The CBZ Newswire

Touching Gloves with…Andy Kendall

by on Dec.02, 2011, under Boxing News

by Dan Hanley

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The first time I became pugilistically acquainted with Andy Kendall was while watching a televised bout from Las Vegas. I ogled curiously the countenance of this fighter, which was sheer cinematic pug straight from central casting of Requiem for a Heavyweight. And I watched as he made short work of his opponent while listening to the announcer proclaim, “Your winnah, the ‘Scappoose Express’, Andy Kendall.” Oh, man, a fighter that looked like a fighter, who knew how to fight, who carried a take-no-prisoner monicker like that. To say the least, I was hooked.

DH: Andy, where are you from?

AK: Originally from Burns, Oregon. I was born on a Paiute Indian Reservation in Burns. I’m about three quarters Paiute.
DH: Not from Scappoose, huh?

AK: Naw, (laughing) Scappoose is about 30 miles north of Portland near the Columbia River. My manager was always dreaming things up like that. He nicknamed me the ‘Scappoose Express’ because he liked the sound of it.

DH: What was life like in Burns?

AK: Well, my parents died when I was fairly young and I was adopted by the Kendalls. See, my real family name is Pierce. The Kendalls brought me to Yakima, Washington where I grew up.

DH: Were you into boxing as a kid?

AK: No, I didn’t get into it until I joined the Service. I was in the Marine Corps from 1958 until 1962. That’s where I got involved in the sport.

DH: How did you progress in the Corps?

AK: I did okay. I was All-Marine runner-up one year and I also won a tournament in San Diego. But when my hitch was up I thought I was done with it. As it turns out, my Dad was going around sort of promoting me to people on what kind of a fighter I was. So, I thought I’d give it a try and turned pro in late ’62.

DH: Who was handling you when you went pro?

AK: Jack Bracke was a promoter in Portland and he began training me, but I was managed by Mike Morton.

DH: How did Mike Morton get the nickname, ‘Motormouth’?

AK: (laughing) He gave it to himself. Mike was a good manager, but what a self-promoter! We’d meet up with promoters to talk about me and to get me fights, but he’d end up bragging on himself.

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DH: By your 5th fight you were already fighting 10 rounders. In hindsight, do you think you were being rushed a bit?

AK: Yeah, but when I was young I’d fight anybody. As I got older I see that I needed to learn more.

DH: I ask because after 18 club fights you went into consecutive bouts with Don Fullmer, Bobo Olson and Eddie Cotton. Man, that was the deep end of the pool.

AK: Yeah, I look back and realize Mike shoved me in too fast.

DH: After the Dick Gosha fight in ’66, you were off for a year and a half. In your own words describe the events leading up to your layoff.

AK: Well, I was going through a divorce at the time and traveled to Virginia to see my kids. I was met at the door by my ex-Father-in-law, who unloaded a shotgun into my groin. I spent the next two months in the University of Virginia hospital. They were amazed I was alive, but said I would never fight again. I was determined to prove them wrong.

DH: Aside from your recovery and the therapy you must have gone through, how did you feel when you got back in training?

AK: Well, I still have a lot of those pellets in me and it still aches when it rains. But I noticed it mostly when doing road work. I could feel that buckshot moving around while running.

DH: How about when getting hit?

AK: (laughing) To tell you the truth, I never knew if it was from the wounds or from my opponent’s punch.

DH: When you came back, you immediately ran at stiff opposition. Two consecutive 10 round draws with ‘Snakebite’ Niblett. I recall ‘Windmill’ White once saying that Frank Niblett was one of the toughest fighters he had ever met. Would you agree?

AK: I would. What made him tough was how unorthodox he was. Niblett would just as soon hit you on the top of the head as the back of the head.

DH: By ’68, after 5 tough fights on the comeback trail, you fought your first world-rated opponent. Roger Rouse was coming off his world title fight with Dick Tiger. Tell me about your 10 round draw.

AK: Y’know, I should have won that fight. They told me beforehand that Rouse was a counter-puncher and I fought accordingly. But we fought in his hometown of Butte, Montana, so a draw was the best I was going to get.

DH: You continued on until early ’69 when you fought your first of 3 fights with Eddie “Bossman” Jones. Since you and Eddie were both world-rated in the top ten, was there a promise of a title shot for the winner?

AK: No, no promise. But after beating Jones I got the title fight anyway.

DH: So here you were, signed for West Springfield, Massachusetts of all places. Tell me about your shot at the world light heavyweight title against Bob Foster.

