I first met Nick Arce nearly ten years ago when he was an unassuming nine-year-old boy with way too much energy.
He was the younger brother of a friend of mine who we’d pick up before going to play Madden after getting out of school early.
Nick would bug my friend to get a laugh and it’s a habit that he hasn’t gotten rid of yet.
Although he has calmed down a bit, one can find him joking around at the gym or giving helpful pointers to the younger members.
A week ago, this kid turned 18 years old, and has spent the better part of the last six years training with the Saucedo Brothers at the Westside Boxing Club in Los Angeles, CA.
When I first arrived there, in the Fall of 2009, Nick had already been training there for a year, racking up around 10 amateur bouts and already getting a reputation for being a quick-handed boxer.
He was also becoming known as a very tough kid.
I remember seeing him have the courage to spar with an 18-year-old friend of mine, Richard, who, although a beginner in boxing, was about 5-foot-eight and over 170 pounds.
Needless to say, he was too big and too strong for Nick, but the confidence of his trainers showed he had nothing to worry about.
Nick danced circles around Richard before finally finding his ground, quickly doing a bit of flashy footwork before blinding Richard with a quick assault of left and right hands.
Richard walked out of the ring amazed at his experience, telling me to give it a try.
I knew that at 17 years old, with a five-year advantage and 10-pounds of fat over him, that I wanted no part of a sparring session with that 12-year-old kid.
That session was just the first of many beatdowns that would occur–both in the gym and in fights–as Nick grew older.
Many a member of the Westside Boxing Club can tell you a story of Nick either sparring or fighting, as his personality in and out of the ring have made him an attraction to local amateur boxing fans.
Within the last six years, I’ve seen Nick grow from a quick little Bantamweight boxer to a full-fledged Super Featherweight boxer-puncher.
I saw him in tough fights at the Junior Olympics, Blue and Gold, and Golden Gloves Tournaments.
I even saw him knockout a southpaw in the first round of the finals at the Desert Showdown tournament in Indio, California two years ago.
I also, however, saw how hard it was for him to get to where he is, evading an inner city lifestyle and finding the discipline to make it to the gym nearly everyday after school.
With nearly 50 amateur fights and the guidance of his two trainers, Jose and Nacho, Nick is ready to turn pro.
His trainers genuinely love and care for him, taking him to their home when they need to and making sure that all decisions about his future are made correctly.
He is, after all, not only their boxer, but a member of the family.
With less than a year before his pro debut, it is already clear that he can one day be a Central American star, as he is from Salvadoran and Honduran descent and his trainers are from Mexico.
In a veritable melting pot of various Hispanic cultures, Arce could find a big audience in the future, especially if he can score some knockout wins.
For now, however, the team will concluded his amateur career with another series of tough amateur tournaments such as the Blue and Gold tournament.
We’ll need to check back with him soon to see how the journey unfolds, but I can only imagine good things.