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Boxing club in West Texas helps build bodies, character

August 1, 2018

ODESSA, Texas (AP) — Ramon Franco has been teaching boys how to box for 13 years at Odessa Boxing Club.

The Odessa American reports the big thing he’s learned is that there are no losers in the amateur branch of the sport.

“I was at a tournament in Fort Worth when a coach from another city asked if I would wrap his kid’s hands,” Franco said. “The kid quit crying when I told him not to be afraid because they were knockout wraps. He didn’t win, but he didn’t quit.

“It takes a lot to go up those steps. I tell kids they’re a winner already when they get in that ring because not just anybody can do it.”

Franco has reported training more than 100 boys since building his club from scratch at 1109 Edgeport Dr. in northwest Odessa.

It’s well-equipped with two rings, five heavy punching bags, speedbags and other accessories along with industrial fans to ameliorate the summer heat. Franco’s only professional to date is 23-year-old middleweight Joey Alday Jr., who has scored seven knockouts in his first eight bouts.

Overseeing his grandson and fellow amateurs Jesus Almance and Rey Galindo as they worked out June 18, Franco said many more boys try boxing than stay with it. “It’s not for everybody,” he said.

“I can tell right off the bat if a kid really wants to learn. A lot of them start like, ‘Hey, I want to try it.’ They look good, but once they get hit they don’t want to do it. Others can’t take the heat because it gets hot in here when the gym is full.

“It’s great to run into guys you trained as kids. They’re young men with families of their own and they bring their kids in to be trained. We need sponsors to help us go places because it costs a lot of money.”

Franco charges $70 a month and averages coaching 12 boys at a time.

One who immediately showed the requisite resolve was Alday, who began coming to the club at age 10 with his dad, his primary trainer. “Joey has always been a hard worker, one of those kids who went that little extra to get where he was going,” Franco said.

Alday is based in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, but still trains here when he’s in town. “The kids see him working out and stop and watch him,” said Franco, 60, who works as Alday’s cutman.

“When they’re sparring or hitting the bags and take a break, he tells them how to be more disciplined and shows them how to work with their punches. I’ve always said Joey has the desire to become a champion.”

A native Odessan who attended Ector and Odessa high schools, Franco owns a home building and remodeling company, RF Construction, and works as a carpenter for the Ector County Independent School District. He and his wife Mary Isabel have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He received the Doug McLean Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008 from the Colorado-based USA Boxing organization.

Asked how a budding boxer can survive with one more seasoned, Franco said, “You have to be smooth in the ring and move around to keep your opponent from putting you in a corner and beating on you.

“Use the jab to keep him at a distance. The pros are totally different. The pro game to me is a fight. They want to see somebody get knocked out. We take good care of the kids in the amateurs. They wear headgears and are protected. The doctors check them out every time and sign a book. Some stumble, but knockouts are rare.”

Based on the boxers’ ages, the length of rounds in the three-round bouts graduates from 60 to 90 seconds and from two to three minutes.

Franco said the sport is so popular among Hispanics because “it’s just in our blood.

“In the history of boxing, Mexican boxers go back years and years, brought from generations on up,” he said. “It’s one-on-one and you’re fighting a guy who is equal to you in weight.”

With his son in California, Joe Alday Sr. said Franco “is a very good coach, knowledgeable in the boxing game and one of the best guys I’ve met.

“Ramon is real straight-forward and when he is in the gym, he is all business,” Alday said. “He cares about the kids and works them out hard. He knows how to speak to them, get them thinking and motivate them. He is a great guy who has grown to be like a family member to us.”

While training for a recent bout, Joey Jr. said Franco “is an awesome guy who will tell you the truth no matter how harsh it is.

“Alongside my dad, I’ve been with Ramon since I was 10 years old,” the 160-pounder said. “He has been a huge part of my team and always will be. Outside the ring, he and my dad have been the most incredible people. They’ve always helped me with the right life decisions. I can’t thank them enough.”

Asked why boxers have to take up the sport early to be successful later, Alday said, “Because it takes six years to develop all that experience and soak up all that knowledge.”

Josh Franco, 5 feet 2 inches tall and 101 pounds, said he likes boxing because “you learn a lot of skills like footwork, throwing punches right and keeping your hands up.

“You learn discipline in everything,” he said. “It’s fun to get in the ring and fight, and you travel and go places.”

Josh is entering the seventh grade at Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School.

Nicknamed “Lightning” for his fast hands, 11-year-old Jesus Almance has had more than 30 fights but was unsure of his record. At 4 feet 2 inches and 65 pounds, he won the Silver Gloves national championship in his age and weight class in February in Independence, Missouri.

“You learn how to defend yourself and to be respectful,” said the Murry Fly Elementary School student. “You get rewards, trophies, belts and medals.”

Rey Galindo, 16, is 5 feet 9 inches, weighs 152 pounds and has a 7-4 record. “I like the workouts, being healthy and traveling to places like Alpine, Dallas and El Paso,” the Odessa High School 10th-grader said.

“You meet different people and learn from them. Even when we lose, we learn and try to progress.”

All three boys said boxing was their only sport.

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Information from: Odessa American, http://www.oaoa.com

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