A Canadian Hall of Fame boxer says he wants to reach the youth of Toronto’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood before the criminal temptations of the streets do.

"(We want to) teach them social skills, mentor them to make the right kind of choices," Spider Jones told Canada AM as he leaned against a boxing ring while wearing a battered fedora.

"Self esteem is so important," Jones said as young area residents trained behind him. "Self worth, same thing. If you think you're worth something, then you will do something to make your life better. And if you don't think you're worth something, then you obviously probably won't."

The area around Jane Street and Finch Avenue West in Toronto's far northwest is what's become known in the city as a priority neighbourhood.

Four out of every 10 households in the area have a household income of less than $15,000 per year.

Jones started up his "Spider's Web" drop-in centre in the Chalkfarm Drive area, south of Finch and north of Wilson Avenue, in June 2011.

Besides teaching kids about boxing, Jones, who is a motivational speaker, also introduces them to broadcasting. The centre has literacy programs to encourage learning.

There is also a basketball court for those who'd rather shoot hoops than throw punches.

Donald Keating, who has been coming to the centre for two years, is one of those benefiting from the centre's offerings.

"If I didn't come here, I'd probably find other stuff to keep me busy," he said, adding that those activities would probably be “bad, negative things."

Jones himself grew up in a troubled inner-city project housing in Windsor and Detroit.

"I chose a bad path," he said. "I followed it down, and ended up behind bars in prison. That's what we're trying to prevent here.

"Through mentoring these young people, they absolutely remind me of myself," he said.

Because Spider's Web relies on local donations, it can only afford to be open one day per week. But it's a start.

A confident-sounding Keating said he wants to "make it big." And when he does, he said he wants Spider in his corner.

"It doesn't matter where you come from," Jones said. "It's where you're going that counts."