A former machine shop in Harahan has been transformed into a sprawling facility known as the Kingfish Boxing Club, a non-profit organization offering free boxing lessons to kids ages 8 to 18 who otherwise couldn’t afford.
The man behind the project is Axel Murillo, an experienced boxing trainer and United States Hall of Famer and former owner of the Kenner Boxing Club.
Kenner’s old gym on Furman Drive was a city-run program until Hurricane Ida hit last year,” he said. “At that time, the city of Kenner asked us to leave and not renew the cooperative effort that funded the gymnasium. We had so much community support and the club just kept growing.
To keep his group of amateur fighters alive, Murillo began working to find another location. In October 2021, parent-of-one Robert Chong, owner of Pipeworks Plumbing and Demolition, donated the use of a building on Hickory Avenue to house the new Kingfish Boxing Club.
“For months we scrubbed the floors and did pressure washing. We installed a boxing ring and new flooring there with the help and donations of the parents of these children,” Murillo said.
Still a work in progress, this 501(c)(3) boxing organization operates as usual with structured training for kids who can afford a $30 donation and free for those who can’t.
“We teach proper technique for offense and defense. We teach you how to be a boxer except for contact,” added Murillo. “These kids are hard workers in the ring, at home and in school.”
One amateur fighter in particular, 16-year-old Eduardo Jose Lagos Jr., began learning from Murillo at Kenner Gym a few months before his 8th birthday. Nicknamed Eduardo “the Tornado”, he traveled the country and fought over 100 amateur fights.
“I have to say my first fight was my most accomplished fight because I made it to the National Junior Olympics,” Eduardo said. “It was the thrill of competition that drew me to the boxing ring. After high school, I would like to fight professionally and internationally.
As a junior in Jesuit high school, Eduardo applied the discipline he learned in boxing to his academics. In 2021 and 2022, he received a partial academic scholarship from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation of New Orleans because he maintained a GPA of at least 3.5 and was involved in Hispanic culture and affairs.
“Coach Axel says education before boxing. So I have to keep good grades to be eligible to fight,” Eduardo said. “In boxing, you have to be disciplined and patient. Boxing training has helped me control my attention deficit disorder, which affects concentration and patience. By mastering my ADD, I am able to study and concentrate on my schoolwork. »
Eduardo said there are additional lessons to be learned from the rigorous training and mental toughness of boxing.
“For Coach Axel, it’s important that I’m respectful in public and that I don’t engage in inappropriate activities on social media,” he said. “Boxing helped me overcome my shyness in making friends. It also helped me become more disciplined in making life decisions.
Eduardo goes to the boxing gym every day except Sunday to train. His training consists of jumping rope for about 15 consecutive minutes; another 15 minutes of shadow boxing in a mirror; and another 20 minutes on a heavy punching bag. It’s a routine that Murillo says might not be long, but it’s very intense.
He also trains with Murillo and boxing gloves or mitts at least three days a week and trains at least once a week. “I try to run at least three or four days a week,” added Eduardo.
He and five other amateur fighters are preparing for a bout scheduled for August 6 in Crowley.
“Eduardo has been with me for a long time,” Murillo said. “These kids are conditioned and fit. It’s rewarding to watch them change, to take what they’ve learned in the ring and apply it to real life. Watching a child grow and learn like Eduardo is priceless.
A few of the amateur boxers, including Eduardo, also help with non-combatant warm-ups and attend training in adult classes, which are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Adult sessions are $20 per class or $90 per month. Proceeds from adult classes and private client sessions are used to maintain the gym.
“Adult classes help fund the boxing program,” Murillo said. “It’s a full body workout as four of the amateur boxers are there to help me with each participant’s mitts.”
Murillo continues to instill discipline, unity and respect among his amateur fighters and participants.
“I love seeing kids from different lifestyles and backgrounds interacting,” Murillo said. “It’s so precious to see the bond and unity between these kids. Our motto is God, family, education and boxing.