2017-03-17 / Health & Wellness

Parkinson’s patients regain confidence through boxing

Training is about mind and body exercise, coach says
By Melissa Simon


CONTROL—Above, Scott Roberts, 75, of Simi Valley spars with a punching bag while Robert Ortiz, owner of Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation, coaches him. Roberts is one of four people with Parkinson’s disease learning to box at Kid Gloves to help cope with the illness. Below, Roberts trains with battle ropes. CONTROL—Above, Scott Roberts, 75, of Simi Valley spars with a punching bag while Robert Ortiz, owner of Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation, coaches him. Roberts is one of four people with Parkinson’s disease learning to box at Kid Gloves to help cope with the illness. Below, Roberts trains with battle ropes. Scott Roberts shifted his left foot forward to set his balance. Then he planted a left-hand and right-hand hit to the punching bag.

Just six months ago that move would have been nearly impossible for the 75-year-old Simi Valley resident, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around 2007.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to regulate their body movements and emotions, according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation. Symptoms include tremors, slow movement, stiffness and balance issues.

Roberts, a U.S. Navy veteran, began training last September with Robert Ortiz, a former U.S. Marine and owner of the nonprofit Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation at the Simi Valley Town Center.

“I think it’s great what (Ortiz) is doing and I really like the training, even though I get tired easily,” he said. “I know I’m doing a lot better than when I started, especially with my balance and footing.”

Roberts got involved with Kid Gloves Boxing after his wife, Priscilla, came in last year to ask if the gym owner could help her husband.

“There was an instant bond between us the minute we met and the rest is history. Scott became my first client with Parkinson’s,” said Ortiz, who now trains three others with the disorder.

Ortiz said he was inspired by Freddie Roach, the famed trainer with Parkinson’s who has worked with a number of boxing world champs including Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.

“I’ve always worked with kids with cerebral palsy, autism, special needs, the troubled youth, and people with cancer,” Ortiz said. “I’m not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be, but I think I have something doctors don’t. They prescribe medications that may or may not work, but I help people get their confidence back and believe in themselves.

“I want people to realize they can fight their battle and they can win.”

‘Miraculous’ change

Priscilla Roberts, 74, said the change she’s seen in her husband is amazing.

“Scott loves traveling, road trips and things like that. But our life changed a lot when he was diagnosed and never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen,” she said.

“I’m just so proud when I see how far Scott has come and to see him doing things I haven’t seen him do in a long time,” she continued. “Scott has to use a walker for longer distances, but when he’s at the gym he does some running. It’s just incredible.”

Al Orozco, Priscilla’s brother, said his brother-in-law’s improvement is “almost miraculous.”

“It’s like an inner boxer comes out when he’s with (Ortiz),” Orozco, 80, said. “There’s a definite transition in Scott since he started coming (to Kid Gloves Boxing) to train . . . I just couldn’t believe it the first time I watched him. It’s been incredible to see the change in him.”

Ortiz said the training sessions are about more than just boxing. It’s about exercising the whole body and mind, he said.

“When it comes to Parkinson’s, boxing helps with basic motor skills like hand-eye coordination, balance and focus, and building confidence and self-esteem,” the gym owner said.

“The change I’ve seen in Scott and how far he’s comes is so rewarding for me,” he continued. “The best medication is to keep your mind and body moving and that’s where boxing comes in. Whether someone trains with me or someone else, I would encourage them to get into boxing.”

For those interested in training, call Ortiz at (805) 206-9403 or email scrappum@gmail.com.

Return to top