Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 15
Date: 98-12-26 11:08:58 EST
The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
By J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 15
Monday, December 28, 1998
New York City, New York, US of A
IN THIS ISSUE: JOHNNY FAMECHON FIGHTS ON,
WHILE 'SUGAR RAY' ANDERSON DREAMS ON
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FAMMO RISES FROM CANVAS TO FIGHT ON
(The Australian, April 24, 1998)
Johnny Famechon stood up, shaped up, then threw his trademark left jab.
Instinctively his head and shoulders rolled ever so slightly, his right hand
crept toward his chin. The movements were slow, jerky ... yet they were still
the intuitive moves of a boxer.
Dressed in a tracksuit, Famechon was standing in the centre of a Gold Coast
hotel room last Monday. Earlier that day he had received a standing ovation at
a corporate breakfast; that night he was given a rousing reception when
introduced at the Joe Bugner-Bob Mirovic heavyweight promotion.
People won't forget Fammo, the classically correct world featherweight
champion who retired at his prime in 1970, unscathed, unmarked and financially
secure. Then, 21 years later, in one of sport's harshest ironies, the clean-
cut craftsman who was never knocked out in 67 bouts was plunged into life's
cellar when struck down by a car.
For 10 days Famechon was in a coma hovering on death's doorstep, his left hip
bruised, pelvis bruised and left shoulder dislocated. Internal head injuries
had placed pressure on his brain, leaving the left side of his body paralysed
and speech impaired. For three years Famechon could not move from a
Brad Vocale, a former boxer who regularly sparred with Famechon at Ambrose
Palmer's gymnasium in Melbourne, was in the hotel room last Monday. So was
Ragnar Purje, a clinical counsellor who has worked with Famechon since
conventional medicine conceded nothing more could be done for the injured
boxer four years ago.
Vocale had not seen Fammo for three years and was genuinely amazed at the
transformation: "What I'm seeing is quite incredible," he said.
"The difference in John from when I saw him three years ago is unbelievable.
He is a totally different person."
Famechon's wheelchair is gone, replaced by a walking stick, his speech and
memory have improved markedly and some movement has returned to his left arm
and hand. He has resumed reading and is currently ploughing through a
biography of Gough Whitlam.
"It's a bit too heavy politically but I enjoy reading about what people have
done with their lives," Famechon said.
Purje's diverse regime of therapy includes having Famechon read novels, poetry
and tackle mathematical problems aloud.
"I recognised in John a considerable intellect," Purje said.
"When we started working together he couldn't stand, walk and could hardly
talk. He was virtually comatose in a wheelchair but his mind was so fast. I
worked to stimulate his body and saw small increments of movement starting.
His left hand was a rigid claw but now John can open the hand and also make a
Purje, a top level karate exponent, has a background encompassing sports
science, physical education and psychology.
Famechon, 53, who has a rapier wit and spices his conversation with
wisecracks, dislikes the often-used cliche of his predicament being "the
toughest fight of his life".
"I see it as recuperation from a bodily wound - a wound that's been around an
awfully long time," he said. "I've never become depressed because I have a
wonderful wife and this person (Purje) who has helped me enormously.
"My wife has kept me going. I've no idea where I'd be without her."
Famechon married Glenys Bussey in June last year. The couple had met in 1990,
a year before Famechon's horrific accident.
Glenys stood by Fammo through his darkest hours and the boxer vowed to marry
when he "could get out of the wheelchair and walk down the aisle".
When Famechon beat Jose Legra to take the undisputed featherweight
championship of the world in 1969, it heralded the last golden age of
Australia boxing when Lionel Rose also held the world bantamweight title.
"I was as fit as anyone could possibly be," Famechon said. "I was so sharp I'd
jump six feet if a car horn blasted. And I'm forever grateful to Ambrose
Palmer: I liked to think I had the best trainer in the land."
