Boxing club offers kids free membership in exchange for passing grades

WESLACO — Ten years ago, Noe Mendoza did the only thing he could think of to help keep his son out of trouble — build a gym.

The Pharr native and longtime Weslaco resident recalled on Thursday how boxing influenced his son, Noe Mendoza Jr., to fight for his place in the world. And if an education is any indication, Noe Jr. did just that as he is now set to graduate from Texas A&M in College Station with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.

“He’s contemplating law school or the Air Force, because he wants to fly helicopters,” Noe, 46, said of his son, who’s also made a name for himself as a lightweight who’ll soon be boxing for a national title for Texas A&M.

“What we worked so hard to do is now coming to fruition. Texas A&M has never had a boxing team up until this year, and now they named my son the founder, president and first student leader of the Texas A&M boxing team. I’m very proud of him.”

It all started for the Mendozas at their Borg Drive home in Weslaco, where Noe decided to convert his carport into a small gym after receiving calls that his son had been involved in several fights at school.

Concerned yet intrigued, Noe considered boxing an opportunity for Noe Jr. to use his fists more productively, as well as a therapeutic outlet that allowed the father and son to bond over a shared interest.

The two trained almost daily, providing Noe Jr. with a safe place to hone his skills instead of associating with the criminal element. After all, his father knew a little something about that sort of thing.

Noe was a paralegal having graduated from South Texas VoTech in 1991 before being incarcerated for four years on drug-related charges. It was in 1998 that he was released and later fought for custody of his son and daughter.

Though struggle ensued following Noe’s divorce from his first wife, Noe Jr.’s mother, the Mendozas persevered. Borne out of that struggle was determination to succeed both inside and outside the proverbial ring.

“God blessed me with the opportunity to get educated when I did, and when I got out of prison I saw that my son was hanging around with the bad crowd,” Noe said. “He got in fights in school, so I said, ‘There it is. I can teach him to be a boxer.’ What you think would be a curse was a blessing, so I thought I’d build him a boxing gym in the house, and that’s where the idea was born.”

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