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Santa Rosa teen carries on deceased father's boxing dream

North Bay teen carries on deceased father's boxing dream
North Bay teen carries on deceased father's boxing dream 03:57

SANTA ROSA -- A young woman who lost her father to COVID three years ago has fought bravely to keep his dream of training championship boxers at his Santa Rosa gym alive.

Danise Rizzo, 17, was shaken to the core when her father Danny died. He owned and ran the bustling Danny Rizzo Pro Boxing Club in Santa Rosa.

"I didn't know how to feel. I was pretty down and depressed for a couple months. I went through a really bad phase after he passed away," Danise said.

At age 14, Rizzo was left fatherless and the pain led her to attempt to take her own life. Thankfully the attempt failed but her mother -- worried for her family -- felt it was time to close her father's boxing gym and move on.

That's when everything changed for Danise. She had lost her father physically but she felt she had to keep him alive spiritually.

"I stopped her and I told her 'No. I don't want this gym to close.' This is not just his legacy, this is my legacy too."

So Danise Rizzo became, perhaps, the youngest-ever boxing gym operator.

For her, the schedule became school during the day, training her fighters afterward

Rizzo's father maintained a club full of passionate boxers and she empowers and trains each one, no matter their size. She sees them as family.

"I call my brothers, my brothers; my sisters, my sisters. That's the love we have in this gym."

It's the kind of love her father extended to each of his fighters, pushing them with precision and perseverance and keeping them away from gangs.

"Every day that I'm here, I'm proud that each kid learns something new because that makes me feel I'm doing it right. I know that I'm doing what my father taught me to do," Rizzo said.

Her father worked with boxing legends and Rizzo says she would like to train up the next champion to come out of Santa Rosa.

One of her fighters, Jose Reyes, says he respects her the same way he respected her father.

"She pushes me to my limit every single day. It might take some yelling but it's more than enough motivation for me. Every time I hear her, I hear her dad. So she knows how to push everybody in here."

As for her own boxing ambitions, Rizzo says she would love to fight professionally some day but her priority, much like her father, is to elevate the skills of her fighters.

"We're family so they are going to go first before I do," she said.

When asked what she believes her father would say if he saw all the work she has done at the gym, Rizzo responded: "Well, first I would cry, I know that for sure. I feel like he would say that he was proud of me. I've always wanted to hear that from him and that he loves me."

The kind of love that keeps you fighting.

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