Filmmaker shines light on the history of boxing in Morris Park

Isiah Bland, who is the focus of the recent documentary , "Basement Boys," in front of the Morris Park Boxing Club
Photo courtesy Jack Newton

In its heyday, boxing was a popular sport. There were gyms throughout the city and people flocked to see Ali, Lewis, Frazier and Tyson. Today it is not the same.

However, filmmaker Tyler Haft of Brooklyn recently released a 13-minute documentary, “Basement Boys,” where he focuses on aspiring boxer Isaiah Bland and youth boxing in the Bronx.

His dad Richard Haft Jr. and grandpa Richard Haft Sr., a former boxer, always spoke about boxers coming out of the city, so he wanted to find out why the sport was dying.

He discovered one gem, Morris Park Boxing Club at 644 Morris Park Ave., which is owned by former Welterweight Champion Aaron Davis. The gym, which has been around for 42 years, trained famed boxers, including Davis and Lou Del Valle and burned down in 2009.

Haft spent time with Davis, trainers and Bland.

“I definitely learned a lot about the history of boxing in New York,” Haft said.

Since releasing the movie he has received positive feedback.

“The documentary is good because it’s showing a good kid [Bland] who was hanging out doing stuff and now he’s trying to get himself together,” Davis said.

Davis, 53, known as “Superman,” turned pro in 1986 and won his first 32 fights, including a ninth round upset over Mark Breland to capture the WBA Welterweight Title in 1990. He retired in 2002.

The former champ has owned the gym for 13 years, explained that his goal is to show kids boxing can be fun and there’s more than just MMA.

“When I was growing up people either boxed or played basketball,” he said.

According to Davis, too many kids are obsessed with social media, acting like rappers or the money and flashiness like Floyd Mayweather and don’t want to put the work in.

However, the kids that come to his gym take it seriously. He noted that many come from families that struggle financially, so he trains them for free.

Davis also spoke about the potential of Bland. He described him as a good fighter, who can punch, but is also filled with anger. If he maintains his work ethic, training regime and dedication he can succeed, he said.

“He’s a good kid,” Davis said. “It all depends on him wanting to do it. He has a lot of heart. If he takes this seriously and sits down and thinks about what he has to do he can go far.”

Davis encourages Morris Park residents or any Bronxites to come to the gym once the coronavirus epidemic ends.

As many boxing gyms have shuttered over the years, he is proud he still has his. He noted that even if someone doesn’t want to learn how to fight, it’s always beneficial to know how to protect oneself.

“Boxing isn’t for everybody,” he said. “It’s a great sport for discipline.”

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