As a child in Mexico, hall of fame boxer Yaqui Lopez watched bullfighting matches in awe.
“I liked the bullfighting, I loved it,” said Lopez, who runs Fat City Boxing Club at 835 E. Miner Ave. in Stockton. “I loved it because I see the (matadors) that come in the fancy dresses, and nice big cars and all the people would clap for them. I wanted to be one of those guys.”
The fascination, though, led Lopez away from the bullfighting ring and into the boxing ring.
A rained out competition meant the matadors left town by train, but the bull stayed behind. Lopez, after talking to officials, was given a chance to fight the bull at only 12.
While fighting, he was injured when the bull struck him in the leg. It didn’t change Lopez’s want to engage in physically dangerous competition.
“After that, my mother was here and my dad and they know what I like (competing), so they brought me here,” Lopez said.
Lopez and his family moved from Zacatecas, Mexico, to Linden when he was 14.
Lopez attended school for about six months before deciding it wasn’t for him, leading to him working in the fields.
When Lopez turned 18, he met his now wife Beatrice. He later learned Beatrice’s father was a boxing promoter.
Lopez talked to her father about training and becoming a boxer.
“I met her (Beatrice’s) father in 1969. I asked him (if he could train me) and he said ‘Yeah, why not? You look like a tough Mexican.’ Anyway, things started like that.”
After meeting Beatrice’s father, Lopez trained and went to Oakland and spawned for 15 days, where he fought in sessions of about three rounds. He lost the first match.
Determined, he fought a few more rounds with the same individual that beat him the first time and gradually got better and ended a match with a draw, eventually beating the same opponent.
Lopez boxed as an amateur until he went pro in 1972. He retired in 1984.
While competing amateur, Lopez totaled 15 wins and three losses. He won many more matches after turning pro.
When describing his career, Lopez pulled out and went through magazines, photos, articles and other types of documentation of his boxing career.
In one magazine, a match Lopez was in was listed as boxing’s top 100 greatest fights. His match was listed as No. 14, where he fought against former boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad.
Although Lopez lost the match with a TKO in the 11th round, Lopez looks back on the widely considered classic match fondly, as well as his entire career.
“Boxing is good if you like it, you know,” said Lopez. “Boxing will make you a man, it made me a man. Boxing made me respect people.”
After retiring, Lopez’s wife asked him what he wanted to do after retiring. Lopez wanted to open a gym and train boxers.
He would then travel to the Bay Area, and Minneapolis, among other places, and train boxers and prepping them for their fights.
Seven years ago, after Lopez stopped traveling and training boxers around the country, he took over Fat City.
Lopez, being a successful former professional boxer, wants to pass on what he’s learned over the years to young up and coming boxers.
Lopez said Fat City is a great gym to learn how to box.
“There’s a lot of gyms in Stockton,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to tell you that it’s the best gym, but I fight for the championship of the world five times. I was the North American boxing champion,”
“Sure, there’s a lot of gyms, but they won’t tell you exactly what to do, they don’t teach you the specific way to throw punches and techniques. And I love it,” said Lopez.
Fat City is ran with the help of donations and paid gym memberships.
If one would like to be a gym member of Fat City, the monthly price is $70 for those 13 and over. For those that are 12 and under, the monthly payment is $50.
“Boxing is the tougher than any other game,” Lopez said. “Boxing is one on one. If you’re hurt, you don’t tell your manager ‘please get another guy to replace me,’ like in basketball, baseball or football. You push through it.”