Frank Galarza: To be or not to be

By Robert Ecksel on November 14, 2015
Frank Galarza: To be or not to be
“Meeting that man in prison—it was just like God had come down and he spoke to me.”

“Most of these fighters don’t really talk about nothing. They talk about fame, glory, jewelry, how they look in a fancy car. It doesn’t even matter…”

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”—Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1 (William Shakespeare)

Those who believe they’ve suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune may be fooling themselves. Everyone has ups and downs, but others have peaks and valleys. Some of us were born nowhere and headed nowhere but to prison and an early death, their lives flicker like a candle’s flame…before being unceremoniously snuffed out.

Undefeated super welterweight Frank Galarza (17-0-2, 11 KOs) had it bad. Born on August 18, 1985, and raised in Red Hook, fate intervened, outrageous misfortune in his case, at an early age and he’s been picking up the pieces ever since.

“I lost my parents at a young age,” he told, “and just got caught up in my messes. I got caught up in the wrong crowd and just kinda fell off the wagon a little bit. My father died from complications from a gunshot wound in his leg. As time passed scar tissue built up and he wasn’t able to use the bathroom properly—and the hospital kind of let him go, to be honest with you. They just didn’t attend him the way they were supposed to and let his pass, unfortunately. My father passed away when I was seven. My mom passed away when I was nine. She overdosed. She was a drug addict.”

Galarza related this matter-of-factly, but I could tell his heart was aching.

“I was raised by my aunt and uncle. They did a tremendous job, but I felt like everything was against me. I became very insecure. I became desperate for attention. I was always fighting in elementary school and junior high, in desperation for attention. I wasn’t sure of myself. I wasn’t sure who I was. My aunt and uncle tried to do their best with me, but I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I just didn’t understand what was going on.”

Orphaned, fighting in the streets, feeling like an outsider, there was more trouble to come.

“I was getting in and out of trouble,” Galarza said. “I was in and out of jail. My aunt and uncle who raised me, they had two boys, my brothers actually, I was raised with them. And just being out of prison I ended up, at the age of 21, losing an older brother. He got killed. They were trying to rob him and he got killed. It was rough, man. It was rough. I felt the world was really against me and I just lost hope and everything, just didn’t care about much, and I kinda really went off the wall, man. I was doing some messed up stuff. And after that a couple of years passed and I got locked up and met a man in prison and he kinda broke down my life. He told me I need to make a choice. He said if I choose the streets I’m going to die. I’ll either lose my life on the streets or I’ll lose my life in jail. I didn’t want to put my mother through that. She’s already been through so much, to lose another child would have been traumatizing for her. So I took the boxing route. I don’t want to say boxing saved my life, but boxing was a way out. It was a way of getting me away from certain people, keeping me disciplined. But it was faith that actually saved my life. I had hope again. I started believing in God. It brought me to a new level in my life and I’m here today because of it. Now I’m secure with who I am and balanced and I’m blessed, man, I’m really blessed.”

The idea of one prisoner helping another prisoner avoid recidivism, or worse, is a potent image. I asked Frank who the man was.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t know. It was just one of those things. I never met this man before. I came from court to try to fight my case, and when I came back he was talking to some people. He was just kinda reading people I guess. I didn’t know what he was doing. Honest to God, I didn’t know what he was doing. But I got curious and I was like, ‘Read me. Tell me.’ He started telling me about my life, man, about some things no one knew. There were times I used to go to the beach, I used to live by Coney Island, and I was walking on the beach and I didn’t have any faith and I was questioning my life and I was wondering—it was almost like a prayer—I was like, ‘God, if there is a God, is this my life? You’ve taken so many people that I loved already. I’m in this position where I’m at right now and if this is it for me, I’m done, take me now, I don’t want to live.’ I wasn’t suicidal. I was just tired and frustrated.

