A class act

There are horror stories about some sports stars. They’re arrogant, aloof, conceited and they give all athletes a bad name. True, they may be talented in the their chosen field of play, but they feel that they deserve the praise that they often get. ¬†Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez, the boxing legend from Stockton, is NOT one of those people. Lopez, whose boxing career spanned the 1970s and ’80s, is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet; a class act.

On Friday, Lopez held a kickoff event for his new boxing gym Yaqui Lopez Fat City Boxing Club in Stockton. Friends and family filled up the facility to give their support. Soft-spoken and humble, Lopez is always quick to smile or playfully jibe with his friends. He greeted each and every one graciously with a sincere handshake and/or a heartfelt hug. Though I’ve photographed him a few times over the years, it’s been a long time since I last saw him. Yet he welcomed me warmly as if he had seen me just the day before.

Most boxing gyms that I’ve seen have been kind of dark and gritty. Not so Lopez’s gym. It was clean, orderly and very well lit. Very welcoming and classy, like the man himself. Ever mindful of his past, he pays tribute to the influential people in his life, family and trainers with a memorial in photos on a wall of the gym.

Lopez has been described as boxing’s greatest uncrowned champion. He had five light-heavyweight title fights, losing all. But he fought with such heart and courage and won the respect of his opponents and boxing fans alike.

Lopez plans to help at-risk youths learn the sweet science and get them off the streets at his new gym. The crowd that showed up to Lopez’s event, (which also included, Superior court judge Anthony Lucaccini, county supervisor Carlos Villapudua and Fat City author Leonard Gardner as well as friends and family) came not just to support the boxer that he was but more the class act that he is.

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