José “Rocky” Galarza, an El Paso native born on October 16, 1930, is best remembered for his success in sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and boxing. He was the son of Enrique and Rebecca (Delgado) Galarza. Galarza attended Bowie High School where he gained a great reputation as a star athlete. One of his most noted accomplishments was playing third base for the Bowie Bears and winning the inaugural Texas baseball state championship in 1949. This victory of a team of impoverished Tejano players, a milestone in Texas high school sports, was featured years later in a story titled “The Barrio Boys” in Sports Illustrated. Galarza also earned all-state honors in football as well as all-district honors in baseball and basketball. “Rocky” gained national recognition as a boxer when he won the Texas Golden Gloves championship. From 1952 to 1954 he attended Durham College in El Paso and studied accounting. Though he installed insulation for Willard Insulation as his longtime occupation, Galarza became best-known for devoting his time to passing on his boxing knowledge.
After he retired from boxing, Galarza dedicated his life to helping the youth of El Paso get off the streets and take up boxing to develop into better individuals. He erected an open-air boxing ring behind the bar that he owned where he trained El Paso youth and hosted amateur bouts. The best of his boxing pupils eventually moved on to bigger stages such as Houston and Los Angeles, California, where they attained professional boxing careers. One of his outstanding protégés was the gifted welterweight Juan (Ernie) Lazcano who became WBF World Lightweight Champion. Galarza also founded a basketball camp for Hispanic youth.
On March 19, 1997, two days before he was scheduled to be inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame, José “Rocky” Galarza was asleep when he was tragically shot and killed by a barmaid who worked in his tavern. He was sixty-six years old. He was survived by his former wife Graciela (they had married on October 5, 1951 and divorced in 1969), three sons, and two daughters.
Shortly after Galarza’s death, former basketball player and coach, Russ Bradburd, along with former player Steve Yellen, started Basketball in the Barrio, a basketball camp inspired by Galarza’s example. Two years later, Galarza was posthumously inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame.