Payson High student earns spot on Team USA in boxing after winning national championship

Aaron Garcia Jr. is pictured after winning the national boxing championships on Dec. 11.

Aaron Garcia Jr. is pictured after winning the national boxing championships on Dec. 11. (Aaron Garcia Sr.)

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PAYSON — Utah is sending a young boxer to train with Olympic hopefuls this summer as one of the newest members of Team USA Boxing.

Aaron Garcia Jr., 18, of Payson competed at the 2021 USA Boxing National Championships in Shreveport, Louisiana on Dec. 11, winning the elite division of the 112-pound weight class. That win secured his spot to begin training with Team USA at the Olympic Center in Colorado Springs this summer. first met up with Garcia and his family in January of 2020, where we learned about how the Garcia family has turned the tragic loss of a family member into a way to help children learn confidence through martial arts and boxing. Since then, the Garcias have continued to grow their boxing gym in Payson.

Garcia said training at his family's gym under the guidance of his dad and other seasoned boxers was a key component in the national championship win — a win that really wasn't supposed to happen. In fact, Garcia was considered an underdog.

"I was a 5-1 underdog going into the final." Garcia said. "People didn't expect me to win because my opponent had been on Team USA two times already … especially coming from Utah because Utah isn't known for fighting, really. So I made a pretty big upset by winning."

Even though the rankings didn't pin Garcia as a prospective champion, according to his father, what happened was all part of the plan. And the plan wasn't necessarily to win, but to be the underdog.

"People don't expect great boxers to come out of Payson, Utah," Aaron Garcia Sr. said. "We travel all over the place with our kids, and people are like, 'Where's Payson?' We could have started a gym in California or somewhere bigger, but we wanted to prove that greatness can come from small towns."

The gym the family owns is called "Maximus Boxing Gym," named for their son who drowned in Yuba Lake in 2009 when he was just 3 years old. It is the motivation to keep Maximus' name alive that is a main drive for the Garcia family, which has three children competing on a national level. Garcia Jr. said that he likes hearing his younger brother's name announced at national boxing events.

"Having my brother's name being announced when I fight is pretty cool because it does give me a little more motivation," he said. "I feel like I'm fighting for him too, and I'm just kinda showing that he would've been a great fighter as well."

Garcia said he tries hard not to have the pressure to perform get to him, and he is fighting because he loves to do it.

"I feel pressure sometimes, but I seem to be able to cope with it pretty well because I tell myself just to go out there and have fun and perform my best. I just try to not overthink things because that's when it starts getting to me mentally," he said.

Garcia Jr. knows a lot about the mental aspect of competing, not only in the boxing sector, but in martial arts in general. He is a black belt in karate and jiujitsu, among myriad other honors within the martial arts. He is also the reigning 5A state wrestling champion in his weight class.

With all his success, he said he is relishing the win, and his future with Team USA, while at the same time, feeling proud to represent Payson and his family well.

"All of this feels crazy, and I'm still soaking it in, to be honest," he said. "This is a pretty big accomplishment for me and my family. I just feel like it's even cooler because I'm from Payson, Utah. ... I hope that people see that you can do anything that you put your mind to with hard work and dedication."

"I'm super thankful for my parents, and for all the time that they put into me and my siblings. They do so much for us, and without them, none of this would be possible."

Garcia is currently training with the Payson High School wrestling team, hoping to defend his state title. After graduation, he will head to Colorado to train and travel internationally with Team USA.

To stay updated on Garcia's progress, follow @aaronmaximusgarcia, @mbg.utah, and @teamunbreakable1 on Instagram.


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Arianne Brown has been a contributing writer at for many years with a focus of sharing heartwarming stories.


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