The Return of Boxcar Joe

at 12:35 AM

I have been a boxing fan all of my life. My earliest exposure to the sport was when I was four years old sitting on my grandfather lap, totally fascinated by these gloved men trying to dismantle each other. My grandfather, Jose Rodriguez was a Golden Gloves boxer who went by the nickname "Boxcar Joe." When he and my grandmother met, he was a hobo who used to work and ride the railroads, hence the nickname.

My mother told me even when he was well advanced in age, he would still hold up his fists and bob and weave to show that he still had it. Though he established himself as a Golden Gloves champion in the ring, in 1980 he lost his bout with cancer. He's been gone now for 30 years, leaving nothing but a few photographs, some tattered memories and for me, a passion for boxing.

I now coach my eight year-old son Isaac who never got to meet his great grandfather, but no doubt has his DNA. Isaac used to beg to accompany me to the boxing gym. On his eighth birthday, he got his wish.

I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he looked around the gym for the first time. The loud thud of punching bags getting hit, the constant hum and snap of swinging jump ropes scraping the concrete floor, the smell of sweat hanging in the air, and the vocal instructions given by the coaches, all blitzed my sons senses like a child's first time at a carnival.

Isaac understands his chores, homework and behavior must match or exceed his enthusiam for the ring. Boxing has been instrumental in developing my son's academic and social skills, while allowing me a glimpse into the heart of the man my son will become.

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The rides to the gym provide a platform for conversations that probably wouldn't have happened otherwise. I now know the boy/girl ratio of his class -- nine boys and 14 girls -- what he and his best friend Jesus trade during lunch, and all the latest music and fashion trends that dominate the third grade world.

Undoubtedly, our bond as a father and son has stregthened and while my grandfather didn't leave a monetary inheritance, I now realize what he did leave me is far more valuable.

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With this Perspective, I'm Dan Garcia.

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