Ralph Davila has attended his share of boxing events since being crowned Golden Gloves champion for Corpus Christi in 1967.
With more than 40 fighting events under his belt and more than half a century of experience, the veteran boxer and official knows a thing or two about the popularity of the sport.
Davila worked as a lead official during this year's Junior Olympics Boxing Tournament at the American Bank Center.
After witnessing a record-breaking 414 fighters participate and more than 5,000 spectators throughout the three-day event, Davila said he believes this year's Junior Olympics will set the tone for future boxing events in Corpus Christi.
“Times are changing and they are changing for the good right now,” Davila said. “We have more clubs and more boxers who are getting into the sport. We are doubling the popularity of the sport and we’re doing good.”
Corpus Christi was the only city to feature two boxing rings during the TAAF Games of Texas Boxing Tournament last year at Ray High School. The Junior Olympics did one better by bringing in three rings for the record number of fighters.
Davila expects at least a 50% rise in attendance for next year's Junior Olympics, which is scheduled to return to Corpus Christi with three boxing rings.
“Not just for the three days of the event but for overall in the past, we set a record for boxers, clubs and coaching entrees,” Davila said, “It has been a big improvement and hopefully next year we can go up another 50%. We will need more revenues and hotels, which is good for the city.”
This weekend's tournament snapped a 30-year drought of Corpus Christi hosting the Junior Olympics.
Duke it out Boxing Club, which is a nonprofit, ran the event throughout the three days and brought several surprise guests along the way.
Corpus Christi mayor Paulette Guajardo and City Manager Peter Zanoni were some of the many city officials who attended to support the Junior Olympics returning to the Coastal Bend.
“It’s great to get this Olympic boxing event back in Corpus Christi," Zanoni said. "It’s been over three decades since we last hosted it. It took a little bit of work from myself and others on my team, but it’s well worth it and we’re going to get them back next year as well.”
Zanoni said Corpus Christi competed with several other cites around the state to bring the popular event to the Coastal Bend.
“We think the families and young boxers from the region love Corpus Christi," Zanoni said. "It’s part of the event to have them come here and enjoy this beautiful arena and the beautiful bayfront. It means a lot to the sport and to the community for young kids in Corpus Christi to have something to do, especially a sport that they love like boxing.”
The championship rounds of the Junior Olympics concluded on Sunday with many fighters advancing to the national level.
Tristen Flores, who fights out of Robstown's Team Gutierrez Boxing Academy, said it was a dream come true to advance past the Junior Olympics.
"I was able to get more fights and more experience," said Flores, who was one of three fighters from Robstown to advance. "My dad pushes me to never give up and after 10 seconds, I have to give it all I got. It feels good because all of my parents, family and friends were able to come and see me."
Duke it Out Boxing coach Joe De La Paz, who was also the announcer for the event, said bringing the Junior Olympics back to Corpus Christi has been "phenomenal."
The best part for him was watching the boxers fight in the same arena as professional fighters and celebrities.
“I’m super happy and words can’t express how grateful I am for how everything turned out," De La Paz said. "Especially with the city of Corpus Christi presenting this event. Bringing this back to Corpus Christi after a 30-year absence has been phenomenal. The American Bank Center staff that helped put this together and everybody else who helped make this historical event has made it amazing in its first year back. I’m pleased.”
Rey Castillo is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and a graduate of Texas A&M-Kingsville. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @reycastillo361
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Record Junior Olympics sets tone for future fights in Corpus Christi