|. . . THE CYBER BOXING ZONE JOURNAL||
WEBMASTER AND NEWS EDITOR:
HISTORY & RESEARCH:
Hank Kaplan, Tracy Callis, Matt Tegen
Chris Bushnell, DscribeDC, Francis Walker, Dave Iamele, Katherine Dunn, John Vena, Rick Farris
Enrique Encinosa, Randy Gordon, Pedro Fernandez, Joe Koizumi, Mike Moscone, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Jim Trunzo, Barry Lindenman, Pete Ehrmann, Monte Cox, Matt Boyd, Alan Taylor, Arne Steinberg, Lee Michaels, Joe Bruno, Lucius Shepard, BoxngRules, Adrian Cusack, Phrank Da Slugger, Pusboil
RINSING OFF THE MOUTH PIECE
THE REAL FREAKIN' STORY OF THE HURRICANE
Now that all the freakin' joy & happiness of the holidays are behind us, we now get to deal with the shit rain from "The Hurricane" ...
Okay people, here's the REAL Hurricane Carter. As you can see below, it's a relatively unspectacular record. Even more so when you consider that some of his fights -the vastly underrated Holly Mims for instance, were blatant fixes.
The high point of his career was his 1st round TKO of former welter & middleweight champion, Emile Griffith. I saw the fight & he didn't destroy the great Emile as depicted in the movie. The fight was stopped after 3 flash
knockdowns. Griffith was not badly hurt at all, he just got caught cold & never got his balance. Due to the three knockdown rule, the fight was (in my view), prematurely stopped.
Carter was a rough, tough, technically sound fighter, with good (not great) power, a decent mandible & average speed. His main problems was slick boxers. After a while he would get frustrated & basically give up on a fight.
Two examples: First, the old cutie, middleweight champ, Joey Giardello, who knew every trick in the book & he threw it at Carter when they fought for the title. Most observers agree that Joey won by at least 10 to 5 in rounds.Carter at about the 7th round realized he couldn't do anything with Giardello & basically gave up on the fight & went through the motions in the 2nd half of the bout.
Second, Luis Rodriguez, the great former welter champ, beat Carter twice. In their first fight, Luis weighed 149 pounds to Carter's over 160 at fight time. Luis, a consummate boxer, bipped & bopped Carter into frustration so absolute that at one point Carter tackled Luis, grabbed him by the upper torso & tried to fling him over the ropes ....
Denzel Washington is a great actor & the movie is very good as long as you view it as basically fiction ... Most especially the boxing part, which is pure bullshit. For instance, by the time Carter was jailed he wasn't even a contender anymore, having lost seven out of his last 15 fights!
Anyway, to paraphrase Bob Dylan's terrific, protest-disco tune, linked below is the REAL (fistic) story of the Hurricane ...
Ruben "Hurricane"Carter Professional Record
The movie may be powerful & Denzel may well win an Oscar, so might the film; but the Hollywood revisionism mind fuck with the truth reeks. & the public seems to be buying it hook, line & sinker. I read a review in the USA Today that described Rubin Carter as, "A true folk hero" & a "warrior scholar".
After watching Carter on Larry King last night I was left feeling that for a "warrior-scholar", this guy is a real jive turkey. Then again, I remember that this man endured 19 years of outrageously enforced incarceration & has
to be given his "props" ... The key moment for me, was when former talk show host, Michael "My dad was a boxing manager, so I know the fight game" Douglas started babbling about how he was in Philadelphia that night when The Hurricane was so outrageously robbed of the title in his fight with Joey Giardello.
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter looked directly at the camera with a big, shit eating grin on his face, nodding his head in agreement. But, Carter didn't have the stones to say anything, he knows better - there are too many people
around who know what a crock of crap that is ...
Which brings me to Joey Giardello.
Joey was one tough dude. During the 50's & 60's he fought every top middleweight out there & that was a great era for middles. Hall Of Famer's like, Sugar Ray Robinson (W-10) Gene Fullmer (D-15 in a very controversial bout. Most ringsiders had Giardello winning comfortably), Dick Tiger (W-15, L-15) & Billy Graham (W-10).
Giardello also had wins against real tough comp. To name just a few: Gil Turner, Johnny Saxton, Walter Cartier, Ralph "Tiger" Jones, Rory Calhoun, Joey Giambra, Holly Mims, Henry Hank & many more ...
Giardello retired with a career record of 100-25-7 32 KO 1 NC & a reputation as a fighter that never ducked anyone in his long career.
Giardello is a proud man & with a record like that, rightfully so. He may not rank with the Ketchels, Grebs, Robinsons, Monzons or Haglers in boxing's pantheon; but he was a legitimate, lineal, middleweight champion who won the title from fellow Hall Of Famer, boxing immortal, Dick Tiger. Tiger also fought Carter, knocking him down twice & beating on him like a drum for 10 rounds as he blew "The Hurricane" out ...
Giardello's fight with Carter wasn't as dramatic but he won as convincingly as Tiger did. Like Sonny Liston & Leg-Iron Mike, Carter's main weapon was sheer intimidation. He looked like the baddest ass dude this side of Liston. But like Sonny & Leg-Iron, when he faced somebody that wasn't intimidated he had problems when it didn't work & especially if he was facing a good boxer. That's when he usually ended up waist deep in the Big Muddy ... By the way, when I mention him along with Sonny & Leg-Iron Mike, I by no means intend to imply that he was on their level as a fighter.
The Giardello fight is one of the key elements of the movie. In the movie, Carter pounds on Giardello for 15 rounds & then gets outrageously robbed of the decision by a racist conspiracy by boxing's powers that be.
Again, this is a very warped distortion of the truth. In 1963, Carter fought another top middleweight, Joey Archer, in an elimination bout. Archer was one of the last of the great white Irish boxers. Joey was a beautifully
skilled fighter who unfortunately had no punch. Archer won an easy 10 round unanimous decision, totally befuddling Carter until the last round when he finally got tagged pretty good - but did not get knocked down.
In the interim, Carter had his fight with Griffith & by virtue of his higher profile (as a bad ass) & bigger draw, the title shot was given to him instead of Archer.
So much for racism ...
In an article by well respected boxing scribe, Bernard Fernandez, in the Philadelphia Daily News, Giardello is quoted as saying: "I'm not a racist, OK? There were four guys I could have given that title shot to. One was Joey
Archer who was white. Another was Carter.
The other two guys, I can't remember their names off the top of my head. But the fact is I picked Carter. I gave him the opportunity to be a world champion. The promoter wanted me to fight Archer I said, "No, Carter is
ranked number 1, (this was due to his victory over Griffith, even though he had lost to Archer), he earned
his shot. Give it to him.
So what thanks do I get? For people to spread a pack of lies about me 35 years later? This is serious business here. I kind of feel my reputation is at stake here ... End of the fight Carter congratulated me in the ring. He wasn't complaining because he didn't have anything to complain about. I was better than him. I know it. He knows it. Everybody who was at the fight knows it. It's just too bad all the people who see this movie won't know it.
If they can't get that fight right, how can you believe anything in the movie".
It truly saddens the Ol' Spit Bucket that a stalwart boxing champion like Joey Giardello is having his career so blatantly misrepresented.
If any of our readers would like to see for themselves, go to www.joeygiardello.com On it there is streaming video of his fights with Carter as well as Dick Tiger.
Joey's son's Paul & Steve Tilleli (Giardello's real name was Carmine Tilelli), have put up this web site in response to the lies & distortions of the movie. On it you will find a wealth of information on the venerable champ. Check it out, it's a very cool site.
The Bucket could rant on endlessly about the falsehoods of this movie which extend beyond just the boxing angle. But I will spare you, my dear readers ... Let's just say that there is a lot of stuff in this movie which is pure crapola.
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter probably was framed & not guilty of the crimes he was accused of. But the guy was a real thug. The mind is wobbled by how in this movie, Denzel Washington, portrays a bad ass dude like Carter, as this semi-mystic, jailhouse Buddha. In the interview I saw with Carter there was no evidence of any "warrior-scholar" that I could see ...
Hollywood revisionism is really an astounding mind fuck. I've had friends call me up after seeing the movie who are not boxing fans & they are blown away when I tell them the real story of "The Hurricane" & his boxing career
as opposed to the claptrap of the film.
& what's even more astounding is that after I tell them the real details of Carter's life & career they don't wanna believe me ... They'd rather believe in the movie & Dylan's song because that makes them feel all warm & fuzzy.
The truth doesn't.
The Ol' Spit Bucket understands that it's impossible to condense someone's whole life into a two hour movie. That's called "artistic license". Unfortunately "The Hurricane" is more about artistic rape.
If this movie is any indication, I gotta feeling that words like "truth" & "veracity" are going to become meaningless in the new millennium.
As futher proof that perception is stronger than reality, the WBC in all their infinite wisdom have bestowed an, "honorary championship belt" on Carter. What's next? Induction into the Hall Of Fame in 2001?
Lastly, on the subject of Carter I leave you with a very informative web site put up by Cal Deal. Deal is a reporter who has followed & written about The Hurricane since the 60's. This site is a real eye opener ...
The url is: http://www.GRAPHICWITNESS.COM/carter/index.html
Moving on to a more pleasant subject, the new issue of the CBZ Journal is finally ready for our readers to peruse ... As usual, it's loaded with a wide variety of subjects in the boxing world. But I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't mention J.D. Vena's outstanding interview with ESPN's Max Kellerman
I've had the pleasure of having quite a few phone conversations with Max. I have to say I'm quite impressed with the young man for the seriousness & integrity he brings to his job. Kellerman understands what is entailed in a high profile spot like ESPN has given him. & he takes his position seriously & most importantly knowledgeably.
I think our readers will be as impressed with the care & attention to detail he brings to the sweet science, as the Bucket is ...
Enjoy the new issue!
Broadcasting to the Max:
An Exclusive Interview with Max Kellerman, the New Voice of Boxing
By JD Vena
When you think of a boxing analyst, you envision a gray-haired man with wrinkled facial features. Though weathered by time and by cocktails, the common boxing analyst often possesses decades of knowledge about the Sweet Science. I suppose you could imagine our fearless editor, The Ol' Spit Bucket possessing these characteristics as well.
When you first saw Max Kellerman on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, your opinion of him may have been skewed by the lack of the conventional appearance associated with most boxing analysts. You may have said, "This kid couldn't possibly know boxing." If you did, you were wrong. Not only
does the 26-year-old New Yorker know boxing, he speaks it with articulate fluency.
If you think about a topic on boxing, Kellerman probably already thought about it, dissected it and arrived at a full conclusion. Recently, I caught up with Mad Max to throw him some questions. As you could imagine, he doesn't prefer to slip questions as one of his favorite subjects, "Sweet Pea"
Whitaker slipped punches.
JD Vena: When, why and how did you become involved in boxing?
Max Kellerman: I was a scrappy young kid and I was getting into a lot of trouble. When I was eight years old, my father took me down to the local P.A.L to box.When you box and get into trouble, they won't let you box, and I really loved it.So it worked. Then my mother and my grandmother on my
father's side found out and put an end to it, because they thought it was dangerous. That was how it started. When I wasn't allowed to box anymore, all of my energy started going into following it. When I was 18 years old and was able to do what I wanted, I went back to the gym, which lasted, off
and on, for about two years.
JV: Max, is it true that when you were 15 years old when you ran your own radio show?
MK: No. It was a public cable access show and I was 16.
JV: How did that get started and what kind of format did your show have?
MK: There were no guests. Well actually I had Buddy McGirt once. But otherwise there were no guests. There was a blue background and I would take calls. This is how it started. I was sitting at home one Sunday afternoon with my father watching Boykin on Boxing. Now Ringside with Walter Banks I believe was the first public access show in the history of boxing that I know of. He would have different guests on each week and it was fun to watch. Boykin on Boxing was the second show I believe. This guy would start talking extemporaneously on a lot of subjects. It was a good show. So one day, I was watching him and I turned to my dad and said, "I can do one of these
shows." He said, "You think so? Let's see." So we started checking it out to find out what it takes to be on public access. As it turns out, it's free to do but you needed your guardian with you at the time. If you're under 18 that's the rule. So my dad came down with me the first couple of times. Come to find out, you don't need your guardian, so I just started bringing my brothers down to take the calls. I had to pay $32 a week and I did Max on Boxing altogether for 9 years. It was a half an hour format; I would talk boxing for five minutes. Then I would take phone calls. I ended up having a
huge following. I was on David Letterman once. I was on the Ha Network with Denis Leary and New York Magazine had written something about me. I was also on MTV. I guess Adam Curry had mentioned something about a Tyson fight and said, "Now I'm no Max on Boxing but ." So I had a good sized following but only in Manhattan. This all happened before ESPN.
JV: You're probably the youngest sports broadcaster in any sport. How did you become involved with ESPN Friday Night Fights?
MK: From high school I went to college. It took a while to get out of college. My brother and I had a single out on Roughhouse Records and were in the music business for a while. We were doing different things. Finally, I realized that I needed to graduate first and then make a living. So I went
to school full time. I graduated from Columbia College with a BA in History in '98. Six months before I graduated, I decided whether I should work for a living or talk boxing for a living. The decision wasn't hard for me to make. So I put together a demo tape with my brother Harry. All of my brothers are younger than me and we put together this six minute compilation video showing
me on Letterman and different scenes from my show. We put it all together and made 25 copies. I made my resume and my brother Sam helped me make my press kit and my resume. Then we sent 'em all out. I ended up getting plenty of bites but ESPN bit the hardest and offered me the position and I took it.
JV: Bill Cayton is an extremely controversial figure in boxing and many people don't know much about him. Do you know him or have any type of relationship with him? If so, what's he like?
MK: I've met Bill Cayton once in my life. I know there were rumors going around especially on the Internet that Bill Cayton got me my job but it's not true. There were also rumors that my father bought me my own TV show and I don't even know where they got that. As a matter of fact, there was a writer who printed that in an article about me. He never even bothered to call me to verify that or just to see what I'd say. He just printed misinformation about me. I knew Jack Newfield who invited me down to this bar in Midtown for a screening of a documentary he did on Robert Kennedy. While I was there, I ran into Steve Lott. Steve said, "Max, there's and opening for Friday Night Fights. Do you have a tape?" This was right after I had finished my compilation tape. So the next day I sent them a video and a press kit and one day later Steve called and put Bill on the phone. They both loved it. They wanted me to meet them and that was the one time I met Bill Cayton. I have spoken to him on the phone maybe three other times after that.
JV: Like most boxing analysts, your statements are extremely bold. Why do you feel that some of the media and the fans become infuriated with you and even voice their opinions in monthly boxing magazines?
MK: About me? That's funny. If you have any magazines, I'd love to see what they said, because I've never heard anyone criticize me for something I actually said that wasn't taken out of context. Even in their criticism of me, they either misstate what I said or misinterpret what I said. In a television format, everyone is going to have the chance to say something stupid because you have such little time to say something you want. So you wind up losing a little bit of accuracy just for the sake of entertainment. I've said things on the air where I've regretted saying after the fact thinking "God that was stupid thing to say." But the overwhelming majority of my points I like. I think if I were watching me on TV, I'd like me. A lot of times boxing fans are use to being fed this very mainstream version of the facts. In my case, I'm really just doing analysis. When you do real analysis, you often come to conclusions that are counter intuitive. When you do superficial analysis, whatever is on the surface is what you're going to say. But when you do real analysis, you dig and you're thinking about it deeply. You'll come to some conclusions, not a lot, but some that are counter intuitive. They don't seem like the most obvious. On television, this is only about ten percent of your ideas because most things are like they appear on the surface. So of those few things, that's what they may be
disagreeing with. They don't disagree with the bulk of what I'm saying; they're disagreeing with what I'm saying here and there. After a few things it starts to add up. On TV, you have 20-30 seconds of what you need to say about any given topic. That doesn't allow me to go through with my analysis,
explain how I came to the conclusion and offer up all of the evidence. That gives me enough time to state my conclusion. If you hear a conclusion that seems counter intuitive and you haven't thought about what I said extensively, then of course you're going to say, "What's he talking about?" It's just like hearing for the first time that if you do dropped two objects from the same height, they'd both land at the same time even if one of the objects weighed more. It didn't make sense to you at the time until you observed it and analyzed it. Over time, I'll be proven wrong over on some things because I make many comments. However, the percentage of wrong statements will be very small. If you really pay attention to what I'm saying, you'll find that what I'm saying is accurate.
JV: Take us through an actual ESPN Friday Night Fights show.
MK: I show up on Friday afternoon at 1:30 PM and do a chat room session on ESPN.com for an hour. From 2:30-4:00 we have a meeting preparing for the show. In the meeting we'll discuss the topic I'm going to bring up when we go from the fight location to the studio. Brian (Kenney) will bring up the fight or a topic and he'll say, "What's your comment?" and I'll mention my comment. A lot of times, they will tell me that I can't say something like that on TV. So I'll rephrase it until it satisfies everyone to prevent us from being sued. That happens usually every week. That's what the meeting's about basically. From 4:00-6:30 I have free time. At 6:30, we get make-up. At 6:45, we have dinner. At 7:30, we have a conference call between Teddy and the guys on location. We go over some things we may ask each other. We'll say, "Teddy, I might ask you this," just so we don't get caught with our pants down. At 8:30, Brian and I tape the opening segment of the show and after that, the show is live. After the show is over I leave at 11:45 and that's my week.
JV: I've watched in some of the segments that you and Teddy go at each other's throats in a point/counterpoint mode. Is there a genuine disagreement between the two of you?
MK: Disagree? We hardly disagree about anything. Our opinions are remarkably close. In fact, closer than any two people who actually thought about boxing. Teddy has an intuitive sense about good television. He knew from the beginning to pick on the young guy, turned it into a shtick and it's
worked. People love it. If you listen closely he's usually saying, "I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with Max." Or we don't actually disagree but he'll make it sound as if we do. For instance, we might be talking about Tony Ayala and I'll say something like "Hey Teddy, now Ayala was good when he
was younger and could have beaten a guy like Davey Moore, but Marvin Hagler? I mean come on, he wasn't going to beat Hagler was he?" Teddy will was "Hey Brian, calm Max down what are you talking about? He'd never have beaten Hagler." Teddy would make it sound like I said Ayala would have beaten Hagler. He knows how to make a conflict when there isn't one. It's good entertainment. I hardly ever disagree with what he's saying. We usually even agree with how we see fighters match up and why a certain fighter will win. When I was hyping up the Ibeabuchi-Byrd fight, we knew exactly why Ibeabuchi would have a chance to beat Byrd. You know how Foreman beat Frazier? Frazier came right at him. The puncher, the one punch guy, usually has success with the volume puncher, which Frazier was. The volume puncher usually beats the boxer, or at least gives the boxer a lot of problems, because his volume of punches overwhelms the boxer's defensive abilities. The boxer, a lot of times, beats the puncher because he's able to slip the one punch and counterpunch. It's like rock-scissors-paper. Foreman-Frazier-Ali. I knew Ibeabuchi was a volume puncher. He is a boxer/puncher but he's a high volume puncher. Of all the guys who could offset Chris Byrd's defense and not get frustrated, it would be Ibeabuchi. Byrd just wouldn't have the legs to keep the fight off the ropes. With Teddy, his analysis was exactly the same. We share a lot of identical opinions in match-ups. Sometimes we really do disagree. Sometimes I think that he has a different perspective than mine and I have disagreed with his analysis of fighters in history.
JV: You've been extremely vocal in your praise of Roy Jones Jr. What did you see that many of the fans somehow didn't see prior to him regaining his number one status as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world?
MK: He never lost it. There are some things people are right about and some things that people are wrong about. A lot of people say I talk a lot about Roy Jones. I'm surprised they say that. I know I have been giving him his props here and there. On my public access show, it was bad with Pernell Whitaker. If Whitaker were in his prime right now, you'd be saying "Alright Max, enough already!" Do you know why Whitaker was so successful? Let me give you an example. The reason why Chris Byrd wasn't successful against Ibeabuchi was because he didn't have the legs to do it. When a southpaw boxer is circling, he is doing so counterclockwise. That's because when you jab, you're pushing off your back foot which in a southpaw's case it's his left. When you jab you're going to move forward but the motion is also going to move you counterclockwise a little bit. Because of that natural motion, the lefty moves counterclockwise. The righty moves clockwise. If you see two fighters fighting and they are circling each other it looks like they're both moving to the side or no one is advancing. It's very simple when a southpaw and a righty fight. If the right handed fighter is moving clockwise he is actually in advance. If he's moving counterclockwise, he's in retreat and vice versa for a southpaw. Ibeabuchi was forcing Byrd to move clockwise which is backwards for him. Byrd did not have the legs to keep the fight off of the ropes which is why he got taken out. Whitaker was able to do this because he had tree trunk legs. He had that foundation which is one of the first things I look for in a fighter. Fast hands is the first thing of course and defense which Byrd has, but he didn't have those strong legs. Whitaker combined fast hands and good defense with superb boxing skill. I don't think Jones has the legs or the boxing skill of Whitaker but he had more athletic ability than Whitaker had. The reason why I bring up Whitaker
is because he went through what Jones did when he fought Chavez. In the Chavez-Whitaker fight, they tried to frame that fight as "the passing of the torch," when in fact it was a confirmation of the obvious. There was a minority of people in boxing who said Whitaker was better than Chavez was all along. There was a majority of people who said Chavez was better all along. What that fight proved was that the Whitaker people were right all along and the Chavez people were incorrect all along. They were wrong. So technically they should have rewritten the books from 1989 to mid way through 1994 that Whitaker was the best fighter in the world pound for pound. But getting back to Roy Jones to finally answer your question. It's not that Roy Jones regained his number one pound for pound status. It's that he proved that the truth would reveal itself and that it was absurd to even consider de la Hoya in the same thought as Roy Jones. They are two completely separate caliber
of fighter. You will never see a fighter more dominant than Jones. It's not possible. De la Hoya is a candidate for greatness, but there is a huge difference between them. De la Hoya never even gave Jones any competition at pound for pound. In fact, de la Hoya was probably only briefly the second
best fighter pound for pound. He's certainly behind Floyd Mayweather right now. I like to think I talk about fighters who aren't getting their just due or enough press. I try to focus on guys like Zab Judah, Vernon Forrest or Juan Manuel Marquez who the Prince was ducking.
JV: Were you surprised that the great fighters of the past twenty years such as Whitaker, Tommy Hearns and Evander Holyfield were kept off the recent Associated Press poll of the greatest fighters of the century?
MK: Tommy Hearns you could arguably leave off. I personally would have him nine or tenth at welterweight. The only classical divisions that he competed in were welterweight and middleweight. He should be ranked in the top ten at junior middleweight. It is possible to leave him off any top ten list of a division because he was never perceived as really invincible after he lost to Sugar Ray Leonard. He was more like an exciting version of Lennox Lewis. He could beat anyone in the world on any given night or lose to anyone on any given night. It sounds like you could say that about anyone but you can't. Hearns was a guy with an overwhelming offense and a weak chin. If you couldn't get inside his power like Duran and (Pipino) Cuevas couldn't, you're out.But if you could like Doug Dewitt did, you give him a lot of trouble. You can't leave Evander Holyfield off a top ten list. That's just disgraceful. To leave Pernell Whitaker off the top ten lightweights is also absurd. I can understand leaving him off a welterweight list but to leave him off a lightweight list is absurd.I just wrote a column for ESPN.com defending my Whitaker pick. I'll read it to you.
"In 1988, Whitaker was robbed against Jose Luis Ramirez for the lightweight crown. It was the best thing that ever happened to him. George Benton, Pernell's trainer, transformed him after the first
Ramirez fight from a runner to a boxer. In 1989, during the Ramirez rematch, Benton told Whitaker in the corner after the third round "Perfect, Ray Robinson couldn't do it any better." No one could have done it any better than Whitaker did it during his prime as lightweight champ. Whitaker never lost in his prime. His label as a runner is totally unwarranted. As early as the Ramirez rematch, even the announcers at ringside were aware that Whitaker had already undergone a metamorphosis from runner to boxer, and they (Alex Wallau and Dan Dierdorf) commented on it.
'The only guy a prime Whitaker ever ran from was the great Azumah Nelson. Nelson was shut out over 12 rounds as were Ramirez and Greg Haugen. Freddie Pendleton was also dominated. When Whitaker knocked out Juan Nazario in 1990 in a round, he became the first undisputed lightweight champion since Roberto Duran in 1978. Since then, how many undisputed 135-pounders have there been? None. Whitaker was the only one in 22 years. Here are some of the lightweights since Duran who never did unify the title (and I am not sure they could have even had they tried): Alexis Arguello, Hector Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley. Whitaker has been forcing himself onto greatest-ever lists. The only undisputed lightweight champs to win the welterweight title? Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong, Roberto Duran and Pernell Whitaker. The only official four division champs in the history of boxing? Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Pernell Whitaker. Whitaker's prime was at lightweight, so that was his natural weight class. But he moved up to 140 and shut out Harold Brazier and then Rafael Pineda to win the junior welterweight title.
'Next Whitaker moved up to win the welterweight title (WBC and linear) from Buddy McGirt, a guy no one else wanted to fight. Then Whitaker whipped Chavez, the second-best lightweight of the era (behind Pernell of course). The Chavez fight took place at a time when Chavez was at his best. Early in Chavez' career, at 130 and 135 pounds, he started fights very slowly, giving away the first several rounds. After the Meldrick Taylor fight at 140, Chavez started jumping on guys from the outset. He fought the fight of his life against Whitaker, beginning very quickly, cutting off the ring better than he ever had, and going to the body ferociously and consistently. It was Pernell, who was slowed down by the weight increase, and was no longer at his best. In addition the reason the fight took place at 147 is because Chavez ducked Whitaker at 140. By beating McGirt, Whitaker forced Chavez' hand. Next, Whitaker moved up to junior middleweight and decisioned Julio Cesar Vasquez. Outside of one technical loss, Vasquez was unbeaten in over 50 fights, including 10 title defenses (among them a knockout over the recently celebrated Winky Wright). Add it all up: undisputed lightweight champ, with eight title defenses at 135. Won a higher percentage of title fight rounds than any dominant lightweight champion in history. Never lost a round in his brief stint at 140. Won the linear title at 147. Made eight defenses at welter. Beat the best junior middle in the world for the 154-pound title (yes, Vasquez was better than Terry Norris at the time, who would soon be beaten by Simon Brown). Spent at least five years as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Totally dominated future Hall of Famers Nelson and Chavez. Pernell was certainly the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world beginning when he beat Haugen in 1989, and ending, perhaps, when Roy Jones beat James Toney in 1994. In 1997 the majority of observers, including this one, felt that Whitaker was robbed of his title against Oscar De La Hoya. I did not see a fight where I thought Whitaker lost until, as a 35-year-old, blown-up lightweight, Whitaker was beaten by a prime, 25-year-old, dominant welterweight, Felix Trinidad."
That's the Whitaker rap.
JV: What would you like to see happen in the fight game this year?
MK: I want to see Vernon Forrest get a title shot or at least get a shot at the big money. I want to see Zab Judah fulfill his potential, which is to be one of the best fighters in boxing once Jones starts to slow down. I'd like to see Ibeabuchi get his head on straight. I think the best fight out there right now is Ibeabuchi vs. Oleg Maskaev.
JV: What do you want to get out of your broadcasting career? Would you like it to branch off into something else?
MK: Originally, I had a one-year plan. When ESPN signed me it was to a one year contract with a two year option after that. The one-year plan turned into a three-year plan so I'll see where I am after three years.
Book Review: A Fair Fight by Vanessa Toulmin (World's Fair Pub.:1999)
Reviewed by Mike DeLisa
Blessedly, boxing's allure derives from with its people not its statistics. And, every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds us of that fact, and which opens a window into the lives of the characters that make boxing enduringly fascinating.
A Fair Fight by Vanessa Toulmin delivers us to the world of the boxing booths that peppered the English countryside for over 200 years. These booths traveled with fairs and circuses throughout England, and provided an entertainment staple.
Modern boxing as we know it was birthed in England. Since a major venue for exhibiting entertainment was the fair (or carnival) it was inevitable that boxers, too, would display on the fairgrounds. Thus from the time of Figg in the 1700s, the boxing booth was a common and popular fixture. By the 1920s, traveling with a boxing booth was an accepted form of gaining experience and of staying in shape.
The boxing both itself was a large tent with a false front painted with extravagant boxing scenes. Toulmin's book provides many rare photos of these fronts - from the extravagance of Ron Taylor's Excelsior Pavilion Boxing Academy to the forlorn façade of Matt Moran's Up-to-Date Boxing Show. Inside the booth, fighters would await challenges from the audience. If none volunteered, it was not uncommon for a "plant" in the audience to issue a challenge and climb into the ring. The fighters would also fight exhibitions and bouts with other fighters.
So, for example, in 1910, you could attend a carnival in the English countryside. You would stroll along and visit the various side-shows with the every popular fat lady or view Teeny Tiny Tony, the World's Smallest Pony. You could then enter the boxing booth. After the barker made sure that the tent was packed and all had paid admission, you could climb into the ring against a scrawny teenager who weighed no more than 105 pounds. And then Jimmy Wilde would kick your ass! If that wasn't worth 6d admission, you could move onto another town and watch Bobby Dobbs beat up somebody else.
Toulmin devotes a brief chapter to a few of the great fighters who worked the booths - Nat Langham, Tom Sayers, Jem Mace, Tommy Farr, Jimmy Wilde, Len Johnson, Freddie Mills, Benny Lynch, Randy Turpin, and many others, including the ubiquitous Muhammad Ali. She presents many stories that truly bring to life many names that too often are mere record-book entries. For example, she devotes a section to Joe Beckett, who had a long and overall successful ring career. Today, if Beckett is recalled at all it is for his two kayo losses to Georges Carpentier. Toulmin describes an elderly Beckett nearly 50 years later lamenting "I beat all the British heavyweights of my time . . but even 40 years after I retired the only talk of my defeats by Carpentier."
The bulk of the book is a wonderful evocation of the life on the fairground in general and the boxing booth in particular. Using for the most part first-hand interviews with surviving booth owners, Toulmin presents the stories of eight families who owned boxing shows. Here we learn of such characters as The Mighty Atom Kid Furness, a disciple of Jem Mace, who not only ran one of the most successful shows but also promoted hundreds of official matches throughout England.
Another Chapter is devoted to the Hickman family, who trace there lineage to Tom Hickman, the Gasman, whose 1821 fight with Bill Neat was immortalized by William Hazlitt in his essay "The Fight." We learn of the Gasman's tragic demise and how his widow was able to purchase a boxing booth by virtue of a benefit thrown by other fighters of the day. She also presents the story of 1930s British heavyweight and booth performer Charles Hickman Jr., who ran his own show and who died as tragically as The Gasman.
We also get a glimpse into the fascinating career of Len Johnson, who by all accounts was a wonderful fighter and who ran his own show after retiring. Johnson, a black, beat such tough men as the inscrutable Leone Jacovacci (Jack Walker) and Len Harvey. Johnson, who was black, is recalled by virtually all of the surviving booth owners as a wonderful fighter and dedicated showman. His eye for talent led him to hire a young Benny Lynch for his booth. Johnson later became a communist and sought election in Manchester. For those of us who were weaned on The Ring and endless articles about Jack Dempsey, his story is worth further research. (But don't go to old issues of The Ring, except for a line here and there his story is unreported.)
Toulmin also devotes a chapter to "Lady Boxers" and their role in the development of the sport. Here we learn of Champion females from the 1700s, through vaudeville performances by such acts as Matchett and the Gordon Sisters, whom Thomas Edison filmed in 1901. At the Library of Congress I once reviewed a paper print of the Edison film cited by Toulmin. That film is available via the Internet. So go to http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mbrsmi/varsmp.1628 to see the Gordon Sisters Boxing.
The book is heavily illustrated with photographs, handbills, and fight posters. (Indeed, overall the book is very well designed.) I highly recommend it to the boxing fan.
Visit the publisher's website at http://www.worldsfair.co.uk/wf/pages/index.tpl
KID McCOY "DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE"
By Tracy Callis
Who was he Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? For sure, he was both! He was fun loving, friendly, and kind but he was also deceitful, spiteful, and cruel. He was gentle, polite, and unassuming but he was also violent, ruthless, and dangerous. He would change from "Mr. Nice Guy" to "Mr. Villain" in a flash and there was no telling when the transition would take place.
McCoy always carried a roll of money with him and he was likely to show up any place at any time. He liked good times, jokes, and women. They liked him too. Playwright Maurice Maeterlinck wrote that he was the "Handsomest human on earth". He married eight times, three times to the same woman (see McCallum, 1975, p 192).
Every so often a boxer comes along who seems to anticipate his opponents every move Nonpareil Jack Dempsey, Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson, Gene Tunney, and Muhammad Ali were such men. They handled men easily regardless of size or skill. Kid McCoy belongs with this group.
Tall and skinny, pale and sickly-looking, he hardly looked like a fighter. That is, before the fight started. But, once it began, there was no doubt in anyones mind - the man could handle himself. The New York World newspaper once described his movements as "quiet and cat-like" and wrote that "He does not look the prizefighter, nor is he built like one."
Stillman (1920, p 44) wrote "He had a wonderfully quick left hand and a powerful straight right." He later added that McCoys form was the "height of science, and his left hand the best the ring has ever seen."
Andre and Fleischer (1975, p 207) described McCoy as "the wily corkscrew artist, a cagey, clever battler." Odd (1983, pp 83 84) called McCoy a "cunning and skillful boxer". Jim Corbett said he was "a marvel, a genius of scientific fighting" (see McCallum, 1975, p 190).
Fast hands, fast feet, shifty, slippery, crafty, and clever - that was the Kid. It didnt matter much what the other mans style or ability was. Any advantage seemed to melt away once McCoy began to pepper him with jabs and come home with brisk, snappy shots with either fist.
His first fight took place in 1891 and his last in 1916. Some sources report he had 200 fights during his career and lost only six. He once knocked out a 250 pound black in one round at Bullawayo, South Africa. He gave Gus Ruhlin, top heavyweight contender, a terrible drubbing.
Philadelphia Jack OBrien said McCoy was "vicious, fast, and almost impossible to beat" (see McCallum, 1975, p 190). When his cruel streak surfaced (which was often), he would butcher his opponents excessively with his ripping, slicing type of punches. In many a fight, when he had his man staggering around and nearly out on his feet, instead of finishing him off, the Kid would suddenly change tactics and dance around his man cutting him up with his "corkscrew" punches.
According to McCallum (1975, p 191) "The Kid had marvelous speed and elusiveness, besides his tricks and the cruel, cutting power of his punches." Cantwell (1971, p 42) reported that after fighting McCoy, Jack Wilkes face "resembled a raw beefsteak." He added (p 46), against Tommy West, McCoy cut loose and had West bleeding and groggy as he floored him six times.
McCoy began his career with a series of victories. His first loss occurred when he fought the scrappy Billy Steffers. Young and cocky, the Kid thought so little of Steffers that he walked to the center of the ring at the opening bell and stuck out his chin at his opponent - big mistake. Billy caught McCoy on the point of the chin and ended it right then.
McCoy met Steffers again, nearly four months later. This time he was more cautious and sliced his man to shreds with cutting jabs and stiff punches on the way to a 10-0 shutout win.
McCoy held a grudge against Tommy Ryan, the great champion, for battering him around in a practice session as a young sparring partner. He swore to get even some day and he did.
In 1896, he convinced Tommy he was sick and dying and needed money. Ryan agreed to a fight and trained sparingly. McCoy battered him cruelly. He bested the great Ryan again in 1897 and 1900.
One of McCoys best-known fights was his victory against the terrific light-heavyweight, Joe Choynski. It was a red-hot contest with plenty of knockdowns between two crafty, sharp-hitting fighters. McCoy knocked Choynski down 16 times and was floored 12 times himself. Following this bout, the Kid picked up the moniker the "Real McCoy."
