Leticia Blanco was born and raised in Hartford and has spent the majority of her life giving back to the community. In her early 20’s she was a freelance writer for the Hartford Courant. “Everything was about the community. So, enlightening the public with how great Hartford has it with the people in it. There are special people here that are very overlooked, and it’s sad.”
Leticia is now the co-owner of Hartford Boxing Center, along with Anthony Blanco and Michael Tran. She grew up in the South End in the presence of crime and violence, so it was vital to her that the Hartford Boxing Center open in its precise location to show the youth that there’s a “fighting chance to get out.”
Leticia admits to coming into the project a little fearful of how the community was going to accept this type of fitness and sport. “But, they took us with open arms, and it was a fantastic engagement between the community and us. It was like being in their backyard, they could actually come out and indulge in fitness because it’s closer to home now. There are no fitness centers or Boy’s Club in this area, so this is the closest they’ve got.”
With over ten schools just in the vicinity, many children choose Hartford Boxing Center as a place to go to after school. “We’ve impacted quite a few youth and adults that can’t drive places. They can walk here or take a bike, so it’s offered more health and fitness in the community.”
She refers to herself as the ‘mother hen’ of the gym, “I take them all under my wing and give them great advice. I have a listening ear for them when they need it. But, I’m more of a cheerleader to all of the youth in this community and the surrounding communities in Hartford. We’re their mentors, so just enlightening them for a better future through exercise. Even if they don’t want to become professional boxers, it’s a challenge for them to be the best they can be.”
The boxing community is filled with dedicated, strong-minded individuals that exercise, strength, and condition, and just have big hearts. “You have to have one to take a punch and to give one; they have this eagerness to show off their skill, and it’s something to be respected, they work so hard,” says Leticia.
In the four short years that they have been in business, Hartford Boxing Center has seen incredible journeys and perseverance. “Great stories of youth were coming in obese and changing their lives around, and now they’re boxers. There are children with anger issues who come here and let it all out. So just being part of that development is fantastic… it’s a really good feeling to be part of that,” Leticia says.
Rather than focusing solely on exercise through boxing, Hartford Boxing Center gears more toward teaching individuals true boxing skills. “There are people here who have become boxing pros from the level. So the amateurs and the pros are exercising along with regular folks here, showing them that it can be done right here in their community and that if they really focus and have that, they can reach any goal that they want to accomplish. It’s a very tight-knit family environment, and I think that really separates us.”
The goal of the Hartford Boxing Center has always been to welcome everyone with open arms, but one of the most significant challenges they face in the South End community is poverty. “It hurts not to be able to help more than what we do, with the fees, uniforms, clothing, and boxing equipment that these kids need, we don’t have enough in the budget to give them this for free.” So in 2009, determined to continue to help the youth in their community they created a non-profit that, to this day, helps sponsor some of the kids that can’t afford to join activities, such as sports or the arts.
When discussing what Leticia thought about all the people making Hartford theirs, she shared with us that shining a light on the fantastic things people are already doing can only lead to more positivity. She said of Hartford, “There are so many great businesses here that just need some light… so they can shine just as others do.”