COLLEGE PLACE - Earlier this month, for what was said to be the first time in more than 25 years, boxing fans in Walla Walla could experience the excitement of a live boxing event. The doors of Sager Middle School in College Place opened at noon and in a few minutes the gym started getting crowded with fans, family and friends of the boxers.
"Battle in the Valley" was organized by ZAP Boxing Club in association with USA Amateur Boxing. Twenty-eight amateur boxers from all over the Northwest faced each other in 14 fights during the one-day tournament. The main factors for pairing the opponents were age, from 9 to 28 years old, and mass, from 70 to 215 pounds.
"This has been a dream of mine for a long time," said Ramon Zamora, Jr., founder of ZAP Boxing and organizer of the boxing tournament. "The last amateur fighting tournament I remember was back when I was in high-school."
The fighters from ZAP won in all six fights against other clubs.
"It's for all these enthusiasts who train kids in garages and backyards. All that counts is the change in one man's life. Even if just one of the kids keeps on going, that's a great satisfaction," Zamora said at the opening of the first fight.
"It's a unique feeling," said Abbey Van Donge from ZAP, who won her first boxing match ever against Brandy Roberts from Contenders Boxing Club in Kennewick. "I'm so ready to go up there again right now."
Former World Heavyweight Champion Joe "The Boss" Hipp was one of the special guests. He was the first American Indian to fight for the World Boxing Association championship, in 1995.
ZAP Boxing Club has been attracting more and more boxing aficionados in Walla Walla. It began about 10 years ago, when Zamora started training his nephew in the garage of his College Place home.
"His friends started joining for the trainings, then some other kids, until there was simply no more space. I had to expand the garage," said Zamora.
Two and a half years ago, ZAP Boxing Club settled in the spacious vintage red barn at 11th Avenue and Alder Street. Since then, Zamora and all the other enthusiasts from ZAP have been reviving the love for boxing.
For Zamora, boxing is a great way to keep kids out of gangs.
"The sense of community here in ZAP is very important for everybody," Zamora said. "Any kid can come and talk to me about anything."
Dena Popova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.