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Native Sun News Today: Young fighters maintain Lakota tradition

Trini Brown Eyes. Photo by James Giago Davies

Local fighters excel at hard work
Janis and Brown Eyes maintain Lakota boxing tradition
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

It must have been over a century ago that the first Lakota put on boxing gloves. No one thought to take note. Who he was, where he lived, if he ever fought in the ring, all lost to history.

For the first fifty years almost all the boxers in South Dakota were Wasicu, and Wasicu started the first boxing clubs, put on the first fight cards. Like so many before them, they were drawn to the gritty spectacle of the sport. It got into their blood, and when they saw Lakota boys spar for the first time, they were quick to make room for them in their gyms.

By the 1950’s, the Lonehill brothers, Edgar and Hobart, possibly the two finest boxers ever produced in South Dakota, had established Lakota boxing as a force with which to be reckoned, and it was during those years that Eddie Martinez put on his first pair of boxing gloves.

Eddie now runs Martinez Boxing Club in Rapid City. He had a quality amateur career and for years he has honed the raw talents of local boys, made bad fighters better, average fighters good and good fighters great.

Tony Cleberg is the president of Rapid City Youth Boxing. He boxed from 1963-1972. Originally from Redfield, South Dakota, Tony moved to Rapid City eight years ago, and now he and Eddie work together to keep local boxing alive, because there are still a lot of fighters out there with talent.

“We don’t have the number of boxing clubs,” Tony said. “It’s significantly declined. There are so many other sports than there used to be, so many kids in organized sports.”

Regardless of that reality, boxers still make it down to the gym to work out, and just like back in boxing’s heyday, the best are easy to spot even when sparring.

Two of the most impressive fighters working under Eddie and Tony are Arlen Janis and Trini Brown Eyes. Both of their families are originally from Pine Ridge.

They are still teenagers but when they are done growing they will be about 200 pounds. Right now, Arlen boxes at 165 and Trini at 178. They are very lucky to have each other to spar against, because each is probably the best fighter the other will ever mix it up with locally.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Local fighters excel at hard work

(Contact James Giago Davies at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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