It’s good to talk to young people who have their entire lives in front of them and are following their dreams. Boxing is a tough profession, yet these two young men from Dorchester are willing to work hard, pay their dues, and hopefully, someday in the near future, see their dreams fulfilled. These two enthusiastic athletes are Jonathan DePina and Brian Lawrence.
Jonathan DePina, 21, is the son of Leo and Gloria Pizarro-DePina. He has a younger brother, Giovanni and two sisters, Adriana and Naisha. He attended Madison Park High School and graduated in 2012. He lives in Savin Hill and is currently in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 apprentice program, which is located on Adams Street in Dorchester.
When he was younger, Jonathan and his cousins would settle their teenage family differences in his basement. Overall, the fights were of a friendly nature, but occasionally someone would end up with a black eye or a bloody nose. Jonathan’s dad took care of that by bringing him to Peter Welch’s Gym in South Boston about four years ago. He figured his son might as well put on the gloves and fight there.
“Fighting in my basement is what made me tough,” Jonathan said. “We argued but it was more like being kids and having fun. But the minute I walked into the gym I fell in love with boxing.”
Last August, in Kansas, Jonathan won the Ringside World Tournament in the lightweight novice division. In February, at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, he won the New England Golden Gloves Central title in the lightweight novice division. And recently at a Newton venue, he won his first open division fight against accomplished fighter, Marcileno DeBarros, who hails from North Providence, R.I.
To top off a good start in 2016, Jonathan, who is half Cape Verdean and half Puerto Rican, was the recent recipient of the Cape Verdean “Man of the Year” award at a ceremony in Dorchester. He was proud that he was recognized by the community for his hard work in the ring.
Brian Lawrence, 21, is the son of Albert and Cherry Ann Lawrence. He has three brothers, Dwayne, Albert and Derek. He grew up in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester and currently lives in Harbor Point. Like DePina, he is also in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 apprentice program.
Taking a brief hiatus from his home, Brian attended Sharon High School for two years where he played varsity basketball and football. He played guard in hoop and was a safety and a wide receiver in football. As a senior in 2013, his football squad won the high school Super Bowl championship against Wayland. The team eked out a 12-3 victory and it was the first time in the school’s history that they won the coveted title.
Brian trained at Lauzon Mixed Martial Arts in Easton before switching over to Welch’s gym, which was much closer to home. He currently fights in the middle weight novice division. Last December, he won the Marciano Tournament of Champions title in Brockton and recently won the New England Golden Gloves novice division championship title in Lowell.
“I like boxing because you compete as an individual,” Brian said. “I really like basketball and football, but when I’m in the ring I feel calm, in control.”
DePina and Lawrence are both trained by lifelong South Boston resident, Derek Shea. He said they’re both quiet kids, reserved, and simply great young adults from good families. Shea said they work hard every time they enter Peter Welch’s Gym, where they train six to seven days a week. They spar, shadow box, jump rope, and do mitt work. They also do ab work, which includes various calisthenics such as sit-ups and push-ups. Being a boxer isn’t easy.
“All I can say is they’re both great kids,” Shea said. “They have a positive attitude and work hard every time they work out here at the gym.”
Shea feels that DePina and Lawrence have promising futures.
“They’re ready to break out into the open class,” Shea said. “That’s where you find the best fighters who are all in good shape. Many of them are evenly matched so you have some really competitive fights. I’m looking forward to see them fight in the future. They’re gonna be good and are focused on what they need to do to eventually get there.”