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Front Street Gym’s Annual Turkey Brawl

On Saturday, November 19th, the 7th annual Turkey Brawl will be held at the Front Street Gym on 2076 E. Clearfield Street.  The event starts at 7PM; tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.  There are expected to be between 12 and 15 exhibition bouts featuring current and former Front Street Gym fighters. The event has become an annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving week tradition designed to raise money for local kids who need financial help to supplement their high school and college education.

The Front Street Gym has been at its current location in Kensington for over 20 years.  The original Front Street Gym, located on Front Street at Wildey, was opened back in 1980 by John “the Kid” Mulvenna.  Mulvenna was a talented amateur fighter who decided to take his boxing savvy and open a small gym adjacent to his home where he could train a new generation of boys in the “art of boxing” and, in the process, build young men of character.

The current owner and operator of the Front Street Gym is seventy-two year old Frank Kubach.  Kubach worked under John Mulvenna back in the 80s where he earned the nickname, “the money man”.  Back then, it was Kubach’s job to solicit local businesses for donations in order to keep the small gym open.  Kubach also learned the trade of “boxing trainer” under the tutelage of Mulvenna.  When the original gym was forced to close its doors in 1988, Kubach continued Mulvenna’s vision by keeping the original name and reopening it in Kensington where the Front Street Gym has become one of the city largest and most respected boxing gyms.

Kubach runs the gym on a shoe string budget.  In addition to the nominal monthly dues paid by gym members, he receives a small annual grant from the city, and donations from Front Street Gym supporter PA State Representative John Taylor. But according to Kubach, his largest group of supporters is the members of Philadelphia’s Local 30, Roofer’s Union.  In fact Local 30 is currently trying to raise $40,000 to put a badly needed new roof on the gym.

Kubach sees himself more as a builder of men and a “shaper of character” as opposed to a boxing trainer.  When I asked Kubach, who the best fighter was to ever come out of the Front Street Gym?  He replied, “All of them, every one of these guys are winners and they have all become outstanding men.”   Kubach’s gym gives local boys with a desire for the sport of boxing an alternative to the streets of Kensington.  Over the years, hundreds of boys have passed through the doors of the renowned gym; some stay for just a day and never come back, while others go on to greatness.

In the month of November, for seven years now, Kubach invites former Front Street Gym boxers, many of whom are now in their forties, to come back to participate in the Turkey Brawl; an evening of exhibition boxing in the name of charity.  There is never a problem finding enough former fighters to participate.  In fact, the opposite is often the case – he has more men wanting to volunteer and has difficulty finding room for them all.

The names are familiar to anyone who followed local amateur boxing in the 80s and 90s; George Bonner (now a Philadelphia Chiropractor),  Monte Sherrick, Raymond Bobb (also a physician and anesthesiologist), Jerry Cullens, Anthony Boyle, Bernie Winters, Richie Galdo, Mike Rogers, Johnny Mulvenna Jr. (son of Front Street Gym founder), and the lists goes on and on.

Among the special guests who will be in attendance on Saturday night are four Philadelphia-born former boxing champions; welterweight champion Meldrick Taylor, lightweight champion Buster Drayton, super-middleweight champion Charles Brewer, and bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler.

Tickets are available for the Turkey Brawl at the Front Street Gym at 2076 E. Clearfield Street Monday through Friday between 4 PM and 9 PM.  For more information, call 215-634-7707.


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