With Christmas officially over, our bellies are full and our stockings are put away till next year. Looking ahead to 2013, I can only hope for another year in boxing that proves to be just as exciting, shocking, controversial and thrilling as 2012 was. Boxing’s always full of surprises; never a dull moment in our sport.
While pugilism always gets a bad rap from haters, I want to shine the spotlight on some unsung heroes in boxing. This year there were many champs, fighters, trainers and others associated with the sweet science that generously gave of their time and money to give back to the community and help others whose holidays weren’t as bright.
Here’s a look back with some exclusive snapshots at a trio of charity events that stood out this year–and made a difference in the lives of others. Whether it was participating in toy drives, feeding the homeless, mentoring at various nonprofits and children’s organizations, I met many champions who selflessly lent their support to those who need it the most, especially during the holidays.
And this year, I was honored to part in several Christmas events–beginning in July!
Yep, the temperatures may have been nearing 100 degrees, but it was a snowy day in the dead heat of the summer at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. On the dankest streets of downtown L.A., boxer Josesito Lopez (who was the newly-crowned World Boxing Council (WBC) Silver Welterweight at the time), surprised the homeless children and their families as the special ambassador for the day. Lopez was invited by boxing aficionado Alex Cornejo to greet the kids and throw out the first snowball in the annual snowball fight. Jose also handed out WBC Cares patches, signed autographs and posed for photos at the “Christmas in July” outdoor festivities.
As a self-described “poor, skinny kid from Riverside,” Lopez knows how crucial it is to give hope to others. Always the underdog, the Thompson Boxing and Goossen Tutor fighter scored the ultimate upset of the summer when he broke Victor Ortiz’s jaw in their championship bout.
Two other events continued the holiday spirit with back-to-back “Christmas in September” bashes in honor of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). Coach Steve Harpst and the Burbank Boxing Club gathered new toys to donate to the babies, kids and teens being treated at CHLA. I went with some “Santa’s Helpers” to deliver the toys at a couple of holiday gatherings held at The Abbey and Rockwell.
CHLA’s Albert Garcia spends countless hours ensuring the patients receive toys and gifts not just at Christmas and Hanukkah, but all year long. Albert is a big boxing fan and has been involved in several World Boxing Council (WBC) Cares events with the champs for several years now. Prizefighters including the late Genaro Hernandez, Victor Ortiz and Alfonso Gomez are just a few of the champions who have visited the L.A. hospital, cheering up patients and helping them to keep fighting back against deadly illnesses. WBC Cares (with Jose Sulaiman, Mauricio Sulaiman, Jill Diamond, and their committee/ambassadors) is a nonprofit that helps thousands throughout the world.
During the CHLA’s “Christmas in September” fiestas, the patrons enjoyed a winter wonderland while their donations of shiny new toys piled high to the ceiling. Garcia brought “Champion” pins for the special guests and celebrities including Abby Lee Miller (Lifetime Channel’s “Dance Moms”). With Team CHLA was a Santa’s Helper in red, Tess Arellano. Tess has trained in boxing and is part of the “Knockout for Girls” charity with amateur fighter Jill Morley. Both she and Albert enjoy seeing the kids’ faces light up when presents are delivered or a champ stops by for a visit.
And since this summer, these boxers and champs have been working tirelessly to gather enough toys to fill Santa’s sleighs. And as Santa Claus and his elves showed me their fighting spirit, the children were ensured a brighter holiday thanks to all the heroes who took time to remember others.
While the 2012 holidays are coming to a close, let’s remember to keep giving back to those less fortunate. Whether it’s in money, donations or your time, your thoughts and actions can change the life of a child. Please keep that “Spirit of Giving” in mind through the New Year too.
WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY HOLIDAY AND A KNOCKOUT 2013!