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For Dakota Slone, boxing is a passion that struck him as hard as a strong jab.

"They treat you like family," said Slone. "I think if I keep on doing this, one day I'll be awesome."

But like the rights, lefts and uppercuts these kids learn to throw and take through at the First American Boxing Academy, the thing the organizers hope they hit their students with most, is a proper way to live their lives.

"This facility helps to keep about 50 to 60 kids off the streets," said Darrell Sears of Brazos Valley Boxing. "It gives them a place to go. It encourages them to be better citizens."

"We want to have Olympic champions, of course," said Joe Martinez of the Bryan Boxing Club. "And we want to have world champions, of course. But if we don't, if we can just keep them off the street for just a couple hours a night and make better citizens out of them, I think we've accomplished our goals."

Their dreams for better boxers and better people now reside in a new home, which was dedicated Saturday to two individuals: Joe Martinez's wife, Helen, who died in a car accident, and a former boxer, David Parker, who died serving in Iraq.

"My son had a fondness and great love of children," said David's father, Jim Parker, "and I know if he was here, he'd be really proud to see all those kids sitting out here trying to better themselves and stay off the streets."

"She was really into it," said Martinez of his wife's love of boxing, "and she was always there with me. She was my right hand."

The open house Saturday gave boxing fans a chance to see local talent on display. The building and its amenities are the gift of many local businessmen, including Don Adam.

"I've always been a great boxing fan," said Adam, "and it's an opportunity to help in a small way. We take a lot of pride in supporting most every endeavor that's worthwhile."

And the words of one man who came off the streets to become a champion could only serve to help young boxers here.

"Hopefully, I can inspire to go forward, and possibly do the same thing I've done or make a better person out of themselves," said USBA Cruiserweight Champion Felix Cora, who came to the event to support the local boxers, "If I can save the life of one kid, then I've done my job."

To these people, boxing is not just a sport. It's a way of life...a better way of life...a champion's way of life.

The two local groups hope to have shows at the new facility every month.


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