Places that Matter

New Bed-Stuy Boxing Center

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Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Center for boxing and martial arts that trained Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, Eric Kelly and others
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The Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Center was started in 1980 to provide a low-cost training facility for boxers, both amateur and professional. Since its founding, the center has trained many award-winning athletes and has served as an important community institution, particularly for local youth.

Until recently New York City was the center of the boxing world. In fact, the first recognized boxing match in the U.S. was held here in 1816. Despite this long tradition, Brooklyn had no facility for training amateur boxers until Lamont Flanagan opened the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Center in 1980. Created as a non-profit, Mr. Flanagan received several small grants to renovate a former bank building in Bedford-Stuyvesant as a gym. He operated the center until 1989 when it closed briefly. It was reopened a year later by Henry "Pepper" Brent, the two-time world champion flyweight.

During its 20-plus year history, the center has trained numerous well-known boxers including heavy weight champion Riddick Bowe, Olympic gold medal winner Mark Breland, and several Golden Globe finalists including Eric Kelly. Since it opened to women in 1984, it has also trained the first woman to compete at the Golden Globes and several other female Golden Globes finalists. In 1999 it was the focus of the documentary, "On the Ropes," which was nominated for an Academy Award. Although the gym is best known for its contributions to boxing, it also has run a martial arts program for over ten years. The original mentor for this program was Professor Ronald Duncan, the renowned sensei who instructed celebrities such as Wesley Snipes for movie roles requiring martial arts. A distinctive interior feature of the center is several murals including one of trainers "past and present" and another of Riddick Bowe.

The gym has members from all over New York City, but it is also an important community institution. Membership dues are kept low so local residents can afford to join, and the gym is a place where young people can stop in for a drink of water on a hot day, or wait for their parents to pick them up after school. In recent years the gym has faced numerous obstacles including lease troubles, very limited financial resources, outmoded equipment, and desperately needed repairs. Yet, it continues to operate with an almost all-volunteer staff producing athletes and providing services to the local community.

Sources:

Faber, Everett. Interviewed for Place Matters. June 28, 2000

Henican, Ellis. "A Fight for Notes Gym's Life." Newsday, April 4, 1999.

New York Times. "The Last Knockout May Loom at a Popular Boxing Center." July 15, 2001, City Section.

Straker, Mawu. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. July 7, 2000.