Local News

Thursday, Oct 06 2011 09:00 PM

Boxing program a knockout at area school

  1. 1 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Enrique Hernandez, 10, throws punches during practice at Fairfax Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Hernandez is taking part in a boxing program for at-risk students led by Fairfax Assembly of God Church Pastor Pete Baker, a former boxer.

    click to expand click to collapse
  2. 2 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Pastor Pete Baker keeps an eye on the kids in his boxing program at Fairfax Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Baker leads the program for at-risk students through a community partnership with the Fairfax School District.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Arath Rojas, 11, throws punches during practice at Fairfax Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Rojas is taking part in a boxing program for at-risk students led by Fairfax Assembly of God Church Pastor Pete Baker, a former boxer.

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Maurisio Godinez, 11, helps Enrique Hernandez, 10, tape up his fists during practice at Fairfax Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Both boys take part in a boxing program that school officials have credited with decreasing on campus fights.

    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Fairfax Assembly of God Church Pastor Pete Baker, a former boxer who now runs a program at Fairfax Middle School, works with Marcos Sical, 11, during practice on Thursday afternoon.

    click to expand click to collapse
  6. 6 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Omar Reyes, 11, jumps rope during boxing practice at Fairfax Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Reyes is taking part in a boxing program that school officials have credited with decreasing on-campus fights.

    click to expand click to collapse
  7. 7 of 7

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Boys in the boxing program at Fairfax Middle School practice on Thursday afternoon. The program, led by former boxer and Fairfax Assembly of God Church Pastor Pete Baker, has been credited with decreasing on-campus fights.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY jorge barrientos Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Johnthan Torres wrapped his hands and wrists with blue tape "so they don't dislocate." He put on gloves nearly as big as his head. Then he stepped up to the punching bag, gloves at the sides of his head, and jabbed.

"Boxing gets you fit," the seventh-grader said. "And I'm learning discipline and fundamentals."

Welcome to Fairfax Boxing Club at Fairfax Middle School.

The program, now in its sixth year, is a community partnership that brings together about 60 east Bakersfield students to learn boxing skills, but also to exercise and learn character and discipline, organizers say.

The boys and girls are as young as third grade and as old as high school seniors, and take boxing lessons after school twice a week inside the school's cafeteria-multipurpose room.

The lunch tables are pushed up against the walls. The stage area serves as the gym. And in the center of the room, students do push ups, jump rope and jab the air.

It's a rare program. California Department of Education officials said they were unaware of any state public schools hosting boxing clubs on campus.

Students are allowed to participate in boxing classes on campus as part of physical education. Self defense, or combatives, is one of the eight areas included in state PE curriculum, but that's usually for high-schoolers, state department officials said.

The coach is Pete Baker, a former boxer himself and Golden Glove award winner for amateur boxers. He's also a senior pastor at the neighborhood Fairfax Assembly of God Church.

The 54-year-old quit boxing at 21, he said, after "finding the Lord."

"I got into the ring, and I just didn't want to do it anymore," he said.

But six years ago, Baker jumped at the opportunity to get close to the ring again and mentor some neighborhood children at the same time.

"We stress character, skills and discipline," said the pastor, wearing a cap, workout pants, tennis shoes and a Fairfax Boxing Club T-shirt. "If they become great boxers, great. But that's not our goal. This has been a big character-builder."

And Baker is strict, students said. No cussing or disrespecting other students. Show up on time and be ready. Students fighting at school are banned from practice and can't compete in matches. They sign contracts stating they understand the consequences.

So far, no one has broken the last rule.

Fairfax School District Superintendent Michael Coleman credits the boxing program -- which is not an official campus program, or funded by the school -- for a decline in the number of campus fights in recent years. Students behave because they know they won't be allowed back into the club.

"We wanted to get them involved, and give them an outlet," Coleman said. "It's been very positive."

On Thursday, Baker had his students take part in a sort of boot camp: running laps followed by push-ups and practicing stances and punches, then repeating.

"Everyone thinks boxing is against your opponent," Baker told the exhausted students. "It's not. It's against you."

A few parents stopped by to watch their kids, including Walter Evans. His fourth-grade daughter is in the club. The program is controlled, and gets her involved in fitness activities.

"She's getting exercise, and it builds up her confidence," Evans said. "She feels better about herself."

Giovanni Noriega, a Mira Monte High School senior, said he's learned how to defend himself during his three years in the club. Boxing is a stress relief, he said, and keeps him out of trouble.

The club is supported by donations through the nonprofit Fairfax-Edison Community Collaborative. It partners with dozens of clubs in Kern County and the Central Valley, and they come together for boxing exhibitions.

On Oct. 16, Fairfax area students will be participating in a benefit at the Kern County Fairgrounds for Jamison Children's Center.

Have something to share? Comment on this story
Today's Daily Deal
from
Bakersfield.com
$5
Daily Deal Image
Agave Grill & Cantina
$10 worth of food for $5 from Agave Grill & Cantina
  • Value
    $10
  • Savings
    $5
  • Bought
    0
Buy Now