Vocale, a favourite on the popular TV Ringside series in the 1970s, agrees
with popular opinion that Famechon was the most skilful boxer since World War
"They couldn't hold a candle to this bloke when it came to skill," Vocale
said. "His footwork was remarkable - his great skill was not to get hit. I
boxed John many times in the gym and all I ever hit was air, he was incredibly
Vocale disagrees with a perception Famechon was not a big puncher.
"John knocked out Fighting Harada in the 14th round in Japan. That's something
Lionel (Rose) never did."
Famechon retired at 25 after losing his world title to Mexican Vicente
Saldivar on a disputed points decision in Rome.
"I retired at my peak and never thought about a comeback. I made my decision
before the Saldivar fight that win, lose or draw I would quit boxing," he
"I was determined to tell Ambrose before the fight but waited until the day
after when we were walking around Rome. I said 'Ambrose, I've decided to
retire, do you agree?' and luckily he agreed."
And the gentlemanly Famechon refuses to claim life dealt him a dud hand the
night he was knocked down while jogging outside Sydney's Warwick Farm
"Everything happens for a reason," he said.
RAY OF LIGHT FADES
(Akron Beacon-Journal, November 18, 1998)
By Ralph Paulk
As young, aspiring fighters duel with punching bags amid the soft lights of
Good Shepherd Boxing Club, a former light-heavyweight contender bounces
effortlessly on his toes, shadow boxing on the torn asphalt parking lot.
For a moment, even at 52, Ray Anderson displays hands that are fast. He
dazzles himself with a quick shuffle, jabbing feverishly through a misty rain.
But his tank is empty just 90 seconds into the flurry. The remnants of past
glory fade as his arms tire from the movements.
"Man, I was good,'' he recalls, caressing his gray beard. "I could stay in the
ring with anybody.''
Today, Anderson is living life after boxing. But it isn't the life that once
took him from Paris to London to Buenos Aires to Hamburg.
Now, Anderson roams about the West Akron streets with a push mower in tow. For
income during the summer, he would cut five or six lawns a day, making enough
to pay for his room at a West Market Street home.
He makes $100 to $200 per week, which is considerably less than the $300 that
heavyweight champs Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier used to pay him for a
30-minute sparring session.
During those days, not only was Anderson good, but flamboyant and stylish,
He was handsome. He was the envy of young Akron fighters like Michael Dokes,
who patterned their style after him.
"Ray had all the talent in the world,'' said his former manager, Dean Chance,
the Cy Young Award winner in baseball from Wooster. "We thought he could have
been the next Sugar Ray Robinson.
"His only drawback was the bright lights and the (lifestyle). We had a lot of
In 1969, Anderson was the No. 2-ranked light heavyweight. He went into a bout
with a lightly regarded Youngstown fighter, Ted Gullick, who pulled off the
upset of the year.
"Ray had that fight won,'' Chance recalled. "Then he got KO'd in the ninth
round. It was unbelievable. It just tore our hearts out.''
And that defeat helped sever the business relationship between Anderson and
Chance and longtime area fight promoter Blackie Gennaro. The three remained
friends, but Anderson would later become the first professional fighter signed
by promoter Don King.
The King-Anderson partnership had its bizarre moments. The pair had similar
personalities, but different motivations.
There were constant run-ins with King. Anderson said he even threatened King
once, but he still remained in his camp. He couldn't turn down a fight, no
matter how little he was paid or how little his chances were at victory.
Anderson fought all comers, big and small: light-heavyweight champions Bob
Foster, Victor Galindez and Marvin Johnson.
He sparred with champs Ali, Frazier and Jimmy Ellis.
In the 1970s, Anderson was as big as disco. But as disco faded, Anderson could
no longer find his rhythm -- or anyone to fight.
He became boxing's version of a character actor or a session musician. That's
when he began toiling as a resident sparring partner for boxing's superstars.
