Ruben Tenorio ('77) has boxing in his blood.
As a child, Tenorio attended the annual Golden Gloves state tournament with his father and
uncle, both former boxers. And Tenorio remembers gathering around the radio with his family to
listen to Cassius Clay duke it out with Sonny Liston.
He learned early on, however, that his place in the boxing ring was not as a fighter.
He quit the sport after a few youth matches.
"I didn't like getting hit in the head," he says.
Tenorio doesn't dish out or absorb blows anymore. Instead,
he is responsible for ensuring the safety of boxers as a team
physician for USA Boxing, a nonprofit organization that oversees
the development and promotion of Olympic-style boxing
in the United States.
A family-practice physician in his hometown of San
Antonio, Tenorio travels the globe as a fight doctor at worldclass
amateur boxing events. The volunteer position allows him to serve as a mentor to young boxers, many of whom
come from difficult circumstances similar to those Tenorio
faced growing up in east San Antonio.
"We act as role models," Tenorio says. "If you look at the participants in amateur boxing, most of them are underprivileged kids. It's a solitary sport that requires hard work and discipline. We're trying to help give them the edge to take
on whatever situation they're in."
Traveling the globe
Tenorio got his start in 1989 working local amateur bouts
in South Texas as a fight doctor — a ringside physician who
assesses the physical condition of boxers and has the authority
to end a match if he feels a fighter's safety is endangered. He
soon caught the attention of USA Boxing officials and was
selected to serve as ringside physician at the 1993 USA Boxing
National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He continued to work USA Boxing events across the nation
and since 2001 has served as the team physician for USA
Boxing international events, including World Cup matches
in Denmark and Russia, the Women's World Championship
in Turkey and competitions in Ireland and Mexico.
As team physician, in addition to serving as a fight doctor
during matches, he treats fighters' injuries between bouts,
ensures they have access to adequate emergency medical care
and looks after their overall wellness.
"When Ruben travels, the team manager always raves about
the extra time he spends with the boxers," says Armando
Sanchez of Milwaukee, former medical committee chair of
USA Boxing. "The boxers know that Ruben and other physicians
are volunteering their time. And they look up to him."
In the neighborhood
Michael Tenorio ('78), Ruben Tenorio's cousin and former
Clark Hall roommate, says Tenorio makes sacrifices such as
closing his private practice several times a year to honor his
commitment to USA Boxing. But Michael has come to expect
acts of selflessness from his cousin.
He recalls being shocked when Tenorio, a 1982 graduate of
the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic
Medicine, finished his residency at a Detroit hospital and
decided to move back to San Antonio to open a practice in a
neighborhood where Spanish was the predominant language
and much of his patient base was poor and lacked medical
"I asked him why he was doing this, and he said he wanted
to give back," Michael says. "I thought about it for a moment
and realized that's great. He could've taken a different job, but
he decided he wanted to help out in his community."
Tenorio, who learned Spanish as a second language, had
to adjust to speaking only Spanish. He also had to determine
how to treat the needs of a diverse clientele that includes
immigrants from Mexico, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto
Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, as well as Texas
natives. His background, though, gave him a special bond
with his patients.
"I was born of that kind of neighborhood," he says.
At North Texas
Becoming a doctor wasn't in Tenorio's plans when he first
came to North Texas. But after a trip to the counseling and
testing center to explore his options, and with encouragement
from his Clark Hall resident assistant, he changed his
major to biology and entered the pre-med program.
"My R.A., Ken Woolridge ('76), was also in pre-med,"
Tenorio says. "He was my role model and encouraged me to
pursue the program. He kind of coached me and told me I
could do it."
Tenorio also remembers many faculty members who
helped him along the way, including his freshman biology
professor, J.K.G. Silvey; his pre-med adviser, David Redden
('46, '49 M.S.); and his English professor, James Linebarger.
"North Texas prepared me well for medical school. I don't
think there was a professor or a department there that
accepted mediocrity from students," he says.
Today Tenorio is a widely respected expert in cutting-edge
treatments for high blood pressure and diabetes — two diseases
prevalent in the Hispanic community. And his medical
practice has grown considerably in 20 years.
But business success has never been Tenorio's driving
force. It takes something other than money to repay those
who helped him succeed in life, he says.
"A lot of physicians never give back," he says. "Just because
you spend $40,000 a year for your education, you didn't pay
for your whole education. Taxpayers paid for the majority of
it. So you've got to be active in your community."
What Tenorio says he's most proud of — and what he
emphasizes to his young boxers and patients back home —
are the success stories he's been a part of through his affiliation
with USA Boxing.
Professional world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.,
a tough skinny kid when Tenorio first met him, is one
of many boxers Tenorio has seen grow into a responsible
adult. And there are countless others who didn't
achieve fame as fighters but used the sport as a springboard
into a better life, free of the traps of drugs, crime
and poverty that ensnared many of their peers.
Tenorio's lifelong passion for boxing is having a far-reaching
impact. That's why you'll find him ringside anywhere
from Bexar County to Bangkok.
"You have to do this because you really like it," he says. "You have to be committed to the cause."