Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ezzard Charles: The Cincinnati Cobra

By Peter Silkov

Ezzard Charles was one of the most talented boxers ever to win the World heavyweight crown, but also one of the most underrated.  Nicknamed ‘The Cincinnati Cobra’ Charles was a clever and fast boxer, with a deadly punch. Turning professional in 1940, after a sparkling amateur career, Charles started out as a middleweight, but steadily fought his way up to light heavyweight and then heavyweight. Ezzard started fighting top liners almost from the start, and his record reads like a whose-who of the most dangerous contenders of the 1940s; from middleweight to heavyweight, fighters such as Ken Overlin, Teddy Yarosz, Kid Tunero, Charley Burley, Jimmy Bivins, Lloyd Marshall, Archie Moore, Elmar Ray and Joey Maxim. In his prime, Charles only weighed about 7lbs over the 175-pound weight division, and in recent years, Charles has been recognised one of the greatest light-heavyweights of all time.

In early 1948, an incident happened that was to have a resounding impact upon Ezzard’s boxing career. On February 20, 1948, in Sam Baroudi was knocked out by Charles, and died of head injuries some time afterward. Although Charles continued to fight, he was never quite the same again, becoming a more cautious boxer, compared to the explosive boxer-puncher he had been previously.

On June 22, 1949, Charles out-pointed Jersey Joe Walcott to win the vacant World heavy weight championship, following Joe Louis retirement.  The revered Joe Louis was a hard act to follow, Ezzard Charles, despite his undoubted ability, was never really accepted as World heavyweight champion during his title reign, and his out- pointing of a come-backing Joe Louis in 1950, only served to make Charles even more unpopular amongst many boxing fans. Charles remained champion until 1951 and made eight successful defences, before losing the title to Jersey Joe Walcott, in his ninth defence, when he was surprisingly koed by Walcott in the 7th round. Ezzard tried to regain the World heavyweight title three times, losing to Walcott again on June 5, 1952 on points, and then losing two fights to Rocky Marciano on June 17 and September 17, 1954.  Ezzard became the only man to go 15 rounds with Marciano in their first fight and his courage against Rocky in this savage fight brought Charles more popularity than he had ever experienced previously during his career.
In his second fight with Marciano for the World heavyweight title, Charles cut Rocky’s nose so badly that the fight was on verge of being stopped in his favour, until Rocky rallied with one of his brutal assaults, and knocked Charles out in the 8th round.

After his epic fights with Marciano, Charles’ career hit a downturn as his form declined sharply almost overnight. Of the 23 fights Charles had from 1955, to his final retirement in 1959, he won just 10 and lost 13. 

Shortly after his retirement in 1959, Charles fell ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease and ailment that he would later say he started suffering from during the later years of his boxing career. Charles died in 1975.  His final record was 96(58koes)-25-1.  Although still largely overlooked today, Ezzard Charles is recognized by many boxing historians as an outstanding boxer and champion, who never got the respect due to him during his career.

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Carl Froch vs. George Groves: The Cobra vs. The Saint Part 2

By Peter Silkov

When Carl Froch (32-2, 23koes) and George Groves (19-1, 15koes) face each other in the ring again this Saturday, May 31, at Wembley Stadium, London, to compete for Froch’s WBA and IBF world super-middleweight titles, it will be the most anticipated clash between two British boxers, since the rivalries of Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, and Chris Eubank in the 1990s. The controversy of the first clash last November between the pair, has served only to heighten the intrigue and anticipation that surrounds this match. In addition, it underlines the genuine animosity and dislike which seems to visibly seep from both fighters when they are together. After all of the drama and excitement of the first fight, the rematch does not really need the extra publicity provided by both men not liking each other, (although promoter Eddie Hearn would probably disagree).  But the dislike is there, and it is real. Sometimes uncomfortably so.  In a sport where serious injury is always a dark possibility, there is something unsettling about seeing such intense ill feeling between both men in the run-up to their rematch. 

