From a tiny Ogden gym, Golden Gloves boxing champion Diego Alvarez emerges

Sunday , May 29, 2016 - 5:30 AM3 comments

DOUG GIBSON, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Tucked away behind a yellow Ogden home, just west of Washington Boulevard on 35th Street, there’s a small garage. Inside is Los Gallitos Boxing Club, a small gym.

There’s several heavy bags hanging from the ceiling. In the southeast corner, there’s just enough space for a peanut, or speed bag. There’s a few metal chairs and weights arranged against the wall. There’s what every boxing gym has — a poster advertising an old fight card — but there’s not a boxing ring.

The gym’s authority figure is trainer Lalo Lopez. On any given day — usually after school — a dozen or more youngsters are hitting the bags, lifting weights, shadow boxing, doing crunches, elbowing for space.

Last week, a national champion emerged from the tiny Los Gallitos gym.

Diego Alvarez, 17, of South Ogden, a junior at Two Rivers High School, bested the finest amateur boxers in the United States, taking the 114-pound national Golden Gloves championship. After he defeated Fernando Martinez of Nevada in the finals, Alvarez was tabbed the tournament’s most outstanding boxer.

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In an interview with the Standard-Examiner a few days after winning the title, Alvarez, a lean, handsome youth with confidence etched on his face, said “it’s just another day for training” at the gym. He does admit to being excited when he won the national title. “It feels good. I felt that all the training paid off.”

His girlfriend, Aliyan Garcia, also a student at Two Rivers, responded well to the win. “She was thrilled,” he said.

NINE YEARS OF BOXING, 86 AMATEUR BOUTS

Alvarez has been boxing for most of his life. He started nine years ago and has fought in 86 amateur bouts. His brother, Marco Jr., is a former local amateur. Los Gallitos has been around for about a year, said Lopez through a translator — his nephew and Ogden High School student Juan Palafox, 18, who also trains at Los Gallitos.

“Diego has a type of character. He doesn’t despair. He’s very patient. He doesn’t get desperate,” Lopez said.

To prepare for the Golden Gloves, Lopez worked on correcting Alvarez’s errors. He also focused on getting him to relax and spar with a wide variety of peers, including professional boxers.

“Diego was ... in tip top shape,” with several advantages in style. “He’s an inside fighter. He’s a boxer. He can go toe-to-toe,” Lopez said. 

Santana DeCarlo, of West Haven, frequently spars with Alvarez. DeCarlo is a veteran amateur boxer who last year won the Four Corners Jr. Olympics competition at 110 pounds.

“Diego is extremely accurate with his punches, and he is good at timing you. He is fast, and great at throwing combos,” said DeCarlo, who trains at Ogden’s All Heart Boxing Foundation. “He is a great sparring partner and a great boxer. I have a lot of respect for him and I thank him for helping me become a better boxer.”

Among the charges at Los Gallitos gym is trainer Lopez’s son, Lalo Jr., 10, who fights at around 60 pounds. With sometimes as many as 15 boxers packed inside, the gym is full. Monday through Thursday are after-school training evenings, except when there’s an amateur card or tournament up. “Then we train every single day,” Lopez said.

With no room for a ring to box in, the fighters visit other gyms to spar, including All Heart in Ogden.

EARLY-MORNING RUN STARTS THE DAY

“I start the day running at least three miles,” Alvarez said, describing his training schedule. After school, at Los Gallitos, training sequences include lifting weights, shadow boxing, hitting the heavy and speed bags, a couple of rounds of throwing combinations into the mitts of Lopez, and some crunches and push ups.

The Alvarez family shares a rich enthusiasm for boxing. There’s two boys with boxing experience, two sisters, dad Marco Sr. and mom Rafaela.

Marco Sr. is grateful for the opportunities boxing provides for his sons. “It keeps them out of trouble,’ he said, adding that improving in the sport provides them a positive focus. 

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Winning the national Golden Gloves was something Diego had been trying to accomplish for the past two or three years. With Lopez training him, it was the right combination to earn the belt.

“He’s a really good trainer. It’s like another level of training,” Marco Sr. said. 

LONG-TERM GOAL: THE OLYMPICS

Alvarez, his father and Lopez all anticipate a pro career for the young boxer, but it may be a while. Diego wants to compete for a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team.

Keeping Diego loose, avoiding nerves that come with boxing outside northern Utah, is a priority. To help, the family travels outside of Utah for fights. Just before the national Golden Gloves, Diego fought on a card in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s traveled to Las Vegas and California.

The family may be heading to Texas soon if Diego qualifies for the nationals of the Junior Olympics tournament, Marco Sr. said.

All this boxing took mom Rafaela a while to get used to. “At first it was scary. But now I see that he’s really good,” she said. She’s proud of her son, and excited for his future in boxing.

Diego Alvarez remembers his first fight nine years ago. It was at Foley’s in Ogden, the old location near Ben Lomond High school. “I kept spitting out my mouthpiece,” he said with a smile.

It took about five fights for the youngster to catch the boxing bug. “Probably after my fifth fight,” that’s when he knew he was in the sport for keeps, he said.

“That’s when I really started training,” Alvarez said. 

dgibson@standard.net

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