|. . . THE CYBER BOXING ZONE JOURNAL||
SPIRITUAL ADVISER ON ALL
RINSING OFF THE MOUTH PIECE
R.I.P. Chuck Hull
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Chuck Hull, a ring announcer for many of the big Las Vegas fights of the 1980s, died Tuesday. He was 75.
Hull, who estimated he was the ring announcer for at least 130 world title fights until he retired in 1995, worked such bouts as the first Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns and the Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali and Holmes-Gerry Cooney fights.
Hull was also the boxing ring announcer for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and was the first sportscaster for KLAS-TV, a Las Vegas television station.
The flotsam & jetsam left over from the detritus of The Hurricane, continues in the media. In last month's editorial, the Ol' Spit Bucket railed against the reeking b.s. that permeates the film.
I can hear the collective yawn in cyber space already, but don't worry, dear readers, the Bucket is gonna spare you, I ain't gonna go off on another rant ... I spoke my piece last month & I will stand by it. But I do want to
turn everybody on to a chilling story about one of Carter's victims that the movie completely ignored. The link is: (http://cyberboxingzone.com/pedro/ta2800.htm).
I will let you readers come to your own conclusions. The article speaks eloquently for itself. Also, look for an interview with the venerable champ himself, Joey Giardello, in our next issue.
Lastly, kudos must be given to Max Kellerman & Pedro Fernandez for helping the champ get the truth out about the distortions & misrepresentations of the movie. The CBZ contacted both of them on Giardello's behalf & they immediately stepped up to the plate & facilitated getting the champ on their respective TV & radio shows.
Good goin' guys!
I think our readers will find that our February issue will help quench their boxing Jones ... As usual we have a wide variety of boxing articles that span an extensive range of boxing issues. For me, the center piece this month is by Richard Meltzer, partially entitled, My Century, Your Century, Bobo Olson's Century.
We pride ourselves on maintaining the CBZ as an open forum for all boxing fans. While we do publish a lot of articles by well known boxing scribes & historians, we also, every issue, publish many articles by unknown writers.
The criteria for writing for the CBZ is this: You can write an article as long or as short as you want, you can use strong language or not & you can write about anything you want as long as it is well written & has at least a peripheral connection to boxing.
Which brings me back to Richard Meltzer. His piece is about as peripheral as it gets, boxing wise. It's also, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most brilliant, ranting, screeds I have ever read.
I have showed Richard's piece to some of the staff & the reactions have ranged from, "genius" & "awesome" to, "What is this freakin' crap, Bucket? This guy must be on the same drugs as you are ..."
Yeah, well ... What can I say?
A little background on Mr. Meltzer: Richard was one of the first & one of the most influential rock & roll critics extant. His mordant wit & cynically skewed view of the music business was priceless. His critiques for The Village Voice were a must read for anybody in the music biz. I asked Richard if he would send me some biographical info on himself & this is what he sent me:
"Richard Meltzer, no youngster, has been writing professionally for almost 35 years. One of the founding fathers of rock journalism, he is the author of between eight and twelve books, including the novel The Night (Alone), and has written on such subjects as TV, politics, boxing, whiskey and sex. His essay, "The Wisdom in Our Underwear," was originally published in December by the San Diego Reader. A 600-page collection, A Whore Just Like the Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer, is scheduled for spring release by DaCapo Press.
I STILL think Hurricane was framed, but I have no intention of seeing that stupid movie. (And by the way, the original Hurricane, Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson, one sorry mess-and-a-half, went to my elementary school, P.S. 44, Rockaway Beach.)"
Anyway, to say the least, Mr. Meltzer's article may not be everybody's thang. & as editor of the CBZ Journal, a boxing magazine, the Bucket knows some heat will be generated by some of our readers who don't expect or feel this is appropriate for a publication that deals with fistiana ... But I also know there are a lot of readers who will be delighted with Mr. Meltzer's unequivocal views. At any rate, please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts.
& with that I'll take my leave & let y'all enjoy the new issue.
Roy Jones Jr...The Way Things Should Have Been. By Thomas Gerbasi
1994 Mar 22 Danny Garcia Pensacola, FL KO 6
May 27 Thomas Tate Las Vegas TKO 2 (Retains IBF Middleweight Title)
Aug Abandons Middlewight Title
Nov 18 James Toney Las Vegas W 12 (Wins IBF Super Middleweight Title)
Mar 18 Antoine Byrd Pensacola, FL TKO 1 (Retains IBF Super Middleweight Title)
Jun 24 Vinny Pazienza Atlantic City TKO 6 (Retains IBF Super Middleweight Title)
Sep 30 Tony Thornton Pensacola, FL TKO 3 (Retains IBF Super Middleweight Title)
Between 1994 and 1995, Roy Jones Jr. had six fights (listed above). Thomas Tate and Vinny Pazienza are passable as contenders, and Garcia, Byrd, and Thornton were no hopers against the skills of Jones. The big name which stands out among the above six is James Toney, who at the time of their matchup was considered to be one of the best in the world, pound for pound; a distinction now held by Mr. Jones. In their November 18, 1995 matchup, Jones dominated Toney completely, winning an easy 12 round decision. Since then, the names on Jones' ledger have ranged from the obscure to the ridiculous, with a moderately well known name sprinkled in here and there. Thus, those who debate about such things rate Jones not as one of the greatest to ever lace up the gloves, but one of the biggest talent squanderers to step into the ring.
But let's suppose Jones chose five opponents in 94-95 other than Garcia, Tate, Byrd, Pazienza, and Thornton. For instance let's put Roy in the ring with Steve Collins, Gerald McClellan, Frankie Liles, Chris Eubank, and Nigel Benn. Odds are very strong that the naysayers would be pointing to Jones as an all-time great, and not as a reluctant warrior. Jones vs. Steve Collins - WBO/IBF Middleweight Title - London, England
Wembley Arena is packed to the gills for this title bout, and the local boy Collins didn't disappoint in the first round, surprising Jones with some deft defensive moves and quick counterpunching. Jones quickly caught on to Collins' scheme though, and proceeded to issue a steady beating to the Irishman in rounds two through four. One judge even scored a 10-8 round for Jones in the fourth.
Collins would not go quietly though, and a steady body attack was starting to affect the American. Rounds eight and nine featured Collins' finest work as he caught Jones on the ropes and pounded him about the arms and body. The tenth and eleventh rounds were tepid affairs, as the two tired warriors circled each other, with only sporadic jabs by Jones winning him the rounds. A second wind was had by both men in the final frame, and the two traded blows until the final gong.
Jones' early lead and late finish made the decision academic: 114-113, 116-112, 116-111 for Roy Jones Jr.
Jones vs. Gerald McClellan - WBO/IBF/WBC Middleweight Title - Las Vegas, Nevada
One of the most anticipated bouts in recent history got off to a slow start, as both men spent the first round feeling each other out. Jones stepped on the gas in the second round, wobbling McClellan with a left hook , and cutting him over the right eye. All three judges scored the second 10-8, and what was expected to be a classic was looking more like a blowout. McClellan crawled back into the fray in rounds three and four, and with the esception of the second round, the fight was shaping up as a chess match. In the seventh round, both men finally went toe to toe, and all sorts of heavy artillery was piercing the outdoor air at Caesar's Palace. The G-Man kept the heat on, and knowing that he was trailing on the scorecards, launched an all out assault in round nine. A well placed left hook to the liver sent Jones to the canvas for the first time in his career. He climbed up at 6 and the bell intervened. With Jones in his sights, McClellan looked to finish things in the tenth. But a left hook to the jaw sent the G-Man sprawling into the ropes. He staggered forward on rubbery legs, and referee Richard Steele didn't allow McClellan to take another punch. Jones wins by 10th Round TKO.
