February 22, 2008….New York City….In a little more than 24 hours Wladimir Klitschko will try to unify all three boxing heavyweight championship belts when he takes on Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. But thanks to a guaranteed $500,000 donation by Klitschko to The Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, he is a winner already in the eyes of the thousands of at-risk children who participate in service programs funded by Laureus..
Laureus,USA announced today that the Betances Boxing Program in the Bronx will begin receiving Laureus financial support that will help the program expand its reach. Children aged 8 and up living around the Betances Houses have been learning to box at the program for 12 years – but that’s not all. The program acts as a safe haven and provides children life skills, values workshops and academic support along with boxing skills. The kids participate in the life and/or academic enrichment programs in order to access the recreational offerings.
The Betances Boxing Program serves as an alternative for hundreds of local kids from the hard realities and disadvantages of life in the low socio-economic strata of the NYC Housing Authority. It provides a positive atmosphere for kids trying to escape issues ranging from substance abuse, absentee parents, and domestic violence to the general dangers of the streets. Participants are 75% Latino, 25% African American, 85% boys and the majority live in families with income under the poverty level.
Betances becomes the 52nd player in Laureus’ roster of programs around the world that address social issues through the common language of sports – and the fifth in the USA. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation was set up to fund and promote the use of sport as a tool for social change and currently supports 51 other programs around the world. It is administered by the 45 iconic athletes who comprise The Laureus World Sports Academy (athletes ranging from Edwin Moses and John McEnroe to Boris Becker and Nadia Comaneci), and their supporters who are the Laureus “Friends and Ambassadors” like Wladimir Klitschko and Amani Toomer.
Klischko’s half-million dollar commitment could grow larger come this spring. The first $350,000 has come from money he generated by asking his fans to donate to Laureus in his name. In exchange, he will enter the ring Saturday night in a robe with their names emblazoned on the garment. Over 3,000 people responded – more than anticipated- so Klitschko increased his initial gift guarantee from $250,000 to $350,000. Then in April, his boxing robe will be auctioned off with those proceeds also going to Laureus. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Klitschko camp already have a $150,000 sealed offer for the robe so the final donation could exceed $500,000.
Ten children from the Betances Boxing Program and several other programs supported by Laureus will be attending the fight Saturday night and will be available for interview – as will Edwin Moses, the Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Amani Toomer, a member of Lareus’ “Friends and Ambassadors” group.
For the last two years, the Betances Boxing Program has been staged in temporary quarters at St Mary’s Rec Center in a room that barely has space for a boxing ring and a few heavy bags. In another few months, the program will move across the street to the newly rehabbed Betances Community Center where the NYCHA can reach more kids and offer greater support. The Laureus donation will help defray costs so the program can offer a more diverse curricula including a new computer technology center, a GED program, tutoring, a dance/fitness room, a boxing ring with expanded and updated boxing equipment and other social services ranging from drug use/abuse and pregnancy prevention programs to health and nutrition education.