Savin Hill’s DePina earns respect in the ring, and on his HVAC job

Jon DePina, shown after a victory in the New England regional Golden Gloves tournament this year, will box on the national stage for the first time next month. Photo courtesy Sheet Metal Workers Local 17

Savin Hill native and third year sheet metal apprentice Jon DePina makes his living with his hands — in more ways than one. As a member of Adams Street’s Local 17 union, the 23-year-old spends most of the day performing installation and demo of HVAC systems — sheet metal systems involved in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

But after clocking out, DePina heads up to a gym in South Boston’s Seaport where he moonlights as an amateur boxer, and a pretty good one at that.

After breezing through the Central New England regionals of the Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament, DePina claimed the All-New England title at the finals in Lowell in January.

Now, DePina is preparing for the National Championships, which will take place in Omaha in May. It’s America’s largest amateur boxing competition, but faced with the prospect of squaring up against other regional champs from around the country, DePina seemed unfazed.

“I’m really confident,” he said. “I feel like this is my year.”

DePina started boxing after graduating from high school under guidance from his father. One day in the gym he was approached by Local 17 Training Director John Healy, who was struck by the young man’s work ethic.

“John saw me working really hard and came over and that’s how he got me interested in the union,” DePina explained.
Healy says that same discipline shines through in DePina’s work as an apprentice, where he often leads by example.

“He definitely is a leader and a mentor to some of the other apprentices,” said Healy. “Jon has recommended and guided several Dorchester young men into the apprenticeship program and changed their lives for the better.”

Right now, DePina’s pouring every ounce of his determination and willpower into an intense training regimen that forces him to balance his workday schedule with hours of conditioning, strength training, and sparring. Achieving that balance requires some sacrifices.

“It’s tough,” he admitted. “I’m dead all the time. Sometimes I’m going off of four hours of sleep. But you gotta do what you gotta do.”

When he’s not working or training, DePina’s studying the sport and watching tape of past fights. January’s All-New England finals pitted him against more experienced fighters from Connecticut and Providence in a pair of tight bouts that he says could have gone either way. With support from family and Local 17 buddies in the crowd, DePina came out on top. But he knows he’ll have to up his game for nationals.

“I’ve always pushed myself to be the best at whatever I do,” he said. “So I’m just going for it.”