FRAMINGHAM – Earlier this year, Framingham boxer Danny O’Connor spoke to students in the Resiliency for Life program at Framingham High.
The former high school drop out wanted to show the students, that no matter how low you are in one point in your life, you can make changes and improve your life.
It was one of many presentations the boxer has been making to young people across the Commonwealth, as a speaker.
O’Connor wanted to come back and do more with the Framingham teens, but when a criminal background check was run by the Framingham Public Schools, it came back that he was never allowed in the high school again, explained O’Connor.
“Some stuff follows you forever,” said O’Connor
The program’s director explained to the school system, O’Connor’s circumstances were unique, and what he was doing to help the teens. The situation was worked out, but it was a key moment in O’Connor life.
It reminded him that what you do when you are young, can come back and punch you in the gut.
Recently, O’Connor went to court to get his juvenile record sealed. He also has launched a mentoring program to help troubled teens, like himself.
“What I have to say to them, they understand,” said O’Connor. “I have been, where they are now. ”
O’Connor said he has seen that there are a “lot of kids out there who need support and guidance.”
I believe I can use boxing, that helped me, to help these kids, explained O’Connor.
To help fund the venture, O’Connor will head back into the boxing ring.
Last October, he was knocked out in a fight against welterweight Gabriel Bracero. It was a brutal loss for the O’Connor, who had amassed a record of 26-3. So much of a loss, that he decided to retire and spend time with his wife and sons.
But in order to help others, O’Connor, 31, said he will take a chance and fight again.
“I said, I would never return unless it was for a good reason. I don’t like the brutality of the sport, and all the trauma. I value the quality of my life. I do not enjoy hurting others either. I understand fully the risk in this return, but I trust in myself. This is who I am, and what I’ve made my life in. I have the chance to do something really special in our community with my kids mentor program and help so many lives of future generation, For the kids is the best reason there is to fight again so the future kids don’t have too,” said O’Connor.
His fight is scheduled for Saturday, August 13 in Kansas. The opponent is an up-and-coming fighter with an 11-0 record.
“I’m not going back to be a world champion or have a continued career in the sport. I’m going back fighting for the kids and the money to start the program. Once I get that I’m done fighting. The thing is I do have the capability to shock the world. It’s the underdog story fighting for a real purpose,” said O’Connor.
“In a sport that’s it’s nature is to take, take, take I am using it to my advantage for a bigger cause,” said O’Connor. “For the kids. It’s harder to walk away from the sport then it is to keep fighting. That’s why so many fighters stick around so long,. I’ve set things up so that I can have the chance to walk away from boxing forever. Just have to do a few more fights to make that happen.”
To help raise money for his new venture, O’Connor also has been offering his “boxing services teaching people boxing.”
“If fighting doesn’t raise all the money, I won’t quit. I will find another way,” said O’Connor.
That no quit spirit, is what he wants to instill in these youths who are lost, and in need of direction in their life.
For almost the last year, O’Connor has been working with several young men at Bancroft Boxing. He calls it his pilot mentorship program.
“If you are not okay on the inside, it doesn’t matter what is happening externally, the problems inside are always going to catch up,” said O’Connor.
“I want them to learn from my mistakes, my experiences,” said O’Connor, about the six kids he has been working with.
“Fighters have a fight plan but I have a life plan,” said O’Connor.
But now, he wants to expand the program, and help even more kids. The new program with be called “Off the Canvas.”
Besides boxing, the program teachers the youth about learning from your mistakes, setting goals, and maintaining relationships.
O’Connor describes the program as a complete wellness program – both physically and mentally.
“The key is building relationships,” said O’Connor, who said his relationship with Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys band, and owner of Murphys Boxing helped him when he was at a low point in his boxing career.
“I want to be able to offer these kids support, the way I was given support throughout my life,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor struggled with school, and eventually dropped out. But the Police Athletic League’s boxing program known as PAL, gave him an outlet he enjoyed.
So now he wants to give back and give these youths an outlet to prepare them for life.
He said boxing will teach these kids to understand themselves and how to overcome adversity.
O’Connor wants to focus on Framingham youths, high school and a little older; and then expand to MetroWest.
“I want to be the hand to help guide them to do something positive in their life,” said O’Connor. “The goal is to prepare them for the challenges in life so they don’t have to go back decades later and try to seal their mistakes.”
Photos by Susan Petroni/Petroni Media Company ©2016. All Rights Reserved.