Sometimes sports are more than just a way to get active. Sports can pave a way to a better life and keep one out of trouble. There are many stories of athletes who came from rough neighborhoods, like Chicago’s own Derrick Rose, and created a big name for themselves in the sports world.
Boxing can provide that same sanctuary because it gives children the opportunity to truly vent out their anger. Where violence can run rampant in Chicago, boxing provides an outlet to let out those frustrations in a safe, controlled manner. The fight game also instills a sense of discipline, since those who do not work hard are easily exposed in the ring. This is what draws kids to boxing and MMA and these streets create the drive and hunger to succeed in combat sports.
Four years ago, Armando Vaeta had the same vision of creating a haven where kids can come off the streets and fight for a way out. He started a small boxing gym in the basement of St. Gall’s Catholic Church, 55th and Pulaski, to give children the same opportunities that boxing gave him.
Vaeta fought out of Michoacán, Mexico with over 50 professional fights and won a few Mexican titles. A year later, Eduardo Ruiz came on board to help develop an interest in boxing with kids as well. He comes from a background of fighting in 65 amateur fights and won the Silver Gloves tournament back in the 1980s. And what started as a group of five children has grown into a group of 50 students in the past four years.
Because of their desire to keep kids off the streets, Vaeta and Ruiz keep their enrollment costs low to make sure price is not an issue when deciding to come to the gym or not. They charge $10 per week just to keep the gym running and eventually upgrade the equipment, which is not cheap by any means. And if a child cannot pay, they work out arrangements to make sure that the child can still work out.
The gym is very sparse, but what it lacks in fancy equipment, it makes up for in heart. The kids train five days a week from 6-8 p.m., with the hopes of fighting in the Golden Gloves and eventually on the national level.
One thing that Vaeta and Ruiz hope to get for the gym is an actual ring, so kids can have the opportunity to get the feel of what it is like to fight in the ring day in and day out. Vaeta and Ruiz are looking for ways to raise money and with the help of generous donors, their students will be able to reach their boxing goals.