CELEBRATING 125 YEARS — Former boxer, longshoreman made home in Port Arthur

Published 12:26 am Saturday, May 20, 2023

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Estaban Olvera came to Port Arthur for his professional boxing career and stayed through for a career as a longshoreman.

Olvera was in his 20s and a resident of Monterrey, Mexico, when he had a layover in Houston and decided to go to a gym and work out. He caught the eye of a promoter who got him fights in Beaumont, Lake Charles and Oklahoma.

Olvera was billed as Esteban “Beatle” Olvera and on one boxing poster he’s called the Mexican Beetle.

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At some point he met up with and began working with Dick Menchaca, a two-time Golden Gloves champion whose story is highlighted in the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

Menchaca’s brother told Olvera of a job as a longshoreman working at the Port of Port Arthur and other ports.

“I would work the job during the day, fight, come back and rest. Off and on. They gave me an easy job,” Olvera said.

Olvera spent seven years boxing professionally and as he married and started a family, opted to stop boxing.

Port Arthur was the city Olvera chose to put down roots and raise his family. The longshoreman’s job continued, he ran cranes and became a foreman and retired after 33 years on the waterfront.

“It was good money and good pay,” he said.

He saw a lot while working on the waterway. Saw cargo of all kinds; paper, wood and more, bound for countries all over the world and saw cargo arrive.

His daughter Zulema Escabedo said her father is grateful for the work he found as a longshoreman.


Boxing and life

Michael Pena is a big fan of his dad. So much so that when he built his own home in Port Arthur he dedicated his home gym to his dad. Memorabilia from his dad’s professional boxing career fill the walls. His dad’s name hangs near the top of a wall in large block letters.

“When people come they understand. It ain’t no game, to live that lifestyle, to live that life that he lived and the sacrifices, it blows my mind,” Pena said. “I’m living my life with my kid and I know she’s going to get older one day and realize that my dad did a lot of stuff for us. And that’s why I wanted to keep all the memorabilia.”

Some of the framed memorabilia are small photos with a handwritten note, most of which are in Spanish, that tell what is going on in the photo. There are promotional boxing posters and boxing photos blown up to a large size and hanging in prominent areas of the gym and in a game room.

Even after Olvera quit his boxing career he continued to work out and train and even had a gym in downtown Port Arthur.

Olvera said when he retired, he retired from everything.

But he hasn’t stopped working out.

The 79-year-old still runs three miles almost daily on the seawall. He said during his boxing days he would run 10 miles every day.

“My dad still runs every day on the seawall,” Escabedo said. “He runs back and forth twice, whether it’s cold, hot, raining.”

The former boxer and his wife Maria have five children, Zulema Escabedo, Esteban Pena Sr., Warren Pena Jr., Jason Pena and Michael Pena.