These are two men who seem to genuinely want to harm each other in a fight in which the stakes couldn’t be higher for either man. For Froch, victory will wipe out the controversy of their first bout last November, and be another step to cementing his legacy as one of Britain’s most outstanding fighters of recent years. However, defeat at the hands of Groves, would be a disastrous result for ‘The Cobra’, underlining the controversy of their first fight, and signalling the end of Froch’s time as, not only one of the elite 168-pounders in the world, but most damagingly, his status as the best super-middleweight in Britain. While Froch's defeat to Andre Ward, rated one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in the world, was not overly damaging to his legacy, defeat to Groves, until now a largely unknown domestic fighter, and would be far more detrimental. The stakes for Groves, on the other hand, are equally high. Victory on Saturday will be seen as vindication of his claims that he was robbed of a probable triumph in November, and will catapult Groves onto the world stage as one of the elite fighters at 168. A loss for Groves would also be a severe setback, although he has youth on his side to come again at world level, a second loss to Froch will place Groves back into the queue of contenders waiting to receive their title shots.
Whoever loses on Saturday will take a blow to their prestige, even more as the fight has become such a personal matter between the two men.  Defeat for Froch, depending upon the manner it comes, could mean the end of ’The Cobra’s’ career.  Would Froch at almost 37-years-old want to put himself through it all again even if there was a proposed third fight? 

The conclusion of their first fight is still highly talked about and controversial. After flooring Froch heavily in the 1st round, Groves went on to largely dominate the next 5 rounds, before allowing himself to being dragged into a brawl in the 7th and 8th rounds, as if to show that he could out tough Froch as well as outbox him. This was a bad mistake on Groves’ part, one that led directly to him being prematurely stopped by the referee in the 9th round, when Froch seemed to have finally got him into some trouble.

The ending of their first match, at such a crucial point in the contest, left many questions unanswered.  Had the fight been allowed to go on, would Groves have recovered his composure and gone on to score the upset win, or was Froch on his way to grinding his challenger down, like he has so many other opponents in the past?

Six months later, how will champion and challenger approach the rematch and what adjustments will they make?  Out of both men, Froch is the one who seemingly needs to change most when the two clash again this Saturday. Froch is in the rather peculiar position of having had the worst of their previous fight, despite emerging the winner.  Froch was quite clearly both out-boxed, out-punched, and the change of the course of the fight in the 7th and 8th rounds seemed to come as much from an overconfidence on Groves part, as it did from anything that Froch was doing.

On one hand this could bode well for the champion, as he simply cannot have a worse start to the rematch than he did the first fight, then again, there remains a chance that ‘The Cobra’ has simply met his match in ‘The Saint.’ Have all of the wars of the past half dozen years, fighting at world level, finally taken a toll upon ‘The Cobra’.  Father time catches up with everyone in the end, and Froch, despite his dedicated fitness, will be a few days away from his 37th birthday when he meets Groves for the second time on Saturday. 

Against Groves, he is facing someone who is younger, faster, rangier, and a technically better boxer. For much of his career, Froch has overcome his technical deficiencies through his sheer toughness and fitness. In November, Froch looked sluggish and wild, with his footwork flat and uncoordinated and his reactions slow.  Froch’s defence, which has never been his strongest asset, seemed to be at times almost nonexistent. The crucial question hanging over the champion is whether he still has more to give than he showed in November, or is the well finally running dry? There is a chance that Froch will get into the ring on Saturday and find that it is just not there anymore. 

It would seem that Groves only needs to repeat what he was doing in November up until the 7th round, until he allowed himself to be pulled down into a brawl by Froch.  The major question for Groves is was his descent into a brawl with the champion due to overconfidence and inexperience, or, a lack of stamina and durability.  Groves seems to have the upper hand over Froch in most areas, including technique, age, speed, and size. The one crucial area in which he may be weaker than Froch, aside from experience, is stamina and durability. Saturday’s rematch will tell us much about whether Groves has the durability to succeed at the top level, or whether he is a little lacking in this area.

