SPRING HILL, Fla. --- They are looking for a name for their team but under the summer sky of July, these four young gladiators greeted each other with laughter, with plenty of fist bumps and a show of respect for the work that they each have put behind them.
This group of boxers who were not yet attached to any gym worked together at perfecting their craft. They dance around the ring, throwing calculated punches with the hope that one punch lands on their target with enough devastating power that leaves their opponent wondering.
What kind of truck just hit them!
They have countless hours of sweat beading up from their skin, dripping off the tip of their nose down to the green carpet of grass under their feet inside the make-shift ring. There are bruises that never seem to heal, they have plenty of aches and pains that take their time in mending but this is the nature of their sport. Make no mistake about the love that they have for this sport, that these fighters possess and share because - boxing is in their blood!
Working as this team’s boxing trainer, Larry Thorogood intensely watches the workout. He is just one of the men in charge of introducing and showing these novice boxers the ropes of the game.
He is always ready to give a gentle word of encouragement to these dedicated athletes. Thorogood has a wealth of knowledge about the sport and he exchanges these lessons with stories that he tells about his experience fighting in the ring.
He acknowledges each boxer that is interested in getting the education, as each fighter is focused on learning the lesson and that makes Thorogood’s mission of teaching the sport enjoyable.
“It is a tough sport, it tests your character but when you continue in the sport you get a lot out of it,” Thorogood said. “It took me off the street and gave me purpose. We want to do this from the heart of giving back because this sport is always building character.”
Thorogood has been in the sport of boxing since the age of 15 years old and even at the age of 60 years old, he is able to show his fighters the right way to move inside the ring. He teaches the science of boxing with passion. This is the right way for Thorogood to give something back to the sport that has given him so much in his life.
Thorogood worked as a sparring partner for former World Boxing Association Lightweight Champion from 1982-1984, Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini and he says that experience was one of the greatest experiences in his life.
Thorogood and his team do not face the opponents alone, in their corner and coaching this team is Felix Montanez. He is the man in charge and he says that being a boxing fan all of his life, it is his responsibility to guide his fighters into the right frame of mind before they step through the ropes and into the boxing ring.
Montanez teaches his fighters to respect the sport of boxing, respect themselves and he insists that these athletes respect the rules at home and be ready for the battle of life.
Montanez tells his athletes not to be timid about asking a question. He believes that his fighters need to have the power of knowledge before they step into the ring. Then his boxer will be properly prepared for the bout, inside the ring, and for the challenge outside of the ring.
“When in doubt, ask!” Montanez said. “None of us are perfect. We all fall short in any situation. We can find the answer, we always tell them-when in doubt, just ask.”
Montanez and Thorogood both teach the lesson to their athletes that it is important for them to respect the opponent that waits in the other corner but also respect themselves at all times.
“Home comes first, if home is not taken care of first then they can’t be here. If things are being done on the home front, that is instilled into them and if they are not performing well at home then they can’t be here. They need to respect the rules of home as well as here,” Montanez said. “This builds a lot of morals and principles. Sometimes these kids come from broken homes, they have been verbally abused, physically abused. This is their sanctuary, so to speak.”
Montanez has been coaching this boxing group for over two years, he was a lieutenant at the Department of Juvenile Detention Facility and he was a supervisor in the substance and emotional abuse program for 15 years.
This is a chance for Montanez to show his group the importance of giving back to the community. He takes tremendous pride in helping guide this group of young athletes to do the right thing for themselves and for their community.
Montanez says that the reward he receives is like any other sports coach. He is able to witness these kids develop into respectful adults and great people. This is not a job but his passion and his method of continuing boxing’s tradition of giving back to the community.
The group of fighters Jason Nguyen (4-1), Skyler Romero (4-2), Wayne Wright (1-1) all have some experience in the ring with limited competition except for Amanda Torrez. She is relatively new to the roster and Montanez says it will take some time before she will be ready to take on an opponent.
This group of boxers and their coaches went on the road on Saturday morning July 25, with a boxing match in the city of Gainesville, Florida, inside the Gladden Boxing Club, located at 4333 NW 6th Street.
“Every fight is important, this is just one fight but every fight is important,” Montanez said before the event. “We don’t emphasize one fight over the other, we don’t take anything for granted. We don't establish ourselves with just one fight or the next one, every fight is important.”
There is still plenty of sweat and work ahead of this group of fighters as they prepare for the upcoming match. So, under the blue sky and the hot summer sun, with no dingy walls of a gym to hinder their view of the horizon, the future for these fighters’ success is as endless as the summer sky above them.
Montanez and Thorogood will guide these fighters and they have no reservations about these fighters becoming successful not only in the boxing ring but in life too and they will continue the boxing legacy - to give back!
That makes these fighters and coaches - champions at being human!