At only 24 years old, Victory Boxing Promotions and Cameron Dunkin signee Manny Folly (7-0, 5KO) has already seen the best and worst of what his hometown of Philadelphia has to offer. In addition to being a highly-touted boxing prospect who is preparing for his eighth bout in his hometown on November 11th, Folly is two years into his career as a Philadelphia Police Officer.
Last Friday, Folly was able to enjoy the more positive aspect of his chosen profession, participating in the department’s “Show Your Stripes” charity fundraiser benefiting Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House alongside 6000 or so fellow officers of the Philadelphia Police Department. Each year the officers buy scarves, socks and hats, dress up, and interact with the children of Ronald McDonald House. “It’s a welcome break from the stresses of being on the job,” said Folly. “It’s about effective community policing, and showing these kids that police officers don’t just chase bad guys.”
At a time when 24 hour news channels broadcast images of a country divided when it comes to Police, Folly’s sense of personal responsibility and accountability weighs heavy on his shoulders. “I knew at four or five years old that I wanted to be a cop.” Folly’s Godfather was also ‘on the job,’ and allowed his Godson to play in his Police car as a child. “I see every day as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the community and the Police. We’re held to a higher standard, and have to set an example for the young people in our communities. The area I grew up in is no joke. The kids at my gym, 60 or 70 on any given night, they are watching. They see everything. I want them to know that just because you come from a certain area, or grow up under certain circumstances, you don’t have to choose that lifestyle.”
Exuding maturity beyond his years, the super bantamweight has no plans to let any life challenges derail his goal of becoming a multi-division world champion. The youngest of seven boys, Folly grew up in the Kensington area of North Philadelphia, an area rife with violence and drug dealers liberally sprinkled amidst struggling families. Folly’s brothers introduced him to fighting at a young age. “I was four or five years old, and my brothers would wake me up in the middle of the night to go fist fight,” said Folly. At thirteen, he was invited to begin training at Rock Ministries Gym by trainer Buddy Osborne. After a brief amateur career, which saw Folly winning two Ringside World Championships and beating several notable and more experienced fighters in his weight class, Folly and Osborne determined that the young fighter had the goods to compete at the elite level, and that it was time to turn their attention to the professional ranks.
When Folly’s debut was scheduled for April 26, 2013, boxer and trainer had no idea that Folly would face his toughest adversity to date. Nine days before he was set to debut, Folly’s oldest brother, who was his biggest fan and one of the main voices encouraging him in his boxing career, was murdered. As Osborne and others implored Folly to postpone his debut, he was reminded of advice his brother gave him shortly before his passing. “I was running errands with my brother, and I was nervous about making my debut,” recalled Folly. “I asked him, ‘How far do you think I can go?’ He said, ‘You can go as far as you allow yourself to go.’” Folly moved forward with his scheduled fight, winning via knockout in the second round. “I fought off a lot of emotions that night. I was proud of myself because I stayed focused and I got the job done.” He recalls that night as the most poignant of his young career. “I have a lot of supporters. When I looked out into the crowd and I saw all the people there supporting me, and didn’t see my older brother there…that hit me harder than any punch ever could. I’m still learning how to deal with it, and it’s making me strong as a person.”
While a stranger who wanders into Rock Ministries Gym might see Folly as one of scores of fighters hitting the pads or jumping rope with visions of belts dancing in his head, his friends, family, fellow officers, community, and perhaps most of all, the children who train alongside him in the gym see a hero – a man who puts his life on the line daily for his community and for boxing fans.
Manny Folly fights Friday, November 11th at 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. Tickets start at $40, and are available at VictoryBoxingPromotions.com.