When he’s not on the diamond, Long Beach State Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela has found himself in familiar territory as he trains his twin boys in boxing.
Valenzuela’s 12 year old sons Ben and Noah play almost every sport imaginable, but boxing goes back four generations when Valenzuela’s grandfather first picked up a pair of gloves.
Valenzuela spent most of his life near the boxing ring. His grandfather was a boxer and his father Victor Valenzuela was a US Olympic boxing coach in 1984 and is in the California Boxing Hall of Fame. Now, Valenzuela spends his weekdays training his sons at a boxing gym in Riverside or in his grandfather’s ring in Duarte, California.
The Duarte gym is owned by Victor Valenzuela who occasionally helps Eric coach the kids.
“I can’t take all the credit because Eric works them out during the week, I only get to see them one day a week,” Victor Valenzuela said. “He’s basically the guy that gets them in shape.”
Some of their regular exercises involve stamina training where the boys are running at least three miles and jump roping for 15 consecutive minutes. Then, they’ll spar with another fighter in the ring and they are throwing punches at each other back and forth.
The typical training session for the boys will last for two and a half hours. Valenzuela calls this a “total grind.”
On the baseball field, coach Valenzuela has had a season that started off less than ideal, but recently the Dirtbags just finished their 2021 season campaign. They finished the year on a high note, sweeping UC Davis on a three-game road series that led to a 12-3 record for the month of May finishing the season with a conference record of 17-13 in fifth place in the Big West.
During the season, he found himself unwinding from the stress of coaching by spending Mondays with Ben and Noah teaching them a piece of their family history. He said he’s letting them decide how far they want to take the sport.
The coach keeps boxing memorabilia in his Blair Field office, including a signed picture from legendary boxer Oscar De La Hoya. There are also pictures of Mike Tyson, Gennady Golovkin (Triple G), and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Long Beach State Athletic Director Andy Fee said it’s clear boxing is important to Valenzuela.
“If you go into his office at Blair, I’m sure you’ve seen he’s got different boxing gloves on display, they’re autographed,” Fee said.
Eric Valenzuela believes that boxing is a great sport for his kids because it will help them to improve in other sports. He said boxing helps increase their stamina, makes them faster and more aware and will also help bring a stronger mentality when it comes to athletics as well as life.
“It was the training, the sparring, that really kind of made me realize how crazy this is and how different it is then any other sport,” Valenzuela said.
“When you’re training for boxing and the hours you put in, the blood sweat and tears that go in training to that, there’s just nothing like it,” Valenzuela said. “That’s why it’s a love of mine.”
Valenzuela said what separates boxing from sports like baseball and football is the type of mentality and self-preparation that goes into a fighter’s mentality before a fight. Having a mentality of knowing you will be hit and continuing to push through a three-minute round is a type of mentality a boxer needs if they want to win their match.
Valenzuela says boxing takes a lot of soul searching because of the level of physicality and competitiveness boxing brings out. Being able to go the full match, strategizing when to attack your opponent, and to keep pushing through even when you’re tired and feel like giving up.
“Obviously, the workouts are extremely difficult, and it really takes some soul searching if you really want to do it,” said Valenzuela. “With my sons, obviously, when it’s fight day, and they get in there with another kid, and they’re, you know, it’s competitive and they’re fighting.”
Valenzuela’s father Victor said he never thought he’d see the day when the boys began boxing because of how dangerous the sport can be, but went on to add that it is a lot of fun watching them fight and they are good boxers.
“I mean, my brothers who boxed, they went to go see the boys fight, and they were pretty excited because it kind of brings back memories when we were young kids fighting because we started when we were young also,” said Victor Valenzuela. “So yeah, it’s a lot of fun and they’re very talented.”
Ben is currently 3-0 and Noah recently just won a fight in a match that was held in South El Monte this past May.
Victor added that the boys are “phenomenal” baseball players, but he believes that by next year, they could very well be on their way to the Junior Olympic National Championships in boxing.
“They have a lot of talent, they are going to be a little force this next year,” said Victor Valenzuela.
Earlier in the season, Coach Valenzuela recalled a difficult weekend when Ben and Noah both had fights that were scheduled during a Dirtbags game against Sacramento State.
Fee said that sometimes if the boys are boxing at 11 o’clock, and the baseball team is playing at 2 and he’s in his office getting ready, Valenzuela will look for ways he can watch the fight.
“I’ve been in his office and where he’s talking about his two sons, and he’s trying to figure out, like how to follow them and how they’re doing,” Fee said.
“If I wanted to, we can just say ‘you know what, we’re just going to focus 100% of our attention on baseball, I’m going to try and create superstars,” Valenzuela said.
As Coach Valenzuela watches Ben and Noah follow family’s footsteps, he is proud of them for everything they are accomplishing in and out of the ring.
“I take a lot of pride in everything they have accomplished from an athletic side of things and obviously from the boxing side of things,” Valenzuela said. “I’m just proud of my boys that they’re able to kind of take that legacy that started with my grandfather.”