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Cus D'Amato gym looks to add museum element

Jan 14, 2011 6:06 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Cus D'Amato and his leading protoge, the former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson."][/caption]It's one of the WGXC coverage area's leading landmarks, and yet few have actually visited it. And for those who have, it's a perfect metaphor for many things, given its mash-up of intents and purposes over the years, as well as the complex repercussions of so much of its history. We're talking about the place where champions Mike Tyson, Floyd Paterson and Vinnie Pazienza learned their boxing skills. A place once located three floors over Main Street in a commercial building but later moved to the former village courtroom in the building that now houses village offices, with entries from 422 Main Street as well as, more regularly used, in the back... the Cus D'Amato Gym, named for the legendary trainer who made Catskill his home base for years. The Daily Mail has a fine Jim Planck story in its January 14 issue that takes the occasion of the The Village of Catskill Board of Trustees being given a status report on the gym this week with an update on all that's still going on the place that's part shrine. part museum and all active boxing mecca.

Planck reports that the gym's Board of Directors president Sandra Lewis Smith, along with board secretary and trainer Ernest Westbrooke, gave an overview on a variety of ongoing and upcoming programs and activities, as well as individual fighters and their forthcoming bouts. She said the 2011 Rumble in the Catskills will be held July 16 at Catskill High School, and asked Village President Vincent Seeley if he would again be the event’s official emcee, to which Seeley agreed. Lewis Smith said local NYS Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-Schoharie), who uses the gym on afternoons, has also asked to take part in the emceeing, so that between the two, “our cup would indeed runneth over,” she said.

Regarding staff personnel, Lewis Smith said they have “identified a fighter to work with the young men, two days a week,” and that he will be paid by the hour, coming in at 4:30 for one hour. “He will assist Ernest,” she said, “who will set up their curriculum for training.”

Lewis Smith said there are currently seven youths under the age of 15 who come to the gym with their parents to begin training.

Lewis Smith spoke about current plans to put a museum in the gym, as well.

“Their parents have all signed waivers,” she said, “and because we do not charge for anyone under 18 years of age, we have suggested to the parents that we will accept a donation to the gym.”

She said that, per procedure, the board has also set up Directors’ Insurance.

Lewis Smith also said the gym is “as running smoothly as possible,” with the Board of Directors continuing its interaction with trainers and oversight of the facility.

She said that, excepting Kevin Rooney, all trainers “collect a monthly fee for the gym from the people they are training that are over 18 years of age,” noting that Rooney prefers to have his fighters not pay anything.

“He says, ‘Cus doesn’t like it, (in that) he wouldn’t approve,” she said.

Of the gym’s fighters, Lewis Smith said bouts are in the offing.

“The gym will send four fighters to Lyons in February, to the preliminary boxing event for the Golden Gloves” said Lewis Smith, “which take place in April.”

“These fighters train five days a week with Ernest Westbrooke,” she said.

“They are Jason Profit, Victor Kiokonsis, Dave Tomaso, and our young fly weight, Islam Jenkins, for the Junior Golden Gloves,” she said.

Lewis Smith also said that Profit will fight at the end of the week in Saratoga, on Friday, Jan. 14, in the NYS Amateur Championships.

“Jason won that event last year,” she said.

Lewis Smith also discussed two possible projects for the gym that both center around the visual arts.

“A NYC film school project has requested using the gym for two days in April,” she said, noting that the school has overcome a funding shortfall for the project, as previously identified at a meeting with the group last fall.

“This has been finalized as a project for them,” she said, adding that project sponsors have secured appropriate production insurance.

Lewis Smith said she will “meet with them in the next few weeks, to establish a schedule and logistics.”

She indicated that if the project takes place, it will do so “on a weekend, so they would not interfere with business in the building.”

“Should we go forward,” Lewis Smith added, “I will request an additional (insurance) rider for the gym.”

“It is a boxing film,” she said, “and they have requested two of our fighters and a trainer -- which would be Ernest Westbrooke -- to work with them.”

“I will set up a meeting with you, prior to giving them permission to go ahead with the project,” she said.

The second project is related to television.

“We are in discussion with a producer from a multimedia organization,” Lewis Smith said. “He has proposed a reality show on the gym.”

“It is too early,” she said, “to know how this will move along.”

“However, it looks like it may work,” she added, “(and) I will set up a meeting between you, the producer, and myself.”

“He thinks it has real potential as a continuing show,” she said.

Lewis Smith also provided trustees with a sketch of a 2011 season Main Street art cat that is being proposed by 11-year-old Sky Rich, son of local artist Kenn Rich.

The cat is to be named “Mike Tigerson,” and appropriately wears a Cus D’Amato’s Boxing Gym robe, Everlast boxing trunks, boxing gloves, and a championship belt.

In general discussion, Trustee Brian Kehoe asked of any financial relationship between the gym and the village, and Village President Vincent Seeley said there is none.

Seeley said the village allows the gym the space in that it is “a service to the community.”

Catskill Town Councilman Michael Smith, husband of Gym President Sandra Lewis Smith and also on the Board of Directors, was also at the meeting and expressed support for the facility, calling it “a powerful component in the community.”

“Not just for the people who use it,” he said, “but also (because of) who has trained there.”

“Consider the great fighters, “ he said, and Westbrooke tallied some of those names for those present -- Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, Jose Torres, Wilfred Benitez, Edwin Rossario, and Vinny Pazienza.

Given the gym’s stature, Smith suggested marketing for it should be enhanced.

Smith said he feels a level of effort should be put into promoting the facility’s cultural presence in a strength similar to that which promotes facilities such as the Thomas Cole House.

Lewis Smith said it is a goal to “put a museum in the gym.”

“It would be a big first step in promoting it,” she said, adding it is her hope to “do that in the spring.”

She also noted that the gym is, itself, a living museum.

For more information on Cus D’Amato’s Boxing Gym, visit www.catskillboxinggym.com.