Born and raised in New York City, Vincent Guzman, Sr.—Vinny—has headed facilities at Maharam’s creative headquarters on Park Avenue since it first relocated there in 1993. Joined by his son, Vincent Guzman, Jr., over two decades ago, Guzman oversees the office’s operations, continually finding creative solutions to the studio’s myriad practical needs and upholding meticulous standards—from building maintenance and repair to installing and shipping art. In honor of his thirtieth year with Maharam, Guzman reflects on his early days with the company and his parallel career in boxing and martial arts.
How did you find Maharam, or vice versa?
Vincent Guzman, Sr.: Maharam found me. I used to be the super in Bruce Madden’s [then Maharam’s executive vice president of sales] building. One day, he was coming home from his jog—it was five in the morning—and I was polishing the brass poles. He said, “Vinny, I can see the damn brass poles you’re polishing up all the way from Fifth Avenue, and we’re on Lexington!” He told me about the company he worked at over on 20th Street and asked if I would come and do what I did over there. I was working nights then and missed being with my family, so a few weeks later, I showed up just as the space was being built. And I’ve been here ever since.
How did you first get into boxing?
VG: I was twelve years old. We used to have daily street fights. One day, the housing police—we lived in the projects on 103rd Street—decided that if we were going to fight, we should at least have some gloves. They set us up at this community center, the Police Athletic League, where we learned how to box and then started going to some local tournaments.
A few years later, Bruce Lee came into the picture, and everyone wanted to be like him, including me. I started with goju, and I’ve been studying some kind of martial arts for the fifty-plus years since then. I had 63 goju fights altogether, and I think I did pretty well for myself! 53 wins, 10 losses. I eventually got into other martial arts too—sambo, Thai boxing—I even made it as far as the Junior Olympics in 1976 for karate.
Once I started boxing and martial arts, I no longer got into fights on the street. We used to get offended when people said something in some way and start fighting. But martial arts taught me a lot of discipline and to stay away from trouble.
How did you transition from competing to coaching?
VG: It began when Vinny, Jr., got interested in boxing when he was about fourteen years old. We hired a coach, but it didn’t seem like he was getting the right training. At his first fight, he almost had to forfeit because he didn’t have all the regulation equipment. He still wound up coming second, but only because he was doing this Muay Thai defense that in boxing means the ref has to end the match. We didn’t know because our fighting was different, and they hadn’t given us the rulebook.
So, after that I picked up the rulebook, signed up as an authorized coach with USA Boxing Metro, and I got back into boxing. I started training Vinny and then my wife.
She’s a sportswoman as well?
VG: Yeah. She’s more of a Muay Thai fighter, but she’s a three-time North American champion, undefeated. We started fighting and training together, all as a team. We made it onto the cover of the Village Voice at one point, and Vinny, Jr., became the two-time Golden Gloves Champion in 2006 and 2007.
Who are you coaching these days?
VG: Well, Maharam Media. Also a lot of amateur boxers, some professional fighters, the fire department—Engine 65.
What do you hope to teach people as a coach?
VG: I teach them that boxing is not only good for self-defense, it’s also good for you and your body. I’ve had people with drinking and drug habits, and the discipline of training helps clean them up. I used to coach this kid who was a server at Pancake House—bought him gloves, gave him a few dollars to get training. Once, he told me that he was going to be the middleweight champion of the world one day and be in Ring Magazine. I told him that with that attitude he would be. And he did! That was Peter Quillin—also known as Kid Chocolate, middleweight world champion from 2012 to 2014. We lost touch for a bit because he was training on the West Coast, but last year, he ran into my daughter at the salon, and he ended up coming to my 43rd wedding anniversary.
It brings me joy when I give people the chance to do something they never knew they could do. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to jump rope, throw punches, don’t want to do classes, think it’s too hard. It’s not hard. It’s just work. And if they put in the work, I’m there every time they need me. If you don’t have the equipment, I’ll get you the gloves, the jump rope, the hand wraps. All you have to do is show up, and my family and I will be there for you. I’ve seen a whole bunch of people turn their lives around, and you can’t ask for anything better than that.