Sammy Fuentes / Houston Golden Gloves Boxing Icon

Sammy Fuentes boxed for The Magnolia “Y” Boxing Team until the “Y” closed down, then he and Oscar Trevino went to Kenny Weldon’s Galena Park Boxing Academy, where Sammy boxed for Kenny’s team as an amateur, then later as a professional.

Sammy was a Houston Golden Gloves Champion in the Open Division in 1978, as a Light-Flyweight, in 1979 as a Flyweight, in 1980 as a Flyweight, and in 1981 as a Bantamweight.

Sammy also boxed as a professional, compiling an excellent record of 15 wins with 3 of those wins coming by knockout, against only 1 loss and 1 draw.

Do Your Bags Move?

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Several months after I moved to California, I began to get homesick, so I dropped in to the nearest gym. It had all the standard trappings of the boxing gyms I grew up in. Fight posters on the wall, the rhythmic sounds of the speed bag, and even that distinct boxing gym smell - a smell only achieved through old sweaty headgear and damp canvases.

But something struck me as odd. All of the heavy bags were lined up against the wall, close together, on short chains. None of them could swing more than a couple of feet in either direction. The double-end bag (or “crazy bag” as some people call it) was strung so tight that if you hit it, the bag bounced rapidly in an eight-inch circle. The uppercut bag was attached to the wall and didn’t move.

I asked the gym manager if he had any bags that moved more . He said, “No we want your punch count up. Why would the bag need to move any more than that?” I responded, “because people move”.

I use this story, not to call this particular gym out(the guys there were in great shape), but because I’ve seen numerous gyms with the same problem. It is a problem that is leading to a decline in the skills of our fighters and most people don’t know or understand it.

For those who don’t know me, Kenny Weldon is my Dad. Over the years, my dad’s fighters were known for their footwork. He worked as a technique and balance coach for Evander Holyfield, Vinny Paz, Pernell Whitaker, and others. He coached the Olympic boxing team in 1988. All of those guys could move.

A lot of that movement comes from teaching proper fundamentals and a sound philosophy. The way my dad taught, almost everything was dictated by movement. Direction will dictate what punches you throw and, if you know what you’re doing, can help you dictate what the other guy throws as well. Fundamentally sound movement is vital in boxing.

Watch my dad hold hand pads. He doesn’t have to tell the guy what to throw. the guy just knows by the way my dad is moving and holding his hands-just like a fight. It is a beautiful dance of motion and explosion.

But all the teaching in the world doesn’t matter if your fighters don’t practice. And most practice happens on the floor of the gym. Keeping your feet  in position to hit and respond to moving targets takes reflexes and timing honed by hours of practice.

Which brings us to hanging bags. Growing up in my Dad’s gym, everything was in constant motion. Each heavy bag was hung on a long enough chain to swing in an eight foot circle. The double-end bags moved in short and long rhythms, sometimes stretching several feet when hit. The “ish’ bag moved even more.

These bags weren’t hung that way on accident. The heavy bag needs eight feet, because that is the minimum distance you need to practice pursuit, cutting off the ring, moving backwards, and doing bumps and turns. The double-end bags are hung at different heights and in different rhythms, because that simulates the various styles that you will fight. Even the speed bag needs enough room so that you don’t just stand there in one place while you hit it, (an all too common practice).

This wasn’t a novel invention. Watch old films of Ray Robinson training. You will see the same thing.

It sounds overly simplistic, but I can often tell whether a guy will have fighters with good feet just by how he hangs his bags. So the question is….do your bags move?

Kenny Weldon

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Kenny Weldon started boxing as an amateur in Houston in 1953. A native of Galena Park, Texas, Kenny had an amateur record of 216-11, winning 4 Houston Golden Gloves Titles in the process and also competing in the State and National Golden Gloves Tournaments as well as the Pan American Games, before turning pro in 1968. As a pro, Kenny went 50-7-1 claiming the Texas Featherweight Title and N.A.B.F. Super Featherweight title before retiring as a fighter in 1978.

Kenny’s greatest accomplishments, however, came as a coach. A protege of all-time great trainer Bill Gore, who was a Benny Leonard protege, Kenny was taught an analytical and scientific approach to boxing that allowed him to become one of the most successful boxing teachers in the history of the sport.  The program he established at The Galena Park Boxing Academy produced 316 Houston Golden Gloves Champions, 51 Texas State Amateur Champions, 17 National Amateur Champions, 3 Pan Am Medalists, and 3 Olympians. Kenny also served as a coach for The U.S. Olympic Team in 1988.

Gilbert Renteria, currently ranked in the top 10 of the USA Boxing, Elite Men’s 114 pound Division, is one of the last boxers to be directly trained by Kenny Weldon, who is still active in the amateurs. Renteria will undoubtedly become a professional Champion in the future, and will continue to add to the Kenny Weldon and Houston boxing legacies.  

As a professional coach, Kenny cornered 18 world title fights with Hall of Famers such as Evander Holyfield, Vinny Pazienza, Orlando Canizales, Mike McCallum, Raul Marquez and Pernell Whitaker, as well as local legends like Wilford Scypion, Termite Watkins, Mike Phelps, James Pipps, Joel Perez, Stephen Martinez and Lewis Wood.

Always a fierce advocate for teaching proper fundamentals, Kenny also authored one of the top selling boxing intructional videos of all time.
Kenny retired from boxing for health reasons in 2013, but his impact can still be felt in the Houston boxing scene with a host of his former fighters and students now operating gyms of their own.