Frank Galarza Brings Another Title to East New York's Starrett City Boxing Club

Categories: Boxing

Frank Galarza, New York State light middleweight champion.
When Starrett City Boxing Club in East New York opened in 1978, it was surrounded by dirt roads and blight. And in the marshes just out back, "people would dump things," says longtime trainer Ewart Chance. "This place used to be a dump."

These days, the smooth, slate-colored, asphalt streets bear a fresh coat of paint, and a new bus line brings residents to the high-rise apartments next door overlooking Jamaica Bay. There's a mall with an Applebee's a few blocks away.

In the time between, many of New York's champion fighters sparred and sweated inside that gym. Jimmy O'Pharrow, the gym's founder, became a legend in the boxing world. A hardline disciplinarian who left his gym door open to all, O'Pharrow sometimes seemed to have an endless supply of fresh talent.

He died two years ago. But his gym still produces champions. Last Saturday, Frank Galarza beat Rich Neves in a fourth-round TKO to win the New York State light middleweight title, bringing another yet belt to Starrett City.

It was Galarza's first title. He'd come to Starrett City because he'd heard about the names that had pass through there: champions like Shannon Briggs, Curtis Stevens, and Luis Callazo; contenders like Dmitriy Salita and Sadam Ali.

Faces of famous alumni stare back the the current crop from a mural on the gym's wall. But outside of that and a few new workout machines in the corner, the gym looks just as it did decades earlier.

The building sits underneath the ramp of a multilevel parking garage. The ceiling, high overhead when you walk in, slants down to arm's reach by the time you're in front of the wall-length mirror in the back. Heavy bags hang from chains bolted to that cement ceiling. And, of course, two rings sit side by side near the front door.

"There is so much heart and soul in here" says Kisha Snow-Daud, a former champion fighter who now works at a trainer here. "This is hardcore. Tough fighters here."

There's no air conditioner and no water fountain, she points out. No windows, too. They keep a bunch of water bottles in a mini-fridge, which is a more efficient hydration strategy than in years past.

Back when Snow-Daud trained here, there was no fridge, so they'd steal a grocery cart from a nearby store and fill it with a couple dozen empty milk jugs. They'd push the cart from the gym to a public bathroom down the street to fill the jugs.

The amenities weren't important. Kids kept coming for the boxing.

Next Page: Galarza's road from the streets to the gym:

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