A Seat in the Bleachers: A solid 1-2 combination

Trainer Vince Kittle and businessman Jeff Christiana have joined forces on a successful youth boxing
PHOTOGRAPHER:

It’s occurred to me more than once that it wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that boxing should be banned as a sport, at least in its professional incarnation, with no headgear and the objective being to scramble someone’s brains.

And I like boxing.

As long as there are good guys like Vince Kittle and Jeff Christ­iana around, though, I would never make that case. Ever.

Kittle is a former Marine flyweight champion from Albany, and Christiana is a third-generation real estate broker whose grandfather started Blake Realty in 1922. Kittle runs the show, and Christiana pays the bills at their little slice of boxing heaven on Albany Street, Schenec­tady Youth Boxing & Fitness.

Christiana invokes Damon Run­yan to describe what it’s like to hang around the ring when there are two fighters sparring on a Tuesday night, a dozen or so fellow boxers leaning on the ropes yelling instructions and encouragement and a bunch of little kids underfoot.

Former Schenectady High basketball star Rashaun Freeman, Kittle’s 6-foot-9 cousin, was in the gym lifting weights last week when he asked Christiana, who is in his early 60s, to give him an ab workout, “so I got him in the ring and punished him,” Christiana said, chuckling.

“Good,” Kittle said.

There’s so much more going on here than punches and sweat, though, and it has a direct, positive impact on the city and its young people.

Kittle comes from a family of ministers, and said his mission is to “create productive citizens” who respect themselves, a vision that’s shared by Christiana, who was a boxing nut as a kid and always wanted to own a gym.

“We had a young man go in on Tuesday to spar for the first time ever, and you could tell he was

really nervous, and of course the guy he was sparring with was taking it easy, but when he came out, I said, ‘Hey, great job, that was your first time in?’ ” Christiana said. “And just to see the sense of pride and accomplishment. He didn’t do that well, but you know what? He got through it, and he was different. You could just see it, the way he walked. And I love that about this sport.”

“Some of these guys are more comfortable being nerds and getting good grades now because they have that confidence in themself,” Kittle said. “That’s extremely

important, that these kids know that it’s OK to be smart.”

Kittle can rattle off the list of

social services with which SYB has partnered — Northeast Parent and Child, the probation department, Berkshire Farms, the City Mission, Youth for Christ — and SYB is trying to start a program with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

One of the obstacles is funding. As a 501(c) non-profit, they could be eligible for a variety of grants, but they don’t have anyone on staff to chase that money down.

Kittle said he’s approached Metro­plex to see if there’s any way they can help the boxing club cover its annual expenses, but he hasn’t gotten much of a response.

“One of the things I’ve been hellbent on is forcing the political aspects of Schenectady to realize that we’re a viable, good asset to the city,” Kittle said. “I get the opinion that they expected us to be a nuis­ance. We’ve never had a police call to our gym in the four years that we’ve been up and running. You’ll never hear profanity and stuff inside the gym. The kids are always so very well mannered.”

Hey, Metroplex, is there any way you can throw these guys a bone?

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply