BRAWLEY – Â Youth boxers from neighboring states donned their gloves and helmets attempting to out perform their opponents Saturday afternoon during the â€œLa Batalla En Hidalgoâ€ Amateur Boxing at Salon Hidalgo in Brawley.
â€œToday we have a sanctioned USA Boxing show. All athletes registered with USA Boxing gathered together with all the clubs in the neighboring areas like Arizona, San Diego, Imperial Valley and we have a show,â€ saidÂ Hondo Fontane, president of the local USA Amateur Boxing â€”Local Boxing Committee No. 44.
Boxing teams, coaches and their families sat on folding chairs arranged on all four sides of the boxing ring assembled in the middle of the dim hall. Only a handful of chandeliers and side lamps lit the ring and the hall.
Outside the building, next to the fence, La Gente Boxing Club members grilled carne asada meat to be chopped in the kitchen for teenagers to sell carne asada tacos.
A few feet from the kitchen, Bianca Noriega, 13, sat facing Juan Garcia who wrapped her knuckles and wrists to protect her hands from injury during the fight. Noriega fought her match in the 90-lb category.
â€œIâ€™m here to box, to fight,” Noriega said. “Iâ€™ll try my best out there to represent La Gente Boxing Club.â€ She was one of the 32 competitors, of a total of 16 bouts, for the amateur boxing sponsored by La Gente Boxing Club in Brawley.
Pablo Cortez, trainer of the La Gente Boxing program which he founded in April 1991, said of La Gente Boxing, â€œIt is a program that we offer free of charge to the youth of Brawley. None of our volunteers are paid.â€ Cortez said the program is open 12 months of the year.
â€œI tell the kids to do their best. But for me, as a coach, it doesnâ€™t matter if they win or lose. It is just giving them an option to stay off the streets, stay out of drugs, stay out of gangs, and hopefully giving them a safe environment for them to be around,â€ said Cortez.
Roxana Ortiz, 17, of the Calexico Boxing Academy, had been practicing boxing for six years since she was 11-years-old. She sounded disappointed, yet relieved, not to be fighting today.
â€œIâ€™m not fighting because there are no boxers of my age group or weight.â€ Ortiz, who fights in the 125-lb weight division, is concentrating on her studies.
The Desert Review reporter stayed only for the first three boxing bouts. In the first bout, David King Garcia, 8, of Garcia Boxing in Phoenix, Arizona, won against Jacob Garcia, 8, of FTP Boxing in Riverside. Jessie Mandapat, 19, of Garden Grove, won against Anthony Clark, 17, of San Luis Boxing in Arizona. For the third bout, Jabin Chollet, 15, of Bomber Squad, won against Fidel Samano, 13, of San Luis Boxing in Arizona.
Over the past 26 years of the La Gente Boxing program, Cortez said he now has a second generation of boxers. The kids he trained 15 years ago now have children of their own. â€œAnd now, Iâ€™m training their kids. A lot of the kids that weâ€™ve had have gone on to become productive adults.â€