There seems little possibility of Saturday’s fight being anything other than dramatic and violent. The controversy stemming from the first fight, plus the animosity felt by both men for each other; seem certain to produce a showdown full of emotion. This may well suit the champion, far more than the challenger. The key to victory for Froch is to drag Groves into a slug-fest, just as he did in the later rounds of their first fight.  Groves, despite his first round knockdown of the champion in November, needs to stick to using his superior boxing skills and speed, rather than trying to prove that he can out-slug and out-tough ‘The Cobra’. Froch, even if he is in decline, still looks to have too much experience and durability for the challenger if the fight becomes one of trench warfare again. The challenger’s recent claim that he will finish the champion in 3rd round this time, could be a clue that ’the saint’ is perhaps over confident.

There seems to be two most likely possible outcomes to Saturday’s showdown. The first is that Groves utilizes his superior boxing skills and boxes his way to a point’s victory and the second is that Groves ends up going to war with Froch, either from his own choosing, or from Froch’s constant pressure.  In this instance, a win for Froch via a late round stoppage or a close, perhaps controversial point’s decision is a strong possibility. One hopes that whatever the final outcome of this rematch, there is no room for controversy this time.  


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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Les Darcy Documentary "Les Darcy The Maitland Warrior"

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Les Darcy: The Maitland Wonder

 Les Darcy ‘The Maitland Wonder’ is one of the greatest ‘what ifs’ in boxing history.  He was Australia’s golden boy and by the age of 20 years old, he had built up a 46(29koes) -4 ring record and gained recognition as the Australian world middleweight champion, as well as winning the Australian heavyweight championship. There is little doubt that Darcy was one of the greatest boxers ever to come out of Australia and perhaps one of the greatest middleweights of all time; yet, so many questions remain about him because he was dead at the age of 21 and before he was able to show just how great he could be.

James Leslie Darcy was born in Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia, and started boxing after leaving school and becoming a blacksmith’s apprentice.  By the time he was fifteen Darcy had won numerous amateur competitions and decided to turn professional.  As a professional Darcy developed quickly, growing from a welterweight into a muscularly built middleweight, who was equally adapt at either boxing or slugging it out.  Darcy soon began to gain a huge following as he reversed early point’s defeats to Bob Whitelaw and Fritz Holland, and beat everyone else put in front of him with impressive ease.  Darcy was that most valuable of things, a boxing prodigy.  He was very soon becoming the star attraction at the Sydney Stadium and fighting 20-rounders.

At this time, the World middleweight championship was disputed between a number of fighters who claimed to be the world middleweight champion. On May 22, 1915, Darcy beat the renowned Jeff Smith on a 2nd round foul, to claim the Australian version of the World middleweight title.  Over the next 16 months, Darcy defended this title against top opponents such as Eddie McGooty, Jimmy Clabby, and George Chip, and strengthen his claim to being the best middleweight in the world, while at the same time, adding the middleweight and heavyweight championships of Australia to his growing title collection. Darcy seemed to have the boxing world at his feet, with his only problem being that he had fought his way through all likely opposition in Australia.  In order to further his career and prove he was the genuine world middleweight champion, Darcy needed to go to America and prove himself against the best opposition there, but there was a major stumbling block in the shape of WW1. Australians were being conscripted to join in the fight against the Germans and Darcy, when he asked permission from the Australian government to leave for America, was denied permission.  Darcy even offered a guarantee of $5000 dollars that he would return to Australia within 6 months and sign up with the Australian army, but he was again turned down. Darcy was to argue later that his main concern was to fight a few times in America in order to provide his family with enough financial security should something happen to him while he was conscripted.  It was an argument that would be largely rebuffed until after his death.

