At 50 years old, owner and trainer Jose Rodriguez is preparing for another fight.
Plant City Boxing Gym is more than just a just a gym for owner Jose Rodriguez. It’s his escape after a long day of work, it’s an opportunity to help the kids who train there and it’s a second chance.
Rodriguez began boxing back home in Puerto Rico at 12 years old and continued as he moved to Clearwater at 18. Once in the United States he continued fighting in amateur bouts until he was 23, before other priorities took over.
What came next?
“Nothing good,” Rodriguez said. “I got into trouble, came out (of it), I had a family and that was first before boxing until I opened this. It was getting longer and longer but when I opened the gym, it was like I got my life back. Like I said, I’m trying to get some of these kids out here and maybe train one of them so that they can be a world champion.”
But starting the gym in 2015 goes deeper than simply boxing for Rodriguez. He doesn’t just want to train the kids at his gym, he more importantly wants to play a part in keeping them out of trouble and helping them avoid some of the same mistakes that he made when he was young.
“You mold them and you train them,” Rodriguez said. “But not only that, you teach them ethics and principles. If they don’t box and if they don’t make it as a boxer, at least they’ll be a better person and a better man in the future. If we can do that, we did a good job.”
To show the more than 20 kids who train at his gym that anything is possible through hard work and perseverance, Rodriguez took part in an organized fight for the first time in over 30 years last October, a second-round knockout of Josh Boudreaux on T&K Promotions’ All or Nothing 3 card.
Rodriguez gets up at 6 a.m. to work out, goes to work remodeling homes and then heads straight to the gym to train. And at 50 years old, with his friend and trainer Jason Crosby in his corner, Rodriguez has another fight through T&K scheduled for Friday, June 18 during the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame weekend in St. Petersburg.
“To me, I don’t care if I win, lose or draw,” Rodriguez said. “I really don’t care. It doesn’t matter, that’s not the whole purpose. The purpose is for (the kids) to see that you can get there. There’s a different aspect as an amateur than there is as a pro. Eight-ounce gloves, no headgear, you’ve got music and all that stuff. They get excited for that and now they’re all talking about being pro. That’s the whole idea about it, to show them and to guide them.”
The event will take place from 7 to 11:00 p.m. with 2021 Florida Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Antonio Tarver and Glenn Johnson in attendance at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater. Tickets are available for purchase at tkboxingpromotions.com.
“If it wasn’t for God that gave me a second chance, I wouldn’t be here,” Rodriguez said. “Because I really don’t deserve this. I understand that I didn’t make a lot of good choices but he gave me a second chance and this happened. This is my dream and if it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be here.