Fighting chance: Learning the ropes

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COMMUNITY PROFILE: Historic boxing club haven for local youths.

The Santa Ana Boxing Club fights through funding woes while still helping local youth and grooming kids to be top boxing pros.

Heading west on 4th Street, a group of children were in the distance. Some were jumping speed rope, a handful doing pushups, and others running sprints up and down the surrounding neighborhood.

The historical building housing the Santa Ana Boxing Club off Garfield and Fourth looks rundown.

Inside, where the smell of hard work and sweat invaded the air, a giant boxing ring took up nearly half the classroom sized gymnasium. Boxers of all ages wrapped their hands, punched bags, and worked mitts with trainers.

In the ring stood Anthony Serrano, working mitts with fighter Garrett Rincon-Serrano, no relation.

A thunderous smack could be heard with every sharp jab, hook, and right cross thrown, followed by swift head movement with every bob, weave and roll.

The nonprofit gym has been a staple in the neighborhood for nearly 40 years.

It was the brainchild of John Ramirez Sr., but changed hands to his brother Frank Ramirez after John’s death.

The gym was then closed in 1996 for five years, until the Orange County Youth Commission, a local Christian organization, took over and enlisted Serrano as the head trainer of the gym. Serrano, who is now in his 11th year in the position, began by walking the neighborhoods in the area and telling the local kids about the gym.

“The first thing they would ask me was, ‘how much does it cost?’ And I would tell them ‘it’s free’ … it just blew up from there, all word of mouth,” Serrano said.

The Club also offers mentoring for the fighters, academic tutoring on weekends for any of the kids facing difficulties in school, and helps with community organizations.

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“Th e other day I just sat back and looked at the whole scenario, the big picture,” Serrano said. “It was funny because I see these other kids that come here … and I watch them grow up here, and go on to do better and more positive things. Th en you see the other kids who chose not to be involved in something positive and they’re getting busted, they’re going to jail. It’s just sad”.

One of the gym’s top prospects is Garrett Rincon-Serrano, 14, of Middle-college High School.

He’s a two time national champion, winning the National Addidas Boxing Tournament and the National Junior Golden Gloves Tournament for his weight class in 2011.

Rincon-Serrano has been coming to the Club since he was 10 years old. “I’ve grown up in the gym. Th ey call me a gym rat around here,” Rincon-Serrano said. “I love the sport, I just get in the ring and do what I need to do.”

Rincon-Serrano sees the traps, from selling and using drugs to joining gangs, many of his peers are already falling into.

“Th ey’re out partying, drinking, even kids my age 14, 15 years old,” Rincon-Serrano said. “They start young, you know? Joining gangs. This is isn’t the safest neighborhood.”

He hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics, and then fight professionally. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,”
Rincon-Serrano said.

As a nonprofit gym, the SABC is funded through the OCYC, as well as various grants and donations from the local community.

Even with the funding, losing the gym is still a real possibility.

“We get to the edge, but we never fall over. Th is club has been here forever, and it’ll never close,” Serrano said.


Video by Marco Mejia


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