‘Dreamer’ Ricardo Lucio-Galvan fights for DACA, Reno
In his professional boxing debut in Reno last November, featherweight Ricardo Lucio-Galvan stopped his opponent in just 55 seconds. There is much more to learn about the young phenom.
“We don’t know what he has yet; we just don’t know,” Let’s Get It On Boxing promoter Terry Lane said afterward.
What is known is that Lucio-Galvan is a dedicated 20-year-old slugger whose first experience with smaller 8-ounce gloves hastened his shortest workout of the week. The fists inside those gloves connected via rapid and speedy hooks, jabs and haymakers that brought about a technical knockout in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd.
Lucio-Galvan’s greatest vulnerability also is clear: A governmental double-cross would take him out. Not just out of the ring, but out of his house, his school and his country.
Lucio-Galvan is a “Dreamer,” a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival – DACA – recipient. He arrived in Reno from Mexico City when he was 7 months old. He is one of 800,000 who the United States government promised to protect from deportation. Lucio-Galvan proved he had a clean background and was a full-time student, and he provided his fingerprints, bloodwork and home address. The federal government provided a Social Security card.
Lucio-Galvan renewed his DACA status in October, just weeks before his professional debut was held in the Reno Sparks Convention Center. His situation inspired a newspaper to give him a moniker: Ricardo “The Dreamer” Lucio-Galvan.
President Donald Trump rescinded the executive order of his predecessor, giving Congress a March 5 deadline to resolve the matter.
On Monday (Feb. 26), the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the Trump administration’s request to review lower court decisions that keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program intact, essentially eliminating the March 5 deadline set by the president for those already enrolled in DACA. The Supreme Court said that the case should be litigated first in the Court of Appeals.
Ricardo’s father was two semesters short of a law degree in Mexico when, out of money and work, he came to the United States with his infant son on a work visa.
“The United States would provide me a better opportunity,” Ricardo Sr. said. “Growing up in Mexico City, I had to learn how to fight. I moved to Reno where everything is a lot more calm.”
A decade later, he brought his son to the Boys and Girls Club, perhaps hoping that boxing would help him become more aggressive on the soccer field. Ricardo Jr. found instant success under the tutelage of Thelma Tavares, the elderly, wheelchair-bound widow of Ray Tavares, the club’s longtime boxing coach. From the very beginning, Lucio-Galvan learned that attendance – and, moreover, preparation – was required to be able to participate in a match.
“She was tough,” Lucio-Galvan said. “She was always at the gym. She even got out of the hospital just to get to the gym.”
The youngster focused on boxing as his only sport. He was named Boxer of the Year for the Reno Jets and later the Boxer of the Year for the entire club.
Thelma Tavares died in 2010 at age 87. Lucio-Galvan still visits her gravesite.
“She taught me to believe in myself,” he said. “She built confidence in me. I was respectful and disciplined and helped out other boxers. That’s why I was boxer of the year.”
The flame Tavares lit in Lucio-Galvan warms everyone around him.
“Coaches liked me because, no matter how tired I was, I pushed myself and would not complain,” he said. “Whatever gym I’d go to they would open the doors to us. I am focused and have respect for older people.”
Wooster High School world history teacher Stacy Smith is a boxing fan, evidenced by posters of Muhammad Ali and Jack Johnson displayed in her classroom. That kindled conversations with Lucio-Galvan, who she described as a humble student who earned good grades.
“Ricardo was a very diligent student,” Smith said. “He worked very hard. He’s a gentle soul, a really warm kid. Even though he was a boxer, he didn’t have any bravado.”
Without U.S. citizenship, Lucio-Galvan was not allowed to participate in Golden Gloves or Junior Olympic competitions. He did, however, develop a rivalry with a fighter who lived 28 miles south, Carson City’s Diego Elizondo, who won his second pro fight on the night Lucio-Galvan scored his 55-second knockout.
“We were Rocky and Apollo,” Lucio-Galvan said of his two amateur bouts with Elizondo. “I was Rocky even though he is the left-hander.”
It is the classic confrontation: the boxer vs. slugger – Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran. Elizondo is a technician, a tall southpaw who uses a long jab to score points and win rounds. Lucio-Galvan moves forward, getting inside his opponent’s reach to land power shots.
