Ruben Gonzalez’s Amateur Boxing Reports

Ruben Gonzalez’s

Amateur Boxing Reports

 

 

 

Former 1980’s heavyweight contender “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney hosts the Gerry Cooney Fight Night which helped raise funds for Youth Consultation Services

-Photos by Bri Brower-

Gerry Cooney in his fighting prime

Gerry Cooney (R) nailing Larry Holmes (R) with a hard right cross

Former 1980’s heavyweight contender, “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney stepped into the W Hotel’s ring looking for his first win in thirty years. For six jocular rounds, Cooney faced volunteers Michael Costa and Dr. Ronen Gold. Not surprisingly, he still had some of the moves that once made him a star during the Golden Reign of the heavyweight division.

Though he appeared to come up empty in both matches, Cooney was still full of good cheer.

Hoboken’s W Hotel was the host  of the Gerry Cooney Fight Night which helped raise funds for Youth Consultation Services (YCS). The organization serves 1,700 New Jersey children per a day. Robin Peck is the senior director of development for the YCS. The organization will soon be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary. “These are children who have very little and need the help and the kindness of strangers to make their lives better,” said Senior Director Peck.

For Cooney, who had once come from a tough childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father, this charity work serves to help kids that have share the same difficult experience that the former heavyweight contender went through.  “We’ve all lost a little bit in that war of life,” said Cooney. “I’ve been blessed to get a chance to work with some young men and women […] and hopefully work them through some of that anger and fear and confusion.”

According to him, boxing is a way to promote maturity. “If you can box, you don’t have to fight,” said Cooney. “And you learn to love yourself.”

But it was not all about Cooney’s prowess in the ring. There were also eight amateur fights scheduled for the night. After the sixth, there was an auction of boxing memorabilia.

 

The first fight featured the lightest weight class among the night’s set. In that fight, Rodger Evans relied on power punching to take advantage of his challenger Jusha Valsz. In the beginning the latter fighter tried jabbing in attempt to slow down Evans. After Valsz missed with two heavy swings, it became evident that Evans ability to dodge was on full display. In the second, it seemed Valsz had the upper hand when he drove Evans into the ropes. Evans smartly turned around the barrage and eventually it was Valsz who was on the receiving end of the punches. By the finale, Evans was strong-arming Valsz in any direction he wanted. Evans came out on top 4-1.

Demetrius Rolasradys looked to make a quick first impression with the crowd and the judges. He send plenty of combos, at one point six shots in a row, into John Acosado head and body. As the first round wound down, Acosado finally looked like he found his stride. But his fighting resolve came only in spurts, and even then only when he was in real trouble. As for Rolasradys, he continually fed the opposition a steady dose of rib punches. Even though he was tiring by the end of his night, Rolasradys would bust out a sequence of punches, thereby securing himself a points win. It was Rolasradys with the victory.

The next two combatants were John Leonardo and Joel Flores. As the aggressor, Flores fought inside mixing in the uppercut with his wide assortment of punches. This kept Leonardo off-balance. In the latter stages, Leonardo became more bold in his attacks, slowly picking apart Flores’ defense. It the third, a strong left to the face helped turn the tide again in Flores’ favor, as the judges awarded the decision and the fight to him on the scorecards.

David Donaldson hailed from the Gerry Cooney Boxing Club. Steve Majoski, meanwhile, was a Hometown boy from the Everlast gym in Hoboken. Much force was thrown in Donaldson’s punching, and he managed to successfully stymie the movement of his opponent with the weight of his blows. Majoski hardly had a chance to poke out of his proverbial shell. But he was far from through. After a standing count in the second, Majoski battled back and gained some momentum by the end of the round. Unfortunately for him, it did not last. A Donaldson punch to the head knocked Majoski off-balance. It was a clear 5-0 decision for Donaldson.

The fifth bout was Brandon Gardner versus Jallot Abdulage. Gardner had his way throughout the match, consistently launching and landing his punches sometimes in combos of three. In the second round, Gardner unleashed a surprising right to the head. Even after two standing counts, Abdulage stubbornly stood on his own two feet. The third round’s final exchange saw Abdulage throw one final punch to Gardner and immediately he crashed to the floor. Abdulage was unable to rise, but fears were allayed, when with some assistance, he was able to leave the ring.  For Gardner knocking down his opponent was a “proud moment”.

The knockouts came like back-to-back homeruns. One round would decide the fate for the next two fighters. Jhalil Coe hammered Alfunwa King. Powerful right hand shots discombobulated King. Two standing counts were given to King during the fight. Then King lost all sense of gravity, as his arms which were his weapons, flailed around in the air looking for support. That would be the end of Coe’s night as he was unable to rise from the mat.

The auction provided a change in pace to the aforementioned battles. In the crowd were sport’s legends: Larry Holmes and Chuck Wepner. Also on hand were TV personalities like Tracy Morgan.

Featured items included signed memorabilia from Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Leonard and other greats. Packages to baseball and hockey games were also included. Even big boxing networks like HBO and Showtime provided auction items.

Another representative of the Hoboken fight scene was on hand: Angel Flores. He stepped into the ring against Aderly Hernandez. After the excitement of the last two knockouts, one could see Hernandez anxious to do the same. A right to the head and a series of crosses gave Flores two standing counts. Flores received another eight count as Hernandez continued to pour it on. The third round saw Hernandez unleashed some noteworthy fists to Flores’ skull as he started to visibly struggle to keep up with Hernandez. With a unanimous victory, it was dominance for Hernandez.

Much to the Chagrin of the crowd the last fight started off slowly, even reluctantly as Yohenry Rosario met with Alex Jiminez. Both athletes would be entangled plenty of time during the fight. Rosario would keep his distance, but Jiminez was still aggressive. His hands would sweep the distance between the two for solid contact. He would hit pay dirt early when Rosario got the count early. Even though the pace dipped and rose, it was Jiminez’s tenacious style that won over the judges..

When the rough stuff was over, it was time for some fun and games as Gerry Cooney himself, climbed the ring. “Gentleman” Cooney thanked the crowd and praised the YCS and told the youngsters and young adults on hand to “never lose hope.”

“Hope is a big thing. To have hope, to answer a question, to take the turn to jump in the water,” said Cooney. “So maybe some kid that we work with will take that jump.”

Boxing Workout being used to combat Parkinson’s disease

In day to day life, there is always some difficulty to fight against. The usual constraints of time and money are enough to wear a person down. For others, there is a more personal struggle. Now, instead of just being a form of sports entertainment, the sweet science will now become an aid to medical science.

Kathy Fisher

The Randolph YMCA is host to The Rock Steady Boxing program which incorporates boxing exercises into the workout of people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Randolph is only the second YMCA facility to have this, with the town of Garwood being the first. In total, there are now five locations that have joined in this endeavor.

Kathy Fisher is the Operations Director for Randolph and has been overseeing Rock Steady since its inception last year. Fisher has been the program director for fourteen years. She also has had experience in the world of boxing. She was a USA Boxing coach working with Peter Alindato who in who fought for a time under the legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, the very same trainer who would later take a young Mike Tyson under his wing.