An interesting story surrounds McCoys fight with Tom Sharkey. In the old days, when no films of an opponent were available for study, fighters often hired men who had sparred with or fought against their upcoming foe. McCoy and his entourage kidnapped big Bob Armstrong, who was a frequent sparring partner of "Sailor Tom", and took him prisoner to McCoys camp to find out about Sharkeys strengths and weaknesses. Armstrong was so angered by this act that he fed McCoy incorrect information. The result was that McCoy lost his bout against Sharkey.
After the Kid retired from boxing in 1916, he served in the U.S. Army during World War I. Following that, he went to Hollywood and acted in a few movies. In 1924, he was convicted of murdering Theresa Mors, a divorcee who was living with him. He was paroled in 1932 and, afterwards, worked for Ford Motor Company. McCoy committed suicide in Detroit on April 18, 1940.
McCallum writes (1975, p 190) "Its possible that for his weight, which ranged from 145 pounds to 170, McCoy was the finest fighter in the world, when he was at his best."
Johnston (1949) wrote "McCoy was one of the most skillful boxers that ever climbed through the ropes. Barring Corbett, he was probably the most artistic fighter we have ever produced."
McCoy was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1957 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. Nat Fleischer ranked him as the #1 Light-Heavyweight of all-time.
In the opinion of this writer, McCoy was the among the greatest fighters of all time in three divisions the #3 Welterweight, the #7 Middleweight, the #7 Light-Heavyweight. He was also one of the all-time best "Pound-for-Pound" boxers who ever entered the ring.
Andre, S. and Fleischer, N. 1975. A Pictorial History of Boxing. Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books
Cantwell, R. 1971. The Real McCoy. Princeton, NJ: Auerbach Publishers, Inc.
Johnston, A. 1949. Ten And Out! New York: Washburn, Ives
McCallum, J. 1975. The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company
Odd, G. 1983. The Encyclopedia of Boxing. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited
Stillman, M. 1920. Great Fighters and Boxers. New York: Marshall Stillman Association
A "Wake-Up" Call For Ruben Olivares
By Rick Farris
Starting my boxing career in Los Angeles during the mid 60's had it's advantages. L.A. had always been a great fight town and produced some the best boxers to ever step into a ring. At the time, promoter Aileen Eaton
put on weekly televised boxing shows at the Olympic Auditorium and other promoters would have fights at a variety of venues thruout the area. With several gyms packed with champions, contenders and talented local prospects, boxing in Los Angeles was doing very well. In fact, no town anywhere had boxing any better than Los Angeles did between the mid-60's and 70's.
Of all the positive factors relating to boxing in Los Angeles, the one that I liked best was the city's close proximity to the Mexican border and it's strong Latin population. Boxing is very popular in Mexico and this had a lot of influence on it's popularity in Southern California. This gave Los Angeles boxing fans a chance to see some of the greatest Mexican boxers in history.
Not just any Mexican boxer was brought up from below the border to fight in L.A., only the very best. If they were good enough to make a big name for themselves in Mexico they might have a chance to gain world wide exposure in the City of Angels.
This was mainly due to legendary promoter George Parnanssus. After arriving in Los Angeles as a teenager in 1909, Parnassus became one of the biggest boxing promoters in history. Growing up in Los Angeles the sharp young Greek learned the Spanish language and understood the Mexican culture. He would use these talents to gain the respect of Mexican business men and forged an alliance of associates below the border. These connections, as well as others in Los Angeles, made it possible for Parnassus to showcase the great Mexican boxers before sell out crowds at the 18,000 seat Forum in Inglewood, California.
Thanks to Parnassus, fighters such as Ruben Olivares, Jose Napoles, Julio Cesar Chavez, Carlos Zarate, Alfonso Zamora and many others made their U.S. debuts in Southern California.
The great thing for me was that I was there to see it and be a part of it. As a professional between 1970 and 1976, I fought from bantamweight to lightweight in Los Angeles and was able to find out exactly how good many of these great champions were first hand. Many of these men were champions when I sparred with them, or were former, or future world champions. However, all were exceptional. In retrospect, I'm grateful today for still having my health when I think back on trading punches with these guys.
I'm often asked to share stories about some of these fighters. Recently my friend Andy asked me if I had one about Ruben Olivares and this came to mind.
Olivares is the greatest bantamweight I ever knew, and one of the two or three best to ever hold the title. I didn't wait for a Mexican prospect to arrive in Los Angeles before learning about them. I made it a point to get my hands on all the information I could about what was going on in boxing below the border. By the time a fighter reached Los Angeles, I knew more about him than most. One of these fighters was Ruben Olivares.
Reading about Olivares' career prior to his U.S. debut had me very excited about this guy. He was only 19 when he fought for the first time at the Forum in 1968. Less than a year later when he challenged Lionel Rose for the
bantamweight title, Olivares entered the ring unbeaten in 49 fights with 47 KO's. The only two men to last the distance with Olivares, German Bastidas and Felipe Gonzales, had been KO'ed in rematches. Rose became Ruben's 50th victim and 48th KO.
Olivares made his name at a time when there were many exceptional Mexican bantamweights. Never before or since in boxing history have their been so many championship quality banatamweights active at the same time and all were from Mexico. Many were veteran contenders such as Jesus Pimentel and Jose Medel. There were also new kids on the block such as Chucho Castillo, Raphael Herrera, Rudolfo Martinez, Romeo Anaya and Rogelio Lara. However, Olivares was the best of the best.
No champion is perfect and Ruben had one imperfection that was responsible for just about every loss he suffered in his career. With all due respect to the boxers who defeated Olivares, I have to say that many would not have done so without Ruben's help. Olivares, for all of his blessings, had the curse of loving to have a good time. This doesn't make him a bad guy, however, it has ruined champions thruout the history of the sport.
"Rock-a-bye Ruben", as he was known for putting so many opponents to sleep, was the original party animal. Being a great boxing talent just came too easy for Olivares. I think it bored him after awhile and he would play
around just to break up the monotony.
I worked as one of Olivares' sparring partners for his title defense against Jesus Pimentel in 1971. When I first joined the Olivares camp, I was very aware of Ruben's awesome punching power and knew that I would get a taste of it sooner or later. During the two weeks I worked with Ruben, I'd guess we sparred about 30 rounds or so. I was a fast featherweight and Olivares' trainer, Cuyo Hernandez, liked Olivares to start with me for two or three rounds before boxing with the other sparring partners. They wanted me to start fast and press the champion to prevent him from getting lazy and starting too slowly. I was Ruben's designated "wake-up" call.
I was aware that if I got careless with Olivares I might be the one in need of a wake-up call. I did what I was supposed to do and was surprised that Olivares never once hammered me with one of those explosive punches. In fact, I recall bloodying his nose with a crisp jab in one exchange and expected a major retaliation. However, it never happened.
After our first workout, I climbed out of the ring and one of Olivares' seconds pulled off my gloves. I saw Hernandez cleaning the blood out of the champion's nose with a Q-tip and told the second that I was surprised how easy Ruben worked. The trainer spoke very little English but answered, "He no go hard in gym, but in fight . . Ay ya ya"!
He wasn't telling me anything that I didn't already know. After seeing what Olivares had done to Lionel Rose a couple of years previous, I said a little prayer of thanks each time I stepped out of the ring following our workouts.
Ruben had a busy schedule. He would wake up and run each morning in Griffith Park, followed by breakfast. Then he would meet with the press or any publicity related personnel connected with the match. In the early afternoon we would workout at a gym set up in the large ballroom of the Elks Building near Wilshire Blvd. & Alvarado St. in downtown L.A. After the workouts I don't know exactly what Olivares did. I imagine he rested up for his night job, which generally took place in the bar at "La Fonda", a Mexican night club located around the corner from the Elks Building. After a busy day, it was margaritas and senioritas for Olivares.
Parnassus had moved his offices from the Alexandria Hotel to the Elks Bldg. the previous year, while the Alexandria was under renovation. This was perfect for Olivares because he was within walking distance of his favorite L.A. hangout.
At the time, my career was being handled by Suey Welch. Welch (who had managed middleweight champ Gorilla Jones) was George Parnassus' best friend so I would often spend time in Parnassus' office. The list of Parnassus' daily guests read like a "Who's who" of boxing history. Some of the greatest legends of the sport passed through George's office.
I made it a point to arrive early for my workouts so as I could be around when some of these guys showed up. Guys like Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Ike Williams, Jimmy McLarnin, Enrique Bolanos, Mushy Callahan, Art Aragon, Lauro Salas, Lou Nova and many others would stop by to talk with Parnanssus about "The old days". I'd just sit quietly and soak in the stories and you wouldn't believe some of the things I heard. I'd hear names from the past, who was crooked and who took a "dive" in a certain fight, or who had somebody murdered. It was something right out of Bogart movie. I also realized that I was sitting in the presence or royalty, boxing royalty.
It was quite an education for a 19-year-old and one I would not trade for anything. I would also hear rumors about which fighters were having troubles and often would know way ahead of time when a fighter was likely to be upset by an underdog. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hear about a fight being "fixed", just about fighters that were expected to win but who were likely to lose due to some problem in their life. I could have made a lot of money if I were betting fights in those days.
However, much of the talk was about the bantamweight champion and his conditioning. Jesus Pimentel was past his prime and not considered a threat to Olivares unless Olivares was not in proper shape. Pimentel had knocked
out 66 of his 72 opponents and was not to be taken lightly.
Olivares had lost the title just the previous year to Chucho Castillo after defeating Castillo in an earlier title defense. Conditioning was the reason for Olivares' loss and after regaining the title from Castillo you'd think
he'd have learned his lesson.
However, Olivares was just too much for Pimentel and stopped the hard punching challenger in the 11th round.
A few months later, Olivares would defend his title against another top Mexican bantam Rafael Herrera. Herrera was another of the great young Mexican boxers at the time but not in Olivares' league when the champ was in shape. However, Olivares was not in shape for this fight and Herrera took the title by stopping Ruben in the eighth round.
Olivares was having trouble maintaining 118 pounds with his lifestyle and decided to move up to the featherweight division. Two years later he would win the WBA featherweight title but lose it to Alexis Arguello four months
later in Los Angeles. The following year he would knockout Bobby Chacon for the WBC featherweight title but only hold it for three months before losing to David Kotey.
Those of you who got to see Olivares in shape know what I mean when I say he is one of the greatest bantamweights in history. The last time I saw Ruben was about eight or nine years ago while attending a boxing card at the Forum. I was sitting ringside next to Dan Goossen and a friend when Olivares walked directly in front of us to say hello to one of the ringside officials. I'd have never recognized him had I not been told who it was. The once proud champ was thin and dressed in blue jeans and a black leather jacket. He flashed his gold tooth smile toward a few of the fans who screamed his name and waved at him. However, he was basically anonymous, and few recognized him.
Behind us a couple of young punks were upset that he was blocking their view of the ring as he stood talking to the official.
"Sit down you little jerk before I come over and knock you out", shouted one of the drunk kids. Goossen and I turned and looked at each other and both smiled.
Those kids had no idea they were screaming at one of the most murderous punching champions in history. They were lucky they didn't find out the hard way.
The King of the Four-Rounders An Interview With Eric "Butterbean" Esch
Conducted by Thomas Gerbasi, December 6, 1999
TG-Has any opponent been picked for your next fight?
BB-They have one picked. I dont like to know who Im fighting. I never have. I just like to go in there and fight. I never like to study tapes. Ive only known twice. I fought a rematch once where I knew who I was fighting, and then when I fought Peter McNeeley, I knew I was fighting him.
TG-Is there anyone who would make you go to Bob Arum and say "Get me this guy?"
BB-Ive been pushing for a Tyson fight, probably since he got out of prison because hes not the same as he was before. I think its very possible that it could happen now.
TG-Have you two ever met?
BB-Yes, weve met several times. He knows I want to fight him. Dan Goosen, Tysons promoter with America Presents, also knows I want to fight him. Their reaction is "yeah, yeah, well do it" which is more of an okay to calm me down. I honestly think that too many people want to see it, that too many people will buy it.
TG-Would it be a four round fight?
BB-We could schedule it for fifteen, but its gonna be over quick. As hard a puncher as he is, and as hard a puncher I am, I honestly believe that within two rounds I can knock him out. Because hell stand there and try to brawl. He dont move like he used to.
TG-So you wouldnt have a chance with the old Tyson?
BB-I wouldnt say not a chance, but there would be a lot less of a chance. The Tyson of now is very beatable. The old Tyson was probably one of the best boxers around. He would have been hard to beat.
TG-Youre a very active fighter. Are you constantly in training, or are the fights your training?
BB-Im pretty much training constantly. Six days a week. I try to take every Sunday off.
TG-What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses as a fighter?
BB-Maybe my strength is my power. I hit as hard as any of them, and Ive got a great chin.
TG- And weaknesses?
BB-None that I know of.
TG-Let me re-phrase that. What have you been working on improving in the gym?
BB-The trainer I have now, Donnie Dodd, he has me throwing more punches, not just power punches. Ever since the McNeeley fight Ive been throwing more combinations and less power punches.
TG-How were you approached after fighting in Toughman contests to take up boxing?
BB-I won 18 different titles in Toughman, and when I came to my hometown to fight again, there were 32 heavyweights signed up, and the second I signed up, all of them dropped out except one. So I only had to fight one fight. And thats really not good for a show when you normally have 16 fights in the heavyweight division, and instead of 16 you only have one. So after that, they pretty much retired me, and Toughman told me I couldnt fight in it anymore. The promoter of that, Art Dore, goes "Well, Butterbean, have you ever thought about fighting pro?" And I said "Sure, Id love to do that." And then, Butterbean was started.
TG-When did you realize that this was going to get as big as its gotten?
BB-Its still hard to realize it. It just keeps getting bigger. Im not your typical boxer. Im more of a fighter. I go in there and brawl, throw a lot of big punches. I dont box typically. I can, but I get bored with it. The crowd gets bored with it. One day I might try to box. People want to see a fight. A typical boxing match is boring to watch. Two guys hittin and runnin and dancin. Who wants to pay to see two grown men dance?
TG-What has been your familys reaction to your sudden fame?
BB-My wife has pretty much gotten used to it. The kids, they go to Wal-Mart and see a video game with my picture on it, and theyve adapted to it by now(laughs).
TG-What would your reaction be if one of your kids wanted to fight?
BB-I would try my best to talk them out of it. Its not an easy sport, like a lot of people think. Its not easy like I thought. In the beginning theres very little money, and for a lot of fighters, they never see any money. Its a real hard sport to get going anywhere, and plus, you get a lot of bangs and bruises.
TG-Do you have any fears in regard to any long term damage or injury?
BB-No. In my arms Ive had both my biceps reattached, but other than that, no. Im still thinking pretty straight.
TG-Whats been the high point in your career so far?
BB-I think McNeeley was one of the higher points because he was actually a boxer-boxer. He could actually box. I outboxed him. In fact thats one of the only fights in which I actually boxed. He hit me less than he hit Tyson.
TG-Would the low point be the Mitchell Rose fight (Butterbeans only loss)?
BB-You know, I really dont see that as a low point. I had three fights that month; I was burned out. I just really ignored that fight.
TG-So you werent hitting the streets of New York too heavy?
BB-The publicity really kept me busy. I really didnt have time to train for that fight like I should have. I was gone constantly, but I cant make excuses. I would have loved to have fought him again, but Roses camp would never fight again. It doesnt really even matter to me anymore. It did in the beginning, but it would be such an easy fight now that I wouldnt even want to do it.
TG-Have you and Bob Arum ever discussed fighting one of the heavyweight contenders other than Tyson?
BB-Wed love to. Weve mentioned it to a lot of them and they turned us down.
TG-Why do you think that is?
BB-A lot of people do underestimate me but they all know that I can hit. Louis Monaco knocked out Douglas, and I just annihilated him. Simply from just brute power. A lot of the heavyweights know that I can hit, so they get beat by me, theyre done. Theres no excuse for Butterbean knocking them out. I hit just as hard as any of them.
TG-Lets say you fight Michael Grant. The fight goes past the fourth round, whats the game plan then?
BB-Thats what a lot of people misunderstand. Earlier in my career, my third pro fight was a six round fight. And I went six rounds with no trouble.
TG-So you can go ten?
BB-I can go ten with no problem. A lot of people dont understand that I can go the distance. When we train in the gym, we train as if its a 12 round fight. Thats why the four rounders are so exciting.
TG-Before you started fighting were you a fan of the sport, or did you just get thrown into it?
BB-I really didnt like to watch typical boxing. When the two guys got in there and banged and threw punches, when it was like that, I loved to watch it.
TG-Who were some of your favorites?
BB-Seeing George Foreman on his comeback tour was when I really got hooked. He wasnt a typical boxer. He would come in and knock them out.
TG-How would a Foreman-Butterbean fight come out?
BB-I talked to George recently, and hes retired now. He going to stick to his announcing. That would be another great fight. Michael Grant would be a good fight. You can not miss Michael Grant with a punch. He actually gets mad if you miss him. He gets hit more than anybody Ive ever seen. I really thought a lot of Golota until after he quit with Grant. He had that fight won. I have no quit in me whatsoever. Ive detached both biceps during fights, and Ive finished the fights. I completely detached the muscle off the bone. They had to do surgery, drill holes, and reattach the muscle to the bone. But I finished both fights. Very painful.
TG-As a fighter, how does it feel when people question your skills or what youre doing in the ring?
BB-Most of the boxing purists have come around. Ive had several of them (the ones who were very critical in the beginning) come around. And lets face it, in the beginning I couldnt even fight. I would come in, throw big bombs, and knock them out. Now they come up to me and say if Tyson and you did fight, you would beat him. But there always a few. Like Larry Merchant. Nobody likes Larry Merchant. I dont even think his wife likes him. I like him though. Hes great. He pisses people off, telling them how bad I am, which makes them like me even more. And then theres Bert Sugar. Who cares about him?