Jones vs. Frankie Liles - IBF/WBA Super Middleweight Title -Pensacola, Florida
After successive victories over Collins, McClellan, and Toney, Frankie Liles looked to be a night off for the multi-talented Jones. No one told Liles. Frankie jumped on Jones at the opening bell, raking his body with lefts and rights, and killing any sort of rhythm Jones wanted to establish. Liles' mugging of Jones continued for three rounds, and the pro-Jones crowd was worried. But have no fear, Pensacola residents, Jones came roaring back in rounds four and five, and Roy's dazzling hand speed and power produced a knockdown of Liles in the sixth stanza. Liles rose at 7, but was dazed. A big left hook to the ribs doubled Liles over, but he remained standing. The bell halted Jones from continuing his assault, but it looked like the end was near. Once again, someone forgot to inform Liles. Gamely refusing to give ground, Liles battled with Jones, outgunned but not outgutted. When the final bell rang, the Pensacola crowd roared not only for the hometown hero, but for the gutty Liles. The decision...115-112, 116-111, 115-112 for..Roy Jones Jr.
Jones vs. Chris Eubank - WBO/WBA/IBF Super Middleweight Title - London, England
The English press warned the world that this fight would either be great or lousy, with no middle ground. They were right. Eubank preened and posed throughout the twelve rounds, fighting sporadically. Jones wasn't much better, content to dance and dazzle with his footwork, and doing just enough to win rounds. The English crowd was not impressed, and a chant quickly came up from the rafters "Benn, Benn, Benn, Benn". After Jones' unanimous decision win was announced (117-113, 118-113, 116-113), the UK would get its wish.
Jones vs. Nigel Benn - Undisputed Super Middleweight Title -London, England
Jones was now an International star, sellling out Wembley Stadium along with local product Nigel Benn. This one was not to be forgotten. Benn had done a lot of trash talking before the fight, and Jones looked to make him pay early and often. A Left hook staggered Benn in the opening minute, and after a barrage of Jones' best, Nigel walked back to his corner on rubbery legs at the bell. Benn turned the tables in the second, and his wild charges took Jones and the crowd by surprise. This was a fight! Jones had the upper hand again in the third round, but in the fourth, a right cross dropped Jones to the floor. Wembley Stadium erupted, but Jones made it up quickly at the count of four. With the crowd still buzzing, the action slowed in the fifth, but picked up again in the sixth. Benn tagged Jones with a couple of haymakers, but paid for his porous defense when a counter right cross by Jones put Benn face down on the canvas. To the surprise of everyone, "The Dark Destroyer" rose to his feet to resume hostilities. Jones was in complete control now, and Benn was ill equipped to handle Jones' onslaught. He survived the round, but the result was now academic. 2:36 into the seventh round, referee Mills Lane stopped the contest, and Roy Jones had unified the Super Middleweight crown.
What if indeed...
Note...All simulations conducted with Championship Boxing-K&K Computer Solutions http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~kkcomp/champbox.htm
SONNY LISTON "THE MENACING BLACK BEAR"
By Tracy Callis
Sonny Liston was one of the most awesome, massive, and powerful heavyweights of all-time. At his peak, he was the closest thing to Jim Jeffries in the last 100 years in terms of raw strength, hard-hitting, and ability to take a punch (with the possible exception of George Foreman). If Joe Frazier qualifies as the "Black Marciano", then Sonny Liston at his best could be called the "Black Jeffries."
Liston possessed a stiff left jab and vicious hooks from both sides. He moved quickly for a big man and fought from a rather straight up stance, crouching when attacked. Never off his feet until the second bout with Muhammad Ali, his chin was pure granite. Only his endurance was a question mark since most opponents were unable to extend him.
Liston was avoided by champion Floyd Patterson and labeled as undeserving of a title shot because of his bad character and background. When he was finally given a chance at the crown in 1962, he cleaned up Patterson without breaking a sweat. His reign as champion was short-lived, but had his title match with Patterson taken place when it should have, in the mid-fifties, he would easily have been champion from 1958 to 1964 and possibly longer (since some mystery surrounds his title fights with Ali).
Many knowledgeable boxing people rate Liston in his prime among the best heavyweights ever. Some rate him above Muhammad Ali. It is difficult to think of him as better since Muhammad defeated him twice in the ring. But, he was "over-the-hill" during these fights. Also, the question of fixed bouts has been raised in connection with these matches.
A few rate him as the greatest ever. They think he could knockout any man he could hit including Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Foreman, and Jeffries. They say the only type of fighter who would have a chance of beating him would be a runner like Muhammad Ali, Gene Tunney, or Jim Corbett. And, at his best, they feel he would catch up with these guys over the long haul.
Liston flattened Floyd Patterson on two occasions, each fight lasting only one round. He took Pattersons best punches without blinking. He twice stopped the thunderous puncher Cleveland Williams and took his best shots with ease. He required only fifteen rounds to finish off the following top eight contenders - Billy Hunter, Julio Mederos, Wayne Bethea, Frankie Daniels, Nino Valdes, Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Albert Westphal.
Gary Cartwright wrote "No one in his right mind wants to fight Sonny Liston" (see Litsky, 1975 p 205). Atyeo and Dennis (1975 p 35) stated "One by one the top ranking heavyweights crashed beneath Listons bulldozing tactics and massive fists." Litsky (1975 p 205) called Liston "a big, mean, intimidating brute."
Odd (1974 p 59) said if any man was ever equipped advantageously to be heavyweight champion it was Sonny Liston. Muhammad Ali said of Liston, "He was everything they said he was, a mass of muscles, power, force " (see Durant, 1975 p 106).
Houston (1975 p 100) called him "one of the most formidable heavyweights in history powerfully-muscled former convict who oozed menace." He goes on to say (1975 p 101) that Listons fighting was so impressive that it was difficult to find a weakness. Sonny had a "pole-like" left jab, hit heavily with both hands, and seemed impossible to knockout due to his tremendous neck muscles.
Carpenter (1975 pp 125-126) said he was massively broad with impressive measurements. He added that Listons left jab compared favorably with Joe Louis jab, that he appeared to be impervious to punishment, and that he looked like the best champion since Rocky Marciano. According to Reg Gutteridge (1975 p 19), Marciano once told him that he would not relish being in the same ring with Liston.
McCallum (1974 p 300) said about Liston, "There was just too much dynamite in both hands for most fighters to handle him." Joe Louis predicted that Liston would be champion as long as he wanted to be (Durant 1976 p 150).
In spite of his punch, chin, and menacing attitude, there are many who ignore him in the all-time rankings. His personal life was a disgrace as he was constantly in trouble with society and its laws. One of 25 children, Liston could barely read or write. Grombach (1977 p 86) called Liston "probably one of the most illiterate top performers in modern boxing. He was a mental deficient, hardly able to read and write."
