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The Eye of the Tiger: Veteran boxing trainer Glenn DePriest brings his Hard Knocks program to Rodarte Community Center

May 3, 2018


Terry Frei 

 Two athletes spar as Glenn DePriest watches and times from the other side of the ring Monday at the Hard Knocks boxing club at the Rodarte Community Center, 920 A St. in Greeley. (Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune)

If Sylvester Stallone makes yet another “Rocky” movie, Glenn DePriest would be a natural for the part of the veteran, gruff-yet big-hearted trainer.

Hard Knocks Boxing at Rodarte

Rodarte Community Center
Owned by the city of Greeley
920 A St. in Greeley
Offers youth recreational and youth competitive tracks.
Click here or call (970) 350-9430 for more information.

Every boxing film must have a veteran, gruff-yet big-hearted trainer. Burgess Meredith, who portrayed the crusty Mickey in the “Rocky” films, died in 1997; and Mickey died on-screen in “Rocky III.”

DePriest would be perfect for the role.

For three hours four nights per week, the 75-year-old DePriest is in charge as Hard Knocks Boxing Club fighters as young as 8, and of both genders, work out at the Rodarte Community Center in northeast Greeley.

The lessons are about more than the sweet science.

DePriest, who lives 10 miles west of Greeley, has been at it for 42 years. He signed on to coach under the Greeley Parks and Recreation umbrella at Rodarte only last October. Prior to that, Hard Knocks was based in a private gym on 11th Street.


Josiah Herrera wraps his hands as he gets ready for boxing practice Monday at the Hard Knocks boxing club at the Rodarte Community Center, 920 A St. in Greeley. (Joshua Polson)

“We charged almost nothing there,” DePriest said. “I had the idea that why should a young man with no money be denied what the people with no money could afford to do?’”

When he signed on with Greeley Parks and Recreation, he stipulated that he would bring his Hard Knocks Boxing name and operation to Rodarte. Participants pay a nominal monthly fee at the public recreation center — $10 for residents and $20 for non-residents.

Last week, DePriest watched as his young charges did warm-up exercises, then took to the streets for a run.

He didn’t join them, but stayed behind to talk.

“I’ve had a lot of kids come through the program,” he said. “They’re not bullies. They learn humility and respect for other people. That’s why I’ve stayed with it for so long. It doesn’t matter if they they’re champs. It matters if they try.”

For most his coaching tenure, he did it on the side while working as a power system dispatcher for the U.S. Department of Energy. He retired in 2004.

“Thank god,” he said. “It was like an air traffic controller job, except it was 24/7.”

His boxing involvement began in 1976, when he lived near Fort Morgan. His teen-aged son, who was too young to drive, joined the local boxing club. Glenn was his chauffeur.

“About the fourth time I was there, the coach asked me if I’d help out,” he said.


Emanuel Ramos, 13, practices his technique beneath the American flag during boxing practice Mondayat the Hard Knocks boxing club at the Rodarte Community Center, 920 A St. in Greeley. (Joshua Polson)

Soon, the coach suffered a heart attack and Glenn had to take over. After he was transferred to Loveland in 1980, he founded the Loveland Boxing Club.

When the building housing the gym was sold in the mid-’80s, DePriest moved the operation to Milliken and renamed it the Hard Knocks Boxing Academy.

The name, in various incarnations, has followed DePriest, who now wears a Hard Knocks Boxing team shirt as he trains out of Rodarte.

The official name now is Hard Knocks Boxing at Rodarte.

Why Hard Knocks?

“Hard Knocks is life,” he said. “Life is full of hard knocks. I decided to never name after a city again because of all the moves.”

The nadir for DePriest came in April 2005, when a fighter who worked out at Hard Knocks in Milliken and in another gym in Fort Collins, 34-year-old Becky Zerlentes, suffered a knockout loss in a fight in Denver and died the next day.


Josiah Herrera dodges a jab during a drill Monday at the Hard Knocks boxing club at the Rodarte Community Center, 920 A St. in Greeley. (Joshua Polson)

A punch to Zerlentes’ forehead, which at the time didn’t appear to land with extraordinary impact, or perhaps the fall to the padded canvas, led to fatal internal bleeding.

Zerlentes had a doctorate degree in geography and taught at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins. She also was a veteran boxer who fought in Illinois before moving to Colorado.

“She was like a niece, part of the family, to me,” DePriest said. “It did bother me. But that’s why I insist the boxers get their hands and know how to parry, how to take control of the other person’s punches.”

DePriest was shaken, but he took solace in his involvement in helping many fighters improve their lives, citing once-troubled charges who became probation officers, police officers, Marine and Naval officers and more.

“I get my satisfaction out of other people succeeding,” he said.

He’s trying to build on that legacy with the Hard Knocks operation that ­has landed at Rodarte.

“When we first came in here, we had a lot of kids that didn’t want to work,” DePriest said. “It was like a babysitting service. We changed it to a boxing program where you had to work.”

Two Hard Knocks fighters recently competed in the state Golden Gloves tournament at Northglenn.

Josiah Herrera, 12, a seventh-grader at Heath Middle School, won his match to claim a 125-pound title. He has been fighting for only six months. His next competition likely will be the state Junior Olympics.


Glenn DePriest talks to athletes before a drill Monday at the Hard Knocks boxing club at the Rodarte Community Center, 920 A St. in Greeley. (Joshua Polson)

“I tried other sports,” Herrera said after returning from the group run. “My auntie Amanda tried it out and she told me you got all kinds of cool stuff when you win. I thought that was interesting, so I tried it and I stuck with it. I like competing. I liked getting a trophy, too.”

He acknowledged the three hours of training involve more than boxing.

“I’ve always learned from Glenn,” he said. “About everything.”

Christian Hernandez, 13, attends Bella Romeo Academy in Greeley. He has been boxing for three years, and he lost a decision in the championship match in the 101-pound class at the state Golden Gloves.

“I looked at the video and it looks like I won,” Hernandez said. “It’s the judges’ call. But I think If you lose, you have to keep on training hard.”

That’s Hard Knocks too.

“I’ve told myself I’m going to quit maybe a hundred times,” DePriest said. “And then some young person will walk in that gym wanting help. … And I’m back to the start.”