Zeke Lopez with trophies. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Zeke Lopez with trophies. Photo by Robert Eliason.
  • Ethan Perez. Photo by Robert Eliason.
  • Marlon Tellez. Photo by Robert Eliason.
  • Pedro Villalobos. Photo by Robert Eliason.
  • Gerardo Lostanau. Photo by Robert Eliason.
  • Jesus Espinoza. Photo by Robert Eliason.

It’s been a little over two years since Bulldog Boxing was ordered to vacate its gym after 27 years at the corner of McCray and Gibbs streets in Hollister. Though things looked hopeless at the time, owner Zeke Lopez has managed, with considerable help from the community, to reinvent the gym and on Aug. 12, will be holding its first amateur boxing show at its new location.

“We are back,” Lopez said. “We have a lot of kids now who are really, really into boxing. When we’ve gone to other shows, they kept asking when we can have one. So I thought, you know what? It’s time—these guys are ready.”
Lopez said it’s been 10 years since Bulldog hosted an event like this, and he has invited young boxers from Nevada and all over California to compete in a total of 20 fights. Nine of the 20 will be contested by Bulldog boxers, and Lopez singled five out for attention:

Ethan Perez

“Ethan used to get tired really fast,” Lopez said. “So I worked and worked with him, and now he is really good.”  

Perez, 16, has boxed on and off for years but only began taking it seriously in the last seven months and fought one match earlier this year. “It was just a hobby when I was in school,” he said. “But when I got out, I just started enjoying it again. I’m not going to lie—hitting people is the fun part. It works out my aggressions in a safe way.” 

He has nothing but praise for the gym and Lopez. “I think the place is great, and the coaches are really good,” he said. “You learn a lot quickly. Zeke is amazing. He works with everybody and cares for everybody.” 

Marlon Tellez

“Marlon came to us from Main Street Kickboxing,” Lopez said. “But he told us that boxing was a better fit for him, and he is doing really well now.”

Tellez, 17, started at Bulldog about six months ago. “I was taking on some weight from football,” he said, “and I wanted to get a little more lean. I came here with a friend to check it out, and I had a good workout. It was fun. The coach is cool, the environment is nice, and everyone is respectful.”
Tellez said that he was looking forward to his first match. “I am a little nervous,” he said. “I have never done anything like this before, with all the people watching, but I’m starting to get used to it now by sparring with other people.”
He said he’s not going into the match with a game plan. “I have confidence in my coaches,” he said, “so I am not going in with any ideas other than to listen to them.”

Pedro Villalobos

Lopez said that Villalobos, 11, has already fought two matches earlier this year in Reno. “He lost the first one but did alright,” he said. “The referee stopped the second one no more than 15 seconds into it, and I have no idea why. But he is pretty good and should do OK this weekend.”

Villalobos joined Bulldog four years ago.

“I was bullied for being overweight,” he said. “Coming here, I learned a bunch of stuff from the coach, and it really helped me with my confidence.”  

He said he’s looking forward to his match but is really doing it to help his coaches and the gym. “I really want to be there for them,” he said. “I hope it helps the gym get some new people. It is a good deal because it is a nonprofit, and you don’t have to pay if you are under 18.”
Looking forward to his next match, Villalobos said, win or lose, he’ll try to keep things in perspective. “You can’t treat it like the end of the world,” he said. “If you lose, you lose. You’re gonna always have more fights.”    

Gerardo Lostanau

“Gerardo learned very quick, and he throws a hell of a body shot,” Lopez said, “That’s one of his secret weapons, and he can really throw that thing.”  

Lostanau ,12, has been coming to the gym for five months and has not had a fight yet. “I saw the sport, and I liked it a lot,” he said, “I wanted to knock people out, but I have learned to defend myself and get more stamina.”
He said he decided to try having a match after watching other people in the gym boxing. “I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “I am going to just stick to my training and what I’ve learned. I am really good at body shots and jabs, but it’s not about the violence and the aggressiveness. It’s more about being patient and being more calm.”

Jesus Espinoza

“Jesus tries so hard, and he really pushes,” Lopez said, “He is a little firecracker. He is tough, he gets in there, and he does his best.” 

Espinoza,12, has been coming to the gym off and on for the last three years. “I started coming because of COVID,” he said, “and I felt like I had to do something. I use it for my anxiety and to get rid of stress.”
Like many of the Bulldog boxers, he has taken part in activities with Lopez outside the gym.
“I have heard a lot from Coach Zeke,” he said. “’I’ve learned how to fish. I’ve learned how to tie a knot. I basically know a lot of stuff outside of boxing.”

This will be Espinoza’s first fight, and he said he’s not sure yet what his strategy will be.

“I am just going to see how it goes,” he said. “Maybe I could throw a couple of hooks. My coach has been encouraging me and I am just going to go minute by minute.”

The “We Are Back” Amateur Boxing Show will be held on Aug. 12 at 731 San Felipe Road. The doors open at 1 p.m., and the fights start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

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