The Arena’s Janelle “Ninja Princess” Freiman

Team Arena’s own Ninja Princess, Janelle Freiman, has consistently shown the warrior spirit necessary to succeed in Boxing, Kickboxing and Muay Thai. A lifetime of hard work and dedication prepared her for the uphill battle of learning how to fight in a tough environment. We build fighters and have very high standards for anyone that we would consider fighting for us, Janelle has met and exceeded these standards. Enjoy!

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Janelle Freiman:
When I first started combative training, the whole gym just went silent like, “Oh no, maybe she’s lost. What is she doing here?” There were a million times I felt embarrassed like, “What are you doing at this age trying to do something like this?” So I just realized like, well, this time’s going to pass either way so if I put the dedication in and do the hard work from ground up, I’m only going to get better.

 

Prior to fight training I had been a professional dancer. I did ballet. I did modern dance. I started at 18, which is a really, really late age. I had all the odds against me. I started training with ballet just full dedication. I’ve performed actually all over the world and I did that for over two decades.

 

When I first started training with Basheer I loved his training. I really love technique. I love mastery of a trade and having the technical proficiency. I didn’t know I was going to ever fight or was that even an option? Then I started to realize, “Wait a second here. I would love to get in the ring and do this.” And I think I can do it and I have the right coaches behind me.


The first thing I did was a boxing tournament. I had to fight two people, one of which had already been the previous winner for the Masters title and the World title so I had to fight her first. And I just brought in with me the same composure and focus that I brought into dance performance into the ring. I won both of those fights and I won the title. And then I went on to do six boxing matches. Then I did one kickboxing world championship in Australia, which was a six-round fight. And that was a really great experience. Really great accomplishment, just a dream come true.


I love that, since I’ve been here, I just get in the mix. In the beginning, there was a separation between me and them, female, older, etc. And so then over time, people have seen me putting it in, doing what it takes, having injuries, overcoming injuries, super dedication, and work ethic, and I probably train like three to four hours a day. And I feel like that I have earned the respect and that, over time, I think that age barriers or female/male barriers have just blurred. It’s a comradery here. It’s a “brotherhood” here. I find that everybody help each other, everybody want to see you get better. They see the dedication and then they’re going to honor that. It’s family and feel family here.

Punch Combination Drills to Fight from Both Stances

The Arena Striking Coach Vince Salvador shows how he uses different punching combinations to switch his stance, allowing him to fight from both an orthodox and southpaw stance. You can use this in Boxing, Kickboxing or MMA.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Coach Vince Salvador:
How’s it going guys? This is Coach Vince from The Arena and here’s some tips and drills you can use to develop fighting from both orthodox and southpaw and working on both stances so that you can do both in a fight.

One of the drills I like to do is I’ll throw everything from my strong stance, which is orthodox. If you’re right handed, you write with your right hand, your orthodox. If you write with your left hand, you’re probably southpaw. Southpaw just means you’re left handed. And the way that I do this, I’ll throw all the punches in combination the same way I would if I was just throwing them at a bag or at anywhere. And I would still continue using my head movement, keeping my head off that center line but when my weight shifts, it gives me an opportunity to pick up a leg.

So if I throw my jab, my cross, and my hook, my head is here and it shifts to here, my weight is here that means my back leg is light. If my back leg is light, I can just take a step forward, move my head to the outside, now I’m a southpaw. Same thing, I can jab, cross, hook, my head’s on this side, take a step backwards, come underneath, I’m orthodox.

So there’s a way to transition from right to left without having to show it, without going here and here. Now I’m hiding it behind my hands, my feet move when my hands move. So if I go one, two, three, my head moves my footsteps, my head moves, southpaw. One, two, three, my head moves, I take a step backward, my head moves, orthodox.

And that is my tip of the day.