According to Fleischer and Andre (1975 p 159), Liston himself said that when he was thirteen, he joined a bad crowd that was always looking for trouble. McCallum (1975 p 67) said "His biggest fault lay in the fact that he grew up thinking that criminals were great people." Durant (1975 p 142) wrote, "Liston was a hoodlum, a labor goon, and head-breaker." Jim Bishop said, "Liston had all the character of a mongrel, but he could hit" (see McCallum 1975 p 68)
Cooper (1978 pp 149-150) stated, "People didnt like him, and he didnt like people" and called him "a man with a grudge against everything and just about everybody." He later described Listons fighting by saying "looking after himself without needing to use science was nothing but second nature."
Cosell (1973 p 169) wrote about an interview he did with Liston saying, "Suddenly, I realized that at heart he was just a big bully."
In the same book, Cosell discusses the possibility of Sonnys involvement with gangsters and a fixed fight in Listons loss of the title to Muhammad Ali. Of the knockout punch in the second fight, Cosell quotes Jimmy Cannon, boxing writer, as saying "I was sittin right there. I saw the punch, and it couldnt have crushed a grape" (see Cosell 1975 p 181). Cosell goes on to say, "There was a look of absolute relief on Listons face. I dont think I ever saw Sonny appear so content in his life, and I wondered about that."
Robert Lipsyte wrote, "It must never be forgotten that he was a very good fighter" (see Litsky 1975 p 205).
In the opinion of this writer, Liston was the #8 heavyweight of all-time this only after giving in to pressures of colleagues and consideration of a possible lack of stamina in Sonny. At times, there is a strong feeling he was among the four best heavyweights ever.
Sonny Liston Boxing Record
Atyeo, D. and Dennis, F. 1975. The Holy Warrior Muhammad Ali. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Carpenter, H. 1975. Boxing : A Pictorial History. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.
Cooper, H. 1978. The Great Heavyweights. Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell Books, Inc.
Cosell, H. 1973. Cosell. Chicago: The Playboy Press.
Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers.
Durham, R. 1975. The Greatest My Own Story (Muhammad Ali). New York: Random House Publishers.
Fleischer, N. and Andre, S. 1975. A Pictorial History of Boxing. Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books.
Grombach, J. 1977. The Saga of the Fist. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company.
Gutteridge, R. 1975. Boxing : The Great Ones. London: Pelham Books Ltd.
Houston, G. 1975. SuperFists. New York: Bounty Books.
Litsky, F. 1975. Superstars. Secaucus, NJ: Derbi-books Inc.
McCallum, J. 1975. The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company.
Odd, G. 1974. Boxing : The Great Champions. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited.
A Walkabout With Lionel Rose
By Rick Farris
On February 26, 1968, Mashiko "Fighting" Harada, the greatest Japanese boxer of all-time, was scheduled to defend his World Bantamweight title against number one challenger Jesus Pimentel of Mexico. It would be Harada's fourth defense of the title he'd won nearly three years previous by upsetting the great Eder Jofre of Brazil.
Pimentel was one of the hardest hitting bantamweights ever and had been in contention for a title shot throughout most of the sixties. However, just days before the fight, Pimentel's manager Harry Kabakoff demanded more money
from the Japanese promoter. When the promoter refused to renegotiate, Kabakoff pulled his fighter out of the match and returned to the United States. The story was that Pimentel had taken ill.
Desperate to save the promotion, the Japanese promoter sought a qualified challenger for Harada. The champion had struggled to make weight for the bout and after doing so insisted on fighting. Harada's plan was one last title defense before moving up to the featherweight division. However, none of the contenders were interested in taking a title shot on such short notice, except one, the Australian Bantamweight Champion Lionel Rose. Rose was considered the perfect replacement because he was not considered a hard puncher like the thunderous punching Pimentel. Rose had a 27-2 record and had scored only 8 KO's.
Rose and his manager Jack Rennie jumped on a plane for Tokyo and three days later the 20-year-old Australian won the World Bantamweight title with a unanimous fifteen round decision over Harada.
Six months later, after defending his title against Japan's Takao Sakurai, Rose made his U.S. debut in a 10 round non-title bout against perennial contender Jose Medel of Mexico. Medel was one of the greatest bantamweights
to come out of Mexico but had the misfortune of coming up at the same time as another Mexican great, former bantam king Jose Beccera. Medel had fought and beaten most of the top bantamweights in the world during the previous decade. He had KO'ed Fighting Harada prior to Harada winning the title from Jofre. My father and I had seen Medel fight two years previous when he defeated Jesus Pimentel by decision at the L.A. Sports Arena.
Also on the card would be future bantamweight champion Chucho Castillo, who had just beaten Jesus Pimentel two months earlier in the Forum's first boxing show. Castillo would be fighting Scotland's Evan Armstrong and was expected to be Rose's next opponent in a title defense.
I remember when Rose arrived in Los Angeles. I was 16-years-old at the time and was anxious to get a look at the Australian who was a heavy underdog when he won the title. I had read a lot about Rose and wanted to watch him train. I had no idea that less than a year later I would have a chance to spar with Rose while he trained for his last title defense against Ruben Olivares.
At the time, Forum boxing promoter George Parnassus' office was located in the old Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles. The Alexandria had been one of Los Angeles' finest hotels around the turn-of-the-century. During the 20's it was a place where many celebrities and dignitaries stayed, including Jack Dempsey. However, in 1968 the Alexandria was in no better shape than most of the buildings near 5th & Spring St. It was one step above a flop house.
However, George Parnanssus loved the Alexandria. He'd gotten his first job there washing dishes after arriving in America from Greece in 1909. He would turn the old ballroom into a boxing gymnasium and showcase the fighters he was promoting on Forum cards and charge $1 admission to anybody who cared too watch.
The Alexandria was located right around the corner from the Main Street Gym where I would train on weekends. After I'd finish my workouts on Saturday & Sunday mornings I'd hurry over to the Alexandria where I could watch Rose and the other fighters on the card train. One of those fighters was another Mexican bantamweight contender, Ruben Olivares. With Rose, Castillo. Olivares and Medel on the card, I was able to see the four best 118 pounders in the world up close as they prepared for their matches.
I remember how impressed I was with Rose. He was tall for a bantamweight, about 5'7", and had the best jab I'd ever seen. It was rare that I was impressed with any bantamweight having been around the best 118 pounders from Mexico, I was always partial to the great Latin bantams. However, Rose was special, kind of a throw back to another era. This guy was a master boxer and he was only 20. He had several sparring partners including Jorge "Alacrancito" Torres, younger brother of flyweight champ Efren "Alacran" Torres.
Rose ended up defeating Medel easily, winning a unanimous decision in his American debut. Chuchu Castillo KO'ed an over matched Evan Armstrong in three rounds, putting himself in line for a title shot. Another winner that night, also making his U.S. debut, was another future champ, Ruben Olivares. Olivares KO'ed Filipino Bernabe Fernandez in the third round
This would set up Rose's second title defense. Four months later, Lionel Rose and Chucho Castillo would be involved in a war. A war that resulted in a riot.
Mexico has produced many of the greatest bantamweights to ever step into a boxing ring. 1968 was no exception. With Jose Medel past his prime and Jesus Pimentel heading in the same direction, a new crop of Mexican bantams were beginning to rise. Chucho Castillo was one of them.
