After nearly a decade, boxing is back in Santa Barbara.
Five Directions Community Club is hosting “A Day of Unity” on Sunday, July 3, at the Eastside Boys & Girls Club, featuring over 20 bouts ranging from youth to adult amateurs, many of whom will be in the ring for the first time.
The local boxing club formed during the pandemic when brothers Jairo and Zico Gonzalez took their backyard training to a small space off Hollister near the Santa Barbara Airport, offering free classes to youth as a way to get them out of the house and active.
The community quickly sprouted, with kids inviting their friends and Jairo’s wife, Dolores, running a weekly women’s class, until soon the gym was packed each day with groups jumping rope, hitting bags, and running circuits. Within a few months, a core group of young trainees was advanced enough to start sparring with other local gyms, and eventually in organized fights across the state. One fighter, 8-year-old Isaak Huerta, has already claimed two national titles this year.
As they advanced, the Five Directions family grew, and Jairo began making plans for a sanctioned event in town. He remembers the exact day of the last organized showcase in town, in July 2013, when he was slated to be the main event. The fight fell through at the last minute, but Jairo hopes that now as a trainer and organizer he can help give the next generation the feeling of fighting in front of your friends and family.
“It’s very rare that your first fight is at home,” he said, “so for them, and for myself, it’s exciting, ’cause we get to showcase our skill here in town.”
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At least nine of the fighters will be coming from Five Directions, while challengers will be coming from all over the state, including Compton Boxing, Knuckleheadz Boxing (Ventura), ASG Boxing (Moreno Valley), and King’s City Boxing.
The first-time fighters from Five Directions credit their training team and the close-knit group that works out together every day.
“I like the gym ’cause it’s kinda small, so you all really know each other and they push me more,” said Jaiden Moctezuma, a 13-year-old making his debut this weekend. His father, Julio, is also a regular at the gym. The family used to train at Primo’s before the gym closed down in 2013, and like many at Five Directions, the older fighters have passed on the “sweet science” to the next generation.
“It’s like a family,” said 21-year-old Gustavo Cruz, who will also be fighting for the first time during the showcase. “We all help each other.”
The showcase took a village to organize, Jairo said, adding that the biggest hurdles were finding a location and enough fighters to create competitive matchups for the USA Boxing-sanctioned event.
“It was hard to find fighters the same age, same weight, and same experience level,” he said.
Several individuals and businesses also contributed to the event, with local restaurant Los Agaves providing financial support to the gym since the beginning, and former Primo’s Boxing trainee Ricky Guerrero helping purchase the belts for each fight. Caterer and Cody’s manager Martin Renteria — whose son, Aaron, will be fighting this weekend — also helped the gym with sponsorships and food for events.
Tickets are available for $20, and fights will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; for more information and a full fight schedule, check out @five_directionc.cc on Instagram.