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BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

“You know what it says on the back of your shirt, don’t you? Leave no doubt. That’s what you’re going to do today,” says White Center PAL Boxing Gym trainer and coach Tony Rago as he wraps boxer Mariana Santiago’s hand for a youth tournament at the Sea Mar Amateur Boxing Gym in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood on May 10. Santiago, 17, lives in White Center and has been boxing at the PAL gym for a little under a year. ‘Leave no Doubt’ is their motto. “Leave no doubt in the ring that you want to fight, and in your heart that you give 100 percent,” said Rago.

It’s a bright, spring Saturday afternoon, but the chandeliers in the restaurant-turned-boxing gym are dim.

Young boxers, mostly Latino, prepare in shady corners to square off in the ring for a youth tournament at the Sea Mar Amateur Boxing Gym in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood on May 10.

Tony Rago, trainer and coach for White Center PAL (Police Activities League) Boxing Gym, wraps one of his fighter’s hands in a heavy gauze.

“You know what it says on the back of your shirt, don’t you?” Rago says.

“Leave no doubt,” they both answer.

“That’s what you’re going to do today,” says Rago, looking into the eyes of Mariana Santiago, 17, of White Center, one of the gym’s few female boxers.

Explaining later, Rago says that the motto means to “leave no doubt in the ring that you want to fight, and in your heart that you gave 100 percent.”

Rago and his fellow coach, Keith Weir, of Bonney Lake, use the same conviction to run their gym out of old handball courts at the Steve Cox Memorial Park complex in White Center.

A portrait of one of the late founders of the boxing gym, King County Police Sgt. Ken Migita, hangs on the wall above a whiteboard with the rules. No cursing. No trash-talking. No boxing until the coaches feel you’re ready.

The Police Activities League was started in King County in 2003 by Sgt. Reid Johnson, and the boxing program was founded in 2004 by Migita and a fellow deputy, Steve Beets. After Migita’s death following an illness in 2007 the gym was essentially closed, until Rago volunteered to get involved and revive the program.

“When I walked in there, there was nothing,” said Rago of the old gym. Heavy punching bags hung on portable basketball hoops. It was an echo of what the space looks like now.

Over time, they built up a proper ring, and welded racks for punching bags. Colorful photos of famous boxers and the kids that cycle through the gym over the years plaster the white walls. On weekdays about 5 p.m. the buzzing begins, as kids file in for the two-hour workout.

The White Center PAL Boxing Gym serves around 30 kids, ages 10-18, mostly from South King County, who pay no dues for their membership. They sell tickets to the quarterly benefit boxing shows they host to raise funds. “I tell them their dues are paid in loyalty to the gym,” said Rago.

Weir, the other coach, knows about loyalty. He has driven from Bonney Lake for more than three years to train with the kids. “It’s worth the drive every day,” Weir said. “The community needs a gym like this. We’re all family here.”

At the tournament, White Center PAL had three boxers compete. Brandon Crespo, 15, of Renton, and Alex Gonzalez, 10, and Mariana Santiago, 17, both of White Center. Gonzalez and Santiago won by unanimous decision, families and coaches beaming.

Crespo, battered by a powerful opponent, returned to the corner, upset and apologizing. He hugged his coaches and his mother. They all gathered around to take one more group photo together.

“I told him, you lose, you’re going to go back to the gym and work harder, and you’re going to win,” said Rago.

No doubt.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Kids warm up at the White Center PAL Boxing Gym at King County’s Steve Cox Memorial Park. They contract with the King County Parks Department for the space, which is in two old handball courts.