"I was happy to get a chance back then," Burgos said. "Boxing kept me off the streets. A trainer, Julio Gambio, worked with me. He gave me a break and taught me how to box. I used to spar with [world lightweight champion James] Buddy McGirt. I felt like I had a shot to be pretty good."
Competing in the junior lightweight (130 pounds) class, Burgos worked his way through the amateur ranks and eventually became a professional in 1981.
However, Burgos' stay as a pro boxer was very short lived.
"My marriage was breaking up at the time, and I kept thinking about that," Burgos said. "My mind wasn't in it. In my second pro fight, I lost by a decision and left the game. I didn't want to know anything about boxing."
Burgos took a year off and worked as a foreman in a local warehouse. After the year, he tried to get back into the ring, but the fire just wasn't there.
"I lost three straight fights," Burgos said. "I got hit with a head-butt in one fight, and it split my eye open. I decided that I wasn't going to kill myself in the ring. Things weren't going my way, so I decided that I might as well get out while I still could."
However, the love of boxing never left Burgos.
About three years ago, he approached his long-time friend Joe Marino, the president of the North Bergen Police Activity League, and asked if he could start teaching kids how to box at the PAL's headquarters on Tonnelle Avenue.
"I wanted to get the boxing program going again," Burgos said. "I wanted to help kids. I figured I knew a lot about boxing and could help kids learn how to box."
The first fighter that Burgos began to train was his younger brother, William, who went on to win the New Jersey Diamond Gloves championship at 125 pounds.
"That sort of opened the door," Burgos said of his brother's title. "Once word got out that William won, we got a lot of kids to come down and train on a regular basis."
Burgos now works regularly with 11 boxers, nine of whom are under 21. Five of his charges have now qualified to box in the prestigious Golden Gloves tournament, which began last weekend at Plainfield High School.
Two of those boxers are brothers who are originally from Mexico, but moved to North Bergen for a better life a few years ago.
Ricardo Rosas first became interested in boxing while working out in Union City. But he was introduced to Burgos - the man Rosas affectionately calls "Pee Wee" - and began to train at the North Bergen PAL.
In just three months working with Burgos, Rosas became a New Jersey state champion and later won both the Diamond Gloves and the Golden Gloves titles at 141 pounds.
"He's an amazing trainer, the best around," said Rosas, who works at a warehouse, loading trucks full-time. "Everything I know in boxing, I've learned from Pee Wee."
Burgos was such a positive influence on Ricardo that he encouraged his younger brother, Gerardo, to join the boxing club.
"I came one day and sat and watched," Gerardo Rosas said. "After I watched, I wanted to get involved. It was a great place to learn how to box. I figured I could do it as well. I'm very surprised with everything I've learned so fast."
In just one year, the younger Rosas, fighting at 119 pounds, won the Golden Gloves, the Diamond Gloves and the state championship. A furniture deliverer by trade, Gerardo Rosas hopes that his experiences will lead to a professional career as well.
"That's my goal," Gerardo Rosas said. "I want to become a champion."
While Gerardo will get a chance to fight for another Golden Gloves title, Ricardo will have to sit out the tournament with back and hamstring injuries.
Another promising boxer is Alex Divia, who works for the township's Department of Public Works during the day.
Regardless of what happens in the Golden Gloves tournament, Burgos feels good about what he's been able to accomplish with his stable of youngsters, which includes his 12-year-old son Sandor, 12-year-old Paul Pino and the littlest boxer, 7-year-old Nicholas Gomez, who shows no fear training with the older guys.
"I just love the game," said Burgos, who works as a custodian in the Fort Lee school system, but still calls North Bergen home and trains the boxers strictly as a volunteer. "I want to be able to help these kids in the same way that I was helped. Maybe I can help keep them off the streets. I hope I'm helping."