Weekend mornings are conducive to rolling out of bed at 11AM and leisurely strolling to one of Bushwick’s many brunch destinations, and enjoying a delicious meal with your friends. So how would you feel about coming to the gym at 9AM and getting punched in the face instead? A group of men have being doing just that every day for about a month at Green Fitness Studio at Varet Street in Bushwick, and for years in other places. Jamiva Boxing is a professional team of boxers who have never been defeated. We asked them about their lives, dreams, prospects, and if they are allowed to eat cookies (spoiler alert: they are not… damn it!)
Their teacher leads them with pride and passion.
Mustafa Marconi’s (52) roots are Italian but his parents immigrated to the States from Panama. Grey-bearded and charismatic, Mustafa has devoted 37 years of his life to boxing. He stood in the ring for the first time at the age of 15, but has always been more interested in teaching and leading others to victories than his own boxing career. When Mustafa isn’t holding one of his student’s padded heads in his hands, he holds an adorable little girl, Jamiva. He looks on lovingly at his granddaughter; no wonder his boxing team is named after this little lady.
Mustafa speaks proudly and with respect of five professional boxers he trains. The team was working at Judah Bros. Boxing Gym in East New York until recently, when the owner lost the building. That’s when Jamiva Boxing relocated to Bushwick. Here, the men train for five hours every day while classical or jazz music plays gently in the background. Mustafa explained that he never plays upbeat music during training sessions because “it gets in their head, and they box in the rhythm but there is no music in the ring.” Mustafa is quite happy about his recent move to Bushwick: “Every other gym charges more, so we like it here,” although he added that too much movement is not great for the boxers.
Boxers come to the gym every day.
So who are the professional boxers you can now see at Green Fitness every day?
Joel Shojgreen (31): “I could have gone back to college, but explain that to an 18-year old who just started to make $2,000 per week.”
Joel works at construction by day but the season is slow right now. “In two weeks, I have a job coming up,” he told me. A Springfield Gardens, Queens resident, he comes to Bushwick every day to pursue what he loves the most. He has only been training since the age of 24, but caught on quickly as he has always been very athletic. Like other pros on the Jamiva Boxing team, this tall, ripped dude has never been defeated. And I am not surprised.
Joel was born in New York, but spent a year at Alabama Junior College on a sport scholarship. When his mom was diagnosed cancer, he returned home to take care of her. “I could have gone back to school but explain that to an 18-year old who had just started to make $2,000 per week on a construction.” Joel loves hanging out with his family and friends whom he’s known since elementary school. He calls them “brothers.”
Andy Joseph (30): “I fought a final on HBO.”
“Oh man, I wish, I love chocolate chip cookies,” told me Andy. He also added that he put on a little weight, and now it’s time to burn that. By day he works at Target; by nights and weekends, he is a boxing pro. He fought live on HBO Boxing in the final, and his ultimate dream is to box at Madison Square Garden.
Michael Sapp (26): “I’m boxing for the next Olympics!”
Michael laughed when I asked about his day job: “Night job, you mean?” Michael works as a night supervisor, but his heart belongs to boxing. Years in the ring are definitely paying off. Michael will be boxing at the 2016 Summer Olympics! Unsurprisingly, he can’t have any cookies, as he’s trying to come down in weight.
Jovan Francois (28): “I don’t prepare for anything, I just work really hard.”
Insanely ripped, Jovan was born in Trinidad, and immigrated to the States with his parents when he was seven. He lives in East New York, and has been boxing since the age of 15. “Although I really started at the age of 22,” he said. He is a father to a 4-year old girl named Jayla, and says he is an honest person, faithful to God and very spiritual. When I asked him if he’s preparing for a big fight, he told me that he doesn’t prepare for anything, he simply works hard everyday. Jovan is a full time boxer- he doesn’t need a day job- and he hopes to invest his money into real estate one day. (Jovan, there is this neighborhood called Bushwick. We hear it’s a good place to buy a house.) For whatever it’s worth, I must state (sadly) that Jovan does not eat cookies either.
And here, baby Jamiva, the first lady of this boxing team is taking a nap…