The Arena Junior Olympic Boxing Program with Coach Basheer Abdullah

The Arena and Coach Basheer Abdullah have decided to start a Junior Olympics Boxing Training Program to build strong youth competitors looking to train at an elite level. Coach Basheer is a 4X Olympic Boxing Coach and he will be leading this charge to support these kids in their dreams. For info contact


Coach Basheer Abdullah:
My name is Coach Basheer Abdullah. I’m one of the boxing coaches here at The Arena. I’ve been coaching and boxing for 30 plus years. I had the pleasure of being a former 4X Olympic coach. Also, the pleasure of being a coach at the World Championship Pan-American Games. And I also had the honor of being the boxing coach for the Army World Class Athlete Program. The Arena and myself had decided to implement a Youth and Junior Olympic Program. Our program is going to be from 13 to 16 year olds for our JOs, Junior Olympics. And then the Youth Program 17 and 18. It’s one of the ways that we want to give back to the community, by creating more opportunities for our youth, not only in the sport of boxing, but just playing our role in part of their development as young men and young women.

The JO and Youth Program is going to provide opportunity for our youth to participate in competitions, such as USA Boxing Nationals, Golden Gloves, and hopefully they develop enough skills and reach their ultimate goal of becoming Olympians. So we’re going to share all our experience with the athletes. They will have access to a world-class facility, and they’re going to get trained, like world-class athletes. I’m very excited to get this program started. I’m looking forward to working with young athletes again and giving back to our community.

Boxing Coach Tries His Very First Jiu Jitsu Class

See what happens when Boxing Coach Joe Vargas takes off the gloves and puts on the gi to try his first Jiu Jitsu class. Leaving your comfort zone and trying something new can often be intimidating, but far more rewarding.


Coach Joe Vargas:
My name is Joe Vargas. I’m one of the boxing coaches here at The Arena. I’ve been boxing since I was nine years old and I’ve been coaching for over 15 years. Today, I tried out Jiu Jitsu. I thought that with strength and being a macho guy who knows boxing very well, I thought I’d had enough knowledge just watching. I became one of those Pro versus Joes sitting on the couch kind of guy. I thought I could handle it easily. I found myself just struggling with the movements and it was a whole new thing to be a student again. It was a big challenge for me to try something new.


Boxing and Jiu Jitsu goes so hand in hand. Today they were telling me things that I use in boxing, like turn my hips and to use my feet to pivot off. And it was funny to hear them be used in different manner, but we communicate the same. It seems like in Jiu Jitsu, the hips are so important just like in boxing. It’s mechanics of the body. You don’t realize it’s so critical in almost all sports.

It was so cool walking into the class because almost every student there knows that I’m the boxing coach and they’re all very helpful and respectful, and it just felt good to have all that support from all the guys at the gym. So I’m going to be jumping in there. It’s an experience that I really liked and I recommend it. It’s very fun. To all my Jiu Jitsu family from The Arena, I would highly recommend that you guys come and try boxing. And I know sometimes it’s scary, but I did it and I was nervous and scared and you guys treated me good. We’ll treat you guys the same. We’re one big family and I just love, like I said, being a student again, and you guys come over and we’ll work with you guys in boxing.

Two Friends Challenge Each Other to Lose 40 Pounds

We are often referred to as a “fighters gym” but thats only a very small percentage of how our members benefit, and what they can achieve. Here you see an ongoing success story of two gym members, Joe and Justin, not only getting in better shape but living an overall better life based off their experiences at The Arena. Yes we build fighters but ultimately we are building healthier and happier all around people.


Joe O’Connell:
So I started coming here about four and a half years ago. I started off with boxing, but the last three, four years, I really got into Jiu Jitsu and primarily did that until I got hurt in October. And then kind of went back to the fitness aspect of this, and boxing.

I’m a personal trainer. I’ve been doing it for 10 years. I got into it because I was 308 pounds after I stopped playing football. Weight loss has always been an up and down thing for me. I’ve got all the way down to about 225 and I’ve been sitting there for a long time. So in February, I decided to take things up to the next level and propose with my buddy, Justin, to see if we can get down to 185.

Justin Wilson:
Joe and I were making fun of each other for being fat. And he was like, “Step on the scale, where are you at right now?” And I stepped on and I was like 232. Then we’re like, “All right, well, what’s a good obtainable, but would challenge us?” And we decided on 185. So from 232 down to 195 right now, is where I’m at. We got 10 pounds left to go.

At first, he was seeing it as a challenge. Dude was wearing sweatsuits, running extra miles, everything. And I’m like, “Bro, we’re in it for the longevity and the health of it.”, because I’m 40 years old and I don’t want to cut weight. I want to lose weight and keep it off and to maintain a good, healthy lifestyle.

