By Jason Gonzalez
The Morris Park Boxing Club and Gym in the East Bronx has been the training facility of choice for so many that come from all walks of life. Over the course of 41 years, the gym has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Some of the highs include a change in ownership, as well as the production of two world champions [Aaron Davis and Lou De Valle]. However, the biggest downturn during the gym’s existence came in the winter of 2009, when the place that people called “home” literally went up in flames. Local residents of the neighborhood can recall the blaze in which one was hurt.
“Wow, I remember that like it was yesterday, it was a scary time to have been living in the nearby area,” said local inhabitant James Sanchez. “A lot of us were left without a direction, you know, a path to follow so to speak. Although, we weren’t necessarily homeless per say, psychologically and emotionally we were. The gym was our focus and motivation. This thing here [the gym] kept us in line.”
Thankfully, with aid and assistance from the local pillars in the region, the location was able to re-open a year later.
And although the establishment may have developed a reputation for catering to a supreme clientele that stretches across the world of music and Hollywood, the gym seeks solace in serving as a safe-haven and refuge for at-risk youth. What typically starts out as children simply looking to get into better shape ends up being a lifestyle that its members follow. But besides living healthy, the primary reason why Davis, the sole proprietor of the boxing club, is in business is to make a difference in the lives of adolescences coming up.
“Our doors are open to everyone, let’s make that clear,” said Davis. “But for the most part we serve a demographic that lacks a male figure type of role model in the household. The longer our kids stay here in the gym, the less likely it is for them to get into trouble. The way I look at is, it’s more productive for them to be here than on the streets.”
Davis, a native of the Bronx, remembers vividly what it was like growing up in the “Boogie-Down” in the 80s. And although things may have gotten better in the borough via gentrification, a lack of discipline can make teenagers vulnerable and prone to slip ups.
“A lot of kids lack discipline. We assist by providing structure and teaching how to make correct choices,” said Davis. “Let’s keep it real: making the wrong choice will impact your life forever. Also take into consideration that your life can change in an instant.”
No stranger to the “Sweet Science”, Davis achieved some milestones of his own. Davis, a recent inductee of the New York State Hall of Fame, rose through amateur ranks in the empire state rather quickly. Davis won the Golden Gloves in the welterweight open division 32 years ago. Known as “Superman”, Davis captured the WBA welterweight by eclipsing Mark Breland in 1990. Davis’ knockout victory over the Brooklyn native would be Davis’ most notable victory as a professional. Davis would eventually retire in 2002, amassing a record of 49-6, (31), all while being able to boast about not having to taste the canvas in defeat either.
And even though his doors are open to everyone, Davis makes it explicitly clear as to what his expectations are in terms of maintaining a positive gym culture.
“All gym members are responsible for their monthly dues. Membership fees are $60.00 across the board. Also, I need to see proof of student enrollment if it applies. I require that all student members have a B average. I have my ways of finding things out,” said Davis. “Lastly, there are no baggy, sagging jeans allowed. Pants are meant to cover your butt. And no inappropriate street-talk. All that has to be left outside when they come in here. Besides that everything is cool.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Davis isn’t making a lot of money funding this endeavor. In fact, he is lucky if he breaks even on a monthly basis. But more often than not Davis can be found financing all equipment and repairs. In some cases, Davis does the renovations himself. As James Brown would say, “Paid the cost to be the boss.”
“Just last month I spent nine grand of my own money to make repairs in the gym,” said Davis. “That kind of hindered the purchasing of any equipment recently. But all in all, I have spent a crazy amount of bread [money] on supplies. To be honest, some sponsorship money or some equipment donation would be greatly appreciated. We do the best that we can, but sometimes when you are providing a service to the community you rely on a lot of outside support. And sometimes it doesn’t necessarily work out that way.”
But as the old Beatles adage states, “We can all get by with a little help from our friends.” After all those heavy bags have hardened a bit, and when a 10-year-old puts hands on them, there is a potential for injury. It’s the equivalent of hitting a bag of cement.
Davis did express that Everlast has made donations in the embodiment of paraphernalia to the fitness club. Davis was elated to acknowledge all of the community support both he and the gym have received. Just recently Goossen Tutor promotions presented the center with a brand new ring canvas.
But it shouldn’t stop there, the cycle of good deeds should continue. There is so much more that can be done. If you or anyone else you know is interested in making contributions, albeit monetary or supplies to the Morris Park Boxing Club, you can contact them at 644 Morris Park Ave. Bronx, NY 10460. They can also be reached at phone number (718)-430-9083 Monday-Friday from 9AM-9PM and on Saturday and Sunday from 9AM-4PM.
Please see the additional video by Radio Rahim.