Fledgling pugilists learn from former amateur at West

       West Middle School community liaison Moses Barela was once an amateur boxer - good enough to have the chance to turn pro. Instructor Moses Barela works on boxing combinations with West Middle School sixth-grader Meghan Conover during a 
recent class. The class is open to ages 10 to 16.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Instead, fearing he'd lose his love for the sport if he did it for a job, he quit the ring and started teaching it. The military veteran has taught boxing seven years at West overall (going back to 1992), with some club instructional time in between.
       Youngsters don't seem to be tiring of Barela's instruction. His after-school Beginning Boxing class is now being offered in the winter as well as the fall through the West Intergenerational Center. “I'm even thinking about expanding to other centers,” he said.
       The big reason for the popularity? “Kids like getting into it,” Barela said. “The initial thing is the protection part. They don't want to feel helpless.”
       Boxing once was known as the “manly art of self defense.” Nowadays, that applies to women too. A few of the 14 in his fall class (who are primarily from West Middle School) are girls.
       Barela works with the kids on combinations and other fighting techniques, then lets those of similar size spar with each other for one- to three-minute rounds.
       He's pleased to report that he hasn't had any serious discipline problems. Boxing has a way of “knocking aggression down in kids.” And even if the short matches can get fairly competitive, “I know how to ref,” he said. “I get between them if things get too hot.”
       He's not looking for a future champion so much as a chance to help kids grow. “I teach life skills and what decisions to make,” Barela said. “Just because you know how to fight doesn't mean you should. And the kids seem to be grasping that.”

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