Castillo was the Mexican Bantamweight Champion and had defeated Edmundo Esparza, Jose Medel, Memo Tellez and Jesus Pimentel. You have to understand that in Mexico, being the Mexican Champion is more important than being the world champion. Often the Mexican Champion was, or would become, the World
Champ. When Chucho Castillo stepped into the Forum ring to fight Lionel Rose for the title, he had the support of thousands of Mexican's who had spent hard earned money to travel to Los Angeles from below the border. They expected Castillo to return home with the title, and he almost did.
Rose and Castillo put on a great battle for 15 rounds. Rose boxed brilliantly, using his darting left jab and sharp counter punches to hold off the charging Castillo. Castillo landed the harder blows and in the 10th round floored the Australian which drove the Mexican fans crazy. "Chucho, Chucho, Chucho"" the fans chanted. However, Rose made it to his feet and went right back to his original plan. He held off the furious attack of the Mexican and continued to box. At the end of 15 rounds ring announcer Mario Machado read the verdict. Lionel Rose was awarded a split decision victory over Castillo. The Mexican fans went crazy and literally tore apart the
brand new 18,000 seat Forum.
I had attended the match with one of friends, amateur heavyweight Al Boursse. This was one time Al and I were glad our seats were nowhere near the ring. After the decision was announced there was booing, then cups of
beer were tossed toward the ring from way back. Then cherry bombs began to explode and fights started breaking out everywhere. Cushioned seats were slashed open and the stuffing set afire.
After Rose and Castillo left the ring, featherweights Dwight Hawkins and Fernando Sotelo were set to fight in a ten rounder. However, the crowd was so unruly the fight was halted after the third round to protect the fighters
from all of the debris being tossed into the ring.
Al Boursse and I had come to see our stablemate Hawkins or we'd have left quickly after the title fight. When they stopped the Hawkins-Sotelo bout, Al and I headed up the aisle, away from all all the missiles being thrown
down. People were pushing and shoving each other trying to escape. As we passed through a tunnel toward an exit we ran into another one of our stablemates, Ruben Navarro. Navarro said he knew of a short cut so Al & I
followed Ruben back down to the floor and slipped out through the dressing room area. As we headed up the ramp to the parking lot we saw Canto Robledo, an old trainer who was totally blind. Robledo had been separated from his guide and had been hit with several bottles and was bleeding. Navarro took Canto by the arm and led him away from the trouble. Outside, cars were being tipped over and the riot squad was arriving just as we pulled out of the parking lot. All over a close decision.
Eight months later, in August of 1969, Rose returned to Los Angeles for another title defense. This time he would take on one of the greatest bantamweights of all-time, Ruben Olivares.
I was 17 at the time and had just grown into a bantamweight. I was still an amateur but had an opportunity to spar with Rose as he trained for Olivares at the Alexandria. I learned a lot from Lionel and found him to be one of the most interesting characters I've ever met. I only worked out with him twice and wasn't one of his regular sparring partners, however, I picked up a few things from him. I began to use my jab much more effectively after
watching how Rose used his.
After one of Rose's workouts the local press wanted to get some pictures of the champ doing road work. Rose had already done his running for the day but to accommodate the reporters he walked down to Pershing Square, a little downtown park located above an underground parking structure. I had nothing to do so I followed Rose and the reporters down to the park to kill time. Rose was an Australian Aborigine and was like a character out of a Crocodile Dundee movie.
After the photo session was over, he pulled a tiny little pipe out of his pocket, like the ones you used to see old ladies smoke in movies. He filled it with tobacco, lit it with a match and then announced to the rest of us, "Well, it's time for a walk about". Suddenly Rose disappeared. None of us saw him leave, he just vanished.
A week later Ruben Olivares would end the 18 month title reign of Lionel Rose, knocking him out in the fifth round.
Rose would move up to featherweight but with little success. The last time I saw Rose was in 1976 when he came to Los Angeles to fight Bazooka Limon. Rose was KO'ed in that fight and retired shortly afterward.
Recently I was introduced to former world champ Jeff Fenech of Australia who was in Phoenix visiting Mike Tyson. I couldn't help but ask Fenech what had become of Lionel Rose. Fenech just shook his head and said things weren't going well for Rose, but did not elaborate.
Last week I received a video tape in the mail from my friend Ted Luzzi, a regular poster on AOL boxing boards. There were several bouts on the video tape and one was the Rose-Castillo title fight from '68. Watching this tape
brought back a lot of memories and inspired this story.
I hope Lionel Rose is doing better. He was a one of the most unique boxers I have ever met and one of the best.
CHRIS DUNDEE'S LAWS OF BOXING AND PROMOTIONS
BY ENRIQUE ENCINOSA
When I met him he was already a legend. Chris Dundee was then in his late sixties, but still promoting a dozen fight shows a year, booking fighters to Europe and Las Vegas, running his beloved, termite infested Fifth Street Gym, the house where legends trained.
Chris Dundee's boxing career stretched for seven decades, from the age of speakeasies to the age of computers. In his lifetime, Chris promoted over a thousand professional boxing shows, handled the careers of several champions, dozens of contenders and a small army of preliminary pugs.
When Chris Dundee became involved in boxing, people listened to a new sound called jazz, played by young gods of the horn named Armstrong and Beiderbecke. Liquor was outlawed but all drank bathtub gin and admired the daring of Lindbergh. It was the time when Dempsey was champ, the Babe was Sultan of Swat and John Barrymore had a dashing profile. Hitler was a little known local political figure in Germany and the stock market crash that brought the age of economic depression had not yet cast its dark shadow over Wall Street.
By the time Dundee called it a day, the depression, a world war, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam had concluded. Juice bars with avocado protein drinks had replaced the speakeasies, techno-rock was the new vogue sound, fax machines and the Internet were changing world communications and Dan Marino was a seasoned football star.
In between those two moments of beginning and end, Chris Dundee promoted title fights that included the birth of the Ali legend, managed world champions, and was a top booking agent.
In his lifetime, Chris Dundee knew such literati as Hemmingway and Mailer, smoked Cuban cigars with Errol Flynn, attended parties with George Raft and Ed Sullivan, played cards with Rocky Marciano. At his place of business, a termite-eaten gym, The Beatles met Muhammad Ali in a gathering of icons moment of the sixties.
The seven decades of boxing began when a young Chris Mirena became the boxing manager for his brother, a club fighter who battled under the name of Joe Dundee. When Joe retired, Chris kept the Dundee name. Although most of his fighters were older than he was, Chris learned the tricks of the trade with the skill of a virtuoso. At the age of twenty-three, the young manager guided Midget Wolgast to a world title as king of the flyweights.
Chris Dundee sailed through the Great Depression promoting club fights, managing and booking prelim boys and topnotch fighters. Crowded by New York competition, which included some totally unscrupulous characters, Chris looked for a virgin territory in which to establish his kingdom.
Chris fell in love with Miami Beach, the land of art-deco hotels, golden beaches and exotic rum drinks. Boxing had been promoted with some success in the Magic City, but at the time Chris made his move, in the forties, Miami Beach was ready for a hard working fight impresario.
