WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita’s longest running boxing club, Villa Boxing, is being forced to close its doors and find a new location.
“We have got to move out. They are going to sell the building,” said Villa Boxing Head Coach Israel Villa.
Villa Boxing was founded in 1959 by Israel Villa’s grandfather Marcial Villa Sr. The gym was located in a one-car garage on 22nd street and Waco. Eventually it outgrew the space, so Marcial moved it into the 7th floor of the old Sedgwick County Courthouse.
In the late 1970’s, the Sedgwick County Courthouse was no longer available. Marcial relocated the building to the corner of 21st street and Waco. Soon after that, Israel got his first taste of boxing.
“I was 5 years old, 1979, I had my first fight,” Israel said.
Israel grew up in and out of the ring.
“My father, he did that for us. He always made sure we stayed off the streets and did good and he used boxing for us,” he said.
The Junior Olympic Bronze medalist and his two brothers eventually took over the gym.
“What my dad gave me, I want to give back to these kids,” Israel said.
In 2007, Israel and his brothers moved Villa Boxing into a building donated to them by Roto-Rooter Plumbing on East Mt. Vernon.
“Thank God for Ms. Farmer and Roto-Rooter, they’ve done a lot for us for the past nine years. They have let us come in this building and do this for the kids,” Israel said.
In those nine years, Israel said he has become more than a coach to his athletes.
“You are a mentor, a counselor, that secondary parent. You do everything you can to help them out,” he said.
He even check’s their grades.
“They have to maintain a C or better to compete in boxing because school is very important, have to have that education,” Israel said.
Israel also isn’t afraid to call his athletes out if they’re acting up.
“Bad things, the gangs, the girls, you know young parents, that’s another thing we watch out for, becoming young parents,” he said.
However, Israel’s coaching role as he knows it is about to be put on pause. The building Villa Boxing is currently in is being sold. Israel and his brothers have until October 1 to find a new location.
KSN asked Israel what his plans were on Thursday.
“Pray, I mean, that’s all, pray, hope things work out for the best,” he said.
The Villa brothers said they are actively searching for a new gym, but they don’t know when they will be able to reopen.
For now, Israel said he is enjoying his final moments at the Mt. Vernon location while remembering the memories he’s made and the lives he impacted at the gym.
“We have got to move on,” he said.
The Villa brothers said the City of Wichita did offer them a building to rent out on the opposite side of town. Unfortunately, they said the building is too expensive and too far for their athletes to travel after school for practice.