They came to their second home Wednesday. The professionals who train at the Morris Park Boxing Gym, the prospects preparing for the upcoming Golden Gloves tournament, and the kids who live in the community, stunned to see their gym destroyed by a fire earlier in the day that also left two families homeless.
“We will rebuild and get it back,” said a solemn Aaron Davis, the former Golden Gloves champion from the Bronx who later went on to become a successful professional fighter and welterweight champion. Davis, about a year ago became a partner with owner Dex Pejcinovic a 40-year old business man who one time trained at the same gym.
Then, when Davis and Pejcinovic were at Morris Park, the gym was always busy. But it was never as immaculate, spacious, and busy as they made it over the last year. The Morris Park Boxing Gym became one of the busiest and most popular training spots in the Bronx and New York City for an aspiring pro fighter.
Now all the work and effort that Davis and Pejcinovic put in has been destroyed. Reportedly an electrical problem in the front of the gym caused the fire early Wednesday morning that gutted the entire gym. Authorities are investigating, and like other fires of this sort there is talk about something more than an electrical fault that has left kids in the community and fighters looking for another gym.
The gym, once owned by prominent Morris Park attorney and now boxing promoter Joe Deguardia has been a cornerstone of the Van Nest community off White Plains Road since 1977. The trials and tribulations of former pro Luis Resto, accused and later prosecuted for using tainted gloves in a bout came from there.
So was the cat that professional welterweight Frankie Figueroa used to chase in the basement of the gym when he lived there. The name “El Gato” became a mainstay with Figueroa from those days he lived and trained at the Morris Park Boxing Gym, The gym also was a second home for former light heavyweight champion Lou Del Valle.
“Just a bad time of year for this to happen,” said Davis the other day. “It’s sad to see.” Over 70 fighters, pro and amateur belong to the gym, not counting the many youngsters that Davis and other trainers gave their time to daily. “We took care of every kid who came in and wanted a chance,” said Davis who is temporality taking as many as he can to John’s Gym located in the Hub at 149th Street and Third Avenue,
All of the equipment and belongings of the fighters were destroyed in the fire. Davis managed to salvage a few pairs of boxing gloves. The downstairs basement which was renovated with lockers and a weight room were not damaged and there were no injuries reported as the gym was vacant when the fire started around 7am
Said longtime trainer Victor Pena, a Bronx resident who has six fighters entered in the upcoming Golden Gloves Tournament, “It’s a loss for all of us, especially for the kids in the community who made this gym their second home.”
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]