A young man from the Bronx is trying to fight his way to becoming the first world champion boxer from the borough in more than 20 years. Bronx reporter Erin Clarke profiled Manny Gonzalez.
Growing up on Jackson Avenue was rough for Emmanuel “Manny” Gonzalez.
"Coming out of school, fighting kids from other neighborhoods," he said.
Family members affectionately describe a young Gonzalez as, “ a little tough kid,” who “always got into fights.”
That changed when Gonzalez realized he could put his hand work to better use.
"I had one of my fights there and when we came out one of the guys who was actually a boxer came up and he was like, 'Oh I want you to come test out the gym. Come to a boxing gym," Gonzalez said.
At age 12, his dad started him in boxing.
He fought his first match at 13.
"It was scary, man. I actually knocked a dude out. I knocked him out in the first round. He was actually knocked out for about 20 minutes," Gonzalez said.
Once Gonzalez realized his opponent was ok, he was hooked.
As an amateur, Gonzalez's record was 77-13. In 2008, he won the state golden glove title in the featherweight category.
As a pro, he won the New York State Championship in 2012.
Now his eyes are set on the world featherweight title.
"Very ambitious, very strong individual,” said a fellow boxer.
To get there is no easy task.
"You go to sleep early, you wake up early," said Ben Lieblein, Gonzalez’s manager. "You're always on a diet, you’re always running, you’re always training.”
There's always the danger of the sport that fighters have to keep in mind.
"We've had guys recently lose their lives. A couple of guys in a coma and you have to understand what this game really means. If you're not ready to give your all to this game this is not a game. This is not a sport. You don't play boxing," said Lieblein.
Gonzalez has a pretty big support system.
"Everytime Manny has a fight, the whole neighborhood gets all excited," said Maribel Canaan, Gonzalez’s aunt.
The group appreciates he's stayed true to his roots.
"Everybody always tells me if I want to be a successful champion, I have to move out the Bronx, and I be telling everybody like, I don’t ever decide to leave the Bronx,” he said.
So his quest to become the first world champ from the Bronx since the 90s continues.
Gonzalez's next fight is on January 30 at the Barclays Center. He's fightiing in the undercard for the Victor Ortiz/Louis Collazo fight.