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An Unfair Fight
Rick Reilly
August 13, 2007
CARLOS BARRAGAN and his son Carlos Jr. don't torture dogs, don't inject 'roids and don't bet on sporting events they ref. They've never run from the law or the tax man or a grand jury.
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August 13, 2007

An Unfair Fight

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CARLOS BARRAGAN and his son Carlos Jr. don't torture dogs, don't inject 'roids and don't bet on sporting events they ref. They've never run from the law or the tax man or a grand jury.

What they do run is a little boxing gym for kids in National City, Calif., between the Mexican border and the San Diego barrios.

So why is the city trying to shut them down?

Luxury condos, that's why.

The city wants to knock down the Barragans' Community Youth Athletic Center and four neighboring businesses so a developer can put up 24 stories of condos and stores. Turns out National City gets a load more tax dollars out of building condos than building kids.

There's a giant billboard with a rendering of the condos next door to the gym, and it says COMING SOON, which was a shock to the Barragans because, see, they aren't selling. Not to anybody. They've been giving kids free boxing lessons for 16 years, the last five in this spot. At best they turn out nationally ranked boxers. At worst they give kids a couple of hours a day of sweat and skills and self-worth.

The way the Barragans see it, the kids who need the help are here. Why would they move? "This is our home," says Carlos, 59, who works in water reclamation.

And this is where it starts to stink like a garlic mouthpiece.

The city is threatening to seize their property through the right of eminent domain, which is bureaucratese for "we take your land and you watch." This power was originally intended for areas of public use, to build highways and railways and such. But now, since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2005, it means that strong-arm tactics are being used so rich businessmen can get richer. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Declare the gym and its surroundings "blighted."

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