Boxing Club Spared From TKO : Athletics: Youth Boxing Club wins a new home. It trains about 130 youths and serves as a gang diversion.
The new year no longer looms ominously for the children at the Alhambra Youth Boxing Club.
The 6-month-old club--which was losing its lease at the end of December--found a new home Thursday.
“It’s a miracle,” club founder Rudy Tellez said shortly after learning the news.
Southern California Edison Co. has offered the club a one-year, $1 lease for a vacant warehouse it owns at Marengo and Commonwealth avenues, just two blocks from the current site. And the new facility will be double the size of the present clubhouse.
Tellez, and his wife, Antonia, will officially sign the lease before the City Council on Tuesday, he said.
Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park), an early advocate and supporter of the group, was responsible for first sparking the interest of Edison officials.
“I think the organization is a great juvenile diversion program,” Martinez said. “There aren’t enough alternatives for young people.”
As its name makes clear, the club offers boxing training and instruction for about 130 youths, ages 8 to 18. But more important, club officials said, the organization develops confidence, discipline and camaraderie.
“People think kids come here to learn how to fight, but it’s more than that,” said Alvaro Lopez, 33, a former professional fighter who is the volunteer boxing coordinator. “Kids learn self-respect and develop self-esteem. They learn how to get along.”
In addition to boxing and physical training for boys, the club offers coeducational youth leadership programs, spontaneous workshops on how to interact positively with others, and free field trips to boxing matches, organizers said.
“I love this place,” said Armando Pastran, a seventh-grader at All Souls Catholic School in Alhambra. “We go into the ring as friends and leave as friends. Everyone’s supportive of one another.”
In addition to Martinez, 5th District Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Assemblyman Xavier Becerra (D-Monterey Park), state Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier) and Alhambra City Council members Talmage V. Burke and Barbara Messina have publicly hailed the program as an opportunity for kids who otherwise might get involved in gangs or criminal activity.
Jerry Magdaleno, 17, is an example. The San Gabriel High School junior has built his physical strength and endurance by working out at the club six days a week. But he has also participated in the club’s public speaking program and has even begun to enjoy doing his homework, he said.
“You don’t want one part of your life to be going well and then have another part falling apart,” he said.
“Kids see the cholos and the gang members in the street,” Magdaleno added, “and they think that’s how their life is going to be. But it doesn’t have to be.”
The Tellezes, who own a dental laboratory in East Los Angeles, contributed $3,000 of their own money to start the club. And each volunteers 25 hours a week, often going to the club directly from work.
Rudy, 42, has been involved in boxing as a trainer for youths and professionals for at least 24 years. He said he started the club to reach out to kids who were hanging out on the streets and joining gangs.
“I wanted to give them a place to come and work out,” he said.
As the compact, muscular man turned his intense eyes upon the young boys and men filling the room, he said, “A lot of these kids aren’t going to make it in boxing. But I want them to be leaders.
“They’re all prize prospects to me,” Rudy said, refusing to single out any of the young boxers. “I treat them all the same.”
Youths from Alhambra, as well as such neighboring cities as Rosemead, Pasadena and San Gabriel, pay nothing to join.
Members, however, must maintain a C average in school and adhere to club rules, which forbid cursing, smoking and graffiti, the Tellezes said.
The club now has a volunteer staff of eight, including several former professional trainers and boxers, like Lopez.
Bob Grand, club vice president and a volunteer trainer, said he did not know what to think of Rudy Tellez when he first walked into his dry cleaning business seeking community support for his proposal. But, as Grand listened and observed, Rudy won his trust and support.
“He’s a very caring person,” Grand said, “He really relates to the kids. I’ve seen how happy he is when a kid turns around.”
Magdaleno, one of three children raised by a single mother, acknowledges the impact that Rudy and the club have made on his life.
“He knows you can’t jump in the water and change things right away,” Magdaleno said, “He knows it takes time to change. He knows how to help you change.
“I want to have something like what Rudy has one day,” the trim, dark-haired young man said, gesturing around the gym, which was filled with young people punching bags, jumping rope and sparring in the professional-size ring. “I want to continue boxing. I want to work with kids and get a chance to speak publicly.”
Antonia Tellez, 46, said her involvement stemmed from a “midlife crisis” last year during which she wondered about “what sort of a mark I was leaving in the world.” Enrolled in a seminar, conducted by People Synergistically Involved she was moved by the idea that “when you give, you receive in return.”
“We wanted to provide an alternative for children,” said Antonia, who directs the club’s youth leadership program. “We wanted to give them something productive to do.”
Sharon Herrera, a lab technician and mother of three, said her 8-year-old son loves the program and shows greater concentration and respect for teachers, as well as increased physical coordination, as a result of his participation.
Herrera’s two teen-age daughters have enrolled in the club’s youth leadership program. The mother credits the Tellezes with helping her daughters look toward the future.
Rudy Tellez said he is eager to move into the new facility. He said the club’s volunteers, the children and supporters would do all the work themselves.
His faith in the club remains unshakable.
“These kids are going to run the world one day,” he said. “They need to learn how to be responsible. They need to know what they’re going to face out there. They need this place.”