Ignacio, Colorado, is a small, isolated town which boasts a population of 800 residents. Alcohol and drugs offer easy diversion to the youth of the community who feel somewhat disconnected. Despite the recent natural gas and gaming-derived wealth developed by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, whose members make up about 30% of the community, the local youngsters complain of being bored and alienated. Since 1995, Ignacio has mourned 20 highway deaths. More than ½ of the fatal accidents were a result of either alcohol or drugs and involved people 21 years of age or younger.
George Manzanares was born during the Great Depression, and has been a member of the Ignacio community since his birth. He retired as Chief of Police in 1980, but he still has a concern for what is going on in his hometown and has devoted thousands of hours per year to young people and boxing.
Manzanares observed the youth of the town daily and sensed their general disconnection from the broader community. Because of this, he started George’s Independent Boxing Club. This club was formed to offer young people an alternative to traditional school sports because all children may not excel at football, basketball, or baseball. The community is diverse in its makeup but united in the fact that drugs and alcohol are affecting the old and young. Many family problems arise due to the use of the substances, and many of the young people are angry. Manzanares’ aim is to get kids off of the street and into a structured set of activities, managed by him as coach, where they can find a controlled outlet for their anger and aggressive feeling in the ring. This is definitely a greater choice than the self-destructive outlets of substance abuse or family violence.
In his service, Manzanares follows a framework that professionals may call a “locus of control.” He sees many parents who rely on outside forces such as the criminal justice system to discipline their children and guide them down the right path. Many of these children have little respect for anything and display an “I don’t care” attitude towards parents, authority figures, and all other aspects of their lives. He credits this prevalent attitude as the cause for members of the community being constantly high or intoxicated, and it motivates him to continue his mission. He believes when he saves even one, it is all worth it.
Since the club’s inception in 1969, Manzanares has saved more than a few lives and inspired more than he will ever know. His approach emphasizes structure, respect, discipline, and teamwork. As he coaches and counsels his boxers, he leads them to apply the lessons they learn in the ring to their daily lives. His club boasts of both male and female boxers as well as three adults who assist him in coaching and organizing club practices and meets. The club ran from 1969 until 1981, and he revived it again in 1994; it now runs all year long.