Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Mike Hayden

It's hard to find anyone in the NYC boxing community who doesn't love Shu Shu.

photo: Debi Cornwall

Bruce Carrington, Jr. is the pride and joy of Atlas Cops and Kids. He's an extraordinary athlete and also a great student, brother, and community member. We were devastated to learn last week of the death, by gun, of his elder brother Michael Hayden (below left).

Mike trained a few times at our gym when his illness permitted. He was a gentle young man, the kind of person who made everyone around him happy. We send our love and prayers to Shu Shu and his whole family. Our new intern, Julian, typed out the obituary from the funeral program:

Reflection of Life 

Michael Davon Hayden, Jr., 21, of brooklyn, NY, entered into eternal rest on November 21, 2014. In the early morning hours on May 22, 1993, God extended his almighty hand and touched the brow of a beautiful baby boy at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, to the proud parents, Kelly Simpkins and Michael Hayden, Sr.

At the present of birth, this little bundle of joy was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Throughout his journey in life, Michael fought  this disease with every ounce of strength he had because he was determined to beat it. While at times, he was very weak; again, the Almighty God would touch this angel and with the help of his extraordinary medical team, Michael would be like new. Did Mike beat sickle cell anemia, one would ask? YES, he did!

Michael was educated in The Brooklyn Public School System. He attended PS 346 and the Frederick Douglass Academy; however, because of his illness, Mike (eventually) had to be home-schooled. 

One of Mike’s favorite pastimes and passions in life was playing games on his Playstation and competing with people from abroad, but his biggest competition and greatest enjoyment was playing the game with his youngest brother, Blake. He also enjoyed watching his brother, Shu Shu, train for boxing tournaments. Last but not least, Skeet, my big brother and best friend, I will always be with you. To Skeet, Shu Shu, Alexis, and blake: continue to work mommy PROUD! Mike loved all of his brothers and sisters and cherished the time he spent with each and every one of them. 

Recently, Mike traveled to Las Vegas and he had the time of his life with the love of his life, Tatiana. He told everyone how much fun he had, and he really enjoyed spending quality time with her. She was his everything! Mike really loved spending time with family and friends. 

Michael was predeceased by his maternal grandmother, Deborah Simpkins, as well has his paternal grandmother and grandfather, Janet Hayden and Hayden. 

Michael leaves to cherish his memory and to celebrate his life, his mother, Kelly Simpkins; his father, Michael (Yolanda) Hayden, Sr.; step-father, Bruce Carrington; maternal grandfather, Tyrone Watkins; step-grandmother, Flossie Carrington; and step-grandfather, Johnny McCoy; is siblings Skeet, Bruce Carrington, Jr., Alexis Carrington, Blake Carrington, Mecole Hayden, Ashine Hayden, Amari Hayden, and Itazhia Haskins all of Brooklyn , NY; his devoted girlfriend, Tatiana White; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, other relatives, friends and neighbors.  

Our other intern, Elijah, offers this poem:


Why black on black beef?
Where does it come from? 
Why can’t we love each other is the feelings numb?  
I’m bout to set it off,  boxing runner up 
Tell my brothers put the guns down lets have fun 
maybe pop a bottle like we’re over 21 
I want live free not die young

This poem is about parents losing sons 
Black on black violence 
13-year-olds with guns  
All they want to do is take the air out their brothers lungs
Fight to the top and you can’t fail 
Don’t want to be behind bars I never liked cells 
Life’s hell and the drama never ends, 
so don’t fall in like a coin in a wishing well.  

Im made of gold
so Im just waiting 
Mommy always grinding daddy was a hustler 
Im the abomination they created 
two thoroughbreds produced a knuckle head 
I walk the streets and try to keep faith 
Im just waiting Im just waiting for my turn 
Im from the land of no return 
so Im putting on until the world shake 
to get a house built on a island 
For my momma.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

English 102

From boxer Terrence Placide comes this essay on love in Nikki Giovanni's "Legacies."

by Nikki Giovanni

her grandmother called her from the playground   
       “yes, ma’am”
       “i want chu to learn how to make rolls” said the old   
woman proudly
but the little girl didn’t want
to learn how because she knew
even if she couldn’t say it that
that would mean when the old one died she would be less   
dependent on her spirit so
she said
       “i don’t want to know how to make no rolls”
with her lips poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
       these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and i guess nobody ever does

Terrence and I worked on giving the poem a close read, writing simple sentences, and making strong points. His professor liked his essay so much she had him read it aloud to the class. Go champ!

