Finding Hope In a Boxing Ring

ALA Boxing Cebu City

The Morning Jog That Started It All

The year is 1985.

A Cebu City businessman just parked his truck at the start of his favorite jogging route.

He’s been jogging this route for years, although it’s not especially scenic.  In fact, it leads nearby a shanty village – a mish-mash of homes pieced together with scrap wood, corrugated metal, and rubber tires. Stray dogs trot along the side of the road while school-aged children sell dusters made of rooster feathers.

The businessman begins his jog, passes the children on the street and continues on his path, like he does every day. Upon his return he finds broken glass around his truck. He has been robbed. He doesn’t look up, or talk to anybody. He just gets back in his truck and drives off.

That night he thinks about those children on the side of the road. He knows that if they continue their path, at best they’ll end up like the thugs who broke into his truck. He considers the opportunities his own children have enjoyed and wonders if, in some small way, he can help these other kids too.

The Beginning of ALA Boxing

The next morning, he returns to his regular jogging spot. He asks some of the kids,  “Why aren’t you in school?” They shrug.

“If you jog with me today, I’ll buy you breakfast at Jollibee.”

From the looks of their baggy t-shirts, they could use a sturdy breakfast. They look at each other and shyly smile back at the businessman. They will join him.

The next day, the businessman returns. The children are waiting for him and they’ve brought a friend. The group grows daily and the businessman keeps his promise that he’ll buy breakfast for anyone who jogs with him. Within weeks he’s accompanied by a couple dozen children and teenagers, all eager for their breakfast.

The businessman realizes that these children aren’t just eager for a free breakfast. For the first time in their short lives, they belong to something important. He needed to do more to keep them off the streets.

He opens a boxing gym for out of school youth. Training is free, on the condition the children start and stay in school. He provides free shoes and transportation to and from the gym.

The boys begin to develop real talent. They graduate from high school and stay off the streets. Some stick around the gym to continue their training.

ALA Boxing Today

Decades later, ALA Boxing is now a full-fledged promotional boxing company that tours locally and internationally. They produce multi-titled world champions and are the only Philippine organization associated with top global promoters, Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions.

But when entrepreneur and philanthropist Antonio L. Aldeguer founded ALA Boxing in 1985, he wasn’t looking for attention or glory. He simply wanted to give a few kids the chance to better their lives.

Visit the training compound today, and you’ll see that philosophy stands even stronger. Located in Cebu City, it features two full-sized boxing rings, a basketball court, track oval, and professional boxing equipment. The center serves 100 children and young adults annually and provides housing for about 50.

The most talented of the bunch are plucked out and groomed for professional-level boxing. They tour throughout the Philippines and across the globe. International Featherweight Champion Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, who got his start just like the boys on the street, still practices at the gym and mentors the youth.

In the end, everybody wins. The company profits from promotional earnings. The boxers earn prize money. Their success elevates the Philippines in the boxing world. But the biggest winners are the young boys who gain self-esteem, dignity, and hope by participating in the program. They learn tools that help them succeed outside of the boxing ring – keeping them off the streets and allowing them to build better futures.

The businessman can still be found on the training compound. Each day he shows up and watches over the boys, monitoring their form and checking in on their progress at school. They call him the Godfather of Boxing around here – but some might just call him a hero.

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66 responses to “Finding Hope In a Boxing Ring

    • Thank you Jeanne! Such a beautiful, moving place deserves more of a spotlight. I just tried giving it some justice. And yep, he’s related!

    • I know, right? You would have loved it there. The kids were adorable and you could tell they were so happy to have a place like that. Thanks for reading!

    • Same here. Boxing isn’t usually my cup of tea – but I now see what a great outlet it can be for young people. Add in the responsibility and discipline, and it’s an even better training ground.

      • I much preferred my son boxing than playing hockey or soccer (which he still did). There is a doctor constantly at ringside and a referee in step with the boxers at all times. It gave him such discipline and opened opportunities that he will experience for years to come.

    • In amateur boxing there actually isn’t to many head traumas and injuries when compared to other sports. In junior and children sport hockey, soccer, football and basketball all rank well above boxing in injury rates. As mentioned in another comment all the precautions that amateur boxing takes, surprisingly makes it a fairly safe sport.

      • @Camdenstables – actually that’s one thing I failed to mention. The training center has doctors on hand to watch over the boys. And that’s interesting to hear that you prefer this sport over supposedly “safer” ones. I’m glad to see he benefited from personal growth that comes out of boxing. Thanks for reading!

        @Thomas Armstrong – thank you for sharing that info. I’ve always thought this was a dangerous sport and was quite surprised to see children in the ring. Now if only more people could learn what I did!

  1. Wonderful story! We all want “to do something” but not many step up and really do. I hope I get to meet him when I visit.

    • Very true – it takes a special person to step up to that level. I’m sure you will have the chance to meet him – they’re all looking forward to meeting you guys.

  2. My husband is a boxing coach and my son boxed and competed in the Canada Games. Sports can be such a wonderful way to bring out the wonderful in human beings. Thanks for the post.

