Young Merced County boxers take ring for ‘Gloves Not Drugs’

"Sugar" Shane Mosley is guest of honor at fifth annual Gloves Not Drugs Boxing Show

Former boxer "Sugar" Shane Mosley is the guest of honor at the fifth annual Gloves Not Drugs Boxing show at Livingston High School in Livingston, Calif., on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
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Former boxer "Sugar" Shane Mosley is the guest of honor at the fifth annual Gloves Not Drugs Boxing show at Livingston High School in Livingston, Calif., on Saturday, March 4, 2017.

The inside of Livingston High School’s purple and gold decorated gym buzzed Saturday with young boxers who practiced their boxing techniques while eagerly awaiting their turn in the ring.

“This is where it all starts. Right here,” said Sugar Shane Mosley, the professional boxer and three-weight world champion who was the day’s guest of honor.

The crowded gym cheered Mosley as he arrived to open the fifth annual Gloves Not Drugs boxing show, sponsored by 51 Fifty energy drink and the Carlos Vieira Foundation.

Mosley said he was 8 when he started boxing in gyms just like the one at Livingston High School. It’s important for young students to know there is a community that is backing them and was “excited” to see the next generation of boxers, he said.

“Believe it and you can achieve it,” Mosley told the crowd.

To be a boxer takes an immense amount of “dedication,” discipline,” and “self-will,” said Gene Hermosillo, boxing trainer and owner of Hermosillo’s Modesto Boxing Gym.

The Merced-born trainer had one 14-year-old boxer from Patterson competing during the event, Eric Trejo, who’s won all seven of his fights.

Trejo said “becoming somebody” is what inspired him to start boxing and, ever since he started just seven months ago, he’s enjoyed it.

“I just like fighting,” he told the Merced Sun-Star. “When you land a punch it feels good.”

After winning a fight, Trejo said, there’s a feeling of relief, “like all the hard work paid off.”

As a trainer, Hermosillo said, he aims to empower his fighters and get their minds off the negatives that might be in their lives. Keeping active is a way to stay off the streets, he said.

A good three weeks of training is needed to prepare for a fight, Hermosillo said, and it keeps boxers really busy.

“Boxing is a confidence builder for kids and a personality finder,” Hermosillo said.

Nowadays, both parents have to work to keep a household running, Hermosillo said, and kids are growing up on the internet. Boxing is a way to connect kids with other people “and, when they’re done fighting, they’re friends.”

Three young Merced boxers – Brayan Gutierrez, Armando Romero and Daniel Haro – have been training together for about a year and practice after school every day for three hours.

“It’s fun and makes you happy when you accomplish something,” said 12-year-old Haro, who has been boxing for three years.

For Gutierrez, a 16-year-old Golden Valley High School student, boxing is a good way to get out anger or frustration. There’s a lot of conditioning and preparing for a fight, he said, but “it’s exciting when you win.”

“I won my first fight,” he said. “I was hecka nervous. ... But, the more fights you get, it becomes easier.”

The Carlos Vieira Foundation works with the Merced County Sheriff’s Activities League to keep kids off drugs and away from gangs, with boxing serving as one of those outlets.

“There is a need for programs like this in all the towns we serve,” said Bethany Twist, public relations director for the Carlos Vieira Foundation.

As of now, there are boxing gyms in Livingston, Atwater, Delhi and Planada, Twist said. Sometimes kids come from a tough background or lifestyle and boxing is a way for them to channel positive energy and stay fit, she said.

Monica Velez: 209-385-2486