Haverhill is getting on the boxing map — literally.
Boxers will come here Saturday from the six New England states to fight.
Participants ages 8 to 16 will fight at the Haverhill Boxing Club, 75 High St.— the old St. Michael’s Church. The event, open to boys and girls, will match the fighters by weight. Girls will fight girls only, and boys will fight boys only.
The bouts will help the young boxers gain experience as they work toward qualifying for the U.S.A., New England Region, Boxing Association Junior Olympics.
Each boxer needs five refereed bouts to qualify to fight in the U.S.A. organization’s boxing matches. The organization is sponsoring the bouts in Haverhill to give local fighters an opportunity to get some of those bouts under their belts.
With five bouts to their credit, the boxers can begin to qualify for the association’s sanctioned fights and possibly advance to the junior nationals competition.
“We picked Haverhill to host the event because right now there’s no one in Haverhill with (enough bouts) to enter, and we want to help them out,” said regional boxing coordinator Stephen Clark.
Norm Fraza, Jr., the Haverhill Boxing Club’s director of training and father of the late Haverhill boxing great Jeff Fraza, said as much during a recent training session at the club.
“These kids have a long way to go,’’ Fraza said. “I know that and that’s why we’re here doing this almost every night of the week. I’m not going to send these kids into the ring until they’re ready.
“We train to win,” he said, recalling when his late son started fighting in 1993. “We won the nationals then, out in Ohio, but we were ready.’’
Joe Ferguson, another trainer at the club, agreed.
“The August 25 matches will be bouts for these kids to get the number of matches behind them that they’ll need to be allowed to fight competitively,” Ferguson said.
The club’s other regular trainer, Joe Calanan, said, “The only way to do this is to get the kids in the ring.’’
Calnan then worked his way into the ring through the ropes. He put on two hand pads that look like catcher’s mitts, and stared taking punches from one of the club’s 10-year-olds, Angle Tricoche.
Fraza’s nephew, Harrison Gigliotti, 17, a junior at Haverhill High School, has boxed for more than a year and comes to the club to train. With an eye on college and beyond, he said boxing is a great way to develop his physical skills and enjoy himself.
“I like the competition,’’ Gigliotti said. “I want to fight in the Olympics.’’
Norman Fraza, his father, Norman Fraza Sr., and their friends put the club back together. It has existed since 1991, faded out from time to time and returned.
A full size-boxing ring sits in the center of the club’s training area. Behind the ring punching bags hang from frames, while around the ring, boxers train, jump rope, and tape their hands.
Melina Ring, 20, of Haverhill started her training only three months ago.
“I came here to work out and learn this,” she said.
Matthew Almestica, 17, a Haverhill High School student who has been boxing for six years, said it keeps him out of trouble. And, “I just like it,” he said.
You can hear Almestica before you see him. He trains on a speed bag that hangs in the far back corner of the gym. There his arms, his fists and his concentration keep the rat-a-tat-tat rhythm of the bag going as background noise to the rest of the gym.
At ringside, the younger boxers like Jadiel Gonzales, 12, and Isaiah Colon, 15, wrap each other’s hands, fit gloves, lace up their boxer’s boots and talk about their bouts. They are neighborhood boys.
“I come here because it’s something to do and we learn about things,”Isaiah said.
“We learn about respect and what to expect when we do things the right way,” Jadiel said.
Fraza said he knows the neighborhood well.
“Most of these kids come from right around here,” he said. “It’s a place for them to come to, so we try to get them to accomplish something that makes them feel good about themselves,” he said.
Tickets for Saturday’s bouts are $10 for students and senior citizens, $15 for general admission and $25 for ringside seats. Food and beverages will be sold and there will be a raffle. The event begins at 4 p.m.
Tickets are available in advance from Joe Ferguson at the club any night this week between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets will also be sold at the door.