It’s been a long and challenging path, but Hollister’s Bulldog Boxing Gym recently celebrated its grand opening at a new location on McCray Street.
Owner Zeke Lopez said after the nonprofit boxing gym had to leave its previous address more than a year ago, he stayed committed to finding a new spot out of a desire to serve the youth who train with him and his staff. Although it has been stressful, Lopez said attaining the Feb. 11 reopening of Bulldog Boxing Gym was a group effort aided by generous donations of money, time and influence.
“I thank everybody in this community who helped put this together,” Lopez said. “It takes a whole community to raise one kid. I think the community came together on this project and made it successful. There are still people out there who want to see kids succeed.”
Bulldog Boxing’s new location is at 640 McCray Street in Hollister, behind the Animation Dance Community studio. The new building is “bigger and nicer” than the gym’s old facility at the corner of McCray and Gibbs streets. But with more than 30 members training at Bulldog on a regular basis—and interest continually growing—Lopez quipped they “probably need a bigger facility” already.
At the Feb. 11 grand opening, city officials and community members joined Lopez for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Lopez set up an outdoor boxing ring at the property, where Bulldog Boxing members had exhibition sparring matches with boxers from gyms in neighboring towns.
“Our kids got to show their talent and they did absolutely beautiful,” Lopez said.
The grand opening festivities also featured Native American dance performances, raffles, giveaways and food. Despite a brief rainstorm, Lopez said the festivities were enjoyed and the gym received a warm welcome at its new digs.
Bulldog Boxing, a mainstay in Hollister, operated at its previous location for 27 years. The property was owned by the City of Hollister, which needed the site to accommodate stormwater runoff facilities for the newly expanded Hollister Farms Shopping Center. Bulldog Boxing was thus forced to leave its longtime home in June 2021.
After that, and while operating out of a smaller, temporary location for several months, Lopez—with inspiration from the young boxers he and his coaching staff had been training—remained determined to reopen at a new spot. Bulldog Boxing held fundraisers and was able to keep community interest alive with the help of vocal supporters—including some city council members.
Grants from the city and the San Benito Community Foundation helped out as well, Lopez said. Much of the construction work at the new site—including electrical, concrete and sheetrock—was donated.
Bulldog Boxing Gym primarily serves young members age 7 and up. Lopez is the gym’s head coach, training the young boxers both in groups and one-on-one with his assistant coach. Some of the older members help train the younger kids, Lopez added.
Many of Lopez’s former students, now adults, think of Lopez as a mentor who has helped them become better people in all aspects of life—promoting values and discipline that they now encourage in their kids.
But Lopez said that inspiration goes both ways, as it was his young students who kept his spirits up during the stressful, months-long search for a new permanent home for Bulldog Boxing.
“There were so many mixed emotions from these kids that I had to endure with them,” Lopez said. “I said I’m not going to quit. I told the kids, ‘Are we quitters? No.’ And in the times I wanted to quit, they pushed me.”
Lopez—an experienced boxer, coach and trainer—started Bulldog Boxing Gym by taking in low-income and vulnerable kids for lessons on his own time in the late 1990s. It’s safe to say his passion for helping youngsters who don’t have access to an abundance of opportunities has only grown since then.
“We have a lot of kids not knowing what they want in life because it seems like nobody cares. I have always tried to do things for kids,” Lopez said. “I grew up in this community and I would hate for any kids to grow up like I did. That’s why I do what I do.”