2007-01-19 / Sports

Irish Ropes Goes To The Big Screen

By Elio Velez

The former inhabitants of the Irish Ropes Boxing Gym gathered to view director Robert Sarnoff's documentary film at the House On The Rock Church. Photo by Pastor Gary Patrylo of the House On The Rock Church.The former inhabitants of the Irish Ropes Boxing Gym gathered to view director Robert Sarnoff's documentary film at the House On The Rock Church. Photo by Pastor Gary Patrylo of the House On The Rock Church. There is a scene in Robert Sarnoff's new documentary film, The Irish Ropes that broke the hearts of those people gathered on a cold Thursday night to see a viewing of the film at the House of the Rock Church in Rockaway Park.

In the last minutes of the movie, the scene changes to a dreary Saturday morning on September 2 of last year. The Irish Ropes Boxing Gym, which was owned by boxing promoter Eddie McLoughlin in Arverne, was a place where boxers could train to further enhance their skills or a safe haven to get off the streets and do something productive.

The boxing gym was constructed in an industrialist area and was forced to shutdown by the Department of Buildings due to a zoning variance which did not allow the gym to beplaced there.

Equipment, signs, lockers and the boxing ring were dismantled and hauled out of the building. The closing of the small gymnasium ends the film and there was a wide range of emotions of those who were involved with the Irish Ropes Gym that saw the private viewing last Thursday night.

In Robert Sarnoff's 30 minute film, the documentary explores the young amateur boxing hopefuls from Rockaway who competed in last year's Golden Gloves. The filmmaker is also currently an editorial cartoonist for the Wave.

It also tells the story of Eddie McLoughlin, the former landlord turned boxing promoter who capitalized on his love of boxing into opening the gym at 7234 Burchell Avenue in early 2004.

Sarnoff, also interviews former Golden Gloves champions and professional heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney and Ring Sports Magazine East Coast Editor Jack Hirsch for their thoughts about boxing.

Certain scenes include the victories filmed at PAL centers around the city of such boxers as Luis Torres and Gary Styles.

The movie also shows the sad day when the Irish Ropes Gym learned that one of their own was lost. 20 year old Rasheem Parrish was shot and killed on March 26, 2006 after pulling out his gun and aiming it at police officers who attempted to arrest him.

There is enough footage Sarnoff says to extend the film to up to an hour. The documentary has been entered in local film festivals and has received critical praise.

"What I basically wanted was to get a reaction. Somebody said the movie was beautiful, someone else said the movie says it speak for itself. What I want to learn from it is how the movie can be improved," Sarnoff says.

"This is an audience that knows the whole story. They know the gym, what happened, know each other and the loss they experienced. It's not like Gleason's Gym which has 300 people. It's just a handful of people who lost a bunch of brothers."

An emotion expressed was sadness and anger for the gym's closure from former Irish Ropes boxer Darius Vinson, who attended along with some fellow stablemates, trainer Karl LeShore and Eddie McLoughlin among others.

One of the Irish Ropes main themes is the struggle from boxers throughout the peninsula to reach the goal of one day becoming champions. Though not one Golden Gloves champion was crowned from the gym, Vinson believed that he learned to keep fighting for his dream by attending the Irish Ropes.

"A lot of people may not know how hard it is to work like we do to fight. But I know I can still push hard on what I have to do to keep fighting," Vinson, who is currently a student at John Jay College, said.

Sarnoff also says the story reveals the perseverance of Eddie McLoughlin, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident as a young boxing hopeful at 18 years old. Three years ago, he opened up the gym in Arverne after his first attempt at converting a building to a gym in Rockaway Beach failed.

McLoughlin attended the viewing and expresses his own sadness that he could not get the needed help from local politicians to prevent the gym from closing. The Irish Ropes still lives on as a boxing promotion which features the young talented middleweight John Duddy, who will be fighting at Madison Square Garden prior to St. Patrick's Day.

He still has fond memories of the gym and hopes another can soon rise out of the ashes in Rockaway.

"Sometimes on my way home, I find myself driving around there even six months later for some reason. You subconsciously think you're going to go back there," McLoughlin said.

"But I do miss it. But what you're going to do you know. You got to move on. I hope that Karl and the the kids here could open a gym and the community can be behind them 100%."

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