"The money I made in my last fight lasted me about two-and-a-half months,''
Anderson remembered. "I was making about $8,000 a month as a sparring
Anderson's career began to decline when he left Frazier's camp in a dispute.
"I didn't like some of the things Joe and Yank (Durham, Frazier's trainer)
did,'' Anderson said. "They wanted to take my money, so I had to go.''
Anderson became his own manager, landing a few fights abroad, but losing most
of them to promising young European light heavyweights and heavyweights.
After 13 years and 75 fights -- 56 wins, 14 losses and 5 draws -- Anderson
stepped in and out of the ring for the last time in 1978. He left with a
$5,000 check in his back pocket and a future of uncertainty.
In 20 years since his retirement, Anderson, an Alabama native, has lived
mostly on Akron's west side. He has dabbled in boxing, training a few
journeyman fighters and offering advice to young amateurs.
Angelo Dundee, who trained Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, offered him an
opportunity to work with his young fighters in Miami. But Anderson didn't find
the climate to his liking.
He dreams of making it back, if only in the corner now.
"Even now, Ray is looking for something good to happen that will put him back
on top,'' said veteran Akron trainer James Campbell. "He is dreaming. He can't
condition his mind to do anything other than box.''
At 17, when Campbell was hesitant to teach him, Anderson told his mentor, "If
I can't make it in boxing, I don't want to live.''
There was a time when Anderson partied with singers -- Aretha Franklin and
Gladys Knight. He was at events with actors such as Omar Sharif and Burt
"I have a scrapbook, and everybody you would see me standing or sitting beside
would automatically be recognized,'' Anderson said. ``There were so many that
I can't think of them all.''
Anderson once shared the same residence floor with baseball great Rod Carew
and football star Carl Eller during his brief stint in Minnesota, where he
moved when Chance had been traded to play baseball there.
"We had him in Minnesota to get his teeth fixed,'' Chance said. "I remember he
and (Minnesota manager) Billy Martin hitting it off.''
Today, Anderson lives in an efficiency. He cooks most of his meals in a small
microwave, usually eating them alone before a 13-inch black-and-white
Anderson's life has come full circle. "I hate to see a boxer like him, who
doesn't have the benefits for what he accomplished in the ring,'' said Akron
trainer Gary Arnold. "I hate to see him on the corner and pushing a mower down
"All the kids in the gym know that Ray fought for the light-heavyweight
championship of the world. He was special. He had everything.''
Anderson was married and the father of twin sons and a daughter and says one
of his greatest regrets is allowing distance and time to come between him and
his sons, Eric Ray and Derrick Ray, who live in Columbus.
"It was the biggest mistake I made in my life,'' Anderson said. "I wish I had
taken time to do roadwork with them and help them with their homework. I lived
the good life. I thought the million-dollar money was coming, but it never got
there in my division.''
Anderson earned only $140,000 in his career, and his biggest purse was the
$20,000 he earned as the challenger to Bob Foster's title belt. He was only
the second fighter to go all 15 rounds with Foster, who had knocked out his
previous eight opponents.
For all his skills, Anderson is sometimes remembered more often for what he
did away from the ring.
"Ray is a nice person,'' Chance said. "He was so colorful that I think that
kept him from being a world champion.
"Ray had the ability, but he didn't have the discipline. It was as if he
couldn't help himself.''
Anderson said that before his title fight with Foster, he took a substance to
relax. He spent the entire bout dancing from Foster, drawing occasional boos
from a restless crowd.
"Foster was a bad, bad joker,'' Anderson said. "But I could have beaten him.
He was afraid of me.''
Durham never forgave Anderson and accused him of being heartless.
"He had the heart,'' Chance said. "He just didn't fight.''
Now, Anderson is fighting a different battle, day by day.
1947 CLEVELAND FIGHT HAD AN IMPACT
(Akron Beacon-Journal, December 8, 1998)
By R.D. Heldenfels
When Sugar Ray Robinson died in 1989, he was hailed as one of the greatest
boxers ever, perhaps the greatest.
