High on the wall above the two sparring rings at John’s Boxing Gym in the South Bronx is a crucifix hung in the middle of a photo gallery of brawling boxers slugging it out.
“Boxing is like religion here,” said Edwin Viruet, a trainer at the gym with an illustrious professional record (he was profiled in the Sunday Metropolitan section in The New York Times). “The guys you see in here, their lives are based on boxing, that’s it.”
On that same wall are posters of Joshua (The Hitter) Clottey and Joseph (King Kong) Agbeko, two Ghanaian-born, Bronx-bred boxers who fight out of the gym.
This is John’s Boxing Gym at 436 Westchester Avenue, home to many amateur and professionals, including scores of Golden Gloves champions. For three decades, it has been a center of boxing for local fighters of meager means.
And now the gym is closing, said its owner, Gjin Gjini, an Albanian-born former boxer who bought the place seven years ago. Mr. Gjini said he had been looking for a new location to reopen the gym in the Bronx.
Mr. Gjini, who trains his young son in the gym, said a developer has bought the place and is planning to demolish the building to make way for construction.
“This has helped a lot of kids get off the streets,” he said. “I definitely plan on opening in another location.”
The gym charges fighters $50 a month, which Mr. Gjini said barely covers the rent. He said he hoped to find another space that is affordable.
The gym, which has been in existence for about 30 years, was formerly named the Jerome Boxing Club, and it shows the wear of decades of heavy use. There are faded fight posters on the walls, and crudely written instructions, such as the directive scrawled in marker on the wall near the front office: “Por favor, no bills higher than $5.”
In addition to Mr. Viruet, more than a dozen trainers operate independently out of this gym, each with his own stable of fighters. One of the more popular trainers is Understanding Allah, 57, who trains Golden Gloves hopefuls and complete beginners alike. Many of his boxers are police officers who fight for the New York Finest boxing team, he said.
One recent afternoon, dozens of fighters slugged heavy bags and speed bags, and jumped rope and sparred in the two rings in the large space in a former post office on Westchester Avenue.
“It’s sad — there’s really no other gym like this left in New York,” Mr. Gjini said.
As for Mr. Allah, he said he would move to whatever new location Mr. Gjini found, or else try working out of smaller gyms in the Bronx.
“It will be a sad day when this place closes,” he said. “A lot of local fighters rely on this place.”