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Champs in the ring — and the classroom

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The gloves have finally come off.

The young champions of this year’s New York Boxing Tournament, studious sluggers all, got their moment in the sun on Friday at their home gym in Flatbush when they were praised for their prowess in the ring and the classroom.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes joined Assemblyman Nick Perry (D–East Flatbush) in celebrating the Atlas Cops and Kids boxing team after their slamming July 30 victory in Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO over pugilists from around the city and state.

“It was fantastic for the kids, because they really don’t get recognized,” said Pat Russo, the boxing team’s director and a retired Police Department sergeant. “The kids felt very proud and honored to have important city officials make time for them.”

Dozens of neighborhood politicians and community leaders poured into the Flatbush Gardens Boxing Gym, which is on E. 34th Street between Newkirk Avenue and Victor Road, to praise the educational benefit it has had on neighborhood youths. Meanwhile, Hynes presented nine boxers — four champions, five honorable mentions — with plaques commemorating their achievements.

“It felt good, because I’ve never had that kind of attention before,” said 15-year-old Brandon Cox, a student at Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, who won his final bout in the 125-pound weight class.

Once a struggling student, Cox turned it around when it was made clear that his poor grades could take boxing from him entirely.

“They told me I couldn’t box unless I improved,” he said. “So now, I’m one of the top students [in my grade]. I’m passing all my classes.” Cox says he now has his sights on the Golden Gloves, amateur boxing’s most prestigious award – and after that, college.

The other champions recognized were 14-year-old Jonibeck Khotamov from Flatbush, 15-year-old Julian Sosa from Sunset Park, and 18-year-old Hamzah Alzuni, a fighter from Columbia Heights who received a $1,000 scholarship to further his criminology education at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Still, for Maria Venier, the team’s trainer and a Golden Gloves winner herself, a check and a plaque are all well and good, but it’s the confidence boost that really pays off.

“You give a kid a belt to strap around his waist, and you keep telling him how special he is, eventually, it’ll stick,” she said.

Posted 12:00 am, August 10, 2011
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