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Olympic Prepares for Youth Boxing's Opening Bell


Aspiring young boxers will no longer have to sit in the balcony of the Grand Olympic Auditorium and wonder if they will get to fight. Their chance may come as early as April 29.

In addition to staging professional fights, the newly refurbished Grand Olympic Sports Complex will also house a boxing and fitness center for youths from the Central City.

Located adjacent to the auditorium, the sports complex will be geared toward minority athletes who want to improve their conditioning and develop their boxing techniques.

"The purpose of the new building was to provide low-cost membership to a full-service gym for youths from the neglected areas," said Jeff Harper, project manager of RLA, formerly known as Rebuild LA.

RLA organized the new facility, enlisting the help of Jack Needleman, boxing trainer Richard Allen and businessman Ken Germano.

Needleman, who purchased the Olympic at 333 W. Washington Blvd. from the Los Angeles Athletic Club in 1980, donated the building to house the gym and fitness center.

Allen, who is also director of the Hoover Street Gym, will run the boxing facility. Eight other trainers will help supervise the youth boxing.

The gym will include three training rings with professional ropes, 10 to 12 heavy bags, and eight to 10 speed bags.

Amateurs, 8 and older, are invited to the gym, which will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The cost for boxing training will be $10 to $15 a month.

"We feel this is an excellent program to allow at-risk youths an opportunity to get involved in boxing, to develop confidence and self-esteem," said Allen, who hopes to have 300 boxers join. "These kids can box to any level they want. They will receive training whether they want to have fun, represent their country in the Olympics or compete at the professional level."

The new center was paid for in part by a $66,600 grant from the Lincy Foundation.

Allen also expects students from neighboring Los Angeles Trade Tech, businessmen, yuppie boxers and professional fighters to join. Public workouts will be on Saturdays to give amateur boxers an opportunity to work out in front of an audience.

The fitness center will operate separately from the boxing gym.

Germano, founder and president of Operation Fit Kids, has already provided fitness equipment for 25 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Nautilus, StairMaster, Star Trac Treadmills by Unisen, the Step Co. of Atlanta and L.A. Fitness Club donated exercise equipment for the fitness center. It is the first inner-city facility of its kind in the country and a prototype for future fitness centers, Germano said.

"There was a desire on the part of Jack Needleman, who owns the Olympic, to develop an inner-city health facility," Germano said. "As far as health club chains go, this is the same type of operation at a much lesser membership cost. The money it generates will be for additional personnel and create jobs for people who aspire to be fitness instructors.

The fitness center will be open to all ages, but those younger than 16 will have to be accompanied by an adult. Cost for the fitness center is $15 a month.

Information: (213) 750-2018.

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