This article first appeared in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico
Bryce Courtenay’s best-selling novel The Power of One is a riveting coming-of-age tale about a boy in South Africa who transforms his life through boxing. Speaking about the book years later, Mr. Courtenay said that people generally misconstrued the meaning of the book’s title, thinking it referred to an individual discovering substantial inner strength, when in fact “…the title comes from and is about the power of one teacher. It is about how one teacher can lift a child out of an…environment and allow him or her… to change their life.”
And we can see that power on full display on any given night in the auditorio of Todos Santos when Mexican boxing champ Ramiro Reducindo Radilla comes to town to train the local kids. Ramiro won the gold medal at the Pan American games in Santo Domingo in 2003, represented Mexico at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and turned pro in 2005. When he started coaching the kids in Todos Santos not one of them had ever been in a boxing ring before. Yet now, not even 18 months later, two of his students have progressed all the way to the national championships. The power of one indeed. Says 17-year old contender Carlos Orozco, “I’d never been an athlete – let alone a boxer – before November 2011 when a friend brought me to a practice session with Ramiro. It never occurred to me then that I would make it this far, and certainly not this fast. It’s been amazing.” Fellow contender 17-year-old Cuahtemoc Aviles agrees. “I’d never boxed before I met Ramiro last year. I had very little discipline, ate a lot of junk food, I just wasn’t in good shape. Now we’ve been winning matches with kids who have several more years of experience than us. Ramiro has really changed everything for us.”
Says Ramiro, “These kids didn’t have much in the way of skill or discipline when I first started working with them, but I believed in them from the very beginning because they always had heart. When we first started we had hardly any equipment but the kids showed up anyway. Many times my car would break down on the drive from La Paz and the kids would wait for me for two to three hours, then still do a full training session starting at nine or ten o’clock at night. I’ve never doubted that these kids are champions and I fully expect to see at least one become successful on the global boxing stage.” Ramiro is so committed to helping the Todos Santos boxing students realize their potential that he coaches them at least twice a week for nothing more than a little gas money.
And with wages like that the support of the local community is critical. When Ramiro’s car engine gave up the ghost just a few weeks before the national championships, neighbors pitched right in to help get it replaced. “Engine Angels” included Michael & Pat Cope at Galeria de Todos Santos, John Stoltzfus & Todd Schaefer at the Todos Santos Inn, Ezio & Paula Colombo at Café Santa Fe, Mario Becerril at Mario Surf School, Sergio Rivera at La Casita Tapas & Wine Bar, Richard Rutowski at AmeriMex, Norm Weill – Volunteer at Large, and our own Baja Surf Camp for Women graduate, Diane Arstein!
And the community hasn’t been there just as a stop-gap in times of emergency. As Ramiro is eager to point out, it’s been contributing time, money and equipment all along. Moises Barraza Morales, the General Manager of Bodega Lizarraga, got the ball rolling by donating the initial equipment and practice area. When executives from Caracol and Quaker State read the first JDP article about Todos Santos Box they immediately made much-needed cash donations. When Betsy Wall, the mother of Todos Santos resident Janine Wall learned that the kids had only one red and one blue outfit to share among the whole team at competitions, she stuffed her suitcase full of blue and red t-shirts and shorts and brought them to town with her. When Todos Santos residents Cheri Myers and Steve Stockton learned that there were just a couple of sets of gloves and head gear to share among the more than 40 kids who show up to most practices, they donated the resources to get enough protective gear for all the kids. When Adolfo Blanco of the Hotel California saw all the amazing work that coaching volunteers like Mauricio Duran, Arturo Millan and Hector Alberto Agundez Martinez “El Pampa” were doing, he was inspired to donate sharp-looking warm-up suits for the coaches and students to wear to competitions. Todos Santos visitor Doug Newcomb was inspired by the inclusive nature of the program. “I wanted to support Todos Santos Box since they allowed my son Phineas to train with them while we were in town. Even though they knew he wouldn’t be there for more than a month or so, they treated him like part of the club and made him feel included. And the best part was he came home so stoked! If Ramiro can make it all the way from La Paz several times a week, the least I can do is help out by bringing equipment from the US.”
“First with your head and then with your heart” is the life-changing advice dispensed by the boxing champ to an eager young student in The Power of One. The Todos Santos boxing students started out with only heart, but under Ramiro’s coaching they’ve acquired the skills and discipline to lead with their heads. As for the Todos Santos community, they’ve made the well-reasoned decision to support this program with plenty of heart.