Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Trader Joe's could displace boxing club

If Trader Joe's is headed for St. Petersburg as everyone expects, it won't be good news for those in the business of trading leather.

Jim McLoughlin, patriarch of the 4th Street Boxing Club, said he was told last week he has 60 days to vacate the gym he transformed from a condemned throwaway building in 1993 into one of the hubs of the once red-hot St. Petersburg boxing scene.

"They're killing us," said McLoughlin, who has trained hundreds of fighters. "I have all these kids that depend on me, and they gave us very little notice."

McLoughlin, 63, said rumors have been swirling about a Trader Joe's or some big business on that site for at least a decade, but the news was a "kick in the groin."

McLoughlin pays $1,300 a month rent, with assistance from sponsor Crawford Ker of WingHouse, but other options in the area want $3,000 or more "and we can't afford that."

McLoughlin has been training fighters in St. Petersburg since opening the St. Pete Boxing Club at 1032 Fourth St. N — where former world champion Winky Wright got his start — in 1982.

David Santos, who still helps McLoughlin with fighters, was the club's first star — and McLoughlin's star pupil.

McLoughlin, inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012, had to change locations over the years because of financial constraints. He said he never made much money off running a gym but it was a labor of love.

When he was offered the building on Fourth Street, he thought he had found a permanent home.

"The city was really good to me," he said.

Over the years, the 4th Street Boxing Club has had its share of local champions, such as Santos and Tyrone Booze, and has been used by the likes of Jake Rodriguez, Corrie Sanders, David Tua and Miguel Cotto.

"That gym's got a lot of memories," McLoughlin said.

McLoughlin retired this year and said he is financially secure. But he said there are kids out there who need a place like the 4th Street Boxing Club.

And while he is unsure where he will store the ring posts and heavy bags and all the treadmills and exercise bikes, he wants to continue somewhere, somehow.

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected]

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