When I heard yesterday that my good friend Alvino Peña had died I was deeply saddened but after reflecting on his physical and mental condition the last few years I knew he was in a better place where indeed he would rest in peace. I remember well that I and Alvino worked at the old Farmall Works of the International Harvester. He persuaded me to train with him over at the Moline YMCA under the tutelage of Peanuts. Over the years I cannot remember Peanuts name. Anyway we trained for perhaps an hour with our old friend Ray Herrera, who was also an icon in the boxing world around the Quad Cities.
Ray only had one good eye but he could box circles around Alvino and I. I had no thoughts of following a career of boxing and gradually lost interest in training. Alvino on the other hand was a stalwart aficionado of the sport. I knew Alvino to be rough around the edges and combative when drinking but he had a kind and gentle side to his nature and was loyal to his friends. It was his calling to open up a training facility to tutor inner-city kids in Davenport. He helped many street kids to follow a straight line in the gym and to overcome adversity in their troubled lives.
Once I was discussing Alvino with a mutual friend when he told me this episode in Alvino’s life. This was years before Alvino opened up his gym. He asked Alvino what made him so mean and want to fight all the time. Alvino told him that when he and his brother Genaro were kids in Sweetwater, Texas they had to ride a school bus to get to school. He said that the driver of the bus would make him and Genaro get off the bus before they would reach the school and fight each other for his entertainment. This almost daily experience I am sure instilled Alvino with a fighting spirit which eventually led to his training street kids who came from a similar background. However Alvino made sure that they learned to be good persons as well as fighters in the ring.
Alvino was one of the founders of LULAC Council 10 and remained a member until his death. LULAC Council 10 salutes Alvino Peña. He was a giant in our community and his legacy is manifested in the productive lives of so many of his boxing protégés. I am proud to have known Alvino Peña.
Top Picture: Alvino Peña (right) and his brother Henry back in his boxing years.
Bottom Picture: Alvino Peña and one of his young boxers. Photos courtesy of the Peña family