Boxing Program Teaches
Jeopardy’s boxing program, which
has been in existence for more than 10 years, has changed the lives of
many troubled youth.
“When kids come here, they come in acting like the own the world,” says
Tony Villasenor, who has served as the volunteer boxing coach since 1998.
“Boxing teaches them to respect people and it disciplines them. They
come in and see how hard the kids are working, and it teaches them to
Currently, there are about a dozen students in
the boxing program, but the number varies from month to month. In addition
to the fact that the program is free, it is also exciting: Former world
champion boxer Carlos Palamino helps with the training. “Carlos is really
great,” says Villasenor. “He takes these kids to places they never thought
they could go.”
Villasenor, who grew up as a self-ascribed “trouble-maker” in Mexico
City, says he gained his “boxing” experience by fighting on the streets.
Because he never got to compete, he enjoys having the opportunity to
help Jeopardy students work toward the goal of competitions. “I love
it,” he says. “I love the kids, and I feel good doing this for them.”
He discovered the Jeopardy boxing program by
accident, he says. “I was driving my son to Tai Kwon Do one day, and
I passed by the gym in Van Nuys,” he says. “I stopped and learned about
the program, and told the officers I wanted to help.”
Nine years later, the rewards in doing so have
been great, says Villasenor, who enjoys going to watch former students
box in professional matches. One such success story is a 19-year-old
who began boxing through the Jeopardy program 10 years ago. “I started
training him when he was 9, and he was doing really poorly,” explains
Villasenor. “Now, he is doing really well.” This student has traveled
with Villasenor as far as Tennessee, Kansas City and Michigan to compete,
and has earned five belts so far, including a Golden Globe and a Silver
Most of the boxing participants have improved
dramatically in school and in their personal lives, says Villasenor,
who keeps abreast of how they are doing by talking with the parents.
To emphasize the importance of school, students have to earn the right
to box by completing their homework first.