There’s an old building on Third Street, in Historic Downtown Richmond that could use some work, but the 15 or so kid’s inside do not even notice. All they know is since they have been making the daily track to the site, their lives have and continue to changed.
“I always had an anger problem and liked to fight, was always getting into trouble but now, since I’ve been coming here, I only fight here which keeps me out of trouble. I’ve learned to control my anger and the coach has taught me how to respect people. If I do not do right or keep my grades up, then the coach wouldn’t let me come back,” said Jonathan Martinez, 15.
The place, Twin City Boxing Center, is owned and operated by Juan Silva, Jr. who also serves as head coach. Silva knows first-hand how having a place to go, something to do and learning life skills can change one’s life.
“When I was 17, I went to jail for three days for theft and a misdemeanor, but then Bennie Lozano, a boxing coach, got a hold of me and I started boxing, which helped me turn my life around and go straight. I’ve never been in jail again,” Silva said.
Silva has been boxing and coaching for 37 years and while his boxing record of 30 wins and eight losses, is impressive, his success with coaching the kids is what he is most proud.
“One thing we teach these kids is don’t quit. We encourage them to not give up, to keep working hard here and in school. We teach respect, following the rules, and other life skills that many of these kids have not seen modeled before. Plus, this place keeps them off the streets and out of trouble,” Silva said.
Prior to renting the space a few months ago, Silva taught boxing in his garage to those 10-21 years old. Many of these young people followed to the new location in downtown Richmond.
“One young man rides his bike here almost every day, some get rides, but the main thing is they keep coming. Some come every day, some come a couple of times a week when they can,” Silva said.
Both girls and boys are welcomed, which is good for all. The boys learn to respect girls and treat them like one of the team members, and the girls learn to respect the boys.
One young lady, Celeste Sanchez, 16, started boxing when she was 14, and has a couple of trophies signifying her hard work.
“I saw boxing on TV and told my grandmother I wanted to go to try it. I really like it, it’s fun and helps me feel better about myself and I’m stronger. My classmates think it is kinda weird and my grandmother doesn’t like me boxing but she understands how much it means to me,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has some advice to other young girls and that is, ‘don’t be scared about what people say about you, follow your dreams and work hard.”
A number of the other kids attending the Center agree that prior to coming to Twin City Boxing, their grades were low and they had failed some classes. Now their grades are average or above average, and they are working hard to raise them further.
“But there are some challenges. The registration fee is $50 a year, which helps cover the rent, light and water bills and buy equipment for the kids. Right now, we don’t have water, but I’m working on it. Some of the kids don’t have the $50 so that is discouraging. We have car washes throughout the year to raise some money, but we still run short,” Silva said.
If there were scholarship funds available, more kids and at-risk teenagers could attend the center.
“We hope the community will help, give what they can so we can buy some equipment and allow more kids to come. We do not have a website or a mailbox here at the center, but we are opened from 6:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. Monday thru Thursday. We’re open so kids can come after homework is done and then be back home in time to get a good nights sleep on school days,” Silva said.
Those interested in supporting Twin City Boxing can send donations to 1110 Carlisle, Rosenberg, TX 77471 or call 832-382-8293 or stop by the Center, which is near the railroad tracks on Third Street and across from Lone Star Saloon in Historic Downtown Richmond.