When Richard Perez was in his early 30s he had a vision. God came into his room, lifted him up out of bed and took him into his kid’s room. There, God told Perez that he needed to change the harmful direction of his life or he would find his kids were no longer a part of his life. The vision shook Perez. He’d never experienced anything like it. Yet, he found it difficult to comply. He wasn’t ready to pull away from the road of destruction he’d been on since his teen years.
At 13, Perez began experiencing epilepsy which his father believed was from the devil. Wanting nothing to do with the illness, he drove his son to a hotel a year later and left him there to fend for himself. With little money, no home and no family support, Perez’s options were scarce. He quickly dropped out of school and looked to the streets to subsist.
Angry, scared and alone, Perez began hanging with the wrong crowd and took to drinking and drugs as a means of coping. With statistics of survival not in his favor his future looked grim but fortunately, Perez had one positive outlet that his father happened to introduce him to prior to abandoning him—boxing.
Hanging around a local gym, Perez found pummeling speed bags, beating mitts, pounding heavy bags, sparring along with strength and endurance training helped to release the mounting pressure he carried on his young shoulders.
Perez continued to pursue boxing as he grew into adulthood. He developed a keen eye for technique and began coaching others. Although his life improved some, he was still caught up in a lifestyle of drinking and drugs as a way of coping.
By the time God gave him the vision to straighten out his life, Perez was at a loss. Other than boxing, a carousing lifestyle was all he knew. But when God gave Perez the exact same vision a second time but with much more intensity, Perez could no longer ignore it. He heard God’s message loud and clear. It was time to straighten up.
God made it clear that that despite the past, God had a future in mind for Perez. Shortly after, Perez began attending church, reading his Bible, praying and allowing God full access to his life which included steps toward a much needed healing.
Now as a believer, Perez’s passion for boxing took on a whole new meaning. It wasn’t just a personal outlet, it was a potential ministry. Perez became a professional boxing trainer, training fighters such as Middleweight World Champion, Rodney Jones, MMA Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz along with his brother, UFC welterweight contender Nick Diaz along with others.
Using all of his knowledge of the sport to develop the skill set of amateur and pro-fighters while learning to be a man of God has created many unique opportunities for Perez to share his faith in simple yet significant ways.
“Once the fighters get to know me, they respect me” says Perez. “Whenever we go out to eat, I tell them I’m going to pray and they respect that and it opens the door for conversation. They know I’m a Christian and know where I stand.”
During the past 15 years as Perez has trained top fighters at various gyms and even out of his own garage, the same question has been asked over and over. When would Perez open his own gym?
Working for the school district for many years during the day and training champions like Jones and the Diaz brothers at night, Perez never had the time to pursue the dream. But now all that has changed. Retiring from his day job a few years ago, Perez now has the time and more importantly an open door from God to make his dream come true.
On May 17, 2014, Perez and his wife Martha opened Richard Perez Boxing in Manteca. Thankful to God for the opportunity to pursue this dream at this time, he confesses, “It’s a business but it is also a ministry.”
Never forgetting his turbulent years, Perez makes it a point to bring in kids from the community who are in need of discipline and guidance. He teaches the kids boxing techniques while planting seeds of faith just as he does with everyone that he trains.
Sharing an example of his business-ministry, Perez shares. “I have a young girl who comes to the gym and who lives in a group home. One day when we were training, I told her she was doing a good job. She got really upset and didn’t believe me. She thought I was lying to her and told me that I shouldn’t lie. I walked away for a few minutes then came back with a video recorder. I taped her while she was training so she could see how good she really was. When I showed her the video, a smile crossed her face. She then asked me why I’m always happy. I was able to tell her that it is because I have God in my life. Now that girl follows me everywhere. She wants me to put on her wraps and gloves and teach her everything. She is here all the time. It just makes me so happy.”
While the name, Richard Perez is typically associated with famous fighters, seeing how God is working through he and his wife to help the kids in the community who may be experiencing a rough start to life as Perez once did, moves them to make a difference.
“I cry just thinking about these kids” says Perez. “I didn’t realize it would be like this. As a pro-trainer, I knew I would get guys who were famous to come to the gym but it’s so much more than that. It’s all about the kids. They are the famous ones.”
As part of his training, Perez teaches beginners young and old how to correctly put on their wraps and gloves. How to hit the bags, shadow box, jump rope for endurance along with a plethora of defense and offense skills. The higher the skill set, the more intense the training becomes.
Being sought after by elite fighters for his boxing-coaching abilities brings excitement to the pro-trainer just as much as being a good example to those he trains.
“You can’t just go out and preach to everyone. You have to be a good example, that’s where it starts,” he admits. “Actions speak louder than words. If I have good actions, doing things the right way, not cussing, staying calm, being consistent (especially in the boxing world) it opens doors to share my faith while developing strong fighters.”
Richard Perez Boxing is not only a place for champions to train and beginners to learn, but a safe haven for those in need of help and hope whether in the ring or out. The idea of combining business and ministry, faith and fighting may seem impossible to some but because of what God has done in his life, Perez knows and believes the truth of Mathew 19:26, “With God all things are possible.”