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An Unlikely Sanctuary

Westbury Boxing Club keeps kids off the streets and off the couch

Walk down the stairs of The M. Phipps Recreation Center on Post Avenue and it’s like walking into another world. The two large, red white and blue boxing rings in the center of the room command attention, and people wearing gloves in all corners of the room are hitting punching bags. No, this isn’t a scene from Rocky, it’s the Westbury Boxing Club. 

Westbury Boxing is a lot more than your average gym. According to owners Kevin Collins and Gerard Wilson, it’s a haven. Around 50 people walk through the gym’s doors each day and develop not only their muscles, but their character and values.   

 “We run this gym to keep kids out of trouble,” Collins said. “There’s drugs and gangs, and then there’s the other side of it where they’re staying inside sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips.” 

The gym is completely free of charge. Men and women of all ages can use body bags, gloves, and other equipment. Coaches also volunteer their time and expertise with boxers looking to spar and improve their skills. The gym has also trained several amateur boxers. 

The gym is run entirely on donations and recently held a fundraiser to help pay for the cost of equipment, rent and insurance, which can all quickly add up.

“A lot of people from Westbury donate, which I think is great because they’re part of the community and are investing in their community,” Collins said. “Without the people who support us, I don’t know where we’d be.” 

“Everybody comes down here for free,” Wilson says. “We all volunteer our time and nobody makes a penny. We’re taking money out of our own pockets to help pay the bills.” 

Westbury resident Richard Maddox started boxing two years ago at Westbury Boxing and says it’s one of the best on Long Island.

“I came here, started working out and fell in love with the sport,” Maddox said. “The gym has nice equipment, nice coaches, and the free aspect is the biggest advantage.” 

Though it’s changed hands several times due to financial difficulties and legal problems, the gym has been a Westbury staple for over 20 years. 

“The village of Westbury has been great to us and we love it here,” Collins said. “And we’re looking to get better and better.”