The Heavy Hitta’s Boxing Club, located at 6000 Rising Sun Ave. in Lawncrest, had a boxing exhibition and gospel performance Tuesday night.
The newly formed boxing club was hoping to showcase its boxers and advertise its new club to the Lawncrest locals — all while supporting a good cause.
Chief Executive Officer Rick Terrell, 35, and his right-hand man, Chief Operating Officer Lonnie Haile, 42, met and started the club back in July 2009. “I was teaching some moves to a couple of the local kids in the park when Lonnie came up and asked me about the boxing,” Terrell said.
Terrell, who works in the medical records department of Temple University Hospital’s Urology Department, has always had an interest in boxing.
Haile, who served in the Army for 24-and-a-half years as a first sergeant, now works as a parole agent for the state of Pennsylvania. He was boxing at Lawncrest Park with his two sons (who are now 22 and 25 years old and in the service) when he saw Terrell showing some moves to a few kids. Haile told Terrell that they should look for a legitimate place to practice.
With the permissions of Jim Ritvalsky, supervisor of the Lawncrest Recreation Center, Michael Grubb, director of the athletic and sports programs for the Department of Recreation, the City Wide Boxing Advisory Council and the U.S. Amateur Boxing Mid-Atlantic Association, the event quickly became a reality.
“We moved quickly from the evenings in the park to the Lawncrest Recreational Center,” Haile said.
“I said, “Let’s clean up [and] do it the right way [and] be respectful to everybody,” Terrell added.
Thanks to Ritvalsky, Haile and Terrell can be found at the rec center every Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fifty students are officially enrolled with the Heavy Hitta’s Boxing Club, but on any given day, an average of 20 students are there training. (Gustine and Olney rec centers were given first consideration.)
Terrell and Haile try to support the kids in the ring and out. If they see a student needs something, whether it is food or clothing, they both said they will aid that student by getting him or her what he or she needs.
“I call them my family,” Terrell said. “Everyone is in the glove. This is your position, this is what you do. I tell them, even if you don’t make it [in boxing], then you can use this [discipline] in life. And, even if you feel you are going to do something the ‘other way’ – call us.”
Daniel Chery, a 19-year-old fighter and trainer at the Heavy Hitta’s Boxing Club, acts as the manager and keeps the students in order while they are working out. He helped created the club’s name in a casual conversation one evening with Terrell.
“I like the team,” Chery said. “It’s very organized. I like the discipline of the team.”
The Help for Haiti Gospel Boxing Exhibition earlier this week was a collaboration between the Heavy Hitta’s Boxing Club and Athletic Boxing Club Gym in association with the Heart of Worship Restoration Center Church.
“This show was the result of a lot of people working to pull this miraculous event together in a short amount of time,” said Fred Jenkins, the city’s boxing chairman for the Department of Recreation. “There are really too many people to thank, but mostly God.”
Jenkins, 54, works with the three tournaments that provided the 15 fighters for the night‘s events: Lucien Blackwell, Mid-Atlantic and Golden Glove.
“Without those excellent fighters there wouldn’t be a boxing show,” he said.
Members of the Heart of Worship Restoration Center wanted to do something for Haiti Relief as well because they, too, have family members there.
“Daniel is from Haiti,” Terrell said. “He really wanted to do something, and he still has family there. He told me one day that he can‘t even watch TV because that‘s all they show now. I said to him that next time we are at the town meeting, I’ll let you introduce yourself.”
Jenkins heard Daniel speak at the Lawncrest Community Association meeting and told him, “If we are going to do something, let’s make it big.” It’s Jenkins’ church gospel choir that performed at the event.
All ticket proceeds [general admission was $10, ringside seats were $25] go to the Red Cross Haiti relief effort.
Chery’s 23-year-old sister, Yovanie, is a University of Pittsburgh nursing student who also started a donation campaign on the Heavy Hitta’s Facebook page. From Jan. 18 to Feb. 5, she asked for non-perishable food, water, medical supplies, diapers, clothes and toiletries. All donations will be sent to Vision Multi-National Compassion for Haiti.
“Vision Muliti-National is a nonprofit Christian ministry organization that was founded in 2004. It is based in New York and has always provided relief to Haiti, even before these last few earthquakes,” Yovanie Chery said.
Terrell and Haile said that they still want to do more fundraising to give back to the community, in addition to providing a safe haven for kids who have no other outlets in their lives.
“It’s a lot of dedication,” Tim Costello said.
Costello, 50, owns Jack Costello’s Boxing Club, which is located in Tacony. He created his club not only as a memorial to his father to keep his legacy alive, but also with the same concept of keeping neighborhood kids off the streets by exposing them to the rigorous disciplines of boxing.
Costello said that advertising yourself is the biggest problem these days. His club has an annual fundraiser to support its cause. He said he believes the sport has lost some of its luster through the years and remarked that parents mostly have their children try out for sports that could result in scholarships in the end.
Costello advised the Heavy Hitta’s to “just stick to what you know and what you want. Don’t let outside influences change your mission statement.”
The Heavy Hitta’s, therefore, are trying to build and grow. Terrell and Haile both try to fund the club as much as they can afford, but are now looking for kind donations in any form. Everything from bottled water, gym equipment or even exercise mats are welcomed.
As the Heavy Hitta’s Facebook motto states, “The Harder You Train, The Harder You Fight! Not Just In Boxing, But Life Also!”
Maria Konidaris and Jennifer Reardon are Temple University journalism students working with Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a class devoted to covering under-reported areas of Philadelphia.
*Article by Maria Konidaris, photos and video by Jennifer Reardon.