Reggie Champ- Yamarco Guzman
Yamarco Guzman, the New England Golden Glove Middleweight Champion, told the Boston Globe in a 2016 interview “I want to be a good story out of Lawrence. I want to be something that when you see me, you can say ‘That kid didn’t go with the crowd; that kid actually stood up and did the right thing in life and became successful, not necessarily money-wise, but he made something out of himself.’”Guzman is not only a good story out of Lawrence, but out of Greater Lawrence Technical School from where he graduated out of the Electrical program in 2012. But the future didn’t always look so bright for him.
He describes himself as “just a project kid from Lawrence.” Yamarco’s parents, Leoandy (Class of 1994) and Margarita (Class of 1992) divorced when he was three years old and he lived with his mother in the Hancock projects. It wasn’t an easy beginning. Yamarco’s mom was just 15 years old when she had him and it was a struggle for a while. His dad eventually remarried Emely Barreto (Class of 2000). “I’m blessed,” he says. “I have two sets of parents and three sets of grandparents.” He was the youngest of his cousins who all kept a close eye on young Yamarco and made it clear that they expected more from him.
“When I was younger I thought my money would come from drugs, gangs or being a stick up kid.” He credits his extended family and the people in the Hancock neighborhood for giving him positive influences. “It wasn’t necessarily an organized group or charity. It was the people in the neighborhood. It was the old lady down the street who sold ice cream and would hook me up every other day with free ice cream if I stayed out of trouble. For the kind of places I grew up the only true change is going to come through real relationships.”
In sixth grade Leoandy took his sons out of the projects. “My dad was always a hard worker and he spent his money on us. When we were with him it was like living the high life, he’d take us out to the Texas Roadhouse and the mall and the movie theater. On Sunday’s we’d go to church and rent a bunch of movies from Blockbusters and spend the day at my grandparents.”
When it came time for high school Yamarco wanted to go to Lawrence High School, but his parents were having none of that. They were graduates of GLTS and knew the advantages and opportunities the school could give him. “One thing I learned for sure was that if I started listening to my parents earlier God knows where I could be now. When I did listen to them it really paid off.”
“I went to breakfast with my Dad today and I told him, ‘It’s crazy Dad, who knows where I’d be if I’d stopped being a knucklehead a little earlier and listened to you.”
Guzman enrolled in Electrical and played football for Coach Sarkis whom he stays in touch with to this day. “I wasn’t a very good student at the ‘Voke’. Like I said, I was a knucklehead. If you met me early on in high school you’d think this kid isn’t going anywhere.” One day, Mr. Hardacre came in and caught Yamarco and some friends misbehaving in class and sent him to discipline. “He said ‘you’re never going to make it in this trade if you keep going like this.’ I’ve never forgotten that. I saw him not that long ago and he said ‘I’m glad you proved me wrong’.”
Yamarco credits all of his instructors in Electrical for his success. “Mr. Hardacre, Mr. Sonia, Mr. Cronin – all of them. It’s like a collective – if I had missed one of them impacting my life I don’t know where I’d be. It was the combination of them all.”
Football spurred him on as well. “I remember one game – our fields were crappy but we were playing Blue Hills and it was raining and muddy – it felt like Friday night lights. They were positioned to score a touchdown but I intercepted the football and that ended the game. It felt amazing. Even though our fields were really bad, it felt like home.”
In 2011, tragedy struck the Reggie Family and deeply affected Yamarco. Max Ariel, a sophomore at the school and a rising star on the football field was murdered along with his mother and sister by his stepfather. “At the time there was no tomorrow, I couldn’t see justice coming. All I could think about was the present and what I wanted to do to him.” Anger and aggression were threatening to consume him.
Guzman joined the Canal Street Gym and met trainer David Ortiz. “At first it was getting my anger out and then I just fell in love with the sport. It became a science, an art.” One of the important lessons he took away was the importance of boxers keeping a “poker face”, hiding the pain of a punch so that it affects their opponent’s mental game. After losing Max to a domestic situation that his friend had never shared, Yamarco decided to be more open and encourage others to do so as well. “Some people have a good poker face and you don’t know what they’re going through in life so you need to learn how to see through the mask they put on every day.”
Outside of the ring Yamarco was working 10 hour days, continuing with his licensure and landing a job he loves as an electrician in Union Electrical 103 at the Salem Harbor Power Station. “I would tell the kids starting out on co-op to be patient – my first electrical job I was making $9 an hour. Every other week I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning for that $9 an hour. But I stuck with it and I’m making a lot more than $9 an hour now,” he laughs.
It was his union that sponsored Guzman for his boxing match in Independence, Missouri. His favorite fight was the Golden Gloves in Lowell when he won it all – the New England Middle Weight title. “I have talent but that hasn’t got me anywhere – it’s the hard work I do that has brought success. I have to run ten miles a day, I work from 7 – 5 and then hit the gym for three hours. When you put in the work and the effort and it pays off it makes it worth it. Those ten seconds when they raise your hand in the air you feel like you’re on top of the world.”
Yamarco hopes to turn professional in 2018. Winning championships, making money and traveling are fun but his biggest dream “is to put my grandparents in a nice house, give back to my community and see Lawrence be better than Andover!”
“I’m never satisfied – but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy. It means I’m not content just being where I am – I made it to here, now what do I have to do to make it to there.”
“I’m happy,” Guzman smiles. “Definitely.”
Greater Lawrence Technical School admits students and makes available to them its advantages, privileges, courses of study and support services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, homelessness or limited English speaking ability.