Friday, December 20, 2013

Please Help!

This holiday season, please consider supporting Atlas Cops and Kids. We are raising money to get an internet connection for our tutoring center, send our team to the National Championships in Reno and Spokane, and buy conditioning equipment. Every dollar helps. (And if you know someone getting rid of a commercial treadmill or weights, send them our way.)

Atlas Cops and Kids is a privately funded 501(c)3, doing positive, lifesaving work in the communities of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Here are a few of our champions...

Heavyweight Earl “Flash” Newman, 21, plays piano and hears music when he fights. Boxing less than four years, Earl has already beat the best in the country. This year he won the New York City, National, and World Golden Gloves heavyweight titles. “I feel like I have no limits,” says Earl.

Jay Allen, 19, started boxing to lose weight and ended up studying with us to realize a lifetime dream of going into the Navy. Although Jay’s mother passed away this Thanksgiving, Jay is pursuing her dream despite these new challenges.

Kevin Santiago, 15, learned through boxing the inner strength to stand up to bullies. He told the Moral Courage Project about it here.

Tray Franklin Grant, 20, was the first boxer I ever tutored at our gym. He was lighthearted, charismatic, and had great athletic talent. Together we wrote an essay about the murder of his father that won Tray a $1,000 college scholarship. A few months later, he was shot to death on a stoop in Brownsville, the victim of a street beef that had nothing to do with him. Many of our boxers compete with Tray’s name on their trunks. He is a reminder of the violence that plagues our communities and of the necessity for programs like ours that keep children off the streets and give them something to strive for.


$1,000 sponsors one of our boxers for a year! You will get a photo, frequent email updates about your athlete, and invitations to see them fight in New York.

$5,000 buys us a commercial treadmill that can take the pounding of fighters doing roadwork all winter. Go down in history among our boxers, who will stare at the plaque that bears your name while they run hill sprints. We are hoping for two working treadmills.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ancient Texts and Leadership

Athol Dempster, 23, is a hardworking scholar-athlete from our Flatbush Gardens location. Athol completed his Associates at BMCC and is now at Baruch finishing his BA while working part time at Target. This is his fabulous midterm paper for English. 

   It is four in the afternoon. I clock in for work, not too thrilled about working but I’m happy that I will make some money. Then I check the grid and find out that my manager called out due to an emergency at home. I am now thrown in the position as acting team leader basically, acting manager for my section.  With everyone a little disappointed that we may have more work to do, I inform them that I am in charge, and I give them words of encouragement just as Beowulf gave to King Hrothgar's men who had fear of Grendel the monster.  This is one of the qualities needed to be a leader. Texts such as “Beowulf”, “Kebra Nagast” and “The Odyssey” show people with the traits of leadership. Traits such as confidence, wisdom and bravery are shown in these texts, and I can apply them to my everyday life to be a good leader at my job. 

               The text of “Beowulf” dates back to as far as the eighth century.  Even though the author was unknown, it was passed down from generation to generation. A monster named Grendel goes to Heorot and terrorizes the king and his soldiers every night by killing them and beats them when they try to fight back.  For years the King and his soldiers have suffered at the hands of the monster Grendel, until a young warrior named Beowulf hears about what happens in Heorot and decides to accept the challenge to defeat the monster.  He then gets on a boat and sails to Denmark with a group of men, to defeat the monster Grendel.  Hrotahgar held a feast for Beowulf in his honor for his bravery to fight the monster.  During the feast a man named Unferth accuses Beowulf of not being the person that his reputation makes him out to be. During the night, Grendel appears and the young hero Beowulf defeats Grendel unarmed.

            Just like in Beowulf, sometimes my troops or coworkers would be very pessimistic about the rest of our shift without a manager. When I take charge as acting, I am very confident and I believe that I can handle the pressure of being in that position in my job. I usually give them a brief speech that if we all do what we are supposed to do, we will make it a very smooth and productive day. It also could be because I already have a reputation for getting employee of the month for months straight that my team believes in me and my decisions.

