The Boxing for Christ program’s journey onward
■ Elyse Askari / Reporter
Honesty is a very valuable trait. From youth, most people are told not to make promises that can’t be kept, and for some, like founder of San Jacinto’s Boxing for Christ Sonia Ramos, this general guideline has become a devoted lifestyle.
“I built this place off a promise… never in a million years did I expect the outcome of this program — the growth,” she recalled when asked how Boxing for Christ first came to be. Mother of four, Ramos migrated to San Jacinto from San Diego in 2009 and took a job working as a cleaning woman, among other jobs, in order to make ends meet.
“Anything to put food on the table,” she said with a distant look in her eyes. But when her then incarcerated son David expressed that had he stayed involved with boxing past the age of 18 (the age limit for most youth boxing organizations) it would have kept him out of trouble, she went to God for help.
“You save my son, I’ll save any kid I can,” she prayed. She feels God saved her son, so she is out to keep that promise.
Boxing for Christ is a nonprofit after school boxing program held in the Jim Conner Youth Center in San Jacinto, founded to keep city kids off the streets and out of trouble, to help them develop boxing skills, and plant seeds of faith all the while.
The familiar, sturdy walls of the gym are strewn with jump ropes, boxing gloves, victory belts and trophies to inspire students to keep going while they learn “how to fight the correct way,” as Ramos zealously puts it.
Registered with USA Boxing, Boxing for Christ’s staff is made up entirely of volunteers, including Ramos’ two sons and daughter, all of whom are certified instructors. Her other daughter helps out at the front desk, truly making it a family business.
One student who started at Boxing for Christ at 17 is expected to go pro this later year, similar to Ramos’ son Martin, who said his experience in the gym has made him “a much more positive person,” giving him and many of the other attending students something productive and engaging to do. Her second daughter is also a notable fighter, training and helping out at the gym whenever she’s not travelling for matches.
Their boxing teams have travelled as far away as Las Vegas, and have made appearances in tournaments across Southern California. The Soboba Foundation recently stepped forward as a sponsor and supporter for Boxing for Christ, last year donating $2,500 so the team could fight in the last Desert Showdown tournament to be held in Southern California, and stay in a hotel while they were there; a much appreciated change from previous tournaments spent travelling back and forth every day, or sleeping on gym floors. This year the foundation donated $10,000 for upcoming matches. The story of how Ramos came to run Boxing for Christ is also being filmed for a documentary, which is expected to premiere later this year.
“When (the kids) come here, it’s like one big family. Everyone helps one another, no one is better than anyone else… we work as a team,” said Ramos. What started as a solemn promise has blossomed into a safe haven for broken souls that reaches out to kids in the San Jacinto Valley who need help the most. Ramos offers professional training and use of facilities for $20 a month, but eagerly adds, “I do not turn anyone away… I believe in these kids.”
Five years and more than 330 students later, Ramos and her staff of volunteer coaches keep the covenant she made all those years ago in their training, spreading lessons in skill, wisdom, encouragement, faith, and hope to the kids that bring Sonia Ramos and her family joy and confidently hopeful expectations. To the next generation of professional boxers, Godspeed!