Chief Cornerstone building more than champion boxers
Boxing is a sport. There's no question about that. But while defined — per Merriam-Webster — by the art of attack and defense with the fists, it's much, much more for the people who run the Chief Cornerstone Boxing gym in Hillsboro.
"Our goal is to make sure that young people understand that there is more to it," Obbet Chimal said. "Winning is good, but being a good person, a good citizen and helping young ones — that's what it's all about."
Chimal is a volunteer and coach at Chief Cornerstone, and has been for five years. He arrived at the gym, located in the basement at the old Peter Boscow Elementary School at 452 N.E. 3rd Ave. in Hillsboro, as part of a team originally coached by the gym's founder, Rudy Aguero. Since, he's made it his mission to teach kids life lessons through the art of a sport built around dedication, discipline and good old-fashioned hard work.
"We teach kids that what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong," Chimal said. "There's no middle."
And while certainly a place for kids to have fun, the work at the gym is unavoidable. At every turn there's a heavy bag, a speed bag, a pull-up bar, dumb bells or any other form of training apparatus connected to the sport of boxing. There's also a large area for kids to do calisthenics or other drills, plus mats, yoga balls, jump ropes and a storage area for gloves, which can be provided by the club.
"We give the kids everything they need here," Chimal said. "They just need to do the work."
They even offer the kids tutors if need be, in case the rigors of school are proving too much for any of the aspiring young pugilists.
"We're here for the kids," said Chimal.
There's also a boxing ring, of course, but you don't just step in there unannounced — that's a privilege that's earned.
Chimal said kids typically aren't allowed in the ring to spar for at least six months, and it's a prize paid for with currency earned by learning the tools necessary to thrive in the ring.
"You have to work for the reward," he said.
Competing at the top level
One who earned that right is Hillsboro High School's Ricardo Marquez, who's been working out at the club for nearly 10 years. The 16-year-old's sister, Marisela, is the club's director and a former boxer herself. She said her younger brother spent a lot of his childhood at Chief Cornerstone.
"He pretty much grew up in the gym, and he's been a natural."
Ricardo said he mostly fooled around there in the beginning, but by the age of 10 he started to train, and over time he realized he wanted to compete. Over the next few years he trained, and eventually he learned the nuances and sacrifices involved with the sport, like building stamina and dropping weight. Then, at the age of 14 he got his first fight, and since then he's only gotten better.
This past January, Marquez worked his way to the Annual Silver Gloves Amateur Boxing Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, by way of victories in Medford, then regionals in Idaho. He wasted little time working his way to the finals, and was ultimately crowned champion in the 165 pound weight class of the Boys 15-16 division. It was a title well-earned, and one the Hillsboro Spartan had dreamed about since he was a child punching the bag and rubbing shoulders with national champions of their time.
"I grew up around people that were competing at the top level and I kind of grew up idolizing them," Marquez said. "I wanted to do that, so nationals was my goal."
And how did he feel when he accomplished it?
"I was reminded of all the hard work," he said. "When they raised my hand it was like I had a glimpse of everything leading up to that for me. It was crazy."
But not easy. Marquez says he's in the gym Monday through Friday, and sometimes on the weekend. He also runs three miles before school every day, and as matches near, he bumps the distance up closer to six miles. Don't be fooled, though — the teen doesn't always enjoy the labor, but he appreciates it based on the road to which the sacrifice leads.
Boxing is hard. Like wrestling or football, the process comes at a cost. Football players play once a week, wrestlers practice far more than they compete, and in both, coupled with boxing, preparation goes beyond scheduled practices and entails proper eating, strength training and further individual work. It's a lifestyle that requires a level of commitment few teenagers are willing to give.
Chimal acknowledges Marquez's hard work, but in addition points to his talent, which appears to be off the charts. The coach said he was almost immediately thrown into the deep end in regards to competition, typically facing combatants with far more experience. Even in the beginning he was holding his own, and not long after he was winning matches against people who, at least on paper, would've been favored to come out on top, including in his recent run-up to the Silver Gloves title, in which he defeated multiple national champions along the way.
"His first fight, he fought a guy with 11 fights and he hadn't fought any," Chimal said. "He was frequently fighting guys with more experience than him. He was walking, and we wanted him to run. His championship was well-earned."
Despite the difficulties of it all, Marquez said he enjoys the process and takes pride in what he does both in and out of the ring.
"Not only is it a great sport, but I feel like the people who box, they're so cool to me," he said. "It shows the hard work and dedication, so when I can say I'm a boxer, it makes me feel good."
'Like another family'
And it's not just about winning. Chief Cornerstone caters to all comers who are interested and willing participants.
Joanna Ingerian is a middle-schooler who's been working out at the gym for roughly three years. She started in the fifth grade, and since — with a short break in between — she's enjoyed what she's learned at the club.
"I wanted to be a girl that boxes," she said. "And I wanted to show guys that I can box."
Solara Alonso is just 10 years old, but has been training at the club for close to two years, in the beginning as a way of learning self-defense.
"When I was younger, these girls weren't being nice to me and my dad wanted me to be able to defend myself," she said.
Since her time at Chief Cornerstone, she said she's become part of a group that feels like family to her.
"I mean, it's fun to come here," Alonso said. "But part of it is all the people I get to hang out with. They're like another family to me."
And whether it's Marquez, Ingerian, Alonso or any one of the others who work, train and learn at Chief Cornerstone, Chimal said volunteering his time at the club is worth it. Not as the result of any championships they win in the ring, but more so the champions they help create beyond it.
"I love it," he said. "The reason why you're in this world is to serve, not to be served."
And his advice for Marquez, along with anyone else who chooses Chief Cornerstone as a means of training or competition? Good question, but the answer lies not in the ring, but beyond it.
Chimel believes that life, in many ways, is about earning what you get. He bemoans the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality and stresses the importance of working hard and rewarding those who do just that.
"There are a lot of kids that want to have everything, but they're not willing to work hard for it," he said. "The kids that come here understand that there's a lot of work that you have to put into it. That helps kids see the benefit of hard work, and allows them to build confidence. It did that for me."
Ultimately for Marquez or others, it comes down to this:
"The main thing is that he (Marquez) has become a good leader," Chimal said. "That's our goal. You know, we don't care so much about titles or anything like that. We want to have good citizens out there in our community that can understand that we gotta help each other out."
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