Under that one roof we all at peace. it’s a chain. A strong chain.
Eric Kelly said those words. He is not a political leader or an activist. This is a 39 year-old in the boxing industry who believes in the community and all for youth.
So as the nation tries to heal from the unfortunate and tragic death of George Floyd, and with an ongoing pandemic from COVID-19, Kelly is hard at work at reopening his boxing gym in the South Bronx.
He is witnessing the hardships of those in pain from his windows in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, That area of New York City has been a scene of protests and uprisings. In the meantime, Kelly is monitoring the latest to reopen a boxing gym that has moved to a new location.
Before the pandemic “South Box” was a thriving boxing gym in a busy district off 134th Street and Bruckner Boulevard. The kids had an outlet after school and on weekends
He had to move locations and start all over. The past three years his gym space was rented, but the building will be torn down as the South Bronx continues to make a transition to big business and residential housing.
Kelly is aware of changes in health protocols when the go ahead comes to resume his successful training and educational ground for aspiring fighters, at a new location off 138th Street and Lincoln Avenue.
“We can’t let anyone in certain times,” he said about social distancing laws. “We got to do safety first, six or eight people at a time.”
When this former amatuer champion started a sole initiative, he opened the doors early and closed late. He hopes that will continue and also continue his good relationship with the local police precinct in the community in bridging that gap with youth and the NYPD.
Of course, as Kelly says, boxing can continue to help bridge that gap with the community and NYPD. Learning and discipline is a part of the sport and that applies more to the few and far between boxing gyms that remain.
“Boxing teaches you discipline and professionalism,” he says. “It gives you structure. Great workout teaches you a skill, more importantly it’s a structure and discipline being able to listen. We are able to be taught.”
Not too long ago, an era of the 80’s and 90’s, Kelly learned the craft when boxing gyms were a hot bed in the city. His trainer, George Washington, known for his structure of discipline, guided his path.
He became a four-time national champion in various weight classes and credits boxing that earned him a degree from Northern Michigan University.
Regardless, the outcome of this pandemic will come soon. Kelly has a plan to retain as many members as he can.Provide any youngster that seeks boxing the opportunity to train for free. He has done that in the past at the old location.
A program “Pizza Box” will continue for nearby kids in the community.
“The fact, we been good to our members, staff, and trainers,” he says. “ You can’ hold a good thing back. We’re not going to sink, Good quality will preserve.”
His gym has seen two NYC Golden Gloves finalists and one that earned a gold medal. Numerous metro tournament champions and pro fighters who depended on that city boxing gym are regulars.
Peter Dobson, junior welterweight from the Bronx is one. Travis Peterkin, Gledwin Ortiz, and Christina Cruz, a 2020 Olympic qualifier is another.
“In New York City, boxing gyms turned its back on the youth, “ Kelly says.
He has a point. PAL programs, funded by the city, were without a budget. The independent owners had difficulty making ends meet and the minimal number of grants caused them to close.
And there is a concern, now, that the pandemic will cause more gyms to shut their doors for good because of changes. Many are not able to stay afloat after gyms in the city were mandated to close in mid March.
But SouthBox continues the plan to reopen at a new location. Eric Kelly says It will be bigger and better and have it no other way. He will continue to stress discipline and keep that peace in his community.
“We are in the last cycle,” he says.
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