              The “Kebra Nagast” is a text which many Ethiopian Christian Rastafarians state is very important literature and is very influential to them. It follows the relationship between King Solomon and Makeda the queen of Sheba. She hears about Solomon the King of Jerusalem from a merchant. The merchant describes to the queen how wise and charismatic the king is, which makes her intrigued with him and she decides to travel to meet him. When she meets him, she develops deep feelings for him and eventually has a child with him. 

          One of the reason she admires him so much is because she is able to see the way he rules over his kingdom by showing the builders how to build the House of God. Wisdom is a great quality which Solomon possessed and used for good.  While I am in charge of my team I always tell them, “If there is anything you want to know, just ask me.” Why do I say this, you say? I usually try to teach someone else the knowledge they would need if they decided one day to take an active manager position or an even higher position. I share my knowledge with whoever is willing to learn. I do not keep it to myself, because I do not feel it is beneficial to everyone if I am the only one with the knowledge to do something when I can teach them and they will not have to rely on me. 

            “The Odyssey” takes place in lower Europe in Greece where a king name Odysseus has not returned to his kingdom Ithaca in ten years. The people of his kingdom, including his wife and his son, believe he is dead. He is trapped on an island by a nymph named Calypso, while the gods discuss his future on mount Olympus. The goddess Athena tells his son Telemachus that he is still alive, while on Mount Olympus Zeus sends Hermes to force Calypso to allow the hero to build a ship and leave. When Poseidon the god of the sea hears about this, he sends a storm to destroy his ship, and Athena decides to save him.  Odysseus ends up on the land of Scheria, where he is well treated after he tells them who he is and his stories. The Phaecaians return him to Ithaca. He then meets Telemachus, and they devise a plan to retake control of Ithaca. Odysseys then wins the archery contest to win his wife back for the suitors. Both he and his son kill the suitors. He then reveals himself to the palace and his long travel back home finally comes to an end. 

              In the story Odysseus is faced with a challenge when trapped by the Cyclops and seeing his men get eaten. He is faced with a decision to try to escape rather than sit and wait for death. This kind of bravery was one of the reasons he was king, because he did not let the fear stop him from devising and executing his plan. I may have to be a little gutsy with my decisions as acting manager such as putting someone who is not strong in another section, who is not familiar with it because of the hand I’m dealt, but I will face the consequence of the decisions I have made.

                 Bravery, confidence and wisdom are the qualities of a good leader. Such is said by Cyrus the Great in his book on how to be a good leader and these qualities are shown by these characters in the texts. As I substitute manager, I feel that these are very important qualities and I feel I exhibit these qualities also my ability to adapt to situation is what helps me to be to a be a good leader and develop my leaderships skills.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My First Fight

by Reuben Hurd, age 14

On Friday I had my first amateur boxing match. I was nervous but I still won. I went against a person that I was cool with. He was like a friend to me. It was Freddie. I sparred with him once.

The fight was in Manhattan in a really expensive looking place called the Union Club. Everybody had suits and ties. In the locker rooms they had Listerine and shaving equipment and stuff like that. They had a lot of old artifacts like many play soldiers and paintings of famous people. There was a big one of Abraham Lincoln in the room where we boxed.

Getting ready to fight was kind of exciting. I was the main event so I had to rush to get in the ring, but I had time to get ready and warm up during the other fights. It felt almost the same as sparring, but the ring was much bigger. 

The fight was kind of hard because it’s hard to control the fight’s tempo. Freddie was a real good fighter. We actually smiled almost the whole fight, even when we were sitting down. After every round we would tap gloves and say, “Good round.”

After it was over, I was nervous. I thought he was going to win because I thought he had a few more punches, but obviously I was wrong. When they raised my hand I was excited. I was over excited a little bit. But I also felt bad for him because he lost. Because it was his first fight, too.

After all that, my arm is a little sore but I feel overwhelmed that I won. There is more to come.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

BOXER OF THE MONTH - James Wilkins

James Wilkins, 18, Golden Gloves featherweight novice champ, getting ready for a win against Michael Stoute, the Golden Gloves featherweight open runner-up. It was a close fight that demonstrated how superior conditioning and willpower can prevail over technical proficiency. 

"I knew I had to make it ugly," said James. 

Q: How did you get started in boxing?

