For more than 20 years, the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys has been training future champions and giving troubled kids a place to channel and take out their rebellions on the heavy bag or the speed bag.
Ricky Funez was one of those kids.
“I grew up in Van Nuys and thanks to Joe (Goossen), he helped me out of the streets. Thanks to him I changed my life around,” said Funez, 38, who took over the gym five years ago from Goossen, the original owner.
Funez remembers coming to the gym and not having any money to pay for the training. In exchange, he would help in any way he could.
“I would clean up the bathroom, remove the gum from the floor, anything they asked me,” he said.
Along the way he learned the sport and met some great boxers who passed through the gym located along Friar Street: former world WBC Super Featherweight champion Gabriel Ruelas, Diego Corrales, Frankie Duarte. Hector Camacho Jr. trained there eight years ago. More recently former WBC Middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. had workouts there.
Funez has also trained celebrities such as singer Justin Bieber and actor-comedian Mike Epps, and continues working with young fighters hoping to write their names in the annals of boxing.
Since taking over the gym, Funez has given some of that help he got along the way.
“I know there’s more hardcore kids out there; some kids pay, some don’t. I try to keep the doors open for all the kids,” he said. “I teach them a lesson just like someone taught me a lesson. I teach them it’s about discipline, just like I was taught.”
The Fight to Stay Open
But that penchant for discipline and cleanliness is one of the reasons why Funez and his gym are in trouble.
A prospective fighter who trained there for two years used to bring along his father and friends, often leaving trash and not cleaning up after themselves despite the constant requests from Funez.
“I opened the door for them to train with the condition they clean up after themselves and they didn’t,” he said.
Last October, Funez told them to do it yet once again and the fighter — a young African-American — considered it racist and told him he wouldn’t do it.
An argument ensued and the situation quickly escalated.
Faced against four men, “I went to the back and got my pistol and as soon as I came out, two of them tried to take it away, the pistol went off and the bullet hit the ground and they ran out and called the cops,” Funez said.
He left and called a lawyer before heading home. He was arrested sometime after midnight when the police showed up at his house. He made bail the next day, but his legal troubles continued.
Funez, who claimed self-defense against a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, was sentenced to six months in jail. He will turn himself over to authorities on May 5.
He also faces a 13-year suspended sentence, meaning if he gets into trouble while on probation he would serve that time.
“I’m hoping to get out early,” said Funez, who added he was sorry for what happened.
“It was a big mistake on my part. I could have handled it a different way. It was just tough. I was facing four guys. I could have ended up in the hospital or worse.”
While Funez, a father of two, is preparing to serve his time, he said he’s more worried about the fate of his beloved gym and the 80 or so kids and adults who train there having a place to stay out of trouble and pursue their dreams.
“If we close it will affect a lot of people. I would have to start all over again and that’s not easy,” he said.
At the suggestion of friends, Funez opened an account on the website Go Fund Me hoping to raise $10,000 — the amount needed to cover the gym expenses while he’s away. As of April 7, $685 had been raised through 11 people, but much more is needed.
“Whatever comes in helps out,” said Funez, who is grateful for every donation he gets.
He said he will leave his nephew Juan Funez — an undefeated pro boxer (6-0) — in charge. Funez is confident he can get out of jail early and continue his work with the community and his nephew, whom he trains and hopes one day can become a world champion.
“There’s many obstacles out there. But that’s our dream, that’s our goal,” Funez said.
For now, the immediate goal is to raise enough funds to keep his gym operational.
Ten Goose Boxing Gym is located at 14420 Friar Street, Van Nuys, (818) 300-5622. To donate and for more information, call (818) 300-5622 or visit www.gofundme.com.