Local “parkie” to join boxing royalty
by Ed Wendell
Apr 11, 2017 | 5843 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Al Gavin (far right) with co-trainer Bob Jackson and Robert DeNiro during the filming of "Raging Bull" at Gramercy Gym in 1979.
Al Gavin (far right) with co-trainer Bob Jackson and Robert DeNiro during the filming of "Raging Bull" at Gramercy Gym in 1979.
Al Gavin with future heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Al Gavin with future heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Al Gavin was a local kid who made good. Born and raised just over the border in Brooklyn, Al Gavin had a special relationship with our community and an illustrious career that took him around the world, mingling and working with rich, famous and extremely gifted athletes.

It was in February 1947 when Gavin’s life changed forever. His mother took him to see the Golden Gloves in the old Madison Square Garden and he was hooked.

Afterwards, he tried his hand at boxing for a while, but sadly discovered that as much as he wanted to fight in the ring, he just wasn’t good enough.

But Gavin had a gift for seeing talent in others, and so he stuck around and what followed was a career that spanned nearly 60 years during which he served as a coach and trainer, a gym owner, and thousands of fights in the corner as one of the most famed and respected cut men in boxing.

For over a decade, Gavin worked the corner for three-time world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. His career took him around the world, and he met many famous people in the worlds of boxing and entertainment.

Sadly, Gavin passed away in 2004, but his memory will be honored on April 30 when he is inducted into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Russo’s on the Bay.

Thousands of young boxers walked through the doors of his gym over the years, and Gavin was able to help mold many of them into better boxers and better people.

He spent many years training young boxers with the Police Athletic League, and his experience with certain boxers led to him becoming an expert in stopping the bleeding that inevitably occurs in boxing.

“Early in his career he worked with Chuck Wepner, who was the inspiration for Rocky,” his son, Al Gavin, Jr., says. “My father used to joke that Wepner could just walk past the arena and start to bleed.”

He also worked with Vito Antefuermo, who was also a heavy bleeder. Working with such fighters was how Gavin became a specialist in the field of stopping cuts.

“They were an elite group, the guys that could stop the cuts,” Gavin Jr. explained. “It’s the difference between your boxer winning and losing. He was really an amazing guy, a local guy that loved his craft.”

He was also an inspiration and a positive role model for many young boxers.

“He would bring kids home with him and we’d all eat together,” his son recalls.

And to this day he still hears from some of those young men who looked at his father as another father.

“When dad passed away we all became just a little bit closer,” he said.

Coaching and training and working fights was Al Gavin’s job at night. But his day job was right here in Forest Park.

“He was a parkie,” Gavin Jr. says. “Originally, he was an assistant gardener and he worked there for years. It was a good job for a man who had three kids and it was close to home.”

While Al Gavin, Jr. didn’t follow his father into boxing (“I was more of a hockey player and softball,” he says), he did follow his lead into Forest Park, working there for over 30 years.

Al Gavin Jr. started his career at Forest Park in 1986, and his father retired after three decades in 1989. So while their careers at the park overlapped only briefly, combined there was at least one Al Gavin maintaining our park for six decades.

Al Gavin, Jr. eventually became the supervisor for Forest Park before retiring and moving to Florida, but he will be coming home for the induction ceremony later this month.

“I think he’d be happy,” Gavin Jr. says. “But he wasn’t the kind of guy that would tell you that.”

As for himself, Gavin Jr. is proud of his father.

“I was very lucky to have him as a father,” he says. “I was lucky with both my parents,” he says.

On behalf of Woodhaven and the communities surrounding Forest Park, we congratulate Al Gavin on his induction into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame and look forward to the day when he is deservedly inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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