Family Boxing Club Up Against The Ropes

We love to rail about government spending, about the connection, with their double-dipping and sweetheart deals. We also love to rant about gangs and crime.

This is a story about a non-connected Boston family’s 20-year struggle to keep going a modest but effective crime-fighting enterprise – without a dime of city money. Yet last week the city almost, but not quite, did in both the Grealish Boxing Club and the city children and teens it serves basically for free.

As of late Friday, the club got a possible, temporary stay of execution, or “a Band-Aid over a big problem,” as Nikki Grealish put it yesterday. “What we need is a permanent space that the city’s not going to take away again.”

What they got, after numerous calls from the Herald is the possibility of moving from the second floor to the first floor of a run-down, cavernous Dorchester building. The city just foreclosed on it and last week sent eviction notices to the boxing club, causing a panic.

Boxer Gabriel Duluc out of Madison Park High just won the Greater New England Golden Gloves. Now he can compete for the nationals. “But he may have nowhere to train,” Nikki Grealish says. “We’re not sure about the first floor, and I think it’s just a matter of time before they close the whole building down.”

Then there will be no affordable place in the neighborhood for up to 50 kids who come to the club after school, some as young as 9. The Grealishes ask $25 a month for kids over 16. But they take kids whether they can pay or not.

“Boxing definitely helps with my stress,” said Anthony Antonelli, 17, a junior at John D. O’Bryant High who’s been coming to the club for three years and also competes in the Golden Gloves. “I just love it.”

Here’s what some other kids here say boxing has given them, if not in these grown-up words: goals, discipline, self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment. The club’s camaraderie keeps them from tough streets in a tougher neighborhood. Some also have found a second family in the Grealishes: Nikki; her mother, Yvonne; father Martin, a former professional fighter, and trainer; and brother Gerry, a Marine and Boston firefighter.

The building’s former owner, Hal Cohen, is a long-time Dorchester activist who allowed the Grealishes to stay rent-free because he’s seen what the club has meant to young kids who could wind up in trouble.

But then the city foreclosed on Cohen for failure to pay back taxes. Then the building failed inspections. Mayor Menino’s spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, said Friday the club can move from the condemned second floor to the first floor.

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