Bronx boxers absorbed a stiff uppercut on Tuesday, December 22 when flames engulfed the renowned Morris Park Boxing Club on Morris Park Avenue. The 32-year old gym, which trained world champions Aaron Davis and Lou Del Valle, and which has enjoyed a renaissance under new owner Dex Pejcinovic, was completely destroyed.
“I feel horrible,” Pejcinovic said.
Pejcinovic, 40, who lives nearby, woke on December 22 to a phone call from his wife, who passed the fire on her way to work. The former fighter, who was raised on Arthur Avenue and trained at the gym as a teen, rushed to the scene.
“There were fire trucks everywhere,” Pejcinovic said. “You get a fire in a restaurant, I know. But not in a gym. I was in shock.”
The blaze, which began at around 7 a.m., started in the back of the ground-floor gym, near Pejcinovic’s boxing ring, he said. The fire displaced a pair of families from second and third floor apartments, a Fire Department spokesman said. The tenants escaped.
“Thank God no one got hurt,” Pejcinovic said.
The brick buidling’s landlord plans to rebuild and Pejcinovic hopes to reopen the gym. But the father of two hadn’t insured his ring and punching bags. Pejcinovic thinks he lost nearly $50,000 in the fire.
“The gym is ruined,” he said. “The ring was brand new. Gone. The bags were brand new. Gone. The front desk. Gone.”
Also gone are framed photos of legendary fighters at the gym and Morris Park Boxing Club heroes. Several teens who trained at the gym went pro. The photos are irreplaceable, Pejcinovic said.
When he trained at the gym, in the 1980s, Del Valle was a regular and Davis was at the top of his game. Del Valle was the first fighter to knock down Roy Jones, Jr. Davis, nicknamed “Superman,” pummeled Mark Breland in 1990 to become the WBA welterweight champ.
Lately, Davis has mentored Bronx teens at the gym where he got his start. 49th Precinct Community Affairs officer Chris Traumer sends troubled teens to Superman regularly.
“I was sorry to hear about the fire,” Traumer said. “Aaron and Dex help us out.”
Membership had declined when Pejcinovic took control of the gym, three years ago. But membership was on the upswing. Pejcinovic has lured a herd of young fighters to the gym. The youngest? His four-year old daughter.
“We had the gym going again,” he said. “We took kids off the street, kids who were in gangs and had nowhere to go.”
The Morris Park Boxing Club boasts 150 members – 50 kids. Some will box in the amateur Golden Gloves competition in January; they need to train. Sensei Angel Mercado of Throggs Neck Shotokan Karate-Do on E. Tremont Avenue has offered to let teen boxers use his dojo.
“I have heavy bags and mirrors,” Mercado said. “At least they’d be warm.”
Some of Davis’ guys have relocated to John’s Gym in the Hub, Pejcinovic said.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org