Hope in Brooklyn

Zachary Levin , BOXING NEWS, 2010-04-02

Zachary Levin on more good work from the admirable Atlas

Boxing commentator and trainer Teddy Atlas is to be commended for his numerous charitable efforts through the years via the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, as documented in a recent Boxing News feature. The giving continued on March 24 when his organisation, in association with NYC Cops & Kids, officially opened a pristine, fully-stocked, 2,300 square foot boxing gym at the Flatbush Gardens residential community in Brooklyn, New York.

This part of town, known as East Flatbush, is one of the most depressed areas in New York. It’s riddled with drugs, gangs and the attendant violence. It’s a given that this beleaguered neighborhood doesn’t boast quality schools or after-school programmes. The result is that the streets swallow many of its young and spit them out into prisons, if not coffins.

“I started at a PAL [Police Athletic League] gym,” Atlas explained. “When it would rain we’d grab one of those squeegees and push the water into a hole in the ground to get it out of there—and a couple mice and stuff with it. Things have come a long way.”

The trainer looked over his shoulder and surveyed the gym—fresh leather heavybags, two professional rings with canvas you could eat your dinner off and, most importantly, a score of boys shadowboxing.

“Our coach used to keep all the mouthpieces in one jar!” Atlas continued. “We didn’t think about it. That was what we were told to do.

“That was rougher than the boxing. You got past that part, you were ready to go eight rounds.”  Needless to say, no boxer will ever be asked to do that at this gym.

Other than Atlas’ foundation, actor Dustin Hoffman and his wife Lisa deserve a mention. They made a major donation toward the purchase of the boxing equipment when they heard about the NYC Cops & Kids programme, and the intention of erecting a gym in Flatbush Gardens.

“A boxing gym in a tough neighborhood gives kids an [alternative] option to violence,” Atlas said.  “There’s not a huge amount of hope in places like this. Kids need a haven. Most of them have problems and they’re out there struggling because they have no belief in themselves, no care for themselves. Boxing teaches you to have a reason to care about yourself.”