While some Hoboken fitness buffs may know Sonny Guzman for his golden-glove worthy boxing, this LA Boxing General Manager appears to have been born just a few centuries too late. Perhaps he would have been more perfectly suited living beside the pre-industrial Japan military nobilities, the samurais who ruled between 794 and 1185 A.D.
While the term samurai is often defined as “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility,” Sonny explains he loves the self-defense aspect of the samurai character. Now, as an instructor at LA Boxing, he teaches his students the same. Before he was influencing new students, Sonny honed his training and his body as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. While an active member, Sonny worked in a group called the “Wolf Pack” where he specialized in communication, machine gun training and close-combat instruction.
“In the most humble way possible, I think my body speaks for itself,” Sonny said. “At one point, I wasn’t like this. I wasn’t able to maintain my physique. You have to make that inner commitment to be healthier and more fit,” he said.
As Sonny and I bonded over our love for neon gym shoes, he sipped on a water bottle filled with some dreadful green liquid. “What is that?,” I had to ask. I was nothing short of shocked when Sonny explained that it was a puree of broccoli and spinach.
“It’s basically like drinking a tree,” he laughed. Well, if that hasn’t convinced you that Sonny is committed to a life of health and fitness, I’m not sure what will. Sonny’s journey with health and fitness began at a very young age as he was born and raised by a father who studied martial arts.
“My father bought me a 20 pound weight set and taught me a few things about karate. From there, I entered a wrestling contest in 5th grade- literally in jeans, and I won,” Sonny said proudly.
After the Marines, Sonny’s cousin suggested he take a jab (pun intended), at boxing.
“I trained in my cousin’s apartment for two weeks and then entered my first match. I just recall it being the most intense feeling in the world,” he said. Taking a moment to re-live the match, he continued, “It’s a crazy feeling when someone is coming at your pretty face. You’re thinking, well… this is the only one I’ve got. Please don’t mess it up,” he said with a smile.
Sonny continued his boxing journey until he found a home at LA Boxing. With just $13 in his pocket, Sonny sought out the space on Sinatra Drive as a stress release.
“The world was in a financial crisis, I had $13 to my name. I needed three of them to pay for my transportation back and forth. So, I had $10 to offer them to train and I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “Even on days when I say I need a vacation or too much of anything is too much, I don’t feel like that about boxing or LA Boxing. This place is my home, my vacation, and when I think of doing anything else, I just don’t want to,” he said.
Prior to his endeavors in the military and boxing, Sonny explains he worked in accounting and investment.
“I’ve done larger scale stuff, but I’d just much rather be here,” he said. “I wear a $10 watch now because it has a timer on it. It enables me to tell my client they have ten more seconds left, it lets them know I’m here for them and I’m attached to them,” he continued.
He instructs several classes, including, boxing, kickboxing, and women’s self defense. In addition, he also works with people one-on-one. Previously, Sonny has trained police officers and members of the military – basically anyone in need of close combat skills. But whoever the client, Sonny explains his main objective is to instill the belief that they can do it.
“It’s never do as I say with my clients, it’s do as I’m doing. If I want someone to get down on the ground and do 20 push ups, I’m right there next to them doing the 20 pushups as well,” he said as he simulated a push up movement with his arms. He says he always prefers to lead by example.
Although each one of Sonny’s classes has its own specific focus, he explains he incorporates a little bit of everything into each of his classes and training sessions.
“I train people to have fun, and let them know that they can do it, and look great in a bathing suit. But, essentially, I train people to have them to be able to save a life, fall in love with their kids again, or be the love that they want or need,” he said.
“I know that if my mother was ever in a car accident I would have the strength to pull her out of the car. I know that if I break down and need to run three miles to safety or fuel, I can. I know that if someone tries to come into my house,” he said as he pointed across his chest, “I can stop them. And I want my clients to know the same.”
“I tell my clients that LA Boxing workouts will give you a six pack, guaranteed, but the more important aspect that comes with the workouts is the motivational coaching. Instilling of the belief that after you train, you have the ability to believe in yourself, and save a life. My clients are like my own family, I want something for them,” Sonny said as he placed his hands over his heart.
While Sonny’s genuine compassion for all of his clients is readily seen, he says he feels most attached to the women he works with, often in his self-defense class.
“I have compassion for men who are trying to lose weight or get in shape, but I have more compassion for women in that position. I grew up with many sisters, and I just always wanted them to feel beautiful. Same with my mother, I always saw her as an angel, I feel that way about all women. All women deserve to be in touch with the beauty that lies within them, and that’s a huge part of my job…to help them find it,” he said, adding that all women should feel safe, protected, and confident.
As for a future in boxing, Sonny said with a light-hearted laugh, “of course I’d love to take a trophy home to my family. Most of us want that. But, I don’t need to win diamond or golden gloves. I would like to do that, but I would rather help 100 people feel good about themselves,” he said.
With the inspiration to keep fighting from the influences of Bruce Lee, Floyd Mayweather, Ali, and of course, his own father, Sonny says, “the time is right now.”
“Don’t wait those extra two weeks to sign up. The time is right now, power is right now, today is right now. People who are champions are doing something right now to continue being champions,” he said.
“What else can I say…um… wear bright colors, be as brilliant as the day you were born, don’t let false evidence appear real, be the love you want, and be the person you want to see in the mirror…and that’s really it,” Sonny said with a wink.
Photos by Krista Kelly.