You either get boxing or you don't. If you don't, there's a possibility that you shake your head when you come across a bout on TV, wondering why two people are engaged in such a brutal exercise.
But what doesn't get stated often enough is the opportunity the sport offers people for whom opportunities are scarce, for youths who without the sweet science would be destined for addiction, jail or an early death.
On Saturday night at the Resorts World Casino in Jamaica, Queens, there will be multiple examples of situations where boxing has emerged as a savior in a person's life. The head promoter of the event is Felipe Gomez, who started boxing at age 12; he told me at a news conference to hype the first card at the casino that "boxing saved my life. One hundred percent."
"Without boxing, I wouldn't be standing here," said Gomez, who was born and raised in East New York. "I'd be dead, in jail or on drugs."
He grew up surrounded by people who succumbed to the negative temptations on the streets, thugs, drug dealers and the like. His father left the family when Gomez was 12, and as the oldest of four kids, Felipe stepped up. He got into the sport and excelled, winning the Golden Gloves. The streets still sought Gomez, and he hung with delinquents some, but at 18 he decided to spurn the street lures. He entered the police academy, so he didn't turn pro. But Gomez kept his love of the game, and started promoting three years ago.
His New Legend company is doing the first of four shows at Resorts on Saturday, and will follow that with a show on Dec. 8, and then March and June of 2013. The casino, run by the Genting Group, a Malaysian outfit, opened in October 2011.
"Saturday will be a historic night," Gomez said. "It'll be the first boxing in a New York City Casino. I'm a local promoter focusing on local guys, guys who were successful amateurs, but didn't have an opportunity with other promoters."
Gomez is talking about boxers like Joe Smith, a 23-year-old Irishman living on Long Island, sporting a 10-1 record, with 10 KOs. The light heavyweight meets 7-2 Yasin "The Assassin" Rashid, from Brooklyn, in the night's feature bout.
Gomez is talking about guys like 7-0 Brooklyner Frank Galarza, a middleweight who takes on 7-0 Alantez Fox, from Maryland, in a clash for the vacant N.Y. junior middleweight crown. Galarza grew up in Red Hook, and in short order, his mom died from an OD and his dad died from a lingering bullet wound in his leg. He lived with his aunt and uncle, and as a teen, the streets tried to take him. He resisted, took up boxing at 17, and now, at 27, aims to keep on climbing the ladder.
"This is what I love doing," he told NYFightBlog. "Boxing teaches discipline, self-control."
Yeah, boxing is a popular punching bag, but every year, it gives hope and a purpose to I dare say hundreds of at-risk youth. Chew on that and feel free to share with anyone who watches a match, and only sees something brutal.