By Leslie Collins
December 14, 2011
Music blared in the basement of Whatsoever Community Center, 1201 Ewing. The steady beat of the bass accentuated each blow to the punching bag. A jab here, a jab there. All was executed with fierce concentration. Whatsoever wasn’t just breeding boxers, they were breeding champions.
For six years, Tim Petterson has coached the Whatsoever Boxing Club, instilling in youth the fundamentals of boxing and life.
“I like the competitiveness of the sport,” Petterson said. “It teaches them a lot of self-confidence and it’s a really good sport to stay in shape all year round. It’s not like football or basketball season, it’s an ongoing sport.”
Five days a week, youth train at the center, perfecting their boxing skills and building up their cardio routine. Some youth arrive at 4:30 p.m. and don’t leave until 7 p.m. Some nights, as many as 35 youth show up and ages range from eight-year-olds to 20-year-olds.
“The biggest thing in this neighborhood is it keeps a lot of kids off the streets that have had problems or could get into problems,” Petterson said. “It’s rewarding to see the kids do something to keep them in the gym and keep them out of trouble as much as possible.”
Training to compete as a boxer isn’t easy.
“It’s a lot more than getting in there and fighting in the ring,” said Johnathon Petterson, a Whatsoever boxer and Coach Petterson’s son. “You’ve got to work for it to even be able to get into the ring. It takes commitment.”
That commitment includes staying within your weight bracket and intense cardio. Each youth is given a cardio routine, Coach Petterson said, which ranges from sit-ups to medicine ball workouts to jumping rope. One exercise involves a 311-pound tractor tire that individuals will flip or push back and forth to build up strength.
For some Whatsoever boxers, that commitment has led to professional boxing careers. One example is José Saenz, who was drafted for the L.A. Matadors, a world series boxing team.
“He uses his brain, too,” Petterson said of Saenz. “He’s gotten a scholarship to Rockhurst (University) through boxing and he’s worked on his accountant’s degree.”
Excelling in school is one of the things Petterson tries to instill in his boxers, he said. Homework and school always come first, he said.
For 15-year-old Andy Rodriguez, boxing is a “unique” sport that sets him apart from his peers. He likes the challenge, he said, and the sport has taught him self-confidence. Without Whatsoever Community Center, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to box, he said.
“There’s not many other gyms out there,” he said. “I can walk to this gym.”
Johnathon said a Northeast News article sparked his interest in boxing. While rolling newspapers, he noticed an article about Whatsoever boxer Jesse Rivera winning a tournament. Johnathan visited the Whatsoever Community Center and fell in love with the sport.
“I just like to fight pretty much,” he said with a smile. “I figured I might as well do it where it’s supposed to be done in the ring.”
Both Johnathon and Rodriguez have competed in the Junior Olympics and continue to excel in their divisions, Petterson said. On Dec. 16, Rodriquez will compete in the state Silver Gloves tournament in St. Louis.
“It’s a big tournament; there’s no novice division,” Petterson said.
“It’s exciting,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my last year fighting in the Silver Glove and I want to give this thing my all.”