By: Sarah Snyder
MIDLAND - The pigskin and goal-posts may be the biggest past-time in the Tall City but another sport is gaining momentum at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. And this summer it's quadrupled its size. Kids of all ages are hitting the boxing ring thanks to the vision of a Midland coach.
The pictures on the wall tell the story of days gone by - a professional boxer, injured, who took a jab at coaching even taking students all the way to the Olympics in 2000.
"I had the pleasure to work with World Champions, I'm the first coach that at a young age, had a Mexican American as the super heavyweight to go to the Olympics in Sydney 2000," Augustine Tapia said.
But this summer he's been creating new memories turning an old city swimming pool, almost demolished, into a training facility open to any kid in town.
"I don't turn any kid down unless they're not behaving," Tapia said. "I keep my door open to all the kids from 8 years old to 100 years old."
"It's a great environment," 18-year-old Boxer, Charles Dutchovea, said. "You don't have to pay that much. I would advise anyone to come work out here."
He raised the money for every punching bag and rope, much of the cash coming from his own pocket.
"To me, it's a personal satisfaction, not only being here but doing something for the community," Tapia said.
When Tapia opened the doors in March about 15 kids came for lessons each week. But at the end of summer he hit a knockout - 40 kids now throw punches in the ring every day.
"This place gets packed," he said. "Sometimes we've got 20, 30, 40 kids."
But their coach's days in the Olympics aren't over - he's training Charles to compete in 2012.
"I never thought I would have been training for the Olympics!" Dutchovea said.
But the goal isn't just success in the ring.
"If they don't have good grades, send them home for a week until they come back with good grades," Tapia said. "We teach them discipline, not only in boxing, but in life too."
And for Tapia, victory is sweet.
"I'm just trying to make a difference in the kid's lives," Tapia said.