Sport / 23rd June 2020
Youth information session impresses former world champion
Retired Super bantamweight boxer, Arnel Barotillo described boxing as a tool for helping kids stay on the “straight and narrow” during a speech at the Western Wellbeing Initiative Information Session, held at the Coonabarabran Sport and Recreation Centre on Wednesday, 17 June.
Barotillo said that, as a former troubled youth, he has an understanding of how important it is to find a safe place in life.
“My Dad died when I was young, and my Mum couldn’t afford to look after six children. When I was 10, I was sent to live with my grandmother on the island of Catanduanes, in the Philippines,” Barotillo said.
“I was a good and a bad kid; I was what you would call a street kid, getting into trouble and fighting.
“You must understand, when you are separated from your family and no one is guiding you, it’s hard to find direction. But I started boxing, and it saved my life, and if it wasn’t for boxing and meeting my trainer Mark (Pitts), I wouldn’t be here now; I would probably be in jail or dead.”
Organisers of the information session included Coonabarabran Amateur Boxing Club president Gary (Macka) McKernan, club secretary Donna McKernan and Coonamble private support worker, John “Tiny” Lewis. They were all delighted that Arnel was a guest speaker.
“It is exciting to have a world-class boxer such as Arnel share his story,” Macka said.
“He has overcome so many hardships in his life before he became a boxer, and yet he continually gives back to the youth in Sydney through his love of boxing.”
Approximately 60 guests attended the information session, including local police, health and disabilities professionals, business owners, local government staff, and other interested parties.
Many of the meeting discussions focussed on intervention and prevention strategies for at-risk youth. These included how to positively deliver social services, vocation and life skills, youth justice, community participation, and the benefits of physical activity on mental wellbeing.
Other guest speakers on the day shared their stories on individual achievements and personal challenges.
Organiser John Lewis, from Coonamble, also stressed the importance of finding appropriate facilities and resources for youth in both Coonamble and Gulargambone.
A highlight of the morning session included Barotillo and his former boxing trainer, Tooraweenah’s Mark Pitts, demonstrating the importance of footworkdrills to local boxers.
Barotillo also explained to the future pugilists that boxing requires discipline.
“Some of my new boxers think they are tough when they first start boxing, but usually some light sparring in the ring sorts that out,” Barotillo said.
“Boxing is not about being tough. It’s about being a better person - a humble person.
“The fitness required to be a boxer is huge, it requires great discipline. You can’t drink or smoke and you need to keep your body healthy.”
Barotillo’s professional boxing career is extensive, including Australian champion, IBF (Intercontinental Champion), IBF (Pan- Pacific Champion), andbeing ranked number one in the world in 1996.
He has also fought seven world champions, including” Manny” Pacquiao, in 2000.
At 46, Arnell still packs a punch. He currently trains 30 fighters out of his Barotillo Bombers gym in Castlemaine. He also coaches part-time boxing at the North Sydney Boys High school.
Barotillo said he was impressed by the Western Wellbeing Information Session and was grateful to the organisers for inviting him to share his story.
“I was impressed with the different stories and how counselling can help young people," Barotillo said.
“In my gym, I train accountants, lawyers, police and sometimes kids trying to break away from gangs.
“Some of my young boxers share similar problems as the kids here, but they don’t have to deal with issues of travelling long distances to get help and finding jobs.
“I need to take these stories home to share with my boxers. I think some of my boxers are a little bit spoilt, and I think they need to know that some kids out here in the west are doing it tough.”
That’s a wrap