So was born the Fifth Street Gym, the revered temple of sweat where the Ali legend was to be sparked, where Luis Rodriguez, Willie Pastrano and other Hall-of-Famers plied their trade. From the mid-forties to the early nineties Dundee promoted boxing, often at a loss, making up income on wrestling shows and an occasional circus troupe.
He was a real promoter. In this modern age of pay-per-view and television contracts, promotions feed on media advertising to make deals. Chris Dundee did all that, the title fights, the television shows, closed circuit theater fights and hundreds of cheap cards to keep the fighters busy.
"He was a hustler when it came to promoting ticket sales," the great historian Hank Kaplan remarked, "Chris would visit the track, local hotels and all sorts of public events. Since he was so well known, many strangers would come say hello and Chris
would pitch his upcoming card. He always had a book of tickets with him and would sell them ringside or general admissions on the spot."
Dundee guided the careers of champions Ken Overlin, Ezzard Charles, "The Cincinnati Cobra," and the first Bahamian to win a world crown, Elisha Obed. Dundee promoted the first Ali-Liston bout, when the Great One still used his slave name of Cassius Clay.
"The title fights and TV fights are easy," Chris once said, "It's the club fights with five hundred paying customers that are hard. There's no budget."
Since the budget was limited, Chris was often unable to afford fighters from other cities. The Dundee solution was to have a couple of dozen local prelim fighters fight each other over and over. In 1963 and 1964, peak years for Chris, his crew of featherweights and lightweights was made up of Jerry Powers, Sandy Seabrooke, Winston Green, Bobby Marie, Berlin Roberts, Santos Flores and George Sawyer. This was a busy little group that fought each other over and over, for years.
Jerry Powers fought over a hundred fights in his all-prelim career, but almost seventy of those bouts took place in 1963-1964. In those two years "The Prince of Second Avenue" fought Sandy Seabrooke twelve times, Berlin Roberts eight
times, Winston Green seven, George Sawyer six and Santos Flores only five. In the same two-year span, Bobby Marie fought Seabrooke on five occasions and went three against Sawyer. Winston Green, who faced Powers on seven prelim fights, also traded leather twice each with Seabrooke and Flores and once with Roberts.
"If two guys put up a good scrap," former lightweight contender Frankie Otero remarked, "Chris would book a rematch. If you were a prelim fighter who wanted to fight and were not too picky about your opponent, Dundee would give you work."
"Mostly he had fights," Ferdie Pacheco once told me, "shoestring budget for some shows but he kept it going. Even when he wasn't scheduled to fight, Jerry Powers would show up with his gym bag and if Chris was one bout short, it would be a four-rounder with Jerry and any of the other seven or eight guys like him who fought each other all the time."
I learned much about the fight game from Chris Dundee. In the early eighties when I was part of the promotional team of Hank Kaplan-Ramiro Ortiz in Fort Lauderdale, Chris was our consultant guru. His short statements defined situations so well, that among his friends, the statements were jokingly called "Chris Dundee's Laws."
"Chris Dundee's Law on Betting," Frankie Otero remarked, "was -Never bet against an unbeaten fighter."
His laws on promotion were similar pearls of wisdom gathered since the days of Dempsey and Tunney.
"When you put on a card," Chris told me, "always put on your worst bout first and your best fight at the end. This way, you get the worst match out of the way while the people are sitting down or buying hot dogs, and then they go home remembering the last bouts, which were the best fights."
Dundee's Law of Prelim Fights: "The perfect undercard fight is when you have two guys who like to throw a lot of punches and neither one of them can crack an egg. Then the fight goes the distance, no one gets hurt and the fans are happy."
Dundee's Law on Heavyweights: "Anything can happen when big guys clash."
Dundee's Law on Complimentary Tickets: "Once you give a complimentary ticket to a paying customer, you will lose a paying customer forever."
Dundee's Law on Cutting Purses: "Always cut a purse. If you don't, because the kid is just making small change on a prelim fight, then six or seven fights later when you cut the purse for the first time the fighter will look at you like you are raping him. Always cut the purse. It's important the fighter understands the business relationship."
Dundee's Law on House Fighters: "Protect a house fighter but never to the point it hurts the reputation of the promotion. Give the local fighter an edge but the house pays to see a fight. The first priority of a promoter is to put on good fights."
"Chris was really good at matchmaking," Frankie Otero remarked, "I had a great corner with Richie Riesgo, Luis Sarria and Ferdie Pacheco, but I owe my career to Chris. He knew how to match me. -This guy is going to make you work hard, Frankie- he would say -but if you are in shape and box him you will beat him- Chris knew something about every fighter.if the guy was
in shape, if he took a shot, if his reflexes were fading. Chris was very sharp. When he made matches for me with Kenny Weldon and Jimmy Trosclair he knew they would be competitive fights, but I won them because Chris understood both my talents and my limitations as a fighter and the same for my opponents. He made me a local hero and a contender."
Dundee made significant income over the decades by booking Florida based fighters in Europe. Local prelim boys with so-so records would fly across the Atlantic, lose to a European or British champion and pick up a payday five times the size of a hometown stake. Chris would book fights for a ten to fifteen per cent fee.
During the years I was also matchmaking and booking fighters, my sleep was often interrupted by a Chris Dundee call.
"Wake up," he would say, "I need a welterweight for London. Ten rounds against the British and Commonwealth Champion. It pays three thousand. Can you get someone?"
"Chris," I would answer, looking at the digital numbers on the nightstand clock, "It's three o'clock in the morning."
"Not in London," Chris would answer from his Miami Beach home, "they just called me and they need a welterweight now. See if you can get someone. I'll call you back in a half an hour."
Chris was a persistent salesman who could drive a hard deal. When a hotel in the Cayman Islands staged a pro card, Dundee called to offer a fight. I had a welterweight prelim fighter with a nine-and-three record that Chris, in his matchmaking wisdom, had figured as a pleasing opponent for a good prospect on the edge of contender status. Chris offered $ 800 for an eight rounder, plus expenses. I turned it down.
"Why?" Chris looked at me with a convincing countenance of stunned disbelief.
"Ralph Twinning is undefeated in seventeen fights and is a southpaw. It's a very tough fight for very short money, Chris."
"Think about it."
"The answer is no, Chris."
A month later I was matchmaking a card in Hialeah. Needing to complete an eight-rounder, I dropped by Dundee's small office at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
"I need a cruiser to fight Dynamite Perez," I said, "it's an eight rounder."
"The Bahamian fighters are training here now," Chris said, "and Gary Clark is experienced. We can do it for fifteen hundred."
Chris nodded his head vigorously, hoping I would nod back in agreement.
"Same deal as with Ralph Twinning," I said, "eight hundred for eight rounds and he doesn't have to travel far to fight."
"No!" Chris answered, "this is a good fight."
"Sure it is," I answered, "an even fight that could go either way. It's good."
"A thousand," Chris said, "It's a main event."
"It's a small promotion and the money is tight."
"A thousand," Chris repeated like a mantra.
"Thanks but I have to go make some calls," I said "If you won't take it for eight hundred I'll get some farm boy from Homestead to go against Perez for five hundred in a six. It won't be much of a fight but the rest of the card is solid."
He followed me to the parking lot.
"Young man," he said, shaking my hand as he smiled, "you have learned the business."
