Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 42
Date: 99-01-21 16:15:43 EST
The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
By J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 42
Sunday, January 24, 1999
New York City, New York, US of A
IN THIS ISSUE: CHUCK BODAK, WITH THOMAS GERBASI -- HERE'S PART TWO
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concerning professional boxing's long and storied past. The emphasis,
generally, should be on the foremost fighters, managers, trainers and
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(ED. NOTE -- This is the second installment of a delightful interview by Cyber
Boxing Zone's Thomas Gerbasi with veteran fight teacher, trainer, handler and
cutman Chuck Bodak.)
CHUCK BODAK (CONTINUED)
TG - How do you compare the 50's and 60's, when the mob ran boxing, to today,
when the alphabets run it?
CB - In those days, they controlled everything, the fighters, the managers,
the promoters. And they done whatever they wanted. You know a lot of these
guys today, even though they might as well be the mafia too with the way they
control everything and the fighters, it's a legitimate in a sense
because it is legitimate, nothing shady, although in comparison there's a lot
of similarity in my opinion.
TG - Do you think the alphabets are good or bad for boxing?
CB - I think it's good. I'll tell you why. When you have 1,2,3 organizations,
they will accommodate the clique, the certain guys that they push in the
ratings to become champions, and if a guy's not in with them,
then what chance does he got of becoming a champion? Now with all these
organizations that are around, good or bad, however you want to see it, to me
it's good, because you get an opportunity to make a lot more money than he
would trying to fight his way into the 1,2, or 3 organizations that control
everything and the fighters. He has an opportunity to beat that clique.
TG - So having multiple champions doesn't bother you?
CB - No. Plus there's gonna be a time where these guys are gonna be fighting
one another, and you end up with true champions, like Tyson. He won all three
of the titles.
TG - Tyson?
CB - The thing is, I don't think he had an opportunity to be taught. Believe
me, all the people that I know that he had been associated with are people
that helped him, they did more harm than good. Plus, a lot of these guys I
know personally, I wouldn't let them teach my dog. And that's a problem,
'cause here's a guy that is completely a psychological problem. His
environment, his background. From the reformatory he comes up with Cus
D'Amato. They only done so much with him, psychologically. It was all boxing.
Instead of having some great psychologist to work with this guy, become
associated with him, real close. Nothing. It was all boxing. All
these crude trainers is what I call them, that worked with him, and that's the
result of it. But it's mostly the people that were associated with King
because a lot of them guys I've worked with myself and I know what the results
are. I know their philosophy. Half of them weren't even trainers.
TG - Tony Canzoneri?
CB - Great, great, great fighter. I have to laugh. You hear this a million
times "God, this guy keeps dropping his left hand, he's getting hit with right
hands." To me, that's bullshit. You're getting hit with right hands
because you don't do anything about sliding away from it, catching it, or
slipping it, and countering over it. That's the reason he gets hit, not
because he dropped his hands. Tony Canzoneri used to carry his hands down
around his waist. And the things that he done, both offensively and
defensively, and countering, was unbelievable. It doesn't make any difference
where your hands are at as long as you make a move to do something about the
offensive part of punching. That's the object.
Another thing you hear, a guy says "move your head". You don't move your head.
Like I used to explain to students, it's the same principle as firing a rifle.
You don't move your head, you don't blink your eyes or anything,
right? In boxing that's the first thing you teach. This is your general
position. You never move your head. You move your body. Because your eyes are
glued on to your opponent. When you move your body, you never take your eyes
off your opponent. These are all simple things. All common sense. Just like
all technology, when you break it down, it's all simplicity, all common
sense, but it comes from a genius, because it goes beyond that. But that's the
basic principle, the basic thought of it.
TG - Tony Zale?
CB - I grew up with Tony. I was on amateur teams with Tony. Tony Zale was not
a technician at all. He knew enough about boxing to where he looked like a
boxer. But one of the toughest damn Pollocks you'd ever seen in your life, and
a tremendous puncher, and especially a body puncher. That was his
TG - Billy Conn?
CB - A master technician, and a typical Irishman that belongs in boxing, with
all the tools and mentality that go with it.
TG - Ray Leonard?
CB - In my opinion, when they refer to greatness, I think they're way out of
line. He fought everybody that came along, but he never had a record of super
fighters like a lot of them old-timers who fought 4,5,6 times a month. And
they had wars with guys that were rated, guys who were champions, ex-
champions. You can't say that about Sugar Ray Leonard. Plus he was a TV
darling, and let's face it, boxing is a business. And who are you gonna
support, a guy who can't draw flies, or a guy who can draw? That's the
object. And he was a super darling, and they had the talent around. His
opponents were also champions for these fights, and they made millions and
millions. Like Tommy Hearns, Duran, Marvin Hagler, guys like them. And in my
opinion, the time him and Hagler fought, Hagler won that fight. And when he
fought Tommy Hearns the second time, Hearns, in my opinion, won that fight.
But like I say, it's a business. One guy can draw, and one guy can't.
TG - Roberto Duran?
CB - Duran was a good journeyman. He had a little of everything. Nothing
sensational, other than he accomplished a lot. Because it had to be, because
of his environment, his background growing up. And that's why, when I hear a
lot of these guys during the time after the fight, and even today, from time
to time, say that he had no guts, that turns my stomach. Here's a guy that was
born and raised in poverty, lived in the streets, fought for everything he
had, fought to defend it. And all through life, in different phases, would do
the things, in reference to that, that made him what he was.
TG - Julio Caesar Chavez?
CB - Well, he's not one of my favorites. I worked with him and I have very
little respect for him because of the type of person he is. He's not a good
person and it's sad because he's a national hero, he's an idol, an icon, and
he should be the opposite because I feel if you have the ability to do what
you're doing, to accomplish what you're doing, you should have these other
assets to go with it. But when you talk about an outstanding athlete, he was
an outstanding athlete. That I'll give him credit for. He won three titles.
He was the champion for many years.
TG - Do you think fighters like Chavez and Duran have hung around too long?
CB - Yeah. It's the same old thing. They made millions and they blew it. What
other do they have going for them but what they're doing? Nothing. Whereas a
smart guy looked around, feathered his nest with people that he met, and the
possibility that when he's through, he'll wind up with a decent job. And these
guys have none of that. Plus they blew all their damn money and the only
resource left is boxing.
TG - Roy Jones?
CB - Very talented. Good athlete. But in my opinion, he's over exaggerated in
reference to talent. He does so many things that are amateurish and why he
doesn't progress to a different level is beyond me because he's got
talent. He's proved that. He just does a lot of things that are completely
amateurish and he gets by with it because he's talented.
TG - How do you think he'll do if he jumps to heavyweight?
CB - Well, that's hard to say because he's jumping from 175 to heavyweight,
which run well into the 200s. It's hard to say because even though he puts
weight on, he puts it on normally. Like a lot of times you'll hear this old
cliche "Well, he's a natural light heavyweight that blew up". Bullshit. You
can't make the light heavyweight division, you're a heavyweight, whether it's
a pound, two pounds, or whatever. But how much can he mature weightwise, plus
the ability to compensate for all the disadvantages that
he'll have with guys like that, who knows? But still, there ain't that many
great heavyweights around. He, in a sense, could very well be that he has a
lot of perfected instincts.
TG - Speaking of amateurish, what are your thoughts on Prince Naseem Hamed?
CB - Crude, unorthodox, awkward, but very effective. And a guy with confidence
unimaginable. The guy says he could beat anybody, he's the greatest, he's
this, he's that, and all along he's proved it, right? You
can't contradict it. If you could foresee the future, will he cave in like
some overnight sensation? Will he get better with his unorthodox, crude, and
unethical methods? Who knows?
There are so many question marks in regards to how smart you are, an analyzing
guys. It's like picking a winner. You could be the most
knowledgeable guy in the world and you pick a guy, and some guy who don't know
a left hand from a right hand, will pick out a guy like he knew what was gonna
happen. "This guy can't lose. In fact, I'm betting $10,000 on the guy" and all
he's doing is guessing. Where you know the technology, and it didn't turn out
TG - Evander Holyfield?
CB - Holyfield? Another one of my great friends. I had to sue him to get paid
one time. One of the cheapest guys in boxing. But a great athlete.
TG - Jorge Paez?
CB - Paez is as smart, as clever as you and I, as normal as you and I. Being
born and raised in a circus environment, he has done so many things on a
circus level, that he brought that into boxing, and became a sensation. People
love him, even today. I worked a show at the Forum last night and Paez was
there. People were lined up for autographs, taking pictures and everything.
