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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — His boxing club is more about lives and less about sports
Before anyone asks whatever happened to Danny Romero, just know the former world champion’s Hideout Boxing Club is a happening place.
On a recent evening at his North Valley gym, Romero, his father, Danny Sr., and their assistants were putting perhaps 40 kids through a training regimen similar to the one that helped make Albuquerque’s hard-punching “Kid Dynamite” a champion.
Danny, Romero’s 3-year-old son with his girlfriend, Michelle Alves, has the run of the place. Danimarie, his 18-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, helps out at the gym.
Romero, 38 and not at all contemplating a comeback, says almost 200 kids are signed up for his program.
“If everyone showed up at the same time, we’d need a bigger gym,” he says. “It’s crazy. This thing has really taken off.”
Hideout these days is a boxing gym, Romero says, that isn’t really about boxing. It’s not about finding the next Danny Romero or Johnny Tapia.
“We’re focusing on their lives,” he says.
OK, that’s what Danny Romero is doing. But what became of Kid Dynamite?
After his last fight in 2006, Romero got into the training/managerial/promotional side of the sport he loved. While not the headline machine he’d been as a fighter, he was no stranger to television and the newspapers.
He took fighters to Montreal, Puerto Rico, Knoxville, Tenn., and Tunica, Miss.
He promoted or co-promoted cards at Sky City, Santa Ana Star and Isleta casinos.
Eventually, though, Romero and his professional fighters parted ways. His last scheduled promotion, in January 2011, was canceled due to slow ticket sales.
Since then, Romero has barely been heard from – surfacing only to be quoted in sad reaction to the death last year of Johnny Tapia, his friend turned nemesis turned friend.
His absence from the spotlight, he says, was largely by design. Working with the pros was not bringing him the post-career satisfaction he sought.
He will always love boxing, he says. To managing or promoting again, he won’t say never. He continues to work occasionally with MMA fighters such as Carlos Condit and Heather Clark to help them with their striking.
But, he says, bored with the trappings of professional boxing and weary of the politics, he prefers the kids.
“I wanted to get away from the Danny Romero stuff,” he says.
Hideout – founded by Romero Sr. about 25 years ago after the Police Athletic League shut down its boxing program – has had more than a half-dozen North Valley locations. About three years ago, Danny Jr. found himself looking for yet another site.
Romero talked to some people he knew in city administration. They connected him with Chris Baca, president and CEO of Youth Development Inc., an Albuquerque nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk kids.
Yes, said Baca, who had known Romero casually for years. There was some space available in YDI’s building on 4th Street. And Baca was comfortable with the sport; YDI had sponsored some youth boxing events in the past.
But if YDI was to have a boxing gym as a tenant, Baca said, his organization’s mission would need to benefit.
“What I worked out with (Romero),” Baca says, “is an opportunity for some of our kids that needed that kind of constructive physical outlet to train in his boxing club.
“And vice versa, if he had any kids in his boxing club that needed intervention or clinical therapy … he could refer them to us. I told him, ‘Let’s do something a little creative here.’ ”
The joint venture, Baca says, did not blossom overnight.
“It took (Romero) a while to understand that some of the angry kids weren’t angry for the heck of it, that they had a lot of issues going on in their personal lives,” he says. “… He’s picked up on it; it’s working now. It took a while to click, but now it’s happening.”
Romero made good money during his 14-year career, and he had advisers who helped him invest wisely. Kids 18 and under participate at Hideout free of charge. He does seek sponsors to help with equipment repair and replacement, etc.
His payment, he says, comes from stories such as the following:
“One of the girls wasn’t doing too well in school,” he says. “… I told her, ‘Look how you focus on the (punching) bag for three minutes. Why don’t you (concentrate like) that in school?’
“Then she brought us her report card, a 3.0 (GPA). Right away, I was like, ‘It’s working.’ That has intrigued me, big time.”
The Romero training regimen is rough, he says, and he pulls no figurative punches. But most of the kids have responded with enthusiasm.
“We work with special-needs (kids), too,” he says. “… They’re happy all day long, and they’ll do anything, and they’ll work hard. It’s good for the other kids to see that, too.”
Some of his Hideout kids, Romero says, have displayed talent for the ring. If they want to pursue the sport, he’s fine with that and will help. If they don’t, that’s fine, as well.
“It’s something much more than boxing,” he says, sitting in his office gesturing toward the gym proper. “… This right here is the gratification that I wanted to feel.”