Fisher is one of the sixty trainees that have helped promote Rock Steady Boxing. It began a little more than ten years ago when a former prosecutor from Marion County, Indiana developed Parkinson’s. Scott C. Newman was diagnosed with the illness at forty, but decided to train like a boxer and fight back to battle the illness.

Parkinson’s is a nationwide challenge. According to the Parkinson’s disease Foundation, one million Americans are affected by the disease. It is also estimated that 60,000 cases are diagnosed a year. Financially, a patient with Parkinson’s spends on average $2,500 yearly on treatment alone.

The members of the class range from 40-year-olds to a sprightly 90-year-old. The classes themselves are graded from numbers one to four. These mark the progression of the disease and the modification the exercise needs. Class four is the toughest one; this includes members that might need the use of a wheelchair.

Exercises begin with standard warm-up routines and progress to shadow boxing. Traditional boxing equipment like punching bags is also used. According to the YMCA, these rigors help build strength, flexibility and speed for those who are afflicted.

Fisher supervises four coaches and under them are seventeen volunteers. Classes contain a maximum of fifteen participants. Within each class, there are a total of fifteen boxers in training. Though these classes are small, the advantage is that there is more individualized attention. This is especially important when dealing with certain variables that comes with the disease i.e. age, severity, or amount of medication.

Within the program’s system, there is a focus on evaluating progress. Fisher recounts how one boxer progressed. “We have a member, for example, who started on a cane and now she’s running the length of the room without a cane,” said Fisher.

Some physicians are hesitant to put their patients through a combat sport like boxing. Their misgivings are allayed when they are told that this program is non-contact. Fisher cites legend Muhammad Ali’s own battle with Parkinson’s as the reason for their reluctance. “Ali, according to medical research, is just a boxer that happened to get Parkinson’s,” said Fisher.

Besides the usual boxing training, they also have aquatic boxing. The physical activities remain the same, but with the added resistance of the water. The major advantage is there is no need to fear falling and becoming injured. The worst consequence is the possibility of getting wet.

In all, these boxers work out three times a week: twice doing the standard Rock Steady regimen and once using the pool for these same exercises.

A positive atmosphere is very important to the development of these boxers. Signs bearing phrases like “I am strong,” and “I am winning this fight” are placed throughout the room. There are a multitude of emotions that are released in the class, from tears to laughter. “It changes their life and it changes their outlook on life because they have a much more positive attitude,” said Fisher. “They say a lot of times: ‘I was in this really dark place and now I look forward to getting out of bed in the morning and I love coming to class.’”

Not only is this program growing at the facility in Randolph, but so is its own public image. They recently participated in Unity Walk. This special event raises public awareness of the disease in New York’s Central Park.

Even in their own facility, the class will be moving into the main building where there will be three times as much space and equipment. The hope is that more will be served. “We turn no one away. So, if you come in walking or come in a wheelchair, we’re going to work with you,” said Fisher.

Rahway hosts New Jersey Golden Gloves final

-Photos by Bri Brower-

In Rahway, all the world would be a stage and the boxers would be the main players. It was the final day of the New Jersey Golden Gloves tournament and a total of twenty-eight fighters would eye first place.

Union County Performance Arts would be the last leg of the tour. The ring was placed right in the middle of the stage for all to see. The auditorium was decked in red velvet and gold with intricate bas-reliefs arching over the performance space. It would be a perfect place where suspense, tragedy and twists of fate would present themselves.

The first ones to come up on this grand stage were Kevin Alexander and Antonio Tantillo. Immediately, one would notice Alexander’s most prominent advantage: his height. Tantillo was unperturbed as he tried to be the aggressive one. A nice left to the stomach from Alexander kept his opponent honest. Tantillo kept at it even hunting for the head, but as the third round showed, Alexander was the more dominant fighter. Unanimously, Alexander gained this career building win.

With a longer reach and taller frame Chackor Claiborne was the Goliath to Yohenry Rosario’s David. This did not phase Rosario as he swarmed inside Clairborne’s reach. Rosario was tenacious, tempting his opposition to come closer and then striking his left side. Even as Claiborne looked like he pinned him down, Rosario quickly slugged himself out of the jam. Rosario mixed his punches well. Nearing the end, he was more able to consistently land three-punch sequences. Rosario would claim this as the first Final victory of the night.

Caroline Canero and Jennifer Lopez were friends before the fight, but it was all business inside the four corners. For most of the match, both Fighters stood toe-to-toe. Canero, though was the more aggressive of the two. Lopez did well setting up combinations and running her punches from the ribs to the head. With those fighters knowing each other so well, it was a fairly even fight. So, at 3-2, it belonged to Canero.

Canero prepared for her fight by sparring with individuals that closely resembles Lopez in their physique and style. Even after the training and the execution, Canero has nothing but love for Lopez. “There’s no friends in the ring, but I still love her to death,” said Canero.

The next fight was another close one. The fourth contest of the night was the 132 pound Final. Both Eder Gatica and Christian Castro captivated the crowd with the rallies that each one mounted. Gatica scored points with the crowd when a crushing right hand awed the crowd. When the announcement was made, it was Gatica that basked in the spotlight.

There would be another good fight. Aadam Ali and Shinard “Scrappy” Bunch were both nationally rated. Both excelled at hand speed, but Ali was moments quicker. Ali’s namesake was too tempting for the crowd to ignore. Fans chanted “Ali” throughout the auditorium and some cheekily added “bomaye.” It was Ali’s lead hand that would serve him well. At the end of round two, the right jumbled Bunch’s senses. At the third, his shot selection would produce the standing eight. Just like his famous predecessor, Ali would win this rumble in Rahway.

Amari Cabrera and Anthony Cruz opposed each other next. Cruz began his fight moving around the ring well, relying on good quick right-handed shots. Cabrera had a constant presence. Occasionally, he would throw much needed power shots. Cabrera’s style inculcated much favor with the judges which gave him a 5-0 score.

Chris Sanchez was the first in the contest to receive a reaction from the crowd as his cross punches seemed to make Saleem Kelly waver. But Kelly would very soon get it into gear. He utilized different angles and punches while nimbly gliding left and right. Kelly made gains in opening up Sanchez’s defense. Kelly seemed like a complete boxer. He hit pay dirt when he handed a bloody standing count in the final round. Kelly’s performance would go on to earn him the award for first place.

Kelly was a bit of a rolling stone, moving from gym to gym until he finally found one in Hackensack that made him feel at home. To maintain his zeal and focus, he remind himself of his inspirations. ““Like my mom, my dad, my handicapped sister, my family” said Kelly. “There’s a lot of whys why I want to be great, but most of all to prove that they did a well done job in raising a kid, raising a man.”

David Janssen versus Shihiyd Terry was a rematch from yesterday. For the first round, both men fought fairly evenly. By the second, Terry’s assortment of stiff punches gave him control. He would maintain this even as Janssen increased his willingness to attack with an emphasis on power shots. It wouldn’t be enough and Terry, with the adulation of the crowd, stepped out of the ring in success.

