UNION CITY AND BEYOND -- The New Jersey Diamond Gloves kicked off its 77th annual amateur boxing tournament Friday night at Mother Seton School in Union City, though earlier in the day organizers had been concerned the tournament might be on life support.
According to a statement from the Union City Boxing Club, the tournament was nearly canceled when the Amateur Boxing Association’s doctor couldn’t make the opening bout. It is mandatory for a doctor to be at ringside to examine boxers before and after they compete.
Union City Boxing Club Head Coach Joe Botti said doctors all over the state had been called, but a substitute was hard to find due to the short notice.
But help turned out to be just around the corner in West New York in the office of Dr. Felix Roque, who Botti said has a reputation for volunteering his time for the community.
“When I called Dr. Roque he immediately said yes,” said Botti. “Without a doubt he saved the day for these kids.”
In addition to his own time, Roque also brought along his sister Dr. Hilda Roque-Dieguez who volunteered her time for the event.
“We went from no doctors to two,” said Botti.
Botti also received special surprise recognition during the evening when members of the Union City Boxing Club from the past 20 years climbed into the ring to acknowledge his work with the community and thank Botti for giving them a safe haven in the club.
Botti, a Union City police sergeant currently assigned to the high school, founded the club in 1989 and has directed it ever since.
Former gym member and current assistant coach Vincent Robles thanked Botti on behalf of the many members who have frequented the gym over the years.
“You gave us a home and a family that most of us lacked even at the expense of you being away from your own home and family,” said Robles. “You also gave us a positive alternative to the streets. Although we can never repay you for your many sacrifices, we can tell you that they have not gone unseen and we can deeply and sincerely thank you for having made them. You have changed the course of many lives over the years, including mine.”