110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
posted Mar 1, 2010 - 12:15:16pm
Taino Boxing Academy began in a garage nearly four years ago, fueled by determination to promote the art of boxing and help Deltona’s youths.
On Feb. 25, coaches, kids, parents and city officials cut a ribbon to open the academy’s new permanent home at Campbell Park in Deltona.
Taino Boxing Academy has been at the park about six months. A boxing ring was installed in the building courtesy of Nick Pizza, who has worked extensively with Deltona’s youth through programs like Youth Explosion for Christ.
The word Taino is the Indian name for the original people who settled Puerto Rico. A good many of the 29 kids who attend the academy are Hispanic, but there’s a mixture of backgrounds and races.
Head Coach Ed Alvarado said his mother, Lucy Alvarado, inspired him to start the academy. Lucy, now retired, was a social worker in New York City, where Ed grew up.
“She ran programs for underprivileged kids,” he said. “Most of the kids here are high-risk.”
Many of the academy’s students would otherwise just hang out on the streets for hours after school, until their parents get home from work.
“It’s a safe haven here for them,” Alvarado said.
Through boxing, the youths learn self-discipline, concentration and focus. Boxing gives them a good way to work off frustrations — an alternative to getting into fights at school and on the streets, Alvarado said.
He said Pizza has been “a strong supporter, spiritually and financially,” of the academy. Pizza offered it space in his Pizza Enterprises building for a time, before the city offered the nonprofit group the small building at Campbell Park.
Taino Boxing is affiliated with USA Boxing, the governing body of amateur boxing in the U.S.
Chris Lopez, now 21 years old, credits Coach Edwin Encarnacion and the other coaches at Taino Boxing Academy, and another coach, Philip Ford, for helping him become state amateur-boxing champion last year at the Golden Glove competition.
Lopez returned Feb. 25 to help celebrate the academy’s grand opening.
He’s now preparing for this year’s state competition in Tampa in March. He plans to move up to the regional competition in Hollywood, Fla., in April, then move on to the national competition in Arizona.
Lopez, who plans to turn pro next year, graduated from Pine Ridge High School in Deltona.
“When I was in high school, boxing taught me discipline and respect,” he said.
Both his father, Philip Lopez, and his uncle, Irvin Rodriguez, were boxers. Rodriguez once boxed champion Hector “Macho” Camacho Sr. Lopez’s older brothers are amateur boxers.
Lopez said he never got into fights when he was in high school. Boxing gave him the physical outlet he needed.
Read reporter Pat Hatfield's blog, Life in Interesting Times.
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