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Going Pro at 36 : A Fighter from Isla Vista’s Duke’s Boxing Shows Us We’re Never Too Old

Henry Calles Jr. was working out for fitness at his gym, Duke’s Boxing in Isla Vista when, at age 36, he started throwing knockout punches.

Before long he had coaches and trainers working with him, including Mark Lee (veteran boxing coach) and David Martinez (World Boxing Council historian and former referee) to plan for a match at the Chumash Casino Resort Central Coast Championships.

Calles admitted, as a youngster, he didn’t always fight out of his challenges with formal rules, and he made the commitment to get into the ring with an inner drive, tireless effort, long hours of training, and perseverance.

“There’s a right way and it’s hard work,” said Calles. “There’s no easy way to do it. It takes tough work.”

His hands are fast, he has fire in his eyes, and his legs are strong. “I’m doing what the young 20-something’s are doing,” said Calles after a bag banging workout at Duke’s.

He may have gone through the “school of hard knocks” as a kid, but he’s still standing and frankly, getting stronger. “I’m a young 36,” said Calles. “I haven’t been through many battles in boxing and so I’m not injured in any way.”

Martinez has more than five decades of boxing knowledge and is an honored member of the World Boxing Council Hall of Fame organization.

“It’s very rare for someone at 36 (to turn pro). In boxing “father time” catches you,” said Martinez during a workout. “It’s very exceptional that someone in their late 30’s is as good as him. He trains every day and he runs every day.”

Calles answered the bell recently in a fight card under the spotlights at the Chumash Casino Resort that was months in the making, and at one point, didn’t seem possible.

But his aggressive effort and reputation in Ventura and Los Angeles area sparing sessions with top opponents, caught the eye of Gary Shaw Productions, the company that presents the fights.

Calles was booked on a card, that also included local champion and title holder, Francisco Santana. It was a sold out crowd, for his first professional bout.

The light heavyweight battle with Zlatko Ledic was a ferocious clash with a result that had both corners and the entire arena reacting unlike anything seen that night.

Note: More on this story along with video and pictures will be posted later.

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