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February 14, 2014     Post-Gazette
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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 14, 2014 I PETER WELCH ON "THE FIGHTERS," and BOXING'S FUTURE Peter Welch in front of the mural in his gym. The other day I caught up with Peter Welch, the proprietor of Peter Welch's Gym, at the Lincoln Tavern in South Boston. While having lunch we discussed a num- ber of topics relating to boxing, his passion and life's work. When you first meet Welch you know you are talking to a no- nonsense guy who it would not be a good idea to give any lip to. The former unde- feated pro boxer shows little signs of the battles he fought in the ring other than his slightly rearranged nose, a testament to his boxing skills. Yes, Peter is a tough guy, but one with a heart and he uses that heart every day in working to get kids off the mean streets of the city and into his gym where they learn there is much more to life than drugs and fighting. Naturally, the first subject to come up was the recent premiere on the Discovery Channel of "The Fighters," much of which was filmed in his gym. The first episode left people thirsting for more, but when Anthony McKenna of they tuned in the "The Fighters" following week the show was not on. What happened? "Ratings" was his response. "They were looking for a certain number and we just didn't hit that. It's a shame as I know the ratings would have improved in the following weeks as the buzz over the program would begin to grow." I can certainly attest to that fact judging by the number of people who contacted me to express their disappointment at not being able to see more. Peter went on to say that what folks saw in the first episode was just a small part of a much bigger story. "It's like being given a book and after reading the first chapter, the book is stolen from you. You never get to see the story fully developed." I told him that while everyone I talked to liked the program, some were concerned about the language and roughhousing that went on in some scenes. He told me "The TV people were looking for an edginess, they even wanted us to get involved in a barroom fight. I refused that request. They felt that would grab the viewer's attention faster than try- ing to delve too deeply into the human-in- terest side of the boxing game. People would have seen more of the good side of the sport had the series been allowed to play out. As it is, they did get to see two young men train hard and compete against each other in an exciting boxing match and when it was over, they got to see a terrific display of sports- manship by both of these young athletes." What has become of Anthony McKenna, the young man who had struggled with sub- stance abuse and who lost a close decision in that fight? "I am happy to tell you that he has gone on to have ten more bouts includ- ing making it to the finals of the Golden Gloves. But, beyond that, he is now working at my gym and learning about what is involved in running a business. He is gain- ing computer skills and is looking to one day be a certified trainer and possibly even open his own gym. He is one of boxing's suc- cess stories." Peter is forever the optimist. Having the show canceled after all the work that went into making it happen doesn't faze him in the least. Is he disappointed? Sure he is, but more so for the young people who worked so hard to prepare for their bouts and now will not get to see themselves on television. Welch expressed to me his positive outlook when he told me "You will always have set- backs and failures, the important thing is to learn from them and move forward." So, what is in the future? "I want to make institutional changes in how the sport operates. I want to create a synergy between the health and fitness side that will help gyms finance youth boxing." This is some- thing Peter has already accomplished at his gym. "I want to attract the right people who can teach not only boxing, but respect for others and one's self. My models are the great trainers of the past such as Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown. They understood that boxing is The Manly Sport of Self Defense. I want to get the focus back on that self- defense side of the equation. There is too much petty sniping in a sport that already has enough problems. It is time to get people working together to help the kids." I can hear the passion is his voice as he talks about his ideas and he has many. Peter has already expanded his gym and now has a beautiful area set up just for box- ing. It includes three boxing rings and has a beautiful mural that contains portraits of the greats and not so well-known fighters and trainers of the past, a show of the respect Peter has for the history of the sport. "The great techniques that were taught in the past are now being lost. I think of the traditions that were passed on over the years as being much like the ancient storytellers who passed on their culture through oral history. I want to bring back that great tradition and with it the glory that was boxing. I want what I do to continue after I am gone and for the sport to be better for my contribution to it." Could Peter Welch be boxing's modern day Homer? I certainly enjoyed hearing him tell his story and look forward to many more chapters. Peter Welch's Gym, 393 Dorchester Ave., South Boston. Bobby Franklin can be contacted at bob2boxer@yahoo.com (Photo by Rosario There they were, one team that had been rescued from a previous time span in obscurity and the other a squad that was evocative of excellence over the years. They were locked in a battle, they were, in the opening act of Trophy Sea- son -- that portion of the col- lege hockey calendar that does not just offer the oppor- tunity for victory but awards the winners with the acqui- sition of prized material -- something they can possess. Up and down they skated, these teams from Boston Col- lege and Northeastern Uni- versity, producing thrill- ing moment after thrilling moment. As they did so, your faithful correspondent thought back to another contest, when Maine and UMass-Amherst tangled for the 2004 Hockey East Cham- pionship. Maine eventually won in triple overtime -- bringing an end to a matchup that lasted just under five hours but will live forever as a high point in the history of the Garden. But as BC and Northeast- ern continued their duel in the Championship Game of the Beanpot Tournament on Monday night, more and more it seemed as if an over- time finish was a distinct possibility. Scabin, Ross Photography) The two teams entered the contest primed and ready. Boston College took the ice as the top-ranked team in America while Northeast- ern was no. 11, a designa- tion that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But just when things reached the low point was when current NU Head Coach Jim Madigan entered the scene, slowly but methodi- cally building the team into a squad that can skate "with anyone in America, a team that commands respect and admiration. And the Huskies sure dem- onstrated that on Champion- ship Night -- both on the ice and in the stands as thousands of the Huntington Avenue faithful came to Causeway Street to support their team. They provided the numbers that resulted in the building being nearly full, something that has not necessarily occurred with Beanpots in the recent past. In short, there was spirit in the building, swift action on the ice and excellent coaching behind the benches as Madigan matched wits with veteran BC mentor Jerry York. Not only was it a championship game but -- (Continued on Page 14) 971 Saratoga St., Orient Heights East Boston "Our Family Serving Your Family With Professionalism, Dignity & Respect " Complete Funerals Starting at $3900. (price does not cash adv, nces) Off Street Parking * Complimentary Valet Parking Nonsectarian To & From Our Funeral Home For Family & Guests for Visiting Hours Si Para Italiano Se Habla Espanol PleaBo call 17.9-0990 any questloD Visit US at our website: www.Rup.ieroMtt.com iero Family Memorial