A: I was 15. I started off playing football at Tottenville High School, and I met Pat Russo. I always used to get into fights in football. Like once I got hit after the whistle and I wasn't having it and I let the guy know. Patty grabbed me by my shoulder pads and said, "You like to fight? I got a place for you." I got kicked off football the next day, and Patty took me in to the gym in Park Hill. I sparred my first week. I got tired and I got a little roughed up but I liked it and I kept going.

Q: Did football help you box?

A: You need footwork for both. I played cornerback in football, and in that position you gotta see a lot. You gotta see what's gonna happen right away. How the guy is moving tells you what the play is. Also in football they mentally break you down, and in boxing it's a lot of mental work.

Q: What boxers inspire you?

A: Gary "Kid" Stark, Jr always gives me good information. My favorite, favorite is Tommy Hearns. He’s slick, he could punch, he’s tough. I met Tommy Hearns at the Donaire-Rigondeaux fight. He saw my Golden Gloves and said, “Keep working hard, kid. You could be good. Not a lot of people win the Golden Gloves.”

Q: Your brawling style is fun to watch. Do you think about the audience when you fight?

A: Yeah, I like to entertain. I like to put on a good show. Everyone says, "James you gotta move more, you gotta be more slick." But I like to entertain.

Q: It takes great conditioning to fight that way. What is your training routine?

A: Today I came from Coney Island, so I trained already. I’m probably gonna go to Park Hill later. I work out two or three times a day. Usually the first workout I do about eight rounds of gym work. Then I do calisthenics. Then my last workout is at 9 pm. I run for five miles. I always like to train. Even when I’m bored at home I’ll get up and do some pushups.

Q: What have you learned from your trainers?

A: It's the best when I have G and Sosa both in my corner. Sosa keeps me calm and tells me how to box. G brings it out of me. He makes me be how I am. With G in the corner I feel like I already won.

Q: You've struggled with your temper. How does boxing help? 

A: Boxing helps with anger because it channels it. You're training, you're working hard, surrounding yourself with people who want to make it. Honestly, you spar so much, who wants to go out and have a street fight? You're too tired. And it makes you a better person because after you're done fighting, you touch gloves.

Q: What do you wish people knew about you?

A: I feel like some people think I’m a bad kid, but if you know me, you know I’m cool. If you know my reasons. G knows me like a book. He will look at me and know when I’m upset. Everyone just sees what they see at that moment. They don't really see how hard you work and how much you really care about other people and how you try to give your all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Remembering D'Aja Robinson

by Sydney O’Donnell, age 13

D’Aja was my best friend, and I trusted her with everything. She was funny and she could sing gorgeous, like an angel. She loved school, and her average was an 87. She had just turned 15.

The saddest thing was that I was on the bus with her when it happened. We were coming back from a sweet sixteen of this boy she knew. We had just stopped in front of Baisley Pond Park and we were getting ready to leave that stop, and the next thing you knew there was gunfire. 

They missed her twice and they kept shooting, trying to get my other friend China. It was gang violence. China’s brother was in the Crips.

They finally got D’Aja instead of China. There were six bullets in her head.

I was just shocked. I couldn’t take it in as fast as the gun shots were coming, but five seconds later when she was bleeding and saying, “I’m leaving. I love you guys,” I wished I could have just hugged her and said I love you.

It’s empty in school now. I feel like a big piece was just taken from me. A big one. 

D’Aja wasn’t a fighter, she was a lover. Her mother knew that China and I would protect her on the streets. If it was a street fight or a knife fight, I would have helped D’Aja, but seeing as it was gun violence, I couldn’t help her. 

On September 18, it was the six-month anniversary of when she passed and I was crying in school the whole day. They had a lighting and I couldn’t even go. But I went to her grave that day and I spent the whole day with her, me and China and these boys, and her brother and her mom. 

We gave her flowers and teddy bears. She loved chocolate so we put that there. That same day, her mother went to get a tattoo. Her whole back is full of D’Aja with the carriage that 50 Cent did, and D’Aja’s pictures from kindergarten and the last picture she had taken.

It kind of made me feel better for a few hours, but honestly it didn’t help as much as I thought it was going to help. She’s gone and she’s not going to come back. 

Sometimes I feel like everybody’s leaving. My friend’s mother is on life support and my uncle just passed. 

