The gym, which opened last October and is run in the basement of the United Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood on Metropolitan Avenue and 60th Place, put on a show featuring boxing, Tae Kwon Do, and mixed martial arts (MMA) matches and demonstrations, all performed by gym members and students with ages ranging from nine to fifty.
The night’s first boxing match was a battle of the sexes between 12 year-olds Brianna and Chris. The youngsters, who had been training for about a year, put on quite a display within their three rounds.
Chris opened the first round throwing a lot of punches, but Brianna countered with a strong second round.
After the bout, both fighters said they felt nervous heading in.
“The crowd was the hardest part,” said Chris, “I was a little scared, but I felt good.”
Brianna, a Maspeth native, agreed. “It was scary at first,” She said, “but then it felt good, especially when the crowd cheered.”
Brianna’s mother, Jennifer Colletti, expressed pride in her daughter. Colletti, who could be seen running to her daughter’s corner between rounds, said “She did great. I’m so proud of her.”
And if you think that these boxers weren’t throwing real punches, think again. One of the more surreal moments of the night was the fight between 12 year olds Russell and Jacob. These two fighters used impressive footwork and good selection to wow the crowd. In the third round, Jacob connected with a shot that left Russell’s nose bloodied.
However, there were no bad feelings, as both boxers tapped gloves and were cheered wildly after the match.
After the fight, Jacob also said he felt nervous before the match. “I was scared until I got in the ring, and then I felt confident.”
And Confidence is just what boxing trainer Chris Catenacci tries to instill in his students.
“I love training these kids,” said Catenacci. “Some of these kids come in with no confidence, and I just want to show them that there are no limitations to what they can do. They come in, they learn how to box, and they make friends.”
Catenacci said he hopes to have exhibitions like this once a month, something that would surely make gym co-owner Richard Mark Ortiz happy.
Ortiz said that he was pleased with the turnout for the event, and that he sees it, and the gym, as a positive environment for the community.
“Coming into the gym, our only rule is ‘don’t cause trouble.” Ortiz said. “No one gets thrown out.”
Ortiz went on to mention that the gym was run entirely by volunteers, and that a lot of the equipment was donated.
And second hand or not, the equipment was is good enough for it’s members. Michael Chernyak of Rego Park, who put on a MMA demonstration, expressed his feelings for the gym, saying: “it’s a good gym. Plenty of machines, and the atmosphere is very friendly.”