Published : Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 7:48 PM
Pasadena lost a champion this week with the passing of Timothy Rhambo, who died from a heart attack on Saturday, March 24. He was 49.
Rhambo led a decades-long pursuit of paying it forward to local young people after he was shown the way out of a troubled early life riddled with gang activity, racking up a dozen arrests by the time he was 18 years old.
He grew up in King’s Villages in Northwest Pasadena, falling in with gangs as a young teen, and reportedly attracted police attention by running a cocaine-selling operation. On one of his stints behind barbed wire, at a high-security youth camp called Camp David Gonzales in Calabasas, he was to meet a strict but caring English teacher named Iler Patterson.
He would later say she changed his life.
By the time he was barely 20, Rhambo was out of the gang lifestyle and struggling to stick to the straight and narrow.
It didn’t take long before Rhambo would channel his early misfortunes into a passion for boxing, which would become a vehicle of change and inspiration not just for himself but, through him, for many at-risk teens in Pasadena.
Rhambo’s colleagues and peers recall his hometown legacy from the early days as the aspiring boxer who would help create the popular Villa Parke Boxing program as an outgrowth of his passion for local activism and his dreams to unite the city’s residents.
“There’s certain people that you lose in your community that you can’t replace. There’s no way to replace Tim Rhambo. He will be missed in the boxing community not just amongst African-Americans, but across the community as a whole,” said police youth adviser and Rhambo’s friend and colleague, Ricky Pickens.
Rhambo’s boxing pursuit earned him a 1987 Southern California Golden Gloves welterweight championship and he was known to break a sweat for hours on end training for his upcoming bouts at Villa Parke.
“Rhambo was a very positive individual throughout many communities, not just in Pasadena. I know for a fact that he changed and redirected a lot of these kids’ lives and I know he saved a lot of lives because of who he was and how much he cared,” said Villa Park Boxing Specialist Fausto De La Torre.
De La Torre and Rhambo became acquainted as sparring partners in the early 1980s when they worked twelve hour day jobs together and then spent late nights in the local boxing gym.
De La Torre says Rhambo was a mentor both in and out of the ring.
“If he saw some injustice he would be the first to step up,” said De La Torre. “He spoke up for all of these kids that didn’t have any representation. He really cared about the kids and everybody loved him.”
De La Torre says the youth boxing community is still in shock over Rhambo’s passing.
“It hasn’t set in just yet. They’re saddened, disappointed, and they can’t comprehend that he’s no longer here and that they’ll no longer see him again,” said De La Torre.
Rhambo’s profession as a boxing trainer allowed him to spread his reach beyond Pasadena. He served in training capacities in Duarte and Chino.
Rhambo decided not to pursue professional boxing but rather use boxing as a tool to interface and outreach with the community at large by working with City officials, the police department and local families to deter at-risk kids from violence.
“He opened the door for many people. He was the epitome of no longer becoming a problem but becoming a solution,” said Pickens.
Former NAACP Pasadena Chapter President Joe Brown remembers Rhambo being involved in the NAACP sponsored initiative called Citywalk which took place ten years ago following local disputes and violence on the streets of Pasadena.
“He facilitated a peace march and he pulled us together,” said Brown.
“He tried to get so many black and brown kids to try to get involved in something collectively. Tim was about pulling people together and he did a marvelous job at that. He could relate to those guys who were on the street, but he could also go to pastors and community organizations and relate to us to get us,” added Brown.
Rhambo is survived by children Jasmine Rhambo, Timothy Rhambo Jr., and Aliyah Brown; granddaughter Jada Morris; mother Lauren Rhambo; and brothers Isaac, Michael, Edward and Larry.
The family is raising money for memorial services. To contribute, visit gofundme.com/tim-rhambo.