Joe O’Connell:
I first decided to do this because I wanted to beat him. I wanted to challenge to beat Justin to 185. But now it’s turned into, we’re supporting each other in this journey. We keep each other in line and keep each other accountable for our goals. Definitely a beneficial thing. So I’ve been working out with the strength and conditioning coach, Jason, four days a week doing his workouts. And then, I do boxing with Joe Vargas from 10 to 11.

Justin Wilson:
What I’ve been doing, personally, is, cut out alcohol and I train back-to-back classes. So I’ll do Jiu Jitsu and then I’ll do the No Gi class. The more you train, the more you really become aware of how you feel and what you put in your body. And so just naturally, I’ve really cut out junk food, fast food, stuff like that. It wasn’t because I was like, “Oh, I’m on a diet. I have to do this.” It was because, I felt bad. I would eat it and I wouldn’t feel good.

Joe O’Connell:
I got a meal prep company and I do two meals with them, and not snacking outside those two meals, and making a healthy dinner. I stopped drinking. It’s making these lifestyle changes, these small changes, that make a big difference, I’m learning.

Justin Wilson:
Being a veteran, your tribe is a big deal. When you leave the service, I didn’t find my tribe or my group of people until I started training Jiu Jitsu. It’s improved my life in every facet.

Joe O’Connell:
Having Justin with me is excellent because we keep each other accountable. I’m down 30 pounds, I got 10 more to go, and I just got to keep working hard. It’s challenging, but I like the challenge and I like working hard and The Arena helped me do this. It’s been fantastic.

Boxing Coach Joe Vargas Breaking Down Some Fundamentals

Mechanical corrections when you are learning the fundamentals of boxing are of paramount importance to program the correct muscle memory. Anyone can make you tired, but real coaches can really teach you the sweet science of boxing. Here Coach Joe Vargas makes corrections in his boxing fundamentals class.


Coach Joe Vargas:
The best way you can block a punch is if you put it like this, now go ahead and throw a hook, Joe. Throw it harder. That way you don’t hit yourself. You’ve got to press it against you, okay?


Stay low on that uppercut. Get low, now go. Step over on that under. No, you’re stepping to your side. Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, boom, boom, boom.


Your foot’s coming off the ground so look here. When I throw a one, two, I’m going to show you what you’re doing. You’re going like this. Your foot’s like this so there’s no power behind that. You want go boom, boom. Everything drives from your back foot. So boom, boom. Imagine throwing a baseball far. With your foot in the air it’s gonna be hard. You’ve got to drive off of it.


The next punch is a hook. Throw it, throw it. Boom. Your hook is not like that son. Pull it back, this way, and now bring it up like you’re going to slap me then you’re going to bring it around and hook it. Okay? Start from right there, bend your knees, go. No you’re pulling the punch you’re not hooking it. A hook is like boom. Last second it lands. Hit me with a one, two right here, soft. One, two. Now from the same range I want you to throw a hook to the back of my shoulder. So throw all three punches. See how you do the hook? Come on, do it again. Keep your hand up. Hand up, look. Throw it wider, I want it wider. Go. There you go, again. That’s how you throw a hook. You see that? Now do it here. There you go.


Try to stay as close as possible, even if you become a pest. Don’t lose your balance. Here we go I’ll do it as a lefty. Throw under, throw. Set your feet no matter what. Set your feet, there you got to get used to that. See that? Your heads falling forward but your feet are not following you. I need your feet first before your head. Right there, relax, comfortable. There you go. Get comfortable with those movements.

Arena Boxer Nigel Fennell Fights His 11th Professional Bout Tonight

Tonight Arena Pro Boxer Nigel Fennell will be fighting his 11th professional bout in Tijuana, with Coach Joe Vargas in his corner. Best of luck to Nigel as he continues to climb the ranks.


Coach Joe Vargas:
So, we’re getting ready for Nigel’s 11th pro fight. He’s going to be fighting in Tijuana. For this camp, he sparred with another prospect out of San Diego, Kevin Torres, a couple of times. It was very good sparring. He’s sparred with the Olympian Lindolfo Delgado, did very good there, sparring with those guys, so he got some elite sparring. We’re excited to see where he’s at. His last fight he fought a veteran, and he took him out. He’s just moving in the right direction.

This is the end of camp. We worked predominantly all reaction drills. We worked on defense, counters and slips, and just basically putting the game plan together. After this fight, we’re looking at some network fights on TV. The rest is up to him to keep striving in the right direction.

