Champions descended into a small elementary school near the South Bay area of Los Angeles where dozens of students ranging from age 7 to 11 gathered to meet them.
Both women and men champions organized by the World Boxing Council met at Torrance Elementary School to meet and discuss with the young students their chosen profession and other items.
It’s Red Ribbon Week, or drug awareness week.
For several decades in the Southern California region the WBC has established a base with various communities. But in the last two years their presence has been boosted several times over.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, a group of world champions and contenders that included Leo Santa Cruz, Daniel Roman and Maricela Cornejo were among a dozen prizefighters who spoke to the schoolchildren. For most students it was their first experience meeting anyone involved in boxing.
“Most people associate boxing with violence but it’s really the opposite,” says famed trainer Robert Garcia. “Boxers are dedicated and disciplined. They don’t have time for drugs and gangs.”
All of the professional boxers that met with the young students at Torrance come from impoverished areas ripe with drugs and gangs. Yet all have survived their environment and emerged among the best of the best.
“I had some guys that trained with me and did alright,” said Garcia. “But once they left they got into trouble. Some are dead and some are in jail. But when they were boxing they did real well.”
On this afternoon a few of the boxers told their stories and also listened to the students who talked about their dreams and aspirations.
Nancy Rodriguez, who organized the Red Ribbon event and works with the WBC, said that boxers can be ambassadors for the sport that has some of the most passionate fans in the world.
“Some of the champions like Leo Santa Cruz know that it’s important to meet fans and talk to the children,” Rodriguez said. “It’s one of the best ways for people to know the kind of person you are. Fans love Leo Santa Cruz.”
One of the new champions who took part in the festivities, Daniel Roman, just recently acquired the WBA super bantamweight world title in Japan. The soft spoken prizefighter was invited to the event and eagerly accepted the invitation.
Others like Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios are champions who have been involved in boxing for more than 10 years. But the Oxnard prizefighter also knows that his large fan base loves to meet him and he obliges.
“Being a champion is not enough,” says Rodriguez. “You have to go out and meet the fans.”
Prizefighters Cornejo, Santa Cruz, Rios, Roman, Joseph Landeros, Ronnie Rios, Hugo Centeno, Jojo Diaz, and Daniel Valdivia made the trip as ambassadors for the sport of boxing.
On this day boxers engaged with fans on a different level. And for the young fans it was an eye-opening event that allowed them to see the many options that exist for their future.
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