    • Well thank you for the kudos. I completely agree that sports in general is a great for our youth. Many of us don’t move on to professional sports but we all benefit from the lessons learned in teamwork, responsibility, and more.

    • Thanks! I didn’t know how much this sport could give back – let alone was even good for kids – until I visited the training compound. Thanks for reading!

  3. I hope that those politicians who are so hooked to boxing would follow suit–provide facilities for inspiring boxers–not to sort of make it an investment to profit from would-be boxing superstars but to provide them hope, inspiration and confidence. Thank you for a very nice post.

    • My sentiments exactly. Politicians, especially the ones here, could learn a thing or two from people like this businessman. It’s people like him who are doing the real work of the nation. Thanks for reading and for your feedback!

  4. In a country filled with rotten leaders and politicos, it’s so heartwarming to read about the few and the rare good men. Although I am not really tuned-in with boxing here in the Philippines, I have heard about Antonio L. Aldeguer and how he has invested a fortune (and a lifetime!) in this sports in order to help his kababayans. If we only have more of “Bidoys” in this land we wouldnt be where we are now.

    And Liana, it’s joyous to know you liked it living here. :)

    • Hi Elmer. Small world that you know of Mr. ALA himself. I guess not too much of a surprise given the mark he’s making in the Filipino community. And I agree with your sentiments in that the politicians could learn from him. It’s truly people like him who are doing the real work of the nation. Let’s home some of the youth pick up where he left off and lead this country to a better future.

  5. Hi, Liana. I’m a Filipina based in New Zealand. It always warms my heart to hear good things about the Philippines. Thanks for caring. More power to you. Mabuhay ka.

    • Hello Virginia. Yes, there are plenty of good things happening here in the Philippines, despite some of the news these days. From the culture and people, to the beaches and awesome food, this is truly a beautiful country. Thanks for passing by!

  6. A loud KUDOS for sharing this story, Liana!

    What I learned from the story is that doing something for a greater purpose always yields an unexpected and fulfilling rewards. I believe this is true to any endeavors.

    Love live ALA Boxing and more young souls to rescue.

    PS

    Congratulations!

    • Hi Sony. I share that same philosophy that it’s good to operate with a higher purpose in mind – to not just be thinking about numbers, the bottom line, or your own personal gain. It usually results in everybody winning, which can’t be bad at all. Thanks for reading!

  7. A really inspiring story and a lesson in what can be achieved if we don’t just shrug our shoulders but instead try to make a difference. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I wish I had contributed just a fraction of what the ‘Godfather of Boxing’ has to his community

    • I couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing that some people can give so much of themselves – in the end those are the ones that end up with more than all of us. I’m sure it’s great to see the boys healthily transform into young men. What a gift! Thanks for passing by.

  8. Pingback: Another Mango Mornings Milestone « Mango Mornings·

  9. Thank you for sharing this, its nice to know there is a bit of humanity left in this world. Not tainted with selfishness..
    This is truly inspiring, and wonderfully worded
    Well deserved congratulations on Freshly Pressed :)

    Check mine too?
    Cheers! :D

    • Hi randommango! Glad to see we both love the same tropical fruit.Your blog is so funny – I love your mango cartoon logo. :-) Thanks for passing by and for the kudos – you are right, this boxing gym is ran out of pure selflessness, which is why it’s so inspiring.

  10. What an incredibly positive change to the world! That is exactly what I love to read! A positive change to our world and the people around us. Thank you for sharing this story! Good luck to ALA Gym as well!

    • Hi there – thank you for passing by! I agree that it’s great to hear about local heroes, quietly doing their part. And there are so many around the globe. Glad I had the opportunity to see this one’s work in progress.

  11. A very substantial article! A passion and profession topic that is not to be reckoned with.

    Kudos at Mabuhay. Isa ka na sa mga pilipinong na Freshly Pressed! Apir tayo dito. Weeee!

  12. Pingback: Breaking Through the Expat Bubble | Mango Mornings·

  13. RE: “My sentiments exactly. Politicians, especially the ones here, could learn a thing or two from people like this businessman. ”

    Liana, I almost left your post without reading your story. I don’t watch women’s boxing, but it turns out to be a good Samaritan businessman story instead, so thanks for that.

    I’m sure you must know the story of the biggest thing in the Philippines and in boxing, Manny Pacquiao, who started as one of those street urchins. I do a boxing blog if you need to catch up on his career and involvement with his people as an elected congressman in addition to being the consensus fighter of the decade by every measure. Lately he’s had some set backs, but he’s near retirement and probably running for Prez before the decade is out.

    Don’t let anyone dissuade you, boxing at it’s worst is better than most politics and sports, and at it’s best, it rules supreme.

    Here’s my last article on Manny who has been inactive of late because of setbacks, but scheduled to return in likely a blockbuster bout in Macao, China this September. This article a bit of an ugly topic of drug testing in sports and the workplace, but endemic of what Pacquiao has been going through, so if the truth hurts, and so on…….

    http://roberto00.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/lance-armstrong-vs-the-world-manny-pacquiao-vs-boxing/

  14. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker
    who had been doing a little research on this.
    And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because
    I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this.

    … Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks
    for spending time to talk about this matter here on your website.

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