And he's on his last lap. Him, like the rest of them too, blew everything he
made, and the only thing he knows is boxing.
And incidentally, he's responsible for my trademark. He was always dreaming up
things to wear, clothing, the face, the head, haircuts and everything else,
and he always used to get on my ass, him and his manager, and the guys in the
entourage, about me duplicating what he does. I said "bullshit. I'm no
goddamned clown" And Paez was always ribbing me, he says "pendejo", which is
like jerk or character, or something like that. "Whatsa matter? You wanna be
Paez, no?" So then it got to a point where they were so persistent that I
start doing this stuff. And it became a big hit. In this respect, people
accepted it. They enjoyed it, and they got a big bang out of it.
Like a lot of times they come up to me and want to know "what are you gonna
wear?" and stuff like that, or "Let me have what you've got on your head for a
souvenir." I said OK. And it got so popular that I'd work with other fighters,
like basically there are 3 or 4 stables that I work with top priority and I
get hired here and there for different guys and a lot of times with
preliminary fighters, which I never charge, "Yeah, if I'm not booked, I'll
work with you." And I'd be in the dressing room, especially the Latinos,
they'd be saying something in Spanish that I didn't understand, and I'd ask
one of the guys who spoke fluent English, "What the hell is he
saying?" "Well he's kind of perturbed that you're not gonna have anything on
your head for him." "Hell, I don't know. You want me to do something, I'll do
it." And then I'd get a couple of pictures, I use two inch tape, put it
on my forehead and I get tape with his name on it, and he's as happy as a
And the public's the same way. I feel that I'm not a crackpot. Like that
article that was in the paper, he says one of the big screwballs in boxing, or
something like that, Chuck Bodak. And I'm not a screwball, I'm not a
character. I'm doing something that the public wants, the public enjoys. I'm
giving back something that I've taken away from boxing, and that's the
purpose. I could care less about ego. It's like autographs and taking
pictures. A lot of times I take more pictures and sign more autographs than
some of the guys on the cards. And I always thank the individual that comes up
to me, or I have something funny to say to the person, and the guy looks at me
like I'm crazy. He says "No, thank you." "Bullshit" I said, "I'm not
doing you a favor, you're doing me a favor. Plus , if it wasn't for you guys,
they'd pass me up like a dirty shirt." And that's the truth.
TG - Oscar De La Hoya?
CB - Oscar is a very, very intelligent kid. Oscar is very talented. His
philosophy is that he can do anything. There isn't anything that's impossible
with him. In reference to confidence, he's not cocky. He's not abusive. He's
so extremely talented.
TG - How do you feel about him changing trainers?
CB - I don't know why that is. Here's a guy that's been talented all his life.
He's been in demand as far as the people are concerned. And you bring all
these guys in, for what? And my philosophy is this: a guy is made, literally,
when he's born. Like a parent, you start teaching this kid, you start
developing mentality and gestures and everything else till he gets to a point
where he matured enough to where he can function mentally. Then he goes to
school. He is being educated by teachers who are professors, in high school,
in college, and everything else. This is where a person is made.
It's like Dundee. Dundee with "My man, Ali, my man this" and shit like that,
well when Ali was an amateur, there was not one guy, there were hundreds of
guys that predicted that he'd be a champion, a great champion one on these
days. It was so obvious, he was so talented. He was made all along, when he
first started with Joe Martin in Louisville, 12,13 years old. And as he
progressed, even in his youth, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, the guy was destined
to be great.
TG - Where do you see Oscar going in his development? Do you see him going
down as one of the greats?
CB - I think if nothing goes wrong. At the way he's progressed, with the
accomplishments, and everything else, yeah. I think that he's got the
structure, to possibly even be a middleweight or light heavyweight. He's won
four titles already and he could be one of the all-time greats. Sure. The big
thing in all of them, if you really notice, the type of person they are,
that's the important thing. Anybody can be an athlete. Anybody can perform as
an athlete, but what kind of person are you? That's the big thing.
TG - So that's not an act, the smiling, personable DeLa Hoya?
