Joe McGuire still keeps the news clippings even though they are creased, torn and yellowed by age.
His trophy — long ago broken and discarded — also commemorated one grand event, but now only a faded letterman’s jacket and fond memories remain of his glory days inside the boxing ring.
At just 16 years of age, “Little” Joe McGuire — as he is referred to in one clipping — won the Golden Gloves flyweight championship in East Texas.
The year was 1948 and McGuire had taken up the sport about a year earlier at his older brother’s urging. He was only 5-5 and no more than 112 pounds, but “they thought I was tough,” McGuire, of Tyler, said.
“I was scared to death,” he said of his first bout. “Not scared of getting hurt, but scared I wouldn’t make a good showing.”
He did make a good showing that day, winning the title by decision after three, two-minute rounds against Walter “Tiny” Rains, who was a few years older.
Afterward he walked home with a girl who was best friends with his first cousin.
“He took me to the door and when I turned around to say goodnight he smacked me on the lips,” the girl, Ann, recalled.
For her sake, and his, the smack was a kiss and not a punch — a notable point in their relationship that grew into a 61-year marriage.
McGuire worked out at the Tyler High School gymnasium under the tutelage of coach L.E. Champion and during the summer with Ed Irons. In 1947, he won the Amateur Athletic Union’s championship in East Texas.
He fought in another AAU tournament in Gladewater and remembered how that match ended with a bang.
“Me and this other guy collided and bumped heads,” McGuire said. “I was the only one who got up.”
His boxing career included another Golden Gloves championship in 1949 in the Bantamweight division and fights during a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy during the early 1950s. His signature punch was a “wicked left jab” although he is right handed.
In all, McGuire recalls winning more bouts than losing (a 6-2 record), winning most by decision.
His memory is a little bit fuzzy about whether he was ever knocked out in the ring.
“There was that time in Fort Worth,” his wife reminded him.
“Oh, yeah,” McGuire said. “He knocked me so hard I forgot about it.”
He hung up his gloves after his military service, returned to Tyler where he operated a lawn care and sprinkler service until he retired.
“I thought I’d quit while I was ahead or still had a head,” he said.
He left the ring, but he took with him a lifelong lesson in living.
“When you are in a boxing ring, it’s one on one. You have to rely upon yourself,” McGuire said. “That allows you to gain more confidence in whatever you do.”