Five years ago, Joaquin Romero opened up a 1,000-square-foot boxing gym in a storefront on West Alameda Avenue. With a promise to the landlord to “not flop” and boxing gear to loan out for gym members, Romero spent the next five years transforming the space into what would later become Westword's pick for Best Community Gym in 2017. Now, after training hundreds of fighters and dozens of champions, Topeira Boxing Club is being forced to close its doors and facing eviction from the 2710 West Alameda property.
The news came Tuesday afternoon on Instagram. The photo read “CLOSED FOREVER. Thanks for the past five years. We had a good run at it.”
Gym-goers were quick to respond to the announcement, both on Instagram and on Facebook. A GoFundMe was created August 8 to help raise $7,000 for the fees the gym owes the landlord. The page was created by John Bustamante, one of Topeira’s members.
“I’ve been going here for almost two years now, and it’s been like a second home to me,” Bustamante says. “I compete out of Topeira, I helped him with the kids' class, and I helped him teach class on Tuesday and Thursday.”
It's evident on the fundraising page that Bustamante isn't alone in viewing Topeira as a home away from home.
One user writes, “This place is home and changes lives for so many.” Another says, “Joaquin and everyone at this gym changed my life. I spend most of my free time here, and I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
In a 2016 interview with Westword, Romero talked about the importance of staying in Athmar Park and offering services at an affordable rate. “I felt and still feel this is a good community to be in,” he remarked. “I wanted to be where people want to box, and that’s here.”
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Romero’s style of coaching has never been “throwing someone in the ring.” Instead, he’s taught class after class, starting with the basics and relying heavily on students teaching one another. “You want to be in there with someone who’s going to take care of you,” Romero said.
Now, facing eviction, it’s clear that Romero is not in the ring alone: He’s got a community full of supporters fundraising for him. In less than 24 hours since beginning, the gym members — who organized by writing their names on a whiteboard to get the GoFundMe up and running — have raised nearly $7,500. Bustamante says that all funds raised will go toward paying off the building’s fees so that Topeira can remain up and running. For more information about the gym, or to make a contribution, visit the GoFundMe page here.