ALHAMBRA – Beads of sweat formed on the side of Alex Frias’s face as he delivered a combination of jabs and punches to the focus mitt, ducking to avoid getting hit by his trainer.
Edgar Cruz, 24, from Bell Gardens is on the receiving end of the punches. Along with his father Raul, he trains about 30 boxers, from pre-teen amateurs to professionals.
Frias, 15, of Alhambra has been boxing at the non-profit Alhambra Youth Boxing Club for four months. After years of watching boxing on television he finally decided to jump into the ring.
“It’s hard work but the trainers will get you to where you want to be,” Frias said.
For almost three years the father and son team have volunteered their time and teach their skills to an array of athletes at the gym. The pair are there three hours and day – four days a week.
“I’ve been boxing since I was seven,” Cruz said. “It’s pretty cool, it keeps kids off the street, they come here after-school and then go home and do homework, too tired to do anything after.”
Six of his trainees are set to start fighting in amateur bouts soon.
“It’s just me and my dad, we take turns training them,” Cruz said. “It feels good, they’re my first kids that I started training when I first got here.”
A typical workout for amateur hopeful, Eyan Calderon, 17, of Alhambra is hitting the punching bag, abdominal workouts, focus mitts, shadow boxing and cardio training – like jump rope.
He used to train four days a week, but with an upcoming fight in Oxnard, Calderon said he now trains six days a week.
“It’s very mental I still get nervous every single time I go into a sparring match,” Calderon said. “But the training is really good, they don’t just come here to help us kids, they help the community.”
A picture of Raul, after he won the Mexico National Championship hangs on a wall.
Rudy Tellez, World Boxing Council supervisor and owner of the gym, has been training boxers in Alhambra since 1991. He and Raul were acquaintances from their earlier boxing years.
“He called me one day, asked me what I was doing and then asked me if I needed any help,” Tellez said. “(Raul) does it from his heart to help out the kids.”
The modest gym on Main Street has one boxing ring squeezed inside, four punching bags hanging from chains and a floor-to-ceiling boxing ball greets people at the entrance. Hip-hop is usually blasting from a radio.
Tellez said the gym is in dire need of another ring mat and other boxing equipment.
“I know times are tough right now though, but we’re going to make sure we’re still here for the kids,” Tellez said.
Some people think that boxing is a violent sport, but they’re wrong, Tellez said.
“It’s a conditioning sport, its for the mind and body,” Tellez said. “It helps the kids relax, takes a lot of anger out and I think that’s very important for the kids.”
To be a boxer you have to dedicate a large chunk of your time to training, you can’t do drugs or drink alcohol and you’re on a strict diet, said Alex Ibarra, 17, of Alhambra.
“It’s not just about what you do in the gym, but outside in your personal life you have to be dedicated,” Ibarra said. “People come here and think it’s easy, it’s a lot of dedication, hard work.”
Rosemead resident Luis Marroquin, 10, is one of the youngest boxers at the gym, but by far one of the most extroverted and dreams of being the next big contender. On a Thursday evening he was busy practicing uppercuts with Raul.
“I’m going to keep boxing until I get better and better, probably like Pacquiao, maybe,” Marroquin said.
“It’s a lot of love for the kids and it’s also a lot of pushing, they’ll say `no puedo’ and we’ll say `como que no? You’re going to do it,”‘ Tellez said. “When a kid comes to the gym we make sure they’re going to become a champion, not just a boxing champion but a champion of whatever they want to do in life.”