United States Marine Anthony Franco’s Boxing Journey

After his service in the United States Marine Corps, Anthony Franco came to The Arena, originally to wrestle. When he crossed paths with Boxing Coach Joe Vargas, he set out on a new journey has set his sights on boxing in the Olympics.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Anthony Franco:
My name is Anthony Franco. 152 pound amateur, top ranked in USA Boxing. I fight in the elite division. I’m from Redlands, California, and I’m fighting out of San Diego, California. I had a child at 19. His name is James. He’s three years old now, so I had to grow up really fast. I wanted to be a great father and hopefully one day be a good husband. Thank God the Marine Corps is right there for me. I’m very proud of my service, proud of my country. I got out recently in September and I’m just ready for this new chapter in my life in boxing.

When I was about seven years old, my cousins had a gym in their garage. My uncle would make me put on the gloves and we would have to fight each other, so boxing was always there. I just never took it seriously and plus my mom never let me throw the gloves on. I came here to The Arena to actually go on my venture wrestling. I was a pretty competitive wrestler in high school. I was here one day and I saw Joe. Saw everybody sparring, pretty much asked if I could spar. I had no mouthpiece, no head gear, I just threw the gloves on. I just wanted to get in there with my teammate now, CC, and he dropped me with this body shot in the second or third round. From that day on I was like, “I’m going to get his ass back.”

Coach Joe Vargas:
He wanted to spar and I threw him in there and I noticed that he had something, I don’t know, something you can’t teach. He had no boxing fundamentals taught to him. He said he wanted to fight. I tried to discourage him by putting him in with really good opposition because I just thought, “Oh, it’s going to be an uphill battle with him. He’s 19 years old. I don’t think he’s going to be teachable.” He proved me wrong. I saw that there was something special about him.

Anthony Franco:
If I win this tournament, I get to travel with Team USA and go to the international tournaments. When 2019 comes around and Olympic qualifies are there, if you have enough points, you’ve secured your spot so it’s on my mind. But growing up, the Olympics was never on my mind. It was just always, “Be a world champion.”

U.S. Army Boxing Team Preparing for Olympic Trials

The Arena is honored and proud to host US ARMY BOXING COACH Charles Leverette and his crew of Olympic Trial Contenders for the next two weeks as they prepare for their matches with The Arena’s Boxing Coach Basheer Abdullah.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Coach Charles Leverette:
My name is Charles Leverette, coach of the Army World Class Athlete Program Boxing Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado. We’re out here visiting my little, big brother, Coach Abdullah out here in The Arena Combat Sports. He’s one of my mentors. He was my head coach for the Army. We’re out here for the next two weeks preparing our heavyweight, and our middleweights, male and female boxers for their 2020 Olympic Trials, slated to happen in December the 7th through the 15th in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

So, we have two chances at middleweight for the females, and one at heavyweight with the males. Out of those three, we can definitely put two of them on the team. That’s our goal. So, we’re out here training hard with Coach Abdullah and his crew, that welcome us into the place like it was our home. So, we’re looking forward to returning the favor out in Colorado sometime soon.

Bartender Begins Boxing and Fights In His First Amateur Bout

After trying out for the Bartender Boxing Organization, Crosby fell in love with boxing and competed in his first amateur bout. Now he’s training every day at The Arena.

https://youtu.be/rT–7OPh3eM

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Crosby Roper:
My name is Crosby Roper. My started about eight months ago through an organization called Bartender Boxing, where basically they grabbed local bartenders to go into an amateur boxing bout. We worked with Coach Joe and Basheer three days a week to get us ready for our fights. It was a really good experience. I really like the people here. I really liked the coaches. They were strict, but I also could tell they cared a lot about their fighters.

Coach Joe Vargas:
Crosby caught my eye because of his size, his lankiness, and strength. So when we got to pick fighters, that was the guy I went with. We went right into training. Once we started sparring, Crosby was having a hard time. He didn’t know how to use this distance and range, and I can tell when he was contemplating about quitting. And I just said, “What’s up man?” He just kind of let me know that he was having a hard time with these guys, that he couldn’t figure it out. The running joke because he had a black eye for about a month.