As for the Tyson fight, it comes down to "would people watch it?" And they know it would be a real fight. Somebody would get knocked out. Either Id knock him out or hed knock me out. And honestly, Tysons too small. Hes only 220 pounds. Im now 325, so Ive got 105 pounds on him. And I can hit. Even the critics, they even admit that I can punch.
TG-How do you explain your appeal?
BB-The only thing I can come up with is that people can relate to me. After a fight, Ill go out there and meet the people. You know, like after a comedy show, where the comedians will come out and meet the people. Ill always go out and meet the people. I get as much out of meeting them as they do out of meeting me.
I enjoy doing it, but it is an obligation also. People are the ones that pay your salary. The ones that buy the tickets, theyre your boss. It isnt something where someone told me "Hey, youve got to do this." Ive always done it on my own.
TG-Is it tough to change from the nice guy to the fighter you have to be in the ring?
BB-When I get in the ring its like theyre trying to take money from me. When I worked in the factory I made $250 a week. Thats not a lot of money. I dont want to ever have to go back to doing that. I dont see anything wrong with working 8-12 hours a day, but I would much rather train, fight, travel, and do the things Im doing now. So every time I step in the ring, theyre trying to take that away from me. That kinda pisses me off.
TG-Do you have any comments on the article in the Miami Herald that alleged that some of your fights were fixed?
BB-What the article said was that some of the people said that they took dives. Which is more or less a guy getting hit and saying "okay, I dont want to go no more". Theyre not saying that they were paid to take a dive. Thats where the article was misleading. One of the guys, I think his name was Kenny Woods, I was looking back at some old fight tapes, and he was one of my best knockouts. He was out so cold, his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. Believe me, even if they paid him, nobody would take a hit like that. Let them write, as long as they spell my name write. The more publicity I get, the more people watch. I get more fans that way. They watch and say, no way is somebody going to take a hit like that.
TG-How long do you plan on fighting, and what is your ultimate goal?
BB-Ive had a lot of fun so far. Im going to fight for at least a couple of more years. Theres a lot of other opportunities out there. I worked for the WWF, so theres been a lot of interest in that, but my love right now is still fighting.
TG-What would you say to someone who thinks boxing should be banned?
BB-I think theyre silly. There are sports that are actually more dangerous, football for one. Guys go out and get concussions, and ten minutes later, theyre playing again. You get knocked out in boxing, youre out for 90 days. Boxings very cautious. It aint like it was in the old days, even 10 years ago, when they would let fights go on and on. If they think a fighter is getting even a little bit hurt, theyll stop the fight. In fact, Jake LaMotta came up to me when we were doing a charity benefit together, and he said that they would stop half of his fights from back then nowadays. Which is true. So boxings so much safer now than it used to be.
Are Todays Fighters Better Than The Great Fighters Of The Past?
By Monte Cox
Many boxing fans and sports writers today are taken by the idea that modern fighters are bigger, stronger, and better than the great fighters of the past. But does that mean that modern boxers are truly better fighters than their historical counterparts? Does athletic ability alone determine a great fighter?
Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield once brashly claimed that he could beat all the heavyweight champions who came before him. "I know everything that they know plus more," he said. But surely the temporal succession of fighters in history does not necessarily mean an "adding up" of previous ability. If that were the case then all of the heavyweight champions who came before Holyfield could have made the same claim in their day, and have been equally correct. But even a cursory look at the facts, not to mention the logic of the claim, proves that such is not the case.
Did Rocky Marciano, a strong but crude brawler, know all the defensive techniques of Jack Johnson? Was Sonny Liston a master of the feint, like Jersey Joe Walcott? Muhammad Ali never punched to the body, so he obviously did not "know" how to punch like previous champions Dempsey or Marciano. George Foreman (in his prime) was a brutal slugger, but he did not throw multi-punch combinations, so how could he have mastered the techniques of Joe Louis?
Did Holyfield know how to bob and weave like Joe Frazier, or fight out of a crouch like Marciano? Does he now or did he ever have the footwork of Muhammad Ali or Gene Tunney, or the parrying skills of Jack Johnson? Of course not. Holyfield stands straight up and has gaping holes in his boxing knowledge. He is particularly vulnerable to a strong jabber, as his fights with Holmes, Foreman, Bowe, Moorer, and Lewis have amply demonstrated.
Experience is the great teacher. The way to learn at anything is by experience. In order to make progress in a game like chess, which mirrors combat strategy in the ring, one has to play many hundreds of games. The same is true for the "sweet science" of boxing. Today, top professionals fight up to four times a year, often less. Ray Robinson achieved a record in his prime of 128-1-2 (1NC) by fighting everyone and fighting often. This record included strong opponents such as Sammy Angott, Marty Servo, Fritzie Zivic, Jake LaMotta, Henry Armstrong, Tommy Bell, Georgie Abrams, and Charlie Fusari. How often do todays top professionals fight, and what is the quality of their opponents?
Willie Pep went 135-1-1 reigning as Featherweight champion for 6 years and had two reigns as champion. Sam Langford, Jack Britton, Johnny Dundee, Harry Greb, Benny Leonard, Ted "Kid" Lewis, Maxie Rosenbloom, and Kid Williams had over 200 professional fights. Many fought up to four times in a month rather than four times in a year. They fought with injuries rather than whine about them. The top fighters of today cannot match yesterdays top fighters in terms of experience, and hence cannot match their understanding of the game.
Evander Holyfield peaked as heavyweight champion at age 34 when he beat Mike Tyson. Why? Because of the amount of experienced he obtained as a fighter against a number of different styles. Jesse Ferguson was a heavyweight of the 90s who was successful at age 40 against much younger, stronger, and more powerful men because of his level of experience. Larry Holmes and George Foreman are other examples of fighters who were successful against younger men, and sometimes better athletes, because of their experience.
All of these modern examples of greatly seasoned professional fighters were past their physical peak. A fighters physical prime is between the ages of 25-28. There is a deterioration of physical skills after age 30, which accelerates after 35. Now, imagine a fighter who had the experience that the greats of the past had while still in his physical prime. Can you picture some of todays champions with even a smidgen of the fighting experience of the greats of the past?
There are other causes contributing to the decline of fighting technique in the modern era, other than lack of experience. Today, for example, there is a lack of great trainers. Joe Frazier commented (KO, March 1999) that "these guys arent trained by real champions, by great ex-fighters." Most of the truly great trainers in the past had themselves been great fighters. Marciano's trainer, Charley Goldman, claimed to have had over 300 pro fights. Jack Blackburn, Louis trainer, was one of the great fighters of the turn of the century (with over 150 pro fights) and had fought the likes of Joe Gans and Sam Langford. How many fights did Don Turner and Emmanuel Steward have? Most trainers today fall into either the category of the motivator ("your blowin it son", or are conditioning experts ("no pain, no gain"). But they lack any real knowledge of the intricacies of the game, which is forged over many years of experience spent actually fighting. Ray Arcel, who learned from some of the greatest trainers of history noted, "Boxing is not really boxing today. Its theater. Some kids might look good. But they dont learn their trade. If you take a piece of gold out of the ground, you know its gold. But you have to clean it. You have to polish it. But there arent too many guys capable of polishing a fighter."
Thats why there are so few good defensive fighters these days, why so few can feint and counter. How many fighters today do you see who actually use head movement? Modern boxers do not know the techniques that made the fighters of the past great craftsman, as opposed to mere fighters. The modern boxer is a commercial product, manufactured by hype, a shill for magazines or cable channels or pay-per-view embarrassments. Fighters of the modern era are weak at counter-punching, defense, head movement, shoulder rolling, bobbing and weaving, jabbing with their chin down, parrying, feinting, etc. (you get the idea). They lack these skills because they lack experience they simply dont fight enough.
A good example of a typical "modern" fighter is James Page. He is fast, he is physically strong, he is a very hard puncher, and he throws combinations well. However, he has poor balance and leaves himself open after missing; he sometimes gets wild and looks amateurish, exposing himself to lethal counter-punches; when he gets hit he backs straight up so he can be hit again; he drops his hands after punching, which presents countering opportunities to the smart, experienced fighter. This description of one James Page, unfortunately, could equally describe nearly all of the top fighters in the game today.
The great fighters of legend would use such a fighter for target practice. They would make him miss and make him pay, they would keep him off-balance, upset his timing and rhythm, feint him out of his shoes and counter-punch with authority. The "old-timers" threw textbook punches, straight, short, and accurate, and knew how to pace themselves by wasting as little energy as possible. Joe Louis and the fighters of the black "dynamite era" (Joe Gans, Joe Walcott, George Dixon, Sam Langford, etc.) were prototypical of the "old school" of fighting. Those of the succeeding generation (Benny Leonard, Johnny Dundee, Tommy Gibbons, etc.) were completely "modern" in their mobility, and footwork. Admittedly, the footwork of the "black dynamite" era was engineered for a lengthy fight, but they still could spring forward with explosiveness, and kept their defense "tight" while doing so. They stepped and jabbed, set up their punches and worked the body far better than most of todays fighters.
One of the more physically gifted athletes of today is Fernando Vargas. However, he too stands straight up, shows no head movement, and can be countered by a smart, technically proficient puncher (as Ronald "Winky" Wright proved). Felix Trinidad looked like an amateur for most of his fight against Oscar Delahoya. He missed badly, and had not a clue as to how to cut off the ring on the dancing Delahoya. David Tua is a heavyweight with one of the most powerful left hooks I have ever seen. But he does not have the ability to effectively fight on the inside; and appears to lack the commitment to work the body (the bobbing and weaving movement of a Joe Frazier or a Jack Dempsey could teach him a thing or two). Recent heavyweights such as Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis and Michael Grant are notorious for dropping their left hands after jabbing. Holmes was nearly knocked out by both Earnie Shavers and light-hitting Renaldo Snipes after making such a mistake. Oliver McCall knocked out Lewis, after Lewis continually dropped his left, and Grant came within seconds of being kayoed by Andrew Golota after dropping his hands. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Some modern boxing analysts, like ESPN2s Max Kellerman, have commented that Pernell Whitaker was the greatest lightweight because he was unhittable. But so was Benny Leonard. B. Leonard was a true boxing master with much greater experience than Whitaker. He too rarely lost a round in his prime and bragged that "I never even mussed up my hair." Even a faded Benny Leonard was still a highly intelligent fighter. Former welterweight champion Jimmy McLarnin said of Leonard "I had a bad habit of leaning under a right hand, and the very first punch he hit me, I saw a million stars. I made a mistake and you couldnt make a mistake with him" (In This Corner, Heller, 1994 pg. 167). The great fighters like Leonard had the experience to find the weakness in an opponents style and capitalize on it, with devastating efficiency. Ray Arcel was asked who was the greatest fighter he ever saw. He replied, (Benny Leonard or Ray Robinson), "I hate to say either one but Leonards mental energy surpassed anybody elses" (In the Corner, Anderson, 1991, pg. 148-149).
Joe Gans would have beaten Whitaker as well. He hit harder than Felix Trinidad did! Gans knocked out fighters that were much bigger than anyone Trinidad has beaten. Remember, those old-timers had to fight almost anyone and regularly ventured up far beyond their "normal" weight. Today's fighters are protected by business interests and the big money pay-off of a pay-per-view extravaganza. But dont try and convince me that they are "better" because they fight today, as opposed to yesterday, and that Gans wasnt as good because he fought "along time ago".
Most boxing fans are only knowledgeable of the fighters of their era (the ones they have seen), and are ignorant of history. If they really knew what those men could do they would fully comprehend that boxing skill does not accumulate like facts in science that todays theories are better than yesterdays. It is not an adding up to of anything it is a science in the sense that the strategies and tactics of hand-to-hand combat are principles, that form the basis of the sport, which are ignored at the fighters peril. Boxing like the ancient art of the Samurai is a dying art form. The days of battlefield swordsmanship are gone. So too are the days of the great trainers and the great experienced fighters of old.
Boxings Mount Rushmore
By Barry LindenmanAs the millennium approaches and everybody and their brother is compiling their list of the "best" and the "top" whatever of the century, I started thinking of the most important figures of the boxing world of the past century. More importantly though than coming up with this list is how to honor these historic individuals. When you hear the word "rock," or more specifically, the word "rocky," what sport immediately comes to mind? Boxing, of course. Rocky Graziano, Rocky Marciano and of course, the "Rocky" movies. How about honoring these great individuals in a way that would evoke a connotation fitting of the sport itself: in rock, similar to Mount Rushmore? Now Ive got it: a Mount Rushmore of boxing. Heres the hard part (no pun intended). What four individuals would be immortalized forever on my Mount Rushmore of boxing?
To come up with my list, I first had to delve into history and read about the intent of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore and how he decided on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as the four men who would grace the Black Hills of South Dakota. Borglum wanted to create a memorial in commemoration of the foundation, preservation and expansion of the United States. His vision for Mount Rushmore was a formal rendering of our governments philosophy into a granite mountaintop. Similarly, my Mount Rushmore of boxing should represent the men whos careers transformed boxing into the great sport that it is, or used to be!
Borglums first choice of subjects, George Washington almost seems like a no brainer. Washington was after all, the first President of the United States. Besides that though, he also happened to be the commanding leader of the Revolutionary forces that fought and won freedom against the British. He was by virtue of his place in history, the first man to symbolically represent the United States and all that it stands for. Similarly, I contend that my first choice of boxing immortals to be chiseled into boxings version of Mount Rushmore should be none other than John L. Sullivan. He was after all the first heavyweight champion recognized under the Queensberry rules. His nickname, "The Boston Strong Boy" connects him geographically to the site of the first great American show of defiance, The Boston Tea Party. And his famous quote that "he can lick any son of a bitch in the house" is consistent with the arrogant attitude that Washington and his contemporaries had against the mighty British.
Next to George Washington on Borglums masterpiece is Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Included in this historic document are the famous words that "all men are created equal." If ever there was a champion boxer who echoed this belief, it was Joe Louis. Louis was the first Black man to hold the heavyweight crown since the rebellious Jack Johnson. Two things made Louiss reign as heavyweight champion more accepted than Johnsons. First and foremost, Louiss behavior as champion was more in line with the way the public expected a heavyweight champion, white or black, to behave. Secondly, because of the nationalism associated with the Second World War, Americans of all races symbolically rallied alongside Louis against Max Schmeling and anything German. The classic description of Louis as being "a credit to his race, the human race" echoes Thomas Jeffersons ideas about equality among all men.
Third in line of Gutzon Borglums masterpiece was Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Roosevelt was a man whose ideas and vision made him way ahead of his time. He was the father of progressive ideas like conservationism and business reform long before it was fashionable to be associated with them. As well as being one of the best pound-for-pound fighters ever, Sugar Ray Robinson was also the originator of such forward thinking ideas as the entourage and contract negotiation. During his time, Robinsons outside the ring involvement with his career was viewed as unique. Today however, an athletes entourage and renegotiation of contract terms is recognized as commonplace. Like Theodore Roosevelt, Robinsons ideas have stood the test of time.
Last in the line of great American leaders on Mount Rushmore is Abraham Lincoln. Lincolns legacy in the turbulent 1860s will forever be remembered as the man who ended slavery after the Civil War. Similarly, Muhammad Alis legacy in the 1960s will forever be remembered as the man who embodied the ideals of the Civil Rights movement. His political stance of standing up for ones freedom of beliefs made him a great champion of human rights causes out of the ring just as he was a great champion inside the ring.
There you have it in words. My Mount Rushmore of boxing consists of the following: John L. Sullivan, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Now without further adieu, here is the final unveiling of my monument. If Gutzon Borglum had been a boxing fan, I think he would have been proud.
The Return Of Title Bout
By Thomas Gerbasi
If youre a boxing fan who also likes his games, Ive got some good news. Jim Trunzo, founder of Electronic Boxing Weekly, CBZ contributor, and designer of the best PC boxing simulator, "Title Fight Pro Boxing For Windows", has regained the license for his board game Title Bout. After being in the hands of Avalon Hill for years, TB has returned to its rightful owner. And Jim is not sitting on laurels regarding Title Bout.
According to EBW (www.boxmag.com), two new sets of updated cards are being prepared for users of Title Bout, which still attracts a rabid cult following. These card sets are scheduled to begin shipping on Valentines Day, February 14. One set will contain over 700 archive fighters, from John L. Sullivan to Riddick Bowe. The second set will contain at least 700 current fighters. Each set will retail for $14.95, with both sets selling together for $24.95. As for compatibility with the old game, Trunzo states: "Questions have arisen concerning the compatibility of the cards with the original game and with other card sets. The answer to those questions is a mixed bag. The cards will be 90% compatible with the original game and its charts, tables, etc. However, certain categories have either been modified or eliminated. An errata sheet containing instructions on how to use the new cards with the original game will be included in every card set order. As far as compatibility with older cards sets, the answer is "no". In truth, the various card sets issued in the past were basically self-contained. The accuracy of crossover from set to set was not good. However, unlike past sets, the contemporary set about to be released will be closer on a relative basis to the all-time set about to be released. The problem with fighting current fighters against all-time fighters is simple: most current fighters can't be viewed from a long-term perspective. Zab Judah, for example, has excellent ratings and - as in real life - appears ready to challenge the best in his division. However, a year from now Judah may turn out to be a semi-bust. Unlikely but possible. That said, gamers will still have a better chance than every before of getting an accurate reading on where current fighters stand in comparison to all-time fighters."
And while new fighters will be released, no updated version of Title Bout is on the card unless sufficient interest can be drummed up. If youve never played Title Bout, or are just wishing to be reacquainted with it, check out three "fantasy" fights (including cards) at the following links:
Salvador Sanchez vs. Prince Naseem Hamed http://www.clark.net/pub/jscjr/preview1.html
Archie Moore vs. Roy Jones Jr. http://www.clark.net/pub/jscjr/preview2.html
Marvin Hagler vs. Harry Greb http://www.clark.net/pub/jscjr/preview3.html
If youve ever wanted to relive the great matchups of the past, stage some "what if" tournaments, or just make the fights that wont be made today, Title Bout is your game. Hopefully a full-scale revival is on the way.
