OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Victory Boxing, a nonprofit boxing club in South Omaha, celebrated its 16th anniversary in May.
The organization was founded by Reverend Servando Peralas in 2005. He’s a former professional boxer and wanted to create a haven for inner-city youth to stay off the streets.
“I never imagined that it’d be where it’s at today. From the garage to here, owning our own building and multiple kids that have gone on to serve our country or gotten full rides to college,” said Peralas.
A promising professional boxing career was Perelas’ way out of a life that included gang activities and trouble with law enforcement. But he lost and came in second while fighting in Las Vegas many years ago. Ashamed of his defeat, he told 3 News Now he traveled back to Omaha unsure of what his next step would be.
“I wanted to prove to everybody that people can change and that there's God in the Universe and if he can change me, he can change anybody. And God said, 'I've got a bigger fight for you...It's not about you,' it's about these kids and your community,” he said.
He started the boxing club out of a garage and through the years, it gained more community support and eventually led to the purchase of a building, located at 30 and R Streets, to house it.
The boxing club trains kids to box competitively and for fun. It also hosts several events for the participants throughout the year, such as grill-outs, pizza nights, lock-ins and community fundraisers.
The club's largest fundraiser is a banquet that will be held on February 18, 2022, at the Bellevue Christian Center. The fundraiser also provides funds to support college-bound teens.
In addition to boxing skills, Victory Boxing implements the teachings of God.
“We host bible studies every other Thursday. 15-20 kids come and they're just hungry, they want to know, and we talk to them at their level,” adds Peralas. “We let them know, 'Look, this is where we were, this is where we are today.' But here's what the word of God says about how you can change and how you can treat others as well.”
Kids like Juandiego Plascencia, who started boxing at Victory Boxing when he was 10, have excelled at the club.
“It's just a part of my life now. I’ve been coming 3-4 times a week, every single week since I was little. It just becomes a part of my life,” said the 17-year-old Plascencia. “All the people that come here are like family and I’m in here every day training for one to two hours. It feels great.”
Plascencia said he’s learned to prioritize schoolwork and avoid distractions that aren’t valuable or can lead to trouble. “Victory did make me a lot more strong-minded. I’ve seen a lot of my friends fall into peer pressure, but I’ve never been weak-minded like that. I always stay strong and know what’s good for me and what’s not.”
Another person impacted by the work of Victory Boxing is Coach Mark Mohr. He was recruited to work at the nonprofit by Coach Peralas.
“I'm a coach here now. Coach Servando helped me change my life around. I grew up without a father...my dad left me when I was five. It's just hard for me,” said Mohr. “Coach Peralas picked me up when he saw me out riding my bike with the wrong crowd. I got into some trouble, and he found out, so he told me to come see him. I did and I’ve been here ever since.”
“This is the spot for me,” Mohr added. “I didn’t think it was, but it is.”
Mohr now helps kids better their boxing skills and serves as a mentor.
“I love hanging out with those guys. They’re awesome. I always talk to them to see how they’re doing, and we’re always playing around, but always having fun.” said Mohr. “I’m just one of them big kids, just hanging out talking to them and spending time with them.”
As Coach Peralas reflected on the past 16 years, he said keeping kids off the street has been the best fight he’s fought.
“We’re providing a safe environment and structured program while getting kids off the streets," said Peralas. “As a coach, as a mentor, as a father figure...I get emotional because I didn’t have a father figure and I had a big empty hole in my heart. I tried to fill it with all these different things: drugs, money, power, and at the end, I was still empty. So for us to come alongside one of these kids and say ‘I know what it feels like, but I’m here now,’ it means a lot to me.”