AK: To tell you the truth, I could have used a few more fights under me, but I wasn’t about to turn this down. I did real well the first two rounds, rocking him a few times. But then Jack Bracke told me before the bell for the 4th, “You got ‘em! Go after ‘em!” I did and Foster ended it in the 4th.

DH: At the end of ’69 you made your Madison Square Garden debut. What was it like fighting Dick Tiger in the Garden?

AK: Dan, let me tell you two things I wanted at the start of my career:  To fight for the world title and to fight in Madison Square Garden. I think the event got to me. I was on the world stage and I was dreaming.

DH: You were still keeping world class company and it was no different by ’71 when you fought undefeated Mike Quarry in California. Tell me about that fight.

AK: Mike was a good boxer, but I worked his body good. I thought I won the fight but he got a split decision in his hometown.

DH: What happened after the fight between you and Jerry Quarry?

AK: (laughing) About the 3rd round, I hit Mike after the bell and Jerry, who was working his corner, jumps into the ring and gives me a shove and says, “Don’t be hitting my little brother!” We…had some words.

DH: By mid ’72 you were on a great run having beaten Larry Buck, Roger Rouse and Henry Hank. You were one of the top contenders again and signed to fight a good-looking , undefeated kid out of Minnesota named Pat O’Connor. He needed your name on his record for that title fight. Did they simply underestimate you?

AK: I’ll tell you a story on this. O’Connor’s people wanted nothing to do with me until I fought Cipriano Hernandez on the undercard to one of his fights in Rochester. I guess they liked what they saw or thought the time was right, so we signed. He was a nice guy until we appeared on a local news station promoting the fight and he gets up and says, “I’m going to whip this old man!” I was so mad. But I fought a good fight, dropped him around the 3rd and finally stopped him in seven.

DH: You were now officially Ring Magazine’s number one contender at 175. Was Mike Morton actively trying for a Foster rematch or for one of the top contenders?

AK: Oh, Mike wouldn’t turn down any fight. Neither would I for that matter. But we just couldn’t make another Foster fight.

DH: In ’73, you got a rematch with Mike Quarry. Now, I noticed after his own fight with Foster that Quarry was now more prone to come off his toes and slug it out. This had to have played right into your hands.

AK: Oh, it did. We fought down in Florida this time since Pete Ashlock of Orlando had taken over Quarry. I noticed that Quarry couldn’t fight backing up and so I went right through him.

DH: A couple of months later you returned to the Garden. Tell me, was Jorge Ahumada that good or just that young?

AK: Neither. I was just that bad. I was 35 by this time, but I can tell you, it would have been a different story if I was young. It comes with the territory. These guys who once avoided me were now saying, “OK, we’ll take Kendall now.”

DH: You had one more shot at the big time against young hotshot ‘Yaqui’ Lopez. What happened in that fight?

AK: I just didn’t have it anymore.

DH: If it’s any consolation, ‘Yaqui’ Lopez himself told me that you hit him with a body shot that nearly caved him in.

AK: (laughing) I wish I knew that then.

DH: Andy, looking at your record, you fought everyone on the 175 lb. landscape. But was there anyone whom you missed out on that you would have liked to fight?

AK: There was only one fight I wanted. A rematch with Bob Foster. I’m not saying I could have beaten him because Foster was just that good. But I felt bad about the way our fight ended and knew I could have done better.

DH: What have you been doing with yourself in boxing retirement?

AK: Well, I worked construction right up until my actual retirement. My wife teaches Sunday school and we both volunteer at the school and church. We live here in Gales Creek, Oregon, where I enjoy some of the best hunting and fishing outside my door. And that keeps me busy.

DH: Andy, last question. Do you follow the game today?

AK: Dan, the game today has been devalued with all those world champions. Fighters today change management constantly and always seem to avoid fighting each other. But I respected the sport. I fought a lot of guys two and three times. I think a good, hard fight deserves a rematch. I had a good manager who I stayed with my whole career. I had a lot of fun and would do it all again.

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Nothing came easy in life for Andy Kendall. From the time he came screaming into this world on a Paiute Reservation, abandoned at an early age, surviving a near life-ending incident, battling his way through 67 hard-bitten fights, until eventually earning him a career high purse of $12,500 for his duke-out with an all-time great in his quest for the world title. No, nothing came easy. But then again, what would one expect from someone ballsy enough to carry a handle like the ‘Scappoose Express’?

See ya next round,

Dan Hanley
pugnut23@yahoo.com

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