Pittsburg's only boxing gym makes dreams come true, stays focused on giving back

The action is non-stop inside the Lion's Den Boxing Gym in Pittsburg. For many, it is a daily stop. 

Naem Herawi, 11, comes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with Friday and Saturday as break days, but sometimes drops in "to spar."

Ryan Wright, 9, says he knows the routine: "First we jump rope, then we get our gloves, and the coach puts on mitts…then we hit the bag."

It is hard work, but this is also a family.  

Gym manager Wali Herawi says, "We all love each other."  

And they all love this sport. Several members told us they dream of going pro. 

Inside the den, you will also find talent to back up those dreams. 

Kaiden Yeager, 7, told KTVU he wants to be a professional boxer. 

Former pro boxer James Page said, "This kid…he's got everything that it takes to be successful in boxing" about Yeager.

It is a passion that extends to coaches like Kaylee Ann Knight. Herawi says Knight is 2-0 as an amateur.

"My dream is to become a world champ," said Knight.

Knight has been boxing since she was a teenager and has been with the Lion’s Den for the past two years. Knight currently coaches the all-girls class

She says that "without boxing it would be a super, super confusing world."

"I wouldn't say it’s a man's world, but there’s [sic] definitely more men in this sport, so that's why I'm teaching them the confidence that even though you're a girl, you can still fight, even faster and quicker and stronger than men."

At the den, you can see dreams coming true in real time. Professional boxer Amari Jones says he is 9-0 with 8 knockouts including one in his last fight in May.

Jones says when his family opened the Lion's Den two years ago, they did it for the community and especially for the kids. 

"We kind of opened up the gym to bring light on another opportunity for kids to get out," Jones said. "Kids suffer from bullying, some kids want to learn how to defend themselves, some kids want to use it to make or whatever they want to do, but we just want to open up the door and let them know it’s there."


KTVU visits Pittsburg for a Zip Trip

KTVU is in Pittsburg Friday as part of our summer Zip Trip series. 

This is the only boxing gym in Pittsburg, and it is a non-profit that gives back with toy drives and turkey giveaways. This gym is also a sanctuary. 

Page says Pittsburg needed this gym and so did he. 

"I'm born and raised in Pittsburg, California," says Page, "I'm a former welterweight champion from Pittsburg, I was honored by the city and city hall, everything."

He had his highs, but he has also seen some significant lows. He says he fought back and is now determined to give back. 

"I made some mistakes in my life," he acknowledges, "but I got myself together, and I've been on straight now for four or four and a half years. And we're just doing the right things here, trying to get everything going in the right direction, keeping kids off the street, helping the kids…me training kids." 

This is a place to give support and be supported.

"We have kids here that wouldn't talk when they first started. They couldn't jump rope, and now they're sparring" says Herawi, "So, yeah, it's a huge change we see in kids."

It is a place for the next generation of difference-makers. 

This is a place for possibility. For Jones, the dream is to "be a world champion to be on top of the world." He says the sky is the limit. 

One thing is clear, if you put in the work the door to the den is always open.

"We're just not turning anybody away. We want to help as many people as we can," said Herawi.

For more on the group of amateur boxers from the Lion's Den heading to Colorado for the last-chance qualifiers, visit here.