This next fight demonstrated that patience is a virtue. It was a duel to the end as Quaseem Carter and Robert Terry carefully picked apart each others’ defense. Jabs and counters were prevalent as neither man gained significant headway. That all would change in the championship round. Terry found his chance and seized it. He worked his combos up Carter’s ladder, finally ringing his head like a bell. The beads of sweat flew off Carter’s head like rain whipped away by a violent tempest. The round ended with Carter at the receiving end of two standing counts. Terry would join the winners’ circle.

For Terry, this year might be his last go around for the Golden Gloves. For now, he is savoring this night. “I was able to counter punch him easier, but most of all I was fast and I was able to capitalize on his mistakes. That’s when I felt I had the advantage,” said Terry.

Anthony Mesler made sure to live by the boxing axiom to “be first.” Mesler handed a tumult of blows that not only excited the crowd, but exasperated his opponent, Alex Vasquez. Mesler went guns blazing in the second round, effectively shooting down any hope of a Vasquez comeback. Twenty-three seconds into the second round and the fight was called in Mesler’s favor.

Both Vladimir Dalton and Tre Martin looked to outclass each other in the ring. Both relied on a steady flow of Jabs. Dalton would cut loose a little by the end of the second. As the fight wore on, both became more visibly tired. Dalton would end up surviving and succeeding this contest of endurance.

The hits kept coming. Tassembedo Saidou made his night a fast one. Look away and the action would be over. With combo that ended with a right to the head, Edwin De La Cruz was felled like a mighty oak. Surprise and joy permeated Saidou’s face and informed his triumphant gesticulations. It took a minute and change for the deciding blow to land. Medical attendants hover over outstretched De La Cruz. Much to the relief of everyone in attendance, De La Cruz got up from the canvas on his own power.

It was a rematch from last night as Oscar Merino and James Talley faced each other for the final time. After Talley’s stellar performance, Merino acquitted himself much better. Merino applied constant pressure which made Talley wheel himself around the ring. If Merino got to close, Talley struck back with authority, creating more space between them. Even so, Merino did have the best hit of the fight as he dazed Talley with a punch to the left side of the head. According to the judges, the game was still Talley’s.

The night ended with a bang as Derek Starling and Devonte Jones finally touched gloves. Both burley fighters has power to spare, unloading in quick bursts. Jones touched up his opponent a bit in the first, a powerful strike at the head and cornering him. Starling was pugnacious by fighting his way out of potential hazards. With only a few moments into the fight, Starling made his big move. Jones had dropped and the ref called the fight off.

It was a satisfying finish this year’s tournament. It will be an interesting journey for these boxers as they discover what will come next in their careers. Until then, the Golden Gloves will continue to shape the amateurs today into pros of tomorrow.

Paramus pits battlers in Golden Gloves

-Photos by Bri Brower-

With spring in the air and leather in the ring, the town of Paramus was installed as the next host for Golden Gloves fisticuffs.To bring an ambiance to the action, strings of lights hung from the ceiling looming like stars over the battles below. By the night’s end, the participants would receive the gifts of their labor in the form of golden statuettes.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Headquarters was the center of New Jersey’s amateur boxing world for April 21. A total of fifteen matches was scheduled for this celebratory night.

Dubbed Future Stars, the opening bout featured juniors Gavin Ruton and Jeremy Nieves. Southpaw Ruton was aggressive out of the gate, but Nieves was quick to block all hits coming his way. Nieves continued to be evasive, choosing when to swing. By the third, Nieves looked like the better fighter as he punctuated a left to Ruton’s dome. Nieves’ win was a unanimous 5-0 decision.

In an exciting semi-final featuring fighters Orlando Galloza and Aderly Hernandez, the crowd saw a back-and-forth tussle that included five standing eight-counts, at least one for each round. Hernandez attacked from the body and landed a shot to Galloza’s head that sent him reeling in the first. Galloza had ground to make up. The last two rounds saw Galloza give punishment equal to two standing eight-counts. It did get ugly during one tangle, after Galloza kept tapping the back of Hernandez’s head. It was a close call and Galloza eked out a 3-2 decision. So well received was the match that after calling for applause, ring announcer Henry Hascup said, “There are no losers, but there has to be a winner.”

Heavyweights crowded the ring for the third set. Rotund Oscar Merino set his sights on seventeen-year-old Jamar Talley. Both were headhunters and each shot that was pounded in reverberated throughout the arena. Talley kept his distance and overwhelmed Merino with his speed. At the final round, Talley lefts and rights to the head scored big. The strap of Merino’s shirt actually fell in the onslaught, making him look like Tarzan. The eight-count Merino received in that round would seal the deal for Talley.

With the win, Talley hopes to go to the 2020 Olympics and then turn pro. To beat Merino, shot selection turned out to be important. “At first, I was going to the body, but then I was trying to get in a knockout,” said Talley. “So, I threw body shots, but I kept him at bay with the jab.”

This next Finals fight was at 125 pounds featuring athletes Jalena Hay and Alicia Duncan. The first round was a hot start as both traded punches with speedy ferocity. Hay’s wide loping hooks stymied Duncan’s offense. In the second, Hay was the first to draw blood. A standing count was then given to Duncan. Sensing victory, Hay was more reserved in her output. She decided to just stick, move and block while Duncan squandered the opportunity to be more aggressive. It would be 5-0 for Hay.

The fifth match was another look into the future of the sport. Vying for respect and the crowd’s admiration were Marcello Tejada and Benny Bautista. The latter was jab heavy while Tejada kept his distance and landed fierce rights to the head. Bautista’s strategy to chip away at his opponent’s defense was fruitful. Bautista’s  jabs made Tejada more vulnerable, and eventually he cut loose on him. A battered Tejada would receive the eight-count. When the fight wound down Bautista won the favor of the judges.

Troy Pasha and Omayki Espinal continued the series of battles for the Finals. For advantages, Espinal had speed and a longer reach. But Pasha struck the first great blow by pummeling Espinal and sending him reeling into the bottom ropes. The match had its frantic moments: as both boxers nearly slipped outside the ring at two different times. Pasha would continue to step up to the challenge posed by Espinal. This final would be Pasha’s.

This next semi-final started excitingly. Carefully, as the two young athletes sized each other up. Anthony Cruz worked to set up his right while Victor Azeredo kept up the agression. Soon Azeredo found an opening and, with the force of a hurricane, walloped Cruz. It was the recoil of Azeredo’s blows that gave Cruz enough space to wiggle himself out. For the ensuing rounds, Cruz made sure Azeredo would not get another chance to launch his fireworks. Cruz used the tempo of his jabs and follow-up punches to freeze his adversary’s wrath. The haymakers which were part of Azeredo’s initial arsenal were hardly seen again, allowing  Cruz to  pull out on top.

A very vocal crowd supported David Janssen in his bout against Shihiyd Terry. For the first two rounds, it was Terry’s stiff jab that set the pace and controlled the space. Janssen relied on power, but it didn’t have an effect till the final round, when a tired Terry was tagged by Janssen’s constant energy. At one point, a Janssen right rattled Terry’s skull, but it wasn’t enough and Terry took the fight 4-1.

                Terry hopes to continue his success and keeps his strategy simple. “Just keep boxing, staying focused and let God do the rest,” he said.

