Fighting for a good cause in Kingston

Midtown Center hosts Police Athletic League’s Fight Night benefit this Saturday

For many years, boxing matches were held at the Midtown Center in Kingston: the brick building with the crenellated tower that once served as the city’s Armory. In 2006, former professional boxer Billy Costello, a Kingston native, and police officer Aaron Fitzgerald resurrected the tradition by forming the Police Athletic League (PAL). A weight room was added two years later, and soon, with the help of Allen Nace – who has served as administrator since Costello’s death in 2011 – they started a boxing school, originally held at Fitness Unlimited on Wall Street. When that gym closed in 2009, the school was moved to PAL on Saturday mornings at the Midtown Center, which also hosts boxing club workouts from 5-7 p.m. on weeknights.

Besides the classes, the PAL also competes through its affiliation with USA Boxing, the officially sanctioned body of amateur boxing in the US. Saturday, May 12 is this year’s Fight Night, featuring former world champion contender Renaldo Snipes and three-time world champion Iran Barkley as the special guests of honor. Snipes, a two-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion, is best-known for his title championship bout with Larry Holmes in 1981. Barkley beat Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns twice.

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The fights start at 7 p.m., with boxers from Kingston, the Town of Ulster, Margaretville and other nearby localities competing with fighters from Albany, Utica, Fishkill, Taconic Hills, Hudson, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation. Paul Telesca, a former pro boxer who fought on the same card as Costello in Westchester and White Plains many years ago (he’s now an IT manager), Cris Mostacero, a former amateur boxer, and Allen Nace will coach. All proceeds will benefit the PAL. Tickets go for $25 for a ringside seat, $15 general admission and $10 for students. A ticket for the VIP table is $250. They can be purchased at the door or in advance at Kingston Nissan at 140 Route 28, Steve’s Cut Above Barbershop at 502 Albany Avenue and the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Barbershop at 333 Wall Street.

Nace said that there is no cost to be a member of the PAL, though donations are always welcome. The League will also provide the fighters with gloves, mouth guard, shorts and other gear if they can’t afford it, so virtually anyone can participate: a big advantage considering the large expense of participating in many sports. The League will even contribute the $50 fee for the boxer’s “book” if he or she wants to compete in the USA Boxing-sanctioned matches.

Nace said that the PAL currently has about 50 participants, half of whom are kids, the youngest of whom is age 10. “We have high-performance kids and at-risk kids,” Nace said. One participant is a track star, while another is a kid whom “we want to focus on education. He’s struggling in school. We tell him, ‘Boxing will be here, but you need to graduate high school.’”

Some members have the talent and motivation to compete, while others benefit from something more basic but no less valuable: “developing the skills to box, as well as confidence and self-defense,” said Nace. “There’s camaraderie among the boxers. They connect with each other and learn to get along.” For the at-risk kids, participating in the PAL can be life-changing. “They see they can do stuff. They have potential. They also get to hang out with people who are solid in the community, regular people: not drugs dealers.”

The dedicated volunteers include the owner of Kingston Nissan, the executive director of the Ulster Performing Arts Center, along with an IBMer, a teacher at SUNY-Ulster and a disabled vet. For the kids, being among such mentors conveys the powerful message that they too “can do this. You don’t have to get into drug or gang stuff,” said Nace.

Nineteen-year-old Raphael Edwards, who lives on Foxhall Avenue in Kingston, has been boxing for four months and started because of his love of fighting. “It’s hard but fun, and pays off,” Edwards said one recent evening while working out at the Midtown Center, noting that there’s a lot of technique involved in facing one’s opponent. Boxing “changed my life. It gave me a lot of discipline, and made me think about what I was saying before saying it. Before, I acted mostly on impulse – in the ring, too.” Edwards added that so far he has competed twice, winning one fight and losing the other: an experience that was “very exciting. I’m going to keep boxing, and maybe help out more kids. There’s a lot of kids I could help, in boxing, education, finding jobs.”

Eleven-year-old Jaylen Coliukos has been boxing about a year, and got involved when his mother started coming to the Midtown Center. “It teaches you some discipline, control and sportsmanship,” said Coliukos, who also does track. He said that he’d like to compete, but “I have to spar somebody first.”

The local fighters competing on May 12 are projected to be Edwards, Sam Capriotti, Paul Maley, Sam Tate and Eman King. “It’s a great night of entertainment, with several promising young boxers from the Kingston area competing,” said Paul Telesca. “The boxers are usually very fit, and the matches are very exciting.”

There will be about a dozen matches, with boxers paired off according to weight and ability. Each participant has to have proven his or her (there are two women’s bouts scheduled) competency in the gym. Last year several hundred people turned out to see the fights, and Telesca expects a good turnout again this year. “It’s a real good night, at a very affordable price.”

For more information, contact Tom Gordon at (845) 338-3100 or e-mail tomg@kingstonnissan.com.

 

 

 

 

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