Although he drove hard bargains and could argue with a booking agent for an hour over a fifty-dollar expense, Chris Dundee had a warm heart. He donated money to charities and once a year, every Thanksgiving, he would host a huge dinner for his boxing people at a local restaurant.
Sportswriter Tom Archdeacon called it a "Pug's Thanksgiving Feast," and it was a moving moment of camaraderie among men whose bond is the communion of pain in a squared ring.
Chris Dundee's Thanksgiving Dinner was attended by the successful and the destitute, by upcoming prospects and old prelim fighters with scarred eyebrows, by paunchy old men who once strutted their stuff under bright lights, when their muscles were young and supple.
It was a spectacular group. There was ancient Sellout Moe Fleischer who had known Bat Masterson, had managed Kid Chocolate and trained Tom Heeney. Across from Moe, sat Sully Emmett, a little man with an incomprehensible chatter and an eternal, well-chewed cigar stub on the corner of his mouth. There were also several generations of prelim fighters represented, men who talked amongst themselves of six hard rounds fought for meager paydays, yet rejoiced in the retelling of the hard fights, wishing they could turn back the clock, to do it all over again. As many as thirty people attended the once a year dinner and Chris paid the full bill.
Chris Dundee died at a nursing home in Florida in November of 1998. The funeral home was packed with familiar faces. Angelo, Robert Daniels, Uriah Grant, Frankie Otero, Chuck Talhami, faces from the Fifth Street Gym.
Tommy Torino was once a competent welterweight, a veteran of several dozen pro fights while in his teen years, a boy who grew to manhood in the gym. Tommy is a full-time promoter and manager, a disciple of the Chris Dundee constant hustle promotional system. Standing in front of the funeral home, looking at the crowd, Tommy looked glum. Chris had been his guru in
the fight game.
"Hey, Tommy," I said, "look at this crowd. This is Chris' last public appearance. We should have put on a couple of sixes and charged admission."
Tommy's glumness seemed to vanish. A slight smile appeared on his face.
You know what?" he said, "Chris would have loved it. Just loved it."
Harry Scott -- A Boxing Pro
By Harry Otty
Jack Dempsey: Society's Most Adored. And Boxing History's Biggest Fraud?
By Alex Hall
Right at the height of the prohibition era, Dempsey's violent style made his fights so exciting that for just a few short rounds, the crowd forgot the need for alcohol as other basic lusts and violent instincts took over. Dempsey was the first Mike Tyson minus the biting and outside fighting. What more could one ask for? His image outside the ring was clean and the leather on his gloves was stained with the blood of countless victims.
From a personal perspective, Dempsey and Tyson have little in common other than a taste for a 'dandy' style of clothes at times. But in the ring they might have more in common than one initially suspects. Both were savage but fast and with a good mind for defense on the attack but there was more. It is now accepted by many that Tyson was lucky to come along among a crop of weak heavyweights. Was Dempsey a truly great heavyweight or was he just a man who lifted the popularity of the sport and gave us thrills?
Dempsey is regarded as being on the same level as Ali, Louis, Marciano and Johnson or whomever else you regard as a great heavyweight? Did Dempsey really beat anyone of such importance that we should hail him as a boxing legend? The definition of an all-time great is very flimsy indeed. Basically, you have to dominate your particular era no matter how weak it may be. By that measure we would regard Tyson as an all-time great too. But we don't do we? Why not, you may ask. In one word: Holyfield. Tyson fought on with the wrong people backing him and got caught out by a seasoned old pro. But wait, was not the same scenario acted out 70 years earlier with Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey? Indeed it was.
If one looks closely one will see that it was not just Dempsey and Tyson who were extremely similar but their chief adversaries were extremely tough, skilled boxers from the division below heavyweight who's defining fight came against a menacing man despite being small for a heavyweight who happened to be leaving their best years with the second of the two encounters being a huge attraction and one of the biggest controversies in boxing history. Was this coincidence or has Dempsey just been grossly overrated? Come to think of it, a better case can be made for Tyson's greatness than for Dempsey's. But Dempsey has been regarded as a great heavyweight and Tunney is dismissed by all but a select few hard-core experts, Tyson on the other hand is dismissed by all but a select few while Holyfield is regarded as an all-time great by all but a select few. My personal views on Tyson on Holyfield will not be discussed here nor will the worth of Gene Tunney but the general opinion of Jack Dempsey will be heavily questioned and criticized below.
The Hurly, Burly, Early Years Of The 'Manassa Mauler'
Here we see one of the few areas of Dempsey's boxing career that did not mirror Mike Tyson's. Dempsey's rise to the title included several four round defeats to the Buster Mathis of the day - Willie Meehan. The decision of those fights has been criticized but it is generally accepted that Dempsey lost at least one most likely two of their encounters. The length of the bouts - four rounds (note: in California four rounds was the maximum number of rounds allowed.) - has been used as a sort of scape-goat. If we were talking about Julio Cesar Chavez or some other notorious slow starter that argument might be prudent, but with a savage killer like Dempsey it must be said that the argument might well have been quickly established with little care or thought as to the true facts of the case. People will criticize my argument by saying that despite Meehan's blubber, he was a good mover, yet these same people worship Dempsey for his speed. That in a way is like saying that Ali can be forgiven for almost getting clocked by Henry Cooper because 'Our 'Enry' was a hard hitter and then say Ali had the greatest chin of all-time. So which is it? You cannot blame the losses on Meehan's speed and then praise Dempsey's for his. The best argument most can come up with to counter that is to question the validity of the decisions recorded. This argument does hold water as fixing the fights in order to win big by betting on Meehan would make sense (although that is mostly just a theory that happens to fit the facts). However, if Dempsey knew he was likely to get jobbed no matter what then would it not be sensible to adopt a new fight plan that would enable him to flatten the 'Phat Boy'? Of course it would, yet Dempsey did no such thing which strongly suggests a total lack of ability to adapt to a new style when his usual one proves ineffective. He had the tools to knock out Meehan. Pernell Whitaker suffered horrendous decisions but the only way he could beat most fighters was to go the distance with them, this is not so of Dempsey.
Fred Fulton is a name known to many common boxing enthusiasts. His name eludes most though in all but one situation: His first round knockout defeat at the hands of Jack Dempsey. His name rarely crops up again and when it does it is usually to mention his amazing size (note: Fred Fulton stood 6'4). Is Joe Louis revered for his demolition of Abe Simon or looked up to for defeating Primo Carnera? Certainly not, so why must we credit Dempsey for knocking out Fred Fulton even if it took a mere 23 seconds. Here I will relieve that nagging bug at the back of your mind that implores you to find out where else you have heard of Fred Fulton: He holds two victories over Sam Langford. Langford is regarded as perhaps the greatest fighter ever to walk the planet. Langford had everything a heavyweight could possibly want - well, almost everything! It is regarded as a miracle that a former lightweight like Langford could compete so successfully with boxing's biggest men. Jack Johnson was credited for beating Langford. But Johnson also beat every other heavyweight of the day, beat a younger version of Langford, was smaller than Fulton and was not stopped in one round by Jack Dempsey. There you see it. Fulton's credentials rest on beating this small man who was past his prime. Therefore Dempsey's victory over Fulton would not equal Evander Holyfield knocking out Lennox Lewis or Michael Grant today, but rather a considerably smaller version of one of the Klitschko brothers or a smaller Andrew Golota or maybe even Mount Whitaker.
