From driveway to empty warehouse-boxing club helping to put Shafter on the map at Jr. Nationals

Posted at 2:36 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 23:28:43-04

From the outside it doesn't look like much more than an abandoned warehouse on Lerdo Highway. Inside, cobwebs hang from the ceiling and cover the windows. Without air conditioning, temperatures soar over 100 degrees in the dead of summer. But for a small group of Shafter boxers the warehouse is a new home.

Three years ago the group of kids were training in the driveway of Shafter resident Mike Ayon. "Kids just started coming little by little," he told 23ABC on Wednesday. "The next thing you know the lawn was full of kids."

Ayon says he has no boxing experience and is just a fan of the sport but wanted to start the club as an after school program. Javen Encinas said if it weren't for the club he would be sitting on his parent's couch all summer. 

Today the warehouse is home to more than 25 kids and it's all at no cost for local parents. "When he (Ayon) said there's no cost involved--what do you mean there's no cost involved?" said Lucas Alberto, the father of a youth boxer. "Everything has a price."

Ayon and his brother split the $600 a month rental fees to house the kids and says the travel costs associated with going to different events are picked up by the Shafter community.

The team has gone to events in Los Angeles, Fresno, Indio, CA and even a tournament in Missouri but their biggest trip came this past month at Junior Nationals in Dallas, TX.

The team took home a silver and two gold medals from their Texas trip and boxers and coaches said no one at the event knew where Shafter was. "It kind of sucks (that) no one knows where you are," said Emily Gomez, who took home a silver medal in the Intermediate 119. "But it's cool because we're a small town with champions."

While Ayon says he never dreamed of success at the national level, now that his kids are performing on that stage, their goals have gotten even bigger. "In the future they want to be Olympians and represent Shafter, CA," he said. 

Big dreams for a small town who's residents are behind them every step of the way. "That sense of family, that sense of togetherness and guess what man, when you need something they're there for you," said Alberto.


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