Reyes fights for his comatose father

Artemio Reyes manages a Mexican restaurant in Colton, Calif. Anyone who has ever owned, or run, a restaurant knows what a difficult, thankless job it can be.

You deal with unhappy customers and unpredictable employees. You need to pay close attention to supply and even more to the company’s books. There is almost always a problem to solve and it would often be useful to be able to clone oneself.

“You can never really rest,” Reyes said, sighing. “It’s a 24/7 job.”

Artemio Reyes balances boxing, restaurant management, and caring for his ill father.
(Getty Images)

And no, Reyes doesn’t rest. But he has to fit 36 hours of stuff into a 24-hour day and it makes it a bit harried at times.

He’s a world-class boxer with a 13-1 record and 11 knockouts who, Friday night on Showtime, will meet 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier Molina in a super welterweight bout at the Bally’s Events Center in Atlantic City, N.J.

He’s also the manager of the family restaurant, El Taquito, as well as an accounting student at the University of California Santa Barbara.

All of that is enough to keep three men hopping, but those are only the secondary parts of Reyes’ duties.

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His primary focus is the day-to-day care of his father, Artemio Sr., who has been comatose since being hit by a tractor trailer while driving to pick up his son from work in 2008.

He has been in a vegetable-like state ever since. Artemio needs to bathe him and, along with his mother, Fatima, attend to his father’s every need.

It’s a difficult job that is made worse by knowing that he can never converse with his father again, never share the joys of a big win or unburden himself by letting loose the pains of a tough loss.

Reyes, who wears the inscription “4POPS” on the waist of his boxing trunks, is profoundly sad but exceptionally realistic. A lot has been put on his plate as a 25-year-old, but he chugs along out of duty and honor to his father.

“The way I look at it, he was there for me the first 20 years of my life, and he took care of me and gave me what I needed,” Reyes said. “I’m just doing the same for him, now. He changed my diaper when I was a baby and I couldn’t do it. He fed me, and he clothed me and all of that. Now, it’s my turn to pay him back for that.”

Generally, that becomes one’s full-time job, but Reyes has packed in multiple full-time gigs on top of it.

He understands that as a boxer, he’ll have a short shelf life, so he wants to be prepared for life after his athletic career is over. But he also knows how much his boxing success meant to his father – and he wants to honor him by pursuing a world championship.

Friday’s bout against Molina will go a long way toward proving whether he’ll be able to reach the goal he used to talk about with his father.

“My dad always supported me and always was encouraging me,” Reyes said. “He made me believe. He told me I could do it and he’d be there with me every step of the way. He was an incredible support for me, so I feel I need to do this for him.”

Reyes’ promoter, Ken Thompson, predicts Reyes will win a super welterweight world title in the not-too-distant future. And Ruben Castanon, his chief trainer, insists he’ll be too much for Molina to handle.

He expects Reyes to impose his will upon Molina and dominate the fight.

“Artemio is looking very strong,” Castanon said. “To win this fight, we are going to draw upon Artemio’s strength. We are prepared to pressure Javier Molina all the way to the end of the fight. Artemio will break Molina down. The fight won’t go all the way. Molina may last into the fifth or sixth round but it won’t go further than that. Then after that, we’re taking over.”

Win or lose, though, not much will change in Reyes’ life. He’ll go home the next day and resume the task of caring for a parent who is essentially an adult-sized infant. He’ll need to attend to the restaurant. He’ll keep up on his studies in hope of one day becoming a certified public accountant. And he’ll never let go of the dream of winning a world championship.

He doesn’t dwell on the negative and keeps as positive of an attitude as humanly possible.

“I can’t let it burden me mentally,” he said of his father’s situation. “I love him and I will always love him. I will do whatever he needs, because that’s what you do for your father, right? I’ll be there for him like he was there for me.

“But if I do things the right way, I can make a success of myself in my life. And in the long run, I know that’s what he wanted for me. If I can become successful as a boxer, and as a man, I’m honoring my father in the best way I know how.”

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Oct 27, 2011