Crosby Roper:
When I would get hit, I would just kind of freeze up, and I’d get really in my head and frustrated. So I had a lot of difficulty sparring, and it took a lot of time to get out of that mind frame. At one point, I was just like, nah man, I’m not going to do the fight. I got other stuff going on, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I came in and talked with Coach Joe and he kind of just laid it out for me.

Coach Joe Vargas:
I said, “Listen, man, you can go ahead and quit, bro. If you can sit with that and live the rest of your life knowing you quit on something, go for it, bro.” That’s just the motivation he needed I guess. He stuck to it. And watching him fight was one of the most satisfying things for me because he came out and he had fun.

Crosby Roper:
That was one of the best experiences of my life. At the end of the fight, I just had this huge smile on my face. So I talked to Joe shortly after that and was like, “I want to fight again.” Since then, I’ve been here every day. I spar every week.

Coach Joe Vargas:
He’s the most consistent guy. He’s been in here training, sparring, working out all the time. Sparring with amateurs. He will spar with some of the pro fighters, so it’s been a fun ride with Crosby.

The Arena’s Christian Olivas Sparring in Tijuana

Proper preparation is a fundamental pillar for success. Check out this inside look at Boxing Coach Joe Vargas going down to Tijuana to train The Arena’s pro-boxer Cristian Olivas during his final sparring session of fight camp.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Coach Joe Vargas:
Today, we all came and finalized the last day of camp for Christian Olivas, who came to spar. One of the best prospects here in Tijuana. We made the trip across the border. Took advantage and got some of the hard grueling work.

 

We fight next Friday in Minnesota. So we had to get a guy in front of us who’s strong and aggressive, kind of like the opponent we’re going against, Tyler Howard, very strong young man and undefeated. Top ranked fight so, we came to prepare for some of the best guys here. 

Big Lou Lost Over 50 lbs In 5 Months of Boxing Classes

Check out this amazing story of member Lucien Liera and his story of how boxing gave his health and happiness back. Through his hardwork and dedication to his boxing workouts “Big Lou” shed 60 lbs. and has earned his way to helping with the fighters at The Arena.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Lucien Liera:
My name is Lu Liera. I was always overweight. I love boxing though. Even though I never really did any kind of training before in my life, never, but I always liked boxing. But I was always kind of intimidated to come into these kinds of places and try it out.

Lucien Liera:
So my brothers being here at The Arena for a while and he’d always tell me, “Hey, why don’t you come in and check out the gym?” And I’d always tell him like, “Maybe I’ll come by and check it out,” you know? So time went by, my health started getting worse and something just hit me one day. I came in here to The Arena and I just kept with it and the pounds just are coming off. In about five months, I lost like 50 pounds.”

Joe Vargas:
Lu’s high energy. Came in and a little bit overweight. I saw his work ethic and I was like, whoa, this guy was working hard. He loved it. And I just started seeing him shed, become smaller and smaller and smaller, and he started learning a lot. Every time a guy fought, he was always giving me advice on what to do. And I don’t tell him I know or be quiet. I just listen to him, because sometimes people have a point. But he’s always like that, the assistant coach man. Give me what he thinks we should do for the game plan. And I’m like, “Okay, Lu, cool, cool.”

Joe Vargas:
But he was so animated about it, so passionate about it. And the couple times that we fought, he’d come as a spectator and I can hear him yelling and he’s making sense on what he’s saying. So I knew he understood the fight game is a big fight fan. So I asked him one day, “You want to help me out?” And he got all excited, like ” of course, of course.” He loved it you know. And he’s been working with the guys and he’s been learning how to do what we do. And he’s been a great asset.

Lucien Liera:
It’s amazing because of how much I love boxing. I’m starting to help out the boxing coaches and learning how to hold mitts and starting to help train fighters. This atmosphere here at this gym is amazing. Nobody judges anybody. Everybody’s real helpful and encouraging and it just feels really good to be a part of The Arena.

