EL PASO, Texas — Herman Delgado is a fighter, has almost always been a fighter. He is one of those who walk excitedly toward that land mine-filled ring, into that place most souls see and walk away from.

The El Paso Times reports Shae is a beautiful, intelligent, almost-8-year-old little girl — and she’s Herman’s daughter, the one who can always bring a smile to the fighter’s face.

Fighters fight.

Little girls smile and beguile and ultimately wrap a dad — even one who is a fighter — around their little finger.

Shae sits on the edge of the ring — that squared off jungle of work and sweat and pain and joy — and peacefully plays with an assortment of toys.

“Those things are expensive,” Delgado said.

“They aren’t that expensive, Dad; only six dollars,” she replied.

“Yeah, but there are a lot of them,” he said, shaking his head.

She looks up at him briefly, snaring him with her big brown eyes. “Yeah, but you have to have them all, Dad.”

The fighter smiles. Conversation over. He steps back into the ring, offering instruction and encouragement to the boxers he trains at the Armijo Recreation Center in South El Paso.

“No … no, not like that,” Delgado said. “Turn that. Turn that. OK, that’s better. That’s better. Smoother. Smoother. Like you are reaching out to get a glass of water.

“You’re hesitating … turn those hands, I need to see those hands turning … come on, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-4,” he said, calling out combinations.

They come from all over to Armijo to work with the fighter.

“This is my second week and I’m learning a lot,” said 21-year-old Joseph Haro, an Eastwood High School graduate who is home for summer vacation from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. “It’s fun and I like it a lot. I wrestled in high school and I’m trying to learn more combat sports. I can’t wait to learn more.”

Delgado is catching punches in the mitts. He has caught literally millions of punches in the mitts since he switched from fighter to trainer. But he is always around the sport, always the fighter at heart, in soul.

“I got into boxing when I was just a kid and saw Earnie Shavers taking it to Muhammad Ali,” the now 53-year-old Delgado said. “Then I saw the movie ‘Rocky.’ My grandfather would get up at 4 a.m. to make his rounds and I would go with him and run. I’d run down San Antonio Street because I liked the way the buildings looked; like in Rocky.”

Delgado was soon working with legendary local trainer, the late Rocky Galarza.

“What a man. What a helluva trainer,” Delgado said.

Delgado had 152 amateur fights, winning 135, losing 17. He fought locally, winning seven Golden Gloves titles, and he fought in the Navy.

“I don’t know how I lost 17,” he said, breaking into his big fighter’s laugh. “We fought a lot in the Navy. We’d fight every week … at Camp Lejeune, at Fort Bragg, wherever there were fights. That was fun.”

He made it to the quarterfinals of the 1992 Olympic Trials. And then he turned professional.

But Delgado was always undersized. He was a 6-foot, 200- to 205-pound heavyweight. He was constantly fighting guys who were two, three, four, five inches taller, and often 40 and 50 pounds heavier.

But he had an equalizer in a liver-lacerating left hook.

The fighter began his professional career at 10-1-1. Then, he jumped up in class, jumped all the way to the top of the heap — perhaps before he had the experience, despite his size. Sometimes there is neither rhyme nor reason for the way fighters are managed.

Delgado finished his professional career at 12-9-1 with nine of his 12 wins by knockout. But, at the end, he was fighting the world’s best. He did not care. He was, and is, a fighter. Just tell him when and where.

He had knockout losses to undefeated Ike Ibeabuchi, then undefeated future world champion Hasim Rahman and then Vitali Klitschko, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who retired as heavyweight champion of the world with a 45-2 record and 41 knockouts. The undersized Delgado made it into the third round with the big Russian and future world champion.

And that was his final professional fight.

“I was supposed to fight the big heavyweight, Alex Garcia,” he said. “But I got to the press conference and one of the people at the restaurant told me it had been canceled. That’s how I found out. I just figured that was enough.”

All those years as an athlete have taken their toll. The knees complain now and then but a fighter is a fighter for life.

Shae said, “When I finished with my gymnastics class, I said my knee hurt. My dad said I was such a drama queen. I guess when your knees hurt, that makes you a drama king.”

The fighter laughed: “I opened myself up for that one.”

Delgado had a busy life before the little girl came into it and put a soft spot in there.

He graduated from Bowie High School, then got a criminal justice degree from the University of Texas at El Paso. He served in the Navy from 1983 to 1987. When 9/11 happened, he re-enlisted and served another eight years.

Finally, because of his knees, he had to leave the Navy. He got a second degree from UTEP, this one in digital media.

“That one was in 2013 and I’m more proud of that one because I graduated with honors,” he said.

Shae came into the fighter’s world on Aug. 3, 2009. And she has done what little girls do with dads.

“I love for her to be busy and she is,” he said. “Volleyball and cheerleading and gymnastics and Girl Scouts. Her mom is always there for her and I am, too. She keeps me busy. She keeps me on my toes.”

With a small smile and a glint of mischief in those dark eyes, Shae said, “My Daddy is a bad boy sometimes. Yes he is.”

“She tells the doctors on me if I don’t eat right,” he said, laughing again.

The little girl smiled and said, “We have fun. I’ve been going to Dr. Schuster’s since I was six months old, since before I can remember.”

Stephen Schuster is another part of the fighter’s world. They have a Saturday morning fight club on Schuster’s land in West El Paso, a gathering where 15 or 20 men and women from all professions come and train with the fighter.

“It’s been great,” said the 79-year-old Schuster. “Nobody really gets hit. We train on the speed bags, the heavy bags and then we finish up by hitting the mitts with Herman. We’ve had this for 20-25 years and Herman is great.

“We found an old ring, put it up on my land and somebody built a roof for it,” Schuster said. “Herman is great. He’s always so encouraging. He’s gone back to UTEP and gotten a second degree and I admire him so much for that.”

There is the fighter and, of course, now there is the little girl.

“He brings Shae and she’s such a sweet kid,” Schuster said. “We all love her. And she means the world to Herman. He would drink some before Shae. When she was born, he stopped. Not a drop. He did it all by himself. We all admire Herman and we love Shae.”

They are now a team — the fighter and the little girl.

“Me and my dad have been counting down the days to my birthday and we’ve had a lot of talks about the party,” she said.

The two are at the boxing rings and they are at her events and they are often together at UTEP sporting events — the fighter now a photographer, taking pictures at UTEP women’s basketball games and at UTEP football games. The little girl frequently visits with the cheerleaders.

“I like all the sports,” she said. “I really like the women’s basketball players. Me and my Daddy have a lot of fun at all the games, all the things we do. I think when I grow up I might like to be a teacher … or a professional cheerleader … or a gymnast.”

The two move on through their busy days, laughing and loving, the fighter and the little girl.

“I’ve always loved the sport,” Delgado said. “I fought three world champions — Vitali Klitschko, Hasim Rahman and Michael Moorer as an amateur. It was good. It was what I wanted to do.”

“But this is the best,” he said softly. “She is my family. She is my everything.”

Delgado looked down at the little girl, playing peacefully on the edge of the ring, on the edge of such a dangerous place. She is calm and secure. She knows Dad is right there.

This is their world. This is their story.

The fighter and the little girl. It is good and it is real and it is beautiful.


Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the El Paso Times