Area boxer harbors Olympic-size hopes
AZUSA – Inside the old, stucco building, punching bags hang from the ceiling and a hand-scrawled sign that reads, “No spitting on the floor and lift up your shorts!” sticks to the wall. A creaking, wooden boxing ring occupies the middle of the floor. Rocky Balboa, it seems, could walk in at any moment. Instead, it’s Danny Martinez of Azusa throwing jabs and upper-cuts in the ring at the Azusa Boxing Club, while trainers Trey Torres and Ralph Rodriguez look on. Martinez, 21, has been training hard for five years and will be competing in Salt Lake City, Utah, starting Sunday for a place on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Martinez’s trainers said his progress has been outstanding. “He’s come a long way,” Rodriguez said. “Now it’s up to him to get to the Olympic team. He’s going to be one of the prizes of Azusa.” Martinez could be one of several boxing greats to come out of Azusa’s little grass-roots gym. The boxing club, which has been operating for 55 years, started small at Azusa High and functioned out of a couple of back yards before landing in the nearly 100-year-old building on Third Street and Dalton Avenue. It has produced champions Zack Padilla, Johnny Chavez, Paul Banke and Glenn Kennedy, fighters Martinez idolizes. Wrapping his hands and wrists in white cloth, he said boxing not only helped him blow off the steam built up from being the only boy of seven siblings, it also kept him out of gangs and away from drugs. Now, he said, he wants to provide a positive role model for Azusa’s youths. “I want kids to look up to us as athletes,” he said. “I want to make a difference.” For now, he said, he needs sponsorship “from companies or individuals” to help pay for gear and accommodations on his Salt Lake City trip. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2236160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!