Pasadena parks commission approves memorial to Latino boxing coach
Leaders of Pasadena's Latino community cheered, clapped and shared hugs Tuesday evening after the Pasadena Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously approved a proposal for a permanent memorial to the late boxer Canto Robledo.
Robledo, who died in 1999, was one of the only blind managers and trainers in boxing. After going blind from a detached retina at 22, he didn't quit the fight. He trained nearly 500 fighters -- 200 of them professionals -- before he retired in 1990.
After various failed incarnations of a memorial -- from a park name change to a bronze statue -- supporters say they are one step closer to recognizing the boxer as a piece of Pasadena's history. Though the approval may seem small, it was a big deal for supporters who had been pushing for a memorial for years.
"This is a very proud moment," said Joseph Robledo, Canto Robledo's son. "It's a huge powerful statement because it sends a message that Pasadena has recognized his gigantic legacy."
The proposed memorial will be a 37-inch by 25-inch wall relief with a 10-inch by 16-inch bronze plaque mounted at Villa-Parke Community Center.
Others who spoke in support of the plaque in the meeting said Pasadena is in need of a monument to a Latino.
Daniel Castro, a former college president, said if space aliens came to Pasadena, they wouldn't know Latinos once lived there.
"The plaque represents that this community has a lot of different folks in it," Castro said.
Greg Harrison, a member of the parks commission, said Canto Robledo's story reminded him of when he was a young struggling football player. Though he got pushed around playing the game, his father wouldn't let him quit.
"I was particularly moved by the sentiment of education and how everybody needs a story of perseverance," Harrison said.
But Harrison said the memorial shouldn't stop with a plaque.
"This can be a beginning, it doesn't have to be an end."
Between 40 and 50 people attended the meeting at the Villa-Parke Community Center.
Ynez Islas, the co-chair of the Pasadena Latino Forum, said she was speechless at the meeting's turnout.
"I have never seen such an incredible crowd come before the city," she said.
Michelle Zavala, Canto Robledo's great niece, said girls didn't go to Canto's gym very often. But when she'd step inside, she always marveled at the diversity.
"It's not just a Hispanic thing," said Zavala. "When my uncle passed away, there were a lot of people there of all colors."
The proposal will now go to the Pasadena City Council for consideration.
-- Nicole Santa Cruz
Photo: The wall sculpture by Steve Harpst memorializing boxing coach Canto Robledo. Credit: Steve Harpst
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