Building boxers

Joe Rodriguez

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Joe Rodriguez opened Chico Boxing for Fitness 5 1/2 years ago to fill a void he saw in Chico. He boxed and coached boxing in the Army before that and has brought his love of the sport to Chico—his gym is located in a large warehouse-style building on the corner of Seventh and Wall streets. The gym is gearing up for the next Fight Night, the fifth one, with 10 people signed up even before any promotion. The event, set for April 14, is no longer a fraternity fund-raiser but instead pays for the boxers’ travel and expenses. Rodriguez currently trains 13 boxers, and this month he will register two of them, a boyfriend-girlfriend duo, as Chico’s first professional boxers.

Why did you open your gym here?

It’s in my blood. I can’t see a city as big as Chico without a boxing team. It took me four years to find the right space. I wanted a bigger building, but the location here, you can’t beat it.

Didn’t you teach at the Boys and Girls Club?

Yeah, they canceled the program, though—they were worried about injuries. But injuries are more common in basketball than amateur boxing! When they canceled the program I took some of the kids in—they don’t pay a penny here.

What can people expect from Fight Night?

Like last time, the guys with the big mouths, they all lost. It doesn’t work like it works in the street. It’s a different environment.

How much training will the competitors have?

A month or more. If you’ve done any amateur boxing, you can’t compete in a smoker [a small tournament below the professional/amateur level] like this. I tell them that they should train five times a week.

What would you like for this Fight Night?

I’d like more women boxers. Last time we had three—it went real well. The crowd loved them.

Why is that?

The guys are amazed a woman could do that. Nobody told the women they could do it, so they go through their lives thinking, “I can’t do that, they tell me I can’t do that, I’m not going to do that.” That’s bullcrap. The girls practice and they get just as good as the guys. My top boxer is a woman.

That’s Eva Knight?

Yeah, she’s ranked No. 2 in the nation and going pro this month. Chico’s going to have professional boxers!

Is she going to be the first professional boxer in Chico?

As far as I know, yeah—she and her boyfriend, Mario. Mario sparred with a professional boxer yesterday. Mario took him apart!

Is there a venue in Chico for professional boxing?

There’s a venue in Oroville, the casino. If Eva goes to Feather Falls or Gold Country, the place would be full—it’d be to their advantage to book her there a couple times a year.