Thomas W. McKay

For Honor, Respect, Honesty, & Integrity

By. C.A.

Thomas W. McKay


Thomas McKay is known by many as the man who takes that first step. He is a motivator and doesn't believe in backing down. McKay's unyielding perseverance is likely the reason he has accomplished so much in his life.

We were honored to first meet with Thomas W. McKay several months ago while conducting an interview with El Paso boxer Rene Herrera, and recently spent time with him and his wife Lety at their East El Paso home.

Thomas McKay gave us a glimpse of his classic photo collection taken many years ago of him and extreme trainers and fighters such as Randall “Tex” Cobb, Cliff “Magic” Thomas, Santos Quijano, Rocky Graziano, and Sammy Burke.

The walls of his home are covered with trophies and Outstanding Achievement Awards collected over a lifetime as one of the southwest’s most admired coaches.

We had heard about McKay in a prior conversation while photographing pro boxers David "Nino" Rodriguez and Austin "No Doubt" Trout at the Dickenson center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was referred to as “one of the coaches who put the El Paso Boxing scene on the map".

We recently spoke to Mexico WBC heavy Weight champion David "Nino" Rodriguez at the Battle of Orange County Charity Event in Irvine, California. We spoke about McKay and the influence he had in Rodriguez's life.
 "Tom McKay gave me the belief in myself and the spark to embark on this beautiful thrilling and exhilarating rollercoaster called boxing. He was the one who gave me the tools since a little boy both physically and mentally. I love Tom with all my heart and he is truly the spark that lit this fire that is now burning out of control. He created a monster!" says Rodriguez

Tom spent over ten years helping develop current Texas Heavyweight and Mexico WBC champion , David Rodriguez. Under Louie Burke of Las Cruces, New Mexico, David is now holder of an undefeated record.

Rodriguez wasn’t the only quality fighter that had something special to say about McKay. “Tom was always a hoot! He never really had anything bad to say about anyone, instead he found a way to laugh at them. And the Man was full of energy and life!” says retired heavyweight professional boxer Ross “The Boss” Puritty.

McKay has been a part of the southwest's boxing scene since 1966 when he helped form the Southwest International Amateur Boxing Association (SWIABA). McKay also wrote a book titled "Magic! Magic! Magic!, a detailed masterpiece about the legacy of "Cliff "Magic" Thomas.

Thomas McKay's masterpiece captures the very essence of Cliff Thomas' magical career and brings to the forefront the explosive sport of kickboxing.

Excellent reading!" says Ladislao Vicencio who is an Inductee of the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame and a Three-time Golden Gloves State Champion.

We proudly present our viewers with these classic photos of Thomas McKay and the people he holds dear, as well as a Biography and Background written by his wife Lety McKay.





