It was 1978, and young Nirmal Lorick was searching for a place to learn boxing. He briefly attended a gym overseen by the Estonian local legend Izzy Zerling, but quickly found a home away from home.
“I went to Starrett City Boxing Club,” Lorick told me, recounting how his brother funneled little bro to the gym “for extra activities so I would not get in trouble.”
Lorick grew up in Trinidad, and his fam moved to NY, where he played baseball, ran track in high school, at William E. Grady in Brighton Beach, and was a top tier cross country racer.
“I lost one championship race in three years but boxing was my passion, I had 100 fights, 85 wins, 15 losses, and I fought in the 1983 Golden Gloves finals. I turned professional, I was 1-1 and I decided to become a trainer after seeing there was no loyalty. I have been since then working with the kids and young men, I had over 20 Golden Gloves champions and two world champion, plus many contenders!”
Now Lorick has been working at the NY Housing Authority, for 30 years. But having that gym presence, for other kids also seeking to stay out of trouble, or for parents wanting that, and hoping that boxing will help provide structure and stability to a youth possibly headed down a wayward path, that's still a burning desire for him.
This is why he's about to open the doors on a rebuilt Starrett City, which first opened in 1978.
Founder Jimmy O'Pharrow…
..died in 2011, at age 85, and it is clear since then how crucial he was, as a leader, as a mentor.
“It was fives decades of building character and self confidence, into a lot of young men and women, and these people became professional adults, police officers firemen, people working in the housing authority,” Lorick said.
So, him and Jimmy's grandson, Kwani O'Pharrow, have been working to get the gym going again, and that will be happening this very week.
The memory of Jimmy O and the good he did in that East NY community is being kept alive, by those that knew him, and soaked up his knowledge and decency. O'Pharrow trained former heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs, former welterweight champ Luis Collazo and welterweight title contender Dmitriy Salita. He also trained fighters for the Daily News Golden Gloves tournament for more than 20 years. The gym shut in February 2018, and they have been doing their thing at Brooklyn Sports Club, across the street, in that East New York section of Brooklyn.
I asked Lorick why..why is he working on this, the re-vamped gym at the new address (1540 Van Siclen Avenue) when he could just be focusing on his 9 to 5, and day to day living. What's the mission in this rebuild effort?
“Myself, Kwani O'Pharrow, along with good trainers like Ewart Chance and Cleavon Evans,” he said, “continue working to build young productive men and women. We will have two rings, there is a bigger weight room, free parking…and the fees, we're still working on it. But for the kids, who need that structure, we will work it out…it will be affordable for everyone!”