Oakland Boxing Club inspires underprivileged children

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - An East Bay man decided to turn his love for boxing into a way to help children from low income families.

He sold his furniture business and opened up a boxing gym along the Oakland embarcadero.

Lightning’s Boxing Club is in a warehouse. It's where a program to help underprivileged children has been in full swing for two years.

One child describes it as a safe place from the East Oakland neighborhood he calls home.

"Where I live, you can get killed at any time. It's lot of violence over there - killings. Shootings, drugs - but I don't buy into it," said Valenta Duncan who's twelve years old. 

Not buying into the street culture is what gym owner Kris Lopez teaches his young boxers.

"I was in the streets selling drugs, being a criminal. Then I learned that's not the right thing to do," said Lopez. 

He says he found boxing and learned discipline.

Lopez developed a motto he's passing onto these children: tenacity, perseverance, craft and class.

The boxing program is open to children from six to 18 years old. Lopez says the goal is teach them skills they can use beyond the boxing ring.

"They're doing something productive with their time. They're respecting their bodies. They're becoming productive members of society," said Lopez.

One mother says her daughter was bullied at school.

She signed her up for boxing; not to learn how to fight but to stand up for herself.

"She didn't have the self-confidence to speak up. It changed it. She feels more comfortable to stand up and say don't do that," said Dekashi Taylor, a mother of two daughters who lives in Richmond.

Lopez coaches his own sons.

Eleven-year-old David is nicknamed "Dynamite" and recently won bronze in the National Junior Olympics.

"It teaches me discipline... to eat the right food.  It teaches me how to be nice, stay calm," said David.

He and six other students from the gym will be traveling to Indio, near Palm Springs, for a national tournament next week.

"Win, lose or draw…so long as you do your best, you win every time," said Lopez. 

He is starting a nonprofit to help young athletes up to the age of 25 with equipment, training and traveling expenses to tournaments.

Lopez hopes his program will save lives. A Go Fund Me site has been started.