PHOENIX - For Tom Garcia, every single day is chance to make a difference.
“It’s a special feeling working with these kids and helping these kids,” Garcia said.
Garcia, a 2-time Golden Glove Champion in Arizona, never boxed professionally, but he always knew he wanted to stay in the sport. He has dedicated his life to training fighters in his Central Boxing gym in Phoenix.
“To me it’s humbling,” he said. “Over the years, people have shown me so much love. A lot of people will stop me in the streets and say hi and thank me for having an impact on their lives.”
The number of boxers he’s trained, at 65 years old, is too many to count.
“I’ve been in the boxing game for 56 years, since I was 10 years old. It’s been hundreds…hundreds…it may be up to the thousands I’ve trained,” he said.
During the decades, his philosophy has never changed.
“The first thing I tell the parents and the fighters… I’m not training you guys to be a bully. I’m the boxer, I won the Golden gloves. It’s about respect. You give respect you gain respect,” he said.
Garcia has worked with champions from Arizona for years including Louie Epinosa, the first world champion from Arizona, the great Michael Carbajal and MMA champion Henry Cejudo.
Garcia says no matter what a boxer’s level, he treats everyone the same.
“I look at every young boxer as a champion,” he said. “You never know what they can achieve. But, they have to work at it.”
Amateur boxers Rashan Lewis and Hubert Mason say Tom Garcia saved both their lives.
“Tom is my first coach, he’s like my Dad, he started off my boxing career,” Lewis said.
“Tom got me off the streets,” Mason said. “I was gang banging and doing a lot of dumb things until I came in here 3 years ago. It just changed my life.”
The wall of Central Boxing gym pays homage to the great champions from Arizona including Garcia himself.
“That was me at one time,” Garcia said. “I think that was 50 years ago. They called me Tom “The Bomb” Garcia. I had 75 wins, 12 losses and I was two-time Golden Glove Champ.”
As Garcia looks at the past, he knows boxing will always be a part of his life, until he passes on the great boxing gym in the sky.
“When they put me in the casket and they start to close the casket, give me the 10-count and I will get up…I will not be counted out,” Garcia said, with a smile.