When browsing the events section of The Spirit, a hyperlocal newspaper paper in the River Ward communities of Philadelphia, one happening in particular caught my eye: amid the listings of flea markets, community meetings and blue-haired Bingo get-togethers, I discovered the "Thanksgiving Turkey Brawl."
Having never even been to a boxing match, to me, nothing sounded more fun than watching a bunch of amateur fighters beat the hell out of each other for a good cause.
It all happened at The Front Street Gym, a legendary venue in the boxing gym pantheon. It's in a terrible part of the city– only a few blocks away from Kensington, a neighborhood that is perhaps best known for being one of the largest open-air drug markets in the country. The drugs run so rampant in “Kenzo” that National Geographic even did a documentary about it. But if there’s one thing that Kensington takes as seriously as heroin, it’s boxing.
The Front Street Gym has been around for 25 years and it smells like it, too. Frank Kubach, a 68 year-old veteran, runs the place and still trains young boxers who are trying to make a name for themselves. It's the kind of place where there's a Celtic cross on the floor of the boxing ring and the only beer sold is Coors Light for dudes in Irish flat caps.
The nature of the gym is maybe best exemplified by what Frank told me:
"I don't care what you print just make sure you print that the Local 30 keeps this place alive."
Philly–it's a union town.
I imagine that this particular event was bit different than normal boxing matches. For starters, there was a Rocky look-alike who fought Mike Kunda, a regular guy from the neighborhood, in the third of ten bouts. Rocky was disqualified within the match’s first 30 seconds after he went off on his opponent. Spectators and trainers had to jump in the ring and pull him off before asking him to leave. Rocky was unavailable for comment.
Frank told me that The Turkey Brawl was for charity.
"We just put some guys names in a hat who need some help going to college and give them the money,” he said.
I wouldn't have expected him to say anything less, especially coming from the same guy who told me that he was upset at the Rocky look-alike for “disgracing Rocky’s name."
Sucks for him. If only Rocky stuck around to talk maybe he could have cleared the Italian Stallion’s reputation in this hard-nosed Philly gym. That’s the thing about Philly sports: people don’t forget.
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