Nestled in the city of San Diego among the houses and vivid Mexican-American culture lies the House of Boxing. An ode to the old school inside, the House doesn’t do modern frills fitness; no machines, or walls lined with televisions. The boxing ring sits centered in the gym like a well-placed piece of furniture to highlight the qualities of a room. From beams of wood and steel secured to floors of concrete, the heavy bags hang like reminders of the toll boxing exacts for the feel of its embrace in glory.
Beginning from the bottom with one punching bag in his backyard; trainer Carlos Barragan and his son David the House’s owner later founded a non-profit organization to help the community’s children through the sport of boxing. The desire that burns in the sports greatest trainers and mentors to bring the youth from the street into the boxing gym led three generations of Barragan’s Carlos Sr, Carlos Jr, and the youngest David to an old abandoned grocery store on a corner of Reo Drive across the street from a bus stop. With a strong foundation in the principles of family and fighter care; the Barragan’s House of Boxing is becoming a mecca of San Diego boxing.
“After we didn’t get into the Olympics, I met Frank Espinoza and we clicked right away, we turned Orozco pro and here we are” Barragan describes Orozco’s turning professional with a true thankful look on his face. It’s this humility and understanding of the price for his accomplishments that makes the Barragan’s House of Boxing more than a gym. A House of Building, the lessons and attitudes that builds and breeds good character.
Walking through the doors the attention centers on the ring that’s currently in use by House of Boxing product Antonio “Relentless” Orozco. Bobbing and weaving, throwing combinations through the four square of string tied across the ring Orozco wears a face of determination as he prepares for his next opponent. Carlos Barragan looks on intently as his pupil moves with lightning speed providing instruction intended to do harm to another man. Boxing is the hurt business; as Orozco transitions from the ring to the heavy bag, business is apparently booming.
Born in the city of Los Angeles, Orozco moved to Tecate Mexico when he was five years old where he lived until he was ten. As a boy becomes a man associating himself with a home or destination that brings the comfort that returning to a home can only bring Orozco considers himself lucky to have a few places he considers home. Garden City, Kansas is the backdrop for Orozco’s teenage years, the years when a young man develops his character, work ethic, and attitude toward life.
“I didn’t want to wear the tights for wrestling” Orozco says with a laugh “and I didn’t really fall into the team sports at school so I chose one of the three.” The three; young men with fathers that preach good character, honor, and morality know the three all too well. School, sports, or work. “My dad was very old school in our house.” Orozco echoes the upbringing that embodies the mold of a tight knit Mexican American family where a father’s hardness or discipline pays off as his young son grows into the type of man he undoubtedly stayed up countless hours praying he would become.
A solid amateur Orozco faced and defeated Javier Molina and Jessie Vargas on the same weekend. The decision to turn professional and move to San Diego came with one condition; a parental requirement of a high school diploma. “The support I had when I was an amateur (because I graduated) is now even greater.”
Orozco talks about his favorite fighters with a look of excitement “My favorite fighters are the guys that brought boxing to what I thought it was you know; Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, the great Marquez brothers.” “The first big fight that I remember watching was between Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya that was a point when boxing stood out for me when I can recall thinking, this is professional boxing.” The fighter has the type of a mental and emotional connection that all fans of the sweet science are drawn to. Embodying those traits; the heart of a warrior, attitude of a champion, and humility of a sportsman. Boxing.
“I like to come back in the evening hours to be around the kids because that’s how I got started.” Orozco describes himself as a family man, a trait that undoubtedly has led to much of his success in the ring. “I’m a father of three, a married man. Sometimes you have to dig deep and say I’m fighting; and I’m doing this for my family but sometimes you have to dig deeper and say I’m doing this for myself because if you become dependent on that encouragement then you can lose sight of yourself and what it took to get where you are. It has to come from you and I use all that support to get me further.”
Enamored with success all too often fighters fall into the trap of believing they are experts at a specific style of fighting or have an excellent (insert punch here). The warrior heart and spirit lives in all fighters, the act of stepping in the ring is a verification of the status in itself; however when a fighter gets used to hearing he’s an aggressive fighter or that they are a good left hooker it becomes all too easy for the fighter to believe that is what they are, resulting in a loss of focus in other areas. Orozco has been described as an aggressive fighter, and a good left hooker but scoffs at being described as so. “Fundamentals, you know sometimes reality leads you to not necessarily get overexcited for a fight; but you start working on a certain rhythm where fundamentals just don’t get the attention they need.” “Obviously a left hook to the body is a punch I’m good at but I can’t depend on it because if they are expecting a left hook to the body then how easy is it for them to counter it? So I have to be able to do everything. It’s about winning; win ugly, but don’t lose pretty.”
The road to a championship for all fighters is paved with a series of gradual tests that get harder each outing until eventually they all become insurmountable tasks for mere mortal men. This road of hard lessons is what molds a fighter into the type of champion that becomes the stuff of legends. Orozco is preparing for a fighter that comes with enough experience to write books on. Steve “2 Pounds” Forbes has faced a who’s who of fighters to include Oscar De La Hoya, Cornelius Bundrage and other current and former world champions. He is often sought out by the sports elite to serve as a sparring partner when preparing for tough fights, and was a participant of the famed television show The Contender.
Forbes presents Orozco with his toughest task and has the ability to make the young contender regret the decision to fight him. Boxing and boxing fans reward the fighters that take the hard road and Steve Forbes is the next obstacle for Orozco to navigate on his path.
The sweat and blood required for greatness in the sport of boxing is paid in the gym, a price that culminates into a masterpiece of grit and sweetness. The tools to paint this masterpiece are the all too familiar tools every man, woman, and child are born with; but for the fighter, they are under the hand wraps.