Son of a Son of a Boxer

By Jamie Lynn Miller | Jan. 29, 2019, 10:38 a.m. (ET)

End the year undefeated, including face-offs against India and Russia; make a clean sweep of Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah; win the Chemistry Cup aka, ‘Word Cup of Boxing.’


Richard Torrez, Jr.—2018’s Under Armour Elite Male Boxer of the Year—is not afraid of hard work.


His granddad boxed in the Air Force and his dad ranked top five in an amateur boxing career, spanning two different weight classes. Born son of a boxer to a son of a boxer, Richard came into the world punching.


“When Mom was pregnant, Dad said he’d hold his hands up to her stomach and get me to try and hit him,” says Richard, with a laugh. “I guess I’ve been boxing my whole life.”


In 1974, Richard’s granddad started a boxing gym, and his son eventually took over the family business. Growing up in a boxing gym, says Richard, kept him and his sister occupied in a small farming town like Tulare, California.  “There weren’t any arcades or much going on in Tulare. Dad kept us out of trouble by getting us into boxing!”


From the training atmosphere to the gym itself—originally an adobe shack—learning the sport was a no-frills, Old School enterprise.  “We hit it hard, and we hit it often,” recalls Richard, of his early training. “There was no fancy equipment or anything. We just made it work to the best of our abilities.”


Now, at the United States Olympic Training Center, with access to state-of-the art training facilities, a heart rate monitor room, a steady supply of new athletic shoes—it’s still hard to believe.


“Being with Team USA and all these things at our fingertips feels a little surreal sometimes,” he admits.


At age 19, the 220-pound heavyweight has a record of 109-6. He remembers every one of those six.


“I don’t remember all the (competitor) names, but I remember what I learned,” he explains. “Aside from that first fight, which may have been my skill level, the rest of the losses were nerves. They were mostly mental.”


Fortunately, like those prenatal jabs that launched him into the sport, his knack for mental training came early.


“Boxing is game of inches,” he says. ‘Minute things really do change the outcome of a fight. The mental side really does play a factor.”


Humility and respect are high on his list, words and qualities he values in and out of the ring.  He won the high school’s Character Counts ‘Respect’ award, nominated by teachers and peers for the way he carried himself in the halls. “In a town full of people I really care about, and like, I’ve always showed a lot of respect to others. I was always taught to be humble and to do what’s right. I guess my teachers took notice of this, which was really nice.”


Respect for his favorite boxer, as well, has always shaped his mindset. “I’ve been studying Dad since I was a little kid, watching him spar; even now, I’ll see him wrap his hands, then throw some punches and I say, ‘Dang.’ I still aspire to be like him. If I become half the man my dad is, I’m doing something right.”


At one of his earlier comps, someone brought a chess board to weigh-ins, introducing Richard to a newfound passion and ultimately, one of his greatest training metaphors.


After joining the chess club at school, he soon became Captain: “all that meant was I could beat anyone who came into the club,” he recalls, with a laugh. And like boxing scholars before him, he’s come to see boxing as the greatest chess match of all.


“You’re constantly thinking, and you’re thinking three to four moves ahead,” he says. “Boxing is a high-paced game of chess!”


“You’re not just looking at one piece, or punch. It’s punch, move, counter--there are multiple pieces in chess, just like in boxing.”  Strong character continues to build a lot of heart, while good old-fashioned hard work keeps him level-headed.  “I know I have to work harder than the other person or I’ll get beat. There’s always someone looking to take my spot,” says Richard. “This helps me stay dedicated. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone able to punch you in the face!”


His latest moves involve meditation and relaxation. His mom takes him to yoga classes whenever possible, and he’s learning to sit, breathe, and visualize his next victory.   “After boxing practice sometimes, I’ll just lay down in the empty ring and listen to some inspirational videos (Eric Thomas is a current favorite). I try and make that correlate with my work in the ring.”


With sights set on a professional boxing career, pursuing a business major will help with that goal: “When I turn pro, I’ll be in the know!” His active mind teaches itself in many ways. With an interest in engineering, Richard just finished building his own gaming PC, good for occasional downtime not dedicated to sleeping.  He dabbles in music too, calling himself an ‘intermediate level’ guitar player: “If we go out to a bonfire, I could probably keep people entertained,” he says, with a laugh.

 

Talk turns back to training, dedication, and readying for the penultimate chess match of his amateur boxing career: the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “I’ll continue to do the best I can,” Richard says, and expresses gratitude for the support from family and his coaches, who really believe in their athletes; “Coach Billy and Coach Kay tell us they’re just ‘sharpening the knife,’” he says, with a smile.


The 6-foot-2-inch Southpaw grows thoughtful. “Winning gold would mean a lot of different things to me,” he begins. “The Gold would entail not just glory, it would entail security.” Professional doors would open, he explains, ones that would benefit his family’s future. “I want to win it for my family.”


But there’s more to it than that. “My mom asked me once, ‘When you were eight, what did you think you were going to do in life?” This, says Richard. Exactly this. And win the Olympics.


“Making that goal a reality drives my dedication,” he says.


Follow Richard on Instagram @realrichardtorrez

 

Copyright © 2019 Jamie Lynn Miller All Rights Reserved

 

About the author

 

Freelance writer Jamie Lynn Miller is a rock climber, skier, and all-around adventurer. As an almost-Level 2 Official well-versed in boxing conditioning, Jamie is passionate about the stories behind the sport.


Her work has appeared in national publications including Sierra Magazine, Waterway Guide, Men’s Health, Women’s Adventure, and Climbing Magazine, as well as the Dominican Republic-based Lifestyle Cabarete.


For more from Jamie, please visit jamielynnmiller.contently.comShe can be reached at  jamielynnmillerthefirst@gmail.com or on instagram, @jamielynnink