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Gets Real: How a Burien boxing gym is helping to change lives

A Burien boxing gym – Benavidez Sports – is currently training 10 professional boxers. But perhaps even more impressive is the live lessons the owner, Jose Benavidez Sr. has learned - and is now passing on to others.

Some of the boxers who’ve come out of Benavidez Sports Boxing Gym say training there has changed their lives.

Beyond the black doors of the gym – located in a Burien strip mall – you’ll find non-stop action and a lot of dedication.

“I train three times a day, Monday through Friday,” said Julio Hernandez from Kent, who has been training at the gym for six years. He says Benavidez saw his potential – and he’s now one of the pro boxers.

If you recognize the name “Benavidez,” it’s because David Benavidez and José Benavidez Jr. are world boxing champions. They’re the sons of José, who trained them when they were young.

“I feel super proud of all the hard work, tears, and hard times we’ve had,” Benavidez Sr. said.

Now Benavidez Sr. is spreading the mantra -- get knocked down? Refuse to stay down.

“There’s no secret to success - hard work, sacrifices,” he said. “I love what I do, and I feel passionate about it,” Benavidez Sr. said.

Perhaps there’s no better example of learning that lesson than Hernandez -- who goes by “Dados” in the ring. In English – his moniker is “Diceman.”

“As I started getting into high school, I started being a knucklehead,” Hernandez said.  The Kent kid dropped out of Kentwood High School – and straight into trouble.

“He was in the wrong path,” Benavidez Sr. said.

“As a kid, I thought I was having fun. And I thought I was cool,” Hernandez said.  He says one day, he was boxing in his garage and a cousin saw him and suggested he go to a gym.

Hernandez ended up at Benavidez Sports and says it changed his life.

“He (Benavidez Sr.) asked me what do I want to do with my career? And I was like, I want to fight,” Hernandez said.

After three years, he went pro.  As a six-foot-tall boxer in the lightweight division, he must keep to 135 pounds or below.

“I’m thankful for the whole team. They’ve been getting me right,” Hernandez said.

On March 9, he took on a fighter from Vancouver, BC. The match in Bremerton brought out more than 200 people from Kent to cheer in Hernandez’s corner.

“It feels amazing, honestly,” Hernandez said.   Hernandez won the match – which means he’s now 4-0 undefeated.

“Dados” says he’s found more than purpose at Benavidez boxing, he’s found a second home.

“Whenever I get here, I forget about all my problems. We’re laughing the whole time. Even when we’re punching each other,” Hernandez said. “We’re really, truly a family,” he said.

In fact, Hernandez says boxing may have saved his life.

Seattle is not the prettiest place in the streets. I think if I wasn’t in this gym, I’d probably be somewhere else – in jail or dead,” he said.

As for what makes Benavidez boxing different - Benavides Sr. started out life battered and bruised.

“I grew up without parents,” Benavidez Sr. said. “When I was young, and I see kids holding hands with their parents, having fun – I would scream – why did you do this to me? What did I do to you?”

He made his way to Los Angeles at age 11 from Guerrero, Mexico. And at only age 15, he became a father.

“I used to do drugs, I used to be an alcoholic and all that,” Benavidez Sr. said. But after having his first son, Jose, he shaped up.

“I just want to make them strong. I put them in boxing, and they started winning and all, and I became obsessed with boxing. And I just want to win, win, win, win,” Benavidez Sr. said.

It took many years – but ultimately, he realized it wasn’t the right balance.

“At the time I was afraid to say I love you. Because I thought they’re going to become weak. So, I love them to death. But I could not say I love you. And I became a terrible father I believe,” Benavidez Sr. said.

He says even as the boxing belts rolled in for his sons, he learned from interviews and conversations with others that his boys didn’t feel like winners at all.

“They told other people that they were never good enough for me. It was never enough, it was never enough,” Benavidez senior said.

“That must’ve been hard to hear,” said KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun. “It was super hard. I broke down. I said you know what? I love you, I’m so proud of you guys,” Benevidez Sr. said. He says sharing those words made his boys even stronger fighters.

Now Benevidez Sr. carries that support to his gym. And from the square ring, he shares lessons on the circle of life.

“If I did it, coming from no family, no parents - and I have world champions now, I think they can do it too,” Benavidez Sr. said.

He encourages parents to spend time and be there for their kids, no matter how tough the circumstances. He also welcomes people of all abilities to the gym. They even help train some underprivileged kids for free.