New Hope ‘Dreamer’ fighting in Raging Babe’s ‘Philly Special’ Feb. 8

Alejandro Jimenez, who came to Bucks County from Mexico at 15, wants to prove to other immigrants that anything is possible

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Ready to rumble: New Hope boxer Alejandro Jimenez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 15, and his trainer Mark Roxey (standing) are gearing up for his fight against Edgar Joe Cortes on Feb. 8, during Raging Babe’s ‘Philly Special.’ Source: Darryl Cobb Jr.

It was nearly a decade ago when Mark Roxey, director of the Lambertville, New Jersey-based Roxey Ballet, was approached inside a New Hope boxing gym by Alejandro Jimenez. Sixteen years old, newly arrived from Mexico, and boasting virtually no fighting experience, Jimenez wanted Roxey to be his full-time trainer.

Roxey’s answer? No.

“For me, I’ve been boxing for a long time. I grew up in New York, and I was a street fighter. Growing up in the city, that’s what you do and that’s how you get through your life,” Roxey said. “I had a keen interest in boxing myself, and was very, very competitive in the gym. I wasn’t really interested in training anyone.”

Though this wasn’t the first time a young, aspiring boxer sought Roxey’s expertise, he felt cynical toward the idea.

“I’m thinking in my head, this kid isn’t serious. They come to you all the time and ask you to train them. They come in for a couple weeks and then realize that it’s really hard work and they don’t want to continue to box,” Roxey said, explaining how he thought Jimenez would be just like the rest. “Shortly, he showed me that wasn’t the case.”

While attending South Hunterdon High School in Lambertville, New Jersey, and working as a cook at a nearby restaurant, Jimenez showed up at the gym, located next door to the Bucks County Playhouse, at least five days a week.

“He took his lumpings in the beginning. Most people in the boxing gyms are very respectful, but there are always those that look for an opportunity to dump on somebody who’s a little less skilled,” said Roxey.

Before his eyes, Jimenez got better. In fact, he became so good at his craft, that he became the first professional boxer to come out of New Hope in March 2018. On Feb. 8 at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Jimenez will put his skills to the ultimate test when he battles Edgar Joe Cortes, of Vineland, New Jersey, in Raging Babe Michelle Rosado’s first “Philly Special” event.

Despite this being his toughest fight to date, with Cortes (6–4) winning his last three fights, Jimenez is up for the challenge.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait for this fight. I will do everything to come out victorious that night,” he told The Times. “It’s going to be a good fight.”

Roxey also has faith in his mentee, and praised the efforts of Hall of Famer Russell Peltz, who did the matchmaking for “Philly Special.”

“This card is going to be on fire because he matches fights well, he makes exciting fights. Most on the card, from my interpretation are 50/50. They’re not showcased. They’re real fights,” Roxey said. “The guy that Alejandro will be facing, he has a lot of experience in the ring, and I know that he’s going to be ready to fight. And he better be ready because Alejandro is going to do the same.”

When Jimenez steps into the ring next month, he won’t just be fighting to beat Cortes. His hope is that every punch and swing serve as an inspiration to fellow immigrants that it’s possible to create a successful life in America. It’s possible, even when things look bleak.

At 15 years old, Jimenez found himself standing on the border between Mexico and Arizona, staring out at the expanse of desert ahead. Frightened and thirsty, he knew the trek through the unforgiving terrain might be the end of him. It’s a memory that still incites fear in Jimenez, now in his mid-20s.

“We walked for two days and one night,” he said. “We had no water, and at one point we had to cross a river. I couldn’t see how deep it was because the water was brown. I was afraid of being attacked by an animal, and dying in the desert.”

His brother had sent for him, paying a smuggler, or “coyote,” as they’re called within the Mexican community, to bring him across the border. Jimenez joined seven other migrants and, after several legs — some by foot, some by car, the last by air — joined his brother in New Hope, leaving his hometown of Oaxaca, his parents, and four sisters behind.

Though Jimenez had one familiar face in his new town, it wasn’t until he met Roxey that he truly felt at home. The two became inseparable, almost like father and son, as Roxey coached him through more than 60 amateur fights across the state. Because of his immigration status, Jimenez was unable to travel and advance in the tournaments that led to national titles.

One year after his arrival in New Hope, the Obama administration launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, allowing young adults who had migrated to the U.S. as children to “come out of the shadows” and apply to stay in the country. In 2016, Roxey helped Jimenez complete the application and, in November of that year, he was granted DACA status.

This fateful journey is one that Jimenez will never forget. It’s one that instilled in him the drive and determination needed to advance in the cutthroat world of boxing, and possibly, take down Cortes.

“He’s a southpaw and he’s strong,” Jimenez said of Cortes. “But we’ll be prepared for whatever he brings. We are going to prove that we belong where we’re going. I want to win a world title. To show other Dreamers, other immigrants, what they can achieve if they keep dreaming and keep working hard.” ••

If you go…

“Philly Special” will take place on Friday, Feb. 8, at 2300 Arena, 2300 S. Swanson St., Philadelphia. Tickets are priced at $50, $75 and $125 and can be purchased at 2300arena.com or by calling 215–765–0922. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The first bout is at 7:30 p.m.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com