By J. Shadé Quintanilla
Several Burbank residents gathered at Tuesday’s city council meeting and requested financial support for Damien Lopez, an amateur boxer close to qualifying for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
Lopez, 20, is a Burbank athlete who needs funding to make it to the final two rounds in the Olympic trial qualifiers for the 2016 U.S. Olympics Men’s Boxing team.
The Burbank High School alum and former football player started boxing at the age of ten and has trained and fought in over 30 amateur fights. Last year in September 2014, he won the belt for the Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) National Boxing tournament in Oxnard, CA. This year, he has progressed throughout the first two rounds of the Olympic trial qualifiers in Spokane, WA and Colorado Springs, CO. At the 2015 USA National Boxing Championship in Washington, Lopez fought his way to the first round of the quarterfinals while sick with food poisoning. He placed in the top 8 out of 42 boxers in the 152-lb weight class. Although Lopez was very weak during his last fight, he was still able to knock out his opponent in the first round. In Colorado, he also made it to the quarterfinals, placing in the top 8 out of 36 boxers.
Lopez and Burbank community members, including Steven Harpst, the founder of the Burbank Boxing Club and Juan Guillien, former candidate for the 2015 city council election, came before the council in order to attest to Lopez’s level of skill as a boxer, while also asking for support.
“He trains hard every day. He treats it like a job. In the last few years, I have seen Damien blossom, and I’m always amazed at his drive and ambition. This young man is very capable of going the distance,” said Maya Roseman, a resident and a co-trainer of the Burbank Boxing Club.
Lopez also went before he council asking for financial assistance. Displaying a cut above his eyebrow from a recent match and carrying the belt he won at last year’s PAL Boxing National Tournament, he noted his belief in his ability to qualify for the Olympic boxing team.
“I want to go to the Olympics. I think I have the skill and the heart to do what other people are trying to do their best for,” he said. “I believe that I can get there. I can make the team and represent America.” Lopez also pointed out that he has seen other California cities, like Pasadena, support their fighters at the trial qualifiers.
The city council responded to Lopez’s request, noting their interest in helping him obtain the funding for his upcoming tournaments. Although the city has only directly donated to athletic organizations and not specific athletes in the past, the council members offered to help Lopez notify the community and city organizations about his need. Mayor Bob Frutos confirmed that he will personally meet with Lopez on Sept. 2 to brainstorm possible ways he can fund his future trips.
Community members who would like to support Lopez can mail checks and money orders, made out to the Burbank Boxing Club, to 145 S. Glenoaks Blvd., #103, Burbank, CA 91502. Proceeds will go towards registration fees, transportation, room and board and food. Lopez hopes to raise about $5,000 to fund his trips to the Olympic trial qualifiers in Philadelphia in September and in Memphis in October.
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