Longtime boxing program that provides kids an outlet at risk of closing

Unforeseen financial issues has Advocates Youth Program against the ropes

SAN ANTONIO – A boxing gym that has provided at-risk youths on the West Side a safe space to hang out since 1999 is against the ropes due to unforeseen financial issues.

“We’re still trying to work with kids, but we need help, we need financial help, what we want is a building to train out of,” said Jason Mata, executive director of the Advocates Youth Program.

Mata said fires in 2019 and 2020, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, have put the organization in a tight financial spot.

He said the organization could no longer afford its original location, so his team had to get creative to withstand the hits and stay afloat. They started renting time at a Southside gym, created a mobile boxing gym out of a trailer and started sharing classes on YouTube.

“It’s an outlet for kids,” Mata said. “These kids liked to get involved with stuff, a lot of kids like to fight, and there’s a lot of interest in boxing, especially from the Latino community, so we need to answer that call.”

The program teaches discipline through sport; it’s how Mata hopes to keep at-risk youth on the right track.

Christopher Churbe, 24, has worked out with Mata for nine years. Churbe said the program has given his life stability.

“Some of my family members are involved in gang violence, honestly, yeah, if I didn’t have boxing… and all the role models that were before my coach, they were not showing me no good,” Churbe said.

Those involved in the program, like Nathaniel Buchanon, say having a permanent home would make a big difference.

“I’m not so lazy anymore; [I’m] wanting to do more,” Buchanon said. “[Mata] is teaching them to do something better and stay out of all that gang stuff and bad stuff.”

December will be the last month the program rents time at their Southside gym, although online and mobile classes will continue.

Mata said he is looking to the city and county for additional resources while he looks for a new gym.

About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.