Pro Boxer Stephan Shaw’s Father’s Story

The life of a fighter is not easy. The idea of surviving the struggle to become an elite level fighter seems almost insurmountable. For Arena Pro Boxer Stephan “Big Shot” Shaw that path has been walked with the full support of his father Brian Shaw. Mr. Shaw’s love and determination to help his son fulfill his dreams is the kind of family bond that fighters need when they walk through the darkness. When Big Shot finally puts that belt around his waist as heavyweight champion of the world it will be with his father in his corner.


Brian Shaw:
Stephan is the youngest of my two children. This one here said a long time ago he wanted to be a heavyweight champion and here we are. We live in St. Louis, Missouri. Stephan’s been coming out here for the last four years, here at the arena, training with coach, Basheer Abdullah.

Basheer Abdullah, I’ve been knowing him for a long time. We growed up as elementary kids. We was always rivals when we were younger, but as we got older we became real good friends, especially once he told he got into boxing, because I come from a history of boxing. My dad has been a coach in the City of St. Louis for over 40 years.

Stephan’s been interested in boxing since he was four years old. He first came to the gym and wanted to put on every pair of gloves, and before you know it he wanted to get in there and box.

I finally told him, “Okay, I’ll let you box. All I ask is that you be a winner.” And he said, “No problem, Dad.” First time he laced them up was almost 20 years ago. He wind up stopping the kid in the third round, his first match. My dad was like, he was almost in shock, because he hadn’t even seen him being that aggressive before. So, I kind of knew that he really liked this and he really wanted to box.

Well, I’ve taken on the full-time role as his personal assistant and he has Basheer Abdullah as his coach and that balances off, because it’s hard to be your son’s coach and his father at the same time, because you tend to take one back with the other.

My dad coached me, and the biggest thing I found is that we never left the issues at the gym, at the gym. We brought them home. So I made a vow that if I did ever work with this guy, would not be as head coach.

I enjoy this because I get a chance to work with him and really see him manifest his dreams. I mean, this is something that he really wanted to do all his life. He’s been thinking about this moment and seeing himself in this position a very long time.

This guy is real. He wants to be a world champion, and I think that after April 22nd, you’re going to do a lot more of Stephan Big Shot Shaw.

Boxing Olympian Jennifer Chieng Looks to Begin Her Pro Boxing Career

2016 Olympian Jennifer Chieng has been visiting to train with our elite boxing coach and former Olympic Team Coach Basheer Abdullah. Jennifer is already a professional MMA fighter and is now hoping to begin her pro boxing career.


Jennifer Chieng:
I started boxing pretty late when I was around 20 years old. I competed in the Rio Olympics. I go back and forth between MMA and boxing, and since I’ve transitioned to professional MMA, I’m hoping to also do the same with boxing.

Coach Basheer Abdullah:
I met Jennifer back in 2014 at the nationals. I was watching her and I was like, “Wow, that young lady is very, very talented,” but she was still green at the time. She was very young and still had a lot of growth in front of her. She have family here in San Diego. So when she used to come visit her family, she will reach out to me about training. And so she made the 2016 Rio Olympic games. I was thinking that she was going to turn professional boxing after that, but she decided to pursue MMA. Again over the years, she will continue to reach out to me and train, and during those years I will harass her about becoming a professional boxer. And this time home, she responded by saying that she’s ready to make that move to become a professional boxer. So I’m excited to have this opportunity to be working with her. And again, looking forward to making her become a world champion.

Jennifer Chieng:
My goals are to stay active. There’s still a lot as far as my performance that I do want to improve upon. And so I guess as far as goals, it’s really truly that I just want to compete in both in MMA and in boxing, and see how far I can take it, because I’m just really in love with the games.

Coach Joe Vargas Working with Young Boxer Jabin Chollet

The devil is in the details. There is a huge difference between a pad holder and a coach. Anyone can make you tired or teach you a pattern, but can you replicate it under pressure against a resisting opponent? Everyone knows the same tools and lots of people can teach you “how”, but real coaches can teach you why. This is what we do. Here is Boxing Coach Joe Vargas working with his amateur boxer Jabin Chollet.


Coach Joe Vargas:
Let me get in. I’m going to show you off. Upper cut here. Right hand, reload it. Left hook. Okay? Control your head, okay? So I push you off. No, I pushed you too far, so don’t get limp… That’s the short range right there, short range punch. Yeah, make sure you use your hips, not your whole upper body. Go. Good. Good. Give me a hook off that. Same target.

You’re pulling your head. Come on.Keep your head on me. There you go. Here I come. Here I come. Nice. Nice shot. One, two. No, get that one, too good. Come on. Don’t fall forward too much with your body. Lean back a little bit.

