West Portland’s family of fighters

Teaching young kids discipline and work ethics is the goal of boxing trainer Bill Meartz and the rest of the West Portland Boxing club’s coaches.

West Portland Boxing is a gym located in the Tualatin Recreational Center of Beaverton. The gym is filled with all age groups and nationalities.

“The team is a melting pot of people from all walks of life, and many different countries, and of all ages. We are one big happy family with room for more,” Meartz said.

Many of the boxers start between the ages eight and 10 and develop the discipline they need to succeed in the sport. By ages 15 or 16, they have made their mark in USA Boxing, which is the governing body of amateur boxing. The fighters work their way through numerous tournaments in and out of the state, traveling wherever Meartz sees a chance to learn and improve, and possibly reach the Olympics and turn pro one day.

Many of the fighters are between the ages of eight and 18, and the club averages about 30 people a night.

“These little guys are doing good,” Meartz said of the youngsters.

Meartz has two 10-year-old fighters who are increasing their wins fast. One of the boys lost his first three matches and now has won nine straight. Another young talent is already 8-0.

Boxing, like many other sports, is a very time consuming and disciplined sport. Since the majority of all the boxers at the club are students as well, they have to balance their schoolwork with their workouts. Many of the kids see the workouts as fun and not work, explained Meartz.

“I think parents might use it (boxing) as leverage. Bad grades means you don’t go to boxing,” Meartz said.

The boxers at Meartz’s club are just like his own kids, he said. When we go to tournaments and stay over in a motel, I want people to say “how well behaved those kids were.”

Most of the funding for the club comes from the dues the members pay and from coach Meartz’s own funds. In the clubs’ first couple of years, Meartz funded the entire program with his own money.

The position is volunteer, but the joy of teaching these kids and watching them go on to succeed is what keeps him at the gym every night after his work at a steel carpentry job of 24 years.

And the boxers have a loyalty to Meartz. Even after they are grown and have gone to the pros they still call on Father’s Day and Christmas. Stephen “2-Pound” Forbes, an early prot?g? of Meartz’s, calls before every fight and on every holiday.

The club has a solid and experienced coaching staff. Along with Meartz is a former coach of the 1996 Olympic team Gerald Smith, and Guy Villegas, who was an internationally ranked boxer in the top five as a pro.

“I’ve improved 100 times in just the short time that I have trained here. They have an awesome coaching staff and are really team oriented,” explained newcomer to the gym, but not to boxing, Molly McConnell.

Some of the kids might get in trouble outside the gym and end up not coming back for a while, explained Meartz. Most will return because they know that boxing will give them the discipline they need to get straightened out and it will help them clean up their lives.”I take a lot of pride in these kids,” said Meartz.

West Portland Boxing sees itself not as a club of boxers, but as a family of fighters trying to help each other improve and succeed. For more information on the gym call 503-643-6942.