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LORDS OF THE RING

Page 5 of 5

Complains Mike Torres, of the Brighton-Falcone Center, "Now the kids are worried about their coaches fighting all the time. It's too bad that as adults we're always arguing."

It's a pleasant winter weeknight in Thornton. Inside the World Fitness Center, Joe Silva is intently stalking his reflection, stringing straight-armed jabs and hooking upper cuts into four- and five-punch combinations. He wears black sneakers with lights in the heels that flash red each time he shifts his weight to throw a punch.

"Okay, Joe. Time," says his dad, Lou. Joe drops his hands. "How do you feel? Work on keeping that elbow in. Do you want a drink?"

Joe begins another round at the mirror. Lou watches proudly. "For fifty pounds, he can hit," he whispers. "I'll show you when we get to the heavy bag. I used to box, and I'm telling you, I don't have half the talent he does.

"Time, Joe."
As sharp as Joe looks, Lou says he has looked better. "Last year he was looking sharp, he was getting ready for the tournament," Lou says. "But since he wasn't allowed to fight, he's lost a lot of interest."

Last fall, when Lou hadn't received a registration form for Joe to enter the Rocky Mountain Invitational, which is hosted by the Rude Rockers, he approached Garcia and asked him why. "He told me he was not going to allow Joe to participate," Lou recalls.

Joe Garcia says that if the Silvas--who last year were affiliated with the United Boxing Club, one of the teams boycotting Garcia's tournaments--couldn't make it to the previous year's tournament, they didn't need to participate in this one, either.

Lou says he and Joe weren't boycotting but were simply out of state at another tournament. Garcia isn't listening. "There's some clubs that don't come to my tournaments, and that's their priority," he says. "I'm not going to waste registration stamps on people who don't show up. What I did wasn't meant to hurt Joe. It was towards the club."

Two months ago Lou filed the civil-rights complaint. (He has since asked U.S.A. Boxing to investigate Garcia in greater detail, alleging mismanagement of the state organization. Unfortunately for Silva, the complaint must first be evaluated by Colorado boxing officials, which means that Garcia has to rule whether the complaints against him have any merit. Silva says he is not confident the charges will stick.)

In the complaint, Lou Silva charged that Garcia did not allow Joe to fight because he was white. The commission didn't address whether racism was behind the snub. To U.S.A. Boxing president Dusenberry, however, the reason Joe was excluded is beside the point.

The whole purpose of amateur boxing, Dusenberry points out, is to encourage kids to box. "This sort of thing tears away at the fabric of what we're trying to do," he says. Adds Luna, the 20th Street coach, "How do you explain to a nine-year-old kid that an official for U.S.A. Boxing uses tactics like this?"

In mid-December the state commission asked Lou Silva what he would like from Joe Garcia. He asked for a letter of apology to his son. Garcia refused but agreed to write a letter acknowledging that he had made a mistake by not including the words "by invitation only" on advertisements for the tournament. "It was an invitational tournament," he says. "I can invite who I want.

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Eric Dexheimer
Contact: Eric Dexheimer