LIVINGSTON — A group of local teens stepped into the ring Saturday and got their first taste of a live boxing match during the first Gloves Not Drugs Boxing Show.
The event was organized by the Carlos Vieira Foundation and the Merced County Sheriff Activities League, which also sponsors three boxing gyms for at-risk youth in Atwater, Delhi and Livingston.
Coach Dennis Moniz, 56, said the after-school sport keeps kids off the street and gives them something constructive to do, while teaching them life skills.
"We're not just teaching kids to fight. We're building character, integrity and responsibility," said Moniz, who has coached boxing for 27 years.
"Boxing mirrors life — and we all have to win and lose in life," he added. "You win humbly and you lose graciously. It teaches kids to lose graciously and shake the hand of their opponent."
Moniz said the boxing show was a success, with about 400 people filling the stands at the Livingston High School gym. Seven out of 28 local boxers from Livingston, Atwater and Delhi squared off with boxers from other parts of the state.
Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez said the program provides mentorship to kids during a critical time when they might be vulnerable to negative influences.
"We're trying to intervene now and prevent them from going down the wrong path," Chavez said. "A lot of times these kids were raised a certain way, and we want to break that cycle of violence."
Livingston Police Sgt. John Ramirez attended the boxing show, and said the program helps at-risk youth become more comfortable with law enforcement, many of which volunteer their time to the program.
"When they see us in that environment, they can be more open and comfortable with us," Ramirez said.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.