Recently I had the honour to speak to the one and only Darren Checkmate Maciunski in the US. A renowned fighter that left me thinking.
2017 is turning out to be the most enriching and beneficial year for boxing in quite some time, delivering in numerous fashions, making it one that critical fight fans will always remember.
From the candidates regarding “fight of the year”, the elite match-ups, worthy PPV and even popularity towards amateur boxing have increased through social media.
One factor will never change and that is; it all begins in the gym.
Former IBC champion, 3 time Golden Gloves champion, NJ Hall of Fame; trainer, and owner at Checkmates Boxing Center – Darren Maciunski, manages his gym in Toms River, NJ – the place where all levels of boxing are practiced through positive energy, sweat, tenacity and undeniable passion for the sweet science.
Darren operates his gym seven days a week, where his students, young boxers and spectators have become illuminated with his training sessions.
Through intrinsic mitt-work, defense training, friendly smiles, laughter and of course the comical “body shots”; Darren delivers a diverse range of boxing training that is a rarity to find.
Anyone can walk into Checkmates and feel right at home, completely comfortable, as well as able to set their own goals to achieve.
The regulars at the gym were asked: to describe Darren in one word, which at sometimes, one word isn’t enough –
Kami Louer: Darren is “Enthusiastic”
Gavin: “Body shots”
Frank Marino: Darren is “Dedicated”
Brandon: Darren is “Amazing”
Andrew: “Baby Jesus Body Shots”
The beautiful words are only a mere fraction; that explains how terrific Darren is as a person, let alone a remarkable boxing trainer.
BoxingNewsandViews.com and members from Facebook group: Neds Boxing Emporium; traveled to Toms River, NJ to experience the Checkmates Boxing Center training regimen, on a Saturday morning, as well as have a one on one interview with Darren Maciunski:
Here’s how my interview with Darren went:
Chris: “Thank you for having us Darren, lets start with how you got into boxing?”
Darren: ” I didn’t start boxing until I was 19. I was a bit of a troubled kid, so my father brought me into a gym to keep me off the streets.
Chris: So boxing was your outlet?
Darren: Yes, at first I was anything but a fighter, but I kept at it. After a little while, we started amateur boxing . I had around 40 amateur fights and ended up winning the New Jersey Golden Gloves three times; once in the Novice and two in the open class, as there was no sub-novice when I started boxing.
Chris: There’s no such thing as an “easy fight”, yet you have an interesting resume that stands out. You’ve fought boxers like “Buddy” (James) McGirt, Meldrick Taylor and a young, undefeated Fernando Vargas. What was you’re highlight as a professional boxer?
Darren: I had a few great moments, (like the names you just mentioned) in my career. It started with Meldrick Taylor, I fought him at the end of his career; at the legendary Blue Horizon venue in Philadelphia, which unfortunately is no longer there. Taylor had been fighting in boxing when I was young and just started fighting, against guys like Julio Cesar Chavez, so it was a real honor to fight Meldrick Taylor and be part of venues like Blue Horizon. I’ve fought there almost a dozen times.
Chris: Checkmate is your boxing alias and name of your facility, so how did you acquire that nickname?
Darren: During amateurs, my father had originally given me the name “Hurricane”, as he used to spar with boxer “Hurricane” Carter, but it was during a game of chess; when my associate said “you should call yourself Checkmate” and I loved the name, so it stuck with me ever since.
Chris: At what point did you realize you’d be training in your own gym?
Darren: That’s an interesting question. I was pretty much done my professional career, which overall; was a strenuous journey and I ended up not having much money at the time. Next, I met a guy named Joe, who was a fan of mine, who wanted to hire me as a weekly trainer. After a few months, I landed myself a job within his company, working hard, but making decent money. I then had what was basically a spiritual awakening and decided I wasn’t happy with the work I was doing. I was given two pairs of gloves and focus mitts…Which led me to become a trainer.
Chris: How long has Checkmates Boxing Center been around?
Darren: I’ve been training others for over 16 years, but Checkmates Boxing Center is roughly 14 years young.
Chris: Social media today has “live feed” features that we can stream and share, but Checkmates seem to enjoy using ”Facebook live”, more compared to most gyms.. Has that been beneficial for you and your students?
Darren: I think so, but we’ve only been using Facebook live for a few months. I believe it’s a good thing, because it saves us upload time.
Chris: I’ve been a follower for a few months.. It seems your live videos keep the students on their toes, because they now have spectators watching.
Darren: Oh yeah, definitely. When sparring and training In the gym, it’s more relaxed. Now, a real fight.. The crowd, the people watching, your nerves become present, so it’s totally different knowing you’re being watched.
Chris: Right now.. What’s your long term goal?
Darren: I’m truly blessed and I try to live one day at a time. I’ve had a few amateurs and I may want to train a few professionals if the timing and passion are both mutual. This is a business, so you need to be with the right people who take it just as seriously.
Chris: What motivates you and who inspires you?
Darren: I love boxing and have a lot of kids here who keep me passionate. From anti bullying, wanting to stay in shape.. Boxing is a healthy lifestyle. I have children and young adults who walk in here “messing up”, so to say. A few months later and they’re in the ring sparring, so seeing the progression builds a lot of confidence for both me and my members.
Chris: Darren, before we conclude this interview, lets talk about your experience with Bernard Hopkins, one of boxing’s all time great fighters. Bernard had what we considered a long “prime”, yet you were his regular sparring partner during his middleweight days.. What was it like to be in the ring with him?
Darren: Bernard Hopkins was one of the best guys I’ve been with in the ring and I truly believe in order to get better in the sport, or anything in life. You have to experience with those who will challenge you the most, as well as test your ability. In that sense, I believe training with Hopkins and working out at the legendary Joe Frazier’s Boxing Gym has been another great experience in my boxing career.
Following my interview with Darren, I was left pondering one particular quote:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
– Theodore Roosevelt.
From Darren’s first day at the boxing gym, to his dedication to the youth of today, “Checkmate” shows us why boxing will never die.