Golden Gloves on the Jersey Waterfront Local Boxers Train Hard to be Contenders

  Bouts on March 24th , March 30 and April 7th

By Sally Deering 

Photos by Sally Deering and Joe Botti

Union City Boxing TeamInside an old municipal building and up a steep flight of wooden stairs is a world of sweat and hope, a cavernous space filled young men and women who bring their dreams of championship titles and Olympic gold medals into the four-sided ring of the Union City Boxing Club. Joe Botti, a Union City Police Lieutenant and former amateur boxer has been running the Union City Boxing Club for 23 years and on a recent March evening, the gym is filled to capacity as Botti and his team of volunteer trainers help young boxers train for the 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves. “We’ve had 29 Golden Gloves Champs,” Botti says, lacing up a young hopeful’s shiny red gloves, “and hopefully this year we’ll have our 30th. We have five team trophies.” Two boxers who train there are Juan Rodriguez, who won the Golden Gloves in 2009 in the Open Class and Jason Escalera, who won Open Class in 2008; now they’re both professionals. A young fighter being coached by Joe Botti

“They used Golden Gloves as a jumpstart to professional careers,” Botti says.

Herkin DeLaRosa, 20, of Union City, has 26 fights under his belt and sees a Golden Gloves title as his opportunity to go pro.

“Everybody wants to be a Golden Gloves champion,” DeLaRosa says. “It means a lot of hard work. It’s like a goal to me. I get to compete in the Nationals.”

DeLaRosa is one of ten boxers at the Union City Gym who will be competing in the 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves amateur boxing championship’s preliminaries for a shot at the nationals.

The team also includes Felix Tejada, Jose Aviles and Johnny Hernandez of Union City; William Arevalo, Anthony Valentini, Jarrett Blair and Gino Montero of Jersey City; Carlos Lopez of North Bergen; and Hector Melendez of Hoboken.

Melendez, 17, has won 20 fights and two Diamond Glove championships. He also takes AP classes at Hoboken High School and plans to major in economics in college.

“I want 70 amateur fights before I go pro,” Melendez says. “I want to travel, spar in different places. I’m trying to get experience. I only lost one fight. I think boxing will open doors for me.”

Melendez also has high praises for his trainer.

“Joe Botti, he’s great,” Melendez says. “It’s not about money; he does this for free. He cares about his fighters. He does a lot for us and we do for him. I fight hard in the ring. It’s my way of paying him back. It’s not always about boxing. It’s about family. He’s like a dad.”

Going for the Gold

New Jersey Golden Gloves is a non-profit organization that promotes amateur boxing, runs local tournaments and sends a team of the state’s best boxers to the Golden Gloves of America’s national tournament each year. This year, more than 200 young boxers are competing in the New Jersey Golden Gloves which features nine preliminary bouts throughout the Garden State including the bout on Sat, Mar. 24 at the Washington School in Union City. Members of the Union City Boxing Club’s team will be competing along with young boxers from other local gyms including the Bayonne PAL and the Ringside Boxing Club of Jersey City.  Preliminary winners will advance to the state finals held at the Prudential Center in Newark on April 7th.

Boxing Coach and head trainer of the Middletown PAL Dan Doyle of Long Branch is President of the New Jersey Golden Gloves. When he took on the state leadership in June, Doyle recruited a new board of directors which initiated a scholarship program for the state’s most promising athletes.

“We are so excited to be holding our 2012 Tournament of Champions in the Prudential Center, giving our amateur boxers a chance to box in a large arena much like the pros,” Doyle says.  “We hope the public will come out and support these athletes. They have dedicated at least the better part of a year to training for this prestigious tournament.”

Many of the competing boxers are young people from areas around the state that have been hardest hit by cuts to community programs, Doyle says. Boxing clubs like the Bayonne PAL, Ringside Boxing Club of Jersey City and the Union City Boxing Club all provide a training program that keeps young men and women, boys and girls focused on a positive goal while offering a safe environment.


