The Veteran Boxers Association Ring One
The Veteran Boxers Association (VBA) Ring One clubhouse is located at 2733 E. Clearfield Street in the Port Richmond neighborhood. The VBA was founded in 1935 in a taproom at 10th and Arch Streets and the organization later established its first clubhouse at 5th and Girard. In the 1960s, the clubhouse was moved to a building at South Broad and Tasker Streets. As of 2007, the clubhouse occupies a former Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall. The building is equipped with a full bar and banquet room. The VBA’s clubhouse serves not only as a meeting place for the organization but as a Philadelphia boxing history museum. The building is filled with photos of fighters and relics such as gloves and gear from decades of Philadelphia boxing. Many of the photos in the collection adorned the walls of all three clubhouses.
The VBA was created after the death of ex-fighter Jimmy Love, who died in poverty. Members of the Philadelphia boxing community came together to raise funds so that Love would have a proper burial and not be buried in a potter’s grave. Unfortunately, Love’s financial state at the time of his death was not uncommon amongst ex-boxers. Fighters rarely made much money for the physical damage they received in the ring, and many did not manage their finances very well after retirement from the sport. Leading figures in the Philadelphia pugilist community recognized this problem, and established the VBA “to foster and promote the good and general welfare of the veteran boxer.”
The Philadelphia VBA inspired ex-boxers in other cities to establish their own chapters in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston, and, in 1963, a national organization was founded. VBA chapters also popped up outside of the United States in Mexico and England. As a result of these newer chapters, Philadelphia adopted the title of Ring One.
Regular membership in the VBA Ring One is for ex-fighters, both amateur and professional, managers and promoters. Members represent numerous decades of Philadelphia boxing history, and include a number of familiar faces within the city’s boxing scene. As of 2016, the VBA Ring One’s president is Charlie Sgrillo, and the treasurer is John Gallagher. Both men have served as directors of Harrowgate Boxing Club since the 1970s. Non-boxers can apply for a social membership in the organization with the sponsorship of a club officer. Most social members of the VBA Ring One are family members of ex-fighters, boxing writers, and boxing historians.
The VBA Ring One is committed to preserving the city’s rich boxing history. The Philadelphia chapter holds meetings and social events throughout the year to raise awareness of boxing history and raise funds for charitable efforts. Amongst these efforts, the organization is dedicated to supporting the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame and other recognition programs for individuals associated with the sport. The VBA Ring One also played a leading role in the completion and 2011 installation of the Joey Giardello statue in the East Passyunk Crossing area of South Philadelphia. The organization held an important 2009 fundraiser, and the statue was later sculpted and stored in an upstairs room at the clubhouse.
As of 2016, the VBA continues to have a powerful impact on the lives of veteran boxers who have fallen on hard times. There are over 100 chapters of the VBA around the world. Over the years, the organization expanded to both charity work inside and outside the boxing community, thus remaining committed to the values upon which the VBA was founded over 80 years ago.
- Gallagher, John. Interview with Matthew Ward. Personal Interview. Philadelphia, September 29, 2016.
- Rocchi, Julia. “Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 in Philadelphia.” National Trust for Historic Preservation. https://savingplaces.org/stories/historic-bars-veteran-boxers-association-ring-1-philadelphia#.WBOKCC0rJpg
- Sgrillo, Charlie. Interview with Matthew Ward. Personal Interview. Philadelphia, September 29, 2016.
- Woodall, Peter. “In Port Richmond, Boxing Lives On.” Hidden City Philadelphia. http://hiddencityphila.org/2014/06/a-place-for-boxers-and-their-history/
- “Boxers Associations.” International Boxing Research Organization. http://www.ibroresearch.com/links/international-veteran-boxers-associations/
- “Joey Giardello Statue Project.” Philly Boxing History. http://www.phillyboxinghistory.com/giardello/joey_schedule.htm
- “Veteran Boxers Association.” Veteran Boxers Association. http://www.veteranboxersassociation.comcastbiz.net/9801.html
2733 E. Clearfield Street