From Blight to Fight: Gopa Boxing Club Hopes to Train Next Generation of Oakland Boxers

A boxing gym in East Oakland with concrete floors and bags handing from ceiling while one man is boxing in the right corner
Victor Fajardo, 14, hitting the heavy bag at Gopa Boxing Club last week. He has trained with Alfredo for six years, competed in the past, and is working towards competing again. Photo by Jessica Devine Wilson.

The gray brick walls on the outside of the soon-to-be-opened Gopa Boxing Club are thick with layers of painted-over gang graffiti.

Inside these walls, a brand-new boxing ring now sits and punching bags lay on the floor ready to be hung up. The building once housed many different businesses of varying degrees of legality throughout the past few decades. It was always hard to know what was going on inside these walls on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Bridge Avenue; the long rows of windows on the Foothill Blvd side were tinted dark and the large garage door on the Bridge Ave side was rarely ever pulled up. 

But now, Alfredo Gopa and his self-named boxing gym hopes the community sees the transformation taking place not just to the outside of this once heavily-blighted building, but the transformations that are taking place inside as well. 

The tinted windows have come down and with the garage door rolled up during the afternoons these past few months, curious passersby have noticed the 20 or so teens going through sparring drills until a buzzard echoes inside the gym’s concrete wall, signaling the boxers to take a breath.

Gopa, who looks young enough to blend in with the young boxers he trains, is hard to find in the middle of this well-orchestrated chaos of boxers and construction work. He’s the one in a beanie giving some of the boxers some quick tips before the buzzard rings again and they return to their sparring drills.

Two men talk to each other inside a well-lit under construction gym
Inside the new Gopa Boxing Club, Alfredo Gopa (right) and Jalal Kastelli work with salvaged materials to remodel the space before it opens. Kastelli has trained with Alfredo for 2.5 years and is working towards competing. Photo by Jessica Devine Wilson.

Gopa then immediately turns his attention to his volunteers and gives them instruction on another minor project he needs their help to finish. Gopa’s attention goes back and forth between the boxers and volunteers for a few more dizzying rounds but he glides smoothly between boths tasks as easily as a championship boxer in the ring does against an inferior opponent.

“I want to introduce kids to being healthy, setting goals, and gaining confidence,” Gopa told Oakland Voices. Gopa, who is from Southern Mexico with Mayan roots, arrived in Oakland in his late teens to compete in the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. As he was training at the now-closed Amsterdam Gym on High Street, he was given an opportunity by the owner of the gym to train some of the boxers, launching his training career.

If the Gopa Boxing Club is to succeed, it will be because of Gopa and his 20-plus years of training Oakland youth, some who have started with him as young as 10 years old. Some students have followed him from East Oakland’s King’s Boxing Gym to Washington Park in Alameda, where they trained outdoors for two years after COVID forced King’s Gym to temporarily close. Some of his current and past trainees were helping Gopa paint the walls and hang-up the equipment during one summer day prior to the gym’s opening.

Gopa taught his students for 10 years at King’s Gym, another 10 years at Amsterdam Gym in Oakland. During the pandemic, while training 20 students outdoors at Washington Park in Alameda, he came across a Craigslist ad. “ I looked on Craigslist, found this place, and fell in love.”

Luis Izazaga, 16, and Dante Bonavente, 15, shadowbox in the ring at Gopa Boxing Club. Luis has trained with Alfredo for five years and Dante for 2.5 years. Both are competitive amateur boxers (aka Olympic-style boxing). Photo by Jessica Devine Wilson.

I asked Jorge Lopez, the father of 11 year old Sofia Lopez, why he and his daughter have followed Gopa for four years now, from location to location.  “I love his patience with the kids and the passion to want to teach them,” Lopez said “He’s a positive person all around. He treats the kids very fair, no matter the age.” 

For some students, boxing builds confidence. Ever since his daughter started training with Gopa, Lopez noticed his daughter began to open up a lot and has seen her grow as an individual who began to stand up for herself after being very quiet.

One mom says that the classes have helped her son emotionally and with his growth. Marie Sebastian said she was looking for a sport for her now 11 year-old son, Andy.  Sebastian describes her son as one of the “special ones” who found it difficult to meet new people, make friends, and focus on studying. “I saw King’s Gym online and we went to just look around but when Andy spoke with Alfredo, I noticed he was really paying attention and was trying really hard and when I saw that effort, I knew he would need to be in his class.” Andy has been one of Gopa’s students for three years now.

Gopa hopes to train more neighborhood kids. He used to train a lot of Skyline students. “Now, I want to reach out to the six surrounding schools in the Fruitvale neighborhood and start training those kids as well.”

Gopa also works with adults. Jessica Wilson, 33, says she appreciates Gopa’s character and describes the environment as friendly towards women boxers. “Boxing has a lot of double standards for women boxers, so a lot of them start but quickly drop-out,” she explained. Gopa “treats everyone with respect and treats everyone with the same standard. That is why I have stuck around so long.” Wilson has been involved with the gym by taking photos (see photos) for Gopa.

On one summer weeknight, Gopa shows me around the gym and points out some of the improvements that have happened, some of which he hopes will happen soon, and his long term vision for the gym. An older African American man walks by the rolled-up garage door and excitedly asks when the gym is opening. He says he has a nephew who loves boxing and he is excited to tell his nephew that there’s a boxing gym opening down the street from his house. A few minutes later, the handyman is having a conversation, through one of the broken window panes he is repairing, with a passerby in Spanish and the passerby too asks when the gym is opening because he’s excited to bring his kids here as well. 

I ask him how often do people stop and ask Gopa when the gym is going to open and he laughs and says “at least 8-9 times a day.”

The opening of the Gopa Boxing Club is inching closer to happening. “I don’t have money and haven’t made a lot of money but I love helping the community,” Gopa said. He and his volunteers were making repairs in hopes of a grand opening after the City of Oakland’s inspections are finalized. 

Gopa is still looking for outside donations to help cover some of the expenses of running the Gopa Boxing Club. “Owning a gym is expensive,” Gopa said. “I had help from [two students, Adnan Zaib and Bronson Tran], who helped me financially and are handling the business part of the gym.” He added that he’s looking for help from organizations to help with student dues and supplies like hand wraps, gauze, uniforms, and licenses for them to compete. He also needs to fix up the space, including adding a drinking fountain for the students.

Outside of the gym, Gopa looks over the newly repainted gray walls and said one of the biggest items on his wishlist is to find some community help to paint a nice boxing-themed mural around the outside of his boxing club, something that highlights the multicultural boxing champions that also reflect the community of students he trains, like Oakland native Andre Ward. He would like a mural that can help cut down on all the graffiti but, more importantly, something that his students and the community can be proud to see.

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Gopa Boxing Club is located at 3651 Foothill Blvd., Oakland 94601. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook for updates.

Author Profile

Eduardo Jimenez knew at an early age that growing up in Oakland was going to be a special experience. He would pass the Oakland Hells Angels headquarters as well as “Free Huey” spray painted signs on the way to his elementary school where his mom fought to establish bilingual education in the early '80s.
He learned at an early age to appreciate his hometown for truly being an international city with classmates and neighbors from across the world. He knows the immigrants and long time residents that make up Oakland’s population have a personal story worth telling that will show us that we’re all on the same journey, if you dig deep enough.
He is a husband and a father of two young boys and a graduate of the Fremont High School Media. Go Tigers.


  1. Has Alfredo tried a Go Fund Me program where many people can donate money to him? Go Fund Me could be a great help to Alfredo.

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