Former boxing champ aims to open handicap-accessible gym

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of people gathered in Warwick Friday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Among the crowd at the Crown Plaza was local boxing legend Gary “Tiger” Balletto, Jr.

The Providence native, who won 35 bouts and two titles, is now a quadriplegic. He landed on his head and broke his neck after a pullup bar collapsed while he was showing his young son a trick.

Balletto has limited use of his arms and hands, and said he plans to open a handicap-accessible gym.

“There is not a lot of outlets for people with injuries like I have, to have a place to go to exercise,” he said. “We have almost 4,400 handicaps in Rhode Island who could benefit from a place like this.”

Balletto said a gym would greatly benefit their odds of recovery by maintaining the strength of weak muscles. He’s planning to start his own foundation to raise money so he can give access to the disabled at no cost.

“I didn’t plan on being an advocate for this. I didn’t plan on being inspirational,” said Balletto. “I love helping people, and there are a lot of people with my injury who aren’t doing anything, and I can’t help myself but to show them the way.”

Balletto hopes to formally start his foundation and open that gym by the end of next year.

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