hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

June 12, 2014

Community should help club get a new start


The Haverhill Gazette

---- — They refused to give up, and it appears their perseverance will pay off.

For more than a year, the old Haverhill Boxing Club has been on the ropes — to use a boxing term.

The club lost its home at the old St. Michael’s Church, and since then has been scratching and clawing, barely holding onto its very existence.

Reborn in name and now called Haverhill Inner City Boxing, the club has been training its young fighters in other clubs, some of them in Lawrence. Sometimes it even trains the boxers outdoors, at the edge of the Haverhill High School track complex.

Anywhere to keep the kids working out and away from the temptations of the streets.

That effort has paid off with a few of the kids hanging in there and continuing to train, despite their challenging surroundings.

But now the organization seems to have turned the corner. It recently gained charitable status from the government, meaning it can accept donations from people in the community who can then deduct those donations from their taxes. (See story, Page 1.)

Organization leader Joe Ferguson said his group hopes to purchase the old Polish Club at 220 Washington St., which needs significant renovations.

“We have our eye on it but haven’t said too much about it yet,” Ferguson told reporter Mike LaBella. “Our biggest problem is rehabilitating the building, which will cost about $300,000. But it’s the perfect place and it won’t be used for just boxing. it will be used for educational purposes, too.’’

Those “educational purposes’’ are the key to the project, he said. Boxing alone is not enough to achieve what his organization hopes to bring to young people.

While Ferguson and other trainers in the group stress a responsible attitude among the young boxers they teach — never using their skills outside the ring for anything but defending themselves, for example — they want to take the lessons to the next level. They want to include educational components in their club when it finds a new home. They are looking to develop well-rounded young people, people who know how to use their brains as well as their brawn.

Ferguson said the organization was awarded its 501-c3 nonprofit status, opening the door to donations and the ability to apply for grants.

“We’ve been looking for almost a year and a half and we’re destined to do this,” he said. “We want to let people know we’ve found a location and we’re focused on it. Let’s give these kids something to do.’’

Indeed.

We hope the community heeds the call and steps up to help.

The future of several young people depends on it.