David Telesco leaned back against the ropes in the corner of Carver Center's shiny new boxing gym on Thursday, taking a temporary break from training a group of about a dozen young boxers.
Telesco was engaged in a conversation, but every few seconds his eyes darted back to the teenagers.
"Keep your chin down!" he told a female boxer working on her footwork. "One, two, one two, weave!"
Like a veteran baseball scout who can pick out a flaw in a hitter's mechanics after one swing, it takes Telesco just a glance to notice a potentially costly error in the ring, that chink in a fighter's armor that could provide an opening for a jab or a power punch.
The third-floor gym at Port Chester's was buzzing with activity Thursday, with teenagers rotating into a fully-equipped ring for one-on-one sessions with Telesco, then hitting the speed bags. The one-on-one instruction is partitioned out in three-minute bursts – the exact length of one boxing round – with a buzzer sounding off the rounds over the beat of hip hop blaring from a boombox in the corner.
Lining the walls are photos and framed memorabilia of boxing legends, from Mike Tyson to Rocky Marciano – and that guy in the ring.
"It's kinda cool, because your teacher's a pro," said Eduardo Henrique, 14.
Telesco is a former light heavyweight titleholder who, at 41, looks like he could still go the 12-round distance against the world's best. Telesco, who drew the attention of boxing fans nationwide with a 2000 bout against Roy Jones Jr., returned to the ring in 2009 to earn a TKO victory at a card at the Rye Town Hilton.
The instructor cuts an intimidating presence in the ring, even when he's just holding pads. But the kids aren't afraid to get into the ring with him – many of them knew him growing up.
Among those who know Telesco from "the neighborhood" is 15-year-old Kevin Coyt, a freshman who heard about the club during school announcements and worked up a sweat Thursday perfecting his jab and his left – his power punch.
After pulling off his gloves, Coyt explained how he was learning to generate power in his left hand through full-body movements.
"You hit it with all your force," he said, nodding toward a punching bag. "I'm into it."
The boxing club doesn't discriminate by gender – on Thursday, there was an active group of five girls, rotating between jump-rope sessions and time in the ring.
Telesco considers Mithzi Chino, 17, one of his star pupils.
"I feel really special," Chino said with a laugh. "I never thought I'd be good at boxing."
As for Telesco, as he surveys the brand-new gym and this next generation of fighters, it's obvious he's enjoying himself.
"I get to do something that I love to do, something I really, really know," he said, "and it's something for me to give back to the community."
Click the gallery above to view images from Thursday afternoon's classes. Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4 to 5 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. Call the Carver Center at 914-939-4464 for more information.
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