Boxing coach Merced Corona has been giving Colusa County’s children a fighting chance for nearly two decades. The La Corona Boxing Gym started off 19 years ago with a smattering of scrapping youth and has grown to 24 amateur contenders with more on the waiting list.
The learning does not stop at conditioning, fundamentals, and technique. Corona said that his kids also learn work ethic, self defense, the virtues of hard work, being on time, and teamwork. They also learn about standing up against bullying, but Corona has a strict policy when it comes to fighting outside of the ring.
“If we fight at school, Mr. Corona said that we can get kicked out because we’re not allowed to do that,” said Alyza Padilla, 10, who has been boxing at the gym for over two years with her brothers and competed in an amateur fight. “So I try hard not to fight, and whenever someone’s talking, I just ignore them and think that they’re not there, like they’re not even talking to me.”
The young fighters train for two minutes and get a minute of rest. But the conditioning does not stop there: turning massive tires, jumping rope, lifting weights, practicing form on the sand bags, “creek work” where kids throw large rocks, and running – lots of running.
After approximately two years of training, the coaches discuss if a student is ready to compete in the sport.
“Not everybody can be a boxer,” said Corona. “It takes a special skill and it takes a special person to be able to hit somebody else. It’s not an easy sport.”
Corona works alongside his coaches. Rich Bowen has been working at the gym nearly 13 years. Juan Perez used to be a student at the gym, and came back after finishing his military enlistment, and now is a mentor. Leslie Deniz, who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics, started training at the gym; and Corona said she has became a role model for the kids.
Corona, a retired law enforcement officer and District 1 Supervisor, spends his extra time and money on the non-profit gym. The gym houses two boxing rings, steel beams to support the massive weight of numerous punching bags, and weights.
“We’re the only non-profit, free club in all the state of California that I know of,” said Corona. “We aren’t charging the kids to come and work out. It’s for the love of the sport and to give these kids something to do in the community.”
The fighters are looking forward to an upcoming fight in Reno this spring where the children will have a chance to unleash their training.
“I feel like I accomplish good goals,” said Ari Sanchez, a senior at Pierce who is on the track team and is currently training for an upcoming boxing tournament. “I hit people with a few hits, and they haven’t nailed me back. It’s a good experience.”■