VILLA PARK – When Anton Logun heard his boxing childhood boxing coach, Paul Pleticha, was planning to retire, he knew he couldn’t let the Villa Park Boxing Club close.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for this club,” Logun said.
He’s been running the club, a nonprofit, since his coach retired about a year ago, but he’s been going to the club since he was about 14 years old.
At 13, Logun moved to Elmhurst from the Ukraine. He said his accent made him a target for bullies in high school. Once he discovered the boxing club, he regularly rode his bike from his home near Grand Avenue and York Street to Trinity Lutheran Church to spar in a makeshift boxing ring.
“This was my sanctuary,” said Logun, 31, who now lives in Woodridge.
The account executive at a logistics company, holds two associate degrees, is finishing a third and is pursuing two bachelor’s degrees at Benedictine University.
A permanent boxing ring now hides behind an unassuming wall in the lower level of the church where Logun, or coach Tony as his students call him, boxes with his students or coaches while they spar with each other.
“Come on, come on. Thirty more seconds,” yells Logun at the sound of the warning buzzer as two of his students fight with their tired muscles to follow Logun’s advice on body punches and combinations.
Antonio Dominguez, 22, steps out of the ring wiping a small amount of blood from his lip with a smile on his face.
“It’s a great way to stay in shape and burn that stress,” Dominguez said of why he travels from Berwyn to the club.
His opponent, Brandon Kelso, 28, of Elmhurst, gives Dominguez a friendly pat on the shoulder after the round. Kelso remembers coming to the club as a teen, while he was growing up in Villa Park, but just started coming back about three months ago.
The club isn’t just for young men, though. Logun has coached a 50-year-old and teaches kids ages 8 and older. In fact, Logun’s favorite part is teaching kids.
While Logun coaches all ages, his students train at their own level whether they want to compete or just keep fit. Women also are welcome.
The club originally started in 1995 to provide kids with a positive outlet for their anger, while teaching them the discipline of boxing.
A membership fee costs $125 for the year and students can come as often as they want. Logun knows how important it is to keep the cost down for students, so the club continues to be supported by donations.
Logun wants his students, regardless of their age, to learn to control themselves through the discipline of boxing. Logun said it’s a lifelong skill.
“In life, we’re always fighting something,” Logun said.