A memory of Coach from Mary Feliciano, COBA's first female boxer.
Not many people know this, but COBA was not my first gym. I joined a different boxing gym prior to COBA and told the head coach there that I wanted to be a boxer. That coach laughed and gave me work to do, but not the kind of work I was hoping for. He made me clean the gym; sweeping, emptying spit buckets etc.... not exactly training to be a boxer. I then met Coach and told him I wanted to be a boxer. The bigg...est smile came upon his face and he says "okay, let's see what you can do". I then proceeded to hit the mitts with my father. I guess I impressed Coach because he proceeded to tell me he expected me to be in the gym every day. He was the only one who gave me a chance and it paid off! I was the 1997 Junior Olympic Champion! Coach not only taught me how to throw a nasty left hook, he taught me that with hard work and perseverance anything is possible. He was right! I no longer live in the ghetto, I am married, have 3 beautiful children, a great job and live in the suburbs of Wallingford. All I can say is his mentorship and belief in me made me believe in myself. I am forever grateful to my hero.
A few words about Coach Callas from COBA's old friend Coach Kasey Coon:
"I had the distinct honor of meeting Johnny Callas several years ago through USA Boxing and COBA- Charter Oak Boxing Academy. During that time, we went from professional interactions as peers, to a more personal level of interaction, where I felt, as did many of us around him, th...at he was more than a coach and a friend even, he was our mentor. This feeling pervades his presence, and lies within the way he conducts himself, and in his interactions with any boxing kids- not just the kids in his club. He goes above and beyond to give each person in his presence the feeling that they are special and he is giving them his all. When a person gets asked to speak to the character and qualities of a person they admire and respect on a night like tonight, they may get stuck thinking 'What do I say?' Not with Johnny. Instead, it's more like what shouldn't I say. Think of if Callss were going to talk about you... what would you want him to say?) When you bring up Johnny Callas to a group of his peers or boxers, the resounding and very obvious truth doesn't need to even be said at this point, Callas has grown into an icon in the world of boxing refereeing. His reputation truly precedes him, and for some of us that may be a little scary sounding, but not for this guy. Not for Johnny Callas.
A stand up guy whose compassion and kindness are a lesson, whose sense of humor is so sharp that you'd be hard pressed to find a spot near him in a crowd because he's usually got us all going- the type of guy you simply feel better when you're around. We all know that feeling, and you don't need to be an adult to feel it. That's the beauty of what he brings to boxing- he doesn't keep all of who he is to himself, or for the pros he shares himself with everyone he interacts with, everyone he coaches and mentors, and treats friends like family and family like friends. Tonight, as we are out to support and commemorate a wonderful coach and ref, inspirational mentor, and an overall beautiful person, let's take pause and appreciate his contributions, and give a big thanks to a man who gives his all to the great sport of boxing."
A few kind words and memories from our friend John Chiaradio
"I am honored to be asked to write a little about a great guy! I'm so happy Jeff Dressler recommended I take Jenna to work with Coach Callas. Not only did we get acquainted with him and his athletes. He also brought us into his home and treated us like family right from the start. Right away I understood that Coach was ALL ABOUT; the kids. Coming from a competitive martial arts tournament circuit where the ego's can be tremendous, it was refreshing to see his love of the sport shine through his teaching young people. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor than Coach Callas. Congrats Coach!!"
Atty. Jefferey Dressler:
Coach Callas has shown that no matter how little we may have, we can find purpose in what we do. In this, we find a wealth of spirit.
Johnny ‘Coach' Callas channels that spirit into action through a unique expression of triumph and perseverance. A 3 time All american, NCBC –National Collegiate Boxing Champion, professional referee of 150 fights, DCF Ombudsman with a master'...s degree, johnny callas teaches his boxers not to be bystanders. He teaches them that The ‘sweet science', as with character, cannot be inherited nor can it be bequeathed. It is forged upon the successes and defeats in the right and admist life's vicissitudes. As the Executive Director of COBA - The Charter Oak Boxing Academy, Johnny has taught his students what they acquire and forever own, is there character.
Coach Callas has shown that success doesn't happen by accident. It's a matter of choice.
CONGRATULATIONS MY FRIEND, WELL DESERVED
COBA Alum, Former Champion, and fellow class of 2013 inductee Israel "Pito" Cardona shares a few words on how Coach inspired him
"Coach doesn't know this himself, but since I first started boxing with him I liked how he ran COBA. I wanted to do the same and that's why I became a coach first for the Hartford PAL boxing team. He guided me as I ran a program for the PAL"
A few very kind words about Coach from one of COBA's favorite southpaws, Jenna Chiaradio
"Just about 5 years ago, my dad and I were searching for a boxing coach that could whip me into shape and sharpen my martial arts skills. After looking at and talking to almost 20 coaches in the area, we found Coach Johnny Callas. The second I walked into his ring, I was welcomed with open arms (and I mean t...hat quite literally). That's just how Coach is. He is one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met in my entire life. However, that did not stop him from kicking our asses at practice and whipping up some of the best fighters on the east coast. Coach has this incredible ability to inspire a room full of kids to put in 110% of effort at all times, which is a feat in itself considering the crazy crew we had at the Charter Oak Boxing Academy. Coach's inspiration doesn't stop at the ropes. I've learned that I can do anything I want in life, all it takes is a little hard work, perseverance, and a really solid right jab. I'd say the Boxing Hall of Fame picked a good one this year. Congratulations Coach! I couldn't think of anyone who deserves it more."