Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 88
Date: 99-05-24 19:45:57 EDT
From: (J Michael Kenyon)

The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
Edited by J Michael Kenyon

Issue Number 88
Tuesday, May 25, 1999
New York City, New York, US of A


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(continued from the previous BAWLI Paper)

TG - Who do you consider some of the best teachers, past and present?

CB - Well, there's a lot of them. A guy in New York who worked with the NY
CYO, a guy by the name of Pete Mello, was a great teacher, and a great
psychologist. He was on the NY Golden Gloves coaching staff besides the CYO.

It's like anything else, you've got to have some ability, and you have to
have time. Some guys think that you can get a guy in a short period of time,
run him through a short routine, give him a pair of gloves, put him in
there, and box, and that's bullshit. Like I tried to explain to a student.
It's like you start off in kindergarten, and you work your way up through
the grades. When you get in high school, you're pretty well set. You go to
college, it's an advancement. You get out and you're a finished product, and
that's the way it is, especially in boxing, or any sport, really. But more
so in boxing because boxing is so intricate and it's all one on one, and you
really have to be well educated in order to compete.

TG - As a sport, boxing doesn't have the greatest reputation. Has anything
happened that made you want to pack it in?

CB - Never. No. You know why? Because even besides the boxing, I spent time
in youth work, too. I worked with handicapped kids. I worked with retarded
kids. In the program in the CYO I always had a lot of these kids that would
come down to the center. I was the recreational director of a center and I
also had sports. Naturally, boxing was the number one sport. A lot of these
kids would come down, and I started classes for them. A lot of their parents
would come down cause right after the war, when the CYO opened up this
particular center in one part of the town, and we were the first ones in the
whole damn town that had a TV set. It was donated by some furniture mogul in
Gary, Indiana and everybody and his brother, mothers, fathers, sisters, and
brothers came down to watch the football game, boxing, and everything else.
So it was quite a place. And some of them had retarded kids, they'd bring
them down. They'd fool around in the gym, for example, next thing you know,
I started a class and worked with them.

So beside boxing I was very interested in youth work because even boxing, I
used to explain to guys "I'm not teaching you boxing in the sense that it's
boxing, I'm teaching you life. All the facets that we work with, that we
deal with, that I'm educating you in, are things that you're going to be
taking in everyday life with you. Because an athletic lifespan is very
short. The thing that's going to be important is you going out into the
world and putting all this stuff to use where people accept you, where
people are willing to do something for you. Not being a big stupid lug where
you're lucky to get a job as a porter or something.

TG - Do you ever run into fighters who don't want to listen or be taught?

CB - Yeah, you have all types of kids. And there's a way to beat around
that. For example, a lot of ridicule and humor, cause with ridicule you draw
a person's attention, you stun 'em and then insert humor to where the guy
can laugh about it. And then you can get serious about things and the guy
will accept it. But you get guys that are headstrong. For example, like
you're teaching them something, the type of guy, if you were able to read
minds, it's almost like you do read the mind, and you walk away from the
guy. And the guy starts thinking, then you ignore the guy completely, and
you're working with everybody else in the gym. The guy finally walks up and
he says "Hey man, I notice you're walking around, working with all these
guys, you talk to me for a short while, and then that was it, you ignore me
and everything else." I said, "No." I want to spend time with these guys
cause they don't know, and they're willing to accept my knowledge. But you,
you're smarter than I am. You don't need me. I'll just stand there and

"No, no, man" You know, they start with all kinds of excuses and stuff like
that. Then you know you've sold yourself. Psychologically you defeated a
guy. He's willing to go along.

TG - Any problems with a fighter's entourages?

CB - No. But I've had experiences with these guys around. After a couple of
times these guys read the handwriting on the wall and they back off and then
you hit 'em every once in a while and they get the message.

TG - What are your thoughts on Muhammad Ali as a fighter?

CB - Here's the way I categorize him. They always talk about the greatest.
There's no such thing, not in my book. It's like when they tell me "You're
one of the greatest cutmen in the world" I said bullshit. I may be one of
the best, but as far as the greatest, there's no such thing. Because for
every guy that's considered great or the greatest, there are people out in
the world, with the exception of Ali, and I'll explain that later, there are
people behind you that are as good, if not better. There are thousands of
them. So how can one be considered the greatest?

