September 11, 2014

Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 in Philadelphia

Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 bar mirror sign

photo by: Duncan Kendall

The name "Ring 1" marks that the Philadelphia chapter was the first in the country.

When you first walk into the Veteran Boxers Association in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, you’re not sure if you’re in a bar, a clubhouse, or a museum. But after your first drink and a spin around the room, you realize this quirky venue is all three in one.

While Philly is most quickly associated with the 1976 film “Rocky,” the city’s history with the sport of boxing extends as far back as the 1880s, when bare-knuckle fighters brawled in the back rooms of saloons. After prizefighting became legal in 1884, Philadelphia fighters grew in prominence over the years, particularly in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 bar patron

photo by: Duncan Kendall

Patrons enjoy drinks at the Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 bar.

During that period, the Veteran Boxers Association (VBA) got its unofficial start when former boxer Jimmy Love died in poverty, yet avoided a Potter’s Field burial thanks to donations from the pugilist community. Its more official formation came in 1935, when a group of retired boxers met in a taproom at 10th and Arch in Philadelphia and formed the Philadelphia Veteran Boxers Association.

As the years passed, other local chapters were established across the United States (with 'Ring 1' being the first). The National Veteran Boxers Association was later formed at the First National Convention of Fraternal Boxing Organizations in Philadelphia on October 29, 1963. The Philly chapter itself moved throughout the city over the decades, coming to its current spot (a former VFW hall) in 2007.

Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 exterior

photo by: Duncan Kendall

The Veteran Boxers Association is in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia.

Though its locations have changed in the nearly 80 years since that first meeting, the organization’s mission has not; it continues to serve as a safe haven and support network for retired boxers facing hard times. As the original charter, which holds a prominent spot near the entrance, says:

“The purpose for which the corporation is to be organized are [sic] to be fostered and promote the good and general welfare of the Veteran Boxer. To take care of the sick and disabled Veteran Boxer who may be in distress by means of contribution within the means and to the best of the association’s ability. To take an active interest in the administration of all the laws that affect the sport of boxing in the state of Pennsylvania to insure that its members are given the recognition deserving their past effort and protect the active boxers to the best of the association’s ability.”

A visitor looks at the charter of the Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1

photo by: Duncan Kendall

The original charter hangs near the bar.

A patron takes a photo at Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1

photo by: Duncan Kendall

A patron snaps a photo of the historical photos lining the VBA's walls.

The Port Richmond building also houses the VBA's memorabilia collection -- more than 600 photos, trophies, gloves, and other items -- serving as an archive for the boxing community and its enthusiasts.

Today, VBA members are ex-fighters, managers, and promoters, amateur and professional alike. Don’t despair if you’re not a pugilist yourself: You can apply for a social membership, usually with a current member as a sponsor. And once accepted, you join a long tradition of community service, camaraderie, and sport -- a knockout combo for any boxing fan.

Location: 2733 East Clearfield St., Philadelphia, PA 19135

Hours: Thursday: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday: 4 p.m. – 12 a.m., Saturday: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

You’re Having: A party! You can rent the VBA Ring 1 bar and hall for events.

Cover Charge: The VBA requires a $10.00 yearly membership fee. More details here.

More Boxing History: Visit PhillyBoxingHistory.com for more information about the city’s long tradition with the sport.

Julia Rocchi is the director of content marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.

@rocchijulia

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