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The City Journals

Pete Suazo Invitational draws boxers from across the Intermountain West

Aug 30, 2018 01:37PM ● By Jana Klopsch

SSL PAL boxing head coach Matt Pena poses with his fighters at the Pete Suazo Invitational. (Photo/Jerry Silva

By Brian Shaw |  [email protected] 

Every August, the South Salt Lake Police Athletics/Activities League, or PAL, plays host to a pivotal tournament in Utah's boxing community, the Pete Suazo Invitational.

In year’s past, the tournament has drawn some of the region's best fighters according to Matt Pena, South Salt Lake PAL head coach. 

Part of that, from Pena's viewpoint, has to do with the lessons that he learned from his grandfather, boxing at his gym as a youth in Davenport, Iowa—those which he's tried instilling in his own fighters. 

“It's nice to see that the discipline we've been passing along to the sport has proven to be applicable, you know, on the biggest stages,” he added. 

For Pena, it all starts with working with these kids in the community. Having firsthand knowledge of what they're going through not just in the ring but outside of it provides a greater understanding in his view on how he can help fix the more telling and more difficult issues at home or at school, he said. 

“Having a dream, letting them know these things they want to achieve are possible and that it's real—because a lot of times, people see these things on TV and they see them happening to other people and it's hard for them to really personalize it and make it be something they believe they can achieve.” 

On Aug. 3-4, fighters coached by Pena at the PAL and other gyms from around the West converged on the Central City gym. 

In front of hundreds of fans, family and supporters they fought over a two-day span. Several PAL fighters came out victorious according to Pena. 

The other highlight of the event, however, came at its conclusion when World Boxing Commission champion “Vicious” Victor Ortiz was on hand and signed all the winners' boxing gloves. 

In a world where most celebrities usually sign their memorabilia with machines and even ghost signers, it was nice to see such a kind gesture from Ortiz—one that meant so much to these kids who are, in Pena's words, trying to chase their own dreams.