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Back against the ropes

Fundraiser to be held for Harrowgate Boxing Gym amid legal battle between owner and former tenant.

Fight of a lifetime: Chalie Sgrillo is facing a hefty lawsuit from former tenant Chuck Maguire. A fundraiser is being held to generate funds to save his boxing gym. MARIA YOUNG / STAR PHOTO

By Lindsey Nolen

In his 46 years of owning and operating Harrowgate Boxing Club, Charlie “Chalie” Sgrillo has devoted himself to helping many residents, young and old, spanning across the city. Currently at risk of losing his beloved gym, Sgrillo is now asking the community to fight in his corner.

While the now 75-year-old Sgrillo recalls first buying the club with John Gallagher in 1972 for $1 from the city, hundreds of thousands of his dollars are now at risk due to a lawsuit placed on him by Chuck “Diesel” Maguire, the owner of Diesel Fit Boxing.

Although Macquire literally “shook a deal” with Sgrillo in 2013 to use the second floor of the gym to train fighters, one year later, Sgrillo and Gallagher revoked that decision and Maguire took immediate legal action.

“We had him up there for close to a year and then I went to him one day and said ‘Listen I need you to move,’” Sgrillo said. “I think he had me set up for this because the very next day we had a letter from Gompers & Associates, P.C. saying they were suing the gym for $500,000.”

Sgrillo’s daughter-in-law Marybeth Sgrillo, who is the organizer of the fundraiser, said Sgrillo asked Maguire to leave because they were going to pursue a different revenue upstairs. There was no legal binding contract for Maguire to rent the space, Marybeth said, therefore Sgrillo thought he had every right to change the locks since he owned the gym.

Despite Sgrillo’s impression of the situation, Maguire says the entire situation is being blown out of proportion. He explained that when he started using the second floor of the boxing club, it was unlivable, and he had to paint and insulate the space himself.

“I saw 28 ceiling panels fall through,” Maguire said. “I’m not a bad guy, I was going to fix the roof for free and just asked him as a landlord for the $600 in materials. He should have just opened his hands and begged for the $600.”

Maguire added that since the lawsuit, the media has convoluted his story, but what speaks volumes is when he presented his facts in court, the ruling went in his favor. Having helped kids since 1972, he said he, too, was just out to help teach the kids who couldn’t pay the dues he recalls Sgrillo having collected four months in advance.

“The sides have been told in court,” Maguire said.

Although the sides were indeed discussed in court during a March 2016 trial, today, Sgrillo and Maguire remain in the same ongoing fight. To help give Sgrillo a second chance, Steven Marino, a member of the Harrowgate gym, has appealed the case to the Superior Court.

“Hopefully, it will rule in our favor that the trial judge didn’t know what she was doing,” Sgrillo said. “She didn’t know sports, and she didn’t know [Maguire] was lying through his teeth when he said his fighters made any more than $3,000 to $8,000 per fight. That’s not any hundreds of thousands that I can add up.”

Ultimately, if the appeal is denied, Sgrillo could be asked to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees, which continue to accrue interest.

Knowing he won’t be able to pay this amount outright, and with the pending threat of his gym going to auction, Sgrillo can’t help but reminisce back on all of the good he and his gym have accomplished over the years, and what it would be like to lose it all.

For example, Sgrillo’s mission to help guide inner-city youths to their full potential has led him to have a profound impact the lives of many of his boxers, many of whom now live in Northeast Philadelphia.

Using the gym as a safe haven for children, he has gone to great measures to ensure all of his members develop confidence and good character.

Despite the thousands of fighters who have entered Harrowgate’s doors, one of the stories that best exemplifies Sgrillo’s work is that of Adolpho Serrano. At 15, Aldolpho ran away from the place he was being housed through the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. After the police came to Harrowgate looking for the missing teen, Sgrillo set off to track him down.

“I got the kid and we took him over to the police station, and the next thing I know, we had to go to court for him,” Sgrillo said. “After it was all said and done, they were going to send him to Oregon. I raised my hand and said ‘I’ll take him, I’ll have him live with me.’ ”

For the next six months, Sgrillo housed Adolpho and had him enrolled in Lincoln High School, where he received high marks. From there, Adolpho won a Golden Gloves fight in 2016, and Sgrillo got him back in touch with his father whom he then went on to live with.

Sgrillo also remembers teaching a kid named Gennaro Pellegrini Jr. from Port Richmond, who eventually became a police officer in the 26th Police District. One night while on duty, Pelligrino had to run after a suspect, and when he was forced to get into a physical altercation, his Harrowgate instincts kicked in.

“The guy took a swing at him and he clocked him,” Sgrillo laughed. “He knocked him out so they started calling him ‘K-O Gerry.’”

Unfortunately, “K-O Gerry,” a National Guard serviceman, was killed outside the northern town of Beiji, Iraq, in 2004 when he was 31.

Yet, Sgrillo remembers training him just as well as he remembers his other more well-known fighters, such as former two weight world champion Danny Garcia, Anthony Boyle, an Irish-American lightweight boxer from Kensington, and Freddy McMunn, Brian McGinley and Mikey Weaver.

In recognizing the purpose and undeniable footprint, or gloveprint, the gym has left on the community, Sgrillo and his club are now asking community members to fight for Harrowgate by supporting fundraisers.

“When kids first started paying to work out at the gym I didn’t want to take their money, but a friend of mine said ‘Stop and think about all the kids we’ve worked out through the years and how many kids have come back and said how much you helped them,’” Sgrillo said. “Some of these kids have come back and given me whatever money they can, and it’s nice that people are reaching out to help me now after I’ve been helping them for 46 years.”

The Harrowgate Boxing Club fundraiser will be held on Sunday, May 7, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, 11630 Caroline Road.

Tickets cost $40 per person. Supporters who cannot attend can purchase “no show tickets” for $20, and will be entered into all prize raffles. Donations baskets needed.

For tickets or to help with donations, contact Marybeth Sgrillo at 267–767–7420.

Supporters can also donate by visiting gofundme.com/harrowgate-boxing-club.

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