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 mano,'' Manuel Garcia said in Spanish. Move your
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 Garcia Marquez. 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.
The room was quiet. There was a moment when the father put a
finger inside the son's left hand and the son seemed to squeeze
lightly. There were moments when nothing happened. Nothing ever
seemed to happen on the right side. The father walked around the
bed, touching parts of the son's body, naming them in Spanish.
''Los ojos.'' The eyes.
''La boca.'' The mouth.
''Los pies.'' The feet.
Any movement seemed to be a historic victory. No movement was a
terrible defeat. At the end of his circuit the father held one
of his son's feet and rubbed it softly, repeating three times
the words "Eres bravo." You are brave. By the middle of last
week the son's condition had worsened. There was no movement.
The mother had arrived from Colombia. The doctors feared that
his death was imminent.
His condition brought easy calls for the abolition of boxing. It
is a familiar debate, which will ultimately go nowhere. Boxing
will stay. Boxing will be the same. Instead of engaging in that
debate, everyone connected with the sport should have to go
inside a room like this. Everyone should see. The boxers should
see, and the fans who watch on pay-per-view should see, and the
promoters should see, and the sportswriters and the broadcasters
and the headline writers and the cool, blithe heads everywhere
No one is invincible. The princes of sport can be as vulnerable
as anyone else who shares the human condition. The price of this
cruel game can be very, very high. The people who are involved,
in even the slightest way, should know.
Jimmy Garcia died last Friday.