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This boxing coach was almost fired for being an ex-con. Now he’s the toast of Hollywood.


This boxing coach was almost fired for being an ex-con. Now he’s the toast of Hollywood.

WATCH | This ex-gang member used what he learned behind bars to teach boxing to L.A.'s elite. Among his clients? The NFL's Shannon Sharpe.

Omar Gonzalez, 31, has been in and out of prison since he was 15 years old. Now, the former gang member is using what he learned in state prison to teach boxing to L.A.'s elite.

"Lawyers, football players, models, doctors."

Those are the people on Gonzalez's roster at Iron Fitness, shelling out up to $3,000 for private classes with the Los Angeles, California, native.

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One of those football players is NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.

Gonzalez credits his success to his past. So much that he's named his workouts after the prisons he's been in.

"One of my push-up routines, I call it Wasco," Gonzalez told Circa. "Because, you know, I was locked up in Wasco State Prison."

It's also because he learned most of the workouts he uses in prison.

"You got no weights, so after a while, doing the same push-up, it gets boring," Gonzalez said.

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You can expect a one-time class with Gonzalez to run you about $150.

In prison, he says cellmates would "be like, 'Hey, let's start mixing some things in. Let's start doing this; let's start doing that."

Getting a job with the rap sheet Gonzalez has isn't easy.

His resume includes "burglary, trespassing, vandalism, grand theft auto, grand theft auto again, selling drugs, gun possession."

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The in-demand boxing coach says his first court appearance was when he was 12 years old for trespassing.

2/3 of former inmates are unemployed or underemployed five years after being released.
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, 2015

A 2015 survey found that most ex-cons have an especially difficult time finding a job after being released from prison.

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Gonzalez has this picture from his most recent sentence in the state penitentiary.

In Gonzalez's case, it was "pure chance." He says he managed to get a job at Iron Fitness in one of Los Angeles' wealthiest neighborhoods, Brentwood, by accident, almost, after applying to a slew of other gyms.

"24 Hour Fitness. LA Fitness. Yeah, those guys ain't having it," Gonzalez says laughing.

He says he later found out that the hiring manager at Iron Fitness didn't notice his tattoos during the quick group interview until his first day on the job.

The hiring manager later admitted to Gonzalez that the gang-related tattoos on his face and head concerned him.

"He's like, 'Man, I just hired a gang member'," recounts Gonzalez. "All the guys were like, 'Hey, give him a chance. He'll be all right.'"

Within a week, Gonzalez managed to sell the first $3,000 class 30-pack the gym had ever sold.


"Where I'm at right now, I'm pretty grateful," says Gonzalez. "When I first started boxing, I never really took it seriously because I was in and out of jail. I'm finally taking it seriously now."

His co-workers attribute his success to his tough upbringing.

"This guy loves teaching, loves to get in there and really doesn't allow you as a boxer to cut corners," Jermain Hollman, another boxing coach at Iron Fitness, told Circa. "And he's going to give you your money's worth every time."

If he weren't a personal trainer, Omar says he'd probably be doing something totally different.


"You know you have a pretty nice camera," he tells me during our interview. "So I'd probably be robbing you."

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