For more than 40 years, Alvino Peña changed the lives of hundreds of kids in the Quad Cities through his Davenport Boxing Club. He died, Thursday, March 20, 2014 after a battle with Alzheimer’s at the age of 82.
His life work is continuing through those hoping to pay it forward.
Behind the boxers in the ring at the Davenport Boxing Club are black and white photos of the man who made it possible for them to be there.
“I’ll be 45 this year. In my time, that was my superhero. He’s somebody when I grew up, I feared and respected and honored what he was doing, and as I got older, I can’t help but love what he’s done for us,” said Leonard Overstreet.
Alvino Peña opened the Davenport Boxing Club in 1968.
“He just told me he wanted to make a difference,” said Overstreet.
Working two jobs to keep the gym open, Peña invited kids into the ring, who had been knocked down or needed a positive place to put their feet.
“He loved every kid, black white, purple, Chinese, it didn’t make a difference,” said Overstreet.
Leonard Overstreet was one of those kids.
“He loved me when I didn’t love myself,” he said.
Overstreet started boxing with Peña when he was nine.
“If he didn’t yell at you, you must didn’t have no talent,” said Overstreet.
Leonard did. And he had a promising boxing career until he was sent to prison for drugs. When he got out 12 years later, it was Peña who was there, making him promise he’d stay on the straight and narrow.
“And I’m gonna do it Alvino. I promise you, I’m gonna do that,” said Overstreet.
Alvino helped hundreds of other kids and coached some to regional, national, even world titles. Michael Nunn and Antwun Echols are some of the most recognized names. In 1999, he was inducted to the National Golden Gloves Hall of Fame and a few years later into the Quad City Sports Hall of Fame.
“He’s put together a legacy,” said Overstreet.
His pride was in his gym. He was there every day, without pay.
“They don’t make men like him anymore. That man’s a father, a leader, that man is a dream maker, he’s my superhero,” said Overstreet.
And although he’s gone, after his own fight with Alzheimer’s and cancer, what Alvino Peño stood for and worked for, will live on through people like Leonard Overstreet who is now a coach in Peña’s gym.
“If coming here every day is what I gotta do to get a piece of him, knowing he’s gonna smile down on me, that’s what I’m gonna do,” said Overstreet.