Johnny Tocco’s Gym – 1987 – I was delighted to...
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) An east side gym is giving youth who are caught up in violence and crime a puncher’s chance at starting over.
By Jeff Wagner
They do so by strapping on gloves and boxing. We talked with one man who said stepping into the ring has given him a purpose, something he was struggling to find 10 years ago when he first set foot in Indianapolis.
Tucked in a quiet corner at the Indiana Boxing and Grappling Gym, 20 year old Brandon Saavedra is preparing for one of the biggest fights of his life, a shot at an Indiana Golden Gloves title. He came up short last year in the championship round.
“I’m pretty confident I’m gonna win this year,” he said. He prefers to let his hands do the talking, but he still has a story to tell.
“Where I’m from, it’s like a lot of gang violence,” he said. Saavedra was born in Mexico and his family moved here when he was 10 years old. He said in his home country, many of his friends were caught up in crime. The problem persisted when he moved to Indiana.
“I lost a couple friends due to the violence and stuff like that and so I just thought I don’t want to be the next one,” he said. It’s why he spends several days a week training in the ring.
“We’ve had some kids in here with some rough lives, sometimes the parents (are) involved, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes been caught up in the juvenile system,” said head trainer Pat McPherson.
He sees it first-hand. Not just inside the ropes, but the on streets. McPherson is a full-time IMPD police officer.
But once his shift is finished, he’s at the gym training kids and teenagers not just how to throw a hook or jab, but how to grow up and leave a life filled with negativity behind.
“If you come in here I’m trying to help you,” said McPherson. “Trying to help you become a better person.”
And the hook? The training is free.
“Some kids don’t have the money, some of the parents can’t afford it,” McPherson said. “And we could charge a fee but I just said, ‘Hey listen, we’re gonna do it for free’.”
At the gym, trainees have a positive influence in their corner and it doesn’t cost them a dime. For boxers like Saavedra, it’s a knockout combination.
“It’s life changing,” he said. “It’s a great environment, it’s a positive vibe and everybody cares. Even though some people show it differently, everybody cares.”
Officer McPherson encourages anyone looking for a place to channel their anger or find a hobby to come out.