By Michele Chong
A local SoCal boxing club celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a “BBQ in the Park” event that included a pro champ, current prizefighters and a squad of amateur kids.
Burbank Boxing Club (BBC) founder Steve Harpst opened his club over two decades ago with humble beginnings. “I started with just a couple of jump ropes and an old boom box,” he laughs. “But word spread quickly and our boxing class continued to grow…and it hasn’t stopped!”
On Sunday, past club members and current fighters all gathered together to join in on the annual festivities marking this milestone 20 years. There were also some special guests (named “Honorary BBC Members”) like WBC Super Bantamweight champion Paul Banke, BBC’s trio of young pros including welterweight Damien Lopez, featherweight Cristian Silva and super bantamweight Angel Silva, former pro Qurane McMullen (“Q the Mitt Man”), WBC Supervisors Rudy Tellez and Bonnie Richardson, the Henry Armstrong Foundation’s Edward Scott Jr. and Kimberly Dubose-Scott, former fighter and current entertainer/singer Larry Covin, Marsha Covin (Coco Productions), World Boxing Hall of Fame’s Raul Esquivel, Thompson Boxing Promotions’ Al Avalos, professional Yo-Yo artist and champ Jeremiah Donofrio (a brand new BBC member) and more. Some of the VIP guests came as far as Rialto and Riverside to take part in this fiesta.
During the bash, there was a never-ending potluck spread as guests enjoyed grabbing some grub. The weather was perfect on this October day which featured a delicious buffet of a BBQ with all the trimmings, homemade desserts and more. For a few hours, the athletes splurged and chowed down on all the goodies before heading back into the gym on Monday.
Coach Harpst is happy to host this yearly gathering for his boxing club. “It’s a chance for everyone to relax in the great outdoors and reconnect with past and current members,” he commented. From charter members to newcomers, the club (held at the Burbank Community YMCA) opens it doors to everyone. There’s a sense of family; a place to fit in where everybody is welcomed regardless of age, race, size or ability level. There’s been many men and women, boys and girls who have gained confidence and maintained a healthier lifestyle stemming from Harpst’s class. He was recently voted the 2016 “Best Fitness Instructor” in his city. And he is appreciative of all the members through the years and really wanted to take time to bring everyone together.
Ex-pro slugger Qurane McMullen told me he had an epic time. He got to catch up with WBC Supervisor Rudy Tellez (“The Mouthpiece Doctor”). “I first met Rudy over 24 years ago!” Qurane reminisced. “He made one of my mouthpieces way back then.” McMullen goes way back in the fight game, back when “Iron” Mike Tyson was king of the boxing world. Qurane now trains fighters at various gyms in the Southland and the day after the BBQ, he visited the Burbank Boxing Club to work out with them.
All the BBQ goers said they had a blast at this year’s outing. Highlights included fun games, free giveaways, collectible prizes–and one extremely fierce water balloon competition that stole the show. Rudy Tellez also surprised the crowd with WBC Cares patches, stickers and the chance to hold the five green and gold WBC championship belts he brought to the park. There was also a new “Kids Zone” area showcased at this year’s party with a temporary “Tattoo Station,” war paint makeovers and beads for the participants. Club members Belinda and Lea pitched in and volunteered their time to help with all the activities.
Special guest Edward Scott Jr. (grandson of the legendary Henry Armstrong) met many of the BBC boxers for the first time. He gave an inspiring talk about his nonprofit foundation which helps inner-city kids and at-risk youth. Another nice moment was new BBC member Jeremiah Donofrio holding an impromptu Yo-Yo performance, showing off his cool skills as the audience watched on in amazement. As they yelled for the famous “Walk the Dog” trick, Jeremiah displayed some fancy moves with the spinning Yo-Yo strings.
There was also one bittersweet moment. World champ Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon recently passed away so a “Ten Count” tribute was made in the park to honor him. Harpst and Chacon had known each other for many years and Bobby was a popular guest at a couple of past BBQ events with the club.
Guests continued to stream in throughout the day. As Coach Harpst surveyed the scene, he spoke of all the memories gained from the past 20 years. Some of the early members now have kids of their own who box; many went on to compete in the amateurs and pros; and some have reached incredible fitness goals through the sport of boxing. And last year, Damien Lopez, his father David Lopez and Harpst were able to travel and compete in the Olympic Trials in Spokane, Colorado Springs and Memphis thanks to the support and generous donations of the club members, sponsors and community.
“We have worked hard to raise funds in our grassroots campaign, thanks to all,” Harpst stated. “I also want to give a shout out to some people who have also become co-trainers in our club–Maya, Sean and Oscar are a big part of the BBC and we thank them!”
Maya moved to Los Angeles from Spokane and instantly connected with the boxing club. She works in the film industry and at night trains with the BBC. And she has lost a whopping 93 pounds since joining the Burbank Boxing Club!
Success stories such as these is what propels Harpst to continue teaching the sweet science. These skills are confidence builders and can also change lives. While most people know him as “Coach Steve” (the personal trainer and boxing coach), outside the ropes he is an an award-winning sculptor and a California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee.
But training the kids, teens and adults is his longtime passion. Everyone knows you don’t make millions training young amateurs…but the rewards are priceless.
“Thank you to all who supported the BBC through the years!” he commented during the potluck. “We couldn’t have done it without you and it’s been a GREAT 20 years!”
And while no punches were thrown at this 2016 celebration, the annual BBC BBQ was a “KNOCKOUT” event for all.