Philly champ Danny Garcia's final days at old boxing club

Danny Garcia working out at Harrowgate Boxing Club in Juniata Park. Garcia will defend his light-welterweight title against Zab Judah on Saturday. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Danny Garcia working out at Harrowgate Boxing Club in Juniata Park. Garcia will defend his light-welterweight title against Zab Judah on Saturday. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Posted: April 26, 2013

Danny Garcia follows his father up the narrow, wooden staircase at Harrowgate Boxing Club in Juniata Park.

Angel Garcia has led his son into the rugged gym on East Venango Street since 1998, when Angel Garcia saw boxing as a way to be a better father after his release from prison.

This is the only gym the father and son, the unified light-welterweight world champion, have ever called home. But after Saturday night they will bid Harrowgate farewell.

Danny Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) will meet Zab Judah (42-7, 29 KOs) in a 12-round title defense Saturday in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. It will be the last fight the Garcias prepare for out of Harrowgate.

The Garcias said they purchased a 10,000-square-foot property near Jasper Street and Castor Avenue with plans to open their own gym in two months. The new location is a short walk from Harrowgate.

"I'm always going to thank this place for being here for all those years," said Angel Garcia. "They opened the doors to Danny 15 years ago and gave us an opportunity."

A white Everlast punching bag hangs near the top of the steps, faded by Danny Garcia's battering punches. Strands of red and blue tape patch together the ring's ropes, and posters of Garcia's past fights hang on the hall. Pieces of tape, each in the form of an "X," cover his opponents' faces.

The gym's rules are written in black marker: No cursing. Go hard or go home.

After capturing his first world title in March 2012, Danny Garcia was invited to follow some of the sport's brightest stars and hold his training camps in locales a bit more glamorous than the second floor on East Venango Street.

But Harrowgate is home, Garcia said.

"It's a boxing gym," said Garcia, 25. "A boxing gym is not supposed to look like a hotel or a condo. It's supposed to be rugged."

Before becoming a boxing gym in 1972, Harrowgate's two-story red-brick building was a leather factory in the middle of a thriving Irish neighborhood.

Two white signs sit above Harrowgate's entrance. One is made of rusted metal, the other of wood. A pair of green shamrocks, faded by time, adorn the gym's entrance.

Popular Irish boxers Anthony "TKO" Boyle and Brian McGinley came from the neighborhood and made their home at Harrowgate.

But most of the Irish have long since left Juniata Park, giving way to Puerto Rican families, such as the Garcias, who moved there in the late '80s and early '90s.

Puerto Rican flags hang from the banisters of wide porches of Venango Street rowhomes. Danny Garcia, Philadelphia's first Latino world champion, said he hopes he can be a role model for the neighborhood's "Philly-Ricans."

As the neighborhood dynamic shifted, boxing remained a constant, Harrowgate owner and co-founder Charley Sgrillo said.

Sgrillo's office overlooks the gym's first floor, where wide-eyed amateurs chase their dreams in the afternoon.

A cabinet in Sgrillo's office holds VHS tapes of Garcia's amateur career. Before Garcia made the second floor his training home, he dominated Sgrillo's upstairs tournaments.

Garcia's framed photograph hangs on a wall outside Sgrillo's office and across from the first-floor ring. In the picture, Garcia is just 15 years old, standing in the ring with Bernard Hopkins and hoisting one of the Philadelphia boxer's world titles.

Earlier this year, Hopkins said Garcia is his equal. The torch has long been passed, Hopkins said.

"I always tell the kids, if you need to know how to work hard, look upstairs," Sgrillo said. "That kid has been working since I knew him at 10 years old."

On the gym's rear entrance, a black-and-red sign points upward to the Garcias' Swift Boxing Club. Angel Garcia said the sign is little help: to everyone else the second floor of Harrowgate is just the second floor of Harrowgate.

There's nothing wrong with that, he said, but it is time for the Garcias to have a gym of their own.

"Joe Frazier had his own gym," Danny Garcia said. "Now, I'm a young champion and I want to give back to young fighters."

And the new gym will be his, Angel Garcia said as he pointed toward his son. For the Garcias, it is time to start anew.


Contact Matt Breen at mbreen@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @matt_breen.

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