‘Peace and Gloves’ boxing event shows power of community unity in Reading
It turned out to be a banner day in Reading on Saturday as many turned out for Star City Boxing’s Peace & Gloves event at Fifth and Penn streets. The block party which started at 1 p.m. and lasted late into the evening consisted of 15 amateur boxing matches, as well as musical performances and a car show.
Reading High senior Eric Martinez, 17, won the main event by judges’ decision over 16-year-old Dennis Thompson of Philadelphia. The three-round fight which began around 7:30 p.m. drew a large crowd, including Reading Mayor Eddie Moran.
Next, Martinez was swarmed by dozens of friends and family eagerly waiting to take a photo with the champion and his new title belt.
“It’s everything I wished for and everything I dreamed of,” Martinez said. “Everyone came out to show their love, and it was really good to have a lot of Reading gymnasiums (participating). So it was really good to be part of such a big event, and to win too, c ‘is all.
Boxers aged 9-29 from East Reading Boxing Club, King’s Gym, JMV Boxing, Reading Extreme Boxing and Star City Boxing made up the local fighters in attendance. In total, the Reading boxers went 9-3.
The main event featured two ranked fighters. Martinez is fourth in the nation in the USA Boxing Young Men’s Rankings at 57kg (125lbs), while Thompson is eighth at 54kg (119lbs).
“Today I had to bite in and really show what I could do,” Martinez said. “The kid (Thompson) was really tough. He made me fight. When something didn’t work, I had to adapt. I am a trimmer; whatever I need to fix, I will.
Martinez, grateful for the outpouring of support, took the time to thank the participants and said he would like the day to serve as a positive example.
“I want to thank everyone who came out,” he said. “I really enjoy the city of Reading; we all got together so that’s what i want to see more from now on. We have a very beautiful city when we all come together.
Frankie Diaz, a 20-year-old JMV Boxing fighter at 125 pounds, was another hometown favorite who won his fight by decision against an out-of-town boxer. Like Martinez, Diaz received a warm reception from friends and family after the fight.
“It felt good to fight in front of my hometown,” Diaz said. “We got the win and I’m victorious. I want to thank God, my mom, my trainer and my gym team. Without them, none of this would have been possible. »
While the boxers provided the lion’s share of the entertainment, food vendors and local businesses lined the street with their own interesting stories to tell.
Star City owners Alex and Monica Betances had said they hoped the day would be an opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of the community. Peace & Gloves did not disappoint as nearly 15 vendors and 15 sponsors set up booths showcasing successful small businesses and nonprofits operating in Reading.
“An event like this can show what can happen when a community comes together,” said Alex Betances. “The town of Reading is a good town. We have good people here, and that’s proof. We are here in peace, with lots of love, to come in and share a good time. And that’s what it’s all about. You know, if it all started with love, we would have fewer problems in the world.
Alexis Hallums, owner of Lex’s Barbeque and Lex’s Bail Bonds, was on hand, along with his smoker providing a barbecue for the event. Hallums, who said he uses profits from his bonding business to fund Lex’s Barbeque as a nonprofit, sponsors boxers from Star City and King’s Gym as part of his philanthropic efforts.
“It’s about giving back; you can’t take any of that with you,” Hallums said. “Success is about actually helping others. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about; me and my team go out and donate our time.
“My surety company is the one that passes the funds for the barbecue. (With) the barbecue business, 100% we give back everything we make to the community. So it goes to our scholarship programs, it goes to our coat drive with Glenside Elementary School; we also have a campaign to feed the homeless that we organize with Hope Rescue Mission.
One of his fellows is Maximiliano Baez, a Star City boxer and Muhlenberg graduate.
“I’m giving away eight scholarships on August 23 in the DeCarlo parking lot,” Hallums said. “We also go grilling there. It’s a $500 scholarship. One of the boxers, Max, nephew of Alex Betances, actually won one of the scholarships and I’m pretty sure he’s going to use it for boxing gear and things of that nature.
Cassandra Diaz, owner of Luxury River Design, is training at Star City Boxing and used Saturday to showcase her unique line of custom furniture, which incorporates memorabilia into different millwork designs. She explained why she was proud to be part of the festivities.
“It’s awesome,” Diaz said. “I’m from the city, so to be able to give something back to my community, something that I did, it’s really great to be part of something special like this. The Betances are very close friends of my father; I have known them all my life. I train at the gym and I love it. I will not stop.
Local author Edward R. Munoz has given away free copies of his book, “The Underdog’s Code to Riches: The Secret Code Everyday People Use to Win at Life and Amass Riches,” in the spirit of inspiring young people to a best path in life.
He said he believed inner-city youth would be able to learn and relate to the story told in his novel.
“When you live in the city center you are exposed to doing the wrong thing; the temptations, the drugs, the streets, not going to school,” said Munoz, a Reading resident originally from New York. “You become a product of your environment. And with this book, a lot of people from this city, but (also) from any city, can relate to it because they can see that there are better ways to be framed. And if you make better choices, your life takes different directions.
Prior to the main event, Star City Boxing received a commendation from Reading City Council to honor their dedication and commitment to improving the quality of life for residents of Reading and Berks County.
With victories in more ways than one, Peace & Gloves accomplished what they set out to do by uniting the city for a day of friendly competition and camaraderie.
“The community won today,” said Alex Betances. “I hope this is an example of other future events to come. All of these people, all of these companies are impacted. You know, we have like 100 people here and they are spending money; economically it makes sense .
“As long as we keep everything peaceful and safe, the sky is the limit with what we’re going to do with Reading town centre.”