Rocky to the rescue for the fighters at East Side BoxingWritten by Ryan Fowler | | email@example.com
Earlier this spring, East Side Boxing Gym (ESBG) was homeless.
The building the coaches had poured their blood, sweat and tears into had been sold by its owner.
With no options and no money to rent a new building, the gym’s coaches improvised.
Navarre Park was transformed into their training ground Monday through Friday evenings.
Boxers would run around the track and float like butterflies around the parking lot. The pop, pop, pop of the pads echoed in the wind.
But something was missing.
There was no ring. No place to hang the heavy bags and no place to hide when the weather turned cold.
Without a roof over their head, East Side Boxing Gym had lost an important piece of its identity.
In early April, I featured this group in one of my stories for NBC24. Together we made a plea for someone to donate some space for ESBG.
For weeks, we heard nothing.
Then out of the blue, I received a voicemail from some guy in North Toledo who had just bought a strip of property that used to be an old Food Town.
The guy said, in a strong baritone voice, that he had invited East Side Boxing to use some of his extra space. The cost: free.
Recently, I met Rocky Cicerella, a quasi-small business owner. He’s dabbled in selling fireworks and owns Rocky’s Antique Mall.
In order to meet Rocky, I had to weave my way around his flea market. Dozens of vendors were on standby ready to sell anything from those creepy dolls from the 1950s to Elvis Presley dinner plates to Ricky Bobby stickers.
After asking around, I found Rocky, a middle-aged guy, rocking the hat backward and wearing one glove with the fingers cut off.
He reeked of coolness.
Rocky’s personality is much like a boxer in the ring. Never standing still, full of nervous energy, but happy to make your acquaintance.
When I actually got him focused enough to talk about his good deed, his modesty kicked in.
He told me he heard the kids were looking for somewhere to box and somewhere to stay out of trouble. Rocky’s motive behind his charity was to keep these kids off the street.
Rocky had helped all types of fighters at East Side Boxing.
You have Brandon Morris, a lanky high school student who packs a mean punch on his way to the Junior Olympics for the second year in a row.
Then there is Ruben Soto, a 7-year-old who is not tall enough to “ride-this-ride,” but snaps off fists of fury inside the ropes.
Coach Lamar Wright has seen dramatic improvement in his fighters’ attitudes since a roof was placed over their heads.
“Since we started training here, there’s been nothing but smiles, nothing but smiles,” Wright said.
Over the past two months, I’ve covered budget deficits, point-shaving scandals and steroids.
For that, I thank people like Rocky Cicerella, who prove there are still good people in this world.
He may have helped one of these fighters follow his dream and become the next Devin Vargas.
And how is this for irony: East Side Boxing Gym saved by a guy named Rocky.
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor at NBC 24 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him and Adam Meyer on Twitter at adamryan419.