Fight club: Fun, fitness, sport
In 1980, when Gerry Cooney of Huntington knocked out Ron Lyle at Nassau Coliseum in a bout televised on HBO, boxing was booming on Long Island. The sport has come alive again with the monthly "Rockin' Fights" series taking off at the Paramount in Huntington. Each night has been a sellout that's brought live TV broadcasts of boxing back to Long Island.
"Long Island boxing is on its way back up," says Chris Algieri, 29, an undefeated junior welterweight contender from Huntington. "There's a serious buzz. It has skyrocketed in the past year or two."
Hometown boy Algieri, who's known as "The Fighting Pride of Huntington," will make his TV debut on NBC Sports Network's "Fight Night" when he faces off against Jose "Mangu" Peralta of Jersey City at the Paramount on Saturday at 10:30 p.m.
Not only can you watch boxing on Long Island, you also can incorporate it into your daily life. Here are three ways to get the gloves on.
If you want to go hard core, Eddie Haeffer at the Long Island Boxing Gym in East Northport is the guy you want in your corner. This former Golden Gloves fighter will train you using old-school techniques.
"I teach you everything you need to know in the first day," says Haeffer. "When you learn how to train and fight for real, you can carry that on forever. There's no better workout."
When Erik Chopin, Season 3 winner from "The Biggest Loser," gained back 100 pounds from the 214 initially lost, he sought a solution. "I wanted to do something different," says Chopin, 42, of West Islip. "I couldn't bear going back to the regular gym. I needed to change it up."
Chopin hooked up with Haeffer, who had him jumping rope, beating tires with a sledgehammer and pounding the heavy bag three to four times a week. In seven months, he dropped 65 pounds.
"Boxing training gives you both cardio and weight training," says Chopin. "I never enjoyed exercising until I tried boxing."
When women want to get in shape, they come to Jason Morales, who runs a Ladies Boxercise class five times a week at Heavy Hitters in Bohemia with his partner, Miguel Osorio. In this boot-camp-style program, ladies are put through a rigorous 80-minute boxing regimen.
"Sometimes, women go to gyms, walking from machine to machine, and get nothing out of it," says Morales. From a 10-minute jump-rope warm-up, the program moves into a 20-minute abdominal session followed by a 30-minute cardio routine. Then come the hand mitts and heavy bags.
"By the time the class is done, they are exhausted, but they love it because they see results fast," says Morales. "No man has been able to finish this class. Women have a higher threshold for pain and better muscle endurance."
Building up young people -- in both body and spirit -- has been the focus of Bettinelli's Community Boxing Academy since it opened in 2004.
"We give them tools to become champions in life," says director Ray Bettinelli. "There's no pressure to do anything but train like a champion. No one is forced into the ring."
BCBA is a nonprofit, two-month course for kids between 10 and 17 that includes one-hour sessions twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays called D.R.I.F.T. (Devotion, Respect, Integrity, Fairness, Temperance) Youth Empowerment Program at the Westbrook Elementary School in West Islip. Kids are taught the proper boxing stance, six punches (jabs, hooks, uppercuts) and defense strategies by certified USA boxing coaches.
"We don't let the kids use the word 'fight' in the gym. We don't fight, we box. There's a big difference," says Bettinelli. "It's a good, solid, structured, clean, safe environment that they gravitate to."
D.R.I.F.T. graduates get a free gym membership they can use until they are 18. Those who show promise can work toward competing.