A Young Student of the ‘Sweet Science’ : At 16, East L.A.'s Adan Reyes Is a Dedicated Boxer Who Already Has 104 Victories in the Ring


It is a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1989 and the sound of boxing gloves thumping on bodies is in the air. Adan Reyes stands on a patch of grass in front of his apartment on Arizona Street and throws punches at his friends. He has been yard boxing for a long time.

Reyes and his friends stop and watch as an older boy walks across the street toward them, holding a shiny trophy in his hand.

“What’s that for?,” asks Reyes.

“I won it in a boxing match this afternoon,” comes the reply.


“Where?” asks the 10-year-old.

“At the Eddie Heredia Boxing Club down on Olympic,” says the boxer as he walks on his way.

On Monday afternoon, Reyes walked the one-half mile from his apartment to the gym. The huge front door in the converted fire station was wide open. Without hesitation, he entered the gym area and, when directed, filled out an application to join. Soon, in October, he began training. Five months later his trainer agreed that it was time for competition and Reyes stepped into the ring, weighing 70 pounds, and won his first bout.

The first of 104 victories, and still counting, for the East Los Angeles resident.

Today, Reyes can look back at his 104th victory--which earned him his second U.S. Junior Olympic title last month--and forward to a fast-developing career that could take him to the pinnacle of amateur boxing: the Olympic Games.

The age of the Garfield High School junior-to-be may be as much a factor for his Olympic hopes as his talent. Competitions that lead to Olympic qualifying begin this fall, when Reyes will still be 16. Reyes won’t turn 17--the minimum age for the qualifying bouts to count--until next year, so it may take a waiver from USA Boxing national rules for him to qualify.

In the meantime, Reyes will strive to keep the momentum he already has going strong. It took awhile for that momentum to build.

The years 1990 and 1991 were a time of learning basic skills, honing technique and gaining as much experience as possible. Reyes lost often during this period.

At the beginning of 1991, Reyes’ first coach left the gym and Chuck Rios, currently in charge of the Eddie Heredia program, stepped in to take over Reyes’ training. He had been watching Reyes closely.

“It was clear that Reyes had a lot of heart--that he was dedicated and focused and wanted to do more than just work out in the afternoons,” Rios said. “This is the kind of boxer every coach wants.”

“I’ve always wanted to box,” Reyes said with conviction. He struggled through losses in several tournaments in 1990 and through most of ’91. But each time he lost, his determination to get better deepened.

In November 1991, the turnaround started. Reyes, then 12, won the Southern California Silver Gloves Championships at 85 pounds. He advanced to the western regional tournament in Prescott, Ariz., the following January and outboxed the opposition from five states to earn a spot on the team traveling to the National Silver Gloves in Lenexa, Kan. He lost in the semifinals but it didn’t matter: Reyes was on his way.

Since his first trip to a national tournament, Reyes has won the National Police Athletic League championships twice; the Blue & Gold National Invitational championship in 1993 and the gold medal at the Junior Olympic championships and Elite Camp Box-off in 1994, fighting at 112 pounds. He outpointed an Irish opponent in the 1994 USA/Ireland Junior Olympic Dual and has racked up many silver and bronze medals.

Rios recited Reyes’ strengths.

“Adan can adjust to any type of style in order to win. He is a good listener and can put his experience together with instructions given in the corner. His height, 5-foot-9, is a definite advantage.”


“He needs more strength to put power into his punches--as he grows in weight and age, he’ll be coming up against older, more mature men who will have no respect unless they can feel your punches.

“Plus we want to get Adan to start each round quicker and throw more punches. There’s only three three-minute rounds and you can’t catch up points in the last round if you haven’t already gained them in the first and second rounds.”

In order to have a better understanding of the sport of amateur boxing, Reyes began learning how to judge bouts last year.

“It helps me know what the judges are looking for and makes me a better boxer,” Reyes said.

His extra effort is showing up in the ring.

At last month’s Junior Olympics in Marquette, Mich., Reyes won three bouts to capture the 125-pound championship. The last two were against rough competition, but Reyes prevailed and earned honors as the outstanding boxer in the middle weights.

Next is the Elite Box-Off training camp and tournament, again in Marquette, which leads to an international meet against Canada for the Elite champions. Then come the first of the tournaments that lead to the Olympics: The National Police Athletic Championships in October and the Southern California Association of USA Boxing district championships.

The Olympic Trials will be held in April, 1996, in Oakland.

Aside from boxing, there’s school and a career, of course, and Reyes shows a sharp focus there, as well: He wants to be a police officer.

After he graduates from Garfield in 1997, Reyes plans to do a hitch in the Army, where he hopes to learn a trade, then “maybe go to the police academy.”

“I want to keep busy and not have any excuse to be on the streets,” Reyes said.