advocate, trainer, mentor, big brother, father, coach…
In the Villa Parke Community Center in Pasadena there is a secret that has been quietly brewing for many years. If you asked most of the city’s residents what it was, they couldn’t tell you. But I can. Literally hundreds of youth and young adults have been trained as boxers over the last 15 years there, many of whom have gone on to various levels of success in the sport. Hard work, dedication, character, desire, determination are all traits that these young men and women hone in this unique gym. For some this is the point of salvation, of intervention, of leaving a life of poor decisions behind and never looking back. For others, this is a religion, complete with passion and ritual and clarity of focus that reminds one of a person on a pilgrimage.
It could be said that the lynchpin to these accomplishments is one man, but humbly he would say otherwise. That, instead, it is a team of committed men and women who devote their time to the athletic development of neighborhood kids who have already been knocked down a few times in their lives. Fausto De La Torre is the backbone of the VP Boxing Program where he focuses his energies on building outstanding boxers out of kids who might end up in gangs, on drugs, or in a cemetery. Boxing saved his life, so he wants it to be a similar pathway for others, away from lives of desperation and hopelessness. To look at his boxers you would say that he is doing well with that objective. Even though few in our community know that this program even exists, Fausto has placed dozens of young people on the road to success.
Conversation with Fausto De La Torre about his deep connection to the sport of boxing:
How did you become involved in the sport of boxing? How did it shape your youth?
As an over active and troubled youth I found my safe haven in the boxing gym where I could release all positive and negative energy. I learned self-discipline, confidence and commitment with the hopes of having the opportunity to fight my way out of the neighborhood.
Boxing is a controversial sport, so from your perspective what are the positive outcomes for those who pursue it?
On an amateur level there is plenty of opportunity for youth to participate in local, regional, and national competition that ultimately leads to the Olympics. On a professional level there is “fame and fortune “.
For most in the community there is little awareness about the existence of the boxing ring at one of our city’s community centers. With this in mind, please describe the boxing program at the Villa Parke CC? For example, how many youth/young adults does it serve and what programs, including shows/matches, does it coordinate? In what ways has the program contributed to the boxers’ lives?
The Villa Parke Boxing Program offers a variety of courses geared towards health and fitness through boxing. Training focuses on preparing youth and adults for competition on a local, regional and national level. We also offer courses focusing on Olympic-style boxing techniques for health and fitness in a fun, non-contact environment, which helps in developing social skills, self-confidence, leadership, character and sportsmanship.
We have over 300 active members witch include 12 active elite boxers and we also run an after school boxing program. In coordination with PAL (Police Athletic League) we also offer a basic skills development course. Every summer we also offer our Olympic-Style Training summer camp.
For some of our boxers, it has been a life changing transformation from the direction their lives were headed. Boxing has given them an opportunity to focus on their life-long goals and has allowed them to build character and discipline that they can apply to everyday life.
What are some of the accomplishments of your boxers? Are any of them Olympic hopefuls? How many other boxing rings are there in the region and how does your program compare to theirs? Do you have any plans for expanding the program and if so could you describe them?
Out of our program, we have had two Olympic representatives in 2008. We continue to strive to make the Olympic team and bring home some medals back to the City of Pasadena and Team USA. We have won numerous regional state and national titles with hopes to continue competing and succeeding on an international level. We currently host 3 local level boxing shows a year and have hosted the Regional Silver Gloves for the past three years.
There are 5 local Private Boxing Programs that offer personal training but are not active and competitive in the amateur boxing circuit.
We continue to strive to offer the newest training methods in conditioning, fitness, and health. There is currently a fundraising campaign to expand our boxing gym facilities to further accommodate the demand of the community.
Being one of the most demanding sports physically, what are your strategies for making sure that your boxers are in the best shape possible? In many other sports, like football, there is a period of rest between games, so what is the normal frequency for matches for boxers and how do you make sure that your boxers get the break they need between matches?
A boxer’s regiment is very important as it includes one of the healthiest diets, plenty of rest, physical fitness, and consistent training of boxing techniques.
Prior to competition they peak at all levels of training, fitness and diet. After competition they take a couple days off of training in the gym and return back on a light training schedule. The schedule is only increased once they are ready to compete again.
Obviously, the WWE is very different from boxing, but for some there is confusion about the distinction between boxing and ultimate fighting. Because of the UFC, has professional boxing had to change its structure in any way in order to maintain popularity; has it become more like ultimate fighting?
In the professional circuit, boxing has made no changes as it is still the most viewed and produces the highest paid athletes as opposed to UFC. Boxing is a classic sport that has been around for many years and will always continue to stand on it’s own.
Even though the UFC is a strong competitor for professional boxing, there is still a huge audience for boxing matches as shown by the recent Mayweather fight in Las Vegas and numerous other title bouts. Why do you think that boxing still has such a large following? What is it about the sport that captures the attention of so many?
I believe the true fan understands the art and the technique needed to, for example, make an opponent miss, counter a punch; it’s a human chess game.
The reason the sport of boxing captures the attention of so many, I believe, is because it has always been a poor man’s sport that brings fame and fortune to those deserving of it. Your success in this sport is based on your commitment and life long dedication.
For many community members safety is a key issue in the sport of boxing, the boxers you train all wear head-gear and body cushions but even so they endure numerous punches and other types of pain. Do you feel that the sport is safe, particularly for pre-teens, and what other systems are there in place to make sure that no one is seriously injured?
As I always assure the parents and participants that join our program, the precautions that our program and USA Boxing takes to prevent any kind of serious injury include a minimum of six month training before any contact. All require safety equipment (headgears, mouthpiece, no-foul protector, 14 oz gloves} and supervision by certified coach at all times. They are also required to pass a physical examination clearing them from any health issues. During competition there are pre-physicals, and physicals after competition. A doctor is present during the duration of competition to provide aid if needed. Referees and judges are also trained and certified on a yearly basis.
Are there any other facts or anecdotes about boxing or your program that you would like to share with us? What thought would you like to leave in the readers’ minds?
There have been kids whose circumstances set them up to fail and I have been instrumental in redirecting that path. My life long dream was to be a gold medalist, and it continues to be my goal to help one of my participants accomplish that dream. That would be the icing on the cake for me, I feel like I’ve already succeeded in this sport and as a coach with knowing that I have touched and affected the outcome of a few boxers’ lives.