Larson’s Boxing & Fitness in Camp Verde has produced fighters who compete in international tournaments but they may be looking for more.
Former world champion Clifford Larson and his wife, Pita run the gym which is located at 545 S. Main St.
Larson wants to transition it from a “fight gym” to one that offers more classes and helps out the community even more as well as grow Muay Thai.
“For now our goal is to keep training our fighters and slowly as time goes on if the interest increases again we’ll open up more classes to bring in more people and we’ll just be a better service to the community,” said Larson, who is a member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
The gym opened up as Champs Gym in 2011.
Lauren Willis, who has competed for the gym and taken fitness classes there said it is huge for the community.
“Just me personally, it’s had a huge impact on my life as far as gaining confidence, losing the weight, finding my me time,” Willis said. “I’ve talked to a lot of individuals that are also interested in doing the same thing, so it kinda just all together is really just a positive impact on all the people that come.”
The gym has helped put Camp Verde on the map, like at the Thai Boxing Association Classic Muay Thai World Expo in Iowa.
“I think it can take people that are willing to work hard and teach them discipline and respect and then Clifford takes us all over the country and we have the chance to put on our skills and show case them “We’re a tiny gym in Camp Verde,” said Wesley Loveall, who has fought at tournaments for the gym. “There was 800 fighters at that tournament, there’s giant gyms from Philly and every where and it’s good that our coach can take kids from a really small community that no one knows about and go perform on giant stages.”
Larson, who fought from age 16 to 26, said his reputation helps give the fighters confidence.
“Well being a small town everybody knows you, so everybody’s well aware of what I’ve done in the past and that kinda helps give them the confidence that I’m well aware of what I teach and that if they bring whoever here to train under me that they’ll be trained the right way and that they’ll develop the skills needed to be successful outside of the ring and or as a competitor, either way,” Larson said.
Victor Rivas who traveled to the expo in Iowa said Larson is a great coach who has been patient with him.
“He’s the best coach because he’s great at being able to read each individual person and inspire them to do the best that they can and he pushes you just enough to do your best but not to where it becomes stressful or not fun to come (laughs),” Willis said.
Larson jokes around with his students while also pushing him. He coaches them not just physically, but mentally too.
The walls are filled with accomplishments but not of who you’d expect.
“None of us could do anything without him teaching us and without him mentally preparing us,” Loveall said. “He has a ton of experience but none of his stuff is in here, it’s all our stuff, he keeps his stuff at home so that’s really awesome.”