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Boxing club finds permanent home

By LAURA HENLEY

Eagle Staff Writer

Joe Martinez and the group of young boxers he coaches finally have found a place to call home.

With help from Bryan banker Don Adam, the once struggling and displaced Bryan and Brazos Valley boxing clubs have moved into a permanent, 7,500-square-foot space in Bryan.

The $125,000 building will be named First American Boxing Academy in honor of Adam, who is chairman and CEO of First American Bank. The building is a former fire station at Bryan and Martin Luther King Jr. streets.

George Lea, senior vice president of First American Bank, did not disclose the exact amount of the donation. But he did say the bank paid for a down payment on the building and helped Martinez and his friend and fellow boxing coach Darrell Sears with receiving a low-interest loan.

“ We noticed that a group of dedicated and hard-working young people didn’t have a place to go,” Lea said. “We saw it as an opportunity to help the community. These guys are very inspirational. We were truly inspired by what they do with their limited resources, and we felt we could help.”

Adam, described as an avid boxing fan, could not be reached for comment.

Martinez, a former Golden Gloves champion who has coached aspiring boxers and provided a safe, positive environment for Bryan youths for more than 30 years, said the building is “something I’ve been waiting for my entire life.”

“ It’s hard to put into words how happy I am,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, and I haven’t woken up.”

It’s been a trying year for Martinez and his boxing club. In August 2002, he was asked to vacate the cramped and run-down gym that had served as the club’s workout area for more than 13 years. Building owners decided to donate it to Twin City Mission.

Businessman Roy Flores then offered Martinez a temporary space across the street from the old location downtown. Martinez said he was thankful for the generous offer and trained boxers there for about five months, but the crowded place wasn’t meant to be a boxing gym, and a portion of a wall was crumbling.

Amid all the turmoil, Martinez’s wife of 41 years and fellow boxing aficionado, Helen, died in January after the couple were involved in a car accident near Madisonville while driving home from a state boxing tournament.

Martinez and Sears said they were looking into purchasing the old Food Town grocery store downtown when Lea approached them with an offer to help.

“ I never expected help like this,” Martinez said. “But I have my angel up there looking out for me. She’s making sure everything is OK.”

Martinez said both the Bryan and Brazos Valley boxing clubs have begun to work out at the new facility, even though there is no running water or electricity in the building yet. Lights are being powered by a generator.

But Martinez said he is just happy to have a new space for his students.

“ We have 30 or 35 kids in there now,” he said. “We don’t have to turn people away anymore. In the old place we could only fit about 10 or 11. It was so small I was almost embarrassed. Now I can train the way I want to train.”

Martinez and Sears said they hope to host state and regional boxing tournaments at the new facility, which would help pay for operating costs.

The dedicated pair already won a bid to host the USA Amateur Boxing’s state competition in Bryan this year. It will be Nov. 14-15 at Neal Recreation Center.

Such events cannot be held at the new building until it is brought up to fire and safety codes, which Sears estimates will cost more than $10,000.

Donations are being accepted and can be made at any First American Bank location or at the Boxing Academy.

“ We are planing to make this a nice place for the kids,” Sears said. “It’s going to be a place to be proud of.”

• Laura Hensley’s e-mail address is lhensley@theeagle.com.

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