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Requiem for a Super Featherweight
Leigh Montville
May 29, 1995
With the death of Jimmy Garcia, the brutality of boxing is once again exposed
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May 29, 1995

Requiem For A Super Featherweight

With the death of Jimmy Garcia, the brutality of boxing is once again exposed

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The father tried to make the son move just the slightest bit. There had been all those years, all those nights in the gym in the faraway port town of Barranquilla, Colombia, where he had tried to teach the son the most complicated movements, asked for the jabs and feints, the dips and weaves, the lethal choreography of the prizefight ring, but now he would settle for much, much less. Any movement would do.

"Mueve la memo," Manuel Garcia said in Spanish. Move your hand.

The son lay on a hospital bed in a blue-green gown, his arms and legs exposed, the tubes and wires of modern science attached to his body. The tubes that had been inserted into his nose were part of his life-support system. A bandage, wrapped like a turban around his head, covered the spot where doctors had operated for more than two hours to remove a blood clot and relieve pressure on his brain. The right side of his face was absurdly swollen. He was still unresponsive.

"Mueve la mano," the father said again and again.

He was rewarded sometimes with a spasm, a slight reflex from the son's left hand. He could detect hardly any movement from the right. Less than 24 hours earlier—it was May 7 now, five o'clock, visiting hours at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas—the son, Jimmy Garcia, 23 years old, challenger for the WBC super featherweight title, had slid to the canvas in the hectic moments after his futile, one-sided fight against Gabriel Ruelas had been stopped in the 11th round at Caesars Palace.

Garcia was still conscious as he was removed from the ring on a stretcher. Indeed, public-address announcer Michael Buffer asked the crowd to give Garcia a hand, which it did. The fight card then proceeded to the top-billed bouts, including Oscar De La Hoya's second-round knockout of Ruelas's younger brother, Rafael. Garcia was unconscious by the time he reached the ambulance. He was in surgery within 40 minutes.

His mother, Carmen Perez, had worried about something like this. She had refused to travel to Las Vegas for the fight, refused even to listen to the broadcast in Colombia. She had gone to church, instead, to pray for Jimmy's safety. The son had shared none of her concern. Danger? He could not worry about danger. He described himself as a prince. He said he was "born to box."

"I'm not going to live long," he used to say. "Maybe 30 or 35 years. The lives of princes are short like that. And I am a prince of sport. There's no doubt about it, so there's no reason to fear death."

He had a 35-4 record before he fought Ruelas. He had never been knocked out and had been knocked down only once. He had two daughters and a common-law wife. His friends said he had a photographic memory. He read Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez. He read Edgar Allan Poe. He had plans to go to college after he won a world championship. All that seemed long ago. He had lost 30 pounds to make the 130-pound weight limit to fight Ruelas. He had been hammered for all 11 rounds.

"Mueve la mano," Manuel Garcia said.

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