Note: Jack Dempsey suffered a one-round defeat to former title challenger Jim Flynn but I did not use that argument as it was almost certainly a fixed fight.
Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday: The Day Jack Dempsey Became Champion Of The World
It was a terribly hot day when the crowds packed the stadium to see Jess Willard defend his title for the first time in three years. The champion was physically imposing but woefully lacking in talent. To this day he does not stand out as the best 'Great White Hope' of his day but only as the most resilient and tough - the only one who could out-last the hated, black champion Jack Johnson in a 45 round fight. Willard won the title in 1915, and defended on one measly occasion. Willard's defense of the world crown against Frank Moran was the equivalent of waiting until you are dealt a royal flush before betting in poker as Moran had no chance of knocking out big Jess and if the fight went the distance (which it did) it would be declared a no-decision. Willard was a nice enough man, but not a great fighter by any standards, had not fought in three years and was 39 years old. Willard was a huge man, and so at first glance, scoring seven knockdowns in one round against him seems incredible until one looks over the rules of the day. In those days, men stood over their fallen opponent and could hit them the instant they rose from the canvass, even if they still lay in a vulnerable position. Such was the tactic Jack Dempsey used against the rusty and aging colossus. In figurative terms, he woke the sleeping giant and proceeded to kick him in the balls before he even got up. This would be like Holyfield knocking out Bowe in 2000 if Bowe had never had any skills in the first place. One must also watch the film (there are many available, I have three copies from various sources myself) to see Willard carry his left hand by his waist and throw crude counters to keep off the challenger. This clearly lessens the achievement of knocking out Jess Willard.
A Dandy And A Destroyer: Jack Dempsey as the Champion in the Roaring Twenties
Dempsey's first defense of the title must come as one of boxing biggest disgraces of the times. The gross mismatch against Billy Miske was a disgusting exhibition that stands out as a blight on the credibility of the sport (ah for the days when boxing had credibility) in the 1920s. Miske was suffering from Bright's Disease and although not totally shot, was certainly no longer a threat due to high-activity and the disease that ravaged his kidneys.
One thousand dollars! One thousand dollars! It just doesn't have much of a ring to it anymore. At least not since 2 July 1921. That was the day that Jack Dempsey and Tex Rickard carried boxing through to a new era. An era in which anything with less than five zeroes simply wasn't enough. Almost exactly two years after Dempsey's title winning victory over Jess Willard in 1919, Dempsey defended for the third time (he had scored a come-from-behind KO of Billy Brennan). Rising in weight, 175 pound king Georges Carpentier challenged Dempsey. Carpentier was a talented boxer, and Dempsey was not huge for a heavyweight, but the fact that Georges still scaled almost three pounds under the light-heavyweight limit for this fight brings to mind the old phrase ''A good big guy always beat a good little guy''. This was very true here. The bigger and stronger champion simply overwhelmed the smaller champion. Basically, it was a case of the 'Manassa Mauler' vs. the 'Manassa Smaller' as Dempsey outweighed Carpentier by between 15 and 20 pounds (I have been unable to find a reliable source that gives Dempsey's weight, but Carpentier was 172½ lbs). All those who have seen the fight must surely see Carpentier's left hand at his side (just like Willard) as he tried to keep off the champion with several wild punches a couple of which appeared to stun the heavyweight champion in the first round. Still, the low left hand and big weight advantage for the champion were too much for Carpentier. His face was badly marked by the end of the first and he was floored twice in the fourth, the last time for the count. Beating a smaller man who carries his hands by his sides (at time Carpentier's right hand would join his left at his waist) while still getting stunned is hardly impressive. Why was this ignored? Simple, read any report of the fight and you will hear little of the action itself, only of the fact that the fight was boxing's first million-dollar gate.
Dempsey next defended his title on 4 July 1923 (exactly four years after he won the title from Jess Willard) against Tommy Gibbons. Again, fight reports record only the disaster that was Jack Dempsey-Tommy Gibbons (the fight nearly bankrupted the town of Shelby Montana where the fight was staged). Gibbons was a very fast and talented boxer but had competed in the professional ranks for the last 12 years and was 34 by fight time. Gibbons clinched his way through most of the fight and neglected his jab in many rounds. Dempsey supporters will try to try to counter me by saying that Gibbons was very fast, but again, this is coming from those who worship Dempsey for his speed. Gibbons was also giving away 15 pounds in weight. So, it all adds up to Dempsey winning a 15 round decision over a much smaller man who made him look dreadful despite being 34 years old.
His last three fights having come against smaller men, the champion signed to fight Luis Angel Firpo. Nick-named the 'Wild Bull of the Pampas', Firpo weighed over 220 lbs and was strong. However, one must not get the impression that Firpo was Jimmy Wilde but twice his size. Every time I watch the fight I must grimace in displeasure. I have always loved watching the master boxers of the ring (I regularly found Pernell Whitaker's fights very enjoyable), and watching the sickeningly crude Firpo is just one of those things that I am compelled to endure. Carrying his left hand by his side (sound familiar?), Firpo clubbed away with right hands that would make Butterbean look like Willie Pep. Dempsey simply swarmed from the start and took advantage of the rules of the time by hitting his opponent the moment he rose from the canvass (something else that sounds familiar). But still, Firpo gave the champion a licking with one punch, then punched him out of the ring. Dempsey was helped up again by the ringside reporters and hung on for dear life until the bell saved him from a further beating. Dempsey recovered quickly and knocked out Firpo in the second round.
The fight with Firpo was the last successful defense of his world crown. In total it added up to beating a badly sick man, two smaller men one of whom was past his prime, a come-from-behind KO of Billy Brennan (Not mentioned above) and the defeat of one of history's crudest fighters. In these five defenses of the title, Dempsey was hurt in two of them, made to look very unskilled in two others and look impressive in one (against Billy Miske). Dempsey's 'brutal and dominant' title reign is merely a collection of victories over tainted opposition and the champion still failed to impress.
Jack's Run Ended By A Runner: Gene Tunney Wrests The Title From Dempsey
An exciting if unimpressive title reign on 23 September 1926. Making his first defense in over three years, Dempsey was easily out-boxed. One can blame it on age, but Tunney had little trouble taking the crown as his use of the jab caught the champion coming in, and enabled the former American Light-Heavyweight Champion to soar ahead on points. Of course, Dempsey was not as young anymore, but the weight advantage (not the first time he had fought a smaller man) should have helped to offset that a little. It did not. Tunney himself, was not wonderfully young either, and would have just two more fights before retiring and had had five grueling wars with Harry Greb.
The Battle Of The Long Count: Boxing History's Most Groundless Controversy
It has long been argued that Jack Dempsey beat Gene Tunney on 22 September 1927 (almost exactly one year after the first fight). This argument is in a word: Rubbish! Dempsey himself claimed that he did not agree with the notion that his foul tactics had cost him victory. Tunney does appear dazed at first but can clearly be seen to be ready for action before ten seconds (official or not) had elapsed. This was almost exactly like Tyson's knockdown of James 'Buster' Douglas. But Jack Kearns (Dempsey's manager) made no attempt to reverse the decision as he was no longer working with 'Manassa Jack'. So that leaves us with what? Nine rounds of beating in which Dempsey got caught by jabs and right hands coming in and was even knocked down and badly hurt in the eighth round. You can say that Dempsey's reflexes were shot, but his chin certainly was not, and this former light heavyweight beat him up.
