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Kids step into ring to join social circle

Community: Half of participants at Santa Clarita Community Center boxing tournament were local

Posted: June 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Samantha Meza, 13, left; her sister Brianna, 9; and mother Juana Meza, of Carson, cheer on boxer Jose Meza.

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The girl’s nose was bloody.

Her opponent’s nose was also bloody.

But as 12-year-old Tiffany Ocampo stepped from the ring at the Santa Clarita Community Center on Market Street on
Saturday, she couldn’t have been happier.

“It was awesome. It was great,” said the Santa Clarita teen in deep, heavy breaths.

Ocampo, at 110 pounds, went three rounds with Esperanza Ruelas of the Santisima Boxing club and lost.

“Win or lose, we still have a good time,” she said, smiling.

The Ocampo/Ruelas fight was one of 10 held by the Santa Clarita Boxing Club as part of a tournament sanctioned by the Southern California Association, USA Boxing Inc.

Match referees from the association have the power to tap any of the boxers they believe is worthy of representing the United States in international competition, including the Olympics.

Character building
The real rewards, however, are internal ones that serve to define stronger, more confident and respectful teens, says the city representative overseeing the match.

“This changes their attitude,” said Efran Galindo, community center sports coordinator for the city of Santa Clarita.

The center’s boxing program is like a family, he said.

“We run it like a boot camp. It’s really strict,” he said. “It’s about running every day, watching what you eat every day.

“A lot of the kids come from single-family homes; dads are not in the picture. So we let them know that they’re part of
something,” Galindo said. “It’s not about winning really. Our priority is the character building, keeping them off the street, providing positive role models in their life.”

Respect
In the ring, when Gabriel Rojas, of Pacoima, was draped with a gold medal, he shook the hand of his opponent Salvador Navarro, of Maywood, draped him with the silver medal, shook his hand again and then raised his opponent’s arm in the air.

“We’re proud of these kids,” said one Santa Clarita coach as he tended to one young boxer. “It’s a hard sport.”

Although there were no local winners, half the competitors at Saturday’s tournament featured young boxers from Santa Clarita.

They included: 11-year-old Diego Renteria who lost to Rafael Delgado, of Pacoima; 10-year-old Reymond Lara who fought Jose Mesa, 11, of Carson Fabela Chavez boxing club; 15-year-old Christian Gutierrez who faced Sergio Arambula, 16, of Baldwin Park; and Daniel Nolasco, 17, who went up against Jason Morales, 20, of AV Boxing.

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