In the next bout, Alec Capik squared off against Ghandi Romain. The first round seemed to indicate that Romain would be the better fighter, but within the next two rounds, Capik asserted himself. Capik at one point trapped his opponent, seemingly rattling him just before the bell tolled. By the third, Capik continued to have enough energy to remain aggressive and he would be the one to raise his hands in victory.

Southpaw Bernard Gardner held his left hand out like an antenna as if to feel out what his opponent Kenneth Torres had in store. To the body Gardener would go, occasionally popping a right to the Head. Torres had an effective right when he was allowed to strike. That opportunity would not come often enough as Gardner used his frame to smother Torres. To Gardener went the spoils.

Flashing from opposite sides of the ring were Jeffrey Hunter and Joseph Johnson. Hunter kept his distance and was difficult to pin down. On the other hand, Johnson did set the pace and used big overhand rights to settle Hunter. For this 178 pound weight class, it would be Johnson with the prize.

It was the baker’s dozen of matches. Early on, Isaiah Mack would mix in punches like the uppercut and strike while ranging right or left. Every time that Xavier Valentine would try to match this adversary, Mack proved to be the more measured boxer. Mack’s jabs to the face would inhibit any sort of oncoming attack. Though well-matched, it was Mack’s skill that would supersede any indecision.

Mack says he will be fighting a lot in the summer while also looking into a college with a good boxing program. The people that make up his team are a great support to him. “I just want to thank everybody who came out to support me,” said Mack. “I want to thank my trainer. He does a great job. He keeps me focused basically, between girls and school, he keeps me focused, he gives me energy.”

In the penultimate match of the night, Alex Vasquez gave a great performance against Dejon Ferrell-Francis, who simply could not keep up with his opponent. Vasquez continually forced Ferrell-Francis  back into the ropes scoring the greater number of blows. Vasquez was also a better blocker. Unfortunately for Ferrell-Francis, any steam he gained was cancelled out by the Bell. The impressed judges gave the decision to Vasquez.

As the night drew to a close, the final match pitted Era Lara against Ibraheem Adbelaal. The latter was the classic model of boxing. With fancy footwork, Abdelaal continued to stick and move throughout the ring. Though Lara would throw the occasional sloping right, it wasn’t till the third round where he gained some traction. It was a better round indeed for Lara as his fists landed to the face and his body shots helped pin the evasive Adbelaal. But that strong third could not help him make up the first two weaker rounds. Adbelaal would be the last victor.

Boxing ignites in Newark

April 1 – Newark,  NJ. Week seven of the Golden Gloves tournament had a rare afternoon start. Although it was held on the first of April, for the boxers inside the arena there would be no fooling around.

Cruz vs. Alvarez. All Photos by Ruben Gonzalez

Newark’s Waterfront Community and Recreation Center held the competition. The ring itself was placed in the middle of a basketball court. The large glass windows perched along the upper walls let in the sunlight, which turned out to be the only illumination necessary. Just as birds and planes crossed the blue yonder, so too would fists fly at the gym during the course of the proceedings.

This rare early start time began with a bout between Diyamba Tamana and Karim Robles-Mendoza. Tamana concentrated on the body while Robles-Mendoza kept up with a firm series of jabs. Before the crowd even got a chance to settle in, Tamana was TKO’d with a bloody nose.

The second feature starred boxers Eric Alveraez and Anthony Cruz. The latter boxer established his presence with a pattern of left-right-left punches. Nothing could deter Cruz’s skill as his opponent started to look more reluctant as the match wore on. Trouble soon looked like it was on the horizon when Alveraez upped the pressure, but it was Cruz’s speed and timing that carried him away from harm. This fight was given to Cruz.

Cruz who is sponsored by rapper Money June, talked about the mentality that carried him. “I maintained patience. I didn’t overreact, I remained calm,” said Cruz.

Nelson  Roman staggers Tammer Abraham

Though Shinard Bunch and Jamir Cope were the third pair of the day, they were the first to put the crowd into a frenzy. Both came at each other with heat, neither conceding an inch. Cope seem to be edging his way toward a victory because of his aggression and ability to dictate his shot selection. After missing a dangerous overhand shot, Bunch made some headway in the second. As the crowd indicated, the final round would crown the bout’s winner. Both pugilists were patient, but Cope seemed to be on fumes. It was a tough one to score, but at 3-2 Bunch came out on top.

It was a matchup of two of last week’s previous winners when Sub-Novices Anthony Miles and Amari Cabrera climbed through the ropes. Unlike the turbulence of his last bout, Cabrera was more measured in his striking. Both frequently wove into each other, needing the referee to separate them. Cabrera was a constant physical presence throughout. To counteract this, Miles tried to be the better boxer by mainly using jabs to set up a hard right. Several times the gloves did fly from both fighters, but nevertheless, “Cobra” Cabrera never lost control. And the judges concurred.

The bell rang in the next bout and Samar Williams was the first out of the gate. His opponent, Kyril Simmons, simply looked overmatched. Williams’ fistic speed was exemplified by how he would use his left hand to jab and then rip it for hook. Simmons’ chest and stomach were the most vulnerable to attack. Before long, Williams had his way with Simmons, time and again beating him into the side of the ring. For his efforts, the fight was given to Williams.

Williams had to dig deep as he went into the third round. “I knew I was a little more burned out, so I knew I had to tough it out and keep throwing as much punches as I can to score more points,’ said Williams.

Roman and Abraham exchange leather.


His Puerto Rican heritage was also important in choosing this outlet. His father and grandparents are from the island. “Puerto Rico is based off boxing and baseball that’s all they do,” said Williams. “That’s what really bought me into this sport.”

Youngsters also took the stage where the men competed. In the red corner stood Samad Mumin and across him in the blue Corner was Jasiel Nieves. Some of Mumin’s inexperience was visible as with one swing he literally spun around the canvas. Mumin did have his strengths. He used his left to swipe at his foe and moved around the ring well. But Nieves was a much more poised fighter, blocking swings and jabbing to open up head shots. Nieves ultimately prevailed.

With a loss to his record, Jihad Davis was fighting against elimination. His opponent in the blue corner, Shahyid Terry, would not make it easy. Terry set the tone by consistently using a strong jab and agilely ducking attacks. The next round, Davis came out strong. He punctuated his assault with two rights to Terry’s head. Davis displayed surprising bursts of offense, but the level-headed Terry made sure to keep control of the fight’s pace. Terry would win this contest.

When Aadam Ali stepped into the ring, he stomped and kicked his leg like a bull. This southpaw looked to pull off a win against Isaac Grace. Ali could also play matador as a few of Grace’s attempts caught air. Ali kept him off balance using a combination of jabs and body punches. While Grace tried mounting a comeback, he would get clocked by his adversary’s right. At the third, both stood unwaveringly toe-to-toe, but Ali was much too slick to pin down. Because of this, Ali won the rumble on all the scorecards.

Two of the youngest boxers in the arena were ready to showcase their talent. In a pool of fighters that reached triple digits in weight, these two were in the 95-pound class. Christian Rivero had trouble blocking Jeremy Nieves’ attacks aimed to his right. Rivero’s head rocked back for every right-handed shot. Even though Rivero remained in the offensive, Nieves countered with good shot selection and remaining elusive when the pressure was on. Nieves looked like a professional. The judges recognized his maturity and awarded his skill.