Author Biography and Back Ground

By Lety McKay


Thomas W. McKay was born in Balmorhea, Texas

Thomas W. McKay was born in Balmorhea, Texas, into a population of about four hundred on October 2, 1934, the fourth of seven siblings. His great grandmother, Annie Riggs, was a famous frontier settler who lived a colorful and exciting life on the West Texas prairie. Her brother, Bud Frazer, was a fast gun and sheriff in Pecos, Texas. He was shot in the back by outlaw; Jim Miller in Toyah, Texas while playing cards. Annie’s second husband, Barney Riggs, was also a gunman with a wide reputation who went to prison in Yuma, Arizona for a killing and was pardoned from Yuma Territorial Prison for helping save the warden during an attempted prison break. Years later, Barney was gunned down by Annie’s son-in-law, Buck Chadbourne, who was protecting Annie from Barney after she filed for divorce. Tom knew little of the family history as a child and spent most of his formative years in El Paso, Texas. 
Tom was introduced to boxing by late boxer-trainer, Santos Quijano, who took the time to teach Tom a few good lessons at the local Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in El Paso. When he was fifteen, Tom’s widowed Mother, Ermine Peck McKay, married army veteran and history teacher, Stephen L. Hourigan. Ironically, Steve was also born in Balmorhea, Texas. The family moved to Pampa, Texas where Tom worked for a local theater, the La Nora. His boss, former professional boxer, Ollie Wilhelm, was also a boxing coach. When they both moved to the drive-in theater, Ollie built a tiny gym in a storage area where Tom learned how to work on a speed bag and heavy bag.
As a scrawny kid, Tom had his share of street scuffles. As the new kid on the block, Tom had to prove himself with some of the local toughs. Tom made many friends but when he turned seventeen, decided he wanted to travel with his brother, William Frazier McKay, once a famous quarter horse jockey, but at that time, a horse trainer and  accomplished farrier.
Tom worked for Frazier as a groom at Caliente Race Track in Tijuana, Mexico based on a promise to stay in school.  Tom aspired to be a jockey, but as he grew to 5’11” and 147 pounds the ambition became hopeless as it was physically impossible. However, Tom went to Archie Moore’s gym in San Diego for occasional boxing workouts. Going to work at the race track at 5:00 A.M., off to school later that morning and back to the race track in the evening didn’t leave Tom much time for boxing, much less a social life. But he apparently received some notice from the girls of Mar Vista High School who elected him “Mr. Legs of 1951.” Tom graduated from Mar Vista in 1952 and returned to El Paso where he worked as a front man for Mountain Bell Telephone Company before joining the United States Marine Corps, which sent him back to San Diego for training.
Tom moved from boot camp, to a telephone and electronics course in San Diego, then to combat training in Oceanside, California as a prelude for duty in Korea. Instead, orders came from Gifu, Japan.  Tom was assigned to a barracks that was once home to the Kamikaze pilots of World War II. When his unit moved to Yokosuka he began studying Japanese judo.
In 1956, McKay returned to El Paso after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. After a stint with Borden Milk Company, Tom married and moved to Odessa, Texas, where he worked at the Butadiene Plant for two years. He then moved back to El Paso to work for Atena Life Insurance Company before joining the El Paso Police Department in 1960. In 1965, the police union obtained the Regional Texas Golden Gloves franchise and Tom became an official.
Within three years, Tom was doing what he really loved – coaching.
In 1966, McKay and other local boxing enthusiasts formed the Southwest International Amateur Boxing Association (SWIABA) to fund local boxing.  Other members of the organization were Al Cardenas, Dr. Raul Rivera, Dr. Raymond Gardea, Sheriff Mike Sullivan, Jake Martinez, Rocky Galarza, Mauricio Barragan and Pat Sawyer of El Paso and the late, great Sammy Burke (Assistant Olympic Boxing team Coach) of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  In 1967, Burke and McKay took a team to the American Athletic Union (AAU) championships in San Diego, California and captured fifth place out of 55 teams. More important, team member Earl Large won the national 119 lb. title and Mike Ortiz, only months in boxing, won four fights against ranked opponents in a day and a half at 132lbs. and then lost a controversial split-decision to Quincelan Daniel in the semi-finals. Daniel was a three-time national champion.
 In 1968, at age 34, and about to be a father for the third time, Tom started collage while working the night shift at the El Paso Police Department. Lesly Shannon McKay was born on September 12, 1969. Along with his older brother, Micheal, both would go on to have exceptional boxing and wrestling careers. Les would also earn a brown belt in kempo karate. Both brothers were undefeated in boxing. Mike became one of Cliff Thomas’ regular sparring mates at Carolina Gym. He also became a world class ABA/BMX bike rider, winning numerous national championships and one world title.
Tom’s daughter, Leah Michelle, graduated from Texas University and works as a real estate agent in Austin, Texas. Her daughter Mikala is a young aspiring tennis player. Mike, a Lieutenant on the El Paso Fire Department, has two sons, Christopher Cory, a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Shaun Michael, a high school student in El Paso. Tom’s other daughter, Jennifer Janit, lives in California with her child, Abrielle. Les, a Captain on the Fire Department, lives in Austin with his wife, Karen.