Terrence Placide
English 102
June 19,2014

Grandparents ought to be treated with respect no matter how young or old you are, because without them you wouldn’t exist. Staying by your grandparents’ side shows that you have strong, respectable morals. However, expressing your thoughts towards your grandparents can be very difficult.

In the short poem “Legacies,” Nikki Giovanni tells the story of a conversation between a girl and her grandmother. The grandmother had called the girl from the playground. She politely responded, “Yes, ma’am.” That illustrates the girl had respect for her grandmother. 

The grandmother said to her that she wanted to make rolls together. The grandmother expresses the words “proudly,” which indicates how excited she is to teach the girl. Her grandmother is trying to make her realize it’s time to be an adult, because, if she passes away, how is the girl going to learn how to do certain things on her own?

The girl feels that she wants to stay dependent on her grandmother. If she knew how to make rolls by herself, then  “when the old one died she would be less dependent on her spirit.” This quote explains the fear she has of losing her grandmother.

The girl poked out her lips saying that she didn’t want to learn how to make rolls. She keeps all of her expressions and emotions inside of her. The grandmother thought that she was being disrespectful so she wiped off her hands on the apron which shows the anger she was feeling towards the girl. The grandmother felt that nowadays kids are ungrateful for not appreciating legacy. 

The sad thing about this poem is that the girl and her grandmother both feel the same thing. They both love each other. The grandmother’s way of expressing love is for her granddaughter to be independent and grow, learning how to do things on her own. The girl’s way of showing love is by depending on her grandmother by not learning how to do things on her own. The grandmother and her granddaughter fail to communicate the love for each other. Giovanni concludes the poem, “Neither of them ever said what they meant and I guess nobody ever does.” 

It is hard to tell someone you love what you really feel inside. It’s even harder when there is an age difference and different mentalities. Communication between generations is very hard for this reason, and sometimes we end up hurting the people we love.

The poem touched my heart. I imagined going back to my country, Haiti, and telling my grandmother how I felt all of these years when I was silent and afraid to speak up. When I decided to tell her how happy I was to have her in my presence, it was already too late.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Thug's Warning

"Writing comes from pain," says Eric, a police officer in the 67th precinct.

A native of Homestead, Florida, Eric was a high school football player and wrestler, ranked as high as third in the state, until a knee injury sidelined him. He worked as a corrections officer in juvenile justice before joining the NYPD. After he gets off patrol, he comes to Flatbush Gardens to train alongside our youth. We love having him in our boxing family.

"If it wasn't for wrestling and football, I could have been in the drug game," says Eric.

"If you have something proactive to do, it keeps you off the streets. The summer's coming. School's over. The more kids in the gym, that's less people I have to run after during the day."

A Thug's Warning

To you young thugs
You dumb thugs
This poem is for you
A warning to rise up
From that which consumes you

You conjure ideas
In a paradox way
Your dexterity with money
Will assure you're affluent one day

But at what risk and what cost are you willing to pay?
The police are out to get you,
Give you years and send you away
The drug dealers are out to shoot you
And send you to your grave

Your neurotic need for money
Will slap you in your face
You comprise many hustles,
Which is the safest way?

Decipher your clouded life
And make a choice today
Reluctance will only hinder you
There's no need to hesitate

Treachery, torture and anguish
Are what thugs must embrace
An incalculable amount of pain
While living the thuggish way

I live my life vehemently,
Happy and worry-free each day

True happiness begins
When you denounce
Your thuggish ways.

The Man in Me

No father at home, I grew up alone
struggling to find the man in me. I'm torn
between choices, good and evil voices
coaching and telling me which me to be.

I have the thugs on the streets, selling
drugs, getting cheese, flashing their money
and tempting me. But a voice says to me don't
be fooled by the green, go to school child and
read. Watch the thugs envy thee.

It's my choice so I have no remorse for the 
voice that loses to the voice I choose, I'm
just happy I found the man in me. Now I take
to the street this man I came to be, you 
could either love me or let me be... the man in

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fossil Heart

Elijah, 17, is an honors student at Academy for Young Writers in East New York. He is a talented track athlete who just took up boxing and already shows great promise. Elijah wrote this rap for his father Jahmien, who was shot to death by police when Elijah was seven.

"Writing poems relaxes my mind, lets me explore, and helps me to not feel trapped," Elijah says.