CB - No. He's a super person, a real terrific kid. Even if he were to fire me
tomorrow, I would never bum rap him. And yet, like I left Chavez. I worked
with him 4 1/2, 5 years. I don't bum rap him, but I don't have anything nice
to say about him, because there isn't. But with Oscar, like I say, even if he
were to fire me tomorrow, I could do nothing but praise the guy, because he is
a good person. And I feel this way.
TG - If you could pick one fighter through history to work with, who would it
CB - Well, I worked with one of the greatest, Ali. You can't go beyond that.
'Cause the guy was so great, and like I say, not only as an athlete, but as a
person. Unbelievable. There's nobody to compare with him. And that's a fact.
They claim, that besides Jesus Christ and God, he is the most revered, the
most talked about, and the most in demand on earth. And that is the truth.
'Cause I've been in situations like when I was with Muhammad Ali Sports. We
made quite a few trips when Ali was with us. Some he done exhibitions, some he
made personal appearances to promote the show because he was affiliated with
the organization, Muhammad Ali Sports. We went to Jakarta, for example, and
there must have been hundreds of thousands of people just around the airport,
and it was all fenced off, they wouldn't let anybody in. And they were all
over the place, chanting "Ali, Ali, Ali." Then he went to the mosque in
downtown Jakarta and they estimated that there were half a
million, three quarters of a million people. I've been on trips to Africa. For
example when I worked with Ali, I'd wear an Ali T-Shirt or cap, and also when
I worked with Muhammad Ali sports, and the peace corps built training
centers, they built schools, and stuff like that in the heart of the jungle.
And as soon as they saw me, here you are, no communication, nothing, you're in
the jungle. These kids were chanting "Ali, Ali, Ali," and practically ripping
the stuff off me. I gave away all the stuff that I wore. When I was
on that tour in Africa, I came home with just the clothes I had on my back,
just ordinary clothes. They chanted. Unbelievable.
TG - Let's use Oscar De La Hoya as an example. When you're working with him,
do you have to go to camp with him, or are you just called in for the fight
CB - It's not compulsory, because I have a lot of other work, but I try to go
up as often as I can.
TG - From a technical standpoint as a cutman, have you ever come in contact
with a cut that you couldn't close?
CB - Not really, because sometimes it takes around two or three rounds to
really seal it completely to where you have it under control. And other times
you get a kid that's a bleeder and it's real tough to stop it. In fact, I had
one one time, very small, about a quarter inch cut, and I couldn't stop the
damn bleeding. No two human beings are alike and one guy, I guess the
pressure's so great, blood just squirts out. Even the small arteries. But the
general capilliary cuts, when they open up, are not hard to stop really.
TG - So there's not one magic formula that will stop any cut?
CB - No, not really. You're not a miracle man, you just know what you do, and
what you're doing, and the time you have to work with and stuff like that.
There are different methods, like I work a lot with freezing, besides
medication, and that helps too because a lot of times you can freeze a cut
and it literally seals itself. But when a cut is too bad, I myself will try to
attract the attention of a referee, so I'm not involved with humiliating a
fighter or something like that, or sticking my neck out, and shake my head or
something that it's too bad or the guy doesn't have a damn chance, you know,
what's the use?
TG - Is this something you picked up over the years, or was there someone in
particular who showed you all this?
CB - When I quit fighting and went into teaching, I made sure that whatever
there was pertaining to working with a fighter, besides teaching them, all his
needs and desires and stuff like that, I've learned. You know like dealing
with doctors. I deal with a lot of commission doctors that I know real well
and I'll discuss different things with them. I read up on different
medications. There's always modification over a period of time where things
change. Some commissions permit you to use it, some don't. And I check out all
kinds of stuff that is new on the market or that they use in surgery. It's
amazing, they even use that super glue for a lot of internal bleeding and
brain surgery and that. They use super glue but you'd never use
it in a fight. It's stupid to even think about it because the jostling in the
corner, one guy pouring water over a guy. I mean you have some very erratic
situations in a corner and it wouldn't be practical to work with the thing.
It's bad enough working with adrenaline, where you have a pad underneath the
cut so it don't drip in the eye where it could cause quite a bit of
irritation. But there's not any miracles to perform, you just have to know
what the hell you're doing, and know the person, that's it.
(The Chuck Bodak interview with Thomas Gerbasi will conclude in The BAWLI
Papers No. 43, with thoughts on Whitey Bimstein, Eddie Futch and other
trainers of the modern era.)
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