Local boxing club builds skills and self-esteem
Many kids hear the phrase, "Don't hit, it's not nice," from their parents and teachers. That's not the case in the boxing ring, however. They are told to hit, and how to hit in order to build physical stamina and body awareness. "Beyond just teaching them a skill, I want to build their self-confidence," said Johnny Mancilla, coach and director of the Iron Pit Boxing Club in Susanville.
According to Mancilla, amateur boxing is a relatively safe sport, "We don't let the kids knock each other out. Boxers get points for the combos they use and for hitting within the white portion of their gloves, not for how hard they hit each other."
The non-profit club is open to all ages, from eight on up. Mancilla says it's a great way to keep kids occupied, and focus their excess energy in a creative way.
Assistant Coach Allen Burker donates his time to help Mancilla coach the young boxers.
Currently the club has approximately 12 members, including one female. Practice is held at the National Guard Armory on Saturday from 10 until 11 a.m., Sunday from 9 until 10 a.m., and Mondays from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m.
The Armory donates the space to the club, which allows Mancilla to keep the non-profit status. Originally the club got its start at the Iron Horse Gym, and the owner, Rudy Valentine, still sponsors the club.
Club members practice in an $8,000 boxing ring donated by Dan Verdugo.
The ring does not have a wood floor, however, an extra $500 expense. Mancilla must take the boxers to a club in Reno to spar. The cement floor could cause major injuries to a fallen boxer, so they must modify their practices at the Armory.
Mancilla operates the two-year-old club, started by himself and his coach Gary McCoy, on a donation basis. He asks the kids to contribute what they can to the club, usually between $5 and $15 per month. The money goes toward equipment and traveling expenses.
Last year they had boxing meets in Stockton, Sacramento, Oakland and Oregon. According to Mancilla, amateur boxing is a nationwide sport, and the stepping stone to professional boxing. He trains his boxers to compete, and all participants receive recognition at the meets, win or lose.
"I have seen kids really build their self-esteem through boxing, it can be a very positive experience for kids," confirms Mancilla.
The 22-year-old Mancilla started boxing four years ago as part of a body conditioning regimen, eventually becoming a certified boxing coach.
In February, five boxers from the club will compete at a tournament held in Reno.
The club is in need of sparing gloves, hand wraps, heavy punching bags, weight-lifting equipment, and any exercise machines they can get.
Those interested in making a donation or joining the Iron Pit Boxing Club should contact Mancilla at 257-6625.