“He was regarded as the pride of South Mission Beach when he was boxing and was an up-and-coming contender,” said Ed Gallagher, who grew up in South Mission Beach. “The ’80s and ’90s were a tough time to grow up in Mission Beach due to drugs, gangs,” Gallagher said.
Tom Rulon, a high school and lifelong friend of McPhee, who spoke at the recent funeral, said the boxer was a private person. McPhee was from a troubled family. He moved from Florida with his mother and sister to a modest Santa Barbara Court two-bedroom apartment they all shared when Todd was 15, and he was the “new kid on the block.” Rulon said it wasn’t an easy transition.
“It was a whole different scene, a lot rowdier, more craziness back then in the late ’70s, early ’80s, sort of the wild west in Mission Beach, with lots of fighting and drinking and surfing — not like nowadays,” said Rulon. “There was a lot of surfing, but also a lot of drugs and chaos, with everybody doing things to the nth degree in completely extreme stages.”
Drug use, particular methamphetamine, was rampant in MB at that time, noted Rulon, adding McPhee proved to be different, more resilient, than most of the rest of the crowd they hung out with. Rulon said many of their colleagues wound up incarcerated due to drug addiction.
“[McPhee] turned on a dime, did an about-face, changed his life,” said Rulon, noting McPhee, unlike many others, acknowledged warnings to change direction. “He was one of the first in our inner circle to get out. He pulled his boots up and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore.’ ”
That’s when McPhee transformed himself through prizefighting. “Boxing was a miracle for Todd,” said Rulon. “It got him out of the craziness of Mission Beach, all the drugs and wildness. He became an icon.”
Rulon described McPhee as “temperamental but with a huge heart.” He added his friend was reluctant to trust others but “would do anything for you” once you earned his respect.
Asked if he would miss McPhee, Rulon replied, “Every day.”
McPhee compiled a boxing record of 9-2-1, with 7 KOs, between 1988 and 1996. His career was cut short because of injuries.
Nonetheless, McPhee left a legacy in the beach community.
“He was a hard nut to crack,” concluded Rulon, something his opponents found out in the ring.