Grays Ferry boxing club could use a good cornerman

Sometimes you’re just born with a powerful punch, that straight-off-the-street sledgehammer that can send an opponent’s brain bouncing around his skull like a pinball.

Mike Rafferty, the youngest and skinniest of four boys growing up in a Grays Ferry rowhouse, had to work for it. He built himself up in the old Augie’s Gym at Ninth and Passyunk under the tutelage of Jimmy Arthur, a man who could teach a mouse to drop a cat.

Rafferty harnessed power in his hips, found the footwork to drive his fist home, and pounded on his hands just the right way, so that at age 44 his knuckles still rise like a mountain range.

When Rafferty, a sergeant in the 18th Police District, walked past an old heavy bag on St. Patrick’s Day inside the Grays Ferry Boxing Club, his nonchalant right hook to the bag’s duct-taped midsection made a thud that would make most men flinch. The chains that held the bag shook, and the beams above gave out a little groan.

“You do hard work to build your hands up,” Rafferty said, slowly throwing and retracting his left hand in demonstration. “It’s pretty simple. You do construction. You hit the bags. You hit the walls. You find the power.”

He’s got the same philosophy about the state of the Grays Ferry Boxing Club, which sits a bit punch-drunk with broken windows and a leaking roof on the corner of 28th and Dickinson Streets. It needs work, lots of work, and it’s going to take thousands of dollars that no one in the neighborhood has to spare.



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