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Boxers meet match in storm

Fewer than 24 hours after its successful boxing card last weekend, the Ambassador Boxing Club took a knock-down punch from Hurricane Jeanne.

Strong winds lashed the club's gym in the County Line Road Industrial Park and ripped off the roof of the 18,000-square-foot structure Sunday afternoon. Without a roof, the rain poured in, soaking the gym. By Sunday evening, ceiling tiles began to fall.

On Wednesday evening, young club members and their parents joined coach Cecil Lalas and his wife, Julie Lalas, in cleaning up the mess.

The work was a come-down from Saturday night, when members competed in USA Boxing Inc. bouts at the Jerome Brown Community Center in Brooksville. USA Boxing is the organization that sends competitors to the Olympics.

After the night of boxing matches, the club heard from many people who were interested in getting involved, said Cecil Lalas.

The public's encouraging response is important as club members try to rebound from the storm damage.

"We've had to take Dumpsters of ceiling tile off," said Julie Lalas, who describes herself as a "helpmate" at the club.

"We had to throw away all of the padding from the floor and the (boxing) ring," she said. "Carpets are saturated. We're wiping the equipment off. The Nautilus equipment could be rusting."

The strength and body-building equipment is key for conditioning the young boxers.

Volunteers also were swabbing floors and ripping out waterlogged cabinets.

Dry wall will have to be replaced, Julie Lalas added.

During recovery efforts, the club's landlord has offered to store its equipment until it gets back in business, which is expected by sometime next week, she said.

The Lalases are grateful for the volunteers pitching in. The club's insurance didn't cover contents.

The club provides free memberships to those among its 15 to 20 regular members from Hernando and Pasco counties and up to 10 more who can't afford a monthly fee, Julie Lalas said.

TO HELP

The club is seeking donations to offset its recovery and enable it to continue to accept nonpaying members. Contributions may be made to Ambassador Boxing Club, USA Boxing Inc., 11178 Mercedes Street, Spring Hill 34609, or by calling the club at 352-650-9252.

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