SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - When it started training fighters 30 years ago, finding the Irish Boxing Club in Weston Fieldhouse required a little bit of persistence.
It was located in the far reaches of the Providence Road recreation center, and its facilities were modest.
On Thursday, thanks to the persistence of a former professional boxer, the boxing club dedicated its far more modern facilities on the second floor of the field house, as well as refocusing on doing more for the area’s youth than just teaching boxing skills.
“Boxing is a great sport. Having a facility like this now, it’s going to be beneficial and attractive to the youth that come. It’s a huge benefit for the community having this here.”
Marty Flynn, himself an alumnus of the Irish Boxing Club and a professional fighter for 15 years, learned many of his life lessons within the confines of the ring. It’s something he wants to see continue, and why he not only pushed benefactors to help, but contributed his own money toward the project.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” Flynn, 38, said. “It does reach the unreachable kids because it teaches hard work, discipline. Nobody’s is going to help you in life. Nobody is going to give you anything in life.
“It helps you find the steel within you in life. Even if it’s just not quitting. This ring taught me more than any other classroom in my entire life. It’s a classroom in the sense it highlighted that steel inside me. You learn to work things out. With discipline, hard work, good things happen.”
Mydia Alonso, a 14-year old freshman at Coughlin High School in Wilkes-Barre, is a shining example of that. She’s already had 40 amateur fights, has won a pair of national titles and will fight at the USA Boxing Junior Olympic National Championships next month in Charleston, West Virginia.
But the honor-roll student also is the standard-bearer for what Long, Flynn and Irish Boxing Club founder Gene Reed hope will be a longer line of success stories.
“It teaches you discipline,” Alonso said. “I used to be very angry. It’s taught me how to be humble.
“It’s very hard. I’m not going to lie. This sport is really, really hard and it’s not something you play. You’re actually fighting for your life.”
And that requires the wherewithal to maintain your wits when another fighter is trying to pound you into submission.
“She’s learned how to control herself better,” said Alonso’s mother, Millie. “She’s more focused, in boxing and in school, and her education comes first.”
In an arena dominated by male competitors, Alonso is not intimidated. Perhaps it’s because her father and grandfather were boxers.