In memory of legendary New York boxing trainer Hector Roca – New York Daily News

When a fighter wins a big match, the first thing he does is jump onto the ring post and wave to the supporters. The person with the winning game plan smiles sideways until the two hug.

Whether your name is Angelo Dundee, Emmanuel Steward or Hector Roca, that’s the life of a trainer.


Yes, Panamanian-born Hector Roca has been a New York City boxing regular for over 40 years. He has trained more than 20 of his world champions, including Hall of Famers James “Buddy” McGirt and Arturo Gatti, as well as top-tier champions such as Iran “Blade” Barkley of the Bronx and Heather “The Heat” Hardy of Brooklyn. .

All-time greats like Ali, Duran and Tyson first played in the Bronx, then Manhattan, Brooklyn in 1985 and Dumbo in 2016 (Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass in Down Kings County.

Roca was inducted into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame on April 30, but died of a heart attack on January 3. he was 82 years old.

Hector "Panama" Roca was a fixture in NYC Boxing.

Roca has had a long career in boxing without being real. He prepared for actress Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning performance of “Million Dollar Baby.” In addition to Swank, the 2005 film won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Clint Eastwood).

For Roca, a two-time member of Panama’s Olympic cyclist team, working alongside female fighters was no problem.

“He spent the last three weeks of his life in the hospital,” says Hardy, the former WBO featherweight champion. “He wasn’t in pain. He didn’t understand why he was there. He had visitors the whole time.”

“There were days when I went to visit him, but people were lined up and it took three hours to see him. was

“He was surrounded by love in the last months of his life.”

Roca left such an impression on Hardy with whom she was with for 12 years.

For Gleason’s owner Bruce Silverglade, the connection was much longer and deeper.

“I bought Jim in ’82. He was a gym trainer,” Silverglade recalls as he begins to laugh. “So I bought him too.”

Jokes aside, the two have been joined at the hip for decades.

“We were very close friends,” says Silverglade. “We traveled all over the world together. We were in China, Europe, South America. We talked every day.”

They also co-authored a book in 2006 titled Roca & Silverglade, Gleason’s Gym Total Body Workout for Women.

During the battle, Loca gained a hard-to-get trait. He knew what a fighter should do when under pressure.

“His greatest asset was being able to turn a corner during a match and tune his fighter to what was happening in the ring,” points out Silverglade. “He was very good at it. He could actually see what was going on and give the fighter the best advice.”

And like most trainers, Loca had a roughness, but a catch.

“He was grumpy outside when he was training people. He was always very strong and very tough on his men,” admits Silverglade, adding: .

Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New York on January 25, 2005.

“He was the type of person who treated everyone who came here with respect and equality, whether it was a kid walking down the street, a potential world champion, or a tourist. I was a special ambassador.”

What made Roca part of Silverglade was his personality and being dependable no matter what he had to do.

“I opened the door between 3-5 in the morning and he was there five minutes later,” recalls Silverglade. “He walked into my office and we shook hands and had coffee and a little breeze.

“In the early afternoon, he came in for a few more minutes before heading home.

“He was my right-hand man. , he was there.

“I miss my right hand man and my friend.”

Roca is no longer part of Silverglade, but for Heather Hardy it’s like losing a family member.

“He’s like a dad to me. He loved me so much for the last 12 months of his life,” she says. “He spends every last day of his life with me, trying not only to put my boxing life back together, but to put mine in order.”

He was still a trainer and coach when Roca was suffering in the hospital.

“For three weeks, he gave me some boxing lessons at the hospital,” she says. “He used to tell me, ‘Remember, you know how to fight. You know how to do it. You just have to be smart.’

Roca has trained over a dozen world champions, including Hilary Swank "million dollar baby."

Hardy has a match scheduled for February 23 at Sony Hall in Times Square.

“I dedicate this fight to Hector,” she says. “He was sure, until the last day, that I would be fine without him.”

Then the memories began to flow.

“My favorite Hector quote, and he told me almost every day until the last days of his life, ‘Baby you’re beautiful, but to stay beautiful…’

Then, just at the cue, Gleason’s three-minute bell rang and Hardy paused. “Let me skip that…

“He told me I have to stay happy, and to stay beautiful you have to stay happy, and to stay happy you have to be strong.” No,’ she repeats his mantra.’

Then Hardy’s voice cracked and I could hear her pain.

“He loved me so much,” she declares, pausing again.

As Silverglade explains, she got one perk with Roca’s passing.

“I was cleaning [Roca’s office] Heather asked, “Who’s going to get the office?” Some people asked for it, but she said don’t give it to anyone.I want it. Hector and I were close friends. And I said I couldn’t think of anyone better suited. ”

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