Chicago news roundup: Logan Square boxing club offers city youths training, Madigan trial date set and more

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 43 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low near 34. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high near 42.

Top story

Friendship starts with a fight, blossoms into a boxing club training at-risk youth

David Ortiz and Antonio Beniquez’s friendship began 25 years ago with a brief tussle in their high school gym class. They were on the Lakeview High School basketball court when someone said Ortiz, a freshman, was a wrestler. Beniquez, a sophomore, decided to see if it was true, and put Ortiz in a headlock until a teacher blew the whistle for them to stop. 

“After that, I put my hand out, said ‘I’m Antonio.’ He said, ‘I’m David,’ and we’ve been friends ever since,” Beniquez said.

Now, decades later, they’re teaching the lessons fighting can impart at their own boxing club with free training for at-risk youth.

“The vision for the gym is to be able to serve the community we’re in and the neighborhoods we grew up in,” said Beniquez, 39.

They opened the Barracks Boxing Club in Logan Square, near Armitage and Springfield avenues, in 2021. That Northwest Side spot puts them between Irving Park, where Ortiz grew up, and Humboldt Park, where Beniquez is from.

“We really wanted to create a home base where we know the people and their struggles, and give them an opportunity we didn’t have,” Beniquez said.

Beniquez, an artist known for his murals, designed the space and helps fund it with Ortiz, who is lead trainer and handles day-to-day operations. The gym has about 80 members. The youngest is 7; the oldest, about 50. Memberships cost up to $135, but donors have recently helped cover that cost for some new members.

Ortiz and Beniquez wanted to offer free training, but needed outside help to do so. At first, they only could offer some discounts, such as for families, first responders, veterans and teachers. Through Beniquez, a mentor at Kerry Wood’s Pitch In foundation, they were able to bring in students from the West Side schools the foundation supports, but Ortiz also wanted to reach out to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, known for its violence prevention efforts.

So it was a stroke of luck when Jordan Gearey, a case manager with one of the center’s violence prevention programs, walked into the gym.  Gearey, 27, works with youth ages 14 to 24, in the Belmont Cragin, Hermosa and Logan Square neighborhoods. He also likes to box. He joined the gym around the same time he joined the center and when Ortiz pitched his idea, he recognized the potential benefits. 

The center now provides membership funds for about 41 at-risk youth for up to two years with an option to extend the program and add participants.

“There’s nothing more humbling than getting in a boxing ring,” Gearey said. “If you do three, three-minute rounds, or just 9 minutes, what you’re going to take away is discipline and respect for the person that’s across from you.”

Michael Loria has more on the program here.

More news you need

  1. Chicago attorney Donna Makowski has apologized for using a racial slur and an obscenity — apparently in reference to personnel with the Cook County sheriff’s office — during a livestreamed hearing last week. Our Sophie Sherry and Matthew Hendrickson have more on Makowski’s remarks here.
  2. The highly anticipated racketeering trial of former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan has been set for April 1, 2024. The trial, which is expected to last six or seven weeks, was scheduled during a brief status hearing in Madigan’s case today.
  3. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker today offered up bold promises in his second inaugural address, vowing free college tuition for working-class families and more affordable and widespread health care and child care. The Chicago Democrat also vowed to “fight against a rising tide of hate,” protect women’s reproductive rights and finally get the assault weapons ban passed.
  4. A City Council committee today put teeth into a groundbreaking ordinance aimed at preventing out-of-state residents from becoming targets of investigations when coming to Chicago for abortions or gender-affirming care outlawed in their home states. The Committee on Health and Human Relations voted to empower Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations to “investigate and adjudicate complaints” of “discrimination and retaliation related to housing and job discrimination.” This comes four months after the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance passed the Council.
  5. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., one of the 21 House far-right hardliners who forced major concessions from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in exchange for their votes to make him the speaker, may have newfound leverage because of the deal. It remains to be seen what Miller, from downstate Oakland, does with it, our Lynn Sweet writes in her latest column.
  6. Outgoing Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin will also resign his position in the Illinois General Assembly after 22 years. The Western Springs politician plans to resign tomorrow, our Tina Sfondeles reports.
  7. Owners of The Wiener’s Circle say they’ve made a New Year’s resolution to tap friends in the industry to help feed migrants bused here from Texas. “What better way to welcome them than with a Chicago style hot dog?” asked Wiener’s Circle owner Ari Levy, who said the goal is to provide warm meals every Tuesday night.
  8. A new children’s book is striving to amplify the civil rights work of South Side-born activist Diane Nash. “Love Is Loud” tells the often overlooked story of the local hero, who is now 84 and still calling Chicago home, our Mariah Rush reports.

A bright one

NCT 127 Chicago show a homecoming for member Johnny Suh

Johnny Suh has become one of the biggest global K-pop stars as a member of the record-breaking group NCT 127, the boy-band ensemble behind the behemoth hit “2 Baddies.” He’s also a burgeoning fashion icon who’s recently been profiled in Vogue, People and Paper magazines for his debut at the Met Gala in 2022. It was a night in which his 9 million Instagram followers made him one of the most talked-about celebrities of the night, even ahead of co-host Ryan Reynolds, according to data from market research firm Netbase Quid.

But in north suburban Northbrook, he’s known as the 2013 graduate of Glenbrook North High School who likes coming home from Seoul, South Korea, where he now lives, admitting to fellow Illinoisan Jennifer Hudson during the group’s October appearance on her talk show that he misses the cold and snow of Chicago winters.

“She did ask what I missed most about Chicago and I did say the cold, and she called me crazy or something like that,” Suh says, laughing, during a phone chat ahead of NCT 127’s brief U.S. tour, which kicks off tonight at the United Center.

Chicago has recently enjoyed some major “firsts” within the massively popular K-pop (Korean pop music) genre, including the first-ever South Korean headliner at a North American festival when BTS’ J-Hope closed out Lollapalooza last year; and contemporaries Tomorrow x Together taking the stage the same weekend, marking the first time a K-pop group played the event. But having a K-pop member hail from our fair city is another, if not unexpected, high point.


Chicago’s Johnny Suh is a member of the hit K-pop group NCT 127, which kicks off a brief US tour at the United Center on Jan. 9.

Suh grew up loving singer-dancers such as Usher, and always knew he wanted to be famous. His mother caught wind of a global audition in 2007 hosted by SM Entertainment, one of South Korea’s largest entertainment conglomerates that boasts an in-house talent agency, record label, music production division and publishing house. It’s been the force behind the careers of a number of high-profile K-pop artists such as TVXQ, Super Junior and Girls’ Generation. 

“It’s a little kid’s dream, and I guess my mom knew about the dream, and there was an opportunity for me to audition. … She asked me if I wanted to go, and even though I was ‘teenager-ish’ and thought it might be uncool, I was like, why not? Just take this opportunity and see what unfolds,” recalls Suh.

He was in 7th grade at the time, and says the experience was similar to what we might see now during “American Idol” auditions. After clearing the final rounds, Suh was recruited by the SM Entertainment division, which, over time, transitioned the up-and-comer to living in South Korea, where he would eventually be paired with the eight other selected artists who would become NCT 127. The group officially launched in 2016.

With 665 million streams on Spotify in the U.S. alone, and their fourth album “질주 (2 Baddies)” debuting at No. 3 in September on the Billboard 200 chart, NCT 127 are just the second K-pop artists ever to land three albums in the Top 5. On Jan. 30, the group will release a repackaged version of the album featuring additional songs that Suh says “is going to be another side of NCT 127 that people have not seen yet. … It’s definitely the hardest performance that we had to prepare for, in my opinion.”

Selena Fragassi has more with Suh ahead of NCT 127’s show tonight here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

As a Chicagoan, what is one issue that will be on your mind when you hit the polls next month?

Send us an email at and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: With the conclusion of a rough season, we want to know: how are you feeling about the future of the Bears?

Here’s what some of you said…

“It was a rough season. Hopefully, in the long run, it will be worth it.” — Dave Lesiak

“I went to every home game in 1985. I’ve had Chicago Bears license plates for over 12 years. I want to say I’m excited about last year but I remember being excited when Nagy was hired and after his first year. I look forward to next year with anxious anticipation with the hope that by mid-season I’m pleasantly surprised and very happy by season end.” — Sandy Ritter 

“I think Fields is still the future of Da Bears. I predict a WINNING 2023 season.” — Eileen Ostrowsky

“Things are looking up. Fans need to understand that they are in a rebuild. This is only the beginning. What does NFL stand for? Not for long. Next year will be better. The future is bright for the Monsters” — Jeremy C. Webb

“Every bad year, I say, ‘Next year.’ And I will be here next year.” — Martha Baca-Ryan

“Arlington can hurry up and come get em.” — David Sumrell Jr.

Can’t get much worse.” — Anthony Cristino

“We’ve had plenty of talent for years. It’s all about coaching, and we still don’t have it. Last time the Bears saw great coaching was with Lovie.” — Dennis Quinn

“Drained and stressed, but optimistic just like any other season.” — Chuck Thomas

“Win or lose, I love my Bears! At the start of every season, I say I’m sure this will be the year! Doesn’t matter — they are my team! Rain or snow, win or lose they are my Bears!” — Bonnie Ewing Sullivan

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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