HOLDREGE — The young boxers punched and ducked at the bright orange pool noodles wielded by Ernie Quintana.

A warm summer breeze wafted through the open garage doors as uplifting music blared over the speakers. The kids, ranging in age from 7 to 17, spent their hour doing different training circuits inside and outside the ring. Sweat dripped from their red faces as they took water breaks and moved on to the next exercise.

Quintana is bringing his years of boxing and coaching experience to his new boxing gym, Quintana Boxing/Invictus Fight and Fitness, in Holdrege. Quintana owns the gym with Holdrege residents Kellon Cummins and Matt Wittenhagen. Quintana’s son, Blake, is also a trainer at the gym.

Cummins has known Quintana since he was 6 years old.

“I actually lived with them and trained with him up until I was in high school, and then I got into other sports like football and basketball. He’s been doing this by himself for 30 years,” Cummins explained. “Now that I’m an entrepreneur and want to help him turn it into more of a business, make it functional and add systems to help it thrive.”

Cummins runs a construction business with Wittenhagen, and he convinced Wittenhagen to be part of the new gym.

“I always enjoyed watching stuff like that,” Wittenhagen said, “I think what got me more so is I have a 7-year-old that wanted to do it. It was kind of like, ‘OK, I can go all in on this.’”

Quintana trains fighters to compete, but the gym is also for kids and adults who want to try out the sport for fun or fitness.

Cummins describes it as having a CrossFit atmosphere with strength training and boxing-influenced workouts. The exercise training also is helpful for athletes wanting to try something different in the offseason.

“It helps out with so many other sports. With boxing, you use all of your muscles, especially your hips. That translates into better performance in other sports. Like baseball, if you are throwing you really use those hips. In boxing, you use every muscle in you,” Cummins said.

But boxing isn’t just for athletes. The workouts can be tailored to people who may have physical limitations. It can be used for weight loss, to maintain physical fitness, to try a new exercise or if someone simply wants to learn to box.

“Last night we had women here that they just wanted to try it out and were having fun. They weren’t superior athletes. They just wanted to give it a shot,” Wittenhagen said.

The group originally planned to open the business in March, but the pandemic slowed their plans.

“In a way it helped, though,” Wittenhagen said, “then we were able to use that time to build the ring and get more set up and ready.”

The gym opened June 1, and they have had an enthusiastic response from the community. They’ve had students from Holdrege, Loomis, Bertrand, Funk and Beaver City come to exercise at the gym. They plan to start adding more classes and eventually would like to host exhibitions and amateur fights in Holdrege.

For Cummins, having his own gym to workout in and to share his passion of boxing with others has been the best part of the new venture.

“If you ever tried it, you just get hooked. Instantly you are kind of sweating and it’s fun,” Cummins said about boxing.

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