EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 9, 2013

Young boxers fight for a place to call home

Believe a regular place to train would help them win

By Bruce Amaro

---- — HAVERHILL — They’re like a band of nomads, always on the move, with no place to call home.

But because they are warriors of sorts, it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to make a strides toward becoming better fighters and ultimately better people.

Teenage members of the Haverhill Boxing Club lost their bouts in New York last weekend. Victories would have qualified them to fight in the Silver Gloves national championships.

Their fellow club members wonder what might have happened in those bouts if the Haverhill fighters had a more stable training environment. In November, the club lost its training area in the old St. Michael’s Church on High Street because the club could not afford to pay its rent and utility bills. Since then, club members have trained in various places, even outdoors, to prepare for bouts or simply sharpen their physical and mental skills.

City officials are trying to find the club a new home. In the meantime, the young boxers bounce back and forth between a gym in Lawrence and other spots, including the running track behind Haverhill High School.

“These kids train anyplace we can find to hang a bag or work out with them,” said Joe Ferguson, coach and trainer of the organization, which is now known as Haverhill Inner City Boxing.

“Our kids, with a few fights behind them, won their regionals against more experienced guys who have a home gym to train in,” Ferguson said. “Our guys qualified to fight in the New York matches with what we could give them, and they’re doing it without any place to train on a regular basis.’’

After the club lost its space at the church, the new club has not been able to find a permanent home.

“We’ve talked with the city and they’re looking around for us,” Ferguson said of Haverhill officials.

He said the other places club organizers have looked at are too expensive. The club has offers for temporary space, but because every training session would involve set up time and then dismantling of their equipment, the boxers and their supporters need a regular place to call home.

“People have helped us out, but we can’t keep going back again and again, interrupting other gyms,” Ferguson said. “And our guys need a place they can depend on and call home, too. It’s hard for them going into another gym that they know is temporary. It’s unsettling.’’

Haverhill’s two best junior level boxers, 15-year-old Isaiah Colon and 13-year-old Jadiel Gonzalez, both Junior Olympic Silver Gloves boxers, lost their regional matches in Oneonta, N.Y., on Saturday.

Isaiah fought New York champion Edgar Berlanga in the 156-pound category. Isaiah, with four wins and three losses, put his one-year’s experience up against the New York fighter, who has seven years in the ring with 96 wins and 11 losses to his credit.

Jadiel, also with one year’s experience, fights in the 90-pound category. He has six wins and one loss and lost to to David Dancil Jr., who has more time in the ring with 19 wins and nine losses.

If either of Haverhill’s young fighters had won, he would have advanced to the national championships in Independence, Missouri.

To train the Haverhill boxers, Ferguson works with three other volunteer coaches — Joe Calnan, Angel Tricoche and Juan Morales. The organization’s mailing address is: Haverhill Inner City Boxing, P.O. Box 1104, Haverhill, 01831. The phone number is 978-914-2116.

Ferguson and Calnan held a tag day just before Christmas and raised $1,000. They used it to finance the trip to the regionals last weekend.

Haverhill once had an established boxing culture and Ferguson and Calnan want to return to those days. But they want their club members to develop more than boxing skills.

“We’re looking to do more than turn out boxers,’’ Ferguson said. “We want our new organization to offer academic tutoring and encourage community service in the club members. If the boxers fall behind in school, they lose time in the club.”

Friday night the club takes its Golden Gloves level boxers, those 16½ years and older, to the New England Golden Gloves in Lowell to try for a spot in a regional competition.