Matt Feldman of Waymart is deep into preparations for his second amateur bout
The Belmont Cafe in Waymart was buzzing with activity early Saturday afternoon.
Phones were ringing, waitresses were scurrying from table-to-table, trays loaded with delicious dinners. The front door was opening and closing ... folks no doubt drawn inside by all the smiling faces and the delectable scents wafting out from the kitchen.
Two men sat at a table in the back corner of the main dining area. One was Matt Feldman, a 29-year-old lifelong Wayne Countian.
Matt is an amateur boxer who's training intensely for his second amateur bout.
He was accompanied by his grandfather, Harry Feldman.
Roots of the sport run deep in this family. Harry fought during his own stint in the Marine Corps. Matt's great-grandfather, Philip Contorno, was also a highly touted Golden Gloves fighter.
Boxing is called the “sweet science” for a reason.
While many folks condemn its innate brutality, there's also a highly cerebral aspect of the sport … one which involves a great deal of thought.
“I love the strategy of it,” Matt said.” It's kind of like a chess match sometimes. You're not just out there beating the crap out of each other. There's a whole different level to it.
“I like to be tested. I like climbing into the ring and being tested as a man. I like to see what I'm capable of and what my limitations are.”
Matt is the son of Dan Feldman and Valerie Contorno. He was a standout wrestler in high school, graduating from Western Wayne in 2007.
He then followed family tradition and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
After serving his country for nearly four years, he returned to his hometown, landed a job and started a family of his own.
As a boxer, Feldman has been greatly influenced by Oscar De La Hoya.
“I loved watching him in the ring,” Matt said. “He was a great boxer.
Feldman's first amateur bout took place at Genetti's nearly three months ago. He suffered a split decision at the hands of an opponent who stood 6-7 and had a distinct reach advantage.
It was a learning experience from which he earned several valuable takeaways.
“My adrenaline got to me a little bit,” Matt admitted. “To be honest, I'm happy that my first fight was tough. It made me step back and re-focus.”
I first met Dean Williams and his lovely wife Tanya back in 2001.
He'd just moved to the area from Wales and was at the peak of an impressive professional boxing career.
Williams is an old school fighter, tough-as-nails with a blue collar work ethic and steely determination. He served six years in the British Royal Navy and participated in Desert Storm.
Dean won a pair of Welsh national boxing titles before coming to the US to pursue his dream further.
Here, he exceeded all expectations by capturing the WBF cruiserweight championship via knockout of Eric “The Rhino” Rhinehart.
Since then, Williams has taken his boxing career in several different exciting directions. He's training fighters at his home gym while also functioning as an ambassador for the sport.
His most recent thrill was appearing in the worldwide box office smash “Creed 2.”
Matt and Dean met completely by chance about four years ago. He was visiting the Williams property to price out a job for a tree-cutting business when Dean asked him if he'd ever boxed before.
“Oh yeah,” Matt replied off-handedly. “I did this and that … blah, blah, blah...”
Then Williams opened up the door to his training facility, which has been affectionately dubbed 'The Dungeon,' and Feldman's jaw dropped.
Spread out before him was a cutting-edge professional gym, the kind of place a former World Champion might train.
“Uh-oh!” Matt said with a laugh. “I thought maybe I bit off a little more than I can chew here.”
It didn't take Feldman long to overcome any hesitation, though. Not long after, he was back at The Dungeon with Williams.
Then, one day about a year into his training, Dean changed the tenor of the entire situation with one pointed question.
“So, are we going to do something with this or are you just wasting my time?” he asked.
“I guess we should do something,” Matt replied with a smile. “And, that's how my boxing career officially got started.”
Feldman went on to say that he's deeply indebted to both Dean and Tanya for all they've done for him.
“They've truly played a huge role in my development as a boxer and more importantly as a young man,” he said. “Dean and and Tanya are truly wonderful people.”
Matt is deep into preparations for his next fight, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 1 at the Genetti Manor in Dickson City.
Tickets are available online at www.jztours.com. They can also be purchased at Genetti's (570-383-0206), Weston Fieldhouse (570-348-4186) and EP Fashion (570-677-1448).
In the run-up to Matt's fight, a fundraiser will be held at the Gravity Inn. “Bingo for Boxing” is set for Monday, May 20 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“I'm really grateful to all the local folks who've been supporting me,” Matt said. “It's pretty humbling and amazing and I really appreciate it.”