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Billings 12-year-old finds stable path in 'Barrio'

Barrio Chase Boxing.png
Posted at 12:27 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 16:38:32-04

BILLINGS - The word barrio is Spanish for neighborhood. On the Billings South Side, tucked behind a house, sits a gym constructed as an add-on that includes a boxing ring and seems to be the epitome of neighborhood.

Chase Strike, a Billings 12-year-old, frequents the Barrio Golden Gloves Gym (the Barrio). For him and others, it's an outlet to grasp far more than boxing.

"I wanted to make a change because I was all miserable, got in trouble with the cops and I wasn't really doing good," Chase recently explained to MTN Sports. "I had a lot of anger issues, and this helps with my anger, like taking it out on the bag."

Manuel Florez is the Barrio's top coach and co-founder, along with the late Jay Broken Rope. Florez's ambition is to educate through boxing.

"We live by honor, not by pride or respect by force," he said. "Respect by honor, so we always shake the other hand, even if we don't want to."

Florez welcomes all kids to the gym built behind his house and doesn't "charge a penny."

"It's for the neighborhood kids that can come, and they do," he said. "They'll walk right up to it, ride their skateboards right up to it. Sometimes I have 20-30 kids and it's just packed."

Strike is one of the Barrio's newer boxers. At last month's Montana Silver Gloves Championships in Billings, he lost a decision after dedicating the bout to his grandmother who he said had been hospitalized for over a month with COVID.

"I was thinking of my family and was trying to win for them because I promised them, I lost but I came close, you know."

Florez sees the promise in his young boxer.

"Chase is my best little heavyweight guy. He's only 12 years old, and see how he went against that kid that was bigger than him," Florez said after the loss. "Non-stop, kept getting back up, kept going. Could you imagine when he's 16 years old? He's awesome now, he's going to be real awesome then."

As with every match, win or lose, Strike learned. But a lesson even more valuable in the big picture has been his weight loss.

He first showed up to the gym carrying more than 200 pounds -- describing himself as "a big old beach ball." But over the span of roughly a year, he's dropped at least 50 pounds according to Florez, and in a healthy presence.

"A lot of it is about eating," Florez said of his method. "I try to explain to the parents, I need their help, they're used to over-feeding the kids and feeding them the wrong things. I try to teach them to cut those portions in half. Have one as a snack, and sooner or later, you'll see they won't need that (other) half of portion."

Strike, only a few bouts into his boxing career, reveals a big heart recalling the feeling after his first victory.

"I kind of felt bad for the other guy because he started crying and all that."

He says the Barrio is a healthy outlet for him, both physically and mentally. And his coach sees it.

"He's one of the kids who does work the hardest in my gym," Florez said.

Chase's next match arrives at the National Silver Gloves boxing tournament starting Aug. 30 in Kansas City.

In the meantime, he's excited to play middle school football this fall and says his favorite class is art; he likes to draw. Down the road, Chase thinks he'd enjoy becoming a tattoo artist, a mechanic or maybe even a boxer.

But right now, he's a kid making better decisions, and as a reward, not afraid to loosen his diet for a great post-fight meal.

"Pizza or burgers... or steak," he said with a hearty grin.