by Darren Paltrowitz
Bobby Rooney has been in charge of the Bayonne Police Athletic League’s Boxing Club for almost a decade. Prior to taking over the Bayonne PAL program from his father, professional boxer Bob Rooney, Sr., who ran it for more than 30 years, Bobby Rooney was a professional fighter. He went pro in 2003, winning the WBF Continental Light Heavyweight Title in 2009, and finishing with a win-loss record of 12-3; 7 of his 12 victories were knock-outs, 4 of the victories against previously-undefeated boxers.
Rooney’s work with the Bayonne PAL often has him rubbing elbows with top talent, and not been by coincidence. His father was a sparring partner with Chuck Wepner – the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky – who often offers assistance to the Bayonne PAL. Robert Terry is a recent success story of the program, competing at the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in Salt Lake City last month.
Tyrell Wright, currently with a professional record of 8-0, is another multiple Golden Glove title winner with ties to the Bayonne PAL.
RVO: How did you get involved with the Bayonne Police Athletic League?
BR: I started boxing at the Bayonne PAL when I was 10 years-old under the guidance of my father, Bob Rooney Sr., who ran the boxing program for 30+ years before he retired. I took over in 2008. In 1987 I won the State Junior Olympic title at 118 lbs…I finished with an amateur record of 21-5.
RVO: What do you enjoy most about working the Bayonne PAL?
BR: Some of these kids come into the gym very shy and quiet. Watching them build confidence is rewarding to me on a personal level. Other kids get involved because they’ve been getting into fights in the street and a parent brings them in to give them something to keep them busy. Watching a kid that may have been described a troublemaker or wise-ass become more behaved and a gentleman gives me pride.
I’d lie if I said winning isn’t a huge part of it. Taking a kid from a shy or troubled 12-year old and making him a Golden Glove champ within a few years is what it’s all about. Myself and my partner John “Broz” Snyder take a lot of pride in knowing that these kids have a place to be where they’re safe and can feel part of something. There’s no cursing, no pants-sagging and no being disrespectful to others at any time in our gym.
I can remember when my father trained us in the 1980’s, walking down the street seeing two kids fist-fighting in the street. My father would grab both kids, bring them right to the gym, throw gloves on them and put them in the ring. “Let’s see who the real tough guy is,” he’d say. Believe it or not, some of those kids stuck around and became champions. My father definitely left big shoes to fill for me as a coach.
RVO: How long have you been residing in Bayonne?
BR: I was born in Bayonne and moved to Holmdel in 1999. I work in Toms River until 5 pm every day and then drive to Bayonne where we begin training at 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday. I do this as a volunteer. I pay for all the equipment, membership fees and team travel out of my pocket.
RVO: How did you first encounter Robert Terry?
BR: Robert Terry is the classic case of a “shy kid turned success story”. His mother brought him to me, to keep him off the streets back in 2008, when he was 14 years old. He was the quietest kid in the gym by far. Only spoke when spoken to, and usually one-word answers. In 2009 he had his first fight, a first round knockout. Soon thereafter his second fight, another first round knockout. Since then he’s won 3 Golden Glove titles and 2 Diamond Glove titles. In 2010 John and I took Robert along with other top fighters from New Jersey to compete in Northern Ireland.
BR: But more important than the success inside the ring is what he’s become outside. He is now a confident 22-year old gentleman. Robert comes from a rough neighborhood in Jersey City where it’s very easy to find trouble if it doesn’t find you first. Robert’s mother Samara and I speak often about his progress and she is his rock. Samara and Robert’s stepfather Kevin do a great job keeping him focused on work and his life outside boxing, and I feel like I’ve always had their support.
RVO: To become a great boxer, what do you think are the most important traits in a person?
BR: The obvious ingredients to (being) a good boxer would be agility, speed, power, conditioning and the ability to take a punch, but mental traits are important. Desire, mental toughness, and fortitude are just as important. Can you fight through pain? Can you get up when you’re down? Combat sports demand more from an athlete than any other sport. Other sports can be demanding as well, but try playing football, basketball or hockey when you’re exhausted and someone is punching you in your stomach or your face. It’s a different kind of toughness.
For more information on Bobby Rooney and Bayonne PAL Boxing,
call 732-616-9162 or visit the club on Facebook.