It was probably the most electrifying fight of the night as Hassan Seymore and Jon DeAngeli challenged each other to the last minute. DeAngeli looked to get an early lead in the first round as he came strong. But, Seymore was more than a match for him, driving him into the ropes, using his right hand as a powerful weapon. The first standing eight-count was given to DeAngeli.

Seymore’s fists flew unrelentingly from left to right, at one point, landing five unanswered shots. It turned out to be way too much for DeAngeli as the ref gave him an eight-count. But DeAngeli was determined to give his own. He landed a neck-cracking right jab which gave Seymore an eight. But, quick as that happened, DeAngeli was put in the same situation as his opponent.

The final round saw both athletes punch-drunk. Seymore’s left handed shots stunned his opponent. But the back and forth affair would continue as it was Seymour’s turn to get the count. The excitement finally ended when a little more than two minutes in. DeAngeli was given the TKO, after which he put his gloves on his hips in disbelief.

At 141 opounds, John Vallejo competed against Jimmy Martinez. Vallejo put on a clinic, much to Martinez’s chagrin. Vallejo unloaded with such force that at one point, he lost balance and fell on the canvas. Vallejo cornered Martinez twice in the second round, letting loose lefts to the head. Martinez held his hands below his belt and waited for a chance to retaliate. Vallejo was more than ready to dish it as his dominant fist caused Martinez to stumble. Vallejo came away with the 5-0 win.

Nelson Roman and Tammer Abraham were the first of the evening’s heavyweights. The opening round saw both men become Headhunters. Abraham favorite his power by coming out with a string of right hands. He would also use his size to take as much punishment from Roman as possible. Roman on the other hand look to outbox the other and by the end of the matchup, Roman looks like be fresher fighter. This boded well for Roman.

For Roman, this semi-final was a culmination of his work. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve been working at this for three years, so, I finally got to the finals, and that means everything to me,” said Roman.

It was the second billing that featured two in the heavyweight class. Corey James had his moments in the ring against Danny Bean. He cornered Bean at one point and in two of his better exchanges, he pounded the body. But these highlights were few and far between as Bean held control. One could hear the boom from a Bean punch. As James danced more, Bean’s dominant hand targeted and struck with unquestionable authority. Bean would reign supreme.

As the tournament drew to a close, Quaseem Carter and Isiah Hart would be the last to enter. Like some of the better ones that progressed that day, Carter wasn’t just about offense, but also moved well laterally and around the ring. It seemed that Carter could throw any punch and it would land successfully. As he unloaded his arsenal, one could see Hart’s headgear knocked off-center. To top it off, Carter sent Hart into an eight count. Carter would have last win of the night.

The show continues to roll on. The next stop for these athletes as they reach the top will be at Hackensack High School.

The Golden Gloves Continue to shine as the excitement intensifies

Citing problems with the venue at Wall Township, New Jersey Golden Gloves was welcomed back into Paterson. This was the second round for the host gym as True Warriors held the tournament earlier in this month.

On Saturday, this packed house featured sixteen fights. As the tournament winds down, however, several of the bouts were fought to stave off elimination or to advance passed the semi-finals.

The night unfolded quickly. At 132 pounds, Fernando Hernandez and Kevin Anderson were the first out of the gate. Alexander would end his opponent’s time early in the second round by ringing up a technical knockout.

It was Dallas Mosher against Eric Alvarez for the second match. Mosher was very aggressive in the opening round, while Alvarez warded him off using a few good combos. It was in the second round that Alvarez took control of the fight using a few strong hooks to redden the face of Mosher. It was a see-saw affair. A highlight for Alvarez came ater he landed a hard left punch to the head. Though Mosher then drove him at times back into the ropes, it was Alvarez who still succeeded with a 3-2 judgement.

It was A Tale of Two Anthonys as like-named combatants Cruz and Miles touched gloves. Miles was the more defensive and patient of the two. He countered with his right hand to knock Cruz off-balance. Cruz provided the offensive energy, when in some instances he got in three to four punches in a row. Throughout the fight, Miles would easily glide to his left and right. By the third round, Cruz knew he had to unload but even so this tactic was to no avail. Miles would end up being the Anthony that got to celebrate.

Once the bell rang in the next bout, both Shahyid Terry and David Jenssen Jr. jumped at each other. Terry crouched out of range from some potentially damaging punches. His offense was clicking as well especially after Jenssen had to receive the standing eight-count. The second round became testy when Jenssen hit a sluggish Terry in the back of the head. Jenssen was in full-on attack mode as the third commenced, notably using a string of overhand rights. It turned out to be too much for Terry to keep up and the match ended in his TKO.

Sub-Novices Patrick Fennell and Dylan Utlak came aboard for the fifth fight of the night. Both athletes were timing their combos for best effect. Fennell would bob and weave using crosses to distance himself from Utlak. It was a barrage of left and right hooks targeted toward the body that seemed to open up the night for Utlak. The final round had both of them clubbing away at each other. Utlak sealed the deal with the judges when Fennell received a standing eight-count.

Quicker than a heartbeat, Danshawn Sawyers versus Joseph Agosto was over. Agosto made speedy work of Sawyer’s defense and at the same time brought the crowd to life. With every right-handed knock from Agosto, the crowd underlined it with a deafening “woah!” Agosto went up and down the ladder effectively, toasting his opponent in 1:32 for the fastest TKO at Paterson.

Joseph Agosto and Danshawn Sawyer in action. (Photo by Ruben Gonzalez)

How Agosto approached his foe was meticulously considered. “My first thought was my plan which was stay out of his right, focus on my left punches, hit the body and don’t run out of gas,” said Agosto. “And if I ran out of gas, it would be for nothing.”

Agosto wants to continue to fight at the 123 weight class and hopes to face a variety of opponents. “See how I progress during my fights and get better and better,” said Agosto.

It was more evenly matched between Nick Renna and Alec Capik’s Semi-Final. Like tetherball, their fists swung into each other with such force that some of their missed shots caused them to become entangled. Capik would switch from southpaw to orthodox for the edge. His best weapon was a heavy right hand launched to the side of Renna’s face. Even as Renna became more aggressive, Capik still had enough energy to ward him off. It was Capik’s strategy that ultimately bore fruit, and with it the victory.

Facing elimination, Isiah Rios and Omayki Espinal stepped to meet each other. Espinal was accompanied by his own cheering section which let loose an incredible roar for every one of his moves. Both were quick and fought to control the center of the ring. Espinal was more of the aggressor, while Rios would jab and jump back. Of course, it was the third round when Espinal looked like the better fighter. He began tagging his hard-right punches with authority as Rios’ setups were ineffectual. With the win, the gym was filled with screams of “Omayki.”

The next in this series featured SubNovices Orlando Galloza and Tommy Ferreiras. It took awhile for Ferreiras to find has rhythm, having missed a few shots early in the battle. Both fighters did not back down and continued pelting each other like hail on a windshield. Galloza’s endurance would prove key as his adversary begin to look beat. Galloza kept up the attack by using his fast hands on vulnerable ribs. Galloza would leave the ring as the first winner from the Red Corner.

