I Learned to Hate What I Had Loved
Fighting was my life. I enjoyed being able to punch my opponent with all my strength and see him fall at my feet. It thrilled me to stand in the middle of the boxing ring and hear the announcer shout my name as the winner of the bout. I loved boxing! Yet, now the very thought of violence upsets me. I have learned to hate what I now call the criminal sport of boxing.
IN 1944, when I was seven, I was living in Lares, Puerto Rico, where I was born. It was then that I received the terrible shock of losing my mother in death. She died of cancer at the age of 32. The pain became unbearable when a short while later, I came home from school and saw a woman sitting on my father’s lap. She became my stepmother.
Sensing my disapproval, my stepmother treated me harshly. So I ran away from home. I sneaked into a truck loaded with coal and oranges and fell asleep. What a surprise when I woke up and found myself in the city of San Juan, on the other side of the island!
The Street Fighter
For eight months I lived on the streets of San Juan. Other kids would constantly harass me. I concluded that I had to fight in order to survive. After eight months the police found me and sent me home. I never adjusted to the idea of having a stepmother and spent most of my time on the streets. Just about every day, I would get involved in a fight. When I turned ten years old, I ran away again.
After a few weeks, the police picked me up again. This time I refused to tell them my name and where I was from. After failing to locate my family, they sent me to a government-run orphanage in the city of Guaynabo. There I donned my first pair of boxing gloves. It was there also that for the first time in my life, I saw the name Jehovah on a sign. I asked about it, and I was told that Jehovah was the God of the Jews. I never forgot that name.
After I turned 15, I walked out of the orphanage, never to return. To support myself I began to sell newspapers. However, every street was on somebody else’s route. There was only one way to establish my own route: fighting! And fight I did.
Two years later I joined the U.S. Army and received basic training in Arkansas, U.S.A. Soon I became a member of a boxing team. Then I was transferred to the Special Services unit. My duties were in the gymnasium, and my sergeant was a boxing trainer.
A Cruel Sport
I received training on how to use my fists to harm my opponents. I was trained to ignore friendships in the ring. At the sound of a bell, a friend became an enemy to be knocked down and preferably knocked out.
I wanted to remain in the army, but my sergeant told me: “Retire from the army as soon as you can. Become a professional boxer, and in a few years, I will see you on television fighting in Madison Square Garden in New York City.” This was hard to believe! Me—the poor and homeless boy—become a famous boxer?
After two years I left the army and moved back to Puerto Rico. One day in 1956, I saw an advertisement for an amateur boxing tournament, the Golden Gloves. I entered the tournament and became the Golden Gloves welterweight champion of Puerto Rico. Then I was flown to New York City to compete in the Golden Gloves national tournament. I fought my way into the semifinals, but I was not able to win the championship. Nevertheless, soon there were offers from prospective managers and trainers. So I accepted an offer to stay in New York City and train to become a professional.
In 1958, I became a professional boxer. And my sergeant was right. In 1961, five years after leaving the army, I appeared on national television, boxing in Madison Square Garden. Many of my fights were held in that famous sports arena.
My punches ended the careers of several boxers. One boxer from Mexico completely lost his sight as a result of my brutal punches. Another fight that also became a heavy burden on my conscience was with the middleweight champion of the Dominican Republic. Before the fight he made a big issue over the fact that I was one pound [0.5 kg] heavier than he was. His attitude enraged me. Never had I objected when an opponent held such an insignificant weight advantage over me. I told him: “Well, get ready because tonight I’m going to kill you!” When I went into the ring, one newspaper noted that I had “a satanic appearance.” In less than two minutes, the man lay unconscious on the canvas. His inner ear was so severely damaged that he never fought again.
How I Learned to Hate Boxing
My popularity attracted the attention and friendship of actors and musicians. Once I even had the former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis promoting one of my fights. I did a lot of traveling, had nice cars, and enjoyed other material things. However, as with most boxers, my success was short-lived. In 1963, I was badly hurt in several fights and could not fight again.
About this time I read in a newspaper article that a famous boxer had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For some reason, after reading the article, I was left with the impression that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was only for rich people.
Over the next few years, I experienced a number of medical problems. I also suffered periods of severe depression. During one such bout, I placed a gun to my heart and shot myself. The bullet was diverted by a rib, sparing my life. I was alive, but I was very unhappy and very sick. No more money, no more fame, no more boxing!
Then, one day my wife, Doris, told me that she was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and that she wanted to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. “I don’t know, Doris,” I said. “We are poor people, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are rich and important people.” She told me that this was not true and that the Witness who was studying with her lived in our own neighborhood. So I agreed with her decision to attend meetings. On one occasion while I waited for her outside the Kingdom Hall, a Witness invited me to come in. I was wearing dirty work clothes, but he insisted. I was welcomed in spite of my appearance. The friendly atmosphere made a deep impression on me.
Soon I began studying the Bible with the Witnesses. I learned that Jehovah is not simply the God of the Jews, as I had been told, but that he is the only true God, the Almighty, the Creator of all things. I also learned that Jehovah God hates violence. At Psalm 11:5 the Bible says: “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” So I broke away from everything connected with boxing. I knew firsthand how violent a sport it was. After learning how God views it, there was no doubt in my mind that boxing was a wicked, criminal sport. Yes, I learned to hate the sport I had loved.
The Greatest Privilege
In 1970, I made the decision to dedicate my life to Jehovah. Doris and I got baptized in October of that year. Since then I have enjoyed the privilege of preaching to others. As a full-time evangelizer, I have had a share in helping some 40 persons to become Jehovah’s worshipers.
Regrettably, I am now suffering because of the injuries that I sustained during my violent years. I received hundreds of punches to my head, causing permanent damage to my brain. I have problems with my short-term memory and with my inner ear, affecting my balance. If I move my head too fast, I can get dizzy. Also, I have to take medication regularly for my problems with depression. My fellow Christians understand, though, and help me to cope. I am so thankful to Jehovah for giving me the strength to share regularly in declaring his name and purposes to others.
I enjoy the greatest of all privileges—that is, to have a personal relationship with Almighty God, Jehovah. When I was a boxer, I saddened Jehovah’s heart with every fight. Now I can make his heart rejoice. I feel as if he were talking to me personally when he says: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”—Proverbs 27:11.
Soon Jehovah will put an end to Satan’s works, including all violence and those who promote it. How grateful I am to Jehovah for teaching me not only to love what is good but also to hate what is bad! That includes hating the criminal sport of boxing. (Psalm 97:10)—As told by Obdulio Nuñez.
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