Time has not diminished his reputation, and a new documentary, Sugar Ray
Robinson: The Bright Lights and Dark Shadows of a Champion, takes a well-
deserved look at Robinson's life and career.
Premiering at 10 tonight on HBO, the one-hour documentary uses interviews with
family members, associates, sportswriters and admirers to portray Robinson in
and out of the ring.
In the ring he was nothing short of astonishing. Unbeaten as an amateur, he
won his first 40 professional fights, lost once, then went unbeaten for
another 93 fights. He had more than 200 bouts in his 24-year career -- at one
point fighting three times in 21 days -- and won 175. He had more knockouts,
109, than modern fighters have total bouts. He was 40 years old before any
fighter beat him twice.
Robinson is also remembered as a relentless negotiator, demanding the best
possible terms for his fights and sometimes renegotiating even as he was due
in the ring. He was one of the first fighter-entrepreneurs, using his income
to finance several businesses.
But he was a terrible, inattentive businessman and at the end of his life was
getting by on handouts from wealthy friends. He beat his second wife, Edna
Mae. Fearless in the ring, he refused to ride elevators and was apparently
intimidated by his third wife, Millie. He sometimes traveled with a large
entourage -- including his chauffeur, valet, golf pro and barber -- but the
cost of taking care of them ate up his income.
Made by the team behind HBO's fine Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death
of a Champion, the new documentary covers a lot of ground well. It strives for
balance on such issues as Robinson's military career. (Due to be shipped out
to Europe, Robinson claimed he missed the trip because of amnesia, while other
observers maintained he simply refused to go.)
It comes up short on some issues. In particular, the account of Robinson's
fight with Jimmy Doyle in Cleveland in 1947 needs more attention.
Doyle died as a result of injuries in the fight and according to the
documentary, the death affected Robinson for the rest of his days. Writer Jack
Newfield says it's ``hard to overestimate the impact'' of the fight on
Robinson, who seemed to actively dislike boxing afterward. Another observer
says Robinson was not the same fighter afterward, and his tough negotiations
before fights are attributed to the realization that, as it was for Doyle, any
one fight could he his last.
Given the significance of the fight, the film should have noted that Doyle
came into the ring under a cloud, having sustained a concussion in a March
1946 fight in Cleveland. In fact, Illinois boxing authorities turned down a
Doyle-Robinson bout before it got the go-ahead in Cleveland. (Also, viewers
may come away thinking the Los Angeles-based Doyle was a Clevelander.)
Still, Sugar Ray Robinson is overall an entertaining, thoughtful look at a
boxer who may never be equaled.
ERNIE GUEVARA, OF CAPITOL GYM, DIES
(Sacramento Bee, December 11, 1998)
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at Sacramento Memorial Lawn
for Ernie Guevara, longtime operator of the popular Capitol Boxing Gym on
Mr. Guevara, 77, died Wednesday in his home of complications from a heart
attack two years ago.
His gym, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has served as the
training site for several amateur and professional fighters, including former
title contenders Pete Ranzany, Sal Lopez Jr. and former world champions Tony
Lopez, Pipino Cuevas and Wilfredo Benitez.
Mr. Guevara also fought professionally, as did two of his sons, Joe, an ex-
state champion who became world-ranked, and Albert, both of Sacramento.
A native of Logan, Utah, and one of 15 children, Mr. Guevara worked for 35
years as a grocery warehouse loader. He retired at 71 while continuing to run
the gym, its walls decorated with posters from many of the area's best cards
throughout the years.
"I guess Dad wanted to be with Archie Moore, his favorite fighter, who died
the same day," said Joe Guevara.
Mr. Guevara also is survived by his wife, Ruby, sons Sonny and David of
Sacramento and Gilbert of Oklahoma, daughter Tina Ridge of Sacramento, 18
grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visitation at Sacramento Memorial Lawn will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
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