Junior’s Boxing Club of Green Bay offers youngsters a second home

GREEN BAY – “My dream was to ‘own something’ – a house, a business,” said Javier Becerra, 47.

Like many others, he came to Green Bay to work and build a better life. His dream came true when he bought a boxing club.

Since then, he and his son – Javier Becerra Jr. – have kept that dream alive. Although it turns out to be rather difficult, they both say.

With resources only available to pay monthly bills, they were unable to update equipment, purchase new equipment, or fix some structural issues in the building.

Junior's Boxing Club owner Javier Becerra, left, oversees a practice match between two young boxers at his gym on University Avenue in Green Bay, Wis.

“I do this for the kids more than anything,” Becerra Sr. said. “A lot of people who come here are hyperactive, and some stay off the streets.”

The boxing gym is packed, Monday through Friday, with kids and teens from all walks of life, making the club one of the most diverse places in Green Bay.

New Competition has a new name, new owners in 2016

Becerra Sr. arrived from Mexico City in 1997 and immediately found work at American Foods. He worked at the Green Bay meat plant for four years and saved some money. He then decided to go alone, but never stopped saving.

For a while he did odd jobs, like painting cars or doing landscaping. At the same time, his son, Becerra Jr., now 20, was training at a boxing club called “New Competition.”

In 2016, when father and son learned of the closing of New Competition, they decided to make an offer to the owner. They bought the business, renamed it “Junior’s Boxing Club” and moved it to rented space in a former appliance store at 1743 University Ave.

The boxing club gives kids the chance to burn off energy and learn the basics

The Becerra open the door to children from 6 years old, as well as to adults. Currently, more than 45 children and eight adults come to train and learn the basics of boxing.

“They learn up to seven combinations, how to work the punch bag, that sort of thing. Those who go to tournaments and become amateurs receive more advanced training,” said Becerra Sr.

Classes take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. They start with jumping rope, because “every boxer has to learn how to balance their feet,” he says.

Young boxers jump rope during training at Junior's Boxing Club in Green Bay.

The routine takes them through a warm-up and shadow boxing – throwing punches at an imaginary opponent – then they practice combinations or work with the punching bag.

Children pay $45 per month and adults pay $50. But many children come from low-income families and often cannot afford to pay. Becerra Sr. says he can’t turn them down because some of them really need them ‘to stay out of trouble’, but right now he’s only making enough money to pay rent and bills .

Rayauna Ríos, a 15-year-old girl, has been training for just over a year. She says she suffers from anxiety, but at the club she feels “relieved”.

“What I love about this place is that everyone treats you like family, and if you need any help, you don’t have to be afraid to ask,” she said. .

She was supposed to have her first competitive fight just before the pandemic started. Now she is training to get back into “boxing shape”.

Rayauna Ríos, 15, wraps his hands in protective bandages while training at Junior's Boxing Club in Green Bay.

CJ Williams is another promising young talent – he’s 11 and has only been at Junior for six months, but is already showing great skills.

“It’s like my second home, it’s really fun,” he said.

What he likes the most is hitting the sacks, but he also likes that “you make a lot of new friends while you’re here.” Although he plays football, he says boxing is his main sport.

Similar to CJ, 10-year-old Jared Vela plays soccer, but wants to be a professional boxer — a champion — one day.

Tournaments provide opportunities for top boxers, but costs are unavoidable

Becerra Sr. would like to take those with real talent to more tournaments and help them develop their skills. In the past, they have competed in Chicago, Michigan, and Milwaukee, as well as other parts of Wisconsin. But without sponsorship and help from parents, he cannot cover all the expenses.

“Every trip costs money. Tournaments sometimes last two days, you have to pay for gas, hotel, food. I don’t have the money for that,” he said.

Becerra Jr. says they would also like to move the club to a larger location, and perhaps secure sponsorship to help cover the cost of equipment and tournament travel.

Some of the gear they need are hand wraps, gloves, head protectors, and mouthpieces.

“We would like to have the support of a large company or someone who could sponsor us. We are not foodies, we would just like help with materials, equipment, travel; really everything is good,” he said.

Young boxers Jared and Jacobo train at Junior's Boxing Club in Green Bay.

The club also needs repairs. The furnace is not working properly and a water leak in the ceiling has left a stain on the carpet that needs to be replaced.

“During the winter, we ran the heat on high, but it only heats half the place…you can imagine what the electric bill is like,” Becerra Sr said.

To help mitigate these costs, the Becerras opened a GoFundMe campaign. They have set a goal of $10,000, but say anything they receive in donations would be a big help.

Becerra Jr. says that with help, they can continue to provide a safe space for children to learn self-defense, make friends and exercise.

“In the future, I’d like to see this place with twice as many kids as we have now,” Becerra Jr said.

His father is a little more ambitious, “I would like to produce professional boxers, and, why not, a world champion, one day”, he says.

Ariel Perez is a business reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. You can reach him at APerez1@gannett.com or check out his Twitter profile at @Ariel_Perez85

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