Area gym fights for peace

Champs Boxing Club owner Ryan O’Leary talks to youngsters during the gym’s first session of its series of life talks on March 7. O’Leary’s gym is running the program for local youths with some help from international organization Fight for Peace. Photo/Mike Smith

Champs Boxing Club owner Ryan O’Leary talks to youngsters during the gym’s first session of its series of life talks on March 7. O’Leary’s gym is running the program for local youths with some help from international organization Fight for Peace. Photo/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
On March 7, Champs Boxing Club in New Rochelle held the first of what is slated to be a series of life talks, inviting local youths into the Potter Avenue gym for a discussion about important issues in the youth community.

According to Champs BC founder Ryan O’Leary, the program will hopefully provide a service to children and young adults seeking guidance in the year to come.

The life talks are part of the club’s partnership with Fight for Peace, an international organization that was established in 2000 in Complexa de Mare, Mexico, as a means to give youths an alternative to the drug trade. Since then, it has expanded to other countries, but the focus on helping children has remained the same.

Over the summer, Fight for Peace reached out to O’Leary, who is on the USA Boxing Board of Directors, in the hopes of bringing the programs to the U.S., O’Leary mentioned the work the club has done with youths and sent his women’s team captain, Michelle Herzl, a Mamaroneck native, to Brazil for a crash course in what Fight for Peace was all about.

“Michelle went down in November and trained with them for a week to learn all about what the program was,” O’Leary said. “They had other groups there, some from South Africa, and they all wanted us to come up with our own ideas, and the life series was something we came up with.”

For the last four months, O’Leary and his team have been preparing to launch the program, with some help from Pete Beeley, who works out of the organization’s headquarters in London. From the beginning, O’Leary said, his group has had a firm grasp on the wisdom they wanted to impart to the local youth.

“We want the life series to help kids learn about different things in life,” he said. “Some kids come from broken or low-income homes but, even in regular homes nowadays, some things are lost; simple manners, how to answer a phone, and how to carry yourself.”

Although the pilot class trended towards younger children and focused on building self-esteem and assertiveness, O’Leary expects the class to attract older students as it begins to tackle heavier issues like bullying and teen pregnancy.

One of O’Leary’s hopes is that his staff, which includes boxers like top-ranked U.S. 178-pound female amateur Krystal Dixon as well as elementary school teacher and trainer Meryl Volpe, will provide the students with a broad cross-section of adults that represent the inclusiveness of the boxing world.

“That’s what boxing is, a cross-section of everyone,” O’Leary said. “From privileged kids to kids from lower income situations; everyone is equal. That’s a big part of what we want to stress is that everyone that comes in here is equal.”

O’Leary said the pilot session got great feedback from students and parents and the series will likely be a weekly event. O’Leary said he is thinking of moving the sessions to earlier times during the weekend to ensure greater involvement.

“We’re going to go into each class with a theme, but sometimes that’s going to change a bit,” he said. “We’re here to listen to the kids, listen to their stories and, hopefully, bring in some kind of moral lesson for the day. Eventually, we want them all to be able to speak about their
eelings openly.”

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.