WORCESTER, MASS: Three-time, two-division world champion “El Gallo” Jose Antonio Rivera is dedicating his 50th pro fight, the last in his hometown of Worcester, to the Boys & Girls Club in Worcester, Massachusetts. A portion of the proceeds from “Quest For 50,” presented by Shearns Boxing Promotions (SBP) and Rivera Promotions Entertainment, will benefit the Boys & Girls Club.
The 46-year-old Rivera (42-6-1, 25 KOs) faces former WFC champion Travis “Sweet Feet” Scott (19-5, 5 KOs), of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the eight-round main event at The Palladium in Worcester.
Rivera, a full-time court officer in Worcester, has had a special relationship for more than 30 years with the Worcester Boys & Girls Club and its director of boxing, Carlos Garcia, who is “The Godfather of Worcester Boxing.”
Rivera moved to Worcester from Springfield 30 years ago at the age of 16 to pursue a boxing career, which included being coached by Garcia. Rivera had siblings and other relatives living in Worcester and after living with an aunt for a month, Jose moved into an apartment with another boxer, four-time national amateur champion Bobby Harris.
“The Worcester Boys & Girls Club helped me stay off the streets so I could focus on my dream of becoming world champion,” Rivera remembered. “It was a place for me and so many others to go and be safe. Kids, not just boxers, can be kids there, where they don’t have to worry about what’s happening in the streets.
“Carlos has played a tremendous part of my life and so many others, influencing us not only to become good boxers, but to be good people in the community. That was always so important to him and he emphasized being a good person. I did my best. He was always fair across the board and gave us all opportunities. He took a liking to me and brags that he never had to throw me out of the Boys & Girls Club. I graduated from high school and went after my dream in 1992 when I turned pro. Carlos is big in amateur boxing, but not so much with pros, because he doesn’t have the time to train pros. I made sure that when turned pro, tough, that he was part of my team. And he’s still a big part of my team and life.”
The number of Worcester youths Garcia has had a positive effect on, life-changing in many respects, is countless. One of those many people is Jose’s longtime friend and his current head trainer, Sean Fitzgerald, who retired as a boxer in 2001 with a 29-2-2 pro record. “Fitzy” remembers the fir time he read the sign over the door in the gym at the Boys & Girls Club: “Better to seat than bleed.”
Fitzy lived with his father when his parents divorced and at the age of 10, his father sent him to the Boys & Girls Club to attend an after-school program. “Fitzy” said he had to earn his way into Garcia’s good graces.
“Carlos didn’t talk to me for the first 5-6 weeks,” Fitzgerald explained. “Then, he put me in the ring as a sparring partner, and I was badly beaten. I had a bloody nose and black eye, but the next day I came back, and the rest is history. Carlos was a great mentor, rough at times, but always there for you. I remember seeing the boxing team jackets. It intrigued me. When I got my jacket and started wearing it, I got respect from everybody, and then I knew that I belonged. I learned a lot about life at the Boys & Girls Club, being with there with people from different generations and cultures. I met many friends there who I never would have met.
“The Boys & Girls Club is safe. I was from a tough area in Worcester. My father worked and it was easy to get in trouble with no supervision. Carlos stayed on top of me to graduate from school and if I was home sick, he come buy with chicken soup to make sure I was alright. My father was in my life big-time, but I joke that I had two moms growing up, my father and Carlos. Going to the Boys & Girls Club was something to look forward to every day.
“Carlos always taught us to never make the mistakes he did in life. He wanted us to go to school, stay out of trouble, and be a good person. He’s helped so many people over the years. Look around Worcester and you’ll see them: police and court officers, fire fighters, and so many others. The Boys & Girls Club was a great experience for me and so many other kids from Worcester.”
Garcia has been the director of boxing at the Worcester Boys & Girls Club since 1982. Two year ago, Garcia was inductred into the National Golden Gloves Hall of Fame.
“Never in his life has Jose even raised his voice to me,” Garcia commented. “He treats me like his father and he’s like one of my sons. There aren’t not too many guys like him and he’s so well respected in the community. He came to Worcester from Springfield to train with ne and stayed with me. Jose helps everyone and now he’s promoting to help local boxers.
“We’re at the Boys & Girls Club to and that’s the way it really is here. It’s so good to see so many in this community who’ve gone through our boxing program and are good people, good husbands, good parents. It makes me feel so proud. ‘Fitzy’ was a hyper kid. He’s a real gentleman who now does so much for kids here. I’ve never had a signed contract with any of the pro boxers I’ve worked with because I trust them.”
Donations may be sent to the Worcester Boys & Girls Club by going online at www.bgcworcester.org and proceed to “Be a donor” page, mail a check (payable to the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester, Attention: Liz Hamilton, 65 Tainter St., Worcester, MA 01610), or drop-off donations at its new clubhouse.
An All-Massachusetts clash pits welterweights Khiry “TNT” Todd (8-1, 6 KOs), of Lynn, and New Bedford’s Ray Oliveira, Jr. (8-2, 1 KO), the son of New England boxing favorite “Sucra” Ray Oliveira (8-1, 1 KO), in the four-round, co-featured event..
For the first time in his young career, Danbury, CT welterweight Omar “The Beast” Bordoy, Jr. (7-1, 2 KOs) will be coming off a loss to fight Tyrone “Hands of Stone” Luckey (9-10-3, 7 KOs) in a six-round bout.
Brooklyn’s Sidney “Keelo” Mccow (6-8, 3 KOs) and Augustine “Ruthless” Mauras (6-5-3, 3 KOs), of Lawrence, MA, will battle in a six-rounder for the vacant New England junior welterweight title.
Other undercard bouts, all four-rounders, include Seven-round bouts scheduled on the undercard include Worcester’s popular Owen Minor (1-0, 1 KOs), the top Massachusetts heavyweight prospect in years, vs. Alejandro Santiago (0-4), of Tampa; promising Worcester welterweight Eslih Owusu (1-0) vs. Springfield, MA veteran Jose Angel “KO” Ortiz (5-13-1, 2 KOs); East Providence, RI much anticipated pro-debut of Elijah Peixoto vs. Bronx lightweight Danny Morales (0-8); flashy Hartford, CT junior welterweight “The Special One” Sharad Collier (1-0-1, 1 KO), the 2-time N.E, Golden Gloves champion, vs. Anthony Everett (1-7), of Lawrence, MA; Worcester featherweight Philip Davis (1-1-1) vs. New Bedford’s Henry Garcia (0-2-1); and Methuen, MA lightweight Luka Lannuccilli will make his pro debut against an opponent to be determined.