TROUP — Troup Boxing Gym, founded by Edward Aubrey “Lucky” Vascocu in 1955, is known for producing world-class boxing champions. The roster includes Byron Payton, a member of the U.S. National Boxing Team who died in a 1980 plane crash in Poland along with 21 other team members.
The East Texas legendary gym had a history of turning out fighter after fighter, some of which included Rufus “Bad News” Dews, Gary Dale Swinney, Tommy Young, and Bobby Vascocu (Shawn’s father), who as a member of the U.S. national team fought throughout the world.
Evidentially Lucky passed down the gym and his love of boxing to his grandson Shawn Vascocu and his wife Kandice. Having both been competitive boxers themselves, they started doing what came natural to them, coaching.
However, the gym had been hit particularly hard over the last 24 months. Beloved husband, friend and coach Shawn passed away in October of 2019 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Shortly after, the COVID pandemic hit and the world began to shut down. Among businesses hit hardest were gyms and training centers; especially ones that trained in combat/close contact sports.
But inside the heart of every champion is the will to win, always keep their chin up and Coach Kandice Vascocu, affectionately known as Coach K, came out swinging harder than ever. Now with most restrictions in Texas lifted, the dedicated coach was determined to, once again, put East Texas boxers on the map.
“When Shawn passed away I did not make face to face contact at the gym for a short time. However, I continued to run Troup Boxing Gym, was the head coach of our East Texas Golden Gloves team and continued to be and am still the Vice President of our East Texas Golden Gloves Association.” Vascocu said.
The fierce mother of three and gym matriarch is currently training approximately 20 of her 30 boxers to compete in the historic East Texas Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament taking place on May 6 and 7 at Maude Cobb Building in Longview.
In its 81st year, the East Texas Golden Gloves Tournament features bouts with boxers ages 8 to 40 with winners in the men and women open divisions advancing to the Texas State Tournament.
One of her stand-out boxers, Jacksonville High School graduate, Ramey Saldivar will be competing for the second time in the boxing event. Saldivar, who is 19 years old, has only been boxing a few years, however; it seems to be in his blood.
“Ramey is a diamond in the rough. He has all the tools to be successful as a fighter, and he is humble about it, that is rare.” Said Vascocu. “Ramey, along with a few others in the gym, lead our team with class and by example. He is only 19 years old and he has grown men respect him because of his humbleness and composure. This is something that can’t be taught by a boxing coach, this is obtained from his upbringing.”
Saldivar says he loves everything about the “The Sweet Science” of boxing and trains two hours a day, 5 days a week. “I love everything about it, mainly it being a thinking sport, every move is calculated just like a chess match. Plus, it’s only you in there, you don’t have a team to rely on, once you step in the ring it’s you and that guy in front of you.” Saldivar said.
Saldivar, who fights at 123 pounds, said one of his secret weapons is simply, discipline. “Staying disciplined, not going out with your friends or taking a day off, you got to make every day count especially when a fight as important as Golden Gloves is coming up.” Said Saldivar.
As for Coach K, she said while the Golden Gloves is a big deal and they train hard for the event; she feels boxing in general has more to offer than just trophies. “I feel like boxing can help with anger, depression, insecurity, and with mental health in general. It’s a sport about discipline. It’s something not everyone can compose themselves to do. It’s a ‘mind over matter’ situation. You’re in all the way or you’re not. True dedication is what make or breaks a fighter. As far as the fitness aspect, it’s one the best full body workout I’ve experienced.” She said.
Vascocu also explained that she continues her mission to carry on the traditions started so many years ago at Troup Boxing Gym and to keep Shawn’s memory alive. “He taught me everything I know. I hope I’m making him proud.” She said.
Weigh-ins for the boxing tournament took place on Saturday, May 1st. For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.easttexasgoldengloves.com or call 903.934.8265.