But Ali was different. Ali had perfected instincts and you could categorize
him as one of the greatest because he was so different. Everything was there
plus he nurtured it with the type of person that he was and the different
escapades in his life. So that's why you could possibly say that he really
was the greatest. But in boxing, Ali was one of the greatest instinctive
fighters. Joe Louis was one of the greatest fundamental and basic fighters
that ever lived. In other words, if you were to teach and you run films of
Joe Louis; tell a kid "when you watch this film, everything this guy does,
you do, because this is basics and fundamentals to perfection." Willie Pep,
Sugar Ray Robinson, guys of that caliber, they're very creative. They were
great. Willie Pep, for example, he done things you never saw anybody do.
Everyone he fought, it was amazing the things he'd done. Sugar Ray Robinson
was the same way. Very creative. The guy was just a fantastic, perfected
machine. That's really my analysis of the people in different categories.

TG - Barney Ross?

CB - Barney Ross was a great technician. Plus a lot of those guys like
Barney held three titles. But today there's so much to offer a fighter, so
much to gain, that I don't know what it is, plus modern technology, modern
education, everything else. Things are elevated because when you explain it
to people you explain it in terms like a car. You can't compare a car in the
'30s, the '40s, the '50s, with the cars in the '80s and '90s. There's got to
be improvement. Time don't stand still. Technology gets greater and greater,
year in, year out. Plus the mentality today. Look at all the technology you
have. All the geniuses, the brains that are responsible for stuff like that.
In every phase of life. It's the same thing with sports. There's got to be a
difference, although there are certain phases of life that were as good
during them days as they are today. But they never had the exposure to a lot
of the things that they have today which enhances a lot of the kids today.

TG - So you believe that today's athletes are better than those years ago?

CB - I'd have to say so because its been proven record wise in all sports.
They break records constantly. And that's got to be, because you have a
better man, a super individual. There's a lot of technology associated with
sports that enhances their ability so you have to face facts. You've got to
call a spade a spade.

TG - Rocky Marciano?

CB - Rocky Marciano was a devout, dedicated, tremendously conditioned
athlete. Tough as nails. Hit like a mule. He could hit you on the arms, the
shoulders, in the chest and hurt you and stun you. But they had a tape where
him and Ali fought an exhibition, and he won the decision over Ali. Now if
you're really knowledgeable about boxing and compare the two, in a regular
match, with both of them even in their primes, Ali would have toyed with
Marciano. Sizewise, ability, and everything else, the technology. Big
difference. Ali was very scientific. Marciano was just a rough, tough,
aggressive fighter. Very little technique, very little technology, but
determination and the ability to punch and absorb punches. He was a
Superman. You've got to give him credit and respect. The people that he
fought, the record that he amassed. What else can you say? There's nothing
negative, other than when you go into technology.

It's like IQ's for example. There's five people with high IQ's and one may
be smarter than all the rest of them or vice versa. Yet they're all in the
same category. But I studied this tape and the ability of the two. There
would have been no question that Ali would have had a field day with
Marciano. And a lot of it too, you hear this so often, it's one of the
oldest cliches in boxing, "who'd he fight?" He fought so and so, who was an
old man, and all this bullshit. Well, so did every other champion coming up
or winning a title, or defending the title. It's the same damn thing, the
guys that were around, he fought em all and beat em all, regardless. After
the same guy winds up losing the title, the same damn thing. They match up
with up and coming fighters, who are potentially great, and you just haven't
got it anymore and you get beat.

TG - Sonny Liston?

CB - The guy had one of the greatest jabs. In fact, his jab was like
throwing a right hand or a hook. He was so powerful, the way he threw them
seemed like he had everything behind him. Where most good technicians, they
pop that jab out, it's nice and relaxed and snappy, with zip to it. But he
was the type of guy, he hit you with the jab, he hurt you. And he was a much
better boxer than a lot of people give him credit for.

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

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
greatest asset.

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 200's. 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.

(to be concluded in the next BAWLI Paper)

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