To order Title Bouts updated card sets or for more info, visit www.boxmag.com or contact Jim Trunzo at email@example.com
Cudas Corner: An Argument for the Ages - Revisited
By Matt Boyd
Chances are, if you are even a casual sports fan and your religious beliefs dont prescribe a vow of silence, you have had the conversation a time or two. At any given moment during business hours in your average trendy sports bar, some version of it is being bandied about over a micro-brew. It usually starts with something like this: "Who is the Greatest [blank] of all time?" What follows has been known to end marriages or start arguments that require fire hoses and the National Guard to break up.
The turning of the Millennium (or, more properly, the one-year premature popularly-acclaimed version thereof) has provided a convenient timetable to frame this most popular bar topic. Unless youve been waiting out the new year in Antarctica "just in case", or forgot to plumb your backyard bomb-shelter for cable, youve probably seen the most publicized version of this age-old argument in the form of ESPNs "Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century." This series of biographies, while a promotional masterstroke, presumes to attempt to compare the athletic prowess of the leading athletes from every major sport in the last hundred years. As absurd a premise as that is, it add a new twist on the old argument. Now, its not just a question of who is the best in their sport, but who is the best in all of them.
Typically, boxers receive little recognition by arm-chair analysts for their athletic prowess, and they received little more from ESPNs "experts." At first glance, Muhammad Alis #3 ranking might seem to be the vindication we have long sought for the sweet science, but looking deeper into the list reveals only two other fighters in the top 50. Ali was one of only seven boxers that made the top 100. For comparison, there were eight tennis players in the top 100. Golf posted six entries. (Bob Hope still golfs, and he hasnt had a pulse in 10 years). Three entries were HORSES! Seven out of 100 is damning with faint praise, and its just one more example of how boxing fails to receive the respect it deserves.
With that in mind, and anticipating that a good many of you may find yourselves caught up in one of the aforementioned "Whos Greatest" arguments that pits boxing against mainstream athletics, I respectfully submit the following polemic to be used as ammunition in defense of the common cause.
Why Boxers are better athletes than [blank]:
There arent any in boxing. A boxer plays the whole game or he loses, period. The only mainstream sport that compares to boxing on this issue is tennis. Most every other sport involves a great deal of personnel switching. Football players play less than half the game even if they play every down that their squad (offense or defense) is on the field. And, with the exceptions of quarterback, kicker, and punter, nearly every other position gets rotated through the backups. Baseball players get substituted so often the process has spawned its own jargon - "pinch-hitting". Basketball players rotate often enough that sports reporters actually keep track of the minutes played y each player. Two-thirds of the game is considered a marathon stretch, and occasionally the high scorer for a team will have come off the bench. Hockey substitutes entire lines of players at regular intervals.
Not in boxing. Once the bell rings, thats it. Athletes in other sports get to stop, rest, and regroup at half-time. They get to go back to the locker-room, get assistance from trainers and coaches, whatever they need. Some sports even allow that during the game. Hockey players get TWO half times. Even tennis has breaks between sets. Boxers get one minute.
Few if any sports can rival boxing for sheer physical wear-and-tear. Sure, football has big-time hits, and hockey has hits and fights, but look at the protective gear! You could get hit by a bus and walk it off with the pads they wear. And if a football or hockey player gets knocked down and doesnt hop right back up, the game is paused while an entire M.A.S.H. unit of trainers and support staff rushes out to tend to him. Once removed, the player is replaced and the contest continues. Can you imagine a boxing match where the fighter is replaced with a fresh one every time he gets rocked by a good punch?
Several high-profile athletes have tried to start boxing careers after having success at other sports, but none could compete effectively. Anybody remember Mark Gastineau? There are a couple of boxers around now who have had remarkable success at other sports. Michael Grant was considered a top shelf prospect for both pro basketball and pro football, but chose boxing instead. Roy Jones Jr. plays semi-pro basketball when not in training for a fight, despite his diminutive size.
The extensive training that fighters endure in preparation for a single fight overshadows what most athletes do to prepare for an entire season.
The Opposition's Case:
The first obstacle you are likely to face in a dispute over this issue is one of weight. To most non-boxing people, the first image they have of boxers are of heavyweights. This stands to reason. The highest profile fights and the most well-known fighters tend to be heavyweights. Consequently, you are likely to be presented with examples like George Foreman, Larry Holmes, or (wince) Butterbean as evidence against the athleticism of boxers.
The best way to address this is to point out that typical heavyweight fights are not representative of the rest of the sport. Heavyweights also tend to be, on average, the least athletic of the weight classes. Again, this stands to reason. Heavyweights are the only class without a maximum weight limitation. Put simply they dont have to train to make weight. Heavyweights are the equivalent of linemen in football. No one suggests that 360lb. Gilbert Brown is representative of the athletic ability of the rest of the Packers. You can try to defend the athleticism of heavyweights by citing Ali, Holyfield, Louis, etc., but it is an uphill battle. Better to use the lower weight classes to illustrate the point.
Many will argue that boxing matches are relatively short. Modern non-title fights are at most only 30 minutes long, and title fights are only 36 minutes long, not counting the minute in between rounds. And much of the time, fights end in knockouts and thus do not even last the entire allotted time. By comparison, basketball is 48 minutes, while hockey and football are each a full hour of timed play. Soccer is a sadistic 90 minutes, while baseball and tennis are limited only by the progress of the game.
There are a couple effective rebuttals to this. First, the fact that some fights end in KOs is irrelevant to the discussion of the quality of the athlete. Every responsible boxer trains for the fight to go the distance, regardless of the opponent. Thus, his athletic conditioning is geared for the maximum fight length.
Second, even though basketball, hockey, and football have longer game lengths, the amount of time spent actually playing is much less. Football is the classic example. An average game has perhaps 65 plays run per team. With a game time of an hour, that works out to about one play every 30 seconds of game time. A play takes perhaps eight to ten seconds to run, which means they spend the other 20-22 seconds standing around. Add onto that the fact that most football games take well over three hours of real time to play, and youre talking more like one play every minute and a half on average. If a boxer only threw one punch every minute and a half hed get booed out of the ring and never be allowed to fight again. As for baseball, guys have actually fallen asleep on the bench between innings while awaiting their turn at the plate. Enough said. Soccer is about the only sport with a legitimate claim on the issue of time.
Some people may dispute the athletic requirements of boxing based on the age of some of its competitors. While George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez are obvious examples, there are a good many others. How could a sport be particularly athletically demanding if men this old can still do it?
This point, like the weight issue, is misleading to the uninformed. A casual observer of boxing might not recognize just how drastically these fighters skills diminished with age. The fact that they can move around the ring competently enough to sign fights at an advanced age is more a testimony to how good they used to be than how good they still are. It is also a product of experience. Smart fighters learn how to compensate with technique for diminishing athletic skills. Gordie Howe played hockey into his fifties, and it was not because he was a particularly impressive athlete. It was because he knew the game well enough to avoid most situations which would require athleticism he no longer possessed. To a lesser extent, Nolan Ryan, Warren Moon, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Jimmy Connors are similar examples for their sports.
I have no illusions that these or any other arguments will earn boxing the respect its practitioners deserve for their athletic talent. Being the redheaded stepchild of the sports community, boxing will always get shortchanged in competitions of this type when compared to its more mainstream siblings. I wont presume to declare that boxing produces the best athletes of any sport bar-none, but its in the top two or three, and its up to all of us loyal fans to uphold the honor of the Sweet Science at every opportunity - even in trendy sports bars, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in one.
Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno - Former Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association
News item: Roberto Duran announced that he'll retire in the year 2000 after three more fights...one of which will be against Sugar Ray Leonard.
Obviously, Duran thinks the boxing public is stupid enough to buy almost any spit slung at them.
There were three previous Leonard-Duran fights. The first was a decent fight, with Leonard fighting the wrong fight by staying inside and slugging it out with Duran. Duran was awarded a close split decision. In the second fight, Leonard decided to use his speed, and the fight became so one-sided, Duran perpetrated his famous NO Mas- no guts quit job. The third fight was a disgracefully boring fight with both fighters just obviously in for the payday.
So Duran wants to waltz again with the now Sugar-less Ray, for mucho dinero of course, and he expects fight fans to pay for his retirement party. Anyone stupid enough to buy this lump of spit deserves to be tied to a chair in a windowless room, with the headphones strapped to their skull blasting the piercing voice of Harold Lederman into their ears for the entire fight. Serves them right.
And speaking of Harold Lederman:
News Item: After 33 years, Harold Lederman has retired from active judging to concentrate on his HBO broadcasting duties.
The real question is: Why wasnt Lederman forced to retire from judging fights a long time ago.
Lederman, know in NY City as Harold the Hedger, was the master of the 5-4-1 fight before New York State went to the 10 point must system. Lederman always knew who the promoter wanted to win, but not being dim-witted like Eugenia Williams (Ledermans a pharmacist by trade), Lederman made each fight close on his card, but with the right fighter always winning. Since, promoters cant select the judges, but can alert the boxing commission to certain judges who should not work their fights because of perceived prejudices, this tactic earned Harold repeated judging assignments in New York state.
How Lederman ever became the house boxing judge for HBO is open to conjecture. Maybe HBO Head-Honcho Seth The Shrimp Abraham likes to annoy us with Ledermans excruciatingly shrill voice, a sound more annoying than long fingernails scratching on a blackboard. Or maybe Abraham just likes to know that on Ledermans scorecard an HBO house fighter will always be given the benefit of a close round. Still, Ledermans continued use as a boxing judge in non-HBO fights smacked of the biggest conflict of interest since Hillary decided to run for the Senate in New York state, while hubby Bill still controlled the purse stings for the states federal funding.
The good news is that Lederman is out as a paid boxing judge. The bad news is that we still have to hear Harold the Hedgers grating pipes on the HBO tube. A decisive argument for turning off the sound on HBO fights, if Larry The Wig Merchant didnt give us enough incentives already.
News Item: British Heavyweight Henry Cooper knighted.
I beg to ask, whos next? Frank NO Relation Bruno? The Krays? Jack the Ripper? King Henry VIII?
To tell you the truth, I never got this concept of a person being knighted. Just like I dont get Englands obsession with royalty, and their offensive upper and lower class caste systems. Just because a person is born with a perceived silver spoon in their mouths, doesnt mean that person has the right to ram that same spook down the throats of the less fortunate.
But for Petes sake, what did Henry Blood Gushing Cooper ever do in the ring to deserve to be knighted?
Cooper was an average fighter with a decent left hook, who typically bled during the playing of God Save the Queen. Okay, so Old Enery did drop Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) with a left hook near the end of the fourth round of their first fight. But soon Ali beat up Cooper so bad, Old Enerys face looked like it was bashed with every rifle the Yanks used on the Brits in the great war of 1776. The second Ali fight was even more one-sided, with Coppers face so split open, Ali and the referee were soaked with Old Enerys blood.
Coopers mediocre career consisted of 40 wins, 14 losses and one draw. Cooper held the British heavyweight championship for a record 10 years and five months, but that title is so meaningless it is now held by an ex-convict named Julius Francis, not to be confused with Francis the Talking Mule. In truth, half the bartenders in America can beat most British heavyweight champions without breaking a decent sweat, while serving two for ones at happy hour.
Sir Henry Cooper? If Henry Armstong had been British, they probably would have made him King. And rightfully so.
News Item: Tapia wins fourth world title in Shamtime Boxing Card.
This is one Shamtime fight card we cant blame on Dung King.
Johnny Tapia won his fourth world title with a 12- round decision over Jorge Eliecer Julio on January 8th at the "Pit," the basketball arena for the University of New Mexico. Even though the Tapia fight was mildly entertaining, they should call this joint The Pits instead. Why? Because the rest of the fight card, ostensibly presented by British promoter Frank Warren, stunk worse than a month old kidney pie.
The semi-main event pitted (that word again) former heavyweight champion Francois Botha (40-2-1, 25 KOs) against a stiff named Steve Pannell, reportedly 33-7, 27 KOs. Botha, who briefly held the IBF world title in 1995 but was stripped of it after testing positive for steroids, knocked Pannell down three times in the first round, causing the referee to stop the fight before anymore damage could be inflicted on the paying customers. The first and second knockdowns were caused by clubbing right hands smashed down on the top of Pannells head, like a carpenter blasting a
spike through a two by four. The third and final knockdown was precipitated by a cuffing left hook, which seemed more like a push, or maybe a playful shove.
The most amazing stat concerning this atrocious fight was that Pannell had been knocked out in the second round in each of his last three fights. How in Gods name did this qualify Pannell to fight an ex-world champion on a pay TV network like Shamtime is beyond comprehension.
Believe it or not, it got even worse.
In another undercard bout, former flyweight champion Danny Romeroscored a first round knockout over another former flyweight champion, Rodolfo Blanco of Colombia. The end came 56 seconds into the fight when a left hook to the body sent Blanco down for the count.
Blanco, who won the IBF flyweight title in June 1992 and the North American Boxing Federation's 115-pound belt in August 1997, said afterwards that he was not fully prepared for the fight.
"I was only 30 to 40 percent ready," Blanco said. "I just got caught with a good shot to the liver, got the wind knocked out of me and I couldn't recover."
Thirty to forty percent ready to fight? Is that the accepted criteria for a fighter to appear on a Shamtime boxing card? God forbid a house fighter like Danny Romero should have to face a fighter who is fifty or sixty percent ready. Eighty percent ready or better? Go rinse your mouth out with soap.
The third undercard outrage on that Shamtime boxing card was when 22 year-old super middleweight Omar Sheika of Paterson, N.J., won a unanimous decision over worn and weighty former welterweight champion Simon Brown, who now looks like he buys his clothes from Omar the Tentmaker. Brown looked so fat and out of shape, he could play point guard for the University of
Connecticuts mens basketball team. Or maybe join Monica Lewinsky shilling for a female weight loss center. Their breasts are about the same size anyway.
Browns best days were ten years ago when he fought at 147 pounds. But for this fight, Brown appeared to be at least 180 pounds, even if the super middleweight limit is 168 pounds.
Shame on Shamtime and Frank Warren for showing us this mountain of rubbish, disguised as a pay television fight card. Hanging out with Dung King for the past few years must have affected Shamtime more than anyone associated with the network would like to admit.
By Lee Michaels
Question - how many times have you written "1999" on your checks since the New Year?
My first column of the new century will have somewhat of a different twist. As the millions and millions of you who read this column know, I used to work for ESPN Classic (formerly Classic Sports Network), which produced the now defunct series known as "The Sweet Science." One particular show from that series that I worked on was Shadow Boxing: The Journey of the African-American Athlete.
I thought it would be interesting to explain to the readers what it takes to make one of these documentaries.
But first, a few jabs and uppercuts
THE BRITS VERSUS IRON MIKE
As many of you know by now, the rapist known as Mike Tyson almost had his January 29th fight in Manchester, England cancelled. British immigration laws say that people like Tyson who have served a year or more in prison can be barred from entering the country.
Of course, the Brits waited until two weeks before the fight to express their concerns. Had they not allowed Tyson into England, two weeks would have been insufficient time for promoter Frank Warren to come up with a new venue for the bout. Local businesses, as well as anyone involved in the promotion (the fighters, managers, promoters, etc.) would have lost a ton of money. Of course, the fight is still on, mainly because the government was fearful that businesses in the small town of Manchester would have gone bankrupt if the fight was cancelled.
Unfortunately for Tyson, this is a perfect example of the price he will have to pay for the rest of his life due to his past thug behavior. Yes, the threats of the British government were absolutely ridiculous. But just because Tyson has served prison time doesn't mean the punishment is over for him.
By the way, Tyson's opponent is someone named Julius Francis, whose past opponents include Prince Charles, Scary Spice, Elton John and "The American Werewolf in London."
ALI VERSUS FRAZIER: THE DAUGHTERS TURN
I vomited - quite vertically in fact - when I read about the pro boxing debut of Jacqueline Frazier-Lyde, the 38 year old daughter of heavyweight great Joe Frazier. Her opponent for her debut on February 6th will be none other than Tennielle Smith, a 23 year old hairdresser from Philadelphia.
Even more amazing than the fact that the fight is actually going to take place is that Frazier-Lyde is a lawyer. My prediction: Frazier-Lyde, who hits to acquit, beats the hairdresser by a "trim."
Hopefully, this will set up what will surely be the greatest fight in the rich, tradition-filled "sport" of female boxing: Frazier-Lyde versus Laila Ali. I'll keep you a-breast of this situation as it develops.
Catch ABC's "King of the World" television movie recently? For those of you who don't know, this movie was based on David Remnick's book of the same title.
Although I didn't see the movie, I could have told you ahead of time how awful it apparently was. And from reading reviews of the film, I would have been correct.
Now, you're wondering how I can make such a bold statement without seeing the movie, right? Here's my theory
Folks, the only actor in the world who can emulate Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali is Ali himself. Ali was the ultimate performer when the cameras were turned on. So, if you really have a hunger to see an Ali film, rent When We Were Kings or watch ESPN Classic.
No, I am not shamelessly plugging my former network. Fact is, if you want an opportunity to see Ali footage, ESPN Classic is your best bet.
Switching gears for a moment to another boxing movie; one which has been released on the big screen, The Hurricane. I refuse to pay first-rate ticket prices to see this film, mainly because of the factual errors that apparently plague it. According to boxing historian/writer Jack Newfield, the factual errors, which are too numerous to get into right now, totally overshadow the wonderful performance of Denzel Washington as Hurricane Carter.
I have worked with Newfield at ESPN Classic on numerous occasions and there is no better authority on this or many other boxing subjects than this man. So, for those of you who want to see a boxing movie based on real-life facts, this movie isn't for you. However, if you want to see a film based more on fantasy than fact, then this film is for you.
SEE THE "REAL" HURRICANE CARTER FILM
A close friend of mine, Todd Pellegrino, is producing a one-hour documentary for ESPN Classic based on Carter's life, which will be released later this year as a part of a new documentary series that the network is launching.
The series, which will deal with several different topics besides boxing, will have the look and feel of ESPN's SportsCentury series. Also, be on the lookout for episodes on the real Rockys: Graziano and Marciano.
Look for an interview with Pellegrino, and possibly Carter, in a later issue of Power Punches.
BEHIND THE SCENES
What does it take to make a one-hour documentary such as Shadow Boxing: The Journey of the African-American Boxer?
First, a good team. I was just one of many people who made this show great. So props goes out to two of its co-producers, Ron Yassen and Ouisie Shapiro.
Secondly, lots of research. Before the production process begins, an outline of a story must be developed. Believe me when I tell you, the outline will change until the last days of production. However, this outline, or rundown of the show, is essentially the guideline on paper of what the focus of the show will be.
Unfortunately, what sometimes dictates the subject matter of a show is what footage is available of a particular subject. Footage, at least in our show, came in the form of interviews we shot, as well as film and photographs.
A perfect example of footage dictating the focus of a show was with the original Joe Walcott. We had in our possession an amazing interview conducted with Walcott, years after his fighting days had passed, when he was working as a janitor at Madison Square Garden. The interview basically represented the desperate life this wonderful African-American fighter was now living. Unfortunately, besides some photographs, there was such little footage available of him actually fighting that we decided he wouldn't make the show.
Television is a visual medium. Therefore we wouldn't have done the viewers or Walcott justice had we strung together a segment on him that would have lasted only two minutes because of the lack of footage.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Jack Johnson. We had so much footage on him that I actually found out he even had sex with my great, great, great, great aunt. However, there was no truth to the rumor that the phrase "my Johnson," often used to refer to a man's manhood, was created because of Jack's sexual adventures.
Working at ESPN Classic often led you to what I termed as "visual gold," especially with the subject of boxing. Because we owned the Big Fights boxing library, we had access to literally thousands upon thousands of hours of
So while in some cases, like the one with Walcott, you may not have enough footage, in other cases, like Johnson, you may find that you actually had so much good footage that you left some great shots or photographs on the
cutting room floor.
Sometimes, we had to actually acquire archival footage from footage facilities, which are basically the equivalent to libraries. Race riots, the Depression and other historical subjects are the types of footage we looked to acquire because we didn't have the footage in-house.
One time, I produced a show hosted by Dick Schaap, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as guest. Kareem wanted to talk about his new book, "Profiles of Courage" more so than his NBA career.
Now, of course we had tons of Kareem basketball footage in-house. But when he referred to Frederick Douglass, well, that was a different story. The solution: call an archive house to acquire either photographs or film of the subject.
It seemed as if we were getting new footage in until the last days of production with our show. Some of this was based on the fact that the Big Fights library was completely unorganized, as well as unaware of the gems that they had. Some of it was also based on the fact that we were working on a limited time basis and some archival houses couldn't process orders quickly enough for us to implement them into our show.
So, to simplify things again, we have our rundown, which says what the show is about. Based on that, the show is written, then re-written, over and over again, right up until the voiceover session, which I will get to in a moment.
Then, we look at the script, and based on the script, figure out what footage we need to edit the show with.
Then comes the editing process. We edited our show on an Avid system, which is best explained this way: an Avid is a computer driven editing system which "digitizes" all of your footage and stores it onto its hard drive.
Have a computer at home? When you write a text document, you either save it onto a disk or onto the computer's hard drive, correct? Well, with the Avid, the actual video/audio is entered, or stored onto the computer's hard drive. To backtrack for a moment lots of the film footage was already on tape, but some of it wasn't. Therefore, we had to get lots of the footage transferred from film to videotape. Same with the photographs. They needed to be transferred to videotape as well, but this was after we shot them in a special edit facility .
The digitizing process works like this. I have, for example, a 90 minute tape full of footage. I put the tape into the Avid's tape machine, tell the Avid exactly what shots I want it to store, or digitize, and pronto! All of our footage is stored into the Avid. Once all our footage is stored, we literally never have to edit with a videotape again. It is all done via computer.
Here's how amazing the Avid is. For example, you have shots A, B then C. Three separate shots. When editing the show, we originally want shots A, B and C to appear in a particular part of the show in that exact order. But two weeks later, as we are still editing the show, we say, "Hey, let's change the order of the shots. Let's put the in this order: B, C and A."
Without touching one single videotape, the editor, with a click of a mouse, rearranges the order of the already digitized shots just like that. Incredible. Then, we add necessary visual effects to each shot.
Let's fast forward a bit. The show is edited with all the footage we want to appear in the program, so we're done, right? Wrong.
Because some of the footage is so old, lots of the original film, especially fight footage, was silent. Therefore, we needed to go to an audio mix and add sound effects to specific footage. Example - Jack Johnson drives away in a car. You hear the sound of the motor as he drives away. Well, that film is 97 years old. I hate to fool you, but that original audio was silent. So we go to an audio mix facility, where thousands of audio affects are stored, ask the audio guy for a sound effect that matches the picture, and once again, pronto!
After completing the audio mix, there needs to be a voice, or narrator to the show. We were lucky enough to hire Andre Braugher, the actor from the series Homicide, to narrate the show. Braugher shows up at a voiceover facility, reads the script to the picture he sees, and now we have a voice, an identity to the show.
In a much simpler form, this is basically what it is like to make one of these shows. Of course, add in arguments with bosses and co-workers about what should and shouldn't make the show, and you have a general idea of what it takes to do this. It's a tedious, yet rewarding process once the final product is finished.
Questions or comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to answer every e-mail personally.
Until next time.
Defending Mia (Interview conducted 12/15/99)
By Thomas Gerbasi
It is safe to say that no other fighter in the sport today provokes a reaction as much as 32 year old Mia St. John. Whether it is her still raw boxing skills, the limited talents of her opposition, her Playboy magazine layout, or her exposure on Bob Arums Pay-Per-View cards, Ms. St.John has found no shortage of detractors among boxing purists. To them, its bad enough that women fight; that an attractive woman who only began fighting six weeks before her pro debut gets such attention is nothing short of sacreligious.
But lets defend Mia for a moment:
Contrary to popular belief, fighters dont make fights; promoters do. Bob Arum has been accused of protecting Oscar De La Hoya. So Mia should feel in good company if Arum is overprotecting her. Boxing is a business, and as a businessman, Arum has done a superb job with St.John, making the most money for the least risk. Thats the name of the game, and Arum has made it an art form.
St.John fought her first fight six weeks after starting to box. She had a Tae-Kwon-Do background competition-wise, but boxing is a whole nother animal. I know from my brief amateur stint that six weeks is not close to being enough time to prepare to fight for the first time. Unfortunately, we are getting to see St.John learn on the job. This bothers the purists, as well as her peers. It is fair that a certain amount of resentment should be felt by the fighters who have toiled for years in obscurity, only to see a novice getting Pay-Per-View and magazine exposure. Is this Mias fault? Absolutely not. If you were offered television exposure, large purses, and International media attention, would you turn it down because you didnt feel that you had paid your dues fighting in front of 20 drunks in a church hall? I think not.
The Playboy issue. Mia St.John is like any fighter. Shes in this to make money. Its hard to be in boxing for the love of it when permanent injury or death is one of the possible side effects. Remember, you play basketball or baseball. You dont play boxing. So if Mia can use her "assets" to increase her visibility (pardon the puns) to the public at large, more power to her. Lets not forget that Joe Willie Namath once wore pantyhose.
The public. As St.John herself mentions in the following interview, due to the exposure she has received, the general public thinks she is the worlds greatest female boxer. Shes right. The boxing purists are a small segment of the viewing public. Like it or not, Mia St.John is playing to a much larger audience.
My conclusion? Give her a year. If she hasnt lifted her skills appreciably, or hasnt faced a "live" opponent by then, then we can relegate her to the "media hype" bin. But this writer thinks that she may have a surprise or two up her pink sleeves. Time will tell.
TG-I heard you had an interesting time in Utah last week?
MSJ-Thats an understatement (laughs). I was supposed to fight December 4th for Univision, and my promoter (Top Rank) felt that it would be better for me to do the December 11th fight. The way it was explained to me was that it would be seen by millions of people in China because they only have one central television station. And the money was better, as Bob couldnt pay me my normal amount for Univision. So I opted for December 11th for Chinese Central Station. At first it seemed like a good idea and it turned out to be not the best idea, but it was a learning experience for me.
TG-Is it true that they wanted you to fight a kickboxer?
MSJ-What happened was that the Chinese had intended for me to fight this girl kickboxer from their country and Top Rank had vetoed that idea and for some reason the Chinese didnt know about it. And even if Top Rank had not rejected it, I would have, simply because I dont kick anymore. I spent 23 years in Tae-Kwon-Do and this is something I gave up for certain reasons.
TG-Were you going to be allowed to kick?
MSJ-No. And I didnt know that until the day of the fight. I realized that the Americans werent able to kick. And I guess the Chinese didnt know that I wasnt fighting their girl until the day of the fight. But I knew all along I wasnt going to fight her.
TG-I heard a rumor that you were negotiating with the WWF?
MSJ-I dont know how that got out. Its strange, but everything I do seems to come out someway or another(laughs). My attorney had a couple of meetings with the WWF and there were some offers back and forth. As of right now I am not going into the WWF. I dont know what the future holds for me.
TG-If you did join the WWF, how would that affect your credibility as a boxer? Would you leave the sport?
MSJ-I would never leave boxing. Thats my priority right now. Its everything to me. Nothing comes before that, aside from my children.
TG-Tell me about the video game in the works which features you.
MSJ-I signed with Acclaim and I think its called Knockout. It comes out in the Spring and Im the first female. The other female I believe is Lucia Rijker.
TG-How do you explain your popularity?
MSJ-Its very cut and dried. Bob Arum put me on Oscar De La Hoyas undercards. He felt that he had something to market and thats where it all started. I started appearing on his undercards and it just grew from there.
TG-On the flipside of that, how come you provoke such a negative response from say, the boxing purists?
MSJ-I assume its because they feel that Ive gotten where Ive gotten because of my looks. Im not saying that my looks had nothing to do with it, but to say that I got here entirely on my looks is absolutely ridiculous, because there are many gorgeous women in boxing.
TG-What are your thoughts on the negative press youve received?
MSJ-I know that just being in boxing, they can criticize anybody. Its not just me. Theres always something to critique, and I seem to be a big target for them. No matter what I do, theyre never going to be happy, theyre never going to give me credit for what I do. Except for the obvious, George Foreman, Jim Lampley, and a lot of those guys that I know respect me. But for the rest of them, theres probably nothing I can do to prove them wrong. But thats okay, because I entered this business and the public eye knowing what I was getting into, and those are things I just have to deal with.
TG-So it doesnt affect you in any way?
MSJ-I cant lie and say it never gets to me. Yeah, it upsets me because I dont think they understand just how new to boxing I am. I think theyre attacking the wrong person. All I know is that I brought a lot of publicity, maybe more publicity than any other female, along with Christy Martin, to the sport. And women have been boxing for years and years, going back to the 30s and 40s. And they never got the public attention they do now. All I am trying to do is to bring attention to the sport and for people to acknowledge us and to know that we dont have to look like men to fight. You can still take us seriously. Theres nothing wrong with being a woman, and Im proud of being a woman. And I want people to know that Im a feminine woman. And Im proud of that.
TG-How does the criticism affect your family?
MSJ-My kids hear nothing but praise, because you have to remember that the general public thinks that Im probably the worlds greatest female boxer(laughs). The general public doesnt know what the boxing purists are saying. So the general consensus here in our town is "Wow, shes the greatest". So thats all my kids hear. The only reason my family hears otherwise is because of me. They might go on the Internet or in the forums, and they follow womens boxing. So they tend to hear all the criticism. Even the male boxing people in the business, they dont know any of the female boxers.
TG- You had your first fight only two months after starting to box. What adjustments did you have to make, going from Tae Kwon Do to boxing?
MSJ-I was competing in Tae Kwon Do, so I had ring experience for many years, but not boxing experience. It helped because I already had the experience of competing and fighting. I obviously had the fighters instinct to go in and do all that you can to win. That need to win. I had all that it took to be a fighter. What hurt me is that when I turned pro in boxing, I had so many habits from TKD, like leaning on my back leg and keeping my head up. These habits were so difficult to break.
TG-Have you broken them all now?
MSJ-I feel like now that Ive come so far, but theres so much that I need to learn. What I strive for is progress, not perfection. I know that a lot of the male fighters like Oscar started when they were six years old, so I have to have realistic goals.
TG-What are some of those goals?
MSJ-I want to work more on my technique, and not rely so much on my power. Because for so long I knew I could win on power alone. There is not a female out there who has fought me or sparred with me that can say I dont have heavy hands. Everybody knows that Im strong and I rely on my strength, but Im trying not to do that. Im trying to focus more on technique rather than power. We already know the powers there.
TG-Are we going to see you move past four rounders against some well-known opponents, or are you going to stay with the four rounders?
MSJ-I would LOVE to go past four rounds. I think I have the most well-known title(laughs). Right now, these womens titles, nobody knows about them. Thats not my goal. I can get a belt anywhere. I strive even further than that. I strive to be known as a great fighter. Im a very competitive person and to say that I dont want to fight the other girls out there that have great reputations, God knows I do. Bob Arum, of all people, knows how often I call the office. I call everyday with a whole list of girls. I bug them every day with girls I want to fight. I know that in the future I will become so famous that theyre going to have to meet my demands. I will demand it and I will make it a part of my contract. Not because I have anything to prove, but simply because thats how competitive a person I am.
TG-So Bob Arum is the one holding up matches against the better known (to boxing purists) opponents?
MSJ-I dont know if Bob is "holding it up". Bob is protecting me. I adore Bob Arum. He is one of the nicest men Ive ever known and he truly cares about me as a person. But at the same time hes a business person. And a very intelligent business person. Yes, he overprotects me. I spar with a lot of these girls in the gym that are so-called "great fighters, and I know what Im capable of. I know what I do to them in sparring sessions. Im not afraid to fight anybody because thats what I am a fighter. Thats what I have a passion for. Its what I want to do. I want to get in the ring and compete. I dont like first round knockouts. To me, thats no challenge. There is no fun in that. To me, thats not a match.
TG-Are you going to drop some names?
MSJ-Oh no. It wouldnt be fair to them.
TG-What has been your relationship with other fighters?
MSJ- There have been a couple that have confronted me. I can remember one that came up to me at a weigh in, but most of the women that I have met or sparred with Im friends with. And the women in boxing that know me and that do spar with me, have respect for me. We work out together in the gym, so they know what Im capable of. I get along with most of those girls, and there are few who I am very good friends with.
TG-What fighters do you admire?
MSJ-Male, I admire and look up to Oscar De La Hoya tremendously. As a person and as a fighter. Hes definitely influenced me and encouraged me. As far as females, Teresa Arnold, I adore her; shes from my hometown. Yvonne Trevino has also been a great influence in my career.
TG-How do you stay focused with all the media attention around you?
MSJ-Its difficult, and probably one of the biggest things I have to deal with is people who dont understand how many interviews we are obligated to do because of our contracts. Im hired for a job, and there are certain obligations I have to meet, and that includes the media. I can make certain demands, like I will only do interviews up until the day of the fight, but its very difficult, and I just have to remember what Im there for and that Im not there for anything else, not the money, or the attention, but that Im there because I love to fight. I love to fight more than anything in this world. Thats what Im there for, and as long as I can stay focused on that, that I am doing exactly what I love to do, then Im okay, I can get through it.
TG-Are you worried about any long-term injuries?
MSJ-Im never worried about whether I injure my face or my looks.
TG-I meant something more serious.
MSJ-Oh definitely. I worry about death, dying in the ring, because its something that every fighter has to think about. I worry about internal damage. I dont spend too much time worrying about it, but I do think about it. But I know what the risks are and I choose to take them. My Mom is someone who worries about it a lot, and I tell her that its okay because if something happened to me in the ring, just know that I did what I loved doing with all my heart and soul, and it was worth it to me.
TG-You have two kids (aged 10 and 7). If one of your kids came to you in a couple of years and wanted to fight, what would your reaction be?
MSJ-Never. My son is in Tae Kwon Do because everyone in my family was in it, so naturally we put him in it. But Boxing? Never. Its such a violent, brutal, barbaric sport
TG-But you love it.
MSJ-I cant even begin to tell you how much I love this sport. I just cant wait to get up in the morning and run to the gym. Its the highlight of my day. But for my kids, I raised them in a great environment, they have great lives, and they dont need to get their aggressions out in the ring. I was raised in a different era, and in a different home. As a teenager, my only solace was fighting as a sport. Thats the only way I got my aggressions out, because I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. So thats all I had. But my kids are in a different situation. They dont need that.
TG-So theyll have to fight Mama to get into the ring?
MSJ-Thats right. (laughs)
Why Yesteryear's Pugilists Were Tougher, Stronger and Hungrier
By Alex Hall
Old timers will argue until they are blue in the face that the pugilists of the turn of the century were tougher and stronger. How would the newer fighters have reacted had the tables turned and they were forced to eat leather?Those old boys sweated their guts out for peanuts and all for the thrill of victory, the glory of success and the respect and admiration of the fans. Perhaps they are right, maybe boxers just have that spark now instead of a blazing inferno.Or perhaps the old experts are wrong, perhaps that hunger, desire and love of glory is caked underneath years of million-dollar checks, fine suits, women and soap opera lives. Either way, the men of today just do not exhibit the same kind of passion as did their ancestors. Listed below are possible explanations of what has happened to the men with the gloves.
1) In one of the ten richest fights in history, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad split about thirty million dollars. In the absolute richest fight of the time (1906), Joe Gans and Battling Nelson split thirty-thousand. Blame inflation a lot, but fighters are paid proportionally more today than yesteryear and mostly they get paid for non-performances against tomato-cans (e.g. Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley). Quicker wealth has sapped some of the glory and made the ultimate prize less of an achievement.
2) Greater concern over health has made fighters a little edgy. A defensive genius like Roy Jones jr is worried about brain damage whereas the aforementioned Nelson let people exhaust themselves by hitting him in 45 round fights.