Fossil Heart

Heart beating I could feel it in my chest
cause I’ve been having nightmares waking up in
cold sweats, things been getting out of order
Where do I start? suffering from broken Hearts
and a pinch of paranoia
Drop tears for my brothers that done died
arose from the jungle struggling to stay alive
Tryna make this rap work so I can get up out the ville
only nine years left we gone make it pass 25
yo Ima ride
you put my family together but made my momma lose it
so when I see you brother its gone be a horror movie
See I was only a toddler I couldn’t sleep at night
now I got em going stupid like retarded groupies.
you took my father away you a loser brother
you took one of mines now I got a group of brothers
because of you I’ve been living with a bad temper
It’s on sight when I see you Ima need some
I had to rap like that to shine like this through all
the broads I hit and the bars I spit
it couldn’t equal to all the tears for the father I miss
I got some anger bottled up
so I got my bottles up
and I drunk my life away like a Jew would do in
Heart trapped up in a fossil so I’m crying by
a large amount
Drinking all this liquor
Just drinking till I’m throwing up
but you know it’s love when you was alive
this was your dream now it’s mines
so I’m doing it for the both of us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wild Essays from B-Hop and Africa

Team USA's boxers just arrived in Bulgaria for the Youth World Championships, and we wish them victory, especially our flyweight friend Shakur Stevenson of Newark.

USA Boxing had originally announced that Wild Card boxers would be allowed to compete in a box-off for the right to contend. Two of our top-ranked youths submitted applications, but in the end USA Boxing did not accept any applicants. There aren't any Atlas Cops and Kids in Bulgaria, but we hope to change that come Rio.

B-Hop might be pro by then, though. Here he is, in the blue, winning PC Richards Boxer of the Night for his Golden Gloves debut triumph over defending novice champ Khalid Twaiti. Our eyes at ringside, Karen Naranjo, reported that watching B-Hop win was "like watching a beautifully choreographed dance."

Photo: Ken Goldfield for the NY Daily News

I think I deserve a chance to represent the USA because I am a great fighter with a lot of potential, heart, and will, but I’ve only been boxing for four years. I’m a two-time national champion, one-time world champion.  
I have fought a lot of experienced people in national competition: Keshawn Williams, Omar Figueroa, Antonio Vargas, Jordan Rodriguez, Chayenne Rivera, and Corey Conner. The only ones who beat me were Antonio Vargas and Omar Figueroa, both on split decision. I have won a lot of local tournaments, too, such as the NY Metros (twice), JO States (twice), and Metro Regionals. Since I was 16, I have been fighting grown men, 19 years old up to 27.  
Even if I don’t get picked to do international competition, I think I would be a good sparring partner for the 114-pound fighters such as Shakur Stevenson and 108-pounders like Nico Hernandez. I am a good sportsman and would be able to cheer the team on. By me being there and getting great work with top-ranked fighters, that would give me experience, I would learn a lot, and then it would help me make the team the next time around.
If I was able to go back to the 2014 Youth Worlds in Reno, from watching all the good fighters, I think I would be on the team now. I have picked my training up to the next level. I train two times a day now: running, conditioning, and studying pros and amateur boxers. I keep that motivation in my head, that Team USA motivation.
If you pick me to represent the team, I won’t let you down. I have got that will to win. I can box and I can fight, and I don’t like losing. Boxing is my life. I train all day, and I sleep, eat, and drink boxing. I know if I get picked for Team USA, I’m going to turn up. 

Richardson "Africa" Hitchins is one of our most talented athletes, a true student of the game who just keeps getting better. Here he is with Coach Aureliano Sosa after winning his first open-level bout last weekend. Africa is also B-Hop's rival for the title of Loudest Boxer in the Gym. 

The sage Pat Russo edited Africa's essay before submitting it to USA Boxing in order to "humble it up." While we agree with everything Pat Russo does, we are publishing the unhumble version here because we don't have the edit and because we don't necessarily object to grandiosity in a young lion. Perhaps it is Africa's indomitable ego that makes him such a fearless practitioner of the straight right hand. 

