Nestled down a long dirt driveway off of Route 107 in Glen Cove adjacent to the Glen Cove Child Day Care Center is the Howard Davis Jr. Glen Cove Boxing Club. In what used to be the city’s EMS garage before it moved to the firehouse, this volunteer-operated, donation supplied club has been quietly offering troubled teens from the Glen Cove School District a productive outlet for their aggression, and, in some cases, turning them into state, national and international champions.
Emily Colon, 31, for example, moved to Glen Cove from Puerto Rico when she was 11, and got into frequent fights with other children, who she said bullied her for not speaking English. Colon’s stepfather was a fan of the sport, which he frequently watched on the family’s home television.
Tito, a member of the Boxing Club, approached her, and suggested she drop by the club. “I just kept saying, ‘No, that’s not me,’” Colon said. But after several of Tito’s persistent suggestions, she decided to give it a try. “I came in the first day, and I fell in love,” she said. “I fell in love with the gloves. I fell in love with hitting the bags, you know, the feelings in your hands. The, the bell ringing, you know, just, it was just like love at first sight.”
Since then, Colon has worked her way up through the competitive boxing circuit, eventually landing a spot on Puerto Rico’s national boxing team.
Other notable members of the club include Olympic gold-medalist Howard Davis Jr., for whom the club was renamed in 2016 after his death in December 2015, and Allen “Junebug” Hudson Jr., a U.S. Army boxer — and the father of Glen Cove High School’s assistant principal Allen Hudson III — who went up against some of the biggest names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali.
The club moved into the old EMS garage several years. Volunteers painted and refurbished the building. They hung heavy punching bags from the high ceiling, which bob back and forth gently from the force of quick punches. Upbeat music plays from unseen speakers, which emit a periodic “beep” to let the trainees know when to rotate exercises.
Luis Garcia, who had been sparring with Viviana Melgar, ducked under the ropes of the makeshift boxing ring. Then he took a swig of water, and started his next workout, lifting a sledgehammer over his head and swinging it straight down onto a large truck tire, which dutifully bore the repeated blows.
The club is run entirely by volunteers, including trainers Francisco Pena and Mike Graziose, who said that in some ways, their work with the club is like a full time job. When this reporter arrived at the club to speak to them, Graziose was on the phone with a gloves supplier, navigating the logistics of a delivery. He said that even when he’s at home he gets pestered with questions about when the studio will be open next. “I’ll be with my family,” Graziose said, “and I’ll get 15 texts [from kids]. Are you opening? Are you opening?”
The club is free for participants, and runs entirely on donations. Pena said that frequently, the volunteers have to pay out of their own pockets for necessities like bottled water and paper towels. Sometimes, they pay for a young athlete’s transportation and food when they compete in the city, or at other Long Island venues.
Why do Pena and Graziose do it? “Watch the kids’ faces,” Graziose said, “when you teach them something and all of a sudden it clicks, and you see a light bulb go off. They feel proud, and feel that they accomplished something. And if they can accomplish something in here,” he gestured around to the empty studio, and then pointed out the open door, “they can accomplish out there.”