What makes me feel better is, I will get up and go to her banner or look at the pictures we had. Sometimes I think of how it would be in heaven with D’Aja. I just hope she’s looking down on us and letting the good spirits and angels help us. 

I got into a fight a month after she died, because this girl said it was karma that made her die. 

I said, "I bet if it was your mother that died, you wouldn’t be saying it was karma." 

I’d fight for D’Aja any day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Atlas Cops and Kids Takes Best Team Trophy at PALs

On the final night of competition in Oxnard, Christina Cruz outboxed Jamie Mitchell, but the judges didn't see it that way. It was tough luck for Christina, who boxed with exceptional skill and aggression and deserved the win.

Earl "Flash" Newman is the moral center of our team, and he uplifted us all with his skillful win in the heavyweight division.

Big Black ran into a tough, much bigger man in the Army's Stephen Shaw. He and Christina will both get a shot at revenge at the Nationals this January.

And how could I have forgotten Peewee? Jordan Rodriguez pointed out that I neglected to write about his gutsy semifinal showdown with David Carlton of Cincinnati. Peewee had Carlton staggering by the final round, but the judges somehow saw it the other way. Great Atlas Cops and Kids debut for Peewee, who is has a heavyweight heart in a flyweight body.

At the end, no bad decisions could ruin the fact that we were the best team in the country. Maybe it's because we have the best trainers.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Africa and Harley Win Big, Brenda Makes National Debut

Here is Harley Mederos, a friend of Cops and Kids, who brought home the belt last night in the 119lb, 13-14 yr-old division.

"Harley has been winning everything this year," says Big Edgar. "Ringside, Title, now the PALs."

Harley doesn't worry too much about style but just comes to fight; proof that aggressiveness is rewarded in this new pro-style scoring system.

Africa made good on his prediction that he would win the whole tournament. He boxed sharply in a close match with a strong puncher. As always, the jab was key.

"That was war," he said.

Taking home the silver were Shu Shu, Edgar, and Brenda. This was Brenda's first national tournament.

She fought a tough girl named Katrina from the University of San Francisco team. Although Katrina had only been boxing for a year, she was already 5-2.

The University of San Francisco team maintains a team GPA of 3.8! Some day I would like to be able to say that about us.

Here is Brenda in the corner with her father Benny, who was recently promoted to 3-star status, making him eligible to work the corners in international competitions.

Benny attributed Brenda's loss to lack of preparation: "You gotta train to do this s**t. You can't half step."

He also disapproved of her cute blue hair, but it is the professional opinion of this blog that Benny shouldn't go around criticizing other people's hair.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Africa Interview

Last night a few more of our team fell. Julian Sosa lost a great fight against a fast southpaw. Alex faded after a few days of stomach flu. Josue looked sharp, but gave up an 8-count in the third that might have made the difference.

Advancing to the finals were Edgar Berlanga, Shu Shu, and Africa. All three looked in top form and will be hard to beat if they keep boxing that well.

Christina Cruz also outclassed her girl, although she admitted to feeling a bit off. Maybe it's the killer mosquito that has been terrorizing our room. I now have welts all over my hands and arms. If these blog posts stop suddenly, it's safe to assume I have died from West Nile.

I loved my post-fight interview at El Pollo Loco with Africa AKA The Black Mexican AKA The Black Mamba AKA Richardson Hitchins AKA Richardson Jacques. If he didn't already have so many names, I would give him another, The Professor. This kid studies his craft.

This photo is by Iron Boy, who says, "I think Africa has the best jab in the tournament. It's so stiff, like a stick in your face. I haven't seen anybody else jabbing like that."

Q: How did you get started in boxing?

A: I was twelve. I used to see Mayweather on TV, and I wanted to box like that. I went around to some boxing gyms, but they were too expensive. Then I youtubed "boxing program brooklyn" and I saw a video of Julian. He looked so good. Nobody knew where Flatbush Gardens were, because it used to be called the Vandeveers, so I just rode the train by myself, looking for the gym. It was kind of an adventure.

Q: I think you're the most improved fighter in the gym. How did you get so good so fast?

A: I focus on boxing. I watch other people. When I was young, Sosa used to say, "Forget about working out, just sit down and watch the sparring."

