Harrowgate Boxing Club
A two-story brick building at 1920 East Venango Street in the Harrowgate neighborhood of Philadelphia stands as a reminder of the city’s rich boxing history. The building is marked with a fading sign adorned with two green shamrocks that pay homage to the gym and neighborhood’s Irish American heritage. Today, a wave of Puerto Rican immigrants, many of whom moved there in the late 1980s, has displaced most of the Irish who called the neighborhood home. Much like the Irish residents who trained at Harrowgate Boxing Club, though, the newer Puerto Rican residents also embraced the sport of boxing.
Harrowgate Boxing Club was founded in 1972 by John Gallagher and Charlie Sgrillo. Before becoming a boxing gym, the building was used as a leather factory. The building was converted into a boxing gym after sitting vacant for five years. Gallagher and Sgrillo are fixtures in the city’s boxing community, and once fought against one another as amateur boxers. John Gallagher worked as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and as a principal in the School District of Philadelphia. His longtime business partner Charlie Sgrillo is a former professional fighter, who refereed over 100 professional bouts in the greater Philadelphia area between the early 1970s and late 1990s. These bouts included a number of popular fighters in boxing history including Matthew Saad Muhammad, Curtis Parker, Joe Frazier Jr., Nate Miller, Charles Brewer and Antonio Tarver.
Over the years, a number of professional boxers trained at Harrowgate. Brian McGinley and Anthony Boyle were two of many Irish American boxers from Philadelphia who called the gym home during the 1980s and 1990s. Boyle, a lightweight boxer from Kensington, was a popular fighter who fought professionally between 1985 and 1995. His ten year career included three title fights, all of which were fought at the world famous North Philadelphia boxing venue, the Blue Horizon. McGinley, another fighter from Kensington, fought from 1984 to 1990 in the welterweight division. McGinley became popular amongst Philadelphia fight fans after compiling an 11-bout unbeaten streak between 1986 and 1989. 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and Philadelphia native David Reid also trained at Harrowgate. As a professional, Reid held titles in the super welterweight division in 1998 and 1999.
Professional boxer Danny Garcia, a Puerto Rican fighter from Juniata Park, stands as a symbol of the demographic changes that occurred in the neighborhoods surrounding Harrowgate Boxing Club in the late 1900s. Garcia fights professionally out of the light welterweight and welterweight divisions, and captured his first world title in 2012. Garcia trained at Harrowgate from 1998-2013, before opening his own gym in the area.
In recent years, Gallagher and Sgrillo have supported the preservation of Philadelphia boxing history. Harrowgate Boxing Club, now a nonprofit organization, supported fundraising efforts in the 2000s to erect a statue of Philadelphia fighter Joey Giardello in the East Passyunk neighborhood that Giardello called home. The men are also active members of the Veterans Boxer Association Ring One (VBA) in Philadelphia, an organization that was established in 1935, “to foster and promote the good and general welfare of the veteran boxer.” Since its inception, the organization has served the community with charity work both in and out of boxing circles.
Harrowgate Boxing Club’s most important role is the one it plays in the local community. The club not only serves as a place for neighborhood kids to train in boxing, but also as a refuge for them from the hazards of the streets. Both Gallagher and Sgrillo believe that this sport saved their lives as teenagers and hope that Harrowgate Boxing Club will remain a safe haven for future generations.
- Veteran Boxers Association. http://www.veteranboxersassociation.comcastbiz.net/
- Breen, Matt. “Philly Champ Danny Garcia’s Final Days at Old Boxing Club.” Philly.com. http://articles.philly.com/2013-04-26/sports/38845645_1_angel-garcia-danny-garcia-boxing-gym
- Foley, Denise. “The Fighter Still Remains.” IrishPhiladelphia.com. http://irishphiladelphia.com/2011/09/5891/
- Gallagher, John. Interview with Matthew Ward. Personal Interview. Philadelphia, September 29, 2016.
- “Anthony Boyle.” Philly Boxing History. http://www.phillyboxinghistory.com/boxers/boxer_boyle_anthony.htm
- “Anthony Boyle.” BoxRec. http://boxrec.com/boxer/28514
- “Brian McGinley.” Philly Boxing History. http://www.phillyboxinghistory.com/boxers/boxer_mcginley_brian.htm
- “Brian McGinley.” BoxRec. http://boxrec.com/boxer/22728
- “Charlie Sgrillo.” BoxRec. http://boxrec.com/person/402160?role=referee
- “David Reid.” BoxRec. http://boxrec.com/boxer/7196
1920 E. Venango Street