A downtown Fresno boxing gym once found in the back of a graphics business reopened in a larger facility June 18 on H Street after being displaced by high-speed rail construction.
Main Event Boxing’s new location is three times larger than the previous space in the back of Main Event Graphics on Belmont Avenue, which is now completely leveled to make room for the new rail system.
Owner Al Perez says he saw the move as a chance to expand the gym into a 3,000-square-foot space where he could bring more equipment and hire more people. He increased his staff from five to more than 10.
“Its been really exciting watching it all grow into what it is,” Perez said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d own a boxing gym. It just kind of happened, and now there’s been eight pro boxers who got started here.”
Perez said he opened the gym to help get at-risk youths into a program that would teach them about teamwork and dedication. For this reason, it was important for the gym to stay in the downtown area, closer to the people who would use it.
“We helped a lot of kids stay off the streets,” he said. “When a kid learns how to fight, they don’t feel like they have to fight anymore. They don’t have to prove themselves anymore.”
He founded the gym in 2008 out of the back of his graphic design business, Main Event Graphics, which was opened in 2004. There, he designs and prints merchandise for companies, teams and other groups, creating everything from decals and clothing to banners and signs.
The graphics business also relocated to a 1,000-square-foot space on Palm Avenue, double the size of what was used previously. Perez said he first heard about the high-speed rail plans about four years ago, but didn’t believe it at first.
“It was kind of scary in the beginning,” Perez said. “But, after we dug in and started meeting some people who were supposed to help, we felt like they had our best interests in mind.”
The Fresno County Economic Development Corp. worked with Main Event Graphics and Boxing, as well as about 330 other businesses affected by the high-speed rail, said Lee Ann Eager, Fresno EDC president and CEO.
“We reached out to make sure that they had an advocate throughout this time,” Eager said. “We found a space downtown that didn’t quite fit the parameters, so we worked with the city of Fresno to make sure he could open his business in this space and stay downtown.”
Perez said the transition was smooth with the help of Fresno EDC and others, and that the opportunity to stay and grow in the area was a victory for him, his employees and the boxers.
In the past year, Perez also opened a car wrapping business, Tower Wraps, which provides and installs graphics and advertising on vehicles.
Visit Main Event Boxing at 1940 H St. and Main Event Graphics at 320 North Palm Ave.