Reading resident Eribert Garcia will perform in the regional round of the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves boxing tournament on Saturday in Philadelphia.

The 33-year-old Garcia, champion of the Central Division, is battling the Star City boxing hall in Reading, which was founded and is owned by Alex Betanses. Garcia will compete in the beginner class at regional competitions and in his young career – 5-0.

Betanses said Garcia met boxing in 2019 at his welding job, where he met Lindsay Bates, a boxing coach at Star City who also trained as a welder.

Bates and Garcia spent their lunch breaks doing playgrounds, during which Bates noticed Garcia’s natural skills and encouraged him to join the gym to start training.

Garcia focuses on using PA Golden Gloves as a springboard to become a professional, while being a positive role model for his 3-year-old son as well as an inspiration for other local fighters.

“He’s not from a boxing family; boxing is not in his blood, ”Bethans said. “He just does it for himself and in order to make himself better. He is a wonderful family man. He turned his life upside down. He inspires many guys at the gym and all of us because he changed his life.

“Now he is affecting the people around him very positively.”

Garcia is just one of several boxers from the local gym who have received the latest awards.

Reading residents Kayan Lindsey, 27, and Maximilian Baes, 18, have already qualified for the Golden Gloves state tournament on May 14, when Garcia hopes to join them when he withdraws from regional competitions.

In addition to participating in the Golden Gloves, 17-year-old Eric Martinez is a youth boxer from Reading who is competing in the national qualifiers for the U.S. team in Cleveland. Martinez won his first bout of the tournament in the 125-pound youth division by TKO in the third round and will fight again on Friday.

“He (Martinez) is pretty much our number one prospect right now,” Betances said. “It’s very important for us and for the city, because we here not only represent ourselves, our families and the gym, but in the end, we are the ambassadors of the city.”

Star City Gym has participated in a number of community events, including this week’s National Youth Violence Prevention Week, which took place throughout Berks County. A presentation led by Penn State Berks students entitled “Sharing Boxing Stories with Star City” was held at the gym on Wednesday, and a walk to “Berks for Peace” will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in Reading.

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