On a rain soaked Friday afternoon at the Journal Square Path Station people are in a hurry as per usual.

But inside the Starbucks, Franky Davila takes it all in and grins. 

“I can sit here and after what I’ve been through, I can smile,” Davila said. “You have to be fortunate as life comes at you. I wake up everyday with blessings.”

Davila, 55, was born and raised in Paterson but now lives in the Jersey City Heights, where he runs his five man company, Creative Tree Service.

Davila credits his dedication to trees to lessons learned as a professional boxer.

His dad, Efrain, was a boxing trainer. Davila, then 9 years old, took up the sport and fell in love with it. 

But not before he nearly quit.  “I got whacked pretty good two months in,” Davila said. “I took off my gloves, cried and went home; I didn’t want to show up anymore.”

But with his dad’s prodding, he was back in the gym a few weeks later. 

“My dad used some choice words that I think can’t be used nowadays,” Davila said with a laugh. 

Davila admits he held a lot of resentment towards his dad growing up.  As a kid, he had some run-ins, he fought in the streets and struggled in school. 

He freely admits now that it impacted his self-esteem, something he hid from others. 

“Resentment makes you sick; you’re only hurting yourself,” Davila said. “That person probably is not even thinking about you.” 

Boxing served as an outlet for Davila through his teen years. He even became good enough to make the US Olympic qualifiers in 1990, getting to the quarterfinals but ultimately failing to make the team. 

Davila turned pro afterwards, by his count boxing in 16 fights, losing only two. He went to England for a match. He also boxed locally in Atlantic City and Newark, including the Prudential Center. 

“I boxed between 112-130 pounds in my career,” he said. “But with boxing, when trying to move up a weight class, if you’re not a natural 147 pounder, when you move up, you’re at a disadvantage when packing a punch; which doesn’t have the same force as a natural person in that weight class.”

Davila with Luis Collazo at right

He sparred with notables like Arturo Gatti, Tracy Patterson and Luis Collazo.

Tree-cutting came by accident to Davila.  

“I was young, about 18 and started college locally at Passaic Community College,” Davila recounts. ”On the way home from class, I saw a guy cutting a tree and climbing it; I thought to myself, wow, he looked like Spiderman climbing and cutting down trees. I took a liking to it.”

Davila went home and told his mom about it. She was perplexed by his new passion.

Two years later, he was in Bayonne when he saw another guy cutting a tree.

“I waited for him to come down,” Davila said. “He asked me if I’ve ever done this before and I told him ‘yeah sure I’ve climbed trees and cut them down.’”

It didn’t take long for his new boss to find out that Davila was lying. 

“I didn’t climb up the tree when asked and I was putting the tree in the wrong way into the wood chipper,” Davila said. 

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But his boss didn’t fire him on the spot. He told him to come back the next day. Davila had to start from scratch. 

“I started cleaning trucks and staying after hours to learn the system; how to cut trees, put trees in the chipper properly and how to properly climb.”

Three years later, he became a licensed arborist certified by the state. Thirty years later, he has his own business. His team takes calls primarily in Hudson County but also will venture throughout the state for requests.

“I came out to West Orange for a driving violation,“ Davila recalls. “The judge at the time got to talking. I stated I own a tree cutting service, she took me in the chamber and asked if I could look at the tree in front of their house.”

Davila continues, “I recall they lived in a castle… the tree was 65 feet up and teetering and about to fall. It took several hours to get it down.”

Davila retired from boxing in 2003, got married and settled into a tree care career. But his first wife got breast cancer and due to also his complications with mental health and post concussions from his boxing career, the marriage fell apart. 

“It wasn’t just her, it was me as well, you learn a lot yourself when a marriage ends up in divorce,” Davila said. 

His heart even stopped once years ago. He went into shock but he survived.

Franky Davila today

But throughout his life, his family has been nearby and there for him. The family includes three sisters and two brothers, three daughters and two young grandkids, all choosing to stay in Jersey. His daughter, Tiffany, is a cop in New Jersey. 

He still gets into the ring on occasion. “I do like five or six rounds and I don’t even get tired.” He’s also training a mixed martial art fighter. “I have a guy on Central Avenue…he goes across the country and he wins a lot of tournaments. He was missing the boxing aspect of it.”

He’s happy and dating a lawyer in Jersey City. They have two dogs, a cocker spaniel name Sammy and a mutt named Kiki. 

“I have no drama now,” Davila says. “I’m around very intelligent people who are smart and love to learn.” 

Ronak Patel has been a freelance journalist covering sports (High School sports and college basketball) for nearly 15 years, Including stints with The Kalamazoo Gazette (Mi), The Decatur Daily (Ala.),...