A large crowd descended on City Hall Plaza in Downtown Boston on June 29 to watch a transatlantic slug-fest between Irish and American boxing teams as they took part in the inaugural Mayor Martin J. Walsh Neighborhood Challenge.
The international meet pitted youth fighters from Connemara, County Galway against a local Boston boxing team and was the first time a major sports competition was held on City Hall Plaza, an open concrete space in the heart of downtown Boston.
In total, 36 fighters between ages 9 and 19 years old were on the boxing card. The youths were organized by weight class to participate in a series of three rounds fights.
Boston Police Officer Tim Staton, who helped organize the challenge said, "Two beginners, as long as they have good basics, can make as good of a fight as the gold medal round in the Olympics."
Organized by the Boston Police Athletic League in collaboration with local boxing clubs and with the full backing of City Hall, the initiative aims to give young people on both sides of the Atlantic a chance to choose sports rather than a life of drug or gang activity.
Stanton said, "It's so important for them to have the chance to travel and experience different cultures."
The Connemara team arrived in Boston last week so as to bond with their American counterparts and train in local boxing clubs.
Peter Welch, owner of Peter Welch's Gym in South Boston, which helped train the boxers said, "It's not just teaching kids to box. It's teaching them to be self-reliant, develop discipline, and cultivate respect for others inside and outside the ring."
A strong supporter of youth initiatives in Boston, Mayor Walsh was one of the many spectators who filled City Hall plaza on Sunday to watch this historic sporting occasion. Walsh, whose parents both emigrated from Connemara, said, "This was much more than just hosting a boxing match on City Hall Plaza. This was about building partnerships and giving young people experiences and lessons that they'll remember for a lifetime: discipline, resilience, and teamwork."
The Boston team will now visit Ireland for the rematch and it is hoped that this unique initiative will put these young fighters on track for a bright future.