Martin Reyes Armenta, right, poses with a guest trainer from Los Angeles who is helping train Johnatan Soares for an upcoming fight.
Raphael Romero Ruiz
A boxing trainer’s ultimate dream is to forge a world champion at some point in his career. But for Martín Reyes Armenta, that’s not the case.
For him, helping young Latinos immerse themselves in sports as a distraction from gangs and drugs is reason enough to be proud of what he does.
“I don’t ask for a penny, I have always worked hard to be able to pay for this dream, which is to train young people who see sport as an option to become someone in life,” said Reyes, 61, at LaVoz.
Since 2012, the gym he dubbed Cachanilla Boxing Club has been operating athletes free of charge from the backyard of his home just east of downtown Phoenix. And through it, he has seen many teenagers grow into young men “on the right track”.
“More than 300 children have passed through here. Not all of them had a career in boxing, but the sport guided them down the right path,” Reyes said. “A lot of them were sent to me by their parents because they didn’t know what was going on. make. Others came alone out of curiosity, but they got good vibes and started training with a lot of discipline.”
From Mexicali to Phoenix
Martin Reyes Armenta poses with his fighters and a guest trainer from Los Angeles.
Raphael Romero Ruiz
Reyes was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, and it was through his older brother – who was a boxer – that he got involved in the sport, accompanying him while training at a very young age.
His mother was opposed to Reyes becoming a boxer but gave him the green light on the only condition that he only fight as an amateur and not a professional. He started boxing at the age of 6 and after 22 amateur fights, he decided to hang up the gloves by keeping his promise to his mother.
He studied dentistry in Tepic, Nayarit, a state along the west coast of the country, and a year of psychology in Mexico City. He worked in different trades as a dental assistant, in construction, in the food industry and even in a laundromat.
But his love for the sport of fists led him back to boxing, now as a trainer and creator of new talent.
“Boxing is what I love, it’s in my blood,” Reyes said.
He traveled to Phoenix in 2000. Inspired by former world champion Michael Carbajal, a close friend of Reyes, he began to hone his skills as a potential boxing mentor.
With very few resources, but with a lot of passion for boxing, “El Fray”, as his close friends call him, built a gym in the backyard of his home near 19th and Monroe streets. .
With the support of his friends and family, he gradually put together a ring. With a bag and some weights, the space took the form of a gym.
“Seeing them succeed… is like a reward for me”
Johnatan Soares is from São Paulo, Brazil and came to Phoenix to continue working towards his goal of becoming a professional fighter. Reyes has him training for an upcoming fight against a Chilean fighter later this year.
Raphael Romero Ruiz
One of the greatest satisfactions that becoming a coach has given him, he said, is the opportunity to forge lasting friendships through boxing, which includes the young men he trained there. many years. Today, adults, they stop at the Cachanilla ring to say hello.
“Seeing them succeed in life, thanks to their good work, is like a reward for me, and that’s when I realize that the work we have done is worth it,” he said. .
Ricardo Maldonado, who has known Martin for more than 30 years, describes him as very dedicated to his work, ready to make sacrifices in order to train athletes as well as possible.
“He is a boxing enthusiast. The work he does is very generous, very beautiful, without expecting anything in return,” he said.
Maldonado has witnessed the growth of many who come to Reyes’ backyard knowing nothing of the sport and end up becoming great fighters.
“He not only teaches them boxing techniques, but also guides them to become active people in the community,” Maldonado said.
One of those guys is Johnatan Soares, 22, a boxer from São Paulo, Brazil, who considers Reyes not just a trainer, but a friend.
“Every time I come to train with him, I feel comfortable. He is one of the coaches who has helped me the most in my career and who makes me feel like part of his family” , Soares said.
Soares said boxing helped him channel his aggression into something positive, and that under Reyes’ supervision he was able to hone his skills quickly and effectively.
Currently, Soares has an undefeated record of 13-0 (13 KOs) and is looking to continue his path to the top with the dream of becoming a champion.
Besides boxing, another of Reyes’ passions is literature. Under Indiana-based publishing house Palibrio, he has written 17 books in Spanish to date.
His titles range from focusing on boxing champions to honoring loved ones he lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Writing, alongside coaching, is his way of leaving his legacy in the world.
“Just like I do with boxing, with these books I try to leave a positive message to society. They may not be the best-selling books, but if I manage to positively influence the spirit of ‘a reader with this, I consider myself well served,’ Reyes said.
Contact Javier Arce, editor-in-chief of La Voz, at [email protected] or on Twitter @javierarce33.
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