It’s a long way from a gym in Dorchester to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but many who have seen amateur boxer Gabriel DeLuc in the ring think that the young fighter has both the fists, and the faith, to make the Olympic team of his native Dominican Republic.
DeLuc, 20, hasn’t found much local competition lately and has been traveling with trainer Martin Grealish to fights and tournaments in New York, Florida, Tennessee, Las Vegas, and Kansas City. When it came time earlier this year to fight in the regional Golden Glove tournament, DeLuc’s fellow New Englanders couldn’t avoid the dominating pugilist anymore.
“They had to fight him in the [Golden] Gloves. They had to, but they lost,” Grealish said of the competition.
According to Grealish, DeLuc has fought in 66 bouts in the junior welterweight class, losing only a handful. His victory in the Golden Gloves competition would have landed him a slot in a tournament in the Dominican Republic, but DeLuc’s status as a non-citizen bars him from competing for the American team.
DeLuc didn’t let that stop him: He won another tournament in New York last month that also sends its winner to the Dominican competition.
The same citizenship problem also bars DeLuc from trying out for the American Olypmic team, but both DeLuc and Grealish hope that DeLuc will be perform well enough in the upcoming tournament to attract support from the Dominican boxing community. “We’re hoping, if we go to the Dominican Republic and they see him there that he can get on the Olympic team,” Grealish said. Next month’s trip will mark DeLuc’s first return to the country since emigrating a decade ago.
DeLuc sees his boxing career as directed by fate, and as fate would have it, he ended up at the gym owned by veteran boxing trainer Grealish when he was in his early teens.
“I don’t know if it’s true, but I feel like life has a destiny for you,” said DeLuc, who suspects that he would have ended up in trouble on the streets if it weren’t for his dedication to the sport.
“I started boxing because one of my friends from school wanted to box,” DeLuc said, “and I said to him, ‘I’m not boxing.’”
Though DeLuc’s friend, Jovany Eason, stopped working out at Grealish’s, DeLuc quickly became one of the gym’s regulars and boxing became a key component of his outlook and lifestyle. DeLuc felt he needed to stick with the sport to prove something.
Almost a year ago, Eason was shot and killed outside an Uphams Corner restaurant not far from the gym. The violence at the Ka-Carlos restaurant also claimed the life of Manuel Monteiro, 47, a chef who attempted to break up the fight between Eason and the men that would become his killers. “If he was in the gym, maybe that wouldn’t have happened,” DeLuc said.
DeLuc credits the people he’s met through boxing with helping him stay off the streets, in school and in the ring.
“I met some great people like [Martin] and his family. They showed me so many things... they’re like another family to me,” DeLuc said.
DeLuc said that when he first came to the US at age ten, he didn’t know that his mother intended it to be his new home. “I thought we were coming for vacation,” he said with a laugh. They lived with an aunt for a year in Connecticut before moving to Jamaica Plain where mother and son shared one room.
Recently married, Deluc spends almost three hours a day, five or six days a week, at the gym training.
He jogs to the East Cottage St. gym from his home in Neponset. “I never thought I was going to box in my life,” he said, admitting that he did not have a high regard for the sport when he first saw boxing on television. “Why are you hitting each other for money? What are you doing that for?” DeLuc said he thought at the time.
Grealish expects DeLuc to turn professional at some point in the future. DeLuc says he’s focusing now on his Olympic bid, but in characteristically modest fashion, he added that when the time to go pro comes, fate will tell him.
“When God says it’ll be my time, I’ll be ready, it’ll be my time,” he said.
Grealish, a carpenter by trade who immigrated from County Galway in 1982, has operated his gym for 25 years, the most recent eleven at the current location. He said that boxers haven’t changed in the quarter century he’s been training them. “Often they come in and they don’t know nothing and after a couple of years they’re New England champions,” he said. The gym recently moved from a larger space on the second floor of the building to the first floor. Grealish said that the 50 to 60 boxers who work out there weekly can hardly fit at times, and often spill out into the parking lot for workouts.
“DeLuc’s a good boxer. He can punch. He’s very dedicated.” Grealish said. When asked if the young puncher will be the next pro he’s trained, Grealish was quick with his response: “I think he’s going to go all the way. He’s going to be world champion one day.”