3) Shorter fights are a tad safer, but as the old saying goes 'fifteen rounds separates the men from the boys'. Well in the old days, 20, 25 and even 45 rounders separated the mortals from the immortals. Lennox Lewis is in my opinion the most impressive heavyweight of the 90s, yet he has a terrible stamina problem. James J. Corbett failed to regain the heavyweight world crown when he was knocked out in the 23rd round by Jim Jeffries in 1900. In those days there were no trainers saying: ''Just make it through the first six or seven rounds''. You had to be tough to make it back then. No wheezy boys allowed!
4) Fouling has become more frowned upon recently, especially since Mike Tyson's diabolical mutilation of Evander Holyfield. Most of Harry Greb's opponents were as worried of his thumb and elbow as they were of his punch. Opponents of his like Mickey Walker had to be very tough to shake this off and come back fighting. The exact opposite is true of the aforementioned Lewis. He whined about a couple of head-butts from Holyfield and while Evander was more in the wrong, perhaps a Lewis of old would have tried to pay it back to Holyfield in punches rather than warnings.
5) Quicker stoppages have acted as a virtual death-sentence to rough and tumble brawls.Pernell Whitaker was more willing to clinch and slip than brawl and while I regard Whitaker as one of ten greatest fighters of all-time, this is a notable change from the fighters of old. Jack Johnson fought several rounds with a broken arm when defending the heavyweight title against Battling Jim Johnson in 1913. Stanley Ketchel-Billy Papke IV was one of the most blood-thirsty fights in history with both men fighting with broken hands for more than three quarters of the fight. The victory (which eventually went to Ketchel by twenty round decision) was the most important part of the deal.
6) Drastic reduction in the number of fights has occurred over the last century.Jimmy Wilde fought an estimated 865 fights (including booth bouts) and often against men with staggering weight advantages. He took on the best flyweights and bantamweights of his day. How many years did it take for Lopez to leave the strawweight class? And how many fights has had in his 10+ year career? 49!De La Hoya fought a grand total of 37 rounds in 1997 and for this high activity, he was awarded the fighter of the year prize by KO magazine. In 1900, welterweight champion Matty Mathews fought an incredible 74 rounds. More incredibly, in 1906, featherweight champion Abe Attell totaled 7 defenses of his crown and 101 rounds!That is well over twice as much as De La Hoya or any modern champion can boast in one year or even two.
7) Women's liberation I'm sorry to say has had some effects on the fighters. Long professing to be a 'man's only' sport, many boxing fans now not only accept the presence of female fighters but openly admit to liking them. In the olds days, running scared was not acceptable, only girls blocked punches (figuratively speaking); true men could face the pain. Women's liberation has come crashing down on the fellas too!Being a 'man' has fallen behind being a winner and the issue of which man would have won in a bare-knuckle, back-alley brawl is no longer relevant. Take Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard as good examples. In the old days, these 'dandies' would have been hated and abhorred, we liked John L. Sullivan, his home-grown American image and strong-boy attitude was what we ALL craved for back then and while some still admire that most, the 'pretty-boys' are not exactly starved for affection either.
Why Today's Boxers Are More Skilled, Refined And Fitter
Many a young kid has come along and questioned the true worth of the legends that helped shape this sport. Dismiss them as being too young to understand it all if you want, but they may have a point. Their arguments that suggest that old-timers could not have succeeded in the modern ring do have strong evidence to back it up. Were the old-timers just crude old brutes growing up under-nourished with makeshift workouts that never did harness all their strength? Possibly. Listed below are reasons why today's fighters are fitter and more refined with better skill.
1) Fitness has greatly improved over the last century. In this the year 2000, Evander Holyfield uses the most high-tech training methods to hone his body into the best shape possible. Here is a man who has bulked up a full thirty pounds and yet still retains a semi-Mr Universe physique. And this 'blown-up cruiserweight' can punch and rumble with the big boys and become the general consensus vote as the out-standing heavyweight of the 1990s (though I strongly disagree) and continues to be a menace at the age of 38. His devotion to training might have saved him from being knocked out in at least three fights (Bowe I, Lewis I and Cooper). Had he showed the same kind of devotion to old training methods, then perhaps Bert Cooper would have become the undisputed heavyweight champion and the infamous Eugenia Williams would never have been heard of (note: Eugenia Williams scored 115-113 for Holyfield in Lewis-Holyfield I which was scored a draw despite the fact that nearly everyone had Lewis winning decisively.) Holyfield would certainly have suffered from his suspected heart problems had he seen John L. Sullivan's training camp. The sight of the last bare-knuckle heavyweight champion dinning on lamb-chops thrice daily while chugging down beers and sawing wood to keep fit would have most likely have left the 'Real Deal' out for the count. (note: After losing a 12 round decision to Michael Moorer in 1994, Holyfield was diagnosed as having a non-compliant left ventricle more commonly known as a ''stiff-heart''. It was later revealed that Holyfield was misdiagnosed as he does not suffer from the condition today).
2) The later a fighter enters the scene, the more tricks there are to be learned.Dutch Sam must have shocked the boxing world when he introduced the uppercut.Jim Corbett must have done the same with his left hook. Daniel Mendoza was a crafty ring technician and also the first. Nowadays all fighters use uppercuts and hooks with both hands and use the ring. It takes a lot more to shock the world now and when someone finally does they regret it. Take Naseem Hamed as an example.Kevin Kelley was past his best days when he was matched with the 'Prince' but still exposed the flaws in the eccentric Hamed. How would the old-timers have done.In the days before Muhammad Ali, it would have been pretty hard to cope with a style like Hamed's. Fighters have been regarded as ring geniuses when today they appear crude. Gene Tunney for instance, looks just like a fast and tough fighter by modern standards. Today he would be called a tough boxer-puncher rather than a 'ring-wizard'.
3) Women's liberation I am delighted to say has had some effects on the fighters.Long professing to be a 'man's only' sport, many boxing fans now not only accept the presence of female fighters but openly admit to liking them. In the old days, running scared was not acceptable, only girls blocked punches (figuratively speaking), true men could face the pain. And there in lies the answer. No longer held down by the 'male stereotype' we are now free to block and dodge like never before.There are some did-hard stick-in-the-muds who view any fighter taking a backward step as the loser of the fight (accounting for most I have talked too who scored Trinidad over De La Hoya) but they are dying out faster than any other species on the planet.Fighters can kick up a trail of dust as they run their cowardly ass away in abject fear of an opponent as best they like now, winning has become the most important thing.
4) Fight films are readily available. Today's boxers learn from defensive masters like Willie Pep, boxer-punchers like Eder Jofre, puncher boxers like Roberto Duran and learn that doing everything that Muhammad Ali did was wrong and only for those with phenomenal hand and foot-speed.
5) Boxing training has become more a profession than a hobby. Back at the turn of the century and afterwards there were a great many fighters and all were taught by sound professionals who knew their job. Today, Oscar De La Hoya hires Jesus Rivero and Emmanuel Steward to hone his defense and offence to perfection (the result of such endeavors was clearly seen his has masterful control of Felix Trinidad). Big money means fighters can afford great trainers and great trainers cannot wait to jump on the cash bandwagon. In the old days, trainers knew the basics but none took the time to study it as a science as do so many today.
6) The need for action packed fights has decreased dramatically. As fears of brain damage grow ever stronger, fighters have improved their styles. The need to get the heartbeats of the crowd soaring has been put-aside in favor of ring-safety. Many fighters now fight as boringly as they like in order to win and get the shot against their particular division's 'big name' (e.g. De La Hoya and Tyson).
7) Shorter fights have made guts less important. Fights were so long in the old days that many a pug could triumph in a fight by simply standing up all night and moving forward. Arturo Gatti puts in the old-style effort today but can still be beaten.I am sure few will disagree when I say he was the most exciting fighter of the 1990s but few consider him among the most talented. Evander Holyfield may have inspired many by fighting on against Lennox Lewis last November, but try as a he might, the superb effort was just not enough to topple his giant foe in the eyes of most. A big man like Jess Willard was able to win the heavyweight title from an aging Jack Johnson in 1915 but had to take 25 rounds of punishment before he did it. You have to have effort and talent to compete nowadays.
Well there it is: The seven reasons why fighters of today were more skilled and fitter and the seven reasons why yesteryear's pugilists were tougher and stronger. But what does that prove anyway? Nothing! From this one can draw two conclusions: 1: Fighters of today would fall short in the slugfests of old and 2: The old-timers were too crude to compete in a modern ring of skill. But which era was better? Check next month's issue for the answer to that question.
Randy's World of Boxing
By Randy Gordon
The new millennium was not yet one week old when Father Time ran out the Clock of Life on Theodore "Teddy" Brenner, 82, perhaps the greatest matchmaker this sport has ever known.
To know Teddy was to know a man who truly loved boxing. For over 50 years he was involved with his passion. Among his many credentials: He was the longtime matchmaker for Madison Square Garden as well as for promoter Bob Arum's promotional firm, Top Rank.
Brenner saw the greats and made matches for most of them.The greatest, according to Teddy, was Sugar Ray Robinson.
"Unparalleled," is what Brenner would always tell me about Robinson.
He also made matches for ESPN when the sports network was just getting off the ground.
"Top Rank Boxing," is the show ESPN ran from 1979 through the mid-1980's, giving Top Rank a virtual monopoly on their shows.
For years, I used to ride from New York City to Atlantic City with Brenner. Two-and-a-half hours there and two-and-a-half hours back. For five hours, we talked boxing. Then, in 1982, Brenner and I got into a huge fight.
We didn't speak for seven years.
Then, in 1989, when I had already been Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission for a year, Brenner approached me at a press conference. I saw him coming and began to walk away. He said, "Randy, wait! I need to speak with you." I looked at him with astonished eyes and mouth open in astonishment.
"Teddy wants to talk with me?" I thought. "Wow! I wonder what this is all about."
I found out a few moments later.
"I'm dying," the then-72-year-old Brenner said, "and I want to make peace with as many people as I can." He proceeded to tell me that the fight we had been having since 1982 was his fault. Then he told me the story. I
listened intently. All he told me I already knew for years, as a former colleague of his had told me the entire story only a week after the incident in 1982. For years, Brenner denied it all. Now, he was clearing the air.When he was done telling me the story, he asked me to forgive him. I told him I would, though a deep scar remained.
"I'm so, so sorry for hurting you," Brenner said, over and over. He could not have sounded more sincere, and I hugged him. Then he said, "If you have a few minutes after the press conference, come on up to the office so we
can talk boxing. I smiled and thanked him. I also took him up on his offer. We talked for several hours.
As it turned out, the disease Brenner thought would soon take his life thankfully turned out to be a false alarm. However, he was having problems with his back and legs and was soon confined to a wheelchair. Not wanting to
go out in public in a wheelchair, Brenner began to spend virtually every waking hour in his Manhattan apartment, talking on the telephone.
In the early '90's, Madison Square Garden threw Brenner a party for his 75th birthday. I pulled the "Theodore Brenner" file from amongst the files at the New York State Athletic Commission and showed them to Teddy. The file contained his matchmaker licenses, dating back to the early 1940's. He looked at them and saw pictures of a young, strikingly handsome young man. He fought back tears. I told him I would turn the file over to Ed Brophy, Executive Director of the Boxing Hall of Fame, where the file so rightly belonged. Days later, I did exactly that.
A few years ago, Brenner slipped into deep depression after one of his closest friends, Robbie Margolies, died after plunging several stories from his balcony. It is still unsure whether Margolies was murdered. Regardless,
he was gone, and so was Brenner's longtime pal. He told me and he told a few other of his friends that "there's no point in going on." His will to live had ebbed.
Though he clung to life, the last few years saw him slip further and further into depression. A few months ago, a longtime associate of his traveled across the country to surprise him in New York. At his door, the visitor was sent away, told only, "Mr. Brenner is not taking any visitors."
His will to live was gone.
He died peacefully on January 6.
In the early 1980's, Brenner wrote a book about boxing. It was entitled, "Only The Ring Was Square." He signed the book for me only days before our fight in 1982 which separated us for seven years. They are words
which will stay with Teddy and me. They are words I always knew he meant, even during the years of our fight. In 1992, 10 years after he wrote them and three years after we made up, he asked me, "Do you still have my book?"I told him "Of course I do." He asked, "Do you remember what I wrote to you?" I told him I certainly did, and repeated what he wrote. He said, "Those words I wrote are very true." I smiled and thanked him.
Every time I think of Teddy Brenner, I will try not to think of the vicious fight I had with him, a fight which actually changed the course of my career, but I'll try to think of our drives back and forth to Atlantic City and of how much he taught me about boxing and of the words he wrote to me in his book.
I'm glad to have known Teddy Brenner.
To boxing history's greatest matchmaker, of which there will never be another one even close to his enormous talent, Rest In Eternal Peace.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I'm hearing more and more that the Feds are squeezing nooses around the necks of, not just Bob Lee of the IBF, but two big-name fight promoters and a boxing manager. Quietly, but with every passing day, it is looking more and more like at least one--maybe all--of them will be moving residences soon. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of fellas!...While on the subject of the IBF, one of that organization's real good guys--Darryl Peoples--has been put in charge of the 15-year-old organization's ratings as Bob Lee fights the Federal charges against him. If anybody can restore credibility to the organization, it's the hard-working and ultra-honest Peoples...I just wish all the other organizations would come under as much scrutiny by the Feds as the IBF. However, they are all based out of the United States and the Feds can't touch them. Any wonder why they are based out of this country???...Don't know about you, but I was very impressed with Roy Jones Jr. in his fight against rough, tough David Telesco in New York City's Radio City Music Hall. The more I see of Jones the more I believe in his greatness. In many ways, he is much like Muhammad Ali. While Ali made tons of mistakes in the ring, he was just so fast he could get away with them. The same for Jones. Also, Ali used to fight only as hard as his opponent would make him fight. If you were Alfredo Evangelista or Jean Pierre Coopman, he'd fight you just so hard. If you were Joe Frazier or George Foreman, he'd reach down to fight you at that level. Apparently, Jones is that same kind of fighter. When he faces the Lou DelValles and David Telescos of the world, he gives enough to win convincingly. Put him in even easier and he won't look as good. Conversely, if he's put in tough he'll
fight tough and using much of his skill. Can he beat 41-0 Darius Michalczewski, who many think he's trying to duck? Number one, I totally disagree Jones is ducking him. Number two, I think he'll give Michalczewski a boxing lesson he'll never forget.In my book, Jones is untouchable and rapidly on his way to being considered an all-time great...Oh, and how did Jones ever get past the New York State Athletic Commission with a fractured left wrist, as he apparently had? Glad to see they do thorough physicals!...As most people know, I support boxing in every fashion, and that includes women's boxing. I'm actually looking forward to the day Laila Ali and Jackie Frazier actually trade leather. Even though Ali is only 3-0 and Frazier is yet to make her debut (that happens on February 6 in Scranton, PA), I have a real feeling the fight will eventually happen and be the biggest thing to hit the female side of the sport since Christy Martin gained national attention with her go-get-'em style some five years ago...Got into a discussion with some friends recently on the group of fighters I feel belong on the "Most Wasted Talent" list. To me, Mike Tyson has got to be number one, no matter what he does for the remainder of his career. Can you picture how great he could have been, how many gazillions of dollars he would have been worth, had he not thrown his youth away. Tony "El Torito" Ayala is also on the list, no matter what he, too, does. Sixteen years in prison took greatness away from him. High up on the list, too, is James"Lights Out" Toney. The former middleweight champion has toiled in relative obscurity and mediocrity since losing to Roy Jones in 1994. However, at 31, Toney still has his youth and all of his skills. What he has been lacking is the desire and the attitude. Now, he tells people he's ready to concentrate on winning a championship at the cruiserweight level. He certainly has the skills to do it. If his head is together, who knows what this gifted boxer can accomplish...While on the subject of age, heavyweight Mitch"Blood" Green, who is somewhere around 42, is back in the gym, training in "Gleason's, Garden City," Long Island, New York. Great! Just what boxing needs as it works to clean up its image! "Blood's" newest promoter is Sal Musumeci, head of Explosion Promotions, which has been one of New York's busiest promoters the last three years. I never knew Sal enjoyed having
migraine headaches. He must. Why else would he be promoting Green, a 20-year professional, who has been in and out of police stations more than he has been in a boxing ring the last 12 years?
'Soliloquy of Sweet Pea ... Fighter of the Nineties'
By Derek A. Bardowell
For those who reprimand boxing as a savage inhumane demonstration of human nature's ugliest qualities, one man in his fifteen plus years of professional boxing has done his best to exemplify the skills of this noble art. Unfortunately, only a few meters remain in the marathon of the career of former six time world champion Pernell 'Sweet Pea' Whitaker. Retirement is inevitable. Retirement was inevitable after Sweet Pea's fight with Felix Trinidad last year February, when the most explicable negative occurrence in his ring career proved far too much for Whitaker's inflatable ego to ignore. His first 'legitimate' defeat. There were no more excuses, although the surly Whitaker, as ever, had more than his fair share at the post fight. "He didn't do anything, see what the people think," he said. "I had a good time. I thought I won. I controlled the late rounds."
To an extent, despite Whitaker's post fight attitude, he was probably right about one thing as Trinidad's fight with de la Hoya would later attest. "He didn't do anything," beyond what the swift erosion of Whitaker's skills didn't so explicitly highlight.
"When you can't see the angles no more, you're in trouble," said Al Pacino in his portrayal of Carlito in 'Carlito's Way'. And that was as much a determining factor in the fight as anything.
Undoubtedly when Whitaker could see the angles, he was such an awkward puzzle, some of the ring's greatest technicians couldn't solve it.
