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Boxer Found Dead in Car Near Coors

By Mike Hall and Dan Mayfield
Journal Staff Writers
    Albuquerque boxer Vicente "El Picosito" Garcia, 20, was found dead from apparent multiple gunshot wounds early Thursday morning.
    Many believed Garcia was one of Albuquerque's most promising young fighters, earning a bronze medal for the United States at the International Junior Olympics at 113 pounds.
    Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said they received a call regarding shots fired at about 2 a.m. Thursday at 62nd Street and Avalon Road near Coors Boulevard. When they arrived at the scene, she said, they found a young Hispanic male dead in a car.
    Garcia's legal guardian and trainer, Robert Padilla, confirmed to the Journal the victim was Garcia.
    "It was a gangland slaying. Only his side (the passenger side) of the car was shot up," Padilla said.
    He said Garcia had been threatened recently.
    Padilla said there were rumors Garcia was part of a gang, but he said that was not the case.
    "He said he could take care of himself. I said, 'No, they'll come at you with a gun.' ... There were too many bullets for this to be an accident."
    Padilla said Garcia was shot three times in the head and that about 12 bullet casings had been found at the scene.
    Hoffman did not confirm this information and did not release the victim's identity.
    She said homicide detectives searched the car in which the body was found and they also canvassed the neighborhood in an attempt to find any clues regarding the shooting.
    Hoffman said police do not have any suspects in custody.
    As a boxer, Garcia was known for taking on tough matches. He had a 13-5 record with nine knockouts. Many believed he could develop into a contender.
    "He was a young kid with a lot of potential," said Ray Sanchez Jr., father of Albuquerque boxer Ray Sanchez III. "He was a good kid with a good amateur background. He had the foundation. The sky was the limit."
    Youth was on his side in a sport in which athletes don't come into their prime until their late 20s.
    "He wasn't hard to match up; he took the tougher fights," said Española promoter Ross Sanchez.
    A strong rivalry with another boxer's fans, Albuquerque's Ray Sanchez III, has been brewing for several months, though both fighters' families were friends.
    Garcia challenged Sanchez to a fight. Sanchez declined, but it was a fight many were eager to see— and hyped it like the old Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia rivalry.
    Ray Sanchez Jr. downplayed the rivalry and noted that Garcia recently fought on the undercard of one of Sanchez III's fights.
    Garcia— who attended Albuquerque High School— refused to give up in the ring. At a recent fight in Española, even though one of Garcia's eyes was swollen shut, he did all he could to convince the fight doctor he could fight. He lost his appeals and roared from his corner, throwing his mouthpiece at the crowd. Garcia came back undaunted and last month knocked out Cabien St. Pierre in the first round.
    Padilla, who raised Garcia, was known to most as Garcia's father, but technically he was his step-grandfather, the step-father to Garcia's mother.
    Soon after Garcia was born, Padilla was granted custody. "I raised him as a baby," Padilla said.
    Romero called Garcia's death "nuts, absolutely nuts. A life wasted on a bunch of crap like that."
    Romero said he thought Garcia had a great future that had been marred only by his willingness to fight tough competition.
    "He was very talented. You need to be in the right spot at the right time at the right moment," Romero said.
    Top Rank had promoted some Garcia bouts and saw him as a fighter with a future, despite his less-than-championship-caliber record, which came from his willingness to fight boxers with much more experience. Top Rank was looking for that right spot and right moment to launch Garcia.
    "Sometimes we had to stop and take into consideration he was 20 years old," Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler said. "He wouldn't hit his prime for five more years. The best was yet to come if the promoter was patient. He was always welcome on our shows."
    There was never a doubt Garcia would be a boxer— he loved to fight. Trampler said he wished "the punk" who shot Garcia would have challenged him with his fists. "That would have been a pretty big mismatch."
    Former two-time women's champion Trina Ortegon remembers Garcia's zest for boxing.
    She first met Garcia while training at the South San Jose Community Center before she turned professional in 1998.
    Now a member of the State Athletic Commission, Ortegon said Garcia showed up to get his professional license as soon as he legally could.
    "His whole life was dedicated to boxing," she said. "He wanted his license the day he turned 18."
    Ortegon remembers Garcia telling her of going to the 1996 Oscar De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. Garcia was a De La Hoya fan, smack in the middle of Chavez's boosters. It didn't silence him.
    "He was just a little kid, rooting for Oscar," she said. Garcia also befriended champion Jorge Paez and hung out with him in Las Vegas.
    "He was full of life and we were looking forward to working with him again. It's a tragedy," Ross Sanchez said.
    Padilla said Garcia originally was scheduled to fight this weekend in Nogales, Ariz., but the bout was called off. If the bout was still on, Padilla noted, Garcia would have been home in bed at the time he was shot.
    Journal staff writers Carolyn Carlson and Bruce Daniels also contributed to this story

E-MAIL Journal Staff Writers Mike Hall and Dan Mayfield