INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Growing up, Jessie Aguayo stepped into the boxing ring every day he stepped out his door.
“I grew up in the ‘80’s, ‘90’s and it was all about fighting back in the day. That’s the way you grew up,” said Aguayo, “I was involved with gangs for over 30 something years.”
Aguayo ended up serving time in prison for his gang affiliation, but he says it cost him even more.
“He saw it all, like, the drug deals, the fighting, the shooting and stuff. So like I said, a lot of my friends keep reminding me you can’t just keep blaming yourself for it. But then again, I do, because I was his father and I feel like I exposed him to that lifestyle and then when it was too late I tried to hold him back. It was already too late, I couldn’t do nothing about it,” said Aguayo.
Jessie says his son Michael followed in his footsteps and was gang affiliated. Then when Michael was 21, he died by suicide.
“He was known for taking care of people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. That was his reputation,” said Aguayo.
Losing his son was the left hook Jessie didn’t see coming. But it was supposed to be the knockout blow and now Jessie is punching back.
“I come here a lot, he’s a good coach,” said one of Aguayo's student.
Aguayo runs a boxing gym, 4 Corners Boxing, in his backyard. His goal, give kids the confidence they need to fight bullying and prevent youth suicide.
Suicide is the second leading killer of 10 to 14-year-olds. Hundreds of U.S. kids in that age range take their life each year.
Aguayo wants to teach his students to be physically capable and mentally prepared for life’s challenges. His number one student, his grandson, Jayden.
“You know, if I wasn’t a great dad, I want to be a great grandfather. And a better role model, period,” said Aguayo.
Punch by punch, Jessie hopes he’s giving his grandson and the other kids that come to train the skills they need to fight for their mental health
Jessie can’t teach every kid out there, but he does have a message for them.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody. It doesn’t make you less of a man,” said Aguayo.
And a message to Michael.
“How much I love him. That I’m here for his son. That’s my whole purpose in life now,” said Aguayo.
But while Aguayo watches over Jayden, he’s sure, Michael is watching over them both.