Jorge Garcia smiles a lot when he talks about boxing.
See, at the age of 41, when most prizefighters are hanging up the gloves and probably watching more boxing on TV than actually fighting, he’s doing all he can to climb back into the ring, even if it means trading leather with fighters half his age. In fact, after two fights in the last year, he’s in talks with promoters to fight here in South Texas in the next couple of months.
His return to boxing is somewhat of a comeback for the Alice fighter, but to truly appreciate where he is right now, you have to know where he’s been.
Garcia went from one of the best amateurs in South Texas and a sought-after professional to being addicted to drugs and finally landing in jail. His rock-bottom came when doctors diagnosed him with Hepatitis C, a viral infection that he says he contracted by living an unhealthy lifestyle. If his boxing career wasn’t already finished, that diagnosis was a knockout punch.
Garcia began boxing in Alice at 19 and was immediately recognized as a fighter with potential. He won two regional Golden Gloves championships and fought in the state Golden Gloves tournament in 1996. He eventually left the amateur ranks to try and make money as a pro.
Garcia won his professional debut with a TKO victory in 2001. He lost way more than he won through the next four years, but he built a reputation as a gutsy and hard-hitting brawler, especially when he fought close to home at the old Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi. Even in fights that he lost, Garcia excited audiences by often standing toe-to-toe and trading punches, maybe even to a fault. Still, that fighting style made him a favorite of local promoters.
“It was good,” he said. “I was getting a lot of fights, and people were starting to recognize me.”
But then his lifestyle outside of the ring began to take over, and it slowly began to rob him of his career.
“I was strong and in great shape, but I was of the world,” Garcia said. “My body was strong, but spiritually I wasn’t where I needed to be.”
Garcia said his turning point was when he found God. His faith put him on the straight and narrow. He began working in West Texas as a roughneck with Integrity Services, a family-owned and run company in Midland. His employers — Chris Harris, Mike Gallagher Sr., Mike Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Gallagher and their family — embraced Garcia. They liked him. They liked his story — where he was from and where he said he wanted to be in life — and they helped him. Aside from giving him a good job, the family sought out medical help for him, and he began seeing a doctor and taking medication. Eventually, his condition was cleared, and he began getting healthier and stronger.
Boxing remained in the back of his mind the whole time. He began training on his own and then in some West Texas gyms. The Texas Boxing Commission cleared him to return to the ring, and he eventually did. He won a four-round cruiserweight bout against journeyman Dennis Wiliams on a fight card at the H-E-B Tennis Center in Corpus Christi in November. Garcia won the fight against the 28-year-old Monroe, La. native in a unanimous decision.
That win led to a fight against an up-and-coming Andre August from Houston. Although Garcia brawled, August won a unanimous decision. The fight left Garcia watching more and convinced him that boxing is what he wants to do for now.
Garcia is back in Alice training full time. He runs daily, trains and spars at several local gyms including Higher Power Boxing Gym in Alice, 12th Street Boxing Gym in Kingsville and the Rafa House Boxing Gym in Mathis. The most gratifying part of it all for Garcia is that he’s living right.
Sometimes, the best measure of a fighter is his ability to take a punch and get up once they’re knocked down. Garcia knows all about that. He’s been knocked down in life, but like he’s done in the ring, he’s never given up. More importantly, he’s never stayed down.
“God will humble you,” he said. “God will humble you in life. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. You have to understand that. Life isn’t easy. Boxing isn’t easy either, but I’m going to give it my all.”