On Saturday, February 20, 2016 a ceremony was held at the Kendrick Recreation Center in Roxborough to honor former Philly boxing great Harold Johnson by officially renaming the recs pugilistic training area to the Harold Johnson Memorial Boxing Gym.
The crowd of roughly 100 people consisted mostly of family and friends from Johnson’s native Manayunk along with former World Champion Nate “Mr.” Miller, promoter Brittany “BAM” Rogers and members of the boxing media. Unfortunately there were no active boxers present for this momentous occasion.
The event also included speeches from 4th district Councilman Curtis Jones, and local coaches Bernie Strain, and Joe Mathis Sr.
The Front Street Gym had a reunion of sorts this past Saturday night bringing together past and current members for a benefit to help keep one of Philly’s oldest and most storied gyms strong.
People from all over came to show their support and also have a fun night talking about the good old days. A few of the Front Street Gym’s legends stepped into the ring for one last fight for the boys. From Joey Eye starting off the night showing he still has a lot of scrap left in him to former champion Buster Drayton needing his best sparring moves to avoid ol’ Franky O’Neal’s heavy rights, everyone seemed to really enjoy the night. It got pretty tough in there but Mike McCarney was in charge as the referee and kept order all night long.
The gym is best known for it’s boxing but it also has a small yet, very nice memorabilia stand in the corner. For $15 you can get framed pictures of warriors like James J. Braddock, John O’Sullivan & Tito Trinidad to name a few along with T-Shirts and other boxing items.
Overall, it was a very good night where the old came back to help keep the young strong. The night was put together by Front Street Gym mainstay Frank Cubek and many others who call Clearfield street their headquarters. Enjoy these few pictures I took. For professional shots, try emailing email@example.com who was also there taking pictures.
“Philly Rumblers Boxing Club is here to stay, we ain’t goin’ no where” head coach Javier Varela says from the gym office which sits on top of the Family Value dollar store near B & Alleghany streets. The gym has only been in existence for six month, but the Philly Rumblers squad is off to a fast start and proudly representing Philadelphia by winning three team trophies which include wins in the Golden Gloves tournament, the Junior Olympics and most recently taking the top prize in Virginia where they put together a 9 -1 team record.
Varela, who has ten years of experience in the sport, opened this gym with the help of his brother and friends to give kids from the neighborhood an alternative from the streets and to do what he does best, teach the art of boxing. He started off as a 20 year old who worked exclusively with his nephew and since then has grown into a multi dimensional trainer / manager who works with fighters of all ages and sizes. He roots for the underdog and fights to win.
The trip to Virgina was full of surprises Javier says and he can’t help but smile when talking about his kid’s performances. As it turns out, his birthday just happened to be the Saturday when they were on the road. “I couldn’t have gotten a better birthday gift” he says, but the highlight of his weekend didn’t come inside the ring. “Seven people were killed in Philly over the weekend, but none of them were my kids, luckily” knowing all too well about the evils that lurk outside of his building.