Boxing coach faces retribution for speaking out

December 8, 2008 7:21:53 PM PST
A youth boxing coach from the Peninsula is facing retribution for speaking out about problems in Northern California amateur boxing.

It has been just two weeks since our investigation into young kids boxing for the entertainment of members at some of San Francisco's most elite, private clubs, and into the death of a man at one of those popular boxing boot camps. Now, one of the boxing coaches who spoke out is feeling the heat.

"These are the kids who are affected by the corruption in the boxing," said youth boxing coach Ramona Gatto.

Gatto brought about a dozen of her young boxing students and their parents to Gladiators Gym in Redwood City Monday morning. The gym owner, Eloy Ramirez, confirmed to us by phone that he has banned Gatto from his gym. He would not explain why.

"He removed all of us from the gym to silence us. That's retaliation," said Gatto.

Gatto has been speaking out about unsanctioned fights at Northern California boxing gyms.

Two weeks ago, the I-Team profiled a father of two who died at Third Street Gym in San Francisco, after being punched in one of those popular boxing boot camps. Gatto also helped expose amateur boxers as young as eight who entertain the members at some of San Francisco's most exclusive private clubs.

"I think this kind of reprisal is most unfortunate," said San Francisco NACCP's president, Rev. Amos Brown.

Rev. Brown appeared at Gladiator's Gym Monday morning to support Gatto and the children who now have nowhere to train.

"Through our youth department of NAACP, we are committed to joining with these families and with Ramona in order that we might rectify this situation," said Rev. Brown.

Ramirez closed the gym early and left just as the cameras were setting up. However, we interviewed him in October. At the time, he was critical of unsanctioned fight nights, even though he trained his 42-year-old girlfriend for an event at Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos.

Ramirez: "I begged her not to go."

Dan Noyes: "Oh, did you really? Why?"

Ramirez: "Because I knew she was going to get hurt."

Ramirez's girlfriend was badly outmatched. Amateur video shows that she took punishment to the head -- even turned away -- exposing herself for more shots. A coach checked on her, but let the fight continue, and finally, stopped it.

Ramirez: "As far as I know, she didn't weigh in, there was no doctor, no officials, no nothing."

Noyes: "What do you think about that?"

Ramirez: "It's totally wrong. It's totally wrong, you know."

Ramirez's girlfriend had never even sparred before. The owner of Undisputed Gym, Brian Schwartz, defended matching her with a more experienced and skilled fighter.

Schwartz: "Well, it wasn't really a TKO."

Noyes: "It was a stopped fight."

Schwartz: "It was, it was."

Noyes: "It was supposed to go three rounds."

Schwartz: "It was supposed to go three rounds, but it was stopped not because she was hurt and she was just in a -- it was friendly sparring. She wasn't rung or knocked down."

The California State Athletic Commission told the I-Team that fight with Ramirez's girlfriend broke the rules. The gym is now under investigation.

Gatto is helping expose some serious issues in the world of boxing. It appears that she and her students are paying the price.

"I was having trouble in school and everything, but then I started boxing and training with Ramona. Every day I came here. Every day I wasn't on the streets I'd come here and do my homework and started doing better in school," said boxing student Veronica Ayala.

Gatto and her kids are meeting with the Rev. Brown to figure out their next step. Previous reports:


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