The newly-minted Dorchester Boxing Club is tucked away inside a concrete building on the short end of Parkman Street, just off the busy intersection of Neponset Avenue and Adams Street. The gym’s occupants put their work in behind a garage door of the old warehouse just behind a funeral home.
The gym, which opened its doors three weeks ago, is run by Savin Hill’s Dan Kelly, 55, and his son Jason, 20, who is a certified personal trainer with prior experience at the Boston Sports Club in Fenway and also a USA Boxing certified coach.
“I’m just glad we can do this, I get to help young kids in the community, while keeping the sport alive,” said Jason Kelly, who sees the gym as a budding business, but also as a safe haven for kids in the neighborhood.
“It’s a good sport, and I’m a little biased because it’s my favorite sport, but it teaches you discipline among other stereotypical things,” Kelly told the Reporter this week.
Like many kids in the neighborhood, Jason got his start in the sport through a program at the McKeon Post in Cedar Grove. His dad Dan, who came to Boston from his native Ireland in 1986, has a passion for the sport himself, although he never boxed in his youth. His son’s involvement over the last decade has fueled his own interest in starting a club that can focus on kids from their home neighborhood.
“I’ve been trying to get a club together for the last 10 years,” says Dan Kelly, who has scouted Dorchester for suitable gym locations for much of that time. “This place is the best one I’ve seen. It’s perfect for what we want to do. Dorchester is biggest part of the city and it needs a boxing club.”
Jason, who continues to box competitively, has also gained a level of fame through an acting career. He got his start playing the young Sean Flynn in Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel Mystic River. He has also appeared in the crime series The Brotherhood on Showtime.
But boxing is central to Kelly’s life going forward— and the sport has been a proving ground and an anchor for him as a young man.
“There are other aspects [of the sport] that could be the opposite of what most kids or adults think,” Jason Kelly continued. “It helps you remain calm under pressure and keep your cool in situations. It teaches you not to think with your emotions but to use your brain because in the sport you need to use your mind. This gym could give kids a sense of community and self.”
The best example to date, of the kind of impact the club hopes to have is 16 year-old Zachary Fenton, a Savin Hill teen who wasn’t necessarily on the right track prior to boxing. Fenton reminds Jason Kelly of himself just a few years back.
“I was an impulsive kid,” Kelly said. “I acted out strictly on impulse alone, and boxing changed that and made me a better person.”
Since he started training with the Kellys, Zack has a noticeably different attitude, according to Jason, and is now making honor roll at his high school.
“Instead of being on the streets on a Friday night where not much good is going on, Zack is in the gym running drill after drill, and it has clearly impacted him in a positive way,” said Jason Kelly.
On December 17, Zack became the first fighter to represent the Dorchester Boxing Club in a competitive match. It was Zachary’s third amateur fight, but the first with the new gym and he scored an impressive victory over a much bigger opponent in Gloucester.
“I was excited to be the first fighter representing the gym and glad I could get the win. It felt good,” Fenton told the Reporter.
Zack went out of his way to point out how the gym has kept him on the right track and kept him out of trouble and he wanted to spread the word.
“The gym can help you in different ways. You don’t need to be a boxer; you don’t need to be a fighter. It will help you become a better person, you will learn things you didn’t think you could do, and push your limits beyond what you thought you could,” Fenton said.
Anthony Hines, 23, is another trainer at the gym. Hines has been involved in boxing since he was 16 and has dedicated much time and donated many personal items to the gym to do anything he can to get the gym going. Hines was in and out of boxing for the past seven years and wishes the gym was open back when he was that young.
Hines, who grew up in Dorchester, said it was difficult for him to be as dedicated when he had to either go to South Boston or Quincy which he admitted may have led him into trouble at some points.
“The kids are more important now,” said Hines of his work at the club. “I’ve been there and know what the gym can do, and I don’t want them making bad decisions if I can help.”
Fenton, Kelly and Hines will all fight in an amateur event being held at the Dorchester Armory on Jan. 29 in the afternoon. For more information on the Dorchester Boxing Club and the upcoming bouts at the armory, call Dan Kelly at 617-842-7203.
Mickey Finn, a Dorchester resident who is president of the Ring 4 organization — which includes current and former boxers and enthusiasts— said he was pleased to hear that a new gym had opened in the neighborhood.
“I think it will draw in everybody from that location — it’s central and a nice area,” said Finn. “A lot of people are drawn to the sport for the workout. But, it’s also great for kids to learn discipline.”