I think I deserve to be invited to the OTC because I have the most talent in my weight, I am still getting better, and I know I’m going to represent the USA hard. You have to make boxing your life, and at this point, all I know is boxing. That is my life. I started when I was twelve. I won my first fight, and then I lost five fights in a row. I remember I cried in the locker room and said, “This isn’t for me.” As a grown man, you know you can get better but as a kid that really messes you up, losing five in a row. But then something in the back of my head said, “Keep going. Change it up.”  
Me and my coach Sosa started working more. He worked alone with me, because he saw something in me, some talent. He used to call me the sleeping horse. 
I just started winning, and I went from people saying I was dirt to them saying I’m one of the best fighters out there. I won as a junior the 2013 PAL Nationals and the 2013 Junior Golden Glove Nationals. In Reno, I beat the person that was supposed to win the whole tournament, Brandon Trejo, and I beat him in the Junior National Golden Glove finals, too, and I beat him easy. I beat a lot of top JO fighters, too.  
I study boxing. I don’t just watch pro fighters. I watch the amateurs, too. You have to watch everybody and learn from them all. I watched Earl Newman in my gym, because he had the best jab. I watched a lot of Rau’shee Warren and Marcus Browne. Marcus says I’m one of his favorite fighters and he says I have what it takes to be a 2016 Olympian. That motivates me even more. I want to prove the people who believe in me right.
All the great fighters have two things: The ability to time the opponent and the ability to keep their distance. I see what Floyd means when he says, “Fighters can know how to fight, but do you know how to win?” In the late rounds of a close fight, when you are staring at each other, the judges want to see who will be the first person to throw a punch, who will hold their ground more, who is looking more confident, who is landing the cleaner punches, who is controlling the pace.  
That was my biggest mistake in Reno. I could have dominated if I decided to be first. Mark Dawson was getting off first. He was pushing me back. He was probably more in shape. I think you got to take a loss in order to know how to win. When I came back I learned from my mistake. I watched the tape, and I saw little things like my left hand being low, him catching me with sneaky shots. I know that the next time we fight, it’s going to be different.  
If USA Boxing is looking for talent, I feel like I am it. I’ve got what Floyd calls god gifted. In due time my experience is going to come and I’m going to be complete. If you let me come to the OTC and improve it, I will show all the coaches there who is best 141. Because I’m not looking for a national title any more. I’m looking for gold medals only. 
I’m going to help the USA by representing it just like how I represent my home team and my city. It’s win or die, win or go home. At this level that’s basically all I know how to do. When I go to the OTC, you’re going to see that everything I said in this essay is true. And the international world is going to see another red-white-and-blue fighter winning everything.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BOXER OF THE MONTH - Anthony Demonte

Charismatic welterweight Anthony Demonte, 17, is the first boxer from Atlas Cops and Kids' new Berry Homes gym to compete in the Golden Gloves. Here he is with trainer Pat Basciano after three rounds of sparring with top youth boxer Hans Perez. Anthony is currently 11-0. He hopes to make it an even dozen this Thursday at Tottenville High School.

"You'll see one kid sell out that whole show," says Pat. "Because he goes to school there and everyone loves him. Wait until he gets in the ring and see how they cheer."

Q: How did you get started boxing?

A: I walked into a boxing gym for the first time at 12 years old. I wanted to get in shape for football, but I fell in love with boxing after the first workout and ended up quitting my other sports. I grew up loving boxing. Me and my dad used to watch all the fights, but at first he didn't want me to do it myself and get hit with punches.

Q: He must have changed his mind when he saw how good you are! What was it that made you fall in love with boxing?

A: Everything. The nervousness before the fight. The ambition you've gotta put in. I love that it's just you in there. It's a very mental sport. And as a kid I always loved physical contact. That's why I liked football, too.

Q: The kids at my gym call you "Muscles." What do you do to get in such good condition?

A: I train five days a week, and Pat trains me very hard. I do a lot of calisthenics. And then two days a week I run, with wind sprints at the end.

Q: Tell me about your first Golden Gloves bout.

A: It was a good fight. I'm a little shorter than most of the guys at 152, but I'm stronger. The kid I fought was three or four inches taller than me, so I had to adjust quick, slip punches, and get inside. He was dropping his left, so I started throwing the lead right.

Q: It's pretty hard to land the lead right.

A: (laughs) Yeah it is.

Q: Who's your favorite boxer?

A: Rocky Marciano, because he's the best Italian fighter. I want to bring the Italian back to boxing.

Q: How do you do in school?

A: Pretty good. I passed all my classes.

Q: What do you want to do after you graduate?

A: Some day I hope to be a longshoreman like my father. But for now I want to see where boxing leads me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Boxing Is Not a Solo Sport....

A huge thank you to all our friends who responded to the year-end fundraising drive. Together we brought in almost $1500, enough to pay hotel for the gang from Flatbush Gardens heading to the Nationals in Spokane next week.

And if you didn't get the chance to contribute yet, why not start the year off right? All donations are fully tax deductible and help us heat the gym in winter.

Special thanks to Etsuko Tamazawa and Sean Moran for their heavyweight contributions, Tyler's dad for giving us their treadmill, and to Justin Neely, who took it into the championship rounds by sharing our appeal with his friends and family.

