KPAL kids pack a punch

LIHUE — More than 300 fans roared louder than the “Rocky” movie anthem that blared in the background as two fighters made their way to the 20-by-20 ring at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center Friday.

“In the red corner, we have a boxer out of KPAL Lihue boxing club, Kristopher ‘The Real Deal’ Alcos,” Kauai Police Activities League Officer Mitchell Collier told the excited crowd. “In the blue corner, we have a boxer boxing out of KPAL Hanapepe boxing club, Jesse ‘The Punisher’ Cardenas-Raralio. These boxers have over 150 matches under their belt. Get loud for the main event!”

Cardenas-Raralio was quick, throwing punch after punch at Alcos, who blocked almost every jab with precision and tenacity. At last, Alcos threw a devastating blow that shook Cardenas- Raralio, nearly knocking him to the ground. Alcos was wearing him down.

Hundreds of friends, family and supporters showed up to the KPAL Friday Night Boxing Showcase where 28 boxers and 11 wrestlers took to the ring to battle it out at the coed event put on by the nonprofit.

“A lot of kids are aggressive by nature,” said Kauai Police Department Lt. Mark Ozaki, who began KPAL in 2001. “A lot of people think that boxing teaches them how to fight, but kids who actually do serious martial arts and really train in boxing, end up not fighting as much. They learn that they have self-control. They learn that they don’t need to fight.”

Ozaki said it all depends on how the coach teaches the kids. He tries to introduce the kids to positive elements, such as self-respect, dignity and self-confidence, he said.

He pictured the KPAL Friday Night Boxing Showcase as an opportunity to bring the community together.

“I think it’s a win-win,” he said. “We know that there is a lot of problems Friday night at the mall with a bunch of kids making trouble. The stores get ripped off all the time, shoplifting, so we wanted to bring something positive here. Plus with the officer presence. Kids making trouble see kids doing the right thing, maybe they want to join and can come join our family and learn how to be positive. Maybe there was 300 or more people that wouldn’t normally come.”

KPD Chief Darryl Perry said KPAL’s focus has been to help kids find strong mentors.

“Some of these children don’t have strong family structures, so we have specially selected officers that are trained and passionate to help children, especially those that have problems at home to place them on the right path,” Perry said. “Not only the children, but maybe the family, too.”

Cardenas-Raralio, who described himself feeling “tired and nervous” after his bout with Alcos, said he’s been training for five years and wants to see more young Kauai kids in get into boxing.

“I want to get the kids who don’t box into the gym,” he said. “The parents are scared to bring their kids, but I show that there is safety. KPAL is all about safety and self-defense.”

Alcos said he’s glad that he’s been training with Ozaki since he’s been a kid because the officer is “a super good coach.”

Ozaki said that the boxing clubs around the island, which are growing, train more than 100 kids and the wrestling clubs train about 50 wrestlers.

But the teenagers weren’t the only kids battling it out. Before the main event, children weighing less than 50 pounds took to the ring.

Tai Ito-Fernandez challenged Isaiah Kahoku Fernandes in the first match of the night at the drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free zone.

Once the fight was over, the two kids, both under the age of 10 raised their arms in triumph.

“So here at the boxing league, all boxers receive medals, because they are both winners here,” Collier said. “Both of them had the strength and dignity to come up here and we want to thank both Kakoku and Tai.”

The little champ beamed as he showed his medal to his grandparents.

“I feel awesome,” Ito-Fernandez said. “I was brave and I didn’t give up.”

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