Philip Gallanti was walking through downtown Riverhead with his two boys during a recent Alive on 25 when they stumbled upon something that caught their attention.
Maximus Health & Fitness on East Main Street was holding a boxing demonstration. Earlier this year, the gym opened a new facility called Impact Boxing. Mr. Gallanti’s boys, Mason, 8, and Vincent, 6, got to try on gloves and see what it was like to spar.
Mr. Gallanti said he never knew Maximus offered boxing lessons, let alone programs for children. His boys, who have played soccer, instantly were drawn to the action of boxing.
Soon after, the boys began their first boxing classes at Maximus under the guidance of coach Lou Delgado.
“I was impressed with how good coach Lou is with the kids,” said Mr. Gallanti, who lives in Riverhead. “He makes it fun. That made us want to do it even more.”
On Saturday, the boys got to spar with a local legend in the boxing community, Cletus Seldin, who’s nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer. Raised in Shirley, Mr. Seldin was a standout athlete at Longwood High School, leading the football team to the 2004 Long Island Championship. The 31-year-old is a super lightweight/light welterweight boxer who is currently 19-0 and is scheduled to fight at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington Thursday against Renald Garrido.
Mr. Seldin was the headliner of Saturday’s event in Riverhead, where community members could tour Impact Boxing, meet Mr. Seldin, and even begin training.
“We’re really trying to get the word out,” Mr. Delgado said. “I think Riverhead is really going to be a great town for this sport. I really believe it.”
The Suffolk Theater has hosted boxing events in the past as well.
The kids in attendance Saturday, which included a few girls, got to work out with Mr. Seldin and then watch him spar in the ring. He also signed autographs and posed for photos.
The gym offers a variety of boxing activities, from the fighting team that trains competitively to non-contact boxfit classes to junior boxing programs. The facility features one regulation size boxing ring and an assortment of speedbags, heavy bags and other equipment.
Impact Boxing’s roots go back to Center Moriches, where it began about four years ago. In November, Mr. Delgado said he met Maximus owner Frank Distefano, who was a former boxer. The two quickly formed a bond that turned into a working relationship. Mr. Delgado said they moved the facility from Center Moriches to Riverhead and opened in February.
The boxing room was refitted from what used to be a stretching room and cardio room. The room is still used for other activities at times during the day before the boxing begins, Mr. Delgado said.
“All the classes are really non-contact until you’re ready,” said Mr. Delgado, whose daughter Brittany is a boxer who has won two Gold Gloves titles. “The gym I started at when I was 8, 9 was like, as soon you sign up, let’s see what you got. That’s how it was back then. Now it’s different. We can teach technique without getting beat.”
Illness led George Holzman of Hampton Bays to the gym. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease within the last year and had knee replacement surgery in January. He’s 65 years old and had never boxed before, he said.
He joined the gym three or four months ago because he believed the workouts could help him.
“It’s building up my stamina,” he said. “I’m a little old for this, though.”
There are the big-name boxers who are training there as well. Mr. Delgado said Marquise Williams, who lives in East Moriches, trains at the gym and is currently fighting internationally as an amateur. He will turn pro in November, Mr. Delgado said.
Other fighters will be training for the Golden Gloves in January.
“That’s a big event that a lot of kids want to win,” Mr. Delgado said.
Top photo: Boxer Cletus Seldin leads a group of kids in a workout Saturday at the boxing facility located within Maximus Health and Fitness in Riverhead. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)