South Philadelphia: As Boxing Fades, MMA Thrives

Pro fighter Jackson Galka showed off his skills in the Daddis MMA gym]


Daily News writer Bernard Fernandez has covered Philly boxing for over 20 years.

When one thinks of a dynasty, many names come to mind.  The Steelers of the ’70s and ’90s Cowboys and of course the Yankees at any given time immediately pop into the sports fan’s head. But how about a dynasty that envelopes an entire city? That’s what Philadelphia had when it came to boxing.

Daily News columnist and Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez recalls the times when Philly was prince in the sport of kings.

“In the 1970s at one point there was four of the world’s top ten middleweights, as ranked by Ring Magazine, were all in Philadelphia,” said Fernandez. “The entire world and four top middleweights were Philadelphians. I don’t know what the odds of that are but they’re pretty steep and I don’t know if you’ll ever see that again.”

Sadly now, boxing has faded almost into a distant memory in the Philadelphia subconscious. Famous venues like the Alhambra and the Spectrum that once drew thousands of spectators now lie in ruins. But boxing isn’t dead. In a way, it’s sort of being reformed. Many boxers in the city are gravitating to the rapidly growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

MMA, as it’s known, has taken the United States by storm and Philadelphia has been no exception. South Philly has especially seen many of its gyms transformed to incorporate the brutal game.

Pro fighter Jackson Galka showed off his skills in the Daddis MMA gym.

The Daddis MMA Academy, located at the corner of Bouvier Street and Washington Avenue, is the premier fight school in South Philadelphia. Professional fighter and academy program director, Jackson Galka, feels that just like in the boxing days, your turf is everything.

“We’ve been established as sort of the gym in South Philadelphia,” stated Galka, “and a balance has been created in the Philadelphia Mixed Martial Arts community that this is our territory.”

Like in previous decades, pro fighters are again flocking to the City of Brotherly Love to train, and the names are starting to get bigger and bigger. Kensington native Eddie Alvarez recently won the Bellator Fighting Lightweight Championship belt and the UFC will hold a pay-per-view event at the Wells Fargo Center in August.

It’s hard to say how high MMA will climb, but Philadelphia fight fans could be looking at the next wave of boxing legends.

Two young fighters sparred in a training session at the famous Joe Hand Boxing Gym.


  1. Yea I can see MMA rising above boxing. That sport has been increasing in popularity for a long time. I believe that those athletes are some of the most top conditioned athletes in the world.

  2. I think it’s too bad that boxing is fading to make way for MMA. I love both of the sports, but boxing has a bad name from a lot of other things, not just the rise of MMA. But I will say in favor of MMA, it can be more exciting for new fans to watch, as it incorporates so many styles of fighting.

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