|Lyle Ibarra, amateur boxer and Citrus college student, hitting the speed bag at the Baldwin Park Boxing Gym.|
Lyle Ibarra, 17, and Alejandro Vera, 18, have improved their academic performance over the years by practicing a sport often associated with violence.
"I didn't want to go to college, but after coming to the boxing club, I wanted to go," said Ibarra, who is in his third semester at Citrus College in Glendora.
Vera, also a student at Citrus College, had a similar experience. "My first year of high school wasn't very good. I had so many 'Fs.' But in the last semester in college, I got straight A's. I think without boxing, my grades wouldn't have improved," he said.
According to official reports, only one in four high school students in Baldwin Park is ready for college, while 70% are not at a competent level in comparison with other high school peers in other cities in California.
Children of Mexican immigrants, Ibarra and Vera attribute their academic achievements to focus, discipline, confidence and learned respect in the city owned boxing club.
"I learned discipline and have applied it in school and in my daily life," said Ibarra, who has been a member of the boxing club for 12 years. He became a member after his father found out that he was the victim of harassment and bullying.
"Some guys started harassing me, pushed me, and wanted to fight me. Sometimes, they took me to the restroom and beat me. I cried. I did not want to go to school. Everything changed since my dad got me to the gym," says the boy who dreams of finishing college and becoming a professional boxer.
Their model is former boxer and promoter Oscar de la Hoya. Ibarra identifies with him because of the challenges he faced to become a champion and successful entrepreneur. "If he worked hard to do it, I can too," he said.
One obstacle to Ibarra is that his father is unemployed. "To me, boxing is a big deal, because I want to help my family financially too," he said.
Vera, meanwhile, wants to keep practicing boxing as a hobby and become a nurse. He said he stopped "being lazy" when he first stepped into the ring. "I would recommend coming to the gym and not be on the streets doing bad stuff. It's better to put the fight into the bag," he said.
The original Spanish article can be read on the La Opinion website here: