Sterling boxing club looking for new home

STERLING, Illinois-- A coach in Sterling is looking for a new place to teach his students boxing.

Al Silva has been a boxing coach for more than 50 years.

"I'm disappointed because I got a lot of kids asking me where we're gonna go, and I don't know," Silva says.

Al Silva's Boxing Club had been renting space at the old Franz Manufacturing building on Third Street, now known as The Warehouse. He had an agreement with the former owner to pay $100 a month. But the building has now been sold.

"This was our gym for about three months," Silva says, standing in the now empty gym. "The new owner said that we need to pay $200 a month plus utilities or get out."

Silva says he can't afford that because kids are able to come to his gym free.

"I don't intend to start charging now. I'd rather close the gym," he says.

The amateur boxer's ring, punching bags, and equipment are all boxed up, stored away in garages and storage units. He had to be out by Monday.

His students say they were sad to hear the news and many helped him move out.

"He's a good coach," says Juan Martinez Lopez, one of his students. "He taught everyone how to do things. He doesn't charge no one nothing."

"Al never gave up on me or any of his fighters," former boxer Beto Sisneros says. "He's a good guy."

Silva got into boxing decades ago when he was a young boy. He says his coach helped him stay out of trouble.

"I was a troubled kid when I was young," Silva says. "(My coach) said find a troubled kid like you and help him out."

That's how Silva is repaying his coach.

"I used to be a troubled kid," Martinez Lopez says. "Since I came down here, I just stopped doing that."

And his students recognize the life lessons he's trying to teach.

"Not to be a quitter. I'm not a quitter. You can't quit in the ring. You gotta give 100 percent," Sisneros says.

And Silva isn't done giving 100 percent for his club.

"The discipline that you get here with the training, you can apply that to your life. and become a better person," he says. "We have to have hope. And I haven't given up yet."

One of Silva's former students has set up a GoFundMe page for the club. Its goal is to raise $2,400 in the next two weeks. You can also call Silva at 815-441-0487 to offer any other help.

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