Tahoe has place for kids to box
Kevin Sanders stood waiting for the small but wiry man to walk by with the black boxing mitt. His wrists were wrapped in tough Velcroed cloth and his chin stuck out defiantly. Determination dusted Kevin’s face.
When Arnulfo Bravo stopped in front of him, Kevin pulled his right arm back like a slingshot and fired several punches into the mitt. Bravo, a professional South Lake Tahoe boxer, halted the practice and instructed the short 6-year-old to release punches quicker and place his feet closer together.
Afterwards, Kevin smiled and said his fist hurt a little.
Quick jabs and right hands are the lesson every Tuesday and Thursday for some members of the Boys and Girls Club summer program.
Bravo, a 10-year boxer who was on the U.S. Olympic development squad from 1993 to 1996, agreed to coach children in the basics of boxing because he didn’t have guidance when he became interested in the sport at 14.
With an injured shoulder, Bravo is now using his time to manage amateur boxers but is spending part of his week eying future Muhammad Alis.
“I put full attention on the kids who want to do it,” he said.
Nick Walker, 11, was hoping he could box his 13-year-old brother Eric.
“If I can do it without gloves, I can do it with gloves,” Nick said. “He can’t beat me up. I’m just quicker than he is.”
Asked if he had a nickname, Nick shrugged his shoulders. A friend suggested Nick “The Lightning” Walker and got a quick nod of approval.
William Olney said he would trash-talk to challengers believed to be beatable. The 10-year-old admitted that he is pondering a move to be a professional boxer, but first he wants to see if he can go pro in football or baseball.
“If you go pro, you get to meet some really cool people,” he said.
DeAnne Hooper, executive director for the program, said boxing is used as a youth development strategy.
“It’s not about teaching kids to fight but to have self-esteem and higher confidence in themselves,” she said. “I think Bravo is focusing on good etiquette.”
Hooper added the young boxers don’t give each other bloody noses or other minor injuries.
The Boys and Girls Club summer program also obtained the services of Dave Alexander, a U.S. Tennis Association certified coach, to teach tennis. More than $5,000 from the association was granted to the Boys and Girls Club for employee fees and equipment.
The U.S. Golf Association also donated money to the tune of $14,000 for green fees, equipment and other fees. Jordan Sugerik and Bravo coach golf for children at Tahoe Paradise Golf Course.
In the boxing circle, Terra Verebely, 11, was waiting to take some jabs at the boxing mitt. She thought learning the sport would be beneficial in case she gets in trouble. But she also has aspirations to be like one of the women boxers she watches on television.
“I know I can do really well in boxing and make my mom proud,” she said.
Registration for the Boys and Girls Club is available at South Tahoe Middle School until the summer program ends Aug. 23. The club is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Cost is $5 a day with a $10 annual membership fee.