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WTF: Teens learn boxing for free in Noho

BY NOAH AUGUSTIN | Coach Donovan Jarvis loves it when the kids respond: “YES, COACH!”

“I need you punching so clean that the doorman downstairs feels it,” he exhorts a young group. “I want you punching slow. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

The almost 30 teenagers are learning to box at WTF, which stands for Work Train Fight — not what the f—. The boxing gym’s six-year-old youth program, Youth Boxing for Change (YB4C) is free of charge to anyone age 13 to 19.

Into the building at Bleecker Street and Broadway in Noho, up to the second floor, you’ll be greeted by staff at the front desk and some one-liners printed on the wall:

“Your left hand is the one on the left.”

“WTF trainers are divas so shut up when they speak.”

“Phone and ego not allowed in the studio.”

A fight night at the WTF boxing gym.  (Facebook)

Personal boxing sessions and general workouts are taking place in and around the full-size ring at all times. On Thursday afternoons, Jarvis trains the kids on the basics of boxing: the proper stance, jab, cross, hook, uppercut, etc.

On the one hand, Jarvis is no nonsense, and doesn’t treat the young pugilists with kid gloves.

“I know this is a youth class but I’m gonna speak to you like adults. If you have a problem with that, there’s the door,” he says, bluntly.

But he also mixes in fun, doing his thing during training, cracking jokes, dancing, singing and talking about the ’90s.

He likes to remind the kids that if anyone gets knocked out: “They can’t fire me ’cause I don’t get paid. I’m here because I wanna be.”

Donovan has been the coach for YB4C for the past five years.

The program’s president, Justine Gonzalez, visits training sometimes to say hi. She says this year’s group is one of the smaller ones they’ve had so far. Sometimes in the past there were so many kids that they had to run four sessions a week.

When asked, only a couple of the youths were interested in actually participating in a boxing match. And there’s only ever been one youth member who participated at a WTF fight night. For the most part, the kids either want to get fit or just learn how to hold their own. Some stay in the program from their early teens up until 19.

YB4C accepts applications at all times with priority given to low-income teens. The WTF gym is clean and professional. The mostly female staff, although admittedly a bunch of divas, are friendly and not at all shy. And, just to repeat, in case you didn’t catch it earlier: No, it doesn’t stand for what the f—.

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