When Bernard Barco is in the ring, you can see a bit of Roberto “Fists of Stone” Duran in his style. It’s no surprise since it was his favorite fighter to watch on TV growing up. The tough New Yorker is built like a tank with the power to take out his opponent with a single shot. He’s willing to mix it up in the center of the ring but can quickly adapt and box from the outside. Combine good movement and great stamina and now you have a man that is ready to make some noise in the Masters Division. This is Bernard Barco, Solid like a Roc.
Bernard Barco was born and raised in the Northeast section of Rochester New York. Growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s, Bernard grew up being an active kid as there was no play station nor X box to occupy their time.
“I was a pretty active kid, My friends and I would do the sports of the season throughout the year. We played street hockey and ice hockey in the winter. Spring was baseball at the local rec park and Pop Warner football in the fall. I played for the Rochester Rams,” said Bernard.
Being a stand out athlete, Bernard was attracted to an all boys school across town. The school had a National reputation of excellence in its football program with a lot of history. Though his first intent was to play football it was here at the age of fourteen that Bernard was introduced to the Sweet Science.
“You see I didn’t know that the school so famously for its football prowess also had an inter-mural program called the Mission Bouts. And this past year just calibrated its 80th season,” said Barco.
Something clicked and though he played three years of football and ran indoor track it was inside the ring where he found his passion shifting. “I was really entrenched in the boxing program, it was such a powerful influence in my young teen life. I then later went back to assist and eventually became one of the head coaches at the school.”
Growing up in the Golden Era of boxing allowed him to see some of the great fights in boxing history. Such as Hearns vs Hagler, Leonard vs Duran, Ali vs Foreman and so on. It became a tradition watching the fights with his dad. He admired the skill and heart that these fighters possessed and demonstrated every time they stepped in the ring. There was one fighter however that stood out to him.
“The fighter that I would try to emulate would be that crazy Panamanian .. FISTS OF STONE Roberto Duran.”
Time passed and Bernard’s focus became providing for his kids and family. He ran a home improvement company for ten years that with time put him well overweight and out of shape. He made a decision to go back to a gym that had the sport he loved so much growing up, Boxing.
“I was about 223 lbs when I started. It was tough getting that weight off but I kept at it. Took me about 8 – 10 months but managed to get back down to a healthy 165. I knew how to do it, I just wasn’t doing it for myself as I should have been. During that process, I knew that I wanted to do this for other people and help them get back to health and feeling better about themselves and their condition. I wanted to make a career change. My three kids were grown and pretty much on their own, So then was the right time”.
He went to a gym called Roc Boxing and though at first, his intentions were to get back in shape, there was an itch that was sparked by calls the owner and some of the trainers where getting from Gleason’s Gym out in Brooklyn.
“The owner of Roc Boxing and a fellow coach and one of my trainers at Aquina, Dominic Arioli would get calls from time to time to see if we had any older guys that never went pro or who may be interested in doing some white collar boxing, And looking for some Guys to go down to Brooklyn or even to England to participate in this tournament”.
After taking a trip out to Gleason’s as a coach and spectator, he thought to himself, “I might want to come back and do this again.” The match was lit. At the time Bernard was a bit heavier than what he wanted but was motivated to get back in the ring and compete.
It was at Gleason’s first National Masters Tournament that Bernard would climb through the ropes once again and test his skills against a tough Canadian who was determined to win.
“Getting back into the ring after many many years away was definitely a mix of emotions for me. I guess you can say I was excited, nervous with a whole mix of emotions.. Purely from my coaching experience, I was telling myself to relax and make sure you have FUN MAN! As I tell all my young amateurs, “success in the ring is about 80% being able to relax” Always easier said than done,” said Bernard laughingly. “Once the 1st bell rings and you can meet up with your opponent in the center of the ring .. All else Vanishes and away we go”.
The tournament was a 2-day event Starting Friday and ending Saturday for the Championship.
“Although that day was a bit challenging and I will not take away ANYTHING from my opponent. A very good boxer but about an hour before my fight I received a frantic call from my stepmother that my dad was rushed to the hospital after suffering a major Stroke and things where NOT LOOKING GOOD. I was being pleaded with by family members young and old to drop what I was doing and get on a plane ASAP back to Rochester so my opponent and I were not scheduled to match until the 2nd day. He came from Toronto Canada .. We spoke to Bruce and were able to do the match that evening instead so that I could get back home. I did not tell anybody In my corner till after the fight. Only Bruce and my opponent knew. I was not going to let him down he trained hard and made the trip. That is a very important point that I drive home with ALL of my armatures from 8 years old on up. This is not a team sport In soccer if 5 guys no show you can still have a game. Not in boxing”.
With all that was going on, Bernard still managed to regroup and put on a great showing that he should be very proud of. The fight was none stop with Bernard being the aggressor and landing the harder cleaner punches forcing his opponent to constantly clinch and at one point ran across the ring. Though Bernard lost the fight in the judge’s eyes, till this day it’s a disputed decision.
So what’s next for Bernard? “I will definitely box competitively again. We are possibly going to be at the Ringside worlds in KC in August. I’ll keep you posted.” And of course, he will be doing what he loves, coaching and training at The Roc Boxing gym. If you’re in Rochester, make sure to stop by and say hello.