ASHEBORO — The “want” in the eyes of those who were at the Central School Gym boxing practice last week was quite noticeable. Success in any sport usually starts with the participant wanting something good to happen. Show the want, put in the hard work and sacrifice and chances are elevated that success will be reached.
For the boxers who are training under Lewis Baldwin, they are also receiving the tools needed to perhaps one day reach their professional goal.
Four of the boxers — Eric Fernandez, Alex Vasquez, Eddie Heriberto Jimenez and Jose Pacheco — participated in matches held last week in Charlotte, and although none of the four came home with a win, there were certainly victories that could be applauded.
“It was an amazing feeling, I loved it,” said Jimenez, 21, who was competing in his fifth fight overall. “I loved every second of it. It’s always a new experience every time I go to these events because there is always more to learn. Boxing is like school. You are always learning something. A new technique, it’s changing and evolving.
“I trained hard leading up to that fight. I represented Asheboro and this gym and I was going to give it my best. That's what I did. I gave it my best. Unfortunately I came up short.”
Not according to Baldwin, who for more than 50 years has provided an opportunity for boys and girls ages 8 to adult to learn, practice and compete in USA Boxing sanctioned events.
“I tell the guys to do the best you can,” said Baldwin, who also has Julian Faz, 18, as a registered boxer. “I don't want a guy saying that wasn’t my best. As long as you did your best, I will always be proud and never disappointed.”
Baldwin and the boxers work out every Thursday night at Central School Gym, preparing for bouts, which are held throughout the state.
“It gets me motivated for everything mental,” said Fernandez, 15, who has been boxing for three years. “I love it. Last week was my first one. It was scary. When I woke up that morning, we had to drive to Charlotte and I only had four hours of sleep. When I got into the ring, I was scared for a few seconds. When the match started, I couldn't see anything around me, I focused on my opponent. I want to have a lot of amateur fights and make it to pro someday.”
Pacheco, who attends Asheboro High School, said he learned a lot in his first match last week.
“When I went, I felt pretty confident,” he said. “I felt like I was ready. Once it got to the10th bout, I was the 11th bout, I started getting nervous. Stepping into the ring is when all the nervousness hits. I said this is finally it. I really didn’t feel like me when I was actually fighting. But I was thankful for the opportunity. I just like the fact that I got into the ring and competed.”
Pacheco, like the others, said he hopes to one day make it as a pro.
“You have to have heart for it and a lot of patience,” Baldwin said. “Every individual is different. You have to care about the guys not only for the sport, but for their school work. I ask them all the time how their grades are.”
Vasquez is scheduled to compete in Wilmington this weekend.
“I was really nervous the first one,” Vasquez said. “You just try and focus. It’s a lot of fun.”
Though there is no ring at Central Gym and just a few bags, the boxers are making do with what is available.
“It matters to a certain extent, but all you need is the basic stuff and we have the basic stuff,” said Faz, 18, a Southwestern Randolph HIgh School senior who has been boxing since age 6. “It all comes down to if you have the heart for it. And the drive to do it, that’s all that matters. You don't need all this fancy equipment.
“How do you think the old time boxers did it? They didn’t have fancy equipment. I call this home. It’s where my dad used to train.”
Of course, none of their dreams would still be alive if it weren’t for Baldwin.
“He does a lot for us,” said Jimenez, who hopes to make it to the Olympics. “He dedicates his free time by teaching us everything he knows about boxing. He was a good decorated amateur boxer. He had a lot of fights and now he’s offering all his knowledge he knows and has learned to his students.”
Although Vasquez is scheduled to box this weekend, the others are waiting for the new year to fight.
“It’s in my blood and something I love to do,” Baldwin said.
And he’s passing that love onto others.