John E. Garcia, the fugitive boxer arrested Saturday following his nationally televised bout in Norfolk, yesterday waived extradition and agreed to return to Colorado to finish his prison sentence.
He was arrested by Norfolk police following his six-round loss Saturday to Olympic champion Meldrick Taylor in The Scope. Police said they knew they had their man when Garcia removed his robe before the lightweight bout to reveal three tattoos.
"When we saw the rose, we knew we had the right guy. Before that, the identificaton was kind of iffy," Norfolk Police Lt. Curtis Todd Jr. told the Associated Press.
Garcia, 29, was living in St. Petersburg, Fla., and fighting under the alias Roberto Medina. He had said he was 27. But Garcia, who had been arrested 61 times in the Denver area, was a fugitive since June 25, 1982, when he escaped from the Rifle Correctional Center, an honor camp, about 150 miles west of Denver.
Garcia was quoted Sunday as saying that he had stayed out of trouble since moving to St. Petersburg, where he worked as a maintenance man and carpenter, and that he suspected a former girlfriend had told Denver police of his whereabouts and new identity. He also said the trip to Norfolk was worth the risk.
"Ninety-eight percent of the people who get out (of prison) go back for the same thing," Garcia told the Tampa Tribune. "They look for you for a while and then just figure that you'll be back. Once a mess-up, always a mess-up, they figure. But I didn't do a thing while I was in St. Petersburg. I got a ticket for driving without a license once; that's it.
"I figured if I didn't get in any more trouble, no one would find me. I loved boxing so much that I guess I just ignored thoughts of being found out. I wanted to do it.
"Sometimes you take a gamble, and I guess I loved boxing so much I was willing to take that gamble. So here I am. I'm sorry I disappointed some people, but I'm not sorry I went to Norfolk for that fight. We put on a hell of a show for the fans."
Judy Sutton, fugitive coordinator for the Colorado Department of Corrections, said Garcia would be returned to Colorado probably by the end of the week.
"Obviously, we will not take him back to the honor camp," Sutton said. She said Garcia would be placed in the Garfield County Jail, pending disposal of "administrative charges," which are violations of the code of discipline, and any escape charges. Then he will be returned to the Colorado state penitentiary in Canon City.
Garcia was serving time for several charges, including second degree forgery, conspiracy and conspiracy to escape. At the time of his escape, Garcia had seven months and 23 days left to serve before he was eligible for parole, according to Sutton.
In February 1984, a few St. Petersburg amateur coaches brought Garcia to the attention of Brad Jacobs, director of boxing operations for Alessi Promotions in Tampa. Garcia told Jacobs he had fought 50 amateur bouts and the promoter eventually handled all 15 of Garcia's fights. His pro ring record is 12-2-1.
"It was an incredible scene and series of events that took place . . . I suppose that is quite an understatement," Jacobs said by telephone from Tampa. "After he was arrested, he requested to speak to me and I did speak to him. Basically, he apologized profusely and wanted to make sure that this didn't affect us at Alessi and didn't affect his friends. He asked me to give the $4,000 (prize money) to his girlfriend.
"He kept apologizing and started to cry on my shoulder. He said he was in for seven years and didn't want to go back, which is why he left originally. From the reaction I saw (after the arrest), he seemed resigned to the fact that he had to go back. It seemed like a big burden off his back. As he said to me, 'If you play, you must pay. I guess it's time for me to pay.' He realizes that now."
Jacobs said he was "totally surprised" to discover that Garcia was a fugitive. "He was a good person, a good boxer, and just a model citizen in the time frame that I knew him. In all that time, he was always polite -- 'Yes, sir, no, sir' -- and very intelligent about his boxing career."
Jacobs, and Doug Beavers of the Virginia Athletic Association, which sanctioned the fight, both said the usual procedures were followed in identifying fighters.
"The precautions are that each fighter has to be licensed by the state of Florida before he can fight here," Jacobs said. "They (fighters) are fingerprinted, and the prints are turned over to the FBI. But we've never had a negative report on a fighter come back."
"This guy was an established pro fighter," said Beavers, assistant director of the VAA. "I had seen him five times on USA cable. He was rated in the boxing computer. It's not like he was somebody who walked in off the street. There was no reason to run an FBI check . . . that doesn't even make sense.
"He didn't have the best day you could have. He took a good beating in the ring, and then got arrested. It was one of those days."