I survived being shot in the face - but my whole life has been like a championship boxing match

A boxing trainer now based in Hailsham has been honoured in Spain. Jorge Sendra García has been named as one of the country's top 20 professional boxers of this century, his award being presented at a recent ceremony in Zaragoza. Here, Jorge tells his remarkable story in his own words.

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 12:15 pm
Jorge with his award in Spain

I am a former Catalonian, Spanish, EU and Hispanic world boxing champion who has been living in Hailsham for the past seven years, in which I have been a care worker and a boxing trainer.

My life has always been a fight... an endless championship bout.

It started in Barcelona on April 24, 1972. In 1973, my parents left Spain. We left for South Africa in 1973 and there my fight continued.

Jorge, second left, with some of the other boxers honoured

I went to a ‘white’’ school in the Apartheid years and because of my curly hair and full lips I was always branded ‘‘black’’ and continuously made fun of. I used to get into many fights and used to win them all but the bullying continued.

I had a boxer in my class , Phillip Holiday, who had become an amateur South African champion and I was an angry fat boy who felt angry with life.

I told Phillip I would beat him in a boxing fight and he told me to ‘dream on’ and pushed on by the rest of the class, we organised a fight and I started to train for it. I lost a lot of weight and instead of fighting we became best friends and for many years.

Phillip became world lightweight champion , and I am still so proud of him for it.

Jorge said of the Spanish awards: 'I was a very well-known boxer in Spanish boxing circles, as were the others though I was the most handsome of them!'

I continued boxing and started to win fights, ones nobody reckoned I could win BUT I was always a foreigner, and never got any close decisions in my favour.

One day my father received a telegram stating that the Spanish Boxing Federation wanted me for their Olympic team. In 1991 I was incorporated into Spanish Olympic boxing squad for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, I was born in Barcelona, going back to my supposed roots some felt I was a foreigner taking up one of their places.

I was an 18-year-old boy who had never left the protection of his parents and now everybody in the team hated me because I was a supposed ‘’guirri’’ (slang for foreigner in Spanish).

They made my life impossible especially after my first fight. We fought in Ireland against the Irish national team and came out with one victory in 12 fights, mine.

I went to visit my parents in South Africa after the pre-Olympic championship, suffering a brutal hijacking three days after my arrival.

I was shot in the face at point-blank range by a thug wielding a .44 calibre revolver. That would normally spell death for anyone but I spent two weeks in intensive care but fortunately pulled through.

There were hospital strikes in SA at the time with a lot of racial tensions. I was told me that because I was an ‘umlungu’ (a white person) I was wasting a bed that could be given to a black person.

It was a confusing time for me: when I was young I was bullied because I was black; then in Spain because I was a foreigner and now because I was white - I just couldn’t understand

My family pulled me out of the hospital and I was placed into Johannesburg General Hospital after a real battle to get in.

When I came out, not knowing what I was going to do with my life as doctors told me I would never be strong enough to box again, I returned to school to get better marks and try to get into higher education

I promised myself and my parents I would still be a champion in boxing – and with guts of steel, in 1993 I turned professional. After seven fights I was pushed to fight for the national title, jumping from doing one six-rounder to a 12-round championship fight.

Dirty tricks and my immaturity got the better of me and the referee ended the fight in the sixth round.

I became very disillusioned and decided to retire but my parents (especially my mama, who had never wanted me to fight) wouldn’t let me do it and paid for my plane ticket back to Spain.

Spain is tough for a boxer but I had the help of my brother Rafael, who had helped me as an amateur when I was coachless.

In my first fight , with an opponent who it seemed was older than the mountains, I had to fight for a draw and now was convinced that my career was over - but Rafael jumped in again and wouldn’t let me quit.

He helped me find a new coach, Emiliano Gallego Prada. I went from strength to strength, winning fight after fight, title after title. We got to be No1 in Europe , the official challenger.

The champion then was Cristian Sanavia who really didn’t want to fight me. He went on to fight for the world title, leaving the European title to be contested by the No1 and No2 contenders, me and Howard Eastman from the UK.

I trained the hardest that I had trained in my life and as the fight was going to be in Derby. We asked for permission to present a CAT scan instead of the MRI scan only required by the British Boxing Board. They verbally but when I went to the official weigh-in with a perfect weight, they asked us for our MRI scan and we explained our conversations with them but they barred me from fighting.

I finally did fight for the European title in France but with all that had happened to me I was very insecure of the situation, mentally I was very low and I got a major bout of flu twoweeks before the fight.

I fought in a not-great state physically or mentally but even so I was robbed of a result that would have changed my life, I was given a split decision.

Anyone who understands boxing would know it was a clear win.

I was offered an opportunity to fight Felix Sturm in an eliminator for the world title. I lost on points but did better than anyone could ever have expected.

Then ,during a game of football amongst friends, tragedy struck – I cracked my meniscus in my knee during a tackle

I was out of action for a year and had to pay the operation out of my own pocket. When I recovered I came back – but it was never the same. That year out of the fight game had taken its toll.

I had a couple more fights, winning the Catalonian super middleweight title in my last fight.

I came to England in 2013 and got a job as a care worker, but my hunger for the hardest sport on this planet never waned, writes Jorge.

In 2014 , I reduced my shifts and give boxing classes in a gym in Hailsham.

My life changed. I stopped seeing England as this dreary old place and started to fulfil my dreams – but the gym closed down.

But life closes a door then opens a window. I trained guys in parking lots. Freezing weather welcomed us but I couldn’t let my boys down. Some had drug problems and needed training to focus on.

One day one of my boxers suddenly left. I tried to contact him as I feared for his safety. My friend and boxer ‘The Greek Warrior’ Andreas Devall – who has always supported me - told me this guy had been found hanging from a lamppost in Hailsham.

I was distraught, stopped giving classes and really felt I had let him down.

Then a Spanish friend, Jesús Francisco García Galán, introduced me to Adam Urbanski from Sparta MMA and he gave me the opportunity to continue training in boxing.

We formed a companionship until the pandemic meant the gym had to close.

I’ve since been in contact with Chris Trealor and, at the same venue, we will be training again as Slaughterhouse.

Earlier this year, I was told by my ex-manager Javi Gallego Quintana he had been told by the Spanish Boxing Federation I was to be honoured for being selected as one of the best Spanish professional boxers of this century.

I went to Zaragoza in September and 11 other boxers and I were honouredg. I was a very well-known boxer in Spanish boxing circles, as were the others – though I was the most handsome of them! Everyone was very proud and I was contacted by many fans applauding me on my achievements.

Now my fight continues: my next opponent is the English Boxing Board, who I want to recognise my trainers’ licence.