Thursday Dec 03 2009
Warehouse stores memories of champions
By: Michael Kirby
One step into Paul Brocker III’s warehouse in Auburn and your eyes cannot help but wander the walls filled with local memorabilia. Original billboard art, campaign posters encouraging votes for Auburn’s City Council seats dating back to the ’70s and boxing posters announcing upcoming bouts paper the walls. Local names share space: Azevedo, Lichau, Beland, city leaders from yesteryear, even a few election placards with Brocker’s father’s name and portrait pasted on. Most fascinating about Brocker’s warehouse is how it’s a casual, eye-opening museum experience of Auburn’s past. Scan any wall and you’re sure to find a memento of interest, a fascinating antique artifact, or a historic Auburn photo. The warehouse also serves as a workshop for Brocker’s construction business and houses the necessary tools for upkeep of the Brocker family commercial buildings. Brocker’s father, Paul Brocker, Jr., brought his family from New York to California in 1958 and moved the family to Auburn in 1963. He ran a very successful construction business and was active in local politics. He was elected to the Auburn City Council in 1976, and served as mayor in 1978-1979. Paul Jr. was an amateur boxer in the Army, competing in nine bouts. “My dad was a pretty good fighter. He only lost once, his last fight,” Brocker said. His father was also a huge boxing fan, following the fight game and this passion rubbed off on his son. During the ’80s, the father-son aficionado boxing team operated a boxing gym in Auburn that trained world champions. It was housed off Lincoln Way. Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, fighting at 130 pounds, trained in the gym to get away from Sacramento distractions. He successfully defeated Rocky Lockridge for the World Junior Lightweight Championship in 1988. Lopez continued to train in Auburn, defending his title six times. “Lopez never lost here. He really had an affinity for this place,” Brocker said. News spread fast in the local boxing circles and the low-keyed atmosphere of the foothills gym soon had other fighters, sparring partners and trainers prepared for bouts at the Auburn facility. Fresno boxer Ray Lovato, one of the most talented boxers who ever trained at the gym, won the 1989 National Amateur Championship at 139 pounds. “Ray was very talented. He was the outstanding fighter of the tournament and if it would have been Olympic year, he would have been there,” Brocker said. It was an exciting time for Brocker, as he helped train many of the fighters. Today the boxing memorabilia still hangs on the walls, but the ring is in pieces, the weight lifting equipment and heavy bags pushed aside, not getting much use now. They serve as a reminder of a time when the warehouse gym was full of the sights, sounds and smells of boxers working out, training in the brisk foothills air. Nowadays, Brocker hosts special nights when big pay-per-view fights are broadcast like the recent Pacquiao/Cotto bout and old familiar sounds again fill the warehouse. Invited fight fans gather, sit in old couches and chairs, eat hot dogs, drink beer, talk boxing, and catch the action on several big screen televisions, as the Brocker boxing tradition lives on in Auburn.