Ring on the Ridge

Jonathan Valdez, Shawn Barry and Brian Cheney

Photo by whitney garcia

Releasing anger, learning discipline and letting go of tension are phrases that may sound like something out of a meditation retreat. Instead, these are the core principles and lessons the men at Liberty Boxing Club in Paradise try to instill in their young students. The owner, Jonathan Valdez (pictured at left), a father and former boxer from Hayward, came to Paradise to raise his young daughter in 2011. Soon after his arrival, Valdez saw that there were few physical outlets for the youth in his new town. Teaming up with longtime boxing coach and fighter Shawn Barry (center), certified physical fitness trainer Brian Cheney (right) and others, Valdez opened Liberty Boxing in September and created a new way for Paradise residents, including adults, to let off some steam. Find the business online at libertyboxingclub.com, on Facebook, or in person on the Ridge (6416 Skyway).

Why open a boxing club?

Valdez: I started boxing about 24 years ago, and it really helped me learn confidence, and it taught me that I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. Now, when I came up to Paradise, there’s nothing here to do. You go down the Skyway on a Sunday and nothing is open. There’s football and baseball, and that’s it. What are the kids here supposed to do with their time? We opened a 24-hour boxing gym to bring something new to the community, and something constructive that teaches the youth here the skills they need to help get them through life.

What does a membership offer?

Cheney: We offer boxing for fitness, boxing basics, and strength and conditioning courses. We also have a spar night where other clubs come in to fight. Members are able to pay for private professional training, and even if someone wants to come in just to get fit with our weight room, they can.

What goals do you have for the club?

Barry: The club is run by people who care. There’s no ego here. We aren’t here for the money, and we want to keep it that way. We really want to this to be a permanent, structured outlet for Paradise. Right now, we don’t have many older people, but that should change soon. There’s lots of talent here; maybe we will train a champion someday. But this is really about helping the youth. We hope to be able to keep more and more kids out of trouble and teach them the core values behind fighting.

How do you reach out to the youth?

Valdez: I was in the system at a really young age, and I want to be able to give back as best I can. We offer sponsorships for foster children, and we match any sponsorship we get, dollar for dollar. Kids here, they don’t want to be preached at. Boxing, fighting, respect, discipline; it’s an outlet for them without preaching. So far, it’s working.