 In 1970-71, McKay was named Sergeant-In-Charge of Criminal Investigations for The University of Texas at El Paso. In capacity, McKay was able to get his campus policemen certificate as law enforcement officers at Baylor University and eventually use that training to make campus life much safer for students than in the past. Campus criminals who had previously been given only demerits for serious crimes suddenly faced the same criminal consequences as any person in society when they broke the law. When Chief Jim Petzold resigned to move out of town, McKay was appointed interim Chief of Police. McKay was later selected as Chief of Police out of sixteen candidates but newly appointed administration refused to honor appointment.
 Tom earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from The University of Texas at El Paso in 1971 and was honored as one of the “Top Ten Seniors.” In 1975, he was awarded a master’s degree in education with specialties in biology, health and physical education with a 4.0 G.P.A. His major research project for his Master’s was in sports injuries, especially hematomas of the brain in contact sports. That project also investigated punching power by both boxers and karate fighters and kicking power by-top flight martial artists.
Tom has trained boxers for over forty years. He has also worked with many kick boxers, including Cliff Thomas, Joe Soto, Bob Martin and Rick Reyna. He has served as an amateur judge and referee at the city, state and national level as well as serving terms as co-director and director of The El Paso Golden Gloves. At the professional level, he has been a corner man and cut man.
McKay’s specialty in amateur ranks has been heavyweights. Every big man he trained won championship. Back in 1975, McKay and Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb were roommates and McKay played a minor role in Cobb’s grooming. In the eighties and nineties, Tom spent over ten years helping develop current Texas Heavyweight champion, David Rodriguez. Under Louie Burke of Las Cruces, New Mexico, David is now Mexico WBC champion with clean undefeated record.
On the local scene, McKay has been named coach of the year two times while head of Ft. Bliss Falcons and owner of his own gym, The Eastside Boxing Club. He also was coach of the year three times with well-known boxing trainer, Rocky Galarza, now deceased.
McKay’s community service included Optimist Clubs on El Paso’s eastside. Wayne Watson and Jimmy Bundren brought Tom on board with a struggling little league team. They wanted to incorporate some boxing training techniques into their football workouts and offered Tom the offensive coordinator’s job. Sixteen years of success followed.
Tom also coached Assumption Catholic’s athletic programs while attending college, winning titles in every major sport. After graduation, Tom then hired on in 1971 as Ysleta’s Marion Manor Middle School head Coach. After a very successful athletic year that included two district championships, Tom was recruited as a science teacher, trainer and coach at El Paso’s Austin High School. His police background became useful too as the district also hired Tom under the Federal Manpower Program to train rifted Vietnam veterans for law enforcement careers.
In 1996, after twenty-four years of teaching science and honors biology at Austin High School, McKay was recruited by Principal Efren Ytturalde to teach science and build a boxing program for Raymond Telles Academy. The academy was a school designated for problem students, especially gang members and youths with criminal convictions in the El Paso School District. McKay built the only school boxing program in Texas and had over one hundred participants a day. It was immediately successful and was included in a pilot film of the schools various programs. Former Texas heavyweight champion, Tony Perea, was also instrumental in the program.
In 1993, McKay, along with former boxing football and baseball great, Victor Villarreal, founded The El Paso Boxing Hall Of Fame also known as The El Paso/Karate Hall Of Fame and the El Paso Martial Arts Hall Of Fame. It was formed as a 501 (C) (3) charitable organization. It has raised thousands of dollars for children with Leukemia. Tom served as the organizations first president.
Coach McKay met Cliff Thomas in 1975. Cliff wanted to get a bout on a kickboxing card promoted by his coach, Robert Nava and McKay on April 18, 1975. The featured kick boxer on card was Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb.
Cliff surpassed Randall’s accomplishments. He lived clean, was dedicated to his sport, and like his hero, Martin Luther King, Jr., and had a dream to fulfill. Under the guidance of Tony and Hilary Sandoval, he became, in many experts’ opinions, the greatest kick boxer of all time.
Tom was lucky that Rocky Galarza became Cliff’s main boxing trainer. After Cobb was sent off for tine-tuning at Joe Frazier’s Gym in Philadelphia, Rocky needed an assistant and Tom got the call. Now, years later, Tom has the call again. He hopes to make his book about Cliff not only an inspiration to younger kickboxing aspirants, but also to revisit the largely exceptional accomplishments of Cliff’s career and celebrate the latest achievements off his karate icon, which not only cornered the market on ‘Magic.’ But on kickboxing championship titles as well.


Extreme Sports & Arts Charity Event Benefiting "Life Rolls on Foundation

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Thomas W. McKay

Related Links

Grand Old Master of El Paso Boxing Part 1

Grand Old Master of El Paso Boxing Part 2 - By Tom McKay

Jake Martinez Grand Old Master of El Paso Boxing Part 3

The David Nino Rodriguez Story

Battle In The Capital

'No Doubt' Austin Trout

David Rodriguez Victory

El Paso former Boxer Rene Herrera

El Paso and Las Cruces fighters shine

Rodriguez defeats Dyer!

David Nino Rodriguez Cancun Victory