At 132 pounds, Aderly Hernandez and Kelly Reinhart looked to survive elimination. It was Hernandez who looked prepared as he dominated his opponent. Body shot after body shot Hernandez set for his rival, usually ending his combinations with a potent punch to Reinhart’s head. Just as it seemed Hernandez unloaded as much as he could, he tapped into an extra reservoir of fury and went wild in the ultimate round. Reinhart could only hopelessly defend himself. It ended for Reinhart with a TKO and a bloody nose.

Heavyweights shook the ring as Alex Lainez and Ibraheem Adbelaal came to the fore. The rotund Lainez looked to make quick work of Adbelaal as he attacked him with all his strength. Confidence showed on Lainez as he seemingly smiled during the early going. To his credit, Adbelaal did not flinch, instead he resorted to sticking and moving. As Lainez showed raw power and a strong chin, Abdelaal chose precision. The latter would capitalize as two lefts cracked Lainez’s skull. Adbelaal had finally worn down his opponent, resulting in a standing eight-count.

Ibraheem Adbelaal(Photo by Ruben Gonzalez)

Adbelaal knew he was close to turning the semi-final match around. “In the ending of the first round, when he was swinging, he was taking a deep breath. You usually shouldn’t do that in the first round, because it gives away that your tired,” said Adbelaal.

With the guidance of his coach, Adbelaal sees himself as achieving Olympic Gold in Tokyo. “Boxing is not about knocking people out, it’s about outclassing them,” explained Adbelaal.

Like butting rams, Ryan Leonard and Jeffrey Hunter went after each other. As Hunter threw left and right hooks toward the body, Leonard would answer in kind. Hunter soon gained the advantage and the judges concurred. Hunter walked away with a 5-0 decision in the fourth semi-final of the tournament.

Robin Diaz and Bernard Gardner would serve as the penultimate bout for the semi-finalists. Gardner mixed his shots using a selection of hooks, uppercuts and counter punches. Diaz had his difficulties. At one point, he ducked into a Gardner punch. By fight’s end, Gardner pressed his attack. Eventually, he became much more reactionary, choosing to wait for his opponent to make the moves. It was an unambiguous win. The score favoriting Gardener 4-1.

It was a close bout between Troy Pasha and Nafis Carr. Both went about their business at a fevered pace. After the introduction to each other, Pasha would jab and hook his way to an opening head shot. Even so, Carr stalked him around the ring. Pasha seemed full of energy by the final round, rocking swings from the left and the right to a more open and vulnerable Carr. This round clinched it for Pasha as he walked away with a 3-2 decision.

With a showman’s bravado, Lauderson Georges climbed in the ring like he was about to light up a stage. He went to his corner with a jump and stomped the canvass with a loud crash. His opponent in this semi-final was An Nguyen. Georges was quick with the rib shots, going up and down the body and using a heavy right hand. Even as Nguyen tried to be more aggressive, Georges overloaded him with a mix of fists like the left hook and uppercut. When the final bell rang, Georges put an exclamation point on his night by landing a right on Nguyen,  that rang his proverbial bell.

Emblazoned on Georges’ trunks are “Lion King” and the number seven (7). The latter is a tribute to God and “Lion King” is his outlook. “Every single day I train, I feel like I mimic a lion. There’s not a single day where I don’t train hard,” said Georges.

Georges will go to the finals where he will meet Jennfri Espinal. The commitment to hard work is of tantamount importance. “It was all about the training. The fight happens in the gym. When I come here it’s showtime,” said Georges. “It’s easy when I come here, it’s the training that’s hard.”

Things went helter skelter for the final match. It could only be described as a donnybrook. Both young men, Victor Azeredo and Amari Cabrera pummeled each other non-stop. In the second round, Azeredo almost slipped through the top rope, but as he came up, Cabrera punched him in the back of the head. With the fists leading the progression of battle, the legs lagged behind. By the third, both had tripped over themselves and could have tumbled out of the ring. Truly, no punches were pulled as both fighters’ fists bashed non-stop into their target. Ring announcer Henry Hascup encouraged the crowd to give both combatants a standing ovation. In this rumble, it was “Cobra” Cabrera that came up on top.

The show will continue as moving on becomes more important to these boxers. Next Saturday it will be moving to the grand city of Newark.

New Jersey Golden Gloves punches through March Storm storm

Mother Nature blasted New Jersey with snow enough to remind one of the Ice Age. But, even that gale force served only as a reminder to the crowd of the power that a punch can pack.

Scores of people gathered to witness the fifth fight in the spectacle known as New Jersey Golden Gloves boxing.

Sarango and Merino going punch for punch with each other ​(PHOTO BY BRI BROWER)

The night began strong as Jihad Davis entered the ring in opposition to Jonathan Payne. The fight started slowly enough with both fighters sizing each other up. At the onset, Payne appeared the more aggressive of the two, relying on a stream of quick jabs to keep his foe at bay. Davis, though, soon found his rhythm and discovered openings in Payne’s defense, which he attacked in earnest. Of the two combatants, Davis was more on the offensive by the third round leaning on the strength of his right hand and the harsh accuracy of his hooks. By the fight’s end, this spelled success for Davis.

Lima and Mesler in action (PHOTO BY BRI BROWER)

For Davis, the triumph was made more important because it came after a previous loss. “It feels wonderful, winning always feels good,” said Davis. “The fact my people were here to support me made me do better.”

The weight considerably Rose in the second match up. At 178 pounds, southpaw Anthony Munoz stood against Alex Vasquez. The latter boxer was the more rhythmic of the two at the beginning of the battle using his stiff  jabs and crosses that landed well through Munoz’s defenses. By the third round, Munoz gained control as he stiffly punched his opponent with rights and left crosses.  Vasquez bravely held his ground and it proved to be enough to gain the win.

Probably the most exciting fight of the night was between Amilcar Lima and Anthony Mesler. Hot out of the gate came Mesler as he overwhelmed his opponent into his own corner. In one round, Mesler asserted his authority, pummeling Lima to the ring’s edge a total of three times.

Even as Lima received two standing eight counts in the first two rounds, he would not easily go down. Lima continually attempted to pund the body of Mesler, which actually seemed to take some wind out of his sails. But, Mesler remained consistent with his attacks and eventually garnered an impressive TKO win.

Panissidi and Starling looking for an opening ​(PHOTO BY BRI BROWER)

For Mesler, his mentality was complementary to his physicality. “I was always taught to go first,” said Mesler. “When it’s time to fight, it’s time to fight.”

Even with this exciting victory, Mesler is still focused on the road ahead. “It feels good and it’s back to work. It’s just one step right now,” Mesler said.

At 114 pounds, the next fight would be the lightest weight of the night. Sakor Dean tried to upset his opponent, Jose Nieves, using his footwork and mixing his shot angles. It was not enough for Dean as the fight went in favor of Nieves.