On October 27, 1916, just a month after what would prove to be his last fight, a 9th round knockout of the highly rated American George Chip, Les Darcy took what would prove to be a fateful decision.  Darcy and his manager E.T O’Sullivan stowed away on the cargo steamer ‘Hattie Luckenbach’ that was bound for Chile, at which point they would change to another ship bound for New York. The reaction to Darcy’s actions in Australia was immediate and unforgiving. He was branded a slacker and a traitor and the people who had worshiped him as a fighting hero rose in unison against him.  Darcy was vilified in the Australian press, and there were calls for the government to confiscate his property.

When Darcy finally arrived in New York, after a voyage of almost two months, he was received with open arms at first, as the top American promoters sought to gain his services.  Things went bad quickly, as the anger in Australia at Darcy’s actions, soon made its way to America and certain people who Darcy had left behind, such as his Australian promoter Snowy Baker, started writing to contacts in the United States, calling for Darcy to be blacklisted.  Within a short while, Darcy found himself pilloried in the American press as a coward and a traitor, who had placed money and fame before serving his country in a war.

For a while, Darcy was banned from boxing in America, but then even when the ban was lifted after a short while, he found that the bad publicity about his flight from Australia made promoters cold to having him on their bills. This was compounded in April 1917, when the US joined the war.  Darcy signed up to the American Flying Corps and took the oath of allegiance, intending to become an American citizen.  But still he was a pariah.

Darcy was still trying to gain a boxing fight, while training for the Corps, when he fell ill with septicemia and peritonitis, caused by infected teeth and tonsils.  Darcy then developed pneumonia, and died on May 24, 1917, barely six months past his twenty sixth birthday.

After his death Darcy was given a huge send off in America, by many of the people who had so recently rejected him while he was alive, and when his embalmed body arrived back in Australia some months later, he was hailed as a national folk hero, by the very same press whom just a little while before had vilified him as a traitor and a coward.  
Les Darcy’s final ring record was 46(29koes)-4.  He was never knocked down during his career.

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Marvin Hagler: The Marvelous One

By Peter Silkov

Marvin Hagler was one of the outstanding world champions of the 1980s, engaging in some of the era’s most famous and exciting contests. Yet, Hagler always felt that he didn’t receive the necessary respect due to him after he won the world title. His career ended amid controversy and bitterness, after he lost his world middleweight title to Sugar Ray Leonard, and never fought again.

At his best, Hagler was a brilliant box-fighter, who could adjust his style according to his opponent. He had speed, cleverness, a good punch, and one of the best chins ever seen in the division. He was also a southpaw who was adapt at switch hitting, and able to box as either a southpaw or orthodox fighter. Hagler was a boxer who made his southpaw jab a weapon and during his career, his razor-like jab would batter and cut up many.

Marvin Hagler turned professional in 1973, at the age of 19 years old, managed and trained by Goody and Pat Petronelli, and almost from the start, took an old school route to the top, fighting tough opposition, often in their own back yards. Hagler made a number of trips to the renowned fighting city of Philadelphia in the early years of his career, facing fighters such as Bobby Watts, Willie Monroe, Eugene Hart and Bennie Briscoe.  Hagler’s first professional career defeat came in Philadelphia, on January 13, 1976, when he was out-pointed over 10 rounds by the tricky Bobby ’Boogaloo’ Watts.  This was widely viewed as a bad decision against Hagler and would prove to be the first of several controversial decisions that Hagler would receive in his boxing career. Two months later, Hagler was defeated again in Philadelphia, this time via a fair decision, to the slick Willie Monroe.  

These setbacks proved to be the making of Hagler as a fighter; filling him with an even greater desire and urgency to succeed in the ring. He gained revenge over Monroe twice in 1977, knocking him out in the 12th round on February 15th and then stopping him in 2 rounds on August 23rd.  Hagler would avenge his controversial loss to Bobby Watts with a 2nd round stoppage on April 19, 1980. 

