By Chris Frost
Oxnard—The Oxnard Community Services Commission has recommended that the City Council rename the La Colonia Boxing Gym to the La Colonia Boxing Gym Dr. Manuel Lopez Youth Center at its Apr. 14 meeting.
Lopez was elected to the Oxnard City Council in 1978 and became mayor in 1992. He served on the council until 2004.
Lopez had an impact on many city organizations and committees, as he also was part of the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, the Community Relations Committee, the Housing Authority, Planning Commission, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Oxnard College Foundation.
Lopez passed away on Jan. 27, 2020.
Recreation Coordinator Janis Zaragoza presented the item to the committee and said Lopez was always a proponent for the youth of Oxnard.
"Especially youth boxing," Zaragoza said. "In 1994, he led an effort to allocate $250,000 to renovate the La Colonia Boxing Gym."
Lopez told the Los Angeles Times that "A lot of people have been involved with boxing gyms in the past, and I think that this will show that we are interested in maintaining the boxing tradition in this city."
In 2019, the Lopez family pledged to donate $1,000 to fix the roof at the gym.
Mr. Manuel Herrera requested the name change in late 2019, Zaragoza said, and the Parks Recreation and Community Services Commission recommended the change unanimously.
During public comments, Herrera wished everyone good health, and he thanked the city for its actions to keep the citizens safe during the pandemic.
He is the former President of the La Colonia Youth Boxing Association that was created in 1990 to renovate the old firehouse now known as the La Colonia Youth Boxing Club.
"When I first proposed this, it was while Dr. Lopez was still alive, but he was having serious health issues," Herrera said. "I was hoping this would be approved in time for Dr. Lopez to accept this honor in person. Unfortunately, that was not to be."
Lopez knew about the action and felt extremely honored to have his name tied to the La Colonia Boxing Club.
"When I first became involved and became the president of the La Colonia Youth Boxing Association, I had no experience in how the city worked, and I had never done anything like this," Herrera said. "The first person I went to was Dr. Lopez. I didn't know him at the time, and he was instrumental in guiding me and introduced me to the right people."
The La Colonia Boxing Club is world-famous, Herrera said, and every boxing fan around the world knows about the gym.
"I thought it would be an honor not to rename the building, but add to the name," Herrera said. "I hope you guys agree with me that he deserves this. He was a well-loved and respected citizen in Oxnard."
Irma Lopez, Dr. Lopez's wife, thanked the commission and city council for their support and called it a great honor.
"It was comforting that everyone was there for his services," she said. "That gave the family a lot of comfort that the community supported him and the life he led."
Lopez was a big boxing fan, Irma said, and he felt it was a good thing for the community.
"I am appreciative of Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramrez for all of her friendship to her husband," she said. "Towards the end, he was one of the last people to call her and give advice on her campaign prior to his passing. I want to thank her for being with him at the hospital at the time of his passing."
During Committee Comments, Oscar Madrigal said if you haven't been to the gym, you should go and check it out.
"It's a great place, and it is well kept," he said. "I know the building is old., but you see the blood, sweat and tears that many youths go through there. They grow up a lot because of the leadership at the Colonia Boxing Gym. It's a staple for a lot of kids in the Colonia neighborhood."
Ramirez enthusiastically supports the item, but she did have a question about reversing the name.
Cultural and Community Services Director Terrel Harrison clarified the question, and he said after speaking to the Lopez family, changing the name to the La Colonia Boxing Gym Dr. Manuel Lopez Youth Center is the way the doctor would want it.
"That puts the name of the world-class gym out there intact, and also includes Dr. Lopez' contribution," Harrison said.
Ramirez said Dr. Lopez served the community since 1978 and became the first Latino elected mayor in 1992.
"He was my optometrist when I first came to this city in 1978, and we had a long and great relationship," Ramirez said. "It's hard to believe he's gone."
She also sent a letter to City Clerk Michelle Ascencion to name the downtown branch of the Oxnard Public Library after Dr. Lopez.
"Doctor Lopez was instrumental in getting our library built, and he raised money for it," she said. "He loved the library."
451 West Fifth Street
Oxnard, California 93030
1000 Town Center Drive
Oxnard, CA 93036
(Walk-in & Drop-off)
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.