Boxing: Team USA brings message to Yonkers

The Journal, NY
June 23 2004

Team USA brings message to Yonkers

YONKERS – Ron Siler remembered it – the small, hot gym. The walls
covered in fight mottos and pictures of former champions. He could
remember the musty smell of sweat.

He smiled when he thought of it. He had been there. He was much like
the kids that now looked at him like a rock star but probably didn’t
know his name.

But his warmup jacket read “USA Boxing.” That was enough.

Siler, along with the rest of the U.S. Olympic boxing team, visited
the Yonkers Police Athletic League yesterday to give youngsters hope
that success is attainable.

“I’ve probably seen the same things they’ve seen,” said Siler, a
flyweight (112 pounds). “I hope that by us coming here and
representing the United States, that’ll hopefully have a positive
effect on them that they can make it.”

Siler, 24, has four children and remembers growing up on the streets
of Knoxville, Tenn. He thought his experience could help the younger
boxers relate to him, and that his message would be clear.

“If you have dreams, stick to them,” he said. “As long as you stay
positive, you’ll make it in something.”

Vanes Martirosyan (152) stood in a corner after signing autographs,
telling the teen-agers surrounding him to stay focused. He fielded
questions about training and fighting but forced in reminders about
not quitting.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” said Martirosyan, who was born
in Armenia but moved to Glendale, Calif., when he was 4 and started
boxing at 7.

“If you want to be the best, you can be the best.”

Chazz McDowell, a 14-year-old fighter who started boxing at 8, asked
Martirosyan how many rounds he fought and if he had to run as part of

“I hate running,” McDowell said, but he listened when Martirosyan
stressed its importance.

USA Boxing president John Woluewich of New Rochelle thought it would
be beneficial for the kids to see athletes with similar backgrounds.

“I wanted to show them that they can reach their dreams the same way
these guys did,” Woluewich said.

Sal Corrente, who runs the PAL boxing program, echoed the idea.

“A lot of these guys come from really bad neighborhoods and (the
kids) see guys like them who go on and make a name for themselves,”
he said.

Two-time Golden Gloves champ Angel Torres (125) worked out alongside
a few of the boxers and said seeing the Olympians motivates him to do

“Most of those guys come off the streets like me, so I’m glad to see
them doing well,” said Torres, a 20-year old from Yonkers who lost in
the semifinals at the Eastern trials.

With the American flag painted onto his white Nikes, Andre Direll sat
on the edge of the ring happy to sign posters for kids who ran into
the gym after playing basketball.

Direll was raised by his grandparents in Flint, Mich., and used
boxing to stay out of trouble. His grandfather brought him to the gym
as a 10-year-old.

“I kept trying to quit,” Direll said. “But he just kept making me go
to the gym.”

Direll said his grandfather always provided him with encouraging
words and thinks that is what kids need to succeed.

“It’s always a boost of confidence to know I’m showing kids that
there’s more to do than hang out on the street,” he said. “I like to
know I have more fans.”

Still, the parting words that Martirosyan gave to the young, aspiring
boxers in the corner summed up the message of hope.

“See you in the future,” he said as he walked away.