Q: Tell me about the jab. Why is it important and how did you develop it?

A: That's the offense and that's the defense right there. Every fight you should use it - against a short fighter, against a brawler. And the judges love to see it. I watched Mayweather and tried to jab like him. I watched Earl on the bag, they way he snapped it.

Q: What other fighters do you admire besides Mayweather?

A: To tell you the truth, I don't admire a lot of pros. I admire amateurs: Edgar, Tremaine Williams, they call him "Midget," Shakur, Josue, Earl, and Erickson Lubin, although he doesn't use his jab enough.

Q: Do you think a boxer has to be mean?

A: I do. But I think boxing is mostly about being smart. A smart fighter knows when to be mean and when not to be mean.

Q: What do you want to improve in your boxing?

A: Keeping my distance. People think it's just the jab that keeps distance, but it's everything. It's your feet, how far you step back, how you throw the right hand, your timing. Those are the two most important things in boxing, timing and distance.

Q: You had a great win tonight against Mykquan Williams, who is ranked second in the nation. The last time you fought him, he won. How did you approach the rematch?

A: I think I got robbed last time, so this time I wanted to make sure it wasn't close. I wanted to box him. The jab was the key. It set up the uppercut and it set up the right hand. I knew that Mykquan was gonna try to flick down my jab with his right hand, so I aimed it at his left eye. I saw that in Mayweather-Canelo. The second time I watched the fight, I saw that Mayweather was aiming the jab at Canelo's left eye every time. That was why Canelo wasn't blocking.

Q: While the fight was going on, did you know you were winning?

A: Yeah, I knew. I'm really confident. I know I'm gonna win this whole tournament.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

PAL Results, Day 2

Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

OK, the bad news. Lots of us got eliminated last night.

Peter Dobson, James Wilkins, and Oba Bakare all lost decisions.

Kike Bermudez was eliminated by Thomas Velasquez in a bout that featured some questionable calls from the officials. After over a minute of waiting in the ring, Kike was announced the winner by walkover, but then the opponent appeared and the bout was allowed to go on. Kike seemed to have cooled down during the wait and got off to a slow start. Just as he was picking things up in round two, an accidental headbutt cut him over the left eyebrow. The doctor stopped the fight, and it was mysteriously ruled a TKO loss. Kike looks like an action hero with his new scar.

We thought Hans Perez might have pulled it out against a strong southpaw, but the judges saw it differently.

Jayquran Hazel looked fatigued in his loss to Ve Shawn Owens. When Jay turns up in condition, very few people can beat him. 

Dago Mederos admitted to feeling a bit of ring rust as he dropped a decision to Alfonso Ponce of Anaheim PAL.

Iron Boy fell to 0-3 against his local rival Michael Stoute, but each loss has been closer than the last, and one of these days he'll get him.

And B-Hopp took a big step up in opposition against top-ranked Antonio Vargas. Here's hoping that he and all our eliminated fighters take their losses as an inspiration to keep going and train harder.

And now for the good news.

Danny Sanchez stopped Daniel De Jesus.

Shu Shu looked slick and powerful winning over Evander Agustin.

We got the answer to that burning question: Who would win if Ali fought Tyson? The winner is: Ali. Ali Salem, that is, our Egyptian-American light heavyweight, who outboxed Tyson Turner.

Dago's brother Harley kept the Mederos family alive with his second win in as many days.

Julian Sosa and Africa both won clear decisions, although both fighters know they can perform better. Both will face strong opposition today.

Big Black looked simply spectacular for the first minute of his win over Jose Medrano, but he spent the rest of the fight hanging on. He revealed later that he had been hit in the throat. Boxing is a tough sport!

And Earl "The Flash" Newman won by walkover when his opponent failed to show up at the weigh-in. 

"That guy never touched you, Earl," everyone joked at the post-fight press conference held at Denny's. 

"You were like a ghost in there."

"Your hands moved so fast we couldn't even see them."

Thirteen of us are still alive in the tournament. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jayquran and Kike Start Strong

Last night Jayquran Hazel (R) outboxed De La Rosa, and Kike Bermudez (L) beat an awkward foe. Kike liked the above picture so much that he asked me to take another one.

"Wow," he said. "I don't know if I'm really that cute or if it's just your camera."

Honorary Cops-and-Kids fighter Harley Mederos (R) also won big yesterday. Harley's brother Dago is also competing. Today will be a huge day for the team with almost everyone fighting in both morning and afternoon sessions.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Draw for PAL Nationals

"They had to come all the way to California just to fight each other?" says Coach Sosa, throwing up his hands in disgust.

JayQuran Hazel (L) and Jose De la Rosa (R) both fight out of Atlas Cops and Kids, but they will meet tonight on the first night of competition in the men's 152-pound class. Them's the breaks.

The two fighters are opposites in almost every way. Jay is a 6'2", slick southpaw who boxes behind a razor-sharp jab and entertains the team with his supremely confident banter. Jay is ranked third in the country at 141 pounds, but has been having great results at this weight. He looked spectacular in the recent New York Tournament, overwhelming every opponent he faced.

The reigning NYC Golden Gloves champ, De la Rosa is an orthodox slugger who relies on grit and conditioning to wear his opponents down. He is a quiet worker who leads by example. His brother Pablo has been volunteering his time to put our fighters through grueling circuit training workouts in preparation for this competition.

"I smoked him out easy both times," JayQuran says of their previous two meetings, but De la Rosa sees it differently.

"The first time, he beat me, but the second time I won and everybody knows it. And that was before I was with Sosa."

"He's a cool dude, but it's gonna be easy," says Jay. "I got Benny in my corner, and I'm gonna beat his a**. Write it however you want."

The trash talking will continue until the opening bell.


It is beautiful here at the Oxnard Best Western. On my way to breakfast, I saw a hummingbird.

Almost everyone else fights tomorrow:

Alexis Chaparro, 114 lb, 13-14 yr
Bruce "Shu Shu" Carrington, Jr., 114 lb, 15-16 yr
Chris "B-Hopp" Colbert, 114 lb, 17-18 yr
Jordan "Peewee" Roriguez, 114 lbs, 19-40 yr
Brenda Roman, 119 lbs, 15-16 yr female
Christina Cruz, 119 lbs, 19-40 yr female
JJ "Iron Boy" Gonzales, 123 lb, 19-40 yr
James Wilkins, 123 lb, 17-18 yr
Danny Sanchez, 123 lb, 19-40 yr
Christian "Kike" Bermudez, 132 lb, 17-18 yr
Richardson "Africa" Hitchens, 138, 15-16 yr
Julian Sosa, 141 lb, 17-18 yr
Jose De la Rosa, 152 lb, 19-40 yr
JayQuran Hazel, 152 lb, 19-40 yr
Edgar Berlanga, Jr, 154 lb, 15-16 yr
Obafore Bakore, 165 lb, 19-40 yr
Ali Salim, 178 lb, 19-40 yr
Earl Newman, 201 lb, 19-40 yr
Nkosi "Big Black" Solomon, 201+, 19-40 yr

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BOXER OF THE MONTH: Alvaro Roman Flores

Each month we will highlight the achievements of one of our young athletes. 

For our first installment, we're chatting with Alvaro "Chiquito" Roman Flores, featherweight, who just won the Title Tournament of Champions.

Q: How did you get into boxing?

A: I used to fight in school. I came here from Puebla when I was twelve, and I got picked on a lot, because I was short and didn't speak the language. My first gym was K-2 Boxing.

Q: What do you love about boxing?

A:  You can hit somebody and not get in trouble. And when you box, it doesn't matter how bad you did or how good you did, you still get respect.

Q: You've won two tournaments in a row. Suddenly you made a huge leap up in performance. How did that happen?

A: It was working with Sosa.

Q: What did Sosa teach you?

A: He tries to always make me a better boxer. He said my combinations were perfect, but I just needed to move my head more after I punch.

Q: What gives you your punching power?

A: I was born with it. It's a gift.

Q: Are you religious?

A: I believe in God. I don't go to church very often though. But I pray.

Q: Do you like school?

A: Not very much. But I want to graduate to make my mother proud and make her think that she did a good job at raising me.

Q: What else do you love besides boxing? 

A: My family. Here and back in Mexico.