A neighborhood wants to get ready to rumble again.
Eight years after the city shuttered a popular boxing program held at the Sunset Park Recreational Center to create more space for an afterschool program, Sunset Park resident and ex-professional boxer Aureliano Sosa — who is currently teaching a free boxing program in Flatbush, where he trains many talented young fighters — is looking to bring the program back to the neighborhood that first offered it.
“Sunset was one of my first gyms. It was always great to go in there,” recalls Sosa, who once was on the Mexican Olympic boxing team, and who teaches the youngsters through the non-profit organization Atlas Cops and Kids Boxing club founded by Pat Russo, a retired cop from the 72nd Precinct. “It took the kids off the street, stopping them from doing negative things, and turned it into a positive experience.”
Sosa has had great success at the gym in Flatbush, which is also run by Atlas Cops and Kids. “I’ve been blessed at this gym. Everybody greets each other like a family. They show up at 3:30 and don’t leave until 8:30,” he said. “Every kid that trains here is very talented. We’ve had seven national champions and eight Golden Glove champions. This year alone, I had three Golden Glove champions. I started training most of them when they were 12. They’re now 17.”
Because of the success in Flatbush and his past experience, Sosa wants to bring that back to Sunset. “We’re looking for a spot for these kids. They are most important part of this and we need to help them become gentlemen,” he said.
Sosa’s sister Jovita, also a Sunset Park resident, has joined the boxer in his quest. “It saddens me that with all the vacant space along Third, Second and First Avenue, there’s not one warehouse for a free youth program,” she said. “Sunset Park youth lack entertainment, positive influence and stimulation.
“The hope was that bringing back this type of program would help ease community relations with the NYPD since it allows youth to get to know police officer volunteers and vice versa,” she went on. “The program is excellent. Children enrolled are required to maintain an acceptable grade point average in order to continue to participate and for many, their coaches are their only father figure, as is the case with Aureliano, who has many kids who look up to him.”
“Those days were great,” said Aureliano of his time at Sunset. “All we need is the space.”