Hagler finally got a shot at the World middleweight title on November 30, 1979, but was held to a controversial draw by champion Vito Antuofermo, despite most people feeling he had done enough to win the title. Hagler had to wait ten months until he got another shot at the world title, eventually facing Alan Minter (who had won the title from Antuofermo) in London on September 27, 1980.  Minter was destroyed in 3 rounds, in what was one of the most clinical and brutal dethronements of a world champion in recent memory. Hagler’s victory celebrations were marred by the crowd who threw bottles and cups at the end of the fight, after Minter had been stopped in the 3rd round, a dazed and bloody wreck. 

Hagler’s reign was lengthy and dominating, he continued to develop and improve while world champion.  In his first defence of his middleweight crown, Hagler stopped the strong and awkward (and previously unbeaten) Fulgencio Obelmejias in 8 rounds on January 17, 1981, in his second world title defence Hagler gained his revenge over Vito Antuofermo with a bloody 4th round stoppage.  Hagler ended 1981 with his 3rd defence, stopping the rock-tough Mustapha Hamsho on cuts, after 11 brutal rounds. 

Hagler really entered into his athletic peak in 1982, with his performances reaching a clinical efficiency that fully lived up to his by now almost familiar motto of ‘Destruct and destroy’.  On March 7, 1982, Hagler wiped out heavy punching William ‘Caveman’ Lee in the first round of their fight and then a few weeks later had his name legally changed in court to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, after ABC-TV refused to introduce him as Marvelous Marvin Hagler before the Lee fight. Seven months later, Hagler granted Obelmejias a second shot at his title, and dispatched him this time in the 5th round. 1983 saw Hagler gaining recognition as one of the finest world champions, pound-for-pound in boxing.  ‘Marvelous’ started the year by dominating and stopping England’s bull-like Tony Sibson in 6 rounds on February 11th, then impressively knocking out Wilfred Scypion in 4 rounds in June. 

After beating Scypion, Hagler declared that he was still not getting the recognition due to him. What Marvelous Marvin really needed was a ‘super fight’ against a fighter with a similarly high profile and boxing ability, and on November 10, 1983, Hagler got his wish when he faced the already ‘legendary’ Roberto Duran in what was the first true ‘Superfight’ of Hagler’s career. Duran entered the match with Hagler after reigniting his career by winning the WBA world light-middleweight title from Davey Moore five months earlier. However, despite his win over Moore, few gave Duran a chance against Hagler, reasoning that he was a 32-year-old blown up lightweight, taking on one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in the world. Hagler was expected by most to stop Duran at sometime in their contest, but instead Duran gave Hagler one of the toughest fights of his career, and became the first of Hagler’s world title challengers to take him the distance. Although Hagler emerged victorious from his fight with Duran, it was only via a close points win, and caused some to question his ability and place amongst the elite champions.  With hindsight, Hagler’s win over Duran is more impressive than it seemed to be at the time, as Duran went on to be a force in boxing for almost two more decades and would win the World middleweight title from Iran Barkley in 1989, at the age of 37 years-old.

Despite the mixed reactions to his performance against Duran, the end of 1983 saw Hagler voted as ’Fighter of the year’ by the Ring magazine.  In his next defence of his world title, on March 30, 1984, against Argentine tough guy Juan Domingo Roldan, Hagler was put on the canvas for the first and only time of his career in the opening round, for a flash knockdown. Hagler came back from this annoyance to stop the strong Roldan in the 10th round. Seven months later, Hagler gave Mustafa Hamsho a second shot at his crown, and knocked him out in the 3rd round.

