Detached from the beige brick of a disused stripmall, a sanctuary of sweat called Jimenez’ Old School Boxing Gym hides behind the shadow of Duffy’s Auto Service shop and a Chevron where food stamps are accepted and their slot machines, according to the clerk are to, “win fun only.”
A step from the asphalt to the concrete slab brings the unique nostalgia of eighth grade P.E. rearing back before it punches you right in the face. But after taking a few steps inside, the smell, like the skill and strength that produced it, grows on you.
The gym, built by Joe Jimenez and operated primarily by his son, Ben, a 22-year-old computer science junior at UNT, is a home away from home for many.
“They call boxing a poor man’s sport,” Ben said. “Most people who box are kids that go to get off the streets. In Denton, you get the occasional rough house one, but most come here on word of mouth.”
People come to the gym for various reasons.
From the light feet and slender frame of Denton-Guyer junior Yessy Valdez, 17, prancing in silence as he boxes the shadows, envisioning his first official fight coming in the next few weeks, to Junior Pizarro, a 25-year-old truck driver with a devastating right hook that sends the punching bag reeling back and forth in between his back and forth trips from Waco.
Pizarro said he’s here to box and has lost nearly 60 pounds – dropping from 429 to 373 was just a bonus.
All this activity comes hard for one member of the gym’s family, seen holding a trophy from his 2011 Golden Glove tournament on the gym’s front desk. After three years spent in the shadows of his professional boxing career, Corey Richards, 32, is undertaking the challenge of teaching what comes so naturally to him.
After the gym clears out, past the 8 p.m. closing time, Richards stands toe-to-toe and teaches a wordless lecture to 22-year-old Brian Flowers, correcting the whiff of an overly aggressive haymaker with a pop, pop, thwack counter combination.
He doesn’t say much to Flowers in the long sessions stretching into the twilight hours, mostly teaching by example.
But when he does speak, Flowers is all ears.