Jimmy BivinsOn April 8, 1998, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a truly heartwrenching story of the discovery of one-time Cleveland boxing great Jimmy Bivins.
Accompanied by a picture of Jimmy (who looked as though he was just released from Auschwitz, Somalia, or war-torn Croatio) the story described how Cleveland Policeman had discovered the skeletal Jimmy Bivens wrapped in a urine-soaked blanket stained with his own excretement.
Stashed in the attic by a horrific daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Bivins suffered unspeakable abuse, hidden from the world, by these two despicable people.
Suffering from bone-marrow cancer, Jimmy Bivins, former number-one ranked contender in both the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions and acknowledged as one of the very best of his era, was left alone to die an ignomius (and brutal) slow death. If it wasn't the good fortune (?) of the police officers responding to a separate complaint of child-abuse (to the couple's child) Jimmy, and the child, would be suffering today as you read this.
In and of itself, this story would be terrible and deserving of it's placement on the front page of our paper. It's revolting and these two need to be punished if these allegations prove to be true. Having said that, there is an another story about Jimmy that must be told: His life and legacy to the City of Cleveland.
Jimmy Bivins is no ordinary washed-up fighter. In his prime, Jimmy Bivins was one of the premier light-heavyweight and heavyweight fighters of his era. A "pure" boxer, Jimmy Bivins made a career out of defeating good fighters, being top-rated and NEVER getting a title shot. This happened in spite of DEFEATING EIGHT WORLD CHAMPIONS, being in the top ten in one division or another from 1940 until 1953. INCREDIBLY in 1942 he was rated as number one contender in the light-heavyweight AND heavyweight division at the same time!
During a streak from June 22, 1942 until February 25, 1946, Bivins was undefeated with one draw, and the list of men he beat reads like a Who's Who, of that boxing era. He defeated Joey Maxim, Joe Muscato, Tami Mauriello, Bob Paster, Lee Savold, Ezzard Charles, Anton Christoforidas, Pat Valentino, Lloyd Marshall, Lee Q. Murray, Melio Bettina (who he also drew with), Curtis "Hatchet Man" Sheppard, Archie Moore (he stopped him), Johnny Flyn and Billy Smith, to name some of them. Prior to his loss on April 17, 1942, to Bob Pastor (he had Pastor down twice in the first round), he had also defeated Billy Soose and the then current light-heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevitch in a non-title bout.
In 1942 Jimmy Bivins was rated the number one contender in the light-heavyweight and heavyweight division at the SAME time. When Jimmy Bivins career ended (with four wins in a row) in 1955, he had BEATEN 86 opponents, most of them champions or top contenders. His biggest payday was $40,000 for his 1941 bout with Joe Louis. He lost to Louis on points.
Jimmy was small by heavyweight and even light-heavyweight standards. He was a natural 175 pounder and at 5ft. 9ins. had many opponents tower over him. A quite, proud man, Jimmy Bivins was, by every measure, a truly magnificent athlete who, to this day has never been recognized for his accomplishments by the boxing community nor (and even more sadly) his hometown Cleveland.
After Jimmy retired from boxing he took a job as a driver for the old Laub Bakery Company. He rarely missed a day of work delivering bakery products throughout the city. Quite and unassuming, Mr. Bivins would discharge his duties in the same professional manner he discharged his opponents. Methodically and efficiently he "took care of business". Ask Joey Maxim, another Cleveland (champion) of that era. Great fighter who Jimmy met and beat.
But it was not on a bread truck where Jimmy made his biggest post-ring impact. Early on, after his retirement, Jimmy started a long distinguished career as a trainer/handler of some of this areas premier amateur fighters. Gary Horvath, winner of FOUR golden gloves titles (a record), was taught, trained and handled exclusively by Mr. Bivins. Horvath, winner of 112, 118, 127lb (twice) came out of Kilbane's Old Angle Gym located then on West 25th and Detroit Ave. Every day, about 4-4:30 Jimmy would arrive from a full day's work (driving the truck) and begin his "day" as a teacher/trainer for scores of young men. Young turks whose alternative was hanging out, getting in trouble,( or other such wastefulness) on the sometimes mean-streets of the near-west side of Cleveland. It was not the prettiest of places nor would one mistake its' "scent" to the cologne department in Dillards; Yet it was beautiful and almost spiritual (safe) to those young guys who would (out of their normal character) listen and spar respectfully/dutifully under the firm, quite guidance of Mr. Bivins. He taught all (more by example rather than through spoken words) the mechanics of boxing but more than that; he taught them how to behave; to carry themselves. There weren't (as today) many positive male role-models around. Few strong father-figures available for young guys to identify and emulate. Only a few of us were lucky enough to have a Jimmy Bivins guide us (if only for a little while and only by example) through the "minefield" that was life on the near-west side of Cleveland some thirty-plus years ago. Thank You Jimmy.
I never fought a single round of amateur boxing in my life. I didn't have the athleticism nor the "heart" that my friend, the champion, Gary Horvath had. But I was never made to feel uncomfortable nor unwelcome. Jimmy Bivins welcomed all. As long as you were respectful of the people and to what was going on there, you could stay and learn. Thank you Jimmy.
Today Jimmy Bivins lies in Meridia Euclid Hospital. He's but a shadow of his former self; 78 years old and a skeletal 110 pounds. He's dying of bone-marrow cancer. When asked how he is he said "I'm alright. If I wasn't I'd tell you" (That's from the 4/8/98 P.D. article) Still uncomplaining. Still proud
Jimmy does need our help. He needs to be assured that he will NEVER have to return to that concentration- camp-like existence he was forced to live the remainder of his life. This is very real.
As of now Jimmy Bivins is hospitalized at:
Meridia Euclid Hospital
18901 Lakeshore Blvd
Euclid, Ohio 44119
216 . 692 . 8600
Information on the (hoped-for) Jimmy Bivins Fund/Donations may be made through
440 . 734 . 7916
A trust fund has been setup and donations can be made at any Key Bank in Ohio or mail to:
Jimmy Bivins Benevolent Trust Fund
c/o Key Bank
2047 West 25th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Make Check out to:
"Jimmy Bivins Benevolent Trust Fund"
Thank you (in advance) for printing this (or whatever part you deem appropriate). It's very important for our town to be informed about the life and present-condition of this truly great man, let alone, cleveland sports legend.
4.25.98 [Return to Top]
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