Elizondo won his first fight with Lucio-Galvan by a decision. Lucio-Galvan hurt Elizondo with a body shot and won the rematch on a second-round technical knockout. A year later, like the movie characters Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the two became great friends. They often train together.
“I remember the first time we sparred, we both came out of there bleeding; It was a good war that day,” Elizondo said. “He’s a pressure fighter. He just comes and comes and comes. It’s good for me because I’m a tall and rangy fighter and when I fight somebody that’s short I already know what to do because he puts that pressure on me that nobody else will give me. For him, it’s good because I’m tall and a southpaw and eventually he’ll get a tall guy and a southpaw.
“So it’s good for both of us. We’re good caliber fighters so it’s good sparring. Iron sharpens iron.”
Elizondo, a 19-year-old lightweight (135 pounds), moved to 2-0 as a pro last November – the night Lucio-Galvan won his pro bout — when he scored a four-round decision over Las Vegas’ Chandler Clements, a rematch of the boxers’ debut.
“It’s pretty cool that we’re still around because there was a lot of us from this area that from the same age started boxing, but me and Ricardo are the only ones who are going through with it,” said Elizondo, who advised his friend about what to expect in his pro debut.
“I told him when you see and hear so many people chanting your name it’s a little overwhelming so just be prepared. I told him it’s a lot of fun, you are going to go out there and kill it. Just go out there and do what you do best and it’s all yours.”
Lucio-Galvan said Elizondo’s words rang true as he made his way across the convention center toward the ring. There were more than 2,000 fight fans in attendance and the hometown fighter drew the most raucous cheers on the night.
“I heard the crowd when I entered,” he said. “I already had so much adrenaline and emotion but that pumped me up 10 times more. As the Vicente Fernandez song “El Rey” echoed the arena, Lucio-Galvan marched in alongside his cousin, Bryan Galvan, a U.S. Army veteran, who carried an U.S. flag. Friends Fernando Hernandez carried a Mexican flag and Paxton Schmidt carried a Nevada flag.
The dressing room was well lit, but as Lucio-Galvan approached the ring the arena was dark. When he attempted to step into the ring for the first time as a pro, Lucio-Galvan tripped over the top step.
“You know what they say, ‘Break a leg,’ ” he later joked.
Lucio-Galvan’s opponent was Benjamin Amezquita of Portland, Oregon. Both weighed 125, one pound under the featherweight limit.
Superbly conditioned, Lucio-Galvan had a game plan that started with the study round, el round de estudio, in which he would determine how Amezquita held his hands and to evaluate his composition. But the game plan was erased with the flick of Lucio-Galvan’s left hand.
“After I moved him with just a jab, I said, ‘OK, I’ve got this. He doesn’t have a chance,’ ” Lucio-Galavan said. “I started to throw bombs. I knew I wasn’t going to gas out.”
Lucio-Galvan backed Amezquita into the ropes and landed a series of unanswered blows. Referee Vic Drakulich stopped the fight less than a minute before it started.
“You can’t leave it up to the judges,” Lucio-Galvan said. “As soon as you see it, you go for it. I was throwing punches from all angles to make sure he didn’t have an opening.”
“Ricardo’s a machine and he does not stop,” cornerman Robert William Stovall II said. “Everything was perfect. He did everything he trained to do. Move forward. Put this guy in the corner on the ropes. Do your job.”
As Amezquita recuperated in his corner with his handlers, he was approached by the winning fighter.
“You can beef all you want leading up to the fight but after the fight, it’s sportsmanship and respect,” Lucio-Galvan said. “(Amezquita) said, ‘You got me good. I just couldn’t react. You are going to be a great champion.”
Journalist and former pro boxer from Lake Tahoe and Reno Simon Ruvalcaba was asked to evaluate the fight.
“It’s hard to gauge from 55 seconds, but he’s definitely got the instincts,” Ruvalcaba said. “For somebody to be fearless and attack and pursue somebody after they hurt them in his first pro fight says a lot about his killer instinct.
“I know he’s got boxing skills. I’ve seen him enough in the amateurs to know that the question wasn’t, is he ever going to turn pro but instead when will he turn pro. He had a pro style in the amateurs.”
