ROCKINGHAM — Mario Olivera Jr. and the Dungeon Boxing Club have came a long way.
From training in a basement to now having his own gym, Olivera is proud of the club’s growth and the effect it has had in the community. And he showed his appreciation Wednesday evening by presenting awards to a number of students and coaches following the night’s training session.
A total of eight awards were given out, six certificates to fighters who have been training at the gym and two plaques to coaches Rick Brown (12 years) and Eric Clark (four years) for their diligent work throughout the recent years.
“It’s very special and it drives the kids. I just want to show them that their dedication is appreciated,” Olivera said. “And all of our coaches are volunteers. Nobody here gets paid, so it just means so much to me.”
The Dungeon, which is located on 204 Ellerbe Road, is home to a handful of Golden Glove, toughman and state champions, including Olympic hopeful in Jamell Brown, who is currently training for the big event out of state.
Three fighters who have won championships — Jeremy Bethea, Da’Hyde Goodwin and Brent “Sweet P” Steen — were all in the gym Wednesday. To end their respective training exercises, they all took turns jumping in the ring to lightly spar with three younger female students — giving the latter the opportunity to work on different combinations while also learning from a few proven fighters.
Anna Paige Rivers, one of the younger trainees, sparred with Steen before leaving the gym. She makes the trip from Pembroke three days out of the week.
“It’s worth the drive and the hard work — and dealing with you,” Rivers said while laughing and pointing at Olivera.
Another coach who’s heavily involved with the training at the Dungeon is Louis Diaz, nephew of the man in charge. Witnessing the kind of determination from students like Rivers keeps Diaz going whenever he may feel like taking a day off.
“Seeing all of the kids that’s he’s touched over the years actually motivates me to continue this journey. It makes me want to do it every day, even when I’m tired,” Diaz said. “My uncle’s real strict — but at the same time, he’s very fair. I’m proud of him.”
The Dungeon, which is certified through USA Boxing, is welcome to everyone but has rules that students must abide by. It understands the importance of education and coaches will suspend trainees who are slacking with their grades.
Yes, boxing is taught at the gym, but Olivera takes pride in helping the kids keep their lives on the right track.
“We are Richmond County’s hometown boxing club,” he said. “We strive to help the kids and keep them away from the bad…and it’s a very special thing.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Dungeon Boxing Club’s head trainer Mario Olivera Jr., left, speaks to the crowd Wednesday evening as Eric Clark, background, and Anthony Adan Chavez looks on. Clark and Chavez received a plaque and a certificate, respectively, for their dedication to the gym.