Caught in a battle with a staggering number, 330 pounds to be exact, Brooklyn restaurateur Dimitri Verteouris entered into a bout with obesity.
Inspired by a crew of both amateur and professional boxers, Verteouris, 29, took up boxing in the hopes that the mental and physical challenges of the sports would push him to lose the weight that threatened his life. After losing more than 80 pounds in three months, it was a clear victory for Verteouris’s corner, but that wasn’t enough for the lifelong boxing fan.
Starting on July 10, Dimitri will help train three groups of boys once a week for five weeks at Harriman Clubhouse on the Lower East Side as a part of Knockout Obesity, an anti-obesity boxing initiative he started last year. Verteouris partnered with the Boys’ Club of New York in order to take on a new opponent for the Knockout Obesity boxing initiative: childhood obesity.
“In the first season we chose to have the older people to show that you don’t need to be rich to lose weight,” Verteouris says. “You don’t need to have special meals and fake diets. It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and exercising that will get the job done.”
In partnering with BCNY, Verteouris, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Nature’s Grill restaurants, wanted to give kids up to age 19 a chance to use boxing as an outlet and turn a sport often seen as violent into a positive individual accomplishment.
As part of the free program, each week a professional boxer will assist Verteouris in training and promoting a healthy lifestyle in and out of the gym. Current titleholders Danny Jacobs and Paulie Malignaggi will be on hand, as well as newcomers like Staten Island’s Marcus Browne, who turned pro after fighting as an amateur in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Over the years, Verteouris has been befriended some of the area’s best boxing talents, and now those men are not only inspiring him to change his lifestyle but are also fully behind his anti-obesity initiative.
"I hope to help [the kids] lose weight and stick to it and make them feel confident about life and themselves in general," Marcus Browne says.
Longtime friends, Browne and Verteouris regularly talk about Browne’s dream of becoming a world champion. After a 5-0 start to his professional career and escalating hype surrounding the 23-year-old, it’s a dream that doesn’t seem too far off. As Marcus tries to stay humble and focused inside the ring, outside he’s teaming up with Verteouris to deliver his friend’s dream of helping people lose weight.
“Marcus is going to be there to talk to these kids and mentor them and also be there in support for me as well,” Verteouris says.
Whether you are fighting in front of 10,000 people as Browne did at the Olympics, or getting through an individual workout in an empty gym, Browne has his advice ready for the participants of Knockout Obesity.
“Always finish strong,” he says.
Though Verteouris first developed a love for boxing because of the individuality of the sport, he is proof that having a support system around you can be the ultimate motivator.
“In boxing, you can walk into any boxing gym now and there can be a pro training and you can train alongside them,” Verteouris said. “What other sports are you allowed to say you can train alongside professionals? They’ll push you and that’s what is great about boxing. Everyone feeds off people’s energy.”
If you go
July 10 through Aug. 7
Lower East Side Harriman Clubhouse
287 E. 10th St. New York, NY 10009