Outside the Ring: Abelardo Beas

By Jill Diamond on January 19, 2017
Outside the Ring: Abelardo Beas
“I call myself the Silver Fox due to my grey hair and age.” (Abraham Jiménez/Hoy)

There’s been enough been said about what’s wrong with the sport. So, let’s take a ringside seat and celebrate someone who represents what’s right…

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

There are many who think boxing isn’t a sport young people should participate in. They can quote statistics, talk injuries, decry its violence. Have they ever been to a gym and watched competent trainers with their teams? I doubt it. Just like I’d be surprised if many of the people criticizing the sport have ever laced up a glove.

When I had the privilege to take part in 2Nations1Dream, a project involving young athletes from Mexico and the USA, I met one such trainer, Abelardo Beas, who exemplifies the standards one would hope for in someone working with adolescents and teens. To many of his kids the gym is the only constant in their lives. It’s their home. And he, a father figure or big brother.

Community, structure, discipline, respect—that’s what I observed watching Abelardo work with the youth in his care. And his passion was only outweighed by his compassion. Very few of the youngsters he schooled wanted to grow up to be pro fighters. It didn’t matter; because whatever they do in life, the lessons are learned here, at gyms like Oakley Fight Club and with trainers like Abelardo.

There’s been enough been said about what’s wrong with the sport. So, let’s take a ringside seat and celebrate someone who represents what’s right.

Tell me about your background.

My real name is Abelardo Beas, named after my father.  But EVERYBODY calls me Lalo, as they did my dad. Not many people know my real name, most people think Lalo is my real name. HA! I’m of Mexican decent but a PROUD American and a PROUD Chicago South Sider… Born and raised. Actually, I went into the seminary for high school and then on to seminary college. Realized it wasn’t for me and went to work at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I worked there for 20 years before getting laid off in 2015… Opened up a boxing gym with a partner, Carlos Castaneda, called Oakley Fight Club in Chicago. I actually started boxing late, about 20 years old but always followed the sport since I was a little boy. 

What led you into the ring?

I was always an athletic kid. I ran cross country, track and wrestled. I wanted to stay active. I heard my cousin, Michael Quiroz, had a boxing club in the local YMCA and he was running it by himself, no help. I wandered in one day and volunteered my time, I wasn’t doing much of anything after work except watch Simpson reruns, so why not? It was a small gym. A few neighborhood kids. He did the training and coaching and I did the odds and ends. Whatever he needed. (Clean up the space, pick kids up that needed rides, haul equipment, make sure the kids weren’t screwing around when he wasn’t looking, etc…) One day, my cousin asked me to work with one of the boxers, just throwing jabs, I said sure… I had never jabbed at anyone before… Well, turns out I was pretty quick, and kept hitting the guy. My cousin took notice and started training me. Well, he threw me into the Chicago Golden Gloves and I ended up taking 2nd place. I was HOOKED! And never looked back. I love this sport now, it’s my passion.

Life away from boxing?

I don’t have much time away from boxing… But when I’m away, I really enjoy NAPPING! HA! I can be a bit of a nerd, I like to play World of Warcraft. It’s a super nerdy online video game. My friends make so much fun out of me for playing! HAHA! I enjoy listening to all kinds of obscure music, all genres. When I find the time, I enjoy dancing. Even if I don’t have a partner, I’ll just dance if the music is good. Again, I said I was a bit of a nerd.

How did it feel when you won the Golden Gloves?

It was the BEST feeling to win the Golden Gloves! My whole family was there. And a good friend of mine, Gino Rodriguez, was also the ref. I felt like king of the world! 

What was your fighting name?

I never had a fighting nickname… I mess with the kids now when I spar them and I call myself the Silver Fox due to my grey hair and age. HA! 

Why did you decide not to turn pro?

I kind of regret not turning pro. I think I could have been good. But at the time, I was working two jobs and didn’t have the time to train properly. I wasn’t going to pursue a pro career if I couldn’t give it 110%. 

Is there a difference between training amateurs and pros?

Yes, there is a difference training pros and amateurs. The similarities between the two is that boxing is a lifestyle not just a sport. But the difference between the two is the training style, how I work with them. With the amateurs, I work on long combinations, punches in bunches, score points and get out. With my pros, I work power, heavy shots, not long combinations. Punch to do maximize the damage and move, take an angle and hit with another hard shot. 

How did you become involved with 2N1D?

Celestino Ruiz, chief referee in Chicago, reached out to me and gave me a quick overview of the program. He had mentioned that the WBC wanted to scout my gym, Oakley Fight Club. I was flattered that I was going to be checked out. I met with the Mauricio Sulaiman and his staff along with the Illinois Boxing Commission. They had a conversation with me while I gave them a tour of the facility. They mentioned they were going to check out other gyms in Chicago… A few days later, I got a call from Joel Campuzano informing me that my gym had been chosen and that I had also been chosen to be the head coach for the program. It was a tremendous honor!

Tell me about the program.

This is an AMAZING program! First off, let me tell you, the Illinois Boxing Commission has been stellar to work with. They go out of their way for these kids. They bring in a doctor regularly, they make sure the kids get a snack bag and drinks EVERY practice, they are consistently at every practice encouraging the kids.  My hat off to Joel Campuzano, Celestino Ruiz, Derrick Ruiz and Leo Campuzano. 

Now for the kids… I can’t say enough about all of them. They all come from different gyms from all over the Chicago-land area. City and suburbs. It takes some of them almost two hours to get here and they come. Never miss a day. 

