Longtime boxer brings pro-fighting knowledge to West Hempstead

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Michael Corleone, owner of Kayo Boxing in West Hempstead, said that occasionally, people have made lighthearted jokes about his last name, in reference to the main protagonist from the movie, “The Godfather.” However, when it comes to treating his gym members like family, Corleone takes that to heart.

“I mean that very much, because I take care of you like you’re my family,” said Corleone, who opened his new gym with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 23. A professional boxer for 27 years, Corleone admitted that the grand opening of his gym was an emotional moment for him.

“It was nice to have a lot of guys from other gyms to show their support,” he said. “I got a lot of good, strong feedback from the people in my business . . . It makes me realize that I’m doing something productive in my life.”

At Kayo Boxing, Corleone — along with trainers who are USA Boxing certified — teach their students the fundamentals of boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai. Students can train with jump ropes, heavy bags, speed bags and focus pads to sharpen their hand-speed and conditioning.

Corleone, 48, who described himself as a late bloomer in the sport, said that he started boxing at the age of 21. “I did it completely by accident. I call it being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Corleone, who ran cross-country during his high school years.

His first fight took place in 1992 against National Puerto Rican champion Roberto Mercedes. Corleone won the match in six rounds by way of knockout. A southpaw — a boxer who fights predominantly with his left hand — Corleone had later fought on undercards with the likes of heavyweights George Foreman and Michael Grant.

As for his longevity as a professional boxer, Corleone attributed that to sparring with several pros early in his career. “I always thought that I was going to be more successful than I was,” he said, “but as I found out unfortunately in this sport, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know, as it is so much in life. I had a very long career, it didn’t go as great as I wanted it to go, but I did something that a lot of guys didn’t do.”

During his years as a boxing trainer, Corleone said the relationships he has developed with his students has been the best part of owning a gym. He has been a best man for some of his students, attended numerous weddings for others, and ironically, he has also become a godfather to some of his students’ children.

“One of the things that you learn is that not everyone that walks through your door wants to become a world champion,” Corleone said. “But everybody in my gym gets treated the same way. I hope that more parents trust their children’s lives to me. That’s not something that you can just ask for. You have to earn that.”

For more information about Kayo Boxing, visit their website at www.kayopromotions.com.