SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Boxers are alone in the ring. It's where they get to find out what they're made of. But in this gym, they are not alone. Those who were once divided by what neighborhood they represented now stand for something more.
They are all fighters from the Central Coast Boxing Club, and in here they work together. Carlos Ruiz makes sure of it.
"They shake everybody's hand when they come in, and they shake everybody's hand when they leave," Ruiz said. "So everybody here is friends."
Violence in Santa Maria has brought more people here in recent months.
Edwin Weaver with Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley is called when kids find trouble in school, and he's found success directing their aggression into the gym.
"Usually they're in a fight somewhere," Weaver said. "One of the things that ends up being asked is, why do you fight? If they say I like to fight, we say would you like to do it the proper way using rules and good sportsmanship? They say yes and they jump at it."
It's not easy, and it's definitely not the same as picking a street fight.
"It takes a lot of dedication," Ruiz said. "It takes a lot of respect to be able to respect your body and condition your body the way they are conditioning."
Daniel Borunda has been training now for seven months. The 17 year old likes to fight, and was getting in trouble in school, but not anymore.
"I used to fail all my classes," Borunda said. "I'm a 4.0 student now. I don't really have any disciplinary troubles anymore."
Borunda says the gym gives him a a place to get out his built up anger. His mom uses his love of boxing as a carat to encourage him to keep up his studies.
"The kids don't want to be in the street. They don't want to be in trouble," Ruiz said. "They just want something to do and they want something to be a part of. That's what we're offering. We're offering something to be a part of and something to be proud of."
Ruiz and his team of four trainers are working with about 50 fighters. Ten of them will step into the ring on May 14th in a fundraiser sponsored by Fighting Back in what Ruiz says will be the biggest boxing show Santa Maria has ever seen.
They hope to get 1000 people out to the event which will also feature fighters from other boxing gyms around California and Arizona.
"It's something that they'll never forget, so we really would like our community to come out and support," Ruiz said.
If the event is successful, Ruiz hopes to move the club to a space nearly triple the size next door, so he and his team can help more young people find a positive path.
The event will be in the Filipino Community Center to accommodate the large crowd organizers expect. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The address is 2270 Preisker Lane. The first bout is scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 14th.
Call (805) 868-9874 to purchase tickets.
Visit https://www.facebook.com/The-Central-Coast-Boxing-Club-737423439723952/ for mroe information.