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Meet the boxing family fighting to improve the lives of young people in Mexico

SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world who are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.

The Ramirez family's main goal is to keep young people off the gritty, crime-ridden streets in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico.

Boxing is their passion, so they wanted to share it with the community.

They found a derelict space underneath one of the city's busy bridges and transformed it into a boxing gym.

Gym Ramirez is located under a bridge in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico
Gym Ramirez is located under a bridge in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico - Gilberto Meneses

Gym Ramirez is different from most ordinary gyms. Amidst the sounds of vehicles overhead, its primary aim is to deter children from criminal activity by teaching them boxing.

At the head of the family is Miguel Ramirez, who founded the gym with his family 14 years ago. He told SCENES that it was important to them to impact their community positively.

"Ecatepec is known everywhere in Mexico as a red spot for crime. It is a very dangerous area, but under this bridge, we want to help these people," says Miguel Ramirez.

By day, Miguel runs a small street food business selling Mexican Tacos, and in the evenings, he devotes time to training young aspiring boxers. His family's unique sports centre has become a sanctuary for many young people, and Miguel finds himself helping in more ways than one.

Miguel Ramirez founded the gym with his family 14 years ago
Miguel Ramirez founded the gym with his family 14 years ago - Souleyman Messalti

An alternative to crime

Miguel believes that by instilling the strong discipline of boxing, those who practise it have fewer opportunities to fall into a life of crime. "We want the young people to have another vision," he says.

A former boxer himself, Miguel's grandfather, father, son, daughter and grandson have all been involved in the sport. His grandson, Josafat Hernández Cervantes, is an aspiring boxer who hopes to become a World Champion one day.

"When I'm boxing, I feel great," Josafat tells SCENES. "Gym Ramirez is a very nice place with very good coaches. They motivate me to keep fighting for my dreams," he says.

Amateur boxer, Josafat Hernández Cervantes, hopes to be World Champion on day
Amateur boxer, Josafat Hernández Cervantes, hopes to be World Champion on day - Souleyman Messalti

'The role of a coach'

"The role of a coach includes many things. You do everything, from being a dad to being a psychologist, a doctor and a therapist," Miguel says proudly. "When you have been with a student for many years, he is already part of your family," he adds.

There are times when young people cannot afford to eat or do not have money to attend the gym. Miguels says that on those occasions, he steps in to offer support. "I tell them I will not charge you a penny, but the condition is that you come and train," he says firmly.

As a boxing coach, Miguel has witnessed and shared the achievements of the young people he trains. His dedication and expertise have led to several of his boxers excelling in local and national competitions.

"I have been named manager of the year three years in a row," Miguel says. "Because I have trained six boxers who delivered the most gold, silver, and bronze medals to the city."

Miguel Ramirez tightens the glove of his grandson Josafat Hernández Cervantes
Miguel Ramirez tightens the glove of his grandson Josafat Hernández Cervantes - Souleyman Messalti

Nurturing and Safeguarding

Despite his achievements as a coach, Miguel is constantly aware that he is responsible for the safety of the young boxers in his care. He takes proactive measures to protect them from potential harm during training.

"It is such a big responsibility because boxing is not easy. There are blows, and your life is at stake. If you don't prepare them properly, they are at risk," explains Miguel.

Fernanda Michele Ramírez Pérez, Miguel's daughter, is a former fighter turned boxing coach. She has trained students for over twelve years and says she enjoys positively influencing young people's lives.

A young fighter trains with a punch bag in Gym Ramirez, Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico
A young fighter trains with a punch bag in Gym Ramirez, Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico - Gilberto Meneses

"Many children learn how to defend themselves because many suffer from bullying," Fernanda tells SCENES. "I like to teach people that come here looking for refuge. For them to know that they are welcome,". Says Fernanda warmly.

A positive influence

Fernanda, the gym's sole female boxing coach, says she takes pleasure in steering young people away from negative influences and towards a healthy lifestyle.

"I like boxing because it's one of the most complete sports. It's where you can de-stress in all aspects," says Fernanda. "It's a sport that can change lives," she adds.

The Ramirez family have trained hundreds of young people in their gym in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico
The Ramirez family have trained hundreds of young people in their gym in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico - Souleyman Messalti

The Ramirez family are motivated by seeing the young people achieve recognition in boxing. Their passion for the sport and guidance have helped steer young people away from crime and other negative influences.

"As a family, we form a great team," says Miguel. "Gym Ramirez is something that my whole family and I enjoy, and we do it with pleasure."

The positive impact of the family's gym extends far beyond the bridge and into the community. Miguel hopes that every young person in the area finds the motivation to change their lives for the better.