When Ray Gonzalez opened a gym in Lathrop to provide CrossFit training and power lifting to people in the South County, he knew he wanted to appeal to serious athletes.
But he didn’t at the time that his gym would become a destination for boxers throughout the area to train underneath Felipe Martinez – a former professional boxer who until two years ago was training fighters in a makeshift gym at his Lathrop home.
And business for Savage Elite Fitness has been good since Martinez, beloved by local boxing fans and respected in a sport he has given the majority of his life to, signed on to offer training sessions and classes.
“For me it’s about the discipline for the kids,” said Martinez, who trains a handful of pro fighters. “And I wanted to stay around the sport of boxing.”
One a promising professional with bouts throughout Mexico, Martinez saw his dreams of attaining the sport’s greatest heights dashed when a broken hand ended his young career.
But since then he has invested his time in young fighters like Jose Iniguez and Quilisto “Quilo the Kid” Madera – a Stockton pair with 10 wins and no losses between in their professional debut.
Iniguez, who met Martinez through work, had come up through the Stockton Police Youth Activities League and fell in love with a sport that he said taught him discipline and the drive to pursue his dreams of one day becoming a champion.
Having heard good things about Martinez in Northern California boxing circles, Iniguez followed him to Lathrop where he began training in his backyard – with a ring beneath a covered patio and lined with tattered tarps – before moving over to Savage Elite Fitness and a more modern facility.
“He’s (Iniguez) very good and he has a lot of angles,” Martinez said of his pupil. “He’s a very hard and disciplined worker and he has a lot of speed and is a well-rounded fighter. His opponent has more experience, but he’s ready for that fight.”
And Iniguez says that he’s happy with the opportunities that are coming his way as a result of the training he’s receiving from Martinez – even if the dedication required to maintain the fighter’s diet is sometimes more difficult than he expected.
While Iniguez said he would much rather wake up in the morning and eat blueberry pancakes slathered in syrup, his pre-fight routine often leads him to eat things like egg whites and vegetables as he pines for the first chance that he has to pull up to the drive-thru at In-n-Out and order anything that he wants.
But the chance to win his first championship belt and continue a career that he hopes will take him to the top of the mountain someday and become the person that kids from his hometown look up to, he said, keeps him on that path.
“I think that’s what makes us different than a lot of fighters because being from here means that we don’t come from much, and therefore we don’t have anything to lose – we carry that mentality with us when we step into the ring,” he said. “Everybody has that goal of one day becoming the World Champion, but you get a chance every day to do something that will allow you to take that next step and a lot of that goes back to the power of positive thinking and what you put out into the world.
“Everybody wants to be the next Mayweather or the next Canelo and they don’t know what it takes to get there, but you have to believe that you’re capable of something. Somebody is going to reach that level, so why can’t it be you?”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.