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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : WESTMINSTER

Boxing Club Packs Punch in Kids' Lives

Seeing professional fighters in action and learning the sport are big draws for about 200 young members.

March 13, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At first, 11-year-old Javier Mora would go directly to the Westminster Boxing Club after school, do a little shadow boxing, walk to the nearby McDonald's for some fries and then back to the club's gym to watch for hours as professional boxers duked it out in the ring.

The Westminster club is still where Mora, 18, feels a sense of belonging. The amateur super-heavyweight, who in February barely missed qualifying for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, would rather be working out in the club's gym than almost anywhere else. About 200 other youngsters, ages 10 through 18, appear to feel the same way.

The one-story building on Locust Street is large enough for two boxing rings, 16 punching bags, a few pieces of equipment and some old lockers against. On weekends, the square, warehouse-type building can be rented out for parties.

During the week, children rush to the club to spend the afternoon moving their feet, throwing jabs in the air and eventually, after getting the required training, punching at one another. Later in the afternoon, older club members, some just letting off steam after working in an office, others bent on joining the amateur or pro ranks, take turns in the ring.

Much of the appeal to the younger crowd is that professionals frequently visit the gym and 15 Westminster Boxing Club members have turned professional, including well-known welterweight Carlos Palomino.

Vae Seui, 37, drives two of his sons, Roman and Kapesi, from Anaheim to the club. The brothers, 11 and 12, ended up in the ring facing each other on a recent afternoon. After mostly working on footwork and hand movement for three weeks, it was their first time to don protective gear and box against an opponent.

Roman, who seems to be a natural, dancing around his older brother and landing some blows, said he asked his father if he could learn to box so that "if anybody throws me around and they're bigger than me" he would be able to defend himself. The brothers' interest was piqued by Olympic boxing on TV, Seui said.

The boys do well in school, getting A's and excelling in math, and Seui said he didn't hesitate allowing them to join the boxing club.

At one of a few tables placed ringside, while Roman and Kapesi take pointers from a volunteer trainer, Felipe Jaimez, 15, has a schoolbook open.

Jaimez, who wants to box as a professional, takes a bus from Anaheim after school to the club three to five times a week.

"If I have homework that I think I can finish at the gym I come here," he said. Otherwise he goes home and does the work there, skipping a visit to the gym.

Jaimez has been a member of the club for two years and has been boxing for four. He said the professional boxers who visit the gym inspire him.

"It takes a lot of discipline to be in this sport, and it's fun," he said.

The Westminster Boxing Club is funded by membership dues from those older than 18. Membership for children is free under the sponsorship of United Way.

Volunteer trainer Richard Jones said that when children first join the club they come "confused and angry."

"Boxing seems to smooth them out," Jones said. "When kids do have the urge to do some something crazy, they can get it out of their system here."

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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