In contrast to the previous fight, Edwin De La Cruz and Saldou Tassembedo would be among the heaviest. Both tipped the scales a little over 200 pounds. Tassembedo would be the expert marksman of the two as his shots, though few in number, rang the heaviest. Tassembedo’s selection of right hooks and uppercuts led to a standing eight-count at the bell. Courageously, the weary De La Cruz tried to post together a comeback, but was frustrated by Tassembedo’s later strategy of sticking and moving. The game plan worked as Tassembedo would prove to be the victor at the fight’s end.

Tyhir James came to his bout with quick feet and a good sense of Defense. Unfortunately for him, his body would be vulnerable from the fighter that stood in the opposite corner: Chris Gerena. Punctuating his attack in the second round with a hard right to James’s head, Gerena set the pace for ensuing rounds. Gerena was rewarded by the judges with a 5-0 decision.

Like two bulls in a ring, Sub-Novices John Sarango and Oscar Merino climbed into the ring. The ropes strained as they tried to contain both stout fighters over the 201 pound threshold. Merino proved to be the dominant force landing both the greater volume of blows and the heavier shots. Sarango only managed to land a few scattered punches as Marino stalked him. Merino’s slow, powerful hooks would soon set him up for openings to Sarango’s face. The tumult inside the ring excited the crowd, and Merino would be the one to bask in the glory.

Garrett Duggan faced Shinard Bunch in the eighth fight of the night. Both were quick to react, but Bunch played the defensive game. Bunch hoped to use Duggan’s aggression against him as he kept within arms distance and hoped the other boxer would lean in too much so that Bunch could unload his fireworks. Dancing around and scoring with quick counters would prove to be Bunch’s bread and butter. The judges aptly rewarded Bunch’s work.

The match between pugilists Jimmy Martinez and Daiyan Butt was very tentative. The restrained tone between both athletes came to an end by the third round. Both decided to go down with gusto. It was Martinez who came out on top, bruising and bloodying the other combatant’s nose.

Saleem Kelly versus Tim Lawrence was another smartly fought contest. At one point, as Lawrence would bob and weave, Kelly saw his chance to launch a series of rights that hammered his adversary from the crouched position. As Kelly gained momentum he also gained in confidence. He began demonstrating a bit of showmanship; for every preemptive strike, he would stop the canvas before his charge. The final decision was given to Kelly.

Lastly, Derek Starling and William Panissidi came to the fore. By the end of the first, Starling seem to be the better boxer. Panissidi tried to follow up as best he could, but a poised Starling was in control. Though only a sparing few shots were thrown, Starling’s were very potent. With machine-like precision, Starling swiftly dismantled his opponent. This climaxed in the third when Panissidi received a standing eight-count and the beginning of a black eye. The was no regression for Starling as he became the final winner of the night.

The Golden Gloves tour continues still. The next host to receive the sport will be Wall Township which will only be the third date left before the finals commence.

Paterson hosts the Golden Gloves at True Warriors Boxing Club’s gym as the future of boxing is spotlighted

The cold winds of February whipped left and right. Winter was on the offensive, but it was not enough to keep admirers of the sweet science away. The lonely street adjacent to the boxing club was host to dozens of parked cars. Spectators arrived in droves to meet the True Warriors.

Henry Hascup leads the National Anthem (Photo by Bri Brower)

Paterson hosted the Golden Gloves at True Warriors Boxing Club’s gym. Golden Gloves President Dan Doyle said Paterson was a great location because of its “rich fighting history.”

As such history was venerated when ring announcer Harry Hascup dedicated the following matches to two personalities unique to Paterson boxing. The first was trainer Lou Duva who worked with champions like Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker. The second was Maria Vasquez, mother of Paterson gym owner Ramona Concepcion.

First up for this frigid night, was True Warriors’ representative Edwin Jimenez and his foe Jules Jackson. For the first two rounds both competitors where fighting a well thought-out boxing match. Jimenez used good quick left-handed jabs and provided solid counter-punching. Jackson though retaliated his way using powerful combos. By the third round, it had become a slugfest. In the end, it was southpaw Jackson that would tally for a win.

Fight Action in Paterson  (Photo by Bri Brower)

A second bout saw a substantial increase in weight as two 145 pounders met against each other. Early on, Miles Stewart put pressure on the taller Justin Ramirez heavily using his right arm. There was a lot of pushing and grappling going on. By the second round, Ramirez asserted his dominance on Stewart. For all of Stewart’s quickness and ferocity, Ramirez came to stymie all this energy. Ramirez would be the second to enter the winner’s circle for the night.

Ramirez took his time in the first round to study his opponent and then tried to assert control. “I try to use my jab a lot, keep my distance, and hit him a couple of times with the right hand. I was taking my time, watching what he was going to throw at me,” said Ramirez.

The work paid off as he won his own medal. “It felt emotional. It was my first fight at the Golden Gloves, and I started becoming a little nervous at the beginning, but then when I got in the ring I got confident,” said Ramirez. “I’m just happy I won this medal.”

Justice Chambers looked to give Omar Coubati no chance of going on the offensive. Every fist thrown by Chambers sounded like the blast of a rocket. His strength and quick hands made a tentative fighter out of Coubati. Chambers’ assault was highlighted in the second as Coubati was given a standing count. Still the latter fighter tried to hang tough. As the fight wound down, Coubati became more assertive, but to no avail and much too late in the judges’ eyes.

If that wasn’t enough, the canvas would sound like thunder. Kenneth Torres faced Carlos Estonactoc. Both were brawlers. With the exchange of blows, the ring itself trembled and shook. Both competitors stood toe-to-toe. Having cornered Estonactoc a bit more often, the outcome would favor Torres as the better fighter.

Victor Azeredo went up against Khalil Malamug as the SubNovice group at 152 pounds. Azeredo continually battered his opponent. With a potent series of left and right hooks, Azeredo trapped his opponent on the ropes and led to the first standing count of the match. For the next two rounds, both Fighters stood toe-to-toe. The fight finally climaxed in the third when an Azeredo uppercut led to bout’s final standing count and the fight was called as Malamug ended up with a bloodied nose.

The next fight pitted Hugo Anguiano against Frankie Diaz, the second fighter to represent the home gym. In the beginning round, Diaz used his jab and try to create distance between himself and Anguiano. But, Anguiano persisted with a continuous assault of powerful punches. Diaz followed it up by having a good second round by being more aggressive and not giving his foe a chance to punch back. Anguiano then had a dominant third round where afterwards he would soon be declared the winner.

The seventh fight was a see-saw affair between both pugilists. Aderly Hernandez bobbed and weaved throughout the ring, unleashing shots to the body. Orlando Galloza would equal his opponent in ferocity. It all came to a head in the third round where Galloza having seemingly been overmatched, rallied with a hard right hand that led Hernandez into the ropes and wearing him down. The judges ruled in Galloza’s favor.

The Nafis Carr- Omayki Espinal bout seemed more of a wrestling match as the referee had to untangle them multiple times. Espinal was aided by quick footwork that saw him range ably from his left and his right. That wasn’t all, as one side of the gym harbored Espinal fans which boisterously rooted for him. Carr used his size and a strong chin to force his foe around the ring. By the match’s end, his strength powered him for the win.