Talk about DEDICATION! And once they are here, they ALL give 110%. Nothing but hard work. They all started off as individuals, now they are a team. They will be fighting as a team on December 3rd against other local boxers. They will showcase their skill in front of a large audience. Some of them will be chosen to then go on to box in a show in Mexico. They are all vying for those spots. And I can’t possibly do all this training by myself, I have to credit so much of this with Fermin Ayala. He is the other half of this coaching team. Together, we’ve built a very strong group of boxers.

Why isn’t this being done elsewhere?

That’s a great question. I really don’t know! I think it was the forward thinking of the WBC to put something like this together. It’s a phenomenal idea! This could be the start of something BIG! I’m so excited to be a part of it!

Now that the program is over, was it worth it? 

It was FULLY worth it! To be honest, I miss the kids. Each had such an engaging personality. I did develop an attachment to all of them. This program brought a bunch of area youth boxers together, advanced and beginners, and they became a team. A solid team.  They all worked with each other, respected each other and cheered each other on. Whether they won or lost, they always showed support. Above all, they made friends for life.

Do you think it will be back?

I hope it will be back! Ha! It was a positive thing in Chicago where there is so much violence and aggression. These kids saw through all that, made their way through all that and accomplished something great. It would be phenomenal if it could be expanded to other cities. We could compete against other teams and put together a team that could maybe take on a team from another country. This could be a big thing! 

If it doesn’t come back, I’d like to use this as a template and start a program similar to this at my gym. Kids would definitely benefit from something like this.

Tell me about the kids on the day of the tournament. How did it feel to see the result of all your work in the ring? Was it worth it?

On fight night, the kids were amped up. They knew they were ready, more excited than nervous. They wanted to showcase their enhanced skills in front of a large audience. And show those skills they did! We won 14 out of 18 fights that night! I was so proud of ALL the kids that competed. Our kids, the opponents… You can’t have a great fight without a tough opponent. Even the kids from the program that lost, showed tremendous heart and never stopped trying. That was the result of the work, the hard work, we ALL put into this. We have so much passion for this and that’s exactly what you need. Passion. For the sport, for the kids, for the future. It was totally worth it. I wouldn’t think twice to do something like this again. It was an honor to be involved.

What is the best thing to come out of it?

Honestly, I feel that the best thing to come out of this was the ENHANCEMENT of our local boxers. They all got better. Also, they all became friends. I see the difference on how they interacted with each other when they started to now. They are very close. They even go to each other’s fights and cheer them on! It’s heartwarming!

What is the most inspirational part of your work?

Taking a green boxer and turning him into a champion. Taking a kid that no one wanted to work with and give him attention. Even if he doesn’t become a champ. He will always remember there was a person out there that gave him time. I remember older guys who paid attention to me growing up when they didn’t have to and it meant the WORLD to me. I going to pay it forward and do it here.

Who were your role models growing up?

My mom! My dad! The few older neighborhood guys that showed me there was more to gangs in the ‘hood. I try to emulate them now that I’m an adult.

Any awards/honors?

I’ve won the Chicago Golden Gloves, the Illinois State Tournament and the Ringside World Tournament. 

Who has come to speak to your boxers?

Carlos Cuadras, Erik Morales, Fres Oquendo, David Diaz, Montell Griffin, Robert Renteria (author).

Any stars on the horizon?

I would say my standouts in the program are Vivian Gutierrez, Felix Gonzalez and Ezekiel Huaracha. Those kids are going to be something special in the sport. 

You’ve put a lot of time into this. What do you hope will come out of it?

My biggest hope to come out of this is the betterment of the sport. I just want the sport to grow… I want more people to be aware of it and participate or attend events. I want the kids to get better. I want these kids to have memories of this experience that will last a lifetime. I’ve become a better coach because of this. I’ve grown so much as a coach, I’m truly grateful.

What is your dream?

My dream is for me and my partner, Carlos Castaneda, to run BEST boxing gym in Chicago! HA! We want Oakley Fight Club to become the Mecca of boxing gyms in Chicago! We’re working hard at achieving that dream…

What is success to you?

Hmmmm…........ This could be an essay question! HA! OK… To me, my success would be measured by my attainment of peace, happiness, real joy. My success isn’t measured in wealth or fame, it’s measured in my stability, my peace of mind. To sit back, finally relax and watch the good things I’ve done pay off and say… “Ahhhhh… Success…”

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Outside the Ring: Lonnie and Muhammad Ali
Outside the Ring: Bruce Silverglade
Outside the Ring: Mauricio Sulaiman
Outside the Ring: Luke Downdey
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Outside the Ring: Barry Halbritter
Outside the Ring: Chicago Youth Boxing Club
Outside the Ring: Robert Guerrero
Outside the Ring: Mike Tyson
Outside the Ring: Teresa Tapia
Outside the Ring: Israel Vasquez
Outside the Ring: Holt McCallany
Outside the Ring: Monique Sciberras
Outside the Ring: Joe Dwyer
Outside the Ring: Dr. Nitin Sethi
Outside the Ring: Richard Steele
Outside the Ring: Boyd Melson
Outside the Ring: Elena Cox
Outside the Ring: Blanca Gutierrez
Outside the Ring: Dr. Meeryo Choe
Outside the Ring: Daniel “El Chapulin” Valdivia
Outside the Ring: Monica Sears
Outside the Ring: Mercedes Vázquez
Outside the Ring: 2Nations1Dream
Outside the Ring: Christy Martin
Outside the Ring: Abelardo Beas

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  1. Bill Angresano 07:16am, 01/23/2017

        THANK YOU Jill , Great article a great series!!

  2. Ted Sares 12:33pm, 01/19/2017

    Jill always does a great job with these. Love them.

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