“I think getting locked up was a blessing for me. Meeting that man in prison—it was actually like God had come down and he spoke to me and he told me my parents had made a decision, but I used to question it. The reason I lost my parents, was it something I did? I was like, ‘did I do something wrong?’ And the man told me, ‘Listen, you didn’t do anything wrong. Your parents made a choice in their life and they have to deal with that decision themselves. You have the time to make a choice in your life and it’s entirely up to you what you want to do with it.’ I was shocked, man. I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t know how to react to that. When he was telling me those things, things that I didn’t know about myself that were very specific, from then on I just kind of like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna change my life,’ and I changed my life.”

Galarza’s story is as inspirational as it is cinematic and it leads, as so many things seem to lead, to a life in boxing.

“My father was a fighter. He fought. He boxed. He fought as an amateur. He fought as a professional. He didn’t pursue it as far as I did, but I fell in love with boxing. I ended up at Sunset Park PAL and was doing it about a year. It wasn’t active enough for me. They didn’t put me in enough fights. I only have 11 or 12 amateur fights. I loved it, but it wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t see success coming out of it and I kinda went the wrong route at that age. I was old enough, 18, and was like I’m gonna do my own thing. I came across some money and I decided I was going to live my life the way I wanted to live my life. My aunt and uncle had a say in my life until a certain point, when I became very rebellious and it was like, okay, I’m going to live and experience what I needed to experience—which got me here today. I took that time off, between 18 and 23, and at 23 I went back into boxing.  I won the Golden Gloves and then after that I immediately turned pro.”

Many talk the talk, but few walk the walk. Galarza is one of the latter.

“I actually got my 501c3 with Youth Fighting Forward. Youth Fighting Forward is based on a methodology where we use boxing and other tools to engage with inner city youth, those that are in impoverished areas or fatherless homes. Pretty much in general any kid who wants to box can come in. We don’t really separate it. But it’s for those kids who are growing up the way I grew up, in the projects, in the ghetto areas, to give them an outlet where they can come in and release frustrations. We also have tutoring, counseling, education, work access and youth leadership.

“This was actually my idea. It came to me, it hit me one time, and I was like, you know, this is something I’d love to do, a platform to create a voice for myself. We’re looking for a generational change. Everything is so negative. There’s not much positivity that we got. So we try explaining to these kids, give them a different perspective. That it’s not always about the money. It’s about being who you are as an individual, keeping your individuality and separating yourself from the masses. These are the things I want to talk about. It’s easy to talk about, yeah, I’m gonna go in and beat my opponent up and do this and brag about who’s going to be the next world champion. But it’s more like, okay, who’s going to be the future in this world?

“I really want to separate myself from all these other fighters. Most of these fighters don’t really talk about nothing. They talk about fame, glory, jewelry, how they look in a fancy car. It doesn’t even matter. It’s all glamorous, but let’s talk about what’s really going on in the world, like how most of these kids are struggling because they don’t have any guidance.”

Tonight at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a fight televised live on Showtime, Galarza is fighting undefeated Jarrett Hurd (16-0, 10 KOs), from Accokeek, Maryland.

“We seen a few tapes,” said Galarza. “He seems like the gym fighter, strong, coming to fight. You know, anything can happen in the ring. I’m sure at the end of the day he’s coming to fight just like me. At least I hope he’s coming to fight. I know he’s undefeated. He has 10 knockouts. We have very similar records. So it should be an interesting fight.”

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  1. Bob 03:58pm, 11/14/2015

    I had heard what a fine young man Frank is from a police officer who works part-time for the athletic commission. This story only reinforced what I heard. I will be watching tonight and rooting for him in the future. He sounds like a young man with great boxing attributes coupled with championship character. Sounds like a real winner.

  2. peter 02:18pm, 11/14/2015

    Frank Galarza is a perfect example of someone who has rebooted his life. I will certainly be following his progress—as will many others. Excellent article!

  3. Don from Prov 10:35am, 11/14/2015

    Damn, Garlarza, to me, is someone to cheer for—

    I appreciate these kind of stories, and people who put their lives together.

  4. Eric 10:13am, 11/14/2015

    A lot of us ordinary folk have neither peaks nor valleys. Sometimes boring can be good. Inspiring story, nice to see this man get his head screwed on right. In the end what you achieve in this world isn’t going to make a helluva lot of difference and won’t make much of an impression on God.

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