hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 20, 2013

They're beating the odds

With no gym of their own, city fighters still winning bouts

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Angel Tricoche weighs only 78 pounds, but he packs quite a punch.

So does Jadiel Gonzalez, who weighs 90 pounds.

As the old saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.’’

And some good, old-fashioned boxing training doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s necessary.

Angel, 11, Jadiel, 13, and other young members of the now-closed Haverhill Boxing Club are keeping up their training — often outside in the cold, usually late in the day. On a good day, someone cuts them a break and lets them train in the corners of gyms in Lawrence for a few hours.

They lost their gym in November. The Haverhill Boxing club moved out of the old St. Michael’s Church on High Street due to financial problems and has been looking for a new home since. But the club’s trainers continue working with the boxers, not only to teach them the sweet science of fighting, but to keep them off the streets and instill discipline and other good habits in them.

Despite the odds, it’s working. The young boxers are winning more fights than they lose.

Jadiel has six wins and only one loss. Angel brought home a gold medal this month. He won it March 2 at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival Boxing Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, where he defeated Staten Island, N.Y.’s Ujkan Bujupi,12, in the finals.

In New York, earlier this year, 15-year-old Isaiah Colon of Haverhill 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 Berlanga, who has seven years in the ring with 96 wins and 11 losses. Isaiah lost, but if he had won, he would have advanced to the national championships in Independence, Missouri.

The Haverhill Boxing Club has adopted a new name — Haverhill Inner-City Boxing, not to be confused with another boxing club that plans to open on Locust Street just north of downtown. Despite not having a gym, Haverhill Inner-City Boxing’s leaders arrange fights when they find an opportunity for their boxers.

Trainers Joe Ferguson and Joe Calnan still work with five boxers they coached at the old Haverhill Boxing Club. Ferguson and Calnan go wherever they can find boxing action that will give their fighters experience and a chance to improve their record.

Haverhill Inner-City Boxing’s core group includes Ferguson, Calnan and a few fathers of the boxers who help out.

The boxers train at the vacant Lowe’s store parking lot, in Lawrence at the Canal Street Gym or at the Intenze 978 gym. A spot behind Haverhill High School has become a regular rendezvous for the young boxers.

At the start of this year, Ferguson and Calnan brought together a new nine-member board of directors to help drive Haverhill Inner City Boxing.

“We brought in friends that do a lot for the community, and that’s where we want to take this new club,” Ferguson said. “We had 40 members when the club closed and we’d like to get them back. This time we’re going to do it a little different and offer a more community-based program.’’

The board includes a lawyer, a certified public accountant, a teacher and several local business people. They are “friends that do a lot for the community and who bring something to the table,” Ferguson said.

The organization need a place to call home, somewhere to hang their hats and their punching bags.

Rents have been a serious problem. Finding affordable housing has been difficult. Sometimes the trainers find a promising building, but then discover it is not up to code, perhaps lacking handicapped access or a sprinkler system.

They need a space large enough for small crowds so they can host their own matches, a place with about 5,000 square feet, Ferguson said.

He said Haverhill Inner-City Boxing hopes to eventually have a building that houses not only a boxing program, but includes an after-school program focusing on academics such as like math, foreign languages and science; and providing counseling for young people.

“A quality program will help us because it involves the families,” Ferguson said.