The Gym, 2 days before the fight
By Vikram Birring (July 22, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
Two steps into the gym, and the aura is immediately recognizable, even to one who is visiting a boxing gym for the first time. Young prospects bang away at heavy bags alongside a living legend, a hungry contender works the speed bag rhythmically to the blaring music, the daughter of a coal miner grunts as shadow boxing in the ring, and a renowned trainer intently watches all along.

This is Kenny Weldon’s World Class Boxing Gym, located in the blue collar town of Pasadena, Texas. Two days before a mega-event in Houston, stars, future stars, and no-hopers alike undergo final preparations for July 18’s card, fittingly entitled ‘Return of the Legends’.

All eyes are on Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho, one of the best boxers to ever come out of Puerto Rico, as he pounds a heavy bag mercilessly. Sweat streams down his body, remarkably chiseled for a man forty-six years of age. Even at this stage, he shows fast hands, quick foot movement, and sharp reflexes. After a lengthy day of training, he takes a seat and signs autographs for awestruck children, deep down a humble man despite all the bravado he displays in the public eye.

Two young prospects calmly work double end striking bags under the watchful eye of Weldon. Glaring is twenty-two year old John Rarden, an undefeated local prospect who only turned professional two years ago, perhaps known best for his trademark Mohawk hair style. Between three-minute sessions, he paces back and forth, waiting for the bell to ring for another ninety seconds of torture. A few feet away, a seventeen year old amateur boxer named Robert lunges with hellacious hooks. He has the frame of a basketball player, but the mentality of a fighter.

In the ring, it sounds as if Venus or Serena Williams have taken up boxing. Alas, it is Christy Martin, once the most famous woman boxer on the planet, now attempting to rebound her career after devastating defeats against Laila Ali and Holly Holm. She shadow boxes as her husband/trainer/manager watches. To those who say women should not box, I would ask them to take a free shot from Martin and see if they change their mind. Mean as ever in the ring, she is equally kind outside it, going out of her way to greet all attendees at the gym.

But the most interesting story is that of the man in the corner, the always captivating character, he who could have been, he who still might become. His name is Jesus Gonzales. At one time, he was the most decorated amateur boxer in the United States. He is the last person to defeat current welterweight champion Andre Berto in a boxing ring. He was on the fast track to stardom until a defeat to Jose Luis Zertuche in 2005, a bout he fought with fragile hands.

Though just twenty-three, his face is one of a wizened man, one of a typical boxer, fed up and torn apart by boxing politics; first in the amateurs, and then professionally. He pounds the speed bag in front of him for nearly an hour, bouncing on his toes, supported by legs which could be compared to tree trunks. In Arizona, he was a local hero, gaining widespread coverage in many newspapers, selling out shows left and right. But after the defeat to Zertuche, his career, and life, took a left turn.

He moved to Houston, teamed up with Kenny Weldon, and signed under local Bingo Hall big shot Bobby Jones. He has been beating up everyone in his path ever since, most recently slick boxer Durrell Richardson May 1. But he is still waiting for the opportunity that eludes him, the chance to prove that he can reach his potential.

He is one of us, a regular person who has had high expectations but bumped into an obstacle along the way. Perhaps that is what makes him so endearing, a normal human being who the general public can relate to. We fall, but we get back up, and we walk again. This is the story of life, and when Jesus Gonzales becomes a world champion, it will be a human triumph.

Questions or comments,
Vikram at:

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