Facially wearing high cheekbones, shifty and mischievous eyes and sporting almost as many gold teeth lying next to his normal teeth as the black next to white on a chess board, Whitaker's slight 5ft-6-inch frame befits the size of a featherweight - 126 Ibs - more than his current fighting weight of 147 Ibs. Yet Whitaker, a natural lightweight (135 Ibs) - the division where as undisputed champion he first attained credence as a legend - was somehow able to pile on those pounds and win world titles at three higher divisions, culminating with a title in the154 Ibs junior-middleweight division. Using a deft combination of speed (both hand and foot), a piercing jab and the best defense seen in the ring since the legendary Willie Pep, the respect for Whitaker the fighter was undermined by the American press because of Pea's attitude towards them. However, despite his shortcomings in the PR department and being arguably the slickest and technically gifted fighter of his generation, it was a mass of hidden intangibles - those associated with great fighters but often obscured by Whitaker's opulent fistic aptitude - that made him so great.
People too quickly forget that Whitaker has fought in an effectively aggressive manner since defeating Greg Haugen in 1989 (to win his first world title), despite not having enough punching power to knock Junior Jones down in a phone booth brawl, and a chin as fragile as a Patrick Ewing's knees. Nevertheless Whitaker in his 45 fights was never stopped despite intimately sharing ring experiences with such murderous punchers as Trinidad, de la Hoya, Azumah Nelson and Rafael Pineda. Often standing in their faces and smirking at them as they aimlessly tried to decapitate him use their powers of fistic deduction to work the pesky Virginian native out.
People too easily forget how his heart and dedication saw him through the final three rounds with a broken hand in his first world title attempt against Jose Luis Ramirez back in 1988. Or how he fought through the final seven rounds against Trinidad with a broken jaw. And how, in accepting that fight, it was his first in 16 months after a stint in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Or how he recovered from being knocked down twice by Diobelys Hurtado and was behind on the scorecards to knock the Cuban out in the 11th round. And what of all those bogus decisions that went against him throughout his career.
Indeed, it was former stablemate Meldrick Taylor that once said Whitaker would achieve greatness on his own terms. Meaning that he would not go to war as Hagler did against Hearns or Pryor against Arguello or Tony Montana against the world to become a legend. For the most part, Whitaker did become a great fighter on his own terms, and it was up to his opponents to draw him out of Pea's own conception of greatness and compete on more traditional evaluations of the term.
But none were up to the task. Not Chavez. Not de la Hoya. Not Nelson. Each future hall of famers and each with styles as extreme as their personalities. Although the one thing they shared was their participation in making Pernell Whitaker a contemporary example of fistic elegance that would have been dominant in any era.
An illustration of Whitaker's adroitness came when he wasn't even in the ring. It came on 18 September, 1999 when former Whitaker foes Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in the ill titled 'Fight of the Millennium'.
Remember, Whitaker was fighting 12 pounds out of his ideal weight, some three years past his peak, at the age of 33 and after almost losing to Hurtado when matching a peaking de la Hoya in their welterweight clash in 1997. It left one wondering what may have happened if Whitaker was closer to his apex when they fought. It would have been he, and not Trinidad, that would have inflicted the Golden Boy's first defeat. In fact, much of the American press in reporting the fight thought Pea had won it anyway. Most thought de la Hoya had fought the wrong fight against Pea, electing to try to box with him instead of fighting him. However, it appears de la Hoya has mysteriously been fighting the wrong fights ever since.
Then there was Trinidad's abysmal display of ineffective and passive aggressiveness against de la Hoya, resulting in him lifting Whitaker's old welterweight title from the Golden Boy. It was de la Hoya's superior power and aggressiveness that won him the fight against Whitaker, not his boxing. One could only imagine what a peak Whitaker would have done to Trinidad considering how de la Hoya outfoxed Tito with such ease. (By the way, de la Hoya-Trinidad was the first fight I was happy to score a draw because neither showed enough commitment to deserve victory.)
Greatness was not something that appeared destined for a young Pernell Whitaker. He turned pro after winning an Olympic gold medal in 1984, joining teammates for the Los Angeles games Evander Holyfield, Tyrell Biggs, Mark Breland and Meldrick Taylor in the Main Events stable. As it would turn out, the two most heralded fighters from the '84 Olympics, Biggs and Breland, were busts as professionals. Biggs' reward for a premature date with a peak Mike Tyson was a savage beating while Breland never developed into a dominant pro, continually losing his biggest fights. Meldrick Taylor too, after a promising start to his career in defeating Buddy McGirt appeared destined for stardom until psychologically breaking down after his devastating final seconds defeat at the hands of Chavez in 1990.
Whitaker and Holyfield became the legends of the stable, although Sweet Pea's progression was not as swift as the Real Deal's.
For those that witnessed a young Pea, they could be forgiven for believing his career would have been no more legendary than, say, a Donald Curry. A flawed genius whose defeats would become of more significance than his victories. A succession of injuries and a slow adjustment to the professional ranks however did not halt Whitaker's ascension to championship status and a number one ranking by the WBC for Jose Luis Ramirez' belt in 1988. In one of the most controversial decisions this side of Seoul's ring-jacking of Roy Jones Jnr. that year, Whitaker, despite winning eight to nine of the rounds on most impartial ring side scorecards inexplicably lost for the first time in his pro career.
Undeterred, Whitaker returned, with a more offensive guise a year later to rest the IBF lightweight title from former tough guy competitor Haugen.
Over the next three years, Whitaker would do what few have bothered to attempt in recent years by cleaning out his division while unifying the lightweight titles, avenging his lone loss and comprehensively defeating the great Azumah Nelson. With no more challenges left on the horizon, Whitaker went up in weight looking for that defining career fight in his career. The man that would make him a legend was the supposedly invincible Julio Cesar Chavez. After making a brief stop at the junior-welterweight division to arrest the IBF title from Pineda, Whitaker would defeat an equally adept ring technician in Buddy McGirt to take the WBC welterweight title. He finally allured Chavez into a contest fought on 6 September, 1993.
In a fight that was more interesting than it was exciting, Whitaker schooled a still good and still undefeated Chavez, only to receive a draw on the scorecards for his technically unflawed display. Despite the dubious result of the fight, Whitaker finally mounted to the top of the pound for pound rankings.
Whitaker would defend his welterweight crown a further seven times before losing to de la Hoya, in between winning the light-middleweight crown from Julio Cesar Vasquez. However, from the Chavez fight onwards, Whitaker could not secure a worthwhile fight while he was still near his peak (until 1995) to enhance his legendary status. The de la Hoya and Trinidad fights both came after his peak while his 25 April, 1998 date with Ike Quartey was canceled due to Whitaker failing a drug test. Both Chavez and de la Hoya refused to engage in rematches, hence Whitaker had to feed on mediocrity, who could contribute little to his reputation other than to beef up his championship record.
In reflection, such close decisions (Ramirez I, Chavez and de la Hoya) going against Whitaker was as much to do with his aesthetically displeasing (to the non-purist anyway) style, incessant clowning inside the ring and arrogance outside it as it was his lack of box office appeal.
Boxing fans in the States are spoilt with their endless production line of quality fighters; so much so that skill sometimes become expendable. In Europe, the famine of truly great fighters makes us appreciate the skills of a Pernell Whitaker that much more. Can it be any coincidence that the ring artistry of recent visitors to the British shores of Ronald 'Winky' Wright and John David Jackson are revered here, while both remain largely obscure in their home country? The perceptions of excitement are far different on these shores, despite our occasional thirst for a good scrap.
Saying Pernell Whitaker is the best boxer of the 1990s is as controversial statement as saying that Muhammad Ali is the most significant fighter of the century or Sugar Ray Robinson the greatest pound for pound fighter ever.
Throughout the years, both boxing experts and fans alike have taken Whitaker's skills for granted. The fluid movement, the angles, the way he paralyses opponents to the floor, the sense of anticipation, the domination of the ring. People forget his deficiencies and his flaws that could have made his career resemble a Michael Nunn or even a Breland.
For him to bow down to public pressure and become a brawler would have been about as smart as Marciano deciding to get on his weighty toes and box with Jersey Joe Walcott or Archie Moore. Like Marciano, Whitaker simply worked to his strengths. Imagine being in front of an opponent, knowing that you cannot eliminate him with one savage piece of anger and that you must concentrate for every second of every round to avoid elimination. If the aim of the game is to defeat the opponent, Whitaker has a true understanding of this. And there have been few greater exponents of this art of defeating in the history of the sport than Whitaker.
His natural deficiencies could not afford Whitaker a more aggressive style, and he does not apologize for it. Nor should he. In years to come, people will come to appreciate Whitaker, who was so far ahead of his time, judges would need instant action replays to fully comprehend what he does in the ring to do him justice.
2 January, 1964, Norfolk, VA
45 fights, 40 (wins) - 3 (losses) - 1 (draw) - 17 (kayos) - 1 (no decision)
IBF lightweight title (February 18 1989 to April 1992)
WBC lightweight title (August 20 1989 to April 1992)
WBA lightweight title (August 11 1990 to April 1992)
IBF junior-welterweight title (July 18 1992 to February 1993)
WBC welterweight title (March 6 1993 to April 12 1997)
WBA junior-middleweight title (March 4 1995 to March 5 1995)
Challenger to Whitaker's Crown
Roy Jones Jnr.
By far the most talented fighter of the decade, and the only fighter to dominate his opponents as more convincingly than Whitaker because of his superior punching power. The only problem with picking him as the number one fighter of the 1990s was his reluctance to face such fighters as Steve Collins, Nigel Benn and Frankie Liles (although none would have had much chance against him) and his lack of quality opponents. Bernard Hopkins and James Toney were both very good, but hardly hall of famers while both Virgil Hill and Mike McCallum were ancient when Jones defeated them.
Oscar de la Hoya
De la Hoya's résumé is indeed impressive. No fighter in the nineties has fought as many name brand fighters as the Golden Boy, and until the Trinidad fight, he had defeated them all. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the victories prevent a number one ranking, although a convincing victory over Trinidad would have furthered his case. Most of the good, not great fighters he faced early in his career (Molina, Hernanadez, Leija) were rising in weight to fight de la Hoya, while the legendary fighters (Whitaker, Chavez) had seen better days. Throw in two controversial decisions - Whitaker and Quartey - and his reluctant waltz against Trinidad and the jury is still out on the Golden Boy.
Commander Vander is a great fighter and, indeed, an overachiever, but lets not get carried away when evaluating his greatness. Yes, we must commend him for fighting everyone who was anyone in the heavyweight division in the 1990s. Yes, we must commend him for being a part of some of the great battles in ring history. And yes we should commend him for showing a spirit that would not look out of place in an earlier era. But one look at his record against the best heavyweights in the 1990s tells another story. He twice defeated a pass his sell by date Mike Tyson as well as ancient legends Larry Holmes and George Foreman. But he also went 1 (win)-2 (losses) against Riddick Bowe, 1-1 against Michael Moorer, 1 loss and 1 draw against Lennox Lewis and was never a consistent or dominant heavyweight champion.
Radio City Music Hall - The Roy Jones Jr.-David Telesco Fight
On Saturday night, January 15, 2000, my daughter treated me to two tickets for the fight card held at Radio City Music Hall. She "treated" as in "don't look too closely at your Visa bill, Dad". In order to do justice
to the whole evening I am going to partition this article into three sections, namely, the location, the production and the fights themselves.
My wife is not sports oriented so I asked a friend to come along. He always asks me over for the PPV fights and was only too happy to go with me. We arrived at Radio City at 7:45. The card was supposed to start at 7:00. The first fight, Billy Lewis v. Leslie Stewart, was in the 7th or 8th round by the time we found our seats, leading me to believe that 7:00 is when they opened the doors and the fight started about 7:20.
As we approached the front of Radio City Music Hall on the 6th Avenue side there was a red carpet on the sidewalk. We were instructed to go to the side entrance to the lobby on 50th street to enter. The ushers looked very carefully at the tickets to assure that they were not counterfeits. After being allowed entry the first reaction is "WOW". The hall had just undergone a 70 million dollar restoration. It now looks like something from the 30's,
when it originally opened. I had been there several years ago for a Bette Midler concert. As nice as the hall was then, it is even more magnificent now. All the walls have been repainted back to the original colors and all wallpaper has been replaced. Also, new carpeting has been installed. There were no renovations in terms of moving walls, beams, etc.
The lobby is four or five stories high with a curving staircase. Once you take in the view, you realize that you are certainly not in your neighborhood multiplex. This is the way a movie house should be. When I was a teenager many movie houses had a double feature. The Radio City Music Hall would have a single movie and a show by the Rockettes for maybe 50 cents more than the neighborhood theater. This was during the years when they didn't have a Christmas or Easter Spectacular or some other attraction. It was a nice place to go on a date.
My friend has bad legs. When we were told that our seats were in the 3rd mezzanine, he told an usher that he can't climb that many steps. She said to go to the north side of the lobby and take an elevator. No handicap passes or anything needed. Just as we turn to the elevators we meet the founder of CBZ, Mr. Mike DeLisa, wearing a press pass. We chatted for a few minutes. He made up some cigars for the fight and with CBZ he got a pass. I told him if he needs a bodyguard for the next fight, I'll volunteer.
After saying "Ciao" we got on the elevator and another time warp occurred. The elevator was run by a young lady who had to turn a crank and look thru a little glass window to stop the car. No automatic push button operation in this building. The seats were in the Bob Uecker section----3 rows from the top.
The hallways have statues and art work in them which makes you realize you're in a classy place. Even the bathrooms are classy. As you enter there is a lounge room with couches and seats. There are telephone booths on one side. The old style where you can pull a bi-fold door shut for privacy and the bench you sit on is padded. However as a concession to the modern era, the pay-phone is a push button, not a rotary dial. The floor of the main part of the bathroom is made up of small one inch black tiles with a few white ones put in to break the one color motif. It is not a checkerboard pattern but probably 12 or 14 black to every white tile. After washing my hands I saw the hand-dryers recessed into the wall. Everybody was trying to figure out how to use them since there was no button to push and putting your hands under the nozzle did nothing. Then someone noticed a little sign under the nozzle instructing you to step on a brass pedal on the floor to operate the machine.
I cannot get over the magnificence of the location, having been there before and after the restoration effort. I would urge every CBZ reader who comes to New York City to attend a show at Radio City Music Hall. It is an
experience, whether its a concert, show, or hopefully more boxing. At least take a tour of the facility and you will be amazed.
The card was put on by Murad Muhammed, HBO, et al. To sum it up in one word ... uneven.
The four fights prior to going live on HBO at 9:45 contained 8 nobodies. Not a crime since most fighters start out as nobodies and become somebody. It is always nice to say 'I saw his first fight and now look at him" However the first fight commenced at about 7:20 and went the ten round distance to a decision. The next three fights each went two rounds or less. Thus by 9:00 the undercard was finished and it was a very long 45 minutes
until HBO went on the air. To appease the crowd, some rock videos were shown on the large screens on each side of the stage. Shame on Radio City, HBO, Murad Muhammed & Co. for not having a swing bout set up or have some tapes of famous fights or famous rounds to show. As someone yelled out from my section "show the Sopranos instead of this garbage". Considering some of the cast were in the audience it wasn't a bad idea.
Having Roy Jones Jr.in a tuxedo like outfit doing a number with the Rockettes was cute and enjoyable. Also, his entrance to the ring a la Prince Hamed was a nice touch. He came out from a dressing room past a curtain on
to a ledge on one side of the auditorium. He went along the ledge, down a few steps to another ledge where a rapper came out from behind the second curtain. They both danced down to a third ledge where another rapper came out from behind that curtain. They then danced their way down to the ring. I haven't seen a repeat of the show or a tape of it. It was cute and if that is what is needed to attract new fans to boxing, so be it.
The most annoying part of the production was during the Roy Jones fight. For some reason, probably having to do with the TV production, different colored lights were shown on to the audience making viewing of the fight very difficult. I had to lean forward in my seat and place my hands on my forehead like a visor to concentrate on the fight. The intensity of the lights kept varying and there were not on all the time. Sometimes it was during a round and sometimes between rounds. They all went on or off simultaneously and there didn't seem to be a rationale for when they went on or off. In fact during a lull in the seventh or eighth round a chant went up from the audience of "TURN THE LIGHTS OFF". Eventually they were moderated. I don't know if the chant was picked up on the audio or if it was referred to by the 3 Stooges broadcasting the fights. The lights were annoying to me up in the "nose bleed" section. I wonder how it was for someone in a lower balcony or on the floor. I hope that this was just the growing pains for the broadcast technicians. If these lights are going to be a permanent production of every fight, the prices better be kept reasonable before a boycott takes place.
As mentioned previously, the undercard was forgettable. The first fight went the distance to a unanimous decision. I don't think it did anything to further Billy Lewis's career as it was a dull fight. The next three fights
were dramatic for their swift knockouts but appeared to be set-ups against weak opposition.
The David Izon / Derrick Jefferson fight was a good heavyweight fight. Jefferson was undefeated and was favored over Izon who only had two defeats on his record. Jefferson kept pounding away for most of the fight but couldn't put Izon down or away. About the sixth or seventh round my friend Harry leaned over and said "Geez, I think Jefferson has punched himself out". Harry was right based on the fall to the canvass in the eighth round by Jefferson from sheer exhaustion.
The main event of Roy Jones, Jr. v. David Telesco started with Michael Buffer's famous "Lets get ready to rumble". The fight brought to mind the old saying "you can't hit what you can't find". David Telesco kept throwing punches but RJ was just too quick for him. View Jones through binoculars, it is amazing how quick his hand speed is. TV does do him justice. He is so fast with his hands an opponent can't duck out of the way of something he can't see. Later Jones claimed to have broken a bone in his hand a week and a half before the fight. Based on his defensive posture during most of the bout it is very possible he is telling the truth. He didn't want to back out of such a prestigious event at the last minute.
Radio City Music Hall was built in 1932. January 15, 2000 was the first time boxing was presented. Based on the sellout, I hope they have another card. The ticket was only $25 for our section. Although high up the stage was clearly visible. As I said to my daughter who also attended with a friend, it might be more prestigious to sit in a lower level seat but you usually have a better time in the cheap seats. It was fun to pick out the cast of the Sopranos, Queen Latifah, Larry Holmes, Michael Grant and Mike DeLisa with binoculars.
Based on the grandeur of the location, ticket price and overall good time, it was well worth attending. Should they have another card with at least two good fights on the bill and tickets reasonably priced I definitely will go.
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