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June 6, 2013 - 1:09am

Owner of new gym in Harvester Center hopes to promote MMA and bring boxing back to Batavia

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, Mixed Martial Arts, boxing.

Wanna box?

Now you can.

For the first time in a decade or more, Batavia has a gym with a boxing ring.

Hands Up MMA, like the name says, isn't just about the sweet science, but owner Joseph Bailey (top photo) said with his lifelong love of boxing and Batavia's once rich tradition of boxing, it was important to him to bring boxing back to the city.

Bailey is a fan of boxing, but his passion is for mixed martial arts and he believes that is a sport that will only grow locally and throughout the state.

"Some people view that sport as gruesome and violent -- those who don't have a full understanding of the sport, but it's just as competitive as rugby would be, or hockey or lacrosse," Bailey said.

The gym, which officially opened today in the Harvester Center, provides a well-rounded workout with bags, ropes, tires, climbing walls, for anybody interested in combat sports.

Several young fighters found the gym while Bailey was still building it and started working out with him. At least four of them are planning to compete for the first time in a MMA tournament in Rochester on Sept. 29.

"We offer training in kickboxing, jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing and we try to incorporate it all together," Bailey said. "We'll also offer self-defense training and a course on knife and gun disarming that will be taught by a Green Beret."

The gym is already drawing a diverse group of people.

William Sutton is a Purple Heart-decorated Army veteran who honed his fighting skills by training to become an Army instructor in hand-to-hand combat.

During a tour of duty in Korea, he found boxing and MMA were big with the troops there. He was 13-0 as a boxer and 2-0 in MMA.

"Growing up in Batavia, it wasn't like it is nowadays," Sutton said. "Growing up in Batavia, a lot of times we would fight before school. We would fight after school. Fighting was a big part of Batavia. It's a tough town to grow up in. I've been fighting my whole life and I just continued that in the Army."

Sutton was wounded in Afghanistan and is now retired from military service. The injury and his commitment to the Veterans Administration prevents him from ever again fighting competitively and he's limited by military obligations in what he can teach, but working out in a gym of fighters appeals to him.

"Everybody who comes to an MMA gym seems to be just more humble," Sutton said. "People that go to a regular gym, you know, walk around trying to impress each other. At an MMA gym, all that BS is just put aside because we can put on the gloves and go in the ring. Put your hands up. Talking and stuff don't go here."

All his experience and success, though, puts Sutton in a position to help young fighters and he said he's always happy to train with them and answer questions and offer pointers to those willing to listen.

Bailey really hopes Hands Up becomes a vehicle for promoting boxing in Batavia. He plans to hold regular tournaments involving gym members that will be open to the public.

"Boxing used to have a big history in the City of Batavia," Bailey said. "The community is unaware of that and what I would like to do is get members of the gym to spare and promote boxing and hopefully get some viewers in to watch tournaments."

As we spoke, an older gentleman walked past the front windows and you could see his eyes light up as he looked inside.

There was little doubt, he was a boxer.

The first thing Robert Janes (top inset photo) did when he walked in was hit the speed bag. Later, he would say it was the first time in 13 years he punched a speed bag.

A native of Palm Springs, Calif., Janes was involved in Golden Gloves in the early 1970s.

Now living in Stafford and working pouring concrete, Janes was clearly thrilled to be in a boxing gym again and he said he can't wait to start working out there.

"I just want to stay healthy," Janes said. "I want to keep my head right. Any time I was ever in the gym, any time I was ever involved in any kind of organized boxing, I was good. Once I walked way from that, I was in big trouble. Now I'm 60 years old. I want to come back to it. I want to bring my granddaughter and my grandson into it."

NOTE: I want to do a story about the boxing in Batavia in the 20th Century. I have a copy of a book by Butch Zito, but I would like to find old pictures and other memorabilia. Few, if any, of the former boxers are still alive, but perhaps sons and daughters have memories about their boxing relatives to share. Write to me at [email protected]

William Sutton

Tim McCullough, from Batavia, and Sutton.

Also pictured in the slide show training is Josh McCarthy of Batavia (wearing yellow).

Ed Hartgrove
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Joined: Dec 20 2012 - 11:54am

When I read this article, I couldn't help but think about a good friend of mine, Jim F. We worked C-shift at the same place in Rochester. It was the late 70's-early 80's, and "amatuer" boxing was being held Sunday afternoons, at the former McNasty's on Rt. 5.
Now, Jim wasn't a 'big' guy, maybe 5'-5", but he was quite sturdy. Anyways, over a months time or so, he'd won every match he entered. One Sunday night, he came into the breakroom and sat down. One of the guy's yelled across the breakroom, "Hey, Jim, how's it goin'?"
Jim mumbled something, but we really couldn't understand what he had said. A couple of us went over and sat down with him. It took a while, but we finally deciphered what he was saying when he talked. That afternoon, he had entered the ring, again, at McNasty's, but, according to him, his opponent was a 'ringer'. He broke Jim's jaw, and his mouth was 'wired shut'.
It took a little while to figure exactly what he was mumbling, but, at one point, he did say, "I ain't never boxing again".
I gotta tell you, he was a real nice guy, and you couldn't help but like him, but we also couldn't help but laugh when he said that. And, as far as I know, he never entered the 'ring' again.

Jeff Allen
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Joined: Jun 5 2009 - 4:17pm

This region is actually steeped in boxing history with Boxing Hall of Fame 2 hours away in Canastota and the little known Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame just over an hour away in Belfast.

Sarah Lee
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Last seen: 8 years 3 months ago
Joined: Aug 6 2010 - 8:01pm

OMG! Awesome! I have always been interested in boxing but never did anything about it. Now that I am so much older and partially disabled I wouldn't be able to join in competition but just last year I bought the speed bag, gloves, wraps etc. but they are still sitting where I put them. Now, I can go to the gym and learn to bag and maybe compete in baggin' someday! Yippee - now there is NO excuse!

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