Jose Aviles, 152 lb. Open Boxer is the 2010 Sub Novice Golden Glove Champ looking to become a two-time champion in the 2012 Golden Gloves

Jose Aviles, 22, is a 2010 Golden Gloves winner in the Novice Division and he will again be competing in the 2012 Golden Gloves preliminaries. In training, he runs 10 laps around the park – any park – and goes to the gym every day from 5 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. where he shadow boxes, jumps rope, spars in the ring, does three rounds with the heavy bag and three rounds with the speed bag He does sit ups, push-ups and even yoga for stretching.  Winning the Golden Gloves in 2010 was a big surprise. He says: “I never won anything in my life. I got a trophy, a Golden Gloves chain and the option of being a boxer. I’m ready now to go pro.”

And taking some punches is all part of the sport, Aviles says.
“You don’t mind taking a punch,” Aviles says. “You gotta take one, to give one. That is the love of the sport.”

The Union City Boxing Club is all volunteer-run; Botti volunteers his time and so do the other trainers. Mayor Brian Stack of Union City donates the space and Union City and the Union City Boxing Club are co-sponsoring the Golden Gloves preliminary event on Mar. 24th at the Washington School and footing the bill for the boxers’ uniforms, equipment, and other bout expenses.

The Hudson and Bergen County Electrician’s Union, Local 154 will be sponsoring the March 30th Golden Gloves preliminary bout in Paramus. Proceeds from the ticket sales will go to breast cancer research says Paul Dunleavy of Jersey City, a former boxer who has volunteered his time raising money for the Make a Wish Foundation and is now lending a hand to bring awareness to the breast cancer.

“I fought in the Golden Gloves three times in New Jersey,” Dunleavy says. “I can’t fight any more so I help out. This year, I’m singing the National Anthem. ”

Hudson Boxers, Hope and Pride

The Union City Boxing Club is filled to capacity now, young boxers sparring in the ring, hitting heavy bags and speed bags, jumping rope, doing sit ups. Botti says that in the summer, 40-60 boxers-in-training come each day. And there is no age limit; they’re as old as 42 and as young as 8.

At 11, Deandre “Dynamite D” Guzman is a four-time New Jersey State Champion and veteran of 36 fights. Deandre has traveled to Las Vegas, Ohio and Upstate New York to compete and the sixth grader says he likes being in the ring.

“I want to be an Olympian,” Deandre says.

Botti was about Deandre’s age when he first discovered a passion for boxing. Growing up in Union City, he founded a boxing group when he was young and, he says, it helped him get through tough times. And now, he’s paying it forward.

“It keeps the kids off the streets,” Botti says. “A lot of the kids who trained here are now teachers, police officers, firefighters. A lot of kids turned their lives around. They say boxing is one of the best deterrents to gang activity. These kids fight so hard for these trophies. They’re fighting for pride and the Golden Gloves title. That will be with them the rest of their lives.”

New Jersey Golden Gloves Tournament Schedule

(General admission tickets: $15 to $35)

Fri, Mar. 16, 7 pm

Luis Munos Marin Middle School, 663 Broad St, Newark

Tickets: Aspira Boxing Club, the event host, at 973-484-7554 or Jose Rosario at 201-679-0485

Sat, Mar. 24, 7 p.m.

Washington School, 3901 New York Ave., Union City

Tickets at the door

Fri, Mar. 30, 7 p.m.

IBEW Local 164, 65 W. Century Road, Paramus

Contact: Cassie Wordelman at 201-265-7273, ext. 213, or Theresa Rolaf at 201-265-1700, ext. 4246 or visit for more information.

Fri, April 6, 7 p.m.

ICAT Academy of Boxing, Fitness & Martial Arts, 1304 Brielle Ave., Ocean Township.

Call 732-531-1422 for more info

Sat, April 7, 7 p.m.

Prudential Center’s AmeriHealth Pavilion, 165 Mulberry St., Newark

Ticket info: or, or call Jose Rosario of the Aspira Boxing Club at 973-484-7554, Dan Doyle of the Middletown PAL at 732-957-9494, Stephanie Lashley of ICAT Boxing at 732-531-1422; or New Jersey Golden Gloves at 732-318-7131