There he stood in the corner of an old boxing ring as poor lighting cast a shadow over his time-weathered face. The veteran professor of the sweet science leaned back against the ropes and looked around his make-shift boxing gym appropriately set up in a basement — he was home.
That was the first time I met Rocci Twitchell Sr., the patriarch of “T-5 Boxing” and a man who dedicated his life to passing along the sport of boxing, the sport he held so dear.
T-5 Boxing, named after his five sons, was the venue Twitchell used to pass along his impressive ring knowledge.
He was 65 years old then and slowing down a bit physically, but still had some pop behind his punch and a lifetime of boxing behind his eyes. He was training 10 boxers at the time, ranging in age, experience and gender. His passion and enthusiasm for each boxer equal to the next, as he glowingly talked about the finer points of each of his pugilism pupils.
Teaching the sport he loved was an honor and an obligation for Twitchell, one he carried out proudly until the day he died. Twitchell passed away May 3 at the age of 67, leaving behind 40 years of boxing instruction, much of which was passed on to his five sons, Rocci Jr., Nick, Jordan, Logan and Davin.
“He put gloves on our hands the day we were born,” Nick said in 2012.
In addition to educating his five boys on the ins-and-outs of boxing, Rocci Sr. expressed the innate responsibility he felt to his community, often working with at-risk youths for little or no compensation.
For Rocci Sr., boxing wasn’t just a test of strength, ability and endurance, it was a way out of troublesome situations for many youngsters both culturally and emotionally.
“My theory is if they’re in the gym, they’re not in your house taking your TV,” Rocci Sr. said in 2012. “We work with a lot of troubled kids. The sheriff and the police will bring those types of guys in, and we’ve had some successes and some failures, but we work with them.”
Rocci Jr. said his father’s thirst for teaching never ceased and that Rocci Sr. was coaching up ’til the end.
“My mission is to keep his legacy going,” Rocci Jr. said.
Rocci Jr. currently trains boxers and mixed martial artists in Sacramento and brother Logan has opened a gym in Fortuna, passing along the many lessons, in and out of the ring, that they have learned from their father.
“My dad taught us that life isn’t all about money,” Rocci Jr. said.
“It’s about giving back to the community.” Which is something Rocci Jr. does by teaching women for free once a week at his gym in Sacramento.
Giving back was something Rocci Sr. believed in wholeheartedly. He had enjoyed his time in the ring as a boxer himself (he was a member of the Nevada Union High School boxing team when there was one), but when that came to a close shortly after high school he felt he had an obligation to return what he had learned to younger generations.
“He always had a set-up for the local kids to come and train,” Nick said. “A lot of times he put in more money than he would make just to help kids. To either keep them off the street or look for the ones that were hungry for it.”
Rocci Jr. said his dad was the best corner man he ever had, not only for his vast knowledge but also because of his spiritual approach to the sport.
“My dad was a peaceful warrior,” Rocci Jr. said. “He was very peaceful, but could handle his business if he needed to. He passed that on to us. He always told us to resolve our issues before you box.”
Rocci Sr. saw the bigger picture, he saw the sport beyond wins and losses, he viewed the sport as a way to mental prosperity and personal salvation, for him, for his sons and the many young boxers he worked with throughout the years.
Services for Rocci Sr. will be at 10 a.m. May 19 at the Church of Latter Day Saints in Nevada City.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My theory is if they’re in the gym, they’re not in your house taking your TV. We work with a lot of troubled kids. The sheriff and the police will bring those types of guys in, and we’ve had some successes and some failures, but we work with them.”
Rocci Twitchell Sr.