For 30 years, Luis Camacho has run a community boxing gym behind a deserted grocery store in New York City’s South Bronx, where young men learn the skills they need to win in the ring -and in life. In a neighborhood better known for quick deals and short lives, the Bronxchester Boxing Club is a proving ground and a sanctuary, a home away from home where trainers become surrogate fathers who teach not just jabs and right crosses but discipline, self-esteem and respect. In My Corner, an intimate and explosive award-winning documentary produced by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, directed by Ricki Stern, explores the way caring, committed adults can rebuild the lives of kids on the edge. In My Corner will make its national broadcast premiere on POV, PBS’s award-winning showcase for independent non-fiction films, on June 22, 1999 10 PM ET (check local listings).
In My Corner centers on 15-year-old Joey Rios (who just won the Golden Gloves in April), an amateur boxing phenom battling family problems as he trains for the Junior Olympics, and 13-year-old José Suarez, a newcomer to the gym who shows drive and promise, but whose ties to the mean streets threaten his chances to succeed in the ring. Faced with the same adolescent temptations that can plague teenagers everywhere, the two young boxers struggle to stay focused, spurred on by the tough love of their mentors, Camacho and his former trainee, Angel Alejandro.
The cousin of three-time World Champion Hector “Macho” Camacho, Luis was already a well-known trainer of Olympic and professional fighters when he opened the Bronxchester Boxing Club. Here, Camacho and Alejandro dedicate themselves, body and soul, to the lives of their young athletes. “The truth is, this is home away from home for these kids,” says Camacho. “This is their neighborhood gym, this is where they learn the boxing, this is where they learn what life is all about.”
Alejandro knows first hand how a love of boxing and a good trainer can keep a young man out of trouble and on the right path; he had his own run-ins with the law until he wandered into Camacho’s gym at the age of 16 and turned his life around. “You have to be their coach, their trainer, their father, their godfather, their big brother,” says Alejandro. “We learn a lot about discipline in boxing. You carry that on to your life…When you step into the ring, you have to dig deep. That’s where you find out what you’re really made of.”
Tension mounts as Joey loses his bout in the Junior Olympics Boxing Tournament because he didn’t train consistently. Trouble at home and his social life threaten to land a knockout punch to his budding career, but Camacho and Alejandro do all they can to keep him on track. José, a Puerto Rican immigrant who started out as a street-fighter battling kids who made fun of his poor English, is initially determined to succeed in the ring. But he becomes distracted by life outside the gym, skipping training sessions to hang out with his friends, and then spraining his ankle in a pick-up basketball game. When the gym is destroyed by a flood, Camacho, Alejandro, and the young men who train there pitch in to repair and reopen the gym. Will Joey win his next big fight? Will José stick with his training?
Filmed over two years, from 1995 to early 1997, In My Corner grew out of Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s collaboration on a short experimental film on the choreography of boxing for the Paul Taylor Dance company. Looking for a gritty background location for their film, Ricki called on Luis Camacho and asked to use his gym. “We were surprised to learn that Luis, known for training Olympic and professional fighters, devoted himself to working with kids from the neighborhood,” says Stern. “Luis and Angel are surrogate fathers, mentors and role models for these boys. This happens to be a story about a gym in the South Bronx, but it could really have taken place in any community. In My Corner shows how adults who care enough to get involved can make a fundamental difference in kids’ lives.”
POV is proud to be partnering with the National Association of Police Athletic Leagues (PAL) in support of In My Corner to foster dialogue and problem-solving around the issues facing young people and encourage mentoring in local communities across the country. To find out more about mentoring opportunities in your community, call your local PAL chapter or America’s Promise at 1-888-55-YOUTH or go to www.americaspromise.org
A co-presentation of ITVS, EEN, WNET and LpBp