On April 15, 1985 Hagler got the second super-fight of his career, when he took on Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns, in what turned out to be one of the most exciting and explosive fights of modern times; a three round war that is still talked about fondly today. After his knockout of ‘The Hitman,’  Hagler seemed to have finally earned his ‘Marvelous’ name, and this was illustrated by him being voted ‘Fighter of the year‘ once more by Ring magazine, even though he did not fight again in 1985 after the Hearns fight.  Hagler did not enter the ring again for eleven months, and then when he did, it was against ’The Beast’ John Mugubi, who came closest of all Hagler’s world title challengers, so far, to dethroning him.  Although Hagler’s durability and experience finally saw him outlast and overcome Mugubi in 11 savage rounds, there were signs in this fight that ’Marvelous’ Marvin was slowing down.
It was just this vulnerability against Mugubi, which acted as the catalyst to tempt Sugar Ray Leonard out of retirement, to challenge Hagler in one of the biggest and most controversial fights of the 1980s.  Leonard had only fought once in five years, due to his eye problems, and had not fought at all since an aborted comeback (which was supposed to lead to a showdown with Hagler) ended after one fight, when Leonard was floored in his comeback win by Kevin Howard in 1984. Despite getting a larger purse for the fight than Leonard, Hagler made a number of concessions for the fight, including wearing 10 oz gloves, fighting 12 rounds rather than 15, and fighting in a 20-foot ring.  In the match, Leonard shocked everyone, including Hagler, by showing hardly any ring rust and out-boxing and frustrating a sluggish looking Hagler for much of the match.  When the decision was announced in favour of Leonard there was controversy amongst some who believed that Hagler’s more aggressive work should have gained him the decision, but Leonard’s out-boxing of Hagler in many of the rounds, especially early on, has sometimes seemingly been forgotten or overlooked.   

Marvin Hagler never fought again and still believes today that he was unjustly robbed of his World middleweight championship against Sugar Ray Leonard. Yet, his reputation has not been harmed by the loss to Leonard, with many recognising that the Hagler who fought Leonard was no longer the Hagler of the early to mid 1980s, when he was at his peak.  Marvelous Marvin Hagler is often named today as one of the all time great middleweight champions.  His final record was 62(52koes)-3-2.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rocky Graziano: Hey, Ma, your bad boy did good!

By Peter Silkov

Rocky Graziano’s life story is the classic tale of a bad boy who makes good through boxing. Born Rocco Barbella in New York, on January 1, 1922, Graziano was a tearaway as a youngster and in constant trouble with the Police. He seemingly was on the road to a life of crime and jail, until he discovered that his inner anger and fire could be used successfully inside a boxing ring. After a short amateur career, Graziano turned professional in 1942. There was nothing subtle about Graziano’s fighting style, he was an embodiment of what any fighter named ‘Rocky’ is expected be; a crude and savage brawler with a huge heart and a knockout punch in each fist.

Graziano quickly became a huge favourite with the fans in the mid-1940s. When the World middleweight champion Tony Zale returned from duty in WW2, a contest between him and the division’s newest sensation, Graziano, was a natural. 
In all, the two men fought three times in what has been celebrated as one of boxing’s greatest ever rivalries. The first two fights between Graziano and Zale are considered two of the greatest and most savage title contests of modern times. In their first meeting on September 27, 1946,  Graziano rose from a 1st round knockdown, to floor Zale in the 2nd, and then savagely pummel him over the next few round before being overwhelmed in the 6th round by a vicious right to the body, and left hook to the jaw. 

The rematch took place ten months later on July 16, 1947, this time, it was Zale who had the upper hand early on, flooring Graziano in the 3rd, and looking at times to be only a punch or two from victory, only to be overcome by a desperate fight back from Graziano.  Despite being badly punished by Zale, with a bloody left eye, and a closing right eye, Graziano threw everything that he had left at Zale in the 5th and 6th rounds, in an astonishingly brutal and relentless attack, that ended with Zale draped exhausted and battered, through the middle ropes in the 6th round. At that point, the referee waved the fight off and declared Rocky Graziano the new World middleweight champion.  Graziano’s first words after his spectacular victory were ‘Mama, the bad boy done it!’

Rocky made the first defence of his Middleweight world championship 11 months later, on June 10, 1948, in what was his 3rd and last fight with Tony Zale. This time, it was more straightforward, as Zale overwhelmed Graziano from the start, flooring him in the first and then again in the third, before finally knocking out Rocky in the 3rd round, and regaining the middleweight crown from Graziano.

After losing his world title, Rocky came back with a string of twenty wins and one draw over the next four years, including exciting victories over Charlie Fusari, Gene Burton, and two wins and a draw over fellow crowd favourite Tony Janiro.  On April 16, 1952, Graziano tried to regain the World middleweight title against the great Sugar Ray Robinson, but after scoring a brief knockdown of Robinson, Graziano was then put down fro the full count in the 3rd round.

Rocky had one more fight after this, being out-pointed by the clever, but light fisted Chuck Davey. Graziano retired in 1952 with a final record of 67(52koes)-10-6.
In his retirement Graziano became a popular TV personality, actor, and his life story was made into a film starring Paul Newman.  As he often liked to say… somebody up there liked him. 

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Jimmy Garcia: A Fallen Warrior Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Jimmy Garcia was born in Barranquilla Colombia, and like so many thousands of boxers through the years, he dreamed of escaping his modest beginnings by becoming a champion in the boxing ring. Turning professional at the age of 17 years old, Garcia wasn’t the most talented of fighters, but he was tough, with a big heart, and the will power to chase his dream.  After winning the Colombian Super-featherweight title, Garcia battled his way to the edge of realizing his dream, when he was granted a shot at the world championship.  In fact, Garcia was granted two consecutive shots at the World super-featherweight championship, but instead of achieving his dream, Garcia’s life took a fateful and tragic turn.

Garcia’s first world title shot took place on November 12, 1994 when he faced the skilful Genaro Hernandez, in a Mexican bullring, for the WBA world super-featherweight championship.  Despite showing a huge amount of heart, Garcia was widely out-pointed by the fast and clever Hernandez, who out-boxed him with ease, yet, couldn’t stop Garcia from coming forward constantly. After 12 rounds, Garcia was badly cut, battered, and had taken many punches, but he had fought like a warrior and lasted the distance.

It was Garcia’s toughness and bravery that got him his second chance at fulfilling a dream, when 6 months after his loss to Hernandez, he was handed a title shot at the dynamic box-fighter, Gabriel Ruelas, on May 19, 1995, for Ruelas’ WBC world super-featherweight title, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In the build up to his title fight with Ruelas, Garcia, who had not fought since his loss to Hernandez had to lose 30 pounds, and struggled to make the weight, right up to the day of the fight. The fight was one-sided, with Ruelas, a young and hungry world champion for whom big things were expected, punished Garcia round after round. Garcia was outmatched by Ruelas in every department, except for his heart and his will power.  As the fight progressed, Garcia took what the champion Ruelas dished out, and kept trying to find the one punch that would turn it all around and turn the night into the stuff of dreams for him.

Yet the miracle punch that so many boxers dream of at night never came, instead, Garcia kept taking the punches of Ruelas, and as the rounds went on, under the harsh Vegas lights and the champion grew frustrated at his inability to stop his challenger, so his attacks upon Garcia intensified. 

Garcia’s battered, weight drained body, refused to fall. In the end, Jimmy was still on his feet when the referee belatedly stopped the fight in the 11th round, a testament to how bravely he had held onto his dream. With the fight over, Jimmy Garcia collapsed in his corner, and was taken from the ring on a stretcher. Within forty minutes of collapsing, Garcia was having surgery to remove blood clots from his brain. Thirteen days later Garcia’s life support machine was turned off, his fight was finally over. He was 23 years old. 

Gabriel Ruelas was never the same fighter again after the death of Jimmy Garcia, the talented champion lost his title in his next fight and struggled to regain his previous form for the remainder of his career.  Sometimes dreams come with a high price.

Jimmy Garcia’s final record was 35(25koes)-5.  He may not have achieved his dream of winning a world title, but he should always be remembered as one of boxing’s fallen warriors, who gave his life for the sport he loved. 

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