BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — If you drive by a certain house in the South Bakersfield, you may not at first realize that it's also working as a boxing gym. Step through the back gate and you know exactly what’s going on here, local boxers busy training.
On this night, there are fighters aged eight to 17 working on their craft.
When the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out all sports activities, the Kern County Fight Club had to pivot and created its own backyard gym yo make sure fighters of all ages could keep training.
"We’ve kind of seen it getting put together piece by piece. It was nice to see it coming together," Kern County Fight Club Head Boxing Coach Daniel Alcala said.
When the pandemic shut down their indoor gym, parents of the fighters and the community stepped up to help the nonprofit club build an outdoor training area including a boxing ring.
"It shows not only in the kids but also in the parents on how committed they are with their kids," Alcala said.
"Yeah, it was crazy. I didn't think you'll be like this fast how they do it," 12-year-old boxer Edgar Gonzalez said.
"For them to go out of their way and do this for us. That was a good feeling. I’m thankful for that," 15-year-old boxer Stevie Sital said.
Outside of the actual building of the backyard gym, moving the gym from indoors to outdoors came with other challenges.
"We had a thermometer in here last week and it was like 115 just inside here. And the kids are still training they still do their exercises still run two miles a day," Alcala said.
"Last week, I threw up, it was super hot. I came back from running. It was nasty," Gonzalez said.
"That’s always the goal," Alcala said with a laugh.
"Training is training, no matter where you're at. Hard work is hard work," Sital said.
We don't call them fighters for anything and while the training is important it's more than just wins for Coach Alcala.
"We got kids from all over town and different parts of town. You know, so I've been dealing with kids for 13 years now, and not all of them have made it out," Alcala said.
That importance isn’t lost on these athletes even at just 12-years-old.
"I love it. It's a great sport, keeps you off the streets," Gonzalez said. "And then, you're always here at the gym so you always got to keep your grades up. If you don't keep your grades up, you can’t come. You can’t fight either. It keeps on our mindset on something; it keeps us in control."
Even if they can’t control everything around them, these young fighters won’t let anything stop them.
"I just love hard work, I don't know like handouts, I like working for everything and this is where hard work is at so I cannot tell over everything. I come around and train every day," Sital said.
"When I come to the gym, it's better if I feel excited and everything. I’m ready to learn," Gonzalez said.