At 141 pounds, SubNovices Yordy Hernandez versus Isiah Rios was a dynamic fight. Hernandez got the bulk of the shots in. As the second round came, he was chasing his opponent around the ring. At one point, Hernandez solidly punched Rios which sent the latter falling back on the ring post. Though both were tired, Hernandez still pressed his attack upon Rios. Hernandez’s offensive fireworks were in vain as he was curtailed in favor of Rios.

After the fight, Hernandez explained how he planned to attack the southpaw’s left side and throw the right when he could. The final result was a surprise. “I felt like I must’ve done something wrong, I must’ve not thrown enough punches. I thought I stood my ground,” said Hernandez.

Still he respects the judges’ decision. Hernandez is looking to drop down in weight and fight at 132 pounds and to continue to do what he loves. “I want to win big someday, even if I don’t win something, at least in the future I can say I did this, I did that,” said Hernandez.

Xavier Valentine stepped into the ring against Dylan Ramos. Valentine relied on his jab at the outset of the match. For Valentine, or as the crowd fondly nicknamed “X,” his skills would culminate in a victory which was the first of the night for the home boxing gym.

Up next was Isaiah Mack against Jonathan Ramirez. Mack relied on a strong jab against Ramirez, who in turn, would counter with a cross. Mack had a taste for delivering uppercuts. As the second round continued, he would set up in favor for that punch. Ramirez tried getting close to his adversary to unleash his own set of body shots. By the third round, a more confident Mack continued to press on Ramirez and unloaded more of his punches thereby gaining the edge not only in the round, but in this overall contest.

Chris Castro versus Carl McMillian would be the twelfth fight of the night in a series of great competitions. Both fighters paced themselves with a string of one-two punches. By the second round, Castro began relying on his right hand. The ensuing whirlwind had spun McMillian from the aggressor to the victim. Before the bell, both young men decided to focus their attacks on the body. Though McMillian came out of round three as if he were a new man, Castro relentlessly persisted with toughness and determination. When the final ring came, it was Castro who walked away in the judges’ favor.

Amari Cabrera and Rafael Verzona would make the night a baker’s dozen. Cabrera relied on successive right hands to batter Verzona’s wall of defense. Cabrera stalked his adversary, setting up uppercuts, while Verzona had trouble achieving the distance he needed. The barrage was too much for Verzona as his loss was punctuated by a standing count.

Just as the tournament honored those that passed away with good boxing, it will continue to showcase itself to more diehard fans. Next week, it will be hosted in the city of New Brunswick.

Brunswick Boxing Club along with the dreams of tomorrow’s champions thrive in New brunswick

Three floors up from a weary set of stairs, murals come to greet visitors. Painted portraits of famous boxers such as Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather Jr cover the halls. The beams that crisscross the ceiling are decorated with hanging boxing gloves of various colors. Right in the middle of the room is the ring that calls to its fighters.

John Thompson, known affectionately to his colleagues as J.T., heads the Brunswick Boxing and Fitness Club. It has been around since 2012 and is an institution for the fighters that are raised within its ranks.

Inside of Brunswick Boxing Gym (Photo by Bri Brower)

As such, Brunswick Boxing has had its share of immediate success. Brunswick’s students have won Diamond Glove Awards in back-to-back years. “To see them become champions, words don’t even explain,” said Thompson. “But, not just one time, but as they repeated it you start understanding more about the gym, more about the people that you’re around.”

Brunswick Boxing’s culture around these young athletes is paramount. “We’re family. We’re very family-oriented here,” said Thompson.

Eder Gatica is another youth that feels the same way about the gym. Growing up, he was a quiet kid who would get bullied. But now, he lets his fists do the talking.

Originally, Gatica was a practitioner of Muy Thai. After the training grounds of this martial arts discipline closed, he was forced into inactivity.

Davis, Thompson, John Sillogy, Bean, and Gatica(Photo by Bri Brower)

Now when he fights, Gatica wants to be a pugilist whose love for the ring is not sidetracked by money. “It’s not just business, it’s a sport,” said Gatica. “They forget how it was back then, when people had their pride.”

Even though his family is worried for him, he tries to assuage their fears. “As long as I train hard and [my family] support me all the way, keeping me disciplined about it, I won’t be injured,” said Gatica. “I’m just training hard to protect myself.”

Paintings of famous cahmpions like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson adorn the walls of the gym (Photo by Bri Brower)

Jihad Davis is one of Gatica’s peers. At twenty-six, Davis has been fighting for more than a decade. After being in fights at school, he was encouraged to box as a way to positively channel his energy. Davis values the psychological tools of the trade like heart and drive. The latter of which he himself has in spades. This up-and-comer believes that he will find pro success. “Hopefully, you’ll see me soon,” said Davis.

Thompson teaches his students that even the lives of the most famous champions have had rough terrain to cross, from the peaks of mountains to the depths of valleys. “This is the purpose of Brunswick Boxing, to relate to our community, to strengthen our community, to encourage our community, not to make it look like we didn’t have bumps and bruises in our lives” said Thompson. “But, we kept the fight going into the fifteenth round.”

Just as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson had their struggles, so too did Thompson. The opportunity to begin Brunswick Boxing came after he was released from county. It was his friend Khalid Chaubry who worked with Thompson and bought the property that would soon be designated into the club. “To empower the youth on values, integrity, commitment and accountability,” said Thompson.

Now, Brunswick Box is active within the community working with the likes of such organizations as the Hub Center, Puerto Rican Action Board, and the First Pentecostal Church. The gym even tutors math on select weekdays. “We open our arms and our doors to each and every individual with some type of a vision,” said Thompson.

At twenty-four, Danny Bean is one of Brunswick Boxing’s stars that is shining the brightest. Bean is working his way up one day to be a professional heavyweight contender. Being at the peak of New Jersey’s own heavyweight group, this makes him a big fish in a small pond. Those that have faced him in sparring sessions have later declined to face him. Bean has now begun to train with professional fighters to elevate his game.

Bean was previously engaged in criminal justice studies in the hope of becoming an officer. That passion waned and soon he began to work with autistic children. It was his father that helped set his sights on the sweet science. “When I was sixteen, I had actually never did any other sports. My dad didn’t want me to be in the house all the time,” said Bean. “He was like ‘you got to do something, either you’re going to lift weights, go to the gym with me, or go to the boxing club.’”

As his physical skills excel, so does his mental sharpness. “I don’t want to do anything else, but come to the gym,” said Bean. “So, if I’m home in my off time I’m studying film.”

He has watched film of Tyson “religiously” while incorporating the former champ’s style into his own. Bean’s work is paying off as he has been invited to the U.S. Olympic Team and hopes that he might be ready to turn pro in two years’ time.

No matter what happens in his career or life, Bean will have fond memories of the gym that helped cultivate his skill. “They treated us like family,” said Bean. “I look to these guys for tips and help.”

Thompson is proud of New Brunswick and wants to see it thrive. “We actually want to spread out a little more in the community,” said Thompson. “Our community is not dying. It just needs people that want to work [on it].”

All this diligent care comes from one important emotion. “Love conquers all. It’s one of the greatest weapons that you will ever be able to use in this lifetime,” said Thompson.