John Bray Interview: A Great Ambassador for the Sport of Boxing By Benny Henderson Jr. (March 26, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
I have been blessed to come into contact with a variety of people doing this whole boxing gig, some unforgettable, some very forgettable, and some whom have become real close friends. And when the name John Bray comes into play, I consider this guy a close brother, but more importantly, a good guy in the sport of boxing.
For the ones who don’t know John Bray, here is a little info. John was a highly decorated amateur; he won seven national titles, John Earned a gold medal in 1991 against Melvin Foster at the US Olympic Festival in Los Angeles. John would win the gold medal alongside future world Champions Oscar De La Hoya and Raul Marquez and ended his amateur with a (124-12) record.
John had a short stint as a pro, but served as sparring partner for champions, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, but was side lined after a near fatal stroke.
John started training fighters, and his notables being, Tommy Morrison, Jose Celaya, Lance Whitaker, Jeremy Williams, Robert Guerrero and Miguel Espino, and even had a part as trainer in the fourth season of “The Contender”.
John Bray has seen and done almost all in the world of boxing, and with his experiences good or bad, John is taking his knowledge and giving back to the community with his non-profit organization entitled, John Bray Boxing Foundation. And this weekend will be the third Annual of John’s Free Youth Boxing Clinic, with his clinic, John and his team are trying to prevent violence and risky behavior among children and young adults by promoting athletic and academic success.
In this exclusive interview, John talks about his foundation and speaks on this weekend’s upcoming event, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: You have the John Bray 3rd Annual Free Youth Boxing Clinic coming up this Saturday, very exciting isn’t it?
John Bray: What’s crazy is that it has gotten so big and popular, that now we are dealing with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. A friend of mine who works as a homicide detective Mike Rodriguez, you know Mike; he does MMA training and boxing training too. But he will be there as well, he has helped us coordinate a lot of things, get vehicles and everything the Sheriff’s Department has helped us out with. We have had so many terrific people have helped.
BH: How did this come about?
JB: You know what it was? I said let’s do a boxing clinic, and I did it, the clinic was before the foundation. I just wanted to give back to the community, I am doing alright, doing pretty good, so out of my pocket and my brother Ben Bray, he banked it, and we did a few boxing clinics to teach the kids about boxing. Well, my brother was like, why don’t you form a foundation, so I was like alright cool, and that was how the foundation was born. Jerry Gonzalez, he is the CEO, he is the captain, he is the guy who really coordinates and puts all these people together, and he gets things working. I know a lot of people, but I don’t know how to manage things. My brother Tom Bray, he is the legal guy, he files all the paper work and works close to Jerry.
BH: When you work with these kids in the clinic, how do they react to you guys working with them?
JB: They are cool and interested, they are like wow, now it has expanded, we will be working with the LAPD, a head guy from the DEA, people from the FBI, the Sheriff’s Department, local politicians, these people are coming out talking to these kids. They are going to talk to the kids, and hopefully something will click in one of the kid’s heads.
BH: I think what you and the Foundation, the entire team is doing is such a great thing, the one thing about boxing, we both know, it takes discipline, mentally and physically.
JB: I have this true, I started working with troubled kids about ten years ago, we worked at the gym, and these were some rough kids so we tried talking to them as well. This one kid named Michael Gonzalez, he came to the gym, he boxes and fights in the Golden Gloves, well we you get close to the kids and become their friend. Well, he was a senior in high school, so I told him, hey man; you need to go to college. He was like I don’t know, he was from the neighborhood, all tatted down and stuff. Well, he went to college and graduated, so he came to me and said what am I supposed to do now coach, I told him, why do you become a parole officer and help these guys. So he became a parole officer, so I had a friend who helped him get to work in the high school as a probation officer helping kids. He came to me, and said, coach, the system is kind of corrupt, so I said, well, why don’t you become a lawyer and change it. He looked at me and said coach you are crazy.
You are never going to believe what happened Benny. He graduated top of his class from Pepperdine University, past the bar the very first time. I have another kid who was a drug addict, now he is a strong member of his church, a leader in his community, married with a beautiful kid. Here is a kid from the hood, who made something of himself, that is what I want to do with this foundation and boxing clinic, keep these kids off the streets and help find their greatest potential. So you know what, I can donate some of my time and maybe help one of these kids. I am not just teaching boxing, but we are teaching life skills. And what is funny, by me doing this, it helps me stay on the straight and narrow, I have to be an example, I cannot be saying this nor doing that.
BH: I know that you had a rough past there when you became pro, so with your past experiences, what advice would you give to these young kids getting into the sport?
JB: My favorite line is, it is a lifestyle. You have to change your life, this is not a job or a sport, it is a lifestyle change, you have to fully commit physically, mentally and spiritually. You know that, you cannot go out and hang out drinking and smoking and be a weekend warrior boxer, you have to take care of your body and think differently.
BH: If a reader can get one thing from this interview or from the boxing clinic this weekend, what would you want that one thing to be?
JB: You are only going to get out of life, what you put into it, same with boxing; you are only going to get out boxing what you put into it. If you want to slack, you are not going to go anywhere in life or boxing, you have to fully commit, put both feet in whatever you decide to do with your life, it has to be a full commitment or it doesn’t happen.
BH: Anything in closing?
JB: I would like to thank Samantha Schoenholtz and Ben Baruch from Everlast Worldwide Inc. Matt Halverson from Powerade, Jerry Gonzalez, Tom Bray, Bonnie Bray and my good brother Ben Bray. None of this would be happening if they weren’t doing what they are doing.
Writer’s Note: I have came to know John and hung out with him on separate occasions, he is very down to earth, very knowledgeable, and just a great all around guy. If you believe in giving to charity, and love the sport of boxing and our youth, the John Bray Foundation is a great cause to give too.
The 3rd Annual John Bray Free Youth Boxing Clinic is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 27, 2010 from 10:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The event will take place at the LAPD Foothill Jeopardy Facility located at 11844 Glenoaks Boulevard in San Fernando, California.
We would like to graciously thank the following sponsors for making this event a reality: Everlast Worldwide Inc., Glaceau Vitamin Water, Powerade, Convicted Artists, Visual Impact Stunt Equipment Company and the International Stunt Association. For additional information regarding this event and/or on the John Bray Boxing Foundation, please visit www.johnbrayboxingfoundation.org or contact Jerry Gonzalez at (559) 643-9313.