Frankie Duarte is a West Los treasure. He is a legend in the boxing world with no shortage of articles and brief interviews with him across the internet. While those are nice, they focus on him as a boxer. And rightfully so, he’s a champion and a legend in the boxing world. However, we felt super blessed to spend time with Frankie Duarte to also get to know him as a person and as a Chicano & Pima man with experience, wisdom, and being a champion outside the boxing ring.
Frankie is a former professional boxer who has been asked to lace up his gloves for Hollywood movies and television. He a life-long West Los Angeles resident and currently a barber.
“I walked in, and there was a whole bunch of Chicanos in the back row from Venice,” Frankie, who’s father was from Sotel, said about his first day at Mark Twain Junior High in Venice. “They looked rough.”
“I was not mean looking at all. I was really small for my age.” Frankie said within his first few hours, he was already being tested by the Venice kids. One kid punched him in the chest. Frankie hit him back, so they told him to “wait till after class.”
“I was the last one out of the class, but I wasn’t going to go out the back door and run,” Frankie said. “I remember this one white kid walking down the street from Beethoven school, he said ‘Frank, run!’ I’m not running either. I’m ready to go.”
Frank said the Venice boys let him off the hook that day, but his willingness to stand up bought him a little respect. Those kids eventually all became his friends, and more importantly, it reinforced something inside of him. Being willing to fight grew a sense of respect and love by other people and for himself. Frankie was definitely never a bully. He was a small, shy kid that wanted to be respected and just happened to possess a natural fighting ability.
Frankie details a pattern where his courage and downess would reward him but also get him in trouble. “One of the things I have bragging rights about. I was in the old Venice jail,” Frankie said. The Venice jail doesn’t exist anymore; it is now the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). Frankie recalls sitting up tall in the cop car at 13 years old hoping people would see him.
Frankie eventually turned all the trouble and fighting into serious boxing. “I had a really low self esteem. I felt like a loser. So now, all of a sudden ‘He’s a natural. You looked so good man!’” Frankie said. He got hooked on the feeling.
Frankie didn’t have much support. He said he didn’t have a real trainer for the first 3 years of his professional career. He had to seek out and beg to be trained, but he kept on surprising. His first professional bout, they turned the cameras off before he went on. He was one of the fights after the main event and fought in a nearly empty arena because most everyone had gone home.
“I knocked the guy out in the first 40 seconds of the first round. I can guarantee I was never on standby again after that,” Frankie said.
📸 & ✍🏼: Rigo @Snaccmanjones