Justin is a wonderful artist whom I met when I wandered into his open studio. His bright creations in paint and digital media reveal a deep relationship with music and language. He said I could share the beautiful appeal he wrote in memory of his late stepfather. 

68.brushes by Justin Neely

Today, on the fourth anniversary of my stepfather Michael's passing, I'm choosing to remember him and celebrate his life by making a small donation to a nonprofit youth boxing gym. And guess what—for those who knew him (hello, all my cousins: Andrea, Dina, Greg, Hollye, Rachel, Jennifer, Seth, Nathaniel, Stephanie), I'm asking you to consider doing the same.

Serendipitously, a friend (Sarah,writer and champion boxer doing amazing work beyond the bounds of sport at this gym) posted this appeal just a day or so ago. It inspired me to focus on things that gave Michael joy, rather than dwell on tough medical blows he endured lifelong, or most painfully the last devastating fight that took him and took so much energy from my mother.

Michael loved many things that were easy common ground for us. Art, music, woodworking and fishing—he was talented in many areas—were real passions. His ability to build things and to frame works of art with delicacy, accuracy and a truly personal vision are facilities that I especially admired. As I pursue an art-centered life, I miss the ability to seek his advice on solutions to challenges that arise in presenting artwork almost every day.

Harrowing Misadventures (all images via

But boxing. What the hell? Was Michael more than a metaphorical fighter? No, friends, he didn't knock people out (though he sometimes wanted to as he dealt with the trials of running the parts department at the family appliance business). He just loved the sport. Loved watching it to the point that, without resorting to pay-per-view, he would seek out "boxeo" with no need to understand the commentary. He understood the language of movement and strategy and grit.

I didn't get to watch too many fights with him, but I did get to watch him watch a few times and learned to understand more about the sport than I ever had before. He made me appreciate what I wasn't understanding. Even before basketball turned for me from passion to religion, I could relate to his love of boxing.

In truth, time we didn't get to spend watching fights together is one of too many examples of not having time or resources enough to learn things from him I wanted to. He wasn't always an easy communicator and we came from very different places in essence and experience. But over twenty years we certainly came to love each other, respect each other's special talents and try to share with each other as much as we could. What we didn't get to do in actuality, we at least wished with palpable intentions.

I can fairly say that we inspired each other. I take an autodidact's approach to using power tools (as stupid and dangerous as it sounds, I refuse to give up) with the image of him watching over me with encouragement (and maybe a few chuckles at my lack of natural aptitude in this area). I remember joyfully that my pursuit of painting got him to pick up paint and brushes again and our last trip in the outside world together combined stops at an art supplies store and a Home Depot.

I really f*&#ing miss him. It still makes me physically sick to think of his absence and, more powerfully, to know my mother no longer gets to enjoy everything that made him a singular companion for her. What fun he might have had with Kinta, too. But, platitude thought it may be, we don't get to choose when people come into our lives or exit.

So I'll enjoy some warm weather, keep packing boxes (learned how much time a tape gun save you from him!) and hope that $25 somehow helps the kids at this gym have better lives through the experience of good relationships with people like Sarah, their other trainers, coaches and mentors—and, of course, each other. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tribute to a Working Mother

by Jay Allen, age 20

Jay wrote this sonnet a few years ago for her mother Alicia, who passed away this Thanksgiving. She read it at the funeral and has kindly allowed us to share it here. We were already proud of Jay for realizing her lifetime dream of being accepted into the Navy. Now we are even prouder of how she is handling such a difficult loss at such a young age. 

Jay is due to ship out next month. We will miss her, but we are glad to see her chase her dream, undaunted. In the meantime she has been taking good care of her little sister and coming into the gym when she has time. Today she sparred a few rounds with her fellow writer Athol, whose English term paper you can read by scrolling down.

Jay and Alicia

Tribute to a Working Mother

If anyone deserves a prize and merits recognition, 
It is the working mother. We should praise her position. 
She balances a host of duties, home and job related, 
And takes your breath away to see a life so dedicated. 
It really is amazing to observe her life in action, 
Yet sad that her own private time is merely an abstraction. 
We understand her true frustration, for the job's unfinished, 
Yet stand in utter awe of her ambition undiminished. 
The working mother is the rarest blend of love and caring. 
She reaches out to do so much; her life is one of sharing. 
Let’s never take for granted her uniqueness and her drive. 
Her routine is the toughest one a person can survive. 
What kind of recognition is she owed by all the rest? 
The highest. But she’ll settle for a little bit of rest.