With her then-9-year-old son showing early signs of heading down the wrong path, Michael Reyes’ mother intervened.
She enlisted the help of Reyes’ uncle, who dragged Reyes down to the famed Petronelli gym in Brockton, best known for serving as the training home of boxing champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Reyes’ first couple of forays into the ring did not go well.
“I got beaten up by older kids,” he says.
But even at a young age, Reyes had a fierce competitive streak. He stuck with it, and by the time he reached his mid-teens, he had won a couple of national championships in the 119- and 132-pound weight classes.
“At that point, I thought boxing was going to be my life,” Reyes says.
That has turned out to be true — just not in the exact sense Reyes envisioned.
Reyes is now extending an open invitation to his Marblehead neighbors to revel with him in his first North Shore boxing event, “Down & Dirty 7,” to be held Friday, Oct. 27 at the Danversport event hall, 161 Elliott St., Danvers.
Weigh-ins for the nine bouts on the card will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at District Fitness on Tioga Way, out of which Reyes operates his boxing gym. Members of the community are invited to attend.
Later Thursday evening, Reyes and his fighters will be holding a meet-and-greet — and loading up on carbohydrates — at The Beacon Restaurant, 123 Pleasant St.
Instead of chasing title belts, Reyes had a couple of mentors who “gave me an education on education,” he says.
Reyes headed to Norwich University, graduating and receiving his military commission in June 2001, three months before the 9/11 attacks.
After completing his military service, Reyes returned home and began getting into training boxers.
In 2018, he took over Salem Fitness — now District Fitness — and established a small boxing gym inside of it.
The main event of “Down & Dirty 7” will pit 24-year-old Rodrigo Coria of Argentina against Paulo Galdino of Brazil as Coria defends his World Boxing Organization Latino championship belt.
The card also features boxers with local roots, including Khiry Todd of Lynn, who will carry into the ring an 11-1 record, with nine of those wins coming by knockout, and undefeated Gabby Morales of Lowell (8-0).
While interest in the sport of boxing may have waned, Reyes believes the sport is “as strong as it has been in the past 30 years,” noting that professional boxers still earn bigger paychecks than their Ultimate Fighting Championship counterparts.
While fans have grown increasingly cognizant of the potential for life-altering injuries in the sports they follow, statistics show that head injuries are less prevalent in boxing than they are in soccer and football, according to Reyes.
That makes sense, because combatants in the ring are similar in size, while many of the most gruesome injuries in football are the result of the high-speed collision between a receiver or running back and a considerably larger defensive player, Reyes added.
To the extent that boxing has failed to recapture the public’s fascination, Reyes believes that part of the problem is that fighters have not done a great job challenging themselves with competitive fights.
That will not be a problem with “Down & Dirty 7,” as all of the boxers on the card are looking to put their skills to the test, Reyes says.
“They’re there to be the best,” he said.
There are nine matches on the card for “Down & Dirty 7.” Three are scheduled for four rounds, three more are slated for six rounds, there are a pair of eight-round fights, and then the Coria-Galdino title match will go a maximum of 10 rounds.
For live attendees, passed hors d’oeuvres and a cheese plate will be included in the admission price ($80-$129). The matches can also be streamed online ($12.50). For more information, see reyesboxingclub.com/events.
As its name suggests, “Down & Dirty 7” is part of an ongoing series of events. The first two were held in Maine, the next three in Melrose, and then there was one in Lowell before landing in Danvers. It is believed to be the first professional boxing event in the history of Oniontown, period.
But now that Reyes himself and his young family has settled into Marblehead, he is hoping his boxing promotions can find homes in and around the North Shore as well.
After the Danvers event Oct. 27, Reyes’ next production is a “dinner show,” what he said will be a “small, intimate affair,” scheduled for Dec. 9 at the Doubletree Inn in North Andover.
In addition to leading a revival of pugilism on the North Shore, Reyes also hopes to spread the word about his nonprofit organization A Fighting Chance, which aims to offer a safe place for underprivileged youth to get some homework help while also providing access to health and fitness programming. Learn more at afightingchanceinc.org.