A once small and skinny foster child from New Rochelle, New York, activist and former amateur fighter Rob Garris is now taking giant strides in his mission to inspire children in the foster care system. The 47-year old Garris will be making his pro debut on December 8 at the New Resort World Casino in Jamaica, NY after a 27-year hiatus from boxing – an unprecedented feat. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Throwaway Kids Foundation, a charitable organization he founded in 2004 to assist foster children of all ethnic backgrounds, and fund a nationwide charity boxing tour to commence next year.
Garris, who was bullied in foster care after he was given up by his mother at birth, was first introduced to boxing at the age of seven when he watched Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier III on television with his adoptive father and uncle. The impressionable child came to idolize Ali, both the prizefighter and the humanitarian devoted to international charitable missions and social causes. Garris emulated Ali's style when he himself began boxing at 13, compiling an amateur record of 63-3 (38 KO's).
A ruptured artery that caused excessive nose bleeding forced a 19-year old Garris to retire from boxing in 1985 before he could turn pro and pursue his dream to become a world champion. He instead turned his attention to perfecting his trade as a barber, later becoming owner of Mackadocious Hair Style, Inc. in New Rochelle. Additionally, Garris was compelled to dedicate his life to advocating for the needs of neglected and abused foster children. For several years, he tirelessly fought to expose corruption in the foster care system and successfully reunited twelve children with their biological families while commencing a search for his own birth mother in 1998.
Improved medical technology subsequently repaired the injury to Garris' nose, enabling him to begin training in 2000 for a comeback in an exhibition bout to raise money to help unite more families. It would be seven years of personal sacrifice and grueling training before the then 42-year old Garris would make his first ring appearance in 22 years on May 12, 2007. He fought through the pain of a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder to complete the three-round bout against a much younger opponent and provide the 1300 people in attendance with the hope that any obstacle can be overcome with a true and honest effort.
Given the overwhelming success of this initial event, Garris held three more charity boxing exhibitions in 2011 but he is not stopping there. After receiving medical clearance from the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), the determined Garris will now enter the ring for the first time as a professional after a 27-year hiatus from sanctioned competition. As the first fighter to come back from amateur to pro after such a long absence, Garris' ultimate goal in this historic endeavor is to inspire those in the foster care system to believe in themselves and never give up on their faith and dreams.
"I want to inspire kids and adults to believe they are not worth nothing just because they were given up. I grew up wondering why I was given up but I conquered all that and never used it as an excuse. I am proof that you can achieve anything regardless of what you went through," Garris proudly stated.
The Mt. Vernon resident has certainly conquered quite a bit of personal hardships over the years. The six-year search for his biological mother ended in rejection in 2004 when the woman believed to have given birth to Garris refused to acknowledge him as her son. The reunion with his biological father's family in 2008 was met with mixed reaction and limited acceptance. On a modest budget, he spent 10 years writing, directing and producing a documentary entitled "Never Too Old To Do God's Work" that chronicles his initial comeback in 2007, his efforts to support those in foster care and the search for his own biological family. Garris intends to launch this film in tandem with the promotion of his upcoming fight.
He also conquered several challenges in his pursuit to make history for a worthy cause. The vigor of training over the past 12 years while in his 40's have taken a great toll on Garris' body, including a 40-pound weight loss to maintain fighting shape as a super middleweight, two surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation on his left shoulder. The NYSAC abruptly canceled a previous pro debut that was originally scheduled for January 2011. Six promoters turned down Garris before local promoter Felipe Gomez finally agreed to include this historic four-round event on the December 8 card.
"I had a million reasons to quit, but I never did. I never stopped training," declared the devoted Garris. "Now I'm going to have my first pro fight. I'm going to make history."
Garris intends to have only two or three professional fights to raise enough money and gain sponsorship for a nationwide tour that will include speaking engagements at youth shelters and other foster care facilities throughout the country, as well as conducting playful three-round boxing exhibitions involving former champions.
"It's not about the fight [on December 8]. The real fight takes place afterwards," Garris said of his overall motivation for stepping back into the ring at this stage of his life.
"Ali once said boxing was a platform to introduce him to the world so it could lead him to other things he needed to do. That's the same thing with me because that's the only reason why I'm fighting now," explained Garris. "I don't like competing at this age but it's only a platform to introduce me to the world to be a national spokesperson for kids in foster care. It kind of works hand-in-hand."
While the fourth battle between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will take place on December 8 in Las Vegas, a far more meaningful and impactful event will occur that night on the other side of the country.
"That's alright," Garris said about the date of his pro debut conflicting with the HBO pay-per-view event featuring one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. "I'm the oldest guy on the card but I'm gonna' look like a 20-year old out there. I will dance, slip, slide and dodge. God is gonna' bless me that night."
Come out and support Rob in his historic and selfless fight on December 8 at the New Resort World Casino, 110-00 Rockaway Blvd. in Jamaica, New York starting at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $50 – $100 and can be purchased by contacting Rob directly at (914) 563-9542 or by email at [email protected] rgarrirg o or by
You can also find additional information on Rob's efforts at the Throwaway Kids Foundation.
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