Alvino H. Peña was born May 14, 1939, in Silvis, Illinois. He died on March 20, 2014, in Davenport, Iowa.
In between those dates, he lived a lot of life and helped a lot of kids.
The father of ten children, Mr. Peña, who had grown up with very little himself, was concerned with the large number of inner-city youth he saw in the Quad-Cities who had no direction, no resources, and no future.
Besides working at International Harvester, Mr. Peña was also in the Army National Guard, where he’d learned how to box. In 1968, he put his worries about his community’s children and his love of the sport together, and opened the Davenport Boxing Club at 609 West 4th Street. Working two jobs to support the club, which was free to all, he taught boxing to kids who needed discipline, focus, and a place to belong.
The Club earned its official non-profit tax-exempt status in the mid-eighties, but it had already started to produce results. Hundreds of teenagers had already responded to Mr. Peña’s combination of tough expectations and warm-hearted support—and thousands more would.
Many of them became pretty good boxers, too.
The popular Annual Boxing Show, hosted by the Club, showcased the young athletes over the years, and several also won boxing titles on the local, state, national, and even international levels. Some of the Club’s regulars, like Michael Nunn and Antwun Echols, have gone professional.
Mr. Peña wasn’t just coaching at the Club, either—he worked with several U.S. amateur teams and many boxers who went on to become household names: Oscar De La Hoya and Evander Holyfield among them.
He was recognized many times as the state and regional Golden Gloves coach of the year, and in 1999, was inducted into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame for coaching. According to newspaper interviews, he didn’t want to travel out of state to pick up the award, because that would mean closing the gym.
In 2003, Mr. Peña was inducted into the Quad-City Sports Hall of Fame, but though he didn’t have to travel far to pick up that award, he still didn’t want to bother. He wasn’t doing it for the fame, and he sure wasn’t doing it for the money.
He was in it for the kids.
“Alvino H. Peña, Sr.” Quad-City Times, 23March2014
Cox, Monte. “Q-C kids’ self-respect . . . for less than $6,000.” Quad-City Times, 20Feb1995, p.6
DeVrieze, Craig. “’Coaches are heroes’: Feurbach: Frese, Peña are good role models to follow.” Quad-City Times, 8May2003, B1.
Doxie, Don. “Like it or not, Peña will get his due: Hall of Fame awaits Q-C legend.” Quad-City Times, 3May1998, p.1.