La Plata County's only boxing gym is proud to be hosting its first amateur bouts next week.
Boxing "is more of a life lesson than a sport," said Anthony Archuleta, who owns and runs Ring of Champions Boxing Club with his wife, Maria.
They bought the gym location last year and converted it from an auto body shop into a gym with a cardio room, weight room and a full-size boxing ring. The gym currently trains about two dozen youths from Ignacio, Durango and Pagosa Springs.
Young people expecting to climb in the ring and start slugging it out right away have to learn patience. Archuleta starts his athletes out with conditioning, foot work and head movements for six to eight weeks before they begin sparring.
"You're using your mind in outwitting that person," he said.
While it features superb conditioning, boxers, particularly youth, have to figure out patience, strategy and timing if they want to succeed in the ring, he said.
Coaches at the club are Katrina Richards, Leland Flores, and the Archuletas. Ernie Trujillo is a longtime fixture on the local boxing scene and also coaches in the gym.
"The true art of the sport is keeping safe," Archuleta said, noting that some coaches accuse him of "babying" his fighters because he doesn't put them in the ring immediately, and he doesn't fight them often, either. "Safety is number one for me."
No cursing is allowed in the gym. If it happens, boxers have to do 25 pushups for every letter in the curse word.
"If you can't control your mouth, you can't control yourself," Archuleta said. If he hears of anyone fighting outside the club, there are immediate repercussions.
Auq-uwey Ojohn, 10, said he comes to the gym almost every evening, warming up by running laps or riding a stationary cycle. Then he does 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 jabs and 100 uppercuts, moving to various stations in the gym for the workout.
Zechariah Red, 13, has been working at the gym for two years. At 169 pounds, he's one of the biggest youths in the club.
"I like hitting people," he said of his attraction to boxing. "But I'm a nice person." He won a recent bout the club attended in Boulder, and he's looking forward to another amateur bout next Saturday afternoon. The coaching at the club is tough, but "it's a good thing," he added, noting that it keeps him and the other boxers focused on their sport.
In addition to boxing, the gym offers fitness classes and personal training.
Archuleta said with the recent suicides committed by youth in the county, he wants the gym to be a place where anyone - boys, girls and adults - can fit in and learn a physical activity.
Archuleta also coaches Ignacio Middle School football, having previously served as an assistant football coach at Ignacio High School. Sports are a way for youth to deal with bullying and learn self-esteem, he added.
On March 3, the club will host boxers from Denver, Gunnison, Albuquerque and Farmington for amateur bouts before the casino hosts its March Madness fight card that evening.
The pro bouts that night at Sky Ute Casino include Layla McCarter in a headline fight against Victoria Cisneros. Doors open at 6 p.m., and fights start at 7 p.m. Tickets for the pro fights start at $45.
The Archuletas also plan to organize amateur bouts in July as part of San Ignacio Fiesta. They're hoping two or three amateur tournaments will raise enough money - $15,000 to $22,0000 - for the club to buy a used 15-person van to transport their fighters to amateur tournaments.