Boxing: Passaic’s Tapia gives back to his hometown


PASSAIC – If not for the Jersey Boy Boxing Club, Eduardo Ortega and two of his five siblings wouldn’t have anything constructive to do every day after school.

“This place has kept me away from trouble,” said Ortega, a freshman at Passaic High School. “I have friends that are in gangs now.”

Junior middleweight contender Glen Tapia once walked in Ortega’s shoes. He, too, was an impressionable adolescent trying to avoid Passaic’s pitfalls, which left several friends in 6-by-8 prison cells or 6 feet deep.

The Passaic PAL’s boxing program prevented Tapia from succumbing to the temptations of the streets, thanks largely to the dedication of retired Passaic police sergeant Jorge Martinez. When it closed two years ago due to a lack of funding, Tapia and his friend, Bandu Rathnapala, knew they had to do whatever was necessary to re-open the Monroe Street space.

The non-profit gym, renamed using Tapia’s boxing nickname, has been operational for about a year. Nearly 60 kids train on a regular basis at this second-floor facility, open from 4 to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“I see people make a little money or become a little successful,” Tapia said, “and they just leave their city and go give other people opportunities, kind of forgetting where they come from. I feel like that’s not real. Passaic made me the man I am today. I just want to give these kids the same chances I had, or even better, to become somebody.”

Tapia and Rathnapala realize many of those kids won’t ever box as amateurs, much less professionals. But beyond providing a safe haven for kids as young as 6, the program helps build their self esteem, gets them in shape and teaches them how to defend themselves in a supervised environment.

Eduardo Ortega’s younger brother, Ryan, has lost 25 pounds since the fifth-grader began training regularly.

“These are innocent kids,” said Rathnapala, a Passaic business-owner and amateur trainer. “They need our help. Everyone can’t be a pro fighter, but these are my kids. I want to see them doing good in school and I want them to be good citizens.”

Tapia’s training is time-consuming and often takes him to Freddie Roach’s renowned Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., for months at a time. When he is unable to come to the Jersey Boy Boxing Club, Tapia (23-2, 15 KOs) knows it’s in the hands of capable, caring trainers.

Rathnapala, James Mouzone and retired professional fighter Victor Valenzuela volunteer four hours per day at the gym.

“It’s amazing to have these guys care about kids the way they do and not think about money,” Tapia said. “They want to help kids. They have visions of these kids going to national tournaments and traveling the world. They’re saving lives and they have the same vision as me.”

Like Tapia, 26, the Passaic PAL helped save Valenzuela, 28, who retired with an 8-4 professional record.

“He’s a great person,” said Tapia, who’s waiting for his next fight to be scheduled. “He’s a friend of mine. We grew up together. To see his career go the way it did, it hurt me. But now, to see him in here, have him help kids and have him change lives, and to see he’s happy to be here every day, it’s amazing.”

Twitter: @Idecboxing


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iLink2Media is an International online platform that specializes in spotlighting the art of giving back. We are dedicated to promoting, encouraging and supporting Global Citizenship from Philanthropists, Executives, Politicians, World Leaders and Celebrities that relentlessly uplift various communities and make a positive impact on the lives of others.

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