Diego Garijo Bare Knuckle Boxer

Watch The Arena’s Diego “Dos Postolas” Garijo as he KO’s his opponent in the first Bare Knuckle Fight Promotion since 1889, with Boxing Coach Joe Vargas in his corner.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Diego Garijo:
My name is Diego Garijo, Dos Pistolas. I’m an MMA fighter that’s going to try my hand at bare-knuckle boxing. I’m working with Joe Vargas on my boxing. He’s a very experienced coach. He has a lot of undefeated pro fighters. There’s a lot of future Olympians here at the arena and it just gives me a lot of confidence to work with this caliber of people.

Coach Joe Vargas:
Working with Diego has been an awesome experience. He reached out to me, I told him that I would train him only if he did exactly what we asked of him and he said, “Yeah.” He agreed to it and came into the gym and had a great work ethic. I always had to kind of like restrain him a little bit from going too much. It was sometimes he felt like he had to do more, and I’m like, “No, you listen, and you do what I tell you.” We started from A, B, and C with him and it worked out perfect.

Diego Garijo:
The promotion I’m fighting for is the very first sanctioned bare-knuckle boxing in the United States since 1889. A lot of people don’t like it and they think it’s a step backwards, but I disagree. Bare-knuckle boxing was outlawed, and a great reason had to do with promoters wanted to keep fighters around for a long time and they would bust up their hands, so they introduced boxing gloves. You know, it’s really to protect the hands and not the athlete.

Coach Joe Vargas:
Diego went out and he just went at it. 30 seconds into the fight Diego’s eye’s swollen, and he has about three cuts. They all settled down. Caught the guy with a beautiful hook. Dropped the guy. I thought the kid wasn’t going to get up. He jumped up. Diego caught him with the left coming in and knocked him out cold for a good minute.

Diego Garijo:
I’m not fighting for money. I’m not fighting for fame. I’m fighting because I love it and I missed it so much when I stopped fighting. I thought it was the right thing to do for my family, but I think from my personality, I need to do this for a few more years until it’s completely out of my system.

A Little Heckling Leads to Finding Unknown Family

Check out this cool clip of The Arena’s Ken ‘Ducky’ Dutkiewicz and Boxing Coach Joe Vargas’ fortuitous experience. You’ll get two things here at The Arena, 1) Great training and 2) Unmatched camaraderie.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Ken Dutkiewicz:
I came to the gym about two and a half years ago. Had some interest in boxing, and I had this fat, ugly-looking beard. And Coach Joe would always make fun of me. “Oh, I bet you’re Irish. You kind of look like Conor McGregor.”

Coach Joe Vargas:
At the time, Conor McGregor was all over the media and he just resembled him a lot. Ever since, I called him Conor. That beard … I always like to get to know where everybody’s from. I asked him if he was Irish. He laughed at me. He said, “No.” I said, “You better … Are you sure?” And then he said, “Yeah.” “Well, you sure as hell look Irish.” And you can beep that out.

Ken Dutkiewicz:
And I was just like, “Nah, nah. I don’t really know where my roots are. I don’t think I’m Irish.” I’m like, “But I would love to find out.” But he kept teasing me and teasing me, so I actually went and got a DNA test done. Found out I was Scottish, Irish, English. I had some lady a few weeks into it message me saying she thought we were related. Well, funny enough, I’m like … my dad was adopted, so he never actually knew his birth family. And he’s been trying to figure this out for some odd 30, 40 years.

I actually ended up introducing her to my dad, and let them start to talking, and they actually ended up to my dad actually finding his long lost half sister that was actually birthed by his birth month. So, pretty much Coach Joe teasing me about being Irish led my dad to find his long lost side of the family, just over a little bit of fun and games.

Coach Joe Vargas:
He thought McGregor could actually beat Mayweather.

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