as we can be pushed and that’s to get the most out of us. I’m grateful to be working with him.”
The Nordic Warriors Boxing Academy has 58 current members. Even though that’s impressive for a new gym, it’s not enough for Thompson to take on as a full time job.
“I have four kids and a wife at home, Thompson said. “Right now, everything I make here gets put back into this business. I still bartend 40 hours a week, but I’m hoping to reach 120 members so I can go full time with this.”
Thompson wants to make it clear that his gym isn’t only for people trying to get into boxing, but those who are also just trying to stay in shape.
“All you need to start is gym clothes,” he said. “We will take care of the rest when you get here. We have people here for plenty of different reasons. Boxing is such a good way to relieve stress and stay in shape. There’s no other workout like it in the world.”
His professional career did not turn out the way he intended, However, the purpose he serves now is just as impactful.