Chernoff selected for state Boxing Hall of Fame

When Markeese Hines, who trains at Main Street Gym, won a bout in the Golden Gloves Championship semi-finals last weekend against a boxer from Washington, D.C., Hal Chernoff, who owns the gym and mentors each aspiring boxer, was pleased.

Hines, he said, peppering his conversation with boxing terminology, “continued to dominate in the novice 152-pound class, outpointing Antonio Brothers.”

When he talks about the youth he sees training at the gym several days every week, mostly boys, it’s with the warmth of a man who cares, who knows their potential, understands their struggles and expects the best of them.

Chernoff will be inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame on April 29 at a banquet in Glen Burnie, Md. To purchase tickets, call Mike Ricassa at 443-745-4801.

“Honestly, I’m not good at getting awards,” he said.

“The truth of the matter is, I know better than anybody else that this doesn’t get done with one person. This is a team. It’s so many different teams, not just my gym and my coaches but it’s my board of directors, it’s everybody. Everybody plays such an integral role. We wouldn’t be here without them. I just try to divert it to everybody else,” he said.

He’d rather shine the spotlight on young men like Hines, who, he said by winning last weekend, “punches his ticket to the championships in two weeks” and about Corey Moore.

“He dropped a decision in a solid performance against a very tough Marlon Bolen, who fights out of Floyds Gym in D.C. In all, three Main Street boxers will compete in the Washington, D.C., Golden Gloves Championship at Rosecroft Raceway — Hines, Thomas Mottinger and James McMurdo, in the 152-pound novice, 200-pound open and 201-plus open respectively,” Chernoff said.

In mid-February, 30 cities around the country started preliminary bouts at the local level with Washington D.C. being the hub for Maryland and Delaware. In the first week of elimination bouts, Hines “won a solid victory over Brilyen Kelly of Langdon,” Chernoff said.

“(He) combined solid body shots with slick defense that eventually caused the referee to give Kelly a standing eight count,” he said.

“Also winning from the Eastern Shore was Jerry Shockley fighting out of Down Under Boxing, who won on points over Daniel Holmes from Old School Boxing in Washington, D.C.,” Chernoff said.

Along with Hines, five more Main Street boxers are entered in the most popular amateur boxing tournament in the world, he said.

In the junior division is Erick Acosta of Salisbury, fighting at 126 pounds, and Jordan Brown of Delmar, fighting at 132 pounds. The three competing in the Open Class Division are Moore at 152 pounds, James McMurdo in the super heavyweight division of 200 pounds and higher and Thomas Mottinger in the heavyweight, 200-pound maximum, division.

Both Mottinger and McMurdo have won regional championships in the novice division in past years.

All boxers will vie for state and regional championships with only the open class boxers eligible to compete for a national title at the Ralston Arena in Omaha, Neb.

Preliminary bouts at Rosecroft were on Feb 24, March 3, March 10 and March 24. State Championships will be on April 7. The Golden Gloves nationals will be May 18 to 20 in Omaha, Neb.

In the third week of the Golden Gloves, Acosta was awarded the championship medal in his division as a walkover champion and Brown “battled Reginald Clark of Hillcrest Boxing in Washington, D.C.,” Chernoff said.

“The two young boxers battled to standing crowd at the final bell. Brown lost the decision but proved that has broken through to another level and is eager and will continue his path to become a junior champion in the Junior Olympic Tournament,” he said.

Mottinger, “put on a show of power and punching accuracy against a game Jordan Scott from Washington, D.C.” while Mottinger “landed solid punches that caused the ring doctor to check on Scott twice through the three-round bout to make sure he was OK to continue,” Chernoff said.

“In the end all three judges saw that Mottinger dominated the bout, which sends him to the finals. Also winning were Marquette McMillian, fighting out of the Down Under Boxing, who will advance to the finals on April 7,” he said.

Acosta “shocked and impressed” him, then came back and dominated in the Scott Wagner Tribute, Chernoff said.

“It was impressive because he showed such a great skill set” and beat Magnus Benz of Baltimore.

“I’ve had Erick since he was 5. I could see it coming. I could see him doing what he needed to do in the gym. It was just a matter of doing it in the competition. I was just waiting for it to come together,” Chernoff said.

Often, students with discipline problems are referred to Chernoff.

“When you have a kid like that, the first thing you try to do is keep him coming back. You try to make it so that it’s disciplined and regimented but it’s also in a fun way, so they want to keep coming. The first thing is finding a way to make them like it. You have to continue to teach them the skills. It’s a slow process. A 5-year-old isn’t going to have the same kind of skills as a 12-year-old,” he said.

He and fellow coaches “get to know the kids and we see it up close, them saying, ‘Well, look. He started after I did and he’s doing it, so I can do it.’ Their mind set changes and they say, ‘OK, I’m ready to go for it,’” Chernoff said.

He and fellow coaches talk to the youngsters, overlook shortcomings and guide them through difficulties.

“Erick had quite a few rough times. He always knew he has one person he can always go to,” Chernoff said.

“The gym is a comfortable place. There are no outcasts. You know, all these school shootings we hear about. There is one thing all those shooters have in common. They felt like outcasts. They never felt like part of something. In boxing, if you’re a little nerdy it doesn’t matter. They are part of the team and we make them feel that way.

“Take a kid, 5 years old, and he goes out for soccer and works with a coach. After a couple of months, he’s done, and he moves on. Everything is seasonal. Boxing is the only sport that, when they start training, they train four and five nights a week, 52 weeks a year,” he said.

Chernoff receives no funding from the city or county to keep Main Street Gym running, but said he considers his sponsors – including Pohanka of Salisbury, Brian Lecompte of Yard Designs, Perdue Foundation, Donnie Williams Foundation and The Community Foundation — blessings.

His annual budget is about $70,000.

“It’s on a shoestring because that is how I’ve always run it.  You get more bang for your buck at the Main Street Gym because your dollar goes right to work. You’re going to see us buy equipment. My wife works here, she volunteers to help us. We have to pay insurance. We have to pay to keep the lights on,” he said.

“If people want to help us, we can always use funds. Funds will allow us to get equipment, too. As we get more kids we have to take care of them with equipment, things like that. We can always use some volunteer office help. Some things need to be done in the office that I don’t have time to do, like filing,” he said.

Many young boxers never compete but still enjoy going to the gym. Some like to spar but don’t want to compete. Currently, Chernoff oversees about 140 youth.

“We get calls every day. A lot of teachers recommend us. If a teacher is having a problem or sees a kid who has a special need, he or she will call. The court system refers them to me, Social Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, neighboring counties that work with youth. We have room. The gym can hold quite a few people,” he said.

He credited Prince Street Elementary School teacher and boxer James McMurdo for being a good influence.

“He’s a great guy, a great big guy. He was a football standout at Salisbury University. He is very well liked in teaching circles. He brought a number of kids to the gym and they love it,” Chernoff said.


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