IBAM Executive Director Orlando Hernandez, center, served as the referee when John Pierre “J.P.” Regazzi, left, and Shawn Williams, right, put up their dukes in a four-round sparring session during Saturday’s IBAM open house at its new location at 44 Pleasant Street in Monticello.
IBAM looks to ring in the new year with new home
By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO Even though the International Boxing Academy of Monticello (IBAM) has a new home, its mission remains the same.
“We want to keep kids away from the gangs, drugs and alcohol,” IBAM Executive Director Orlando Hernandez said.
Hernandez described IBAM’s mission during an open house last Saturday afternoon. The open house gave IBAM members and community members alike a chance to see the academy’s new location in the Preacherman Plumbing & Heating building at 44 Pleasant Street.
The event featured sparring, Zumba demonstrations, an art class and refreshments.
Hernandez, who is the Director of the Residential Treatment Facility at The Recovery Center in Monticello, knows first hand how getting involved with a sport like boxing can have a positive impact on a person’s life. He grew up in Brooklyn and South Jamaica, Queens amid gangs and violence. He said he began fighting with other youngsters at the age of 8.
“One time, I was fighting two other kids in church and the priest grabbed me by the back of my neck,” Hernandez said. “He took me aside and taught me how to fight.”
Hernandez went on to become an amateur boxer and has been sober for 27 years. He and his fellow IBAM trainers are hoping to help as many youngsters as they can to use boxing as a positive alternative to the streets.
IBAM began in 2007 thanks to the work of co-founders Ed Branch Jr. and Ray Sheenan. The program held its first lessons in the Ted Stroebele Recreation before moving to other locations in Monticello. Among them were the former Monticello Fire Department on Pleasant Street and the Sullivan County BOCES building on St. John Street. In fact, IBAM still has some of its equipment in the BOCES building.
IBAM moved from its most recent home, the BOCES building, because of the need for more space, especially for its boxing ring.
“And this building is more centrally located,” Hernandez explained. “Many of our boxers can walk here.”
Among those attending the open house were Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins, Village of Monticello Trustee Carmen Rue and Village of Monticello Police Chief Doug Solomon.
Rue noted that she donated a stairmaster and treadmill to IBAM. And Jenkins spoke about the benefits of such a program.
“This is a beautiful facility,” said Jenkins, whose father Jesse Jenkins was a professional boxer.
Gordon Jenkins, who was an amateur boxer for many years and considered turning pro but instead chose a career as a corrections officer, added, “We need positive programs like this to keep our kids away from the dangers of the streets.”
A couple of years ago, IBAM had about 20 fighters. Of those 20, eight had sanctioned fight books from Metro USA Boxing.
Currently, IBAM has eight boxers and 10 more in training. Those boxers include Kenny Corby, Edward Male, Tito Male, Mike Harris, Mark O’Banner, Mike Rodriguez, John Pierre “J.P.” Regazzi, Jean Vargas and Shawn Williams.
Regazzi, who lives in Ferndale, and Williams, a Monticello resident, put on a four-round sparring exhibition during the open house.
“I like it a lot,” Regazzi, a 21-year-old crusierweight, said of the new IBAM facility. “It’s great to train here.”
“It’s nice,” agreed Williams, a 21-year-old light heavyweight and 2009 graduate of Monticello High School.
Vargas was one of the first fighters to join IBAM when it started. He recently moved back to Monticello after living in Albany the past couple of years.
He’s happy to be back with IBAM and gave a thumbs-up to the new facility.
“I like it,” said Vargas, who also taught some of the younger boxers during IBAM’s first months of existence. “It’s good to have this new, bigger place.”
Regazzi, Vargas, Williams and their fellow boxers are trained by Hernandez and several other trainers, all of whom have extensive amateur boxing backgrounds and are licensed trainers. Those trainers include Rick Gonsalves, Lisa Tracy, Jesse York all of whom live in Sullivan County and Paco Santiago from Middletown and Manny of Ellenville.
In addition to holding boxing three hours a night on weeknights, the IBAM gym hosts Zumba classes, a bootcamp course, a hip hop class, dance battles and an art class several days a week. A boxing with kids class is slated to begin later this month and a weekend scrapbooking class will start in January.
Sheenan noted that Sullivan County Community College has contacted IBAM about holding some boxing courses at the facility. In addition, IBAM trainers have also discussed having West Point boxers train at the gym.
There is no fee for any program at IBAM, including the boxing, Zumba and art classes. Instead, the participants are encouraged to make donations to IBAM.
IBAM is a 501c not-for-profit organization. None of its boxing trainers, Zumba or art instructors are paid. IBAM maintains its not-for-profit status because it is not affiliated with the Village of Monticello or any other entity and completely depends on donations.
Hernandez noted that by hosting Zumba and other dance classes, IBAM is not seeking to compete with gyms and fitness centers in the area. Instead, holding the classes at IBAM is an opportunity for more people to learn about the academy and perhaps it will lead to donations to keep the academy going.
“As long as we can raise $800 each month to pay the rent, we’re fine,” Hernandez said. “We rely totally on donations from the community to keep these programs going.”
One supporter of IBAM is Frank Powers, the owner of Preacherman Plumbing & Heating.
“We didn’t reach out to him, he reached out to us,” Sheenan said. “He made a lot of renovations to this space and really helped us out.”
Powers was glad to assist IBAM.
“This is a good program,” he said. “I hope IBAM keeps going for many years to come.”