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Carolina Briones shares a break with coach Ernesto Betancourt at the Sanger Youth Club, which has a ring and workout area for young boxers.

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series about the young people who have joined the Sanger Boxing Club, which works out most days starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Sanger Youth Center, 818 L St. 

Carolina Briones started boxing to lose some weight.

She did that. But the 15-year-old said she also gained a lot during the past year since she joined the Sanger Boxing Club and became one of its most ardent members. She added muscle mass and learned how to punch.

Her takeaway was more than just fighting technique, she said. She took a break from punching the heavy bag to talk about how slamming her fists into a speed bag, heavy bag or coach Ernesto Betancourt’s mitts boosted her self confidence.

“I was insecure about my body,. My self esteem was like this,” Briones said, holding her hand down low.

“Now I’m more talkative. I interact with people more. My grades are perfect.”

Briones will start her sophomore year in high school in the fall.

Betancourt said her work ethic impressed him. “I say, ‘Do this,’ and she does it,” he said. “She comes every day. She’s strong.”

Betancourt said in fights Briones “throws a lot of punches. Not all of them are good, not all of them are perfect, but she gets the job done.”

And as a coach, Betancourt can be tough. He’s old school and expects his students to pay attention and work hard. However, he appeared to be the kind of coach who listens more than he speaks. Last week during a workout, he went from student to student offering advice or putting them through their paces as he held the mitts and they worked on their combinations, footwork and style.

Two hours later, sweat dripped as much off his brow as that of any of the boxers in the ring at the Sanger Youth Center.

Briones said her training regimen continues when she gets home. “My dad also helps with the mitts,” she said, explaining the process in which the boxer just hits the hands of a coach, or in this case the father. “We spar at home, too. We fight. I learn a lot from them and my coach.”

Briones is the first girl in her family to start boxing. Her brothers and cousins, all boys, already boxed.

“At first they weren’t quite so sure,” she said. “They suspected I’d last maybe a few days. But it’s been a year. So they encourage me. Pretty much all my family now — and people in the gym.”

Briones’ aunt, Graciela Servin, is a fan. She watched her niece work out that particular night. 

“The first time I saw her fighting, I said, ‘Some day you’re going to be big,’” Servin said. “She’s really into it. I really love her. She beat up a boy about a month ago. He was 13, 14 years old. 

“She doesn’t like to miss any days coming here.”

Like the other young boxers, Briones started the training that night with multiple laps around the small park just to the north of the youth center. Briones did 10, which amounts to about a mile or mile and a half. She said at first it was tough, but now it’s like nothing.

“What motivated me most was my parents,” Briones said. And then she started adding her godparents and other members of her family.

 

The reporter can be contacted by email at sangerheraldsports@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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