On Sunday, October 19, the Century YAL boxing program demonstrated the depth of its youth talent when Jibran Vazquez, Josue Ruiz, Gerardo Garcia, Edgar Medina and Melanie De Santiago won an impressive five out of seven fights entered in their respective categories at a home competition.
Fifteen total fights were held at the Century YAL-hosted tournament, with young people from a variety of area clubs participating through USA Boxing, the governing body for amateur boxing in the United States.
“I was very excited and proud that our kids had the courage to go up there and compete with other kids — basically strangers — and win!” says Century YAL center manager Sergeant Veronica De La Rosa, who was on hand for the big event. Century Station’s Captain Ernie Chavez, Lieutenant Chris Johnson and Deputy Jose Marin, who runs the Century YAL boxing facility, were also ringside giving support to the young fighters, while more than 300 parents, community members and kids from other YAL centers cheered the boxers on.
This was no overnight success for the youth involved. An important component of the Youth Activities League’s sports-based approach to helping young people develop self-confidence and discipline, the Century boxing program requires a serious physical, mental and time commitment from its participants.
“They have to condition themselves, eat well, live healthy and keep their grades up to participate in the program,” says De La Rosa. And the training is intense: five days per week for two to three hours, supplemented with running and weight training.
“They had to have at least 1,000 hours of training in order to be considered for the tournament, and these children exceeded that,” says De La Rosa. “They have fought other fights too, so they felt mentally prepared to compete.”
With its longtime, dedicated volunteers and coaches, the facility boasts an impressive record of youth victories, and some of its fighters have even gone on to professional careers — including 2011 World Super Bantamweight champion Rico Ramos, who trained at the Century YAL as a teenager.
De La Rosa is pleased that more young women are entering the program, citing the positive life changes provided by participating in this unique sport. She points out 16-year-old Melanie De Santiago as a great example of a teenager who is thriving with boxing mentorship: “She initially came in for homework help and to access the technology center, then fell in love with the sport and started asking to be trained,” says De La Rosa. “Melanie can appear shy, but when you see her in the ring, she lights up.” She’s also a fierce competitor, winning first place in her match at Century’s tournament.
The tournament was the perfect opportunity for the Century YAL facility to flex its hosting muscles. “It was a well put-together event supported by volunteers and staff. Everything came together in an outstanding way,” says De La Rosa. “It was a very proud moment for Century YAL — we hadn’t hosted a fight in seven years.”
With its wildly successful redebut, and huge support from its station and captain, Century YAL is pumped up and ready for more. “We will absolutely be hosting more tournaments in the future,” says De La Rosa, setting a goal of two per year. Its top-notch youth athletes are primed for a repeat performance as well.