When I realized boxing was more than just a sport for me
October 18, 2016 Share

When I realized boxing was more than just a sport for me

By Daniel Quiñones

Like many Mexican American households in southern California, boxing was often on television in our home, when I was growing up. I remember going to my uncle’s house and seeing Arturo Gatti’s fights on HBO. Gatti knew how to put on a show for the fans. At the time I was 6 or 7 years old, and lacked the sense of appreciation that I possess today. In hindsight, I now know that I was witnessing some of the best brawls in boxing history.

At the age of 10, I begged my mother to order the Tyson-McNeely fight; I remember her being disappointed because she had spent $50.00 on a fight that was less than 2 minutes long. One of the greatest memories about growing up in the 90s was having the opportunity to watch Oscar De La Hoya in his prime. He was an individual with a similar upbringing to mine, and was beginning to overtake that era of boxing. De La Hoya’s boxer-puncher style and flashy knockouts would eventually lead him to rule the sport for over a decade.

Notice how in my recollections of watching the sport of boxing I mention my mom and uncles, but not my father. You see, my father left when I was 2 years old and we never established much of a relationship. My father’s battle with his drug addiction has been and continues to be the primary reason for his absence in my life. He was the “dad” that would make promises to pick me up for the weekend, but would leave me looking outside the window waiting all day, until I realized he wasn’t going to show up. He would make plans that would never happen and I always ended up disappointed.

I remember growing up and hearing or seeing my friends watching games or fights with their dads. I have vivid memories of driving past a house and seeing a father and son play catch in the front yard. These images always left me with a feeling of emptiness inside, and a yearning for knowing what it would be like to be able to have that quality time with my own father. Once in a while when my dad would be clean for a couple months at a time, I would see him for a weekend or 2, but we always had a lot of people around us. He didn’t like being alone with me because he didn’t know how to communicate with me, and all the guilt he kept inside about the past would set in. My father’s drug addiction was imminent and he would eventually go back to his old ways, and once again I would become the boy sitting by the window waiting for a father who would never show up.

I hadn’t spoken to my father for about 5 years. During this time he was in and out of jail and still dealing with his demons. When I was 15 years old, I decided to stay with my father for a weekend. He had been clean for about 3 months and we decided to try and work on our relationship. Just like before there was a full house when I arrived, and the plans he had made for us included a number of other people.

I remember being disappointed because although we were going to a family barbecue on a Saturday night, the house where the BBQ would be held didn’t have HBO. This meant that I was going to miss the Barerra-Tapia fight that was happening that night. After a night of catching up with family and being told how much I have grown and being asked if I had a girlfriend yet over and over again the party wrapped up, we headed back to my dad’s house, and went to bed.

I woke up the next day still not knowing who won the fight. Keep in mind; this was 2002 before social media. I didn’t even have a cell phone yet, but luckily HBO always replayed the fights from the previous night the following morning. I knew the replay would be on or coming on shortly after I woke up. I awoke just in time as the fight was getting ready to start in 15 minutes. As I was watching the walkouts for the fighters, I hear my dad in the kitchen looking in the fridge and telling his girlfriend bye as she left to run errands. I don’t know much about my dad but I know that he loves boxing and one of his favorite fighters is Johnny Tapia. I turned up the T.V. knowing that if he knew I was watching he would want to watch it since we both didn’t know what had happened yet. So as I am sitting on the couch watching the prefight introductions I hear his slippers on the tile floor walking down the hall towards the living room, he walks down the step to the living room and tells me to turn it up as he takes a seat next to me. With an empty house and just me and him on the couch, the 2 of us sat and watched the full fight between Barerra and Tapia. Without anyone or anything interrupting us, during those 12 rounds I was able to get that emptiness I had been missing since I was a little kid filled. That was the first and only fight I have watched with my dad, who went back to using drugs shortly after that fight took place. I don’t think he will ever know how much watching that fight with him next to me will always mean to me. We still don’t and may never have the relationship I always wanted, but at least I can say I was able to watch a fight with my dad.