Rafael Garcia, the always-smiling and beloved boxing lifer who worked as a trainer, cutman and hand-wrapper to some of the sport’s biggest names, died on Tuesday due to complications from leukemia. He was 88.
Born in Mexico, Garcia worked in boxing for most of his life and spent recent decades living in Las Vegas, where he worked with numerous fighters.
But Garcia, instantly recognizable by the pin-adorned cap he always wore, became best known as the cutman and hand-wrapper for Floyd Mayweather. Garcia worked with Mayweather through most of Mayweather’s career. Mayweather, whose brittle hands were always an issue, raved about Garcia’s ability to wrap them in such a way that he was able to keep them protected as best as possible during his fights.
Garcia’s health began to decline earlier this year after he was stung more than 100 times by a swarm of Africanized bees, according to former welterweight and junior welterweight world titleholder Jessie Vargas, who was Garcia’s godson. Garcia later had a heart attack and was diagnosed with leukemia only about two weeks ago.
Vargas, who had Garcia as part of his team since he was an amateur, remembered him as a caring and loyal soul who always had fighters’ best interest at heart.
“He was my godfather and he was like a father figure to me,” Vargas told ESPN. “He’s been watching my back since as long as I can remember, taking care of me. Every fighter he ever worked with he did his best to make sure they were in top condition and at their best. Once he was with you he never left you. He never turned his back on anyone, win or lose. He was with you to the end. That was something that distinguished him from a lot of other people in this sport. He was honest, truthful and loyal to his friends, to his family and to his fighters, but he treated all of us like family.”
Vargas said he saw Garcia at the gym about 10 days ago, just after he had been diagnosed with leukemia.
“He was sick but he didn’t want anyone to know,” Vargas said. “He was in our gym walking around and looking good but he was tired. He was a very unique gentleman inside and outside of the ring, and we all loved him. He was a very loving person. We lost a great person but we gained an angel.”
Garcia was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017 in the non-boxer category. Besides Mayweather, Garcia worked with legends such as Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Gomez.