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Chicago Youth Boxing Club brings kids confidence inside the ring and out

<i>WBBM</i><br/>The Chicago Youth Boxing Club has been operating out of the basement of La Villita Community Church since 2006.
The Chicago Youth Boxing Club has been operating out of the basement of La Villita Community Church since 2006.


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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — Throwing hands in the House of God is typically something that would be frowned upon – but not so in the basement of the La Villita Community Church in Little Village.

As CBS 2’s Marybel González reported, the Chicago Youth Boxing Club is giving kids confidence in and out of the ring.

You’ll find La Villita Community Church tucked away at the corner of 23rd Street and Millard Avenue in Little Village. One step inside, and the space and people transform right before your eyes.

“Before I came here, I was pretty overweight. I was obese, and I was about 145,” said boxer Daniel Magallon, “and after I came here, I’ve been training for about a year and a half – I’ve lost about 45 pounds.

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club has been operating out of the basement of La Villita Community Church since 2006. Executive director Noah Pickens says it’s more than a gym – it’s a place to give kids and outlet and keep them off the streets.

“When it comes to youth development, youth growth; when it comes to violence prevention, you know, you need buy-in,” Pickens said. “You need buy-in from people that are involved – and sports is an easy buy in.”

Boxing is what hooks them in, but once at the club, kids also get mentoring – and a tutor to help with their homework.

“It’s a way to deal with the stress and anxiety that they deal with on a daily basis – just from like living in the neighborhood that they do,” Pickens said.

The young people learn lessons on and off the ring, said head coach Gabriel Navarro.

“We teach discipline. They have to be here at a certain time,” Navarro said.

“I think boxing kind of gets a rap for being an individual sport, but that’s not the case at all,” added Pickens. “Every boxer is surrounded by a village when it comes to getting them into the ring.”

And that’s what the nonprofit is trying to achieve – creating a support system for the most at-risk youth.

“In this community, people like me that can be in gangs, and it’s easy to be influenced by a bad person – you come in here and you can be influenced by a good person that has discipline,” said Magallon.

Despite the reference to youth in the name, the gym is open to people of all neighborhoods and from different neighborhoods.

Director Pickens hopes to expand the program into more places in the city.

“On a boulevard that is accessible to four or five different neighborhoods; a space where, you know, that’s neutral when it comes to gangs,” he said.

He wants to see others find a refuge in the sport.

“I think it’s one of the most powerful tools,” Pickens said.

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