Fernando “Ponce” Laspina using boxing to motivate troubled youths

Americas Now

Game Changer Fernando Ponce Laspina

This week’s “Game Changer” is Fernando “Ponce” Laspina who is using boxing as a way to help troubled youths. 

North of Manhattan is one of America’s poorest districts, The Bronx. 29% live below the poverty line and residents have a much higher chance of being a victim of violent crime. And boys young as nine years old are pressured to join gangs; many of them end up in jail or dead. However, Fernando “Ponce” Laspina is using boxing in the neighborhood, to change the game.

Ponce hails from a big family, eighteen brothers and sisters. He came from Ponce, Puerto Rico where he got his nickname, “Ponce.” New York City is home to more than 1.2 million Puerto Ricans and most fled the island in search of a better life. Ponce says moving to the U.S. was not easy. “It was difficult because I was 15,” he says. “At that time, I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know English and I definitely didn’t want to be in school.” He says gangs swarmed the New York City streets, and those apart of the gang didn’t really have family. “Their family was the gang. The family was your friends on the street.”

One of the largest gangs was the Savage Skulls, a gang that Ponce later joined and became one of the leaders. He then spent two years in jail. After he got out, he told his mother he wanted to change. He later graduated from a Community College and started educating his community about gang life.

And in 2003, Ponce opened the El Maestro boxing gym, which is also a center for Puerto Rican culture. Ponce encourages youth through boxing and tells them that anything is possible. He tells the kids, “You could be somebody good for this community.”

Take a look at this week’s “Game Changer,” Fernando “Ponce” Laspina.

El Maestro: www.elmaestroinc.org