2008-03-14 / Sports

Despite Loss,Rucker Keeps Boxing Hopes Alive

Amateur Boxer One of Many Seeking To Practice Close To Home
By Elio Velez

Robert Rucker fought toe-to-toe with two-time Daily News Golden Gloves champion Shem Pagan on Monday, February 25. In an entertaining bout, Rucker lost a close decision to Pagan in the 132 pound class at the Track and Field Armory in Manhattan

An original member of the Irish Ropes Gymnasium which shut down in 2006, Rucker surprised Pagan, who is training with the U.S. Olympic boxing team, with hard shots that kept the fight close.

"I felt like I was taking it to him from the opening bell. I landed a lot harder shots and I think he was very surprised," Rucker said.

Pagan rallied in the final rounds and got the majority decision. He took off the next day to train with the U.S. Olympic team in Colorado Springs.

Rucker says he thought his performance was enough to win the fight. He did receive praise after the fight from the people in attendance and notably Don Turner, the head boxing trainer for middleweight contender John Duddy and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

The 22-year old amateur, who now trains at Brotherhood Gym in Brooklyn, will keep fighting in the amateur ranks. His dreams are to turn professional one day. And while he chases his possible professional aspirations, Rucker would like to train at a boxing gymnasium that is closer to Rockaway.

Rucker once trained at the former Irish Ropes Gymnasium in Arverne before it was shutdown in September of 2006. Now he must travel away from the peninsula, and train at boxing facilities in Brooklyn. Rucker is just one of the former denizens of the Irish Ropes Gymnasium to continue the sport of boxing outside of the Rockaways.

There has been a push to create a new boxing gymnasium, which would been called Rockaway Ropes. Agroup of local residents have been trying to acquire funding for a building, which would not only have boxing, but also host other fitness and recreational programs.

But the hard work in the search by the Rockaway Ropes committee to find space at an existing or obtaining land for a new building to use hasn't been fruitful. Rucker hopes that the new gymnasium becomes a reality, especially for youngsters who may be interested in a boxing career, or as a way to stay out of trouble.

"We need a gym. I feel like I shouldn't have to go to a gym in Brooklyn and represent them. I want to represent Rockaway," Rucker said.

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