National City Boxing Coach Joe Vargas Visits His Old Neighborhood

Home is where the heart is. For Arena Boxing Coach Joe Vargas, that is National City, CA. Come along with Joe as he shares stories about growing up in a community he loves to this day. Enjoy!

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Joe:
My first fight ever, Adam. I swear I grew up here. I was going to show you where I lived at right now. My first fight happened here in this alley, right in this corner. I fought with a kid named Javier Ochiqui. I’ll never forget, right here. We were both in second grade. I won the fight. I’m not going to lie but I was scared out of my wits to fight him. We fought right here, me and Javier Ochiqui. What up, big boy?

Friend:
What’s going on?

Joe:
Chilling. I’m just filming a little video.

Friend:
Is that right? That’s right.

Joe:
How you doing?

Friend:
All right. You?

Joe:
Good. Good, good.

Friend:
That’s right.

Joe:
I’m showing them the old neighborhood.

Speaker 2:
That’s right.

Joe:
We used to play in this alley a lot and we filled up some water balloons and this street used to be bumper to bumper what they got cruising her in San Diego, National City, and we’d throw water balloons at the low riders and run and hide. It was just fun. We were 10, nine, nine, 10 years old. No harm to nobody. We were just having fun. This one right here, that little apartment was a one bedroom. This is the one I grew up in. That was my place. My cousin Pedro, my cousin Peter, lived up there and my cousin, Arturo, lived right here and then this is where we grew up at.

We played baseball here and when they yelled at us, we used to go play in that church parking lot. Behind that brick wall there used to be a big tree that got cut down and we had a clubhouse there and we used to jump that house fence with the red tile, with the red wood on top, they had an orange tree, lemon tree so we’d go get the oranges and lemons. This is it. 21st and I, National City.

This is 21st and Highland. If you know anything about Highland, this is a tough street goes down all the way that runs down that division. And before that used to be a Pizza Hut. We used to go play video games in there. My cousin and I would sweep that store out at night for $5 and a gallon of milk. We’d get paid. When we were little kids, we felt like we were contributing to our family by doing stuff like that, getting eggs, milk and $5 and that was it. That’s what we got paid for sweeping that store every night which was good.

People used to live in these garages sometimes. They were so, I don’t know, poverty, whatever you want. It was just so bad. This is my brother, Alex’s friend. I know this guy since… How old are you?

Anthony:
I’m like 14, 15, a little kid.

Joe:
I think it was you or your brother one time that-

Anthony:
That was me, I got my bike stolen. They came-

Joe:
Listen to this.

Anthony:
One over here, I was a little kid, probably seven years old, got my bike stolen down here in the apartments. We went down, got my bike back. “Get the bank, Anthony.” Got the bike back, one time knocked him out. That was really cool.

Joe:
Yeah, because you had to look out for all these young men out here in the neighborhood. None of them had a father figure at home. It was tough. It was tough. So you lucky you have your daddy. You hear me? You hear me?

Anthony:
I’ll bring him to the gym, bring him over there with you.

Joe:
Yeah, bring him with me. You ready? We’re going to see how fast you are. You ready? You fast? I’m going to take some of this, dog. See?

Anthony:
All right.

Joe:
Nice to see you.

Anthony:
What are you doing?

Joe:
Waiting for Albert to come real quick. This is my brother, Albert. This guy right here, when I used to come home, they used to have the house all dirty but when I’d come home they’d start cleaning that shit in 10 seconds.

Albert:
We’d say, “Oh shit, Joe’s here.”

Joe:
All right.

Albert:
Take care, man.

Joe:
I have four brothers, three brothers. I always count myself. Three brothers, I’m the oldest. That’s Albert, Alex, and then Adrian and the youngest one is a girl. That’s my sister, Diana. All of us box, except for my sister. She’s the only one that didn’t box. She didn’t have to with four brothers. This is where we do a lot of our training. We couldn’t use the football field at our high school so we would use these steps, lot of step, lot of workouts right here. We’d have mitts here. We’d train here when we were younger because we wanted to… Man, I spent 10 years, 15 years running here, bro. It was good times. There was a little track in there. We’d run laps in there, concrete lap in there, little small track.

In this community right here when the kids were under privileged, in that building right there, they’d have free lunches on the weekends for the kids. So you see all the kids who thought they were cool in school, they were having free lunches there, man, because it was a tough time. It’s a lot nicer now in National City. I’m going to show you something about National City not many people know about. Come right this way. You see all the names? Those are all the guys who served from our community here. National City has a lot of rich history with serving in the military, Korean War, Vietnam Conflict. I think it’s really cool to honor. That’s what the arena is huge on too, honoring people that serve. That’s what gives me great pride, show this wall off in our neighborhood.
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