"The Man Behind The Fighter"
There are many reasons and speculations about why I started such a brutal but beautiful craft as boxing. I can only say I love it with all my heart, even though its physically and emotionally painful. Anything you love is worth the pain, I believe that's what makes it so much sweeter when you get to the top.
There are so many ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and sometimes the valleys are so deep it's just impossible to see yourself getting out of it. I was raised in El Paso, Texas, in a middle class neighborhood. I have a loving family, and I would say coming from this environment, no one thought or even believed I could succeed or accomplish such a sport as boxing. Many people felt I should have played baseball, football, or basketball.
I started learning how to box at age five, hitting on the bags, shadow boxing, and learning simple combinations. I remember getting hit so hard when I sparred in those younger years that I didn't want to show my face in the gym, but I continued to go and endure the pain and humiliation. That's the lesson I learned at a young age: never give up and always show up. I remember my first amateur fight at age fourteen, I was a bundle of nerves and didn't know what to expect. I remember getting beaten so badly in the first round my coaches practically had to push me out for the second.
To make a long story short, fifteen seconds into the second round I pulled a stunning upset and knocked out the much older opponent devastatingly. I guess from here is where I decided to pursue the sport further. It became an addiction. I guess it's the warrior mentality and determination in me. People were always giving me a reason why I shouldn't follow my dreams, they would say "Fighters are bums, they lose their money, and their face gets messed up".
That's the biggest stereotype. I know many retired fighters who have successful beautiful lives after boxing. I learned to live my passion, I believe God gives everybody something they have a passion for. I believe it's up to them to follow it or ignore it.
My passion was too strong to ignore, even though it's always an uphill battle. I really didn't have much of an amateur boxing career. I still played other sports such as: baseball, football, and basketball, to see if I liked them as much as boxing. I believe these sports are awesome and I respect every athlete who plays them, but they didn't give me the challenge boxing did. Boxing gave me the taste of blood, intense one on one combat, and the discipline I needed in my life. I always felt like a lion ready to attack prey, and the test was to see how well the prey stood up to me.
Before a fight, I never look at my opponent with respect. Of course, I respect that he's skilled and he's out to destroy me, but every time I enter the ring, I see through my opponent. I try to see through his heart and soul. I never go in with a plan to knock him out; I go in the ring to take one of those away from him. If the knockout comes, it comes. Inside the ring I have the worst intentions, which is not the way I am as a person outside the ring. I'm a very caring and God fearing man and I think I try to please too many people.
My family and friends are very close to me and I love all of them. I know ultimately it's me who enters the ring and takes the risk, but it's actually a whole team behind me that makes the wheel spin. I have to mention these people as prime contributors, supporters, and guidance sources and as having been critically involved in how this all started and why I still box today. My very first trainer, Tom McKay, taught me the very basics as a kid, and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Joe Sullivan helped keep me out of trouble in my teens and took me to the boxing gym everyday after school. Even though I found trouble very easily, he would hunt me down, lecture me, and drop me at the gym and train with me for hours.
He contributed so much influence, friendship, and guidance to my teen years. My second trainer, the late, great Rocky Galarza, had an outside gym with a ring in the barrio, and treated me like one of his own. He really took me in and helped me believe even more in what I was capable of doing. Sadly, he was killed when I was sixteen, in his home, at age sixty-seven, after having such a beautiful impact on my life. All my fights are still dedicated to his memory and honor.
The team that now helps me has really exceeded my wildest expectations and dreams.
Another person who has really put the icing on the cake is my friend , Dr. Rodriguez Chavez. He's made me keep my belief in my hardest of times, and darkest of moments. I can talk to him at any time. He will always listen, and walk me through a problem.
As you can see it takes a number of people to make a champion, even though we're still on our way, I believe we will get there. All these people have contributed so much of their time and energy and have endured a good amount of frustration.
It's my mother and father who will always be by my side, giving me unfailing support, as well as my sisters who travel distances to be there for me, as do many other loving members of my huge extended family, all greatly enthusiastic cousins, aunts, and uncles who go to a lot of trouble and travel, to show support, unified and really genuine interest in my fights. I love that connected feeling that only a family can give you.
Also, the many friends I grew up with are always there with me and feel like family. My point, to conclude, is simple. If you have a dream, stop at nothing to accomplish it, after all, what is life without passion? Sure, there will be obstacles, and I've had thousands, but if you can somehow keep your head up, you will get there. Remember, you must believe to achieve. The rest is in God's hands.
I have two great quotes which I'd like to share with you. They hang in my room. The first, by Henry Ford is: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say they can't and those that say they can. They are both right."
The second is by President Theodore Roosevelt: "It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of the deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there's no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
I'm very appreciative to any of you who have taken the time to read this.
Thank you and God bless.
Sincerely, David "Nino" Rodriguez