SAN ANTONIO – Jesse James Leija--his name is forever tied to the boxing world, but in San Antonio his gloves switch to pads and his wins are knocking out fitness goals for his gym members.
“Boxing gives so many people so many things to look forward to fight for,” San Antonio Boxing Hall of Famer Jesse James Leija said .”It’s life, we have bad days, we got to fight and that’s why I love it.”
The two-time boxing world champion retired in 2005 and opened his first boxing gym in 2006. In 2020 they opened an 8,000 square feet facility near broadway and Loop 410.
“I want to do something to honor my sport. I want to do something to honor the city of San Antonio, I said let me give them what boxing gave me and give (it) to the average person,” Leija said.
Leija tells us people “appreciate what the sport does for them.” Many clients are shedding 50 to 100 pounds through boxing workouts. The coaches include Dean and James Leija, Jesse’s sons.
“It’s us three and I know it’s not common and for us to be able to wake up every morning and say ‘hey I’ll see you in the morning,” Dean Leija said.
James, the eldest son, is planning to keep innovating and growing the Leija brand.
“We’ve inherited a name. We’ve inherited a big responsibility to take it to the next level where we want to take it,” James Leija said.
The roots go back to the patriarch of family, Jesse’s father, Jesse S. Leija.
“I saw it in his eyes, I saw it in his tears, I saw it in his embraces,” Jesse James said. “And when he passed, I was holding his hand and he looked at me like ‘thank you’ for the life that I gave him as well. We traveled the world together and he was with me every step of the way.”
The legacy continues with Leija Boxing & Fitness. The gym continues to grow clients and the community remains connected through the sport.
“Seeing the people’s success here at the gym, those are my wins now,” Leija said.