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updated: 11/3/2011 6:46 AM

Some kids find success, work ethic with boxing

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  • Noel Ortiz, 4, of Crystal Lake, works with British trainer Tony Prignits, whose grandfather was a sparing partner for World Champion Jack Johnson, at Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake.

      Noel Ortiz, 4, of Crystal Lake, works with British trainer Tony Prignits, whose grandfather was a sparing partner for World Champion Jack Johnson, at Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Anthony Castro, 12, of Crystal Lake works with trainer Tony Prignits in the ring at Pug's Boxing Gym.

      Anthony Castro, 12, of Crystal Lake works with trainer Tony Prignits in the ring at Pug's Boxing Gym.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Seven-year-old Amador Castro works on a punching bag along with his cousin, Julio Ragel, 20, in the background, at Pug's in Crystal Lake.

      Seven-year-old Amador Castro works on a punching bag along with his cousin, Julio Ragel, 20, in the background, at Pug's in Crystal Lake.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Gary Dobry, owner of Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, gives instruction to 16-year-olds Jimmy Gustafson, right, of Lake in the Hills, and Chris Hill, left, of Cary.

      Gary Dobry, owner of Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, gives instruction to 16-year-olds Jimmy Gustafson, right, of Lake in the Hills, and Chris Hill, left, of Cary.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Amador Castro, 7, of Crystal Lake, works in the ring with British trainer Tony Prignits, whose grandfather was a sparring partner for World Champion Jack Johnson, at Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake.

      Amador Castro, 7, of Crystal Lake, works in the ring with British trainer Tony Prignits, whose grandfather was a sparring partner for World Champion Jack Johnson, at Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Gary Dobry, owner of Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, wraps the tiny hands of a young boxer before he begins his training class.

      Gary Dobry, owner of Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, wraps the tiny hands of a young boxer before he begins his training class.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Gary Dobry has seen it all during his years in boxing.

He's seen parents bring in their kids with the hopes that maybe the sport can help get them back on the right track.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

It doesn't take long for Dobry, the owner of Pug's Boxing Gym in Crystal Lake, to figure out whether it will or not.

"There has to be something inside a kid that wants to accomplish something, whether it's self-esteem or a desire to achieve," Dobry said. "A kid -- any fighter -- has to want it. You fight the way you train."

Dobry trains kids as young as 7 and 8 all the way up through the late teenage years at his gym.

Throughout the suburbs, youngsters are heading into the gym to learn how to box and class sizes in some towns are increasing, like at the Hanover Park Park District's Boxing Academy, where they're coming in waves.

"The classes are getting younger and they're getting bigger," said Kyle Thomas, athletic supervisor at HPPD, who has 22 youngsters enrolled in beginners classes and another 10 in advanced classes.

"It's a unique opportunity," Thomas said. "Boxing is a sport that teaches discipline and responsibility."

And that's among the reasons kids get involved with the sport. But it's not the only reason.

"Some end up in the class because the parents are making them," said HPPD boxing instructor Jeff Rose, who pointed out that MMA and high-profile boxing stars such as Manny Pacquiao also serve as attractions to the sport. "Some end up in there because they need discipline.

"Some kids may be on the meeker side and their parents put them in to toughen them up a little to protect themselves. And then you have the kids who just want to learn to box."

And they don't all last in the program.

"I have some kids who show up for the first two classes and then I never see them again," Rose said. "Then I get other people who jump up into my advanced class. It depends on the individual and what they want to get out of it."

For Dobry, the goal for all his young trainees, regardless of why they're there, is to change their lives -- and not just between the ropes.

"Hopefully in youth boxing the point is to create some kind of work ethic," he said. "The kids who do well here excel in school and other things. They take instructions well.

"They go through rigorous training on a daily basis. Ultimately they end up one-on-one in the ring with another kid. You think if a kid can get through all that, an algebra test would be nothing."

Rose has seen the same kind of transformation in some of his students.

"I have some kids who came in and they were pretty heavy," he said. "They came in and busted butt and dropped weight and their technique had gotten better. I think if you talked to them they'd say the class kind of sparked it."

Two of the kids training under Dobry are brothers Anthony Castro, 12, and Amador Castro, 7, of Crystal Lake, who recently began taking boxing classes at Pugs.

"They both like boxing," said their father, Amador. "The discipline is the first thing and right now their discipline is good."

A love of the sport and a desire to excel at it are the key attributes of the youngsters who leave the game more well-rounded than when they started.

"What the kids get out of boxing is much more important than the boxing itself," Dobry said. "You want kids who will do well in school. You want kids who will face challenges; kids who will have solutions for problems. That's what boxing is all about."