CHEYENNE, Wyo. — “You’re not done yet!” a coach yells as kids explode upward, a whirl of arms and limbs and sweat and power.

Then they drop down to the floor, do a pushup and leap up again, knees quivering after their fifth set. Most of the kids in this class at the Southside Sluggers boxing gym are between 10 and 13, and they know how to throw a punch.

Ten-year-old Aniya Cordova is a slight girl with cool eyes and medium-length black hair After watching her nephews box at the same gym a few months ago, she became enthralled with the sport.

Although there was a waitlist to join the free-for-under-13 nonprofit club, she would come to practices and constantly pester coaches about jumping in, with encouragement from her parents. Near the end of January, she finally did.

“No one would really know she’s into boxing,” Candice Cordova, her mother, said. She goes on runs with Aniya after school or whenever they can fit it in for additional training. Aniya’s other mother, Desiree Cordova, spars with her on the weekends and sometimes on Fridays. The family has embraced the club, and Aniya’s new passion.

She comes to the club four days a week — two more days than most kids in her age group. She trains with everyone and fights anyone — boys included.

She was shaky after her first few rounds with a boy from Wheatland during a recent spar.

“At first she didn’t want to go back in, but when she did, she made the other boy cry and bloodied his nose,” Candice Cordova said.

Justin Cisneros, 23, is the co-owner of the club with his mother, Valerie Arias. Arias handles the majority of the fundraising and nonprofit status filing, while Cisneros oversees the gym itself and helps coach. The nonprofit focuses itself around giving kids — specifically at-risk youth — a free and safe environment to participate in a sport.

Recently, members of the team traveled to South Dakota. Club members were down in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, for competitions as well. And a promising up-and-coming boxer competed in Albuquerque last month.

The club’s space is misleading at first glance. The building from the outside could be confused with a two-car garage, with its literal garage door and no indoor bathroom. The only indication of what waits behind the door is a faded, block-letter inscription: “BOXING CLUB.”

Once inside, it’s immaculate, with punching bags, speed bags, a full boxing ring and all the other essentials. Class sizes vary, but right now they can fit up to 16 kids or adults at a time. They also have a lengthy waiting list, but encourage anyone to come see what it’s all about.

“It’s the Aniyas over the world we want to target,” Cisneros says.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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JACOB BYK
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