Dempsey did little in the ring after the second Tunney fight. It was his last fight of note. And so his credentials in the early days were failing to get the better of Willie Meehan, beating Fred Fulton who's only claim to fame was beating the tiny marvel Sam Langford. His credentials in the championship days were looking bad against three skilled boxers, beating up on two crude giants, knocking over a sick opponent and a partridge in a pear tree. So there you have it. His legacy was his huge service to the popularity of the sport, but that is nothing to create a legend out of. He took advantage of the lack of neutral corner rules, beat either small men who carried their hands at their sides, or big men with skills that would embarrass Mia St. John. Smaller men and bigger men stunned him and his 'brilliant defense' was just ceasing his forward momentum when fighters threw shots back at him. A fellow boxing enthusiast that I know claimed that Dempsey was regarded as the definite pound-for-pound greatest fighter ever by all those who saw him. And that is just it. We thought the same of Tyson until a certain cruiserweight made us look twice. People saw him and got caught up in the atmosphere of it all, and ignored the major flaws that Dempsey possessed. He fails to make my all-time heavyweight top ten, as all those that did held their hands just a little above the waist. And if light-heavyweights could stun him, think what Louis, Johnson, Marcianno, Frazier, Foreman, Liston, Fitzsimmons and any other hard hitting heavyweight would have done.
Last Stand For Baby Jake?
By Thomas Gerbasi
At 4'8, Junior Flyweight 'Baby' Jake Matlala is the smallest fighter in the world. It can't be easy to be a fighter at that height, can it? What could be the benefit of being that small? "Hitting the tall guys," laughs 'Baby' Jake, taking time out from his busy schedule as he prepares for his February 19 clash with Masibuele "Hawk" Makepula for the vacant WBO junior flyweight title. But seriously, has being 4'8 been a challenge in the ring? "Boxing is a sport where you have to use your brains," says Jake. "If you hit them in the body, the guy will come to your level. I've been a champion for years with my height."
Not only a champion, but a hero to the South African people. Jake Matlala, 38, has been fighting professionally since February of 1980, when he won a four round decision over Fraser Plaatjies. Over the next 11 years Matlala learned his trade on the South African circuit before facing Dave McAuley in Ireland in 1991 for the IBF junior flyweight title. Matlala was stopped in the 10th round, but rebounded with four straight wins, the last being an eighth round kayo of Scotland's Pat Clinton in 1993 for the WBO crown. He defended his title three times before losing it to Alberto Jimenez in 1995, but he regained the belt by defeating Paul Weir nine months later.
Matlala's biggest win, and according to Jake, the highlight of his career, was his ninth round knockout of superstar Michael Carbajal for the IBF championship in July of 1997. Since then, Matlala's activity has been sporadic (he sat out all of 1999), but he hopes that a win against the unbeaten Makepula will kickstart his career again. "If I put on a good show on the 19th, winning the title, I can go all over," said Jake. "I can come to the States and defend the title against any contender which is available."
One future opponent may be Carbajal, who was scheduled to defend his WBO title against Matlala on February 19. Carbajal was stripped of his title and now Matlala and Makepula will fight for the vacant crown. Is Matlala disappointed that he isn't taking on his old rival? "I was disappointed. That would have been another good fight for the South African people. But this is boxing. Anything that comes up, you take it. Like a soldier. Anytime you must be ready."
And South Africa is ready for Matlala-Makepula, which promoter Rodney Berman called the biggest fight in South African history. Makepula, an unbeaten knockout artist, has called Matlala his idol. Jake's reaction: "It makes me feel excited to influence people to like boxing and to train in boxing, like the Hawk. But on the night of the fight, there's going to be a change. I'm going to show him that I've been there for years. He's good, but he's still a youngster."
Be that as it may, Matlala is still the underdog to his opponent, who is 12 years his junior. "The good thing for me is that I'm the underdog," stated a confident Matlala. " They look at my age and the youth of Makepula, but I'm confident. It's going to be good to prove people wrong."
If 'Baby' Jake can turn back the clock again, how long will he continue to fight, and what is the source of his fountain of youth? "If I win, why would I quit? Why not continue? I'm very religious. For me to wake up and go to training, to do my running, to excel in my sport, that's the power of the Almighty."
MY CENTURY, YOUR CENTURY, BOBO OLSON'S CENTURY
By Richard Meltzer
but centuries long
--"Microwave," William Carlos Williams
It ended abruptly around 1970, or slightly earlier. '69 would be a good likely date. If you were born after that and care about such biz, too bad--and too bad, yes, 'cause it is too bad--but everything since then has just been Out There somewhere, off the frigging Map. After the century and its representatives tossed it all away.
The century where it all went to hell--but WHAT went to hell?
Where the means were found to sweep all wisdom, all true sass, and most (if not quite literally all) beauty under the rug, to brush it off humankind's underwear.
Where the distance between the real and the acceptably fake narrowed and narrowed to functional insignificance.
New new NEW, lotsa freaking N*E*W, but ultimately (and merely): new bread, new circuses, new repression.
But nothing as utterly new, as new w/out historical precedent, as terminal closure. Termination 4-ever. Although Burroughs used to claim it closed, ending all real earthly Possibility, in the 18th century. Or was it the 17th? Dunno. (You could ask him if he weren't dead.)
So many, so-o-o many things happening only to unhappen; to be trivialized and marginalized by failure, success, and the oversight of Crowd Control Central (which you bet your ass exists); to undercut their own being, deflavor and denature their own act, to wet-tissue-paper nullity. And I ain't just talking rock rock rock and ROLL...
On the shortlist of things/lost, or even not-lost (and possibly lookin' quite healthy), but still g-g-GONE:
The NF fucking L (NB fucking A) (March--ha ha ha--Madness).
Boxing as an event staged in venues other than cow pastures.
Wrestling, for crying out loud.
Hollywood, anyone? (Independent cinema, ditto.)
Did I hear the word "journalism"?
TV. TV? Tee vee??
Democracy as even a phantom cliché tendered as a sop to rubes (still the major mega-demographic).
Cultural liberation. Sexual freedom. Civil, y'know, rights. Public...what was it?...education.
Anybody in the house remember graduated income tax?
Watergate, by golly. What'd it lead to besides Nixon being SAINTED? (Century of the Bully.)
Marx proven right! And right ON! Again and again and AGAIN! (You bet your mom's rosy ass he was.)
Capitalism (which in endgame = Hedonism) and Puritanism: two nasty trains, always running, but now running in sync: the scare of nastier, more existentially calamitous mortifications (like another Depression, or nuclear snuff-out, or no more dirty mags) to keep us neurotic, force us to settle for less dire plights and lower-yield varieties of (ever more expensive) symptomatic relief.
Kicks??? A concept nuked back to the Stone Age; a shell game, at best, translucent as a broken bay window.
A century in which some odd couplings have occurred, where (for most intents and many purposes) a familiar face named Jesus, for inst, got mated with this new guy named Hitler, yielding one awesome composite force, a unitary "belief" generatrix for some kazillion-plus population units...something t' do with racism...discipline...robotic obedience...and of course Clean Living. (Is anyone