Like Father Like Son: Second Generation McGirt To Make Pro Debut Jan. 24
23.01.04 - By Stephanie Ragusa: There are special moments in every parent’s life when their hopes for their child’s future come to fruition before their very eyes. In that moment, a nurturing parent realizes just how much they shaped their child’s development and how their own passions have influenced their offspring. In the case of legendary welterweight, James “Buddy” McGirt, you need only look to his son, James, to witness this generation’s rendition of a classic boxer who will undoubtedly follow in the footsteps of his heroic father.
Article posted on 23.01.2004
James McGirt was born in 1982 and grew up with his Aunt and Grandmother in Brentwood, NY. “I didn’t get to see my father too much,” James remarked, “only when he came home from training camp.” Despite living in a rather limited boxing environment during his adolescences, especially for the son of a world champion prize fighter, the younger McGirt can still recall his first memory of his father fighting in the gym at the tender age of six years old.
“I loved going to the gym with him,” said James, “but my father always pushed me away from it (the sport).” Buddy wouldn’t let his only son workout on the equipment, sitting James down in the corner of the room and instructing him not to touch anything. Having been discouraged from boxing, James McGirt took up basketball. He excelled at the sport earning a scholarship to play basketball at St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida.
It wasn’t until early adulthood that James began to take up the sport that made his father famous and gave the McGirt’s a name in boxing. James was told about a local boxing gym in St. Petersburg and began competing in amateur tournaments where compiled a record of 44-4 and won several titles. “I had to show my father I was dedicated,” McGirt explained, “and then he got behind me.”
“ I guess he didn’t want me to go through what he did,” James offers when asked if his father had ever explained why he deterred his son from the sport all those years. Having experienced both the highs and lows of an industry notorious for breaking their athletes as quickly as it vaulted them to fame, Buddy McGirt naturally wanted to protect his son and spare him from the extremes he endured during his professional career. “That’s why he’s taking care of my career now and is setting everything up for me,” James explains. “Our relationship is stronger now.”
For both McGirt’s, the father-son relationship has come full-circle as the sport of boxing has united them on yet another front. More appreciative than ever of their unique bond, James recognizes the important role a father plays in his child’s life, especially now that he has a son of his own. “It was a hard decision (to turn pro now),” James confessed. “I wanted to try to make the Olympic Team (in 2004), but I thought about him (his son also named James). Amateur boxing doesn’t bring in money. I love boxing, but it’s a job now.”
Discipline runs in the McGirt family, and James is willing to learn both the art of boxing and the sacrifices it takes to provide for your offspring from his father. “ I have so much respect for him,” James said proudly of his father. “He would never steer me in the wrong direction.”
The eldest of Buddy’s children is focused on his future and his family. Following in the brilliance of a heralded predecessor, James seems poised to make a mark of his own in the sport of professional boxing. “I watch a tape of the Pernell Whitaker fight (with his father) every day,” he claims. “I emulate him and Pernell Whitaker.” James is a southpaw like Pernell, but says he strategize like his father did during a fight by taking the advantage when openings in the action present themselves.
“My father tells me to move my head more,” James points out after training with his father. As a coach in the ring, a fighter cannot find a better technician than Buddy, the 2002 Trainer of the Year. Outside the ropes, James could not find a father who knows the journey he is beginning better than his own. “As a family man,” he believes his father would say, “I need to grow up more.” As both his trainer and his father, James is obliged to heed Buddy’s advice.
On Saturday, January 24th, 2004 twenty-one year old James McGirt will make his professional debut under the tutelage of father on the undercard of the HBO-televised Gatti vs. Branco junior welterweight bout. The McGirt fighter of the past and family’s future prospect will step into the ring together for those present early in the evening.
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