Ask Julio Alvarez about his proudest moment from his long career as a boxing trainer and promoter, and the humble Hall of Famer is quick to deflect praise to his fighters.
He’s even quicker to recount his boxers' success outside the ring, before boasting about tournaments and titles won. Stories of redemption and relationships forged bring the widest smile across his face.
It’s all a large part of what makes him a man with memberships in multiple Halls of Fame. Soon, Alvarez will enter another.
Alvarez is one of three recently selected for induction into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame. He will be joined in the 2017 class by basketball player and coach Parrish Petry and bowler Don Smith.
It will mark Alvarez’s third induction, having already been elected to the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Hall of Fame and Mid-Atlantic District Golden Gloves Hall of Fame.
Alvarez, 65, was born in Guatemala and first began boxing in his home nation before moving to the United States at a young age. Since arriving, Alvarez has focused on coaching and promoting the sport, first in Hanover and now in West York at Lincolnway SportCenter.
For more than 40 years, Alvarez has mentored some of York County's top boxers, including Carney "Beeper" Bowman, Stevie Weimer, Jose Alfaro, Eric Nemo and Brittany Inkrote. His fighters have earned state and national titles in Golden Gloves, Police Athletic League and USA Boxing tournaments. Two of his boxers competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Alvarez recently took time to answer a few questions about his career as he prepares for another Hall of Fame induction.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
“One of the most beautiful things is when you get a kid from the street, they come here and they have no clue, and then a few months later they are competing.”
Alvarez spoke with great pride while telling a story of a fighter he trained in Hanover during the 1980s — one that Alvarez described as a “troublemaker” who had numerous brushes with the law.
With the help of Alvarez and boxing, the fighter went on to become an accomplished photographer in Georgia. When the two reconnect, Alvarez says he's told it was his tutelage that set the young man on the right path in life.
“These kids, they don’t have that guardian at home, someone to look up to,” Alvarez said. “And you have to become a father and a coach to them. You have to make sure they’re doing the right thing.”
Alvarez has a seemingly endless supply of similar stories. All follow that similar route — boxing as a means of escape from street life.
“Not everybody that comes through that door is going to be a world champion,” Alvarez said. “Of 100,000, maybe one will be world champ. And that’s OK. So, you’re always trying to help everybody and help everybody equally. One thing I will never forget, because it taught me so much, we as coaches become students. At the same time they are learning a lot from us, we learn from them. You learn every day.”
In all the years you’ve been coaching, what are you most proud of?
“There are a lot of proud moments. (Boxers from Lincolnway) have won a lot of tournaments,” Alvarez said. “With Carney Bowman, Eric Nemo, Stevie Weimer, won some national tournaments. That’s something to be proud of, because you’re competing against the best in the United States. And that’s great because you get local recognition and national recognition. Wherever you go, all over the United States, people know who you are. That’s something that makes you proud.”
Alvarez cited Bowman’s reaching the semifinals of the 2004 Olympics Trials as one of the more prominent accomplishments, saying he enjoyed the trip to Las Vegas.
“That was one of the best times of my life, as far as boxing,” Alvarez said. He also listed working with former Hanover kickboxer Mark “Hollywood” Krebs in the 1980s, citing Krebs’ United States championships and his fighting at the York Fairgrounds.
“All of that stuff, to me, competing against the best in the U.S., makes me feel like I’m doing something,” Alvarez said. “When they ask where are you from and (fighters) say ‘York, Pennsylvania,’ not too many people knew where it is. And we have put York on the map and I think we will continue doing that.”
What’s the first thing any fighter must learn if they want to be successful?
Alvarez's answer was simple — how to train.
“The first thing they have to learn is that there is no easy road. It’s not easy getting to the top, it’s very hard,” Alvarez said. “They have to do the homework, they have to do the workouts, the running, push-ups. That’s part of boxing. Boxing is not just come to the gym and start punching the bag.”
Alvarez noted that often times a fighter will think, because he can simply throw a solid punch, that the rest will fall into place. Even some of the best locals have had to go through what Alvarez calls a period of “character building.”
“I remember Eric Nemo, when he first came in here, he was a little cocky," Alvarez said. "Came in here, first couple of fights he lost, got humbled a little bit. But that helped him become a great fighter. The easiest part in fighting is the day you fight. But, to get there, is very, very hard.”
What does this honor mean to you?
“It makes me proud,” Alvarez said “It means a lot because people give me the recognition, and I don’t know if I deserve it or not. It gives me more motivation to do what I’m doing, helping the kids.”
Of all the cards you’ve held in the area, what have been some of your favorite venues?
“Definitely at the stadium (PeoplesBank Park),” Alvarez said. “That was a big highlight. The Valencia (Ballroom) was another nice place.”
Do you have any local cards currently in the works?
While Alvarez said there are currently no local cards in the works, he is helping a Harrisburg outfit put on a card. Alvarez says he’s helping with logistical things and helping field fighters. He also says he has match makers working out of town to find fights for his fighters.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.