‘Every day is a fight, in life and in the ring’: Allentown boxing program gets kids off streets (WATCH) – lehighvalleylive.com

Julian “Dream Chaser” Lopez reflects on his physique in the mirror. Lopez is among a number of at-risk kids who have found a new purpose in life at the Lehigh Valley Pound 4 Pound Boxing Gym in Allentown. He used to get involved in fights in the streets. Now, he is focusing on becoming a boxer. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
A small boxing gym on the top floor of a gritty warehouse that’s home to Azar Towing in Allentown is changing lives.
Co-founder Paul Pinnock, 53, has transformed young lives for 11 years with his nonprofit Lehigh Valley Pound 4 Pound Boxing. He finally got his own place two years ago and will celebrate the gym’s third anniversary later this month.
Growing up in Allentown, Pinnock struggled without a strong father figure in his life.
“My dad wasn’t there to fight for me or look over me,” he said.
He looked up to his big brother, who ran with the wrong crowd. Pinnock eventually found a love for martial arts and would go daily after school.
“It saved me,” he said.
After going through a period he describes as “being selfish and using people,” he realized, at age 42, that it was time to give back.
He took what he learned from years of working, along with his knack for teaching and connecting with youth, to make a change in kids’ lives.
“I was never a professional boxer. I did karate. But teaching came natural to me, and working in corporate America helped me develop a plan to help them,” he said.
Pinnock wanted to create a safe place for kids.
“The purpose of this gym is to keep kids off the street, get them out of gangs and give them a positive environment to thrive,” he said.
Paul Pinnock quietly talks to one of his young boxers in the gym. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
A lot of these kids don’t have positive role models in their lives, he added.
“They are not the football stars,” he said. “These are kids that fall through the cracks.”
“Every day is a fight, in life and in the ring,” Julian Lopez said.
Lopez, 17, who goes by “Dream Chaser” in the ring, loves to fight. He was getting into street fights all the time and found himself on probation.
“Ever since I was young, I always liked to fight,” he said. “I wasn’t in a gang, but was doing things that were street related, like fighting in the streets and stuff like that. But I’m not trying to do none of that no more.”
Julian “Dream Chaser” Lopez, left, fights Moussa Toure during the "Round the Way Rumble" event on July 30, 2022, at the James Shuler Boxing Gym in Philadelphia. Lopez won his bout. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
For Leon “The Phenom” Gonzalez, 15, the gym has a big impact.
“It’s keeping me off the streets,” he said. “I don’t want to end up in a bad situation.”
Pinnock sees a lot of kids come through his gym. Some come for a short time; others stay longer.
“Everyone who comes into the gym is different. Some just want to lose weight. Others want to learn to defend themselves because of being bullied,” he said.
Leon Gonzalez, 15, jumps rope at the gym. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
Anthony “The Hitman” Lebron, 16, saw how the gym saved his friend Julian from the streets. He wanted to try it, too.
“I was thuggin’ in the streets, and I wanted to find a way to stay away from that,” Lebron said.
Lebron has only been boxing for about 11 months after joining the gym a year and a half ago.
But he’ll leave the gym and his friends there soon. His family’s landlord raised the rent and his father got incarcerated, so they’ll move to more affordable housing in Wilkes Barre.
Pinnock worries the move will end his boxing career. Every gym and coach have their own unique style of training. Going to another gym won’t be easy and could make it harder for Lebron to pursue fighting professionally, Pinnock said.
A young boxer takes a breather to watch a recording of a professional match on the TV, while Anthony Lebron concentrates on a small bag. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
“Boxing is not like basketball, soccer or baseball. Boxing is more like a war. Success only comes from special bonds,” Pinnock said.
Anthony considers Pinnock a father figure, and he too worries how leaving his coach and friends will impact his boxing future.
“It doesn’t feel right, me moving and leaving my friends — no, my family and brothers,” he said. “But I won’t give up on my dreams and goals. I have to keep going and hope to find another boxing gym.”
Pinnock says his Lehigh Valley P4P Boxing gives at-risk kids a fighting chance. He knows boxing isn’t for everyone, but he sees how it changes these kids.
Abel Correa, 17, left, and Anthony Lebron, 16, right, share a laugh as they wait their turn during a drill. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
“Julian was on probation, getting in trouble. Now he doesn’t do those things anymore,” Pinnock said.
But the kids grow not just as people, but also as boxers.
In early July, Pinnock took Julian, Leon and Anthony to the USA Boxing National Junior Olympics in Wichita, Kansas, to compete. All three boys lost their fights, but he still sees it as a success. “It was more of a learning experience for them,” he said.
Just last week, Julian and Leon had a local fight at the James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym in Philadelphia. Julian and Leon won their bouts.
Leon Gonzalez follows through with his punch as he fights Gregg Regan during the "Round the Way Rumble" event on July 30, 2022, at the James Shuler Boxing Gym in Philadelphia.Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
The boys most recent records are: Anthony is 10-2; Julian’s is 7-2 and Leon’s is 7-2.
On Aug 4, USA Boxing released their national rankings. Julian got some promising news. In the 147-pound youth men division for 17-18 year-olds, Julian was ranked 9th in the country.
Pinnock also credits his co-founder Karen Nazarewych with the kids’ success.
Karen, the gym’s secretary and treasurer who the kids call “Mom,” goes beyond her title, Pinnock said.
“I assist with teaching basic moves to those who are just learning to fight, when needed, which leaves Paul to train the more seasoned fighters. I also inspire them to be good role models for each other,” she said.
She gets a lot back from the boys, too.
“I love to train and box in the gym with the boys. They motivate me as much as I motivate them,” she said.
Her favorite part is when new kids join and parents ask her about the team.
“I let them know that I am ‘the Mom.’ They ask which child is mine… As the only white woman in the gym, I look around and say: ‘They are ALL my boys!’ I say this with pride and love for each one of them,” she said.
Leon Gonzalez chats with “Mom” Karen Nazarewych as he takes a break in the gym. Saed Hindash | For lehighvalleylive.com
She first met Pinnock when he taught at Title Boxing and learned to box through him.
Before Pinnock found his current location, he would work with kids wherever he found space. Nazarewych and her husband would anonymously sponsor the boys.
“We didn’t do it for recognition and didn’t want the boys to know. They eventually put it together,” she said.
An average boxing gym membership could cost over $100 a month. Lehigh Valley P4P Boxing charges $25 per month, if they can pay.
“We do not turn anyone away, regardless of their ability to pay,” Nazarewych said.
Lehigh Valley P4P Boxing gets a ton of local support and donations. Isam Azar of Azar Towing donated the space they now occupy at no cost. They have also received donations from Allentown Fire Department, past and present mayors of Allentown, the Allentown City Council and local businesses. All the major equipment came from NAZO Boxing in Los Angeles.
A common goal these boys share is to go pro and become champions.
“Life is what you make of it. This is my life. This is what I want. I want this,” Lopez said.
Julian Lopez chooses the boxing ring over the streets
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to lehighvalleylive.com.
Saed Hindash may be reached at shindash@lehighvalleylive.com.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 7/1/2022).
Cookie Settings
© 2022 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.
Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.
Ad Choices


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *