New Jersey boxing gym announces free program for those with addiction, mental health issues

01/29/2023 - No comments

As part of its ongoing mission to help struggling members of the community, Aces Boxing Club will offer a free training session every Sunday to those suffering from addiction and mental health issues such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dubbed “Aces’ Addicts-to-Athletes,” the free class will be held on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., starting Feb. 5, 2023.

Attendees do not need to be members of the gym to participate – anyone interested in using boxing to improve their mental health and fight their addictive tendencies will be welcomed.

Coach Joe Zabry, the club’s owner, said the class is his tribute to two gym members who died of drug addiction in the past several years. Zabry, 46, said he’s noticed that the same personality traits that can create a spectacular athlete – such as an intense internal drive, a love of competition and a focus on achievement – can wreck a life if they’re not channeled properly.

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“The same tendencies that make you great can destroy you if you’re not careful,” Zabry said. “But you can’t eliminate that mannerism – it exists. So we’re trying to give them something constructive to do instead of something destructive. And if I can save or help just one person… well, I did my job.”

The class will be built upon a traditional boxing routine, which includes shadowboxing, jump rope, hitting the heavy bag and hand mitts and working the speed bag. Strength exercises and stretching will round out the curriculum.

The two men leading the class – Steve Thompson and Ethan Fitzpatrick – both have personal experience with addiction. This makes the program’s success particularly important to them.

“Addicts and alcoholics, we’re Type-A people,” said Thompson, 59, who has been clean for about six years. “Either we find something that’s going to satisfy and fulfill us, or we’re going to use. But when you’re out there using, you’re by yourself. In here, you’re not by yourself. There are people just like you in the room. And you can leave afterward knowing your addiction didn’t take everything away from you.”

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“With my addiction, I always felt that I was not in control of my life,” said Fitzpatrick, 25, who has been clean for about two years. “That’s what boxing gave me: it put me back in the driver’s seat. I’m hoping to do the same for other people.”

Zabry said those who wish to attend should call or text him at 973-224-9665 or send a direct message to Ace’s Boxing Club’s Facebook or Instagram pages. In the interest of cleanliness, Zabry recommends participants bring their own gloves and hand wraps.

Founded in 2010, Aces Boxing Club is on the third floor of 718 Main Street in Boonton, New Jersey. The 4,500 square-foot gym is devoted to advancing the sweet science and helping members boost their self-confidence, prepare for competition and get in the best shape of their lives.

Zabry, along with his handpicked trainers and stable of amateur and professional fighters, has established Aces as one of the preeminent training centers in the northeast.

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