NOGALES, Ariz. — The tapping of shoes and the thudding of gloves meeting heavy bags echoed all around, while the zing of a whistle signified that trainers were certainly working their charges hard.
Beads of sweat were also dripping off the brows of the first of about 30 athletes to enroll at the Rage Boxing & Fitness Club on a Thursday, which recently opened its doors in Nogales on Grand Avenue.
And while most boxing gyms in the area have come and gone over the years, owners Francisco Landeros Sr. and Jr. have so far made the steps to make sure this one is here for good.
They also have the attitude to ensure it.
"Service, service, service," Landeros Jr. said, explaining what his priorities are for the newfound business.
That, after all, seems to be why the other gyms in the area have failed ... trainers, not businessmen, ran them.
"A lot of people come in and they say, 'Well, hey, I know how to box and you know how to box, let's open a gym,'" Landeros Jr. said, "but then they don't understand that there's a money aspect and a business side to all that needs to be accounted for and paid attention to."
However, with the Landeroses at the helm and three experienced trainers at their side, Rage Boxing and Fitness Club now seems to be a logical substitute for the ailing Western Boxing Club that it now replaces. In fact, it's because of Western's failing financial status that the Landeroses opened the new gym. It's also why Western's lead trainer, Rene Jimenez, is now on board.
The new facility also now touts trainer Noe Lopez Sr., whose son, Noe "El Chamaco" Lopez Jr., has a 7-10 with 4 KOs record as a professional fighting out of Nogales, Sonora. The southpaw featherweight also had a decorated amateur career.
Lopez Sr. has also trained Oscar Valdez Jr., a Nogales, Ariz.-native and former Olympian, who also won the 125-pound gold medal in the 2009 World Cup for Team Mexico and plans to participate in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Lopez came to Rage after taking a three-year break from training, but has been in the business 22 years, leading the corners of countless talent.
"Wherever there's boxing, you're going to find Noe Lopez," he said through a translator. "It's very possible (to have top-notch fighters come out of here). It's just going to take a lot of hard work and talent. My promise here is to produce a boxer.
"But I don't classify myself as a good trainer," he added. "I think that the boxers are the ones that make me look good."
Rage, though, is not only about competitive boxing. It is also designed to fulfill the workout needs of the average person.
"We also want to provide a place to people (who) aren't necessarily into wanting to box — a place to get a good workout," Landeros Jr. said. "What we're trying to do is say, 'Look, we're going to give you the best we can give you, but we've got to have the people. We've taken the step. We would like to see the community take the step, if they're interested. We're opening the door to see what's on the other side.
"We're not asking for people to give us money," he added. "We're asking them to say, 'Hey, if your kid has nothing to do, then maybe they might enjoy this; give it a shot and bring them in.'"
To entice parents and others to just do that, Rage Boxing & Fitness Club is now offering a two-day free trial of the place for a limited time.
And for those that see boxing as too violent for adults, let alone kids, "I would like somebody to come in and see for themselves before they form an opinion," Landeros Jr. said, "and actually understand what it is that the person is doing, because the violence part of it is not all of it. When somebody comes in here and sees the amount of discipline that goes into it and what that person has to do, the last thing on those peoples' minds are barbarian. It's strategy, it mental, it's like playing a game of chess. How can I win?"
Regardless of what patrons choose to do at Rage, the Landeroses have invested more than $10,000 in the place so far.
"We're not looking to get rich off of the deal right now, or I don't know if we ever will, but we're trying to go first class with everything, from the bags to the trainers," Landeros Jr. said.
"I hate to see the kids on the street, playing or whatever, I would rather them be here for the discipline of it," added his father. "For my part of this, discipline is my number one thing. I made that little banner because I totally believe it."
The banner Landeros Sr. refers to hangs on a wall near the ring and reads: "Discipline, Dedication, Respect (equals) Character."
"If nothing else, that's what they're going to get out of it," he said.
The Landeroses hope to hold a grand opening tournament in October, although nothing is set in stone yet.
"By then hopefully we'll see what kind of interest there is," Landeros Sr. said. "We need to start planning with other gyms (in Sonora, Tucson and Phoenix)."
Information from: Nogales International, http://www.nogalesinternational.com/