Monday, May 9, 2016

On This Day: Angel Robinson Garcia: The Playboy Who Could Have Been King



By Peter Silkov


In the early 1960s, with the banning of professional boxing in Cuba by Fidel Castro, America was invaded by a golden collection of Cuban boxers who would add colour, drama, explosiveness, and technical brilliance to the American boxing rings.  The fighters included Luis Manuel Rodriguez, Florentino Fernandez, Benny Paret, Sugar Ramos, Jose ’Mantequilla’ Napoles, Jose Legra, and Angel Robinson Garcia.  Five of these men would become world champions, Florentino Fernandez came very close to a world title, but Garcia would be altogether different.  Angel Robinson Garcia, in a career, which would last 23 years, became a legendary journeyman, fighting an astonishing amount of the best lightweights, welterweights, and middleweights, of the 1960s and 70s.  Garcia was given the nickname ’Robinson’ early in his career, due to his handsome resemblance to the brilliant Sugar man.

Like many of his fellow Cuban boxers who fled Cuba in the early 60s. Garcia could well have been a world champion himself, but he chose to lead the life of a travelling playboy, instead, fighting in 21 countries, and against 15 world champions, and innumerable European and domestic champions.

Garcia smoked, drank and caroused around the world, but his ability was never in doubt.  Both tough and clever, with the kind of ring skills only found in a Cuban boxer, Garcia always gave a good account of himself in the ring, no matter how hard he had been partying, or how late he had taken up the offer of a fight.

Some of the top boxers whom Garcia faced during his storied career are, Chico Morales, Frankie Ryff, Carlos Hernandez, Jose Stable, Jose Napoles, Doug Vaillant, Bunny Grant, Rafiu King, Jean Josselin, Eddie Perkins, Ismael Laguna, Joe Tetteh, Carmelo Bossi, Bruno Acari, LC Morgan, Paul Armstead, Ken Buchanan, Roger Menetrey, Roberto Duran, Saoul Mamby, Sugar Ray Seales, Eddie Perkins, Billy Backus, Estaben Dejesus, Wilfred Benitez, Clyde Gray, and Willie Monroe.

Born on May 9, 1937, in Havana, Cuba, Garcia turned professional in July 1955, fighting as a featherweight, and became a fan favourite from the start.  By 1958 Garcia had moved up to lightweight and was facing world class opposition, while boxing mainly in Cuba.  When Fidel Castro banned professional boxing in 1961, Garcia moved to America for a time, fighting out of Miami, but his wandering spirit soon took him to Paris, where his bohemian tastes were fully awakened for the first time.  Already a lover of the good life outside of the ring, Garcia found Paris to be a playboy heaven and ended up spending the best part of the early to mid-60s based there.

The next 10 years would see Garcia fighting all over Europe, against the very best, from lightweight to welterweight.  After being based mainly in Paris until the mid- 60s, Garcia moved to Italy, and then Spain.  As his high living increased, so Garcia’s ring form diminished, and from the mid-60s he slipped from a rated contender, to a full fledged journeyman.  Garcia’s statistics tell the story of his career, from 1955 to 1965 his record was 61-23-6, then from 1965 to 1978 he went 36-59-14.  Perhaps part of the statistical decline was due to the fact that Garcia continued to fight at the top level, despite his lifestyle.  If anything, Garcia’s opposition increased in the second half of his career.  Garcia remained a formidable opponent for anyone right up till his final fights and he remained busy too, fighting whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.  In January 15, 1972, Garcia took the soon to be World lightweight champion, Roberto Duran, the 10-rounds distance, Duran was so impressed with Garcia’s tricks and ring guile that he hired him for a time as a sparring partner.

With all the partying, fighting, and living for the day, with no thought for tomorrow, things were always going to end badly for Garcia.  People who live that kind of lifestyle, especially boxers, don’t tend to wear well over time. Time, which is the enemy of everyone, especially athletes.

By 1978, Garcia was no longer the fresh and handsome Sugar Ray Robinson look-a-like, his body had thickened, and his face had been punched into the veteran fighter’s mask of a crooked nose, missing teeth, and scarred eyebrows.  By his final fights, Garcia was almost blind in his right eye and was denied a license to fight in America.  His last official appearance in a ring came on February 25, 1978, when Paul Payen in Belgium, out-pointed him over 10 rounds.  Shortly after this, Garcia had his boxing license revoked in France, his globe travelling career was over.

Angel Robinson Garcia’s final career record was 136(54koes)-82-20.  Garcia’s guile and toughness is evident by the fact that, despite the high quality of his opposition, the Cuban was stopped just 3 times in his career.

Without his trade soon found himself destitute in Paris, and reduced to panhandling upon the streets, where he once partied and lived the fast life.

The famous French actor Jean Paul Belmondo, who remembered Garcia from his glory days, reportedly found him on the Paris streets, and arranged for him to be repatriated to Cuba.   
     
Angel Robinson Garcia died on June 1, 2000. 

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com


1 comment:

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