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The City Journals

South Salt Lake fighters ready themselves for Pete Suazo Boxing Invitational this month

Jul 27, 2017 12:26PM ● By Brian Shaw

Coach Matt Pena and his boxer celebrate a victory in the ring. (Jerry Silva/SSL PAL)

For Jerry Silva, the upcoming Pete Suazo Boxing Invitational has been going on for quite some time.

 “We’ve been doing this for a number of years,” said Silva, who is in charge of the event. “Each year, it gets bigger and better and brings in boxing teams from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and California—just to name a few.”

 According to Silva, a good, vast range of talent is set to come in Aug. 4-5 to the Central Park Community Center for the two-day show.

 “This is a good way to showcase our local talent in South Salt Lake,” said Silva, who added that the annual boxing show has been taking place since 2010.

 For these kids in South Salt Lake who sign on to fight and to learn from Matt Pena, the South Salt Lake’s Police Athletic League team coach and former MMA (mixed martial arts) champion, the experience is invaluable, according to Silva.

 “They love it. The core group of kids that come every day and that are trained by Coach Pena, they get a vast knowledge and experience from him—just from his background,” added Silva.

 The South Salt Lake PAL team takes this core group of kids all over the country to various boxing tournaments. But first, there’s plenty of work out of the ring to be done by each SSL PAL fighter, who ranges in age from 8 to 17.

 “Grades are very important to us. If they’re not keeping them up and putting in the work in the classroom then, you know, we’re not flipping the bill for them to travel,” said Silva, who requires that his fighters carry at least a 3.5 grade point average to box. “So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.”

 The 12-18 kids that the SSL PAL select primarily come from Promise SSL’s after-school programs, according to Silva. They sign up through PAL and once they start putting in the work and once the coaches like Pena see them progress, then they begin to rise up the ranks. But, it’s a slow process, added Silva.

 “It’s only then, at that point, that they’ll start doing local shows and competing locally,” said Silva. “And some kids have it—and some don’t, which is okay—and some kids just like the workout.”

 While the workouts the team has are a great way for the kids to bond, explained Silva, some want more. And that’s when the truly dedicated kids begin to learn what he termed “the art of boxing” and travel around the country fighting other great fighters.

 Google the term itself and you get hundreds of results. In Silva’s opinion, the art of boxing “is not just going in the ring and throwing punches; there’s a lot to it.”

 Conditioning—or getting the body into fighting shape—is critical in learning the art, he added. “You know, these kids are probably in better shape than I am,” he joked. “They’ve got the footwork, they have the ability to compete in such a fun sport and they drive each other to do better.”

 Over the past several years, Silva said South Salt Lake’s PAL boxing team has become so competitive that it’s brought back champions from the National PAL tournament in Oxnard, California—even one from Ringside Worlds in which 1,000 boxers competed over the course of one week.

 “So, we have the talent in South Salt Lake, and we’d love to have the people come out and enjoy it and see what’s in their own backyard,” he added.