Sanger Boxing Club remains padlocked

Sanger residents speak up at city council meeting regarding the temporary closure of the Sanger Boxing Club leads, reason behind the closure remain unclear

Sanger Youth Center from west side of L Street. (Kenny Goodman)
Sanger Youth Center from west side of L Street. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published August 22, 2023  • 
9:30 am

SANGER – At the Aug. 17 Sanger City Council meeting, Sanger citizens criticized the council for padlocking the front doors of the Sanger Boxing Club and demanded that the city reopen the facility.

“As a fighter, that gym is my home,” boxer Ricardo Pimentel said. “That’s my spot, and whenever we go to an amateur fight, that’s Sanger we’re representing. By keeping that gym closed, you’re keeping us from work. We can’t go back to work.”

Sanger Police Chief Greg Garner, who is serving as acting city manager, said the city chained the front doors of the club because of “issues with paid workers and volunteers.” Garner did not elaborate.

Mayor Frank Gonzalez assured the public the situation was only temporary, and asked city attorney Hilda Cantu Montoy for comment.

Montoy said, “Serious matters came to the attention of the city and it was determined by the acting city manager that corrective action needs to be taken to adhere to county and state laws. Once that corrective action is taken, it will enable the program (boxing) to resume.”

She added, “A lot of these issues do concern personnel matters so the city is unable to talk further about details concerning that.”

The club has been closed since Aug. 10. The Times reached out to Gonzalez for comment but he directed all media inquiries to Garner. Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Martinez said because of the nature of the situation, he was unable to comment.

Boxing coach Mario Garcia, who is affiliated with USA Boxing – the national governing body for Olympic-style boxing – and who is also a Sanger city employee, asked the council not to punish the boxers because of the suspension he received from USA Boxing.

“I talked to USA Boxing about my suspension,” Garcia said. “My suspension is through USA Boxing only.”

In an email to the Times, Brian Taylor, communications and digital media manager for USA Boxing, wrote, “USA Boxing received an allegation of an unsanctioned boxing event in Sanger, California in August 2023. If proven true via the USA Boxing grievance process, the event would be in violation of USA Boxing’s competition rules and would compromise the health and safety of boxers. 

“USA Boxing and its membership do not draw a conclusion based upon the allegation and/or investigation. Because of the ongoing investigation, we can not further comment at this time.”

The Times was unable to locate Garcia for comment as of press time.

Albert Samorano also coaches boxing at the club. Samarano told the Times the situation has to do with a fundraiser put on by the club and parents.

“There’s all this talk that something bad happened at the gym,” Samarano said. “It was nothing like that.”

Corinna, who did not give her last name and told the council she was there to represent the parents of the boxers, said every entity fundraises.

“Everyone from schools to clubs does it (fundraising). Including different sports,” she said. “Boxing has the right to fundraise.”

Echoing Samarano, Corinna said because the city has not taken responsibility for why it closed the gym, this has led to speculation in the community.

“People are thinking the wrong things and that’s not the positive impact we want from the gym,” she said. “We don’t want people thinking bad things happened.”

She added that the city had promised the club $5,000 from Measure S funds. Councilmember Michael Montelongo said the money for the club did not come from grants but was budgeted.

“This council voted to give you $5,000,” Montelongo said. “As soon as it opens, that $5,000 belongs to the whole boxing club.”

Ruben Hernandez, whose son boxes at the gym, chastised the council for its decision.

“Whoever made the judgment call, you’re wrong,” Hernandez said. “You’re wrong until you make it right, it has nothing to do with Sanger. If you’re basing it off of USA Boxing, (those are) two separate entities.”

In a bit of irony, prior to the discussion of the boxing club, the council recognized the accomplishments of 16-year-old Alyssa Samorano, who is the daughter of Albert Samorano. Alyssa is a USA Boxing Nationals Champion. She trained at the Sanger Boxing Club.

Darren Fraser