CLEVELAND (WJW) – Boxing is considered a dying sport to many, but not to the fighters and trainers at the Old Angle Police Athletic League (PAL).
The gym is filled with hungry fighters who work three days a week to get better in the squared circle.
Rick Lozada ensures that happens. Lozada is a retired Cleveland police officer, and a former Golden Gloves Champion himself, so he knows what it takes to be great.
“In the sport of boxing, it’s lesson after lesson – just like it’s round after round,” Lozada said.
The Cleveland Division of Police and the City of Cleveland are big sponsors of PAL, donating equipment and providing funds for travel.
“The Police Athletic League are involved in multiple sports, baseball, football, basketball and boxing,” Lozada said. “There’s a lot of volunteers, as you see in this gym, we’re filled. Everyone here is a volunteer, no one gets paid.”
One of Lozada’s top fighters is 32-year-old Medina High School Art Teacher Danielle Cuculic. She’s Cleveland’s three-time defending Golden Gloves champion at 139 lbs.
“It has been a huge confidence builder in myself,” Cuculic said. “It has made me a role model for my students. When they talk about doing different tournaments and competitions and different things I can totally relate, because I’m still doing them myself.”
She’s already advanced to Nationals in Philadelphia later this year.
“This season, I want to win Nationals,” she said. “It’s been like each year, kind of a progression in those goals for myself, along with being an educator.”
32 fighters from across our region are slated to compete at the Golden Gloves Finals on Saturday, April 1. One boxer is fighting for the first time.
Bay High School Senior Kal Weaver is motivated to show he has what it takes to be successful in boxing.
“I just want to really prove to myself that I can get in the ring and put in the work to give people a show,” Weaver said.
The 18-year-old’s first career fight will be for a Golden Gloves Championship at 189 lbs, so the pressure is on, but he’s grateful for the opportunity and guidance from his trainers to get there.
“I wish we could show them a way to show them as much appreciation as they show us,” he said. “They spend a lot of time with us every day, helping us with our technique and everything.”
Even though the PAL trainers are unpaid, they say it’s worth it, especially when they see their fighter’s hands raised in the ring.
“I just enjoy what I do, helping out PAL, volunteering to give something back to the community,” Lozada said.
The Finals will be at Public Hall on Saturday, doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the first bell is at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 at the door and kids 12 and under get in free.