Jimmy Cvetic: Boxing With Pittsburgh's Youth

Nick Nolte (r) plays a recovering alcoholic who trains one of his sons for a mixed martial arts fight against his brother in the movie “Warrior.” (AP)
Nick Nolte (r) plays a recovering alcoholic who trains one of his sons for a mixed martial arts fight in the movie “Warrior.” (AP)

It is the season for – among other things – renewing connections, since at least some auld acquaintances shouldn't be forgot…although some probably should.

Anyway, the other day I called Jimmy Cvetic, about whom I wrote a story several years ago.

Jimmy was a police detective in Pittsburgh for 30 years or so. During that time he discovered that his real vocation was helping young men nobody else was helping. He began training those young men to box, in part because, as he told me, nobody with boxing gloves on ever picked up a crack pipe.

When I first wandered into the boxing gym Jimmy was running in the basement of the sandwich shop he was also running, Jimmy said, "You're gonna meet the cop, the commie, and the con." Jimmy was the cop, of course. The commie was a big Russian kid Jimmy was training. The con was a middle-aged guy named Chisholm, who sometimes held the heavy bag in the gym. He'd spent half his life in jail.

"He's a good guy," Jimmy told me with a shrug.

When I talked with Jimmy recently, he told me the Russian kid had been deported.

"I don't know," Jimmy said, when I asked him why. "It's easy to get deported."

Chisholm had stayed out of jail, but things weren't good with him. "He has hepatitis A, B, C, and D," Jimmy said.

I inquired no further.

And Jimmy himself?

"I was on a walker a while back," he said. "I got a second new hip. Now I'm not even using a cane. I just gotta sit down every once in a while."

"That doesn't sound too bad," I said.

"No," he told me. "And, hey, if you go see that Nick Nolte martial arts movie, 'The Warrior,' you'll see me. They filmed  here in Pittsburgh, and they said 'We want you to be in our movie.' I told 'em, I don't want to be in your movie, but then Nolte told me it would be easy, and they'd pay me. I told 'em, I don't need you to pay me, but for about $5,000 you can put a new boxing ring in my gym. So they did that, and now, if you go see 'The Warrior,' you can see me."

That seemed pretty good. And the guys Jimmy Cvetic is still  helping in Pittsburgh have a new boxing ring, which is better, and is even kind of a nice early holiday story.

This program aired on December 14, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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