Lane, the co-promoter with Let’s Get It On Boxing, said, “What I like about him is he just tends to business. He works his ass off. He has that work ethic and professional approach to everything. That alone means we’re not going to have any problems with his weight. We’re not going to have any problems with him not showing up to train. We’re not going to have any problems that I see with a lot of professional fighters that people might not realize. That alone puts him ahead of the game.
“He’s a very technically sound fighter who does have some power. I think he could really mature physically into a lightweight or possible a junior welterweight in the future but right now in the mid-120s, he’s going to be very tough for anyone to beat.”
Elizondo is optimistic about his friend’s boxing future.
“His attitude is really good, and so is his work ethic. Those two things are very important because without those you’re not going to go very far. You have to be in a good mood to work out. You have to have a good strive to train harder, and he has both of those things.”
Cornerman Stovall said Lucio-Galvan will be ranked among the top 10 fighters in his division in two years. Father Ricardo Sr. says his son will someday wear a title belt.
“I train him every day,” Ricardo Sr. said. “I support my son for technique and strategy. He has no bad influences. He is not a bad person, he has nice friends and he a student. This is important for the life. In five years, he will be a champion.”
Lucio-Galvan is a sophomore business administration major at the University of Nevada, Reno. “At first I wanted medicine but business will take less time. I want to know where money is going and how to invest and not get robbed like Mike Tyson was.”
Since he was a child, Lucio-Galvan has lived in a house within walking distance of the elementary, middle and high schools he attended. He trains at the college and a mile away from home at the Elite Boxing & Fitness Club, across the street from the Grand Sierra Resort.
“This is another dream come true,” he said before his second bout, in which he scored a third-round TKO over Kenny Guzman. “I never thought I would fight here and now I will be on a national stage under a world title fight. (The Grand Theatre) kind of reminds me of Madison Square Garden.”
The Feb. 18 fight against Guzman was the last of the evening. The ESPN broadcast had ended by the time Lucio-Galvan and Guzman entered the ring. But the hometown fans chanted both “Ricky” and “Reno” as the local fighter overcame a cut from a headbutt to win. “I don’t feel extra pressure fighting in Reno,” he said afterward. “I feel love and support.”
Although he believes he won’t be sent away, his immigration status weighs on his mind.
“The day I heard Trump ended (DACA) it was like cup of water on my head. … It’s like I am a dreamer inside the ring and outside the ring. One of my dreams is to represent the Hispanic community. There’s a Hispanic athlete who is doing good for the community. I want to give them satisfaction. There is a Hispanic athlete who is doing the right things.”
Elizondo is concerned for all of the DACA recipients.
“That’s tough,” he said. “I am blessed and fortunate to have been born here. I’m pretty sure it will all go well, I hope. That would be pretty messed up to take out everybody who has lived here their whole lives and know nothing about Mexico.”
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Justice Department and Congress does not act, the DACA recipients will be ordered to move to a land they do not know.
“Muchos suenos van a desaparecer — A lot of dreams would go away,” Ricardo Sr. said. “You’d get bullied. If you didn’t speak Spanish, you wouldn’t know how to survive.”
Lucio-Galvan is a relentless trainer. He rises at 5:30 a.m. every day to do roadwork, some days more than 10 miles. Daily workouts are 2.5 hours and include hundreds of situps and thousands of punches thrown at a variety of punching bags. The governmental double-cross might get him outside the ring but he controls his destiny inside the ropes and he knows that he can’t lose.
“He’s got to make the right moves because once you turn pro you only have one shot at it,” Ruvalcaba said. “It’s so important to win. In MMA, it’s not as big a deal. If you have a couple of losses you can still be a fan favorite and get opportunities. In boxing, it becomes like a death sentence.
“His determination of what he represents is going to make him even tougher to beat because of what he’s representing with the Dreamers. It’s almost that fear. The same fear that they live with in America and what’s going on in society. He’s got that fear of losing. If he loses that whole thing of him succeeding as a Dreamer could go down the drain. If he keeps winning, he keeps the hopes and dreams up not just for him but for people in his shoes.”
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.
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