Cover Story » Vol. 56

The Legend of Carlos Garcia

It’s not often that you come across someone who is both mentor and friend, a person who has earned accolades and the respect of others but still, somehow, remains humble and focused. Over at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester on Tainter Street, Carlos Garcia is all these things — and a legend of Worcester boxing.

There has always been a boxing scene in Worcester, sometimes prevalent, other times less so. One constant, however, is Garcia. A former boxing pro, the 67-year-old is now a sought-after coach who is in charge of this area’s most prolific boxing program.

Born in Puerto Rico, Garcia came to the area in 1966 with his family “to start a new life.” He first found work in factories as a teen, and it was when he was expecting his first child that he decided to try out boxing to better support his family.

“I’d see most of my friends and my cousins (training) to learn self-defense,” said Garcia. “We went to the gym and I liked it.”

Before long, he began training at a gym on Grafton Street that had a bar on the bottom floor, as Garcia remembers it. By 17, he was a pro boxer and eventually won the Featherweight Champ of New England. Throughout the late ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s, he went on to fight competitors like Jimmy Corkum and Tony Petronelli (with whom he had a New England super lightweight title match) until he decided to hang up his gloves and direct his attention to helping other fighters.

Garcia started coaching at the Boys & Girls Club in 1982, and for the last 35 years, he has guided decorated fighters like World Champion Jose Antonio Rivera. To this day, he leads the charge with the excitement of someone new, supporting a program he believes in.

“Many, many good fighters that were all champions came out of the Boys & Girls Club. Not only good champions, good men,” Garcia said. “So the Boys & Girls Club gives more to America, to the community, to the kids than anybody. If you want me to talk about the Boys & Girls Club, I will never finish.”

The high regard in which Garcia holds the Boys & Girls Club? Those who he’s trained over the years hold him just as high. From former students like Rivera and Camp Get Right owner and trainer Kendrick Ball to champion Khiary Gray and Garcia’s current protégé Jamaine Ortiz, there’s nothing but love directed toward him.

“Carlos is a good motivator (and) one of the nicest guys you’re ever going to meet. I call him my Spanish father because he treats everyone like they’re his son,” Ball said. “Me being a trainer now, I followed in his footsteps. He was a definite inspiration to me.”

But rather than teach just how to throw a punch, Garcia emphasizes the importance of boxing as a way to prepare for life outside the ring.

“Carlos really cares about his fighters. He puts his heart and soul into it,” Rivera said. “Many fighters have gone on to become great, outstanding citizens in our community, from teachers to police officers, firefighters and so on, and that’s just a product of the Boys & Girls Club and what Carlos offered us boxers. He pushed us, and we trained hard and boxing was the main component of it all, but to him, he wanted us to see the bigger picture – life after boxing.”

Rivera and Ball are but two examples of the impact Garcia has had on others in and out of the ring. For everything he has given to boxing and his boxers, he has given just as much to the community where he lives, helping members of Worcester’s youth culture realize their full potential.

Nate Reando, a police officer who was with the Worcester Police Department Gang Unit, has worked alongside Garcia at boxing events they have produced together. He’s seen firsthand how Garcia works with young people.

“If you want to know the impact Carlos and the staff at the Boys & Girls Club have on the community and young people, just look at Jamaine Ortiz,” Reando said. “Under Carlos’ tutelage, Jamaine has learned that self- discipline, hard work and dedication are the keys to success. And probably the most important thing Jamaine has benefited from (in) all those years of surrounding himself around positive people like Carlos is that he himself has become a positive member of the community.”

Ortiz, 19, is already a two-time Golden Gloves winner and pro who many believe is destined for a great career in the ring, thanks to a 100- win amateur record. He currently holds a 2-0 pro record. When he’s not in the ring, Ortiz is studying building construction management at the Wentworth Institute of Technology.

“He was the first coach I ever had, and (we have) a great relationship that’s more like father and son than teacher (and student),” said Ortiz, a born and bred Worcester resident. “Not only is he my boxing coach, he’s my mentor inside and outside the ring.”

It’s hard to get Garcia to talk about his accomplishments; he’d much rather talk about his students, whom he affectionately refers to as “my kids.”

“I feel real proud; they’re like my own kids,” said Garcia. “They respect me a lot. The respect that I’ve gained from all those kids, that’s big.”

Garcia doesn’t seem concerned with the glitz and glamour titles and fame bring, even though he has been awarded the keys to Worcester more than once and is set to be inducted as a coach into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame this year. He isn’t distracted by it, nor does he believe he has earned the recognition despite the positive influence he has had on so many.

“I feel good. I feel happy because I’ve been rewarded with something good. (But) I don’t believe, personally, I deserve (it).”

Instead, his reward is boxing itself – the ability to what he loves day in and day out by teaching others and passing on his knowledge.

“When you have a good job and you like it, you never miss a day. You’re always there. So that happened. That’s me.”

For more about the programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester, visit bgcworcester.org or follow the group on Facebook.

By Jason Savio

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