NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Located in an inconspicuous and, for the moment, non-descript building at 121 Jersey Avenue, is a place where children, teenagers and adults from all over Northeast have been coming for years to learn a skill many of them would likely otherwise learn the hard way: the ability to fight.
When one walks into New Brunswick Boxing Gym, they see an established mainstay that also resembles a work-in-progress. Owner and operator, Steve Rivera, has been laboring day and night for months to realize an ambitious expansion that will include state-of-the-art equipment, larger facilities and expert training–in other words, a champion’s gym.
"I build my fighters to compete," says Rivera over the rhythmic soundtrack of speed-bags and rope-skipping.
Rivera, who jokes that he was born with boxing gloves on his hands, had an abbreviated career as a fighter before turning to training, his true calling. During his decades-long tenure as a trainer, Rivera has worked with numerous Golden and Silver Glove champions at various age-levels.
Rivera's most recent prospect is not only a promising 108-pounder whose punches I can hear all the way across the room, it also happens to be his son-in-law: Leroy Davila. Davila finished second at the USA Nationals in February and advanced to the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.
Aside from Davila, New Brunswick Boxing Gym has been a home to aspiring fighters of all ages who train hard to convince Rivera that they’re hungry and ready to work.
"I tell my guys they have to train at least six days a week. This is a lifestyle and you have to really want it."
Those who are not interesting in going pro need not worry. Rivera’s expansion plans include facilities for those who want to integrate boxing into their regular workout, but don’t have any plans to compete.
"You can come here and hit the bags, we’ve got weight machines and everything else. And if you want, I can also offer you some tips." Plans also include a mixed martial arts school for those interested in other styles of fighting.
In addition to physical discipline and conditioning, the gym has served as a community hub where those interested in the sweet science can learn in safety and peace.
"My teams are like families," says Rivera. "I’ve had people training here from Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City and many other towns and everybody gets along great."
Rivera remains committed to building competitive and champion-caliber fighters while offering a place for people to work out and improve their boxing skills, no matter how advanced or undeveloped they happen to be.
A former fighter, veteran trainer, father and de facto community advocate, Rivera says that he is excited for the gym to open its doors again. The gym has been closed for some time but Rivera says he is scheduled for a city inspection this week, that could pave the way for a re-opening later this month.
"In the meantime," says Rivera, "Keep visiting the website for more information."
The boxing gym's website is NewBrunswickBoxingGym.com.