CITY OF NEWBURGH – Leonard Lee has scrambled for years raising money to take the young fighters he coaches at the City of Newburgh’s Hook Elite Boxing Club to national and regional tournaments around the country.
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Now his fighters are going global.
Twice boxers from the Erne Boxing Club in Ireland have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to compete against local fighters at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. In November, Newburgh will return the favor, when 10 to 12 of Hook Elite’s boxers fly to Ireland with funding help from the Kaplan Family Foundation.
Lee hopes his fighters, whose trip is expected to cost more than $10,000, will return home with more than just a boxing experience.
“I’m hoping that they understand it’s not just about Newburgh or the United States; it’s about the world,” he said. “It’s about learning something; it’s about enjoying this experience and seeing how other people live.”
In April, an entourage of 14 boxers and five chaperones from the Derrylin, Ireland-based Erne visited Newburgh “Gloves Up, Guns Down,” an antiviolence-themed tournament started by Hook Elite in 2017. Six Erne Boxing Club fighters made the trip the first year.
The Ireland trip is tentatively set for Nov. 14-18. Right now, the club is in the process of getting passports for the fighters.
Getting those passports, boarding a plane, going through customs and leaving the country for the first time to interact with people from another country will be a lifelong memory, said Bill Kaplan.
“The experience they’re going to get in life, and what’s it’s going to mean to them in the future, is mindboggling,” Kaplan said. “This is going to be the start of them getting to see what the world is all about.”
A fundraiser for the trip will be held at the Armory on Oct. 28, Lee said. Hook Elite is also accepting donations to fly boxers to Chattanooga, Tenn., for a USA Boxing qualifying tournament that starts Oct. 6.
“I hope we come back with an experience that changes them,” Lee said. “I hope this moves a couple of them.”
To contact Hook Elite for more information, call the City of Newburgh Recreation Department at 845-565-3230 or Lee at 845-857-1062.