Now, stop yourself right there. See? Come on. Lean back, not forward. There you go. You’re stepping in to it way too much. Go back. Right there. See? So, I’m going to shrug you off, right? We’re going to go here. Go same thing we’re doing. [foreign language 00:00:57]. Give me two. Make sure you’re good on that, okay? Make sure your legs aren’t too far apart.

Okay, here we go. There you go. Nice. One more time. I get in. I don’t like you here, go. Good. Nice. That hook needs to be wide, because you’re inside. You’re going to create that power right here. That one, I have my hand up, right? One. Two. And then from here, this hand has to come behind my gloves. Boom. So, this one has to be wide and turn your hip on it. So here, push me off a little bit. Push me off. So you open me up, right?

I’m open right there. Look at those ribs. Boom. Reload. Boom. And look how far your head is from me. So once you’re that far from me, I’m coming wide. Okay? So here we go again. Take three. I’m here. Go. There you go. Okay? He’s here. Go. Look for it.

Nice defense. Nope. Don’t turn over on it. Turning over on it. Step back. Shoulders back. Right there. Control your shoulders. Don’t put your shoulders right here. Put your shoulders right here. Hands up. Turn your hips over. Go.

See? Now add a left hook to that. Bend down. Right there. Good. Vice versa. There you go. Don’t step in too much. Good. Good. Back, back. Good. Wait for me. Good. Nice.

The Story of Jacob Macalolooy’s Life Long Journey in Martial Arts

Jacob Macalolooy is a life long martial artist, coming from a long family tradition of fighting. This is his story and his reflection on his training as he approaches the end of being an elite level amateur boxer looking to go pro. From Kajukenbo, to Kickboxing and MMA, to Division One Wrestling, and now Boxing, Jacob personifies the way of living the martial arts life.


Jacob Macalolooy:
My names is Jacob Noah Macalolooy. I’m a lifetime martial artist, and I’m currently an elite amateur boxer fighting at The Arena.

My family has a deep history in martial arts and fighting. My grandfather and his brother were boxers. And when my dad was a young child, he started training in Kajukenbo. It’s a self-defense art from Oahu, Hawaii. It was during the 1940s, there were a lot of sailors on the island and they would get in fights with the locals. So the locals had to come up with a more effective fighting style and self-defense style. So these five masters got together from karate, judo, jujitsu, kenpo, and boxing, and they basically blended their styles to create this traditional mixed martial art.

In 1997, my dad was able to start his martial arts school just out of my grandparents’ garage. And eventually we got our own building and that’s pretty much how I grew up. I grew up in a dojo and ever since I started doing martial arts, when I was about five years old, I started wrestling at the same time.

Every wrestler has a love-hate relationship with the sport just because it’s so tough and it’s so grueling and hard on the body and the mind. So in high school, I never really wanted to wrestle in college. I just thought of college as a time where I was supposed to have fun, but by the time I was a junior in high school, I started to get some offers. And I started to realize that my wrestling could really give me an opportunity to have a higher education and it can just really open doors for me.

So getting the opportunity to wrestle at Columbia university, was really something special. There’s no way that I would be the athlete that I am now had I not competed at the D-1 level in wrestling for Columbia university.

September 2018, I started training at The Arena. I was mainly just training with the MMA guys, but I always had this idea that I might be able to compete in boxing. So I started getting in Coach Basheer’s ear. He’d seen me in there scrapping with MMA guys. So, that’s pretty much his perspective of me. “Yeah, yeah, you think you can just come in here and box because you got some MMA stuff.” But I knew as a martial artist, I really had a foundation, so I knew that would be able to switch gears and really just focus on my hands and focus on my movement.

I just stayed at it and I just kept training hard. And one day Coach is like, “All right, you can go jump in with one of my guys.” And I showed him what I really had to offer. It has just been such a learning and growing experience to be able to learn under Coach Basheer. I just feel really blessed and excited and grateful to be part of this team. Now I’m getting ready to compete in my last competition as an amateur at the Nationals in Louisiana. And from there as soon as possible, I’m going to try and get my pro debut.

Being a fighter has always been a core part of my identity ever since I could remember. And really being close with my family, having a big family, competing ever since I was a little kid and just always having all this support. And there’s really no feeling like it, especially when you’re successful and for them to cheer you on and to just be proud. There’s just nothing that motivates me more. And here in San Diego, I have my own family and that just adds to it on a whole different level. I’m really just planting seeds for it right now. And soon enough, I’m really going to start to see the fruits of all my work.

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