EL PASO — With fading tattoos over his body and muscles giving way to extra body fat, the once middleweight underdog champion coaches young kids in a brand new downtown Juarez boxing gym arguing with himself whether he should fight one last time to say farewell to his longtime fans.
“I don’t really care for being a champ or regaining fame,” said Juarez boxer Kirino Garcia. “What I need is a good offer to have a farewell fight.”
The prospect of getting back into shape after five years without stepping into the ring is challenging and expensive. The 46-year-old Kirino says he’s waiting for the right offer to resume his training regimen.
The beloved underdog boxer grew up in the poorest colonias of Juarez and was able rise up to the top of his profession by acquiring a bunch of prestigious titles: Mexican light middleweight title, WBB light middleweight title, WBC International Light Middleweight title, and the Mexican Light Heavyweight title.
During his 30-year fighting career, he lost his first 28 fights and then managed to win the next 40 by KO and four draws.
Despite his early losing streak, the 5’10” and middleweight’s determination to win make him a role model to youngsters throughout Mexico.
Garcia began his boxing career in 1983 when he was 15 years old and struggling to survive in one of Cd. Juarez poorest colonias, Guadalajara Alta.
“I started out working in maquiladoras in Juarez but the pay was less than 20 dollars a week during that time. I had to fake my birth certificate in order for me to get hired at 15 years of age,” he said, breaking out into a laugh. So after starting out as a wrestler Kirino then went into boxing instead in Juarez.
When Kirino was offered $1,200 to fight in Tucson, he accepted. “That amount of money would take me half a year to earn in the maquila,” he said. “It all started out as a game. I really didn’t train at all,” he said, explaining that he was so poor then he sometimes went into the ring on an empty stomach. “One time in Chicago, all I had to eat was a cheeseburger and a glass of water.”
Garcia said that his lack of training and poor nutrition were to blame for his early losses. “You would go down on mere weakness,” he said, explaining that his American promoters wanted weak boxers to fight against favorite contenders to advance their careers and boxing records. “Sometimes they would offer us a fight one week before it took place,” he said.
Unlike other successful boxers Kirino says he never wasted his earnings on vices or nightlife. His family his wife and six children were always his priority.
While he was still an amateur boxer he invested his earnings in building a house and providing for his family. “All the other boxers would come from the fights and spend their earnings with prostitutes,” said Kirino. Over time, his fans were charmed by his humility and charisma. “It’s a gift,” he says.
Fans often stop to greet him on the streets of downtown Juarez, and Kirino says he has no lack of job offers. A few years ago a former mayor of Juarez offered him a job coaching at the city gym. He still works there. “I don’t have money but I don’t have money problems either basically I live well.”
Jesus, a friend of Kirino, takes his young daughter to train with Kirino. “She loves training with Kirino. He has a lot of patience with her.”
Kirino says his fans still remember him because of how he treated them when he was on top. Other boxers who acted stuck up when they were at the peak of success, he said, are long forgotten. “La gente los manda a la chingada,” he said, meaning no one remembers them.
“When I became a champ I came back here (to Juarez) made two movies and they wrote me two corridos,” he said, referring to Mexican folk songs. “I still behaved the same with everybody and people remember that.”
Although several promoters have approached Garcia and offered him a small advance for a last fight, Kirino doesn’t believe they are serious. He needs money to begin training four hours a day to get in shape.
“You think all those promoters want to arrange the fight just because they like me? No, they want to make money out of me,” Kirino said.
His friend and long time coach Mario Ibarra often tells Kirino: “Look Kirino, you are the one that decides; don’t do it because everybody tells you.”
One recent morning the two friends joked inside the locker room about what amount of money would make it worthwhile for Kirino’s last fight,
“I’ll give you 5,000 pesos for you to fight, you know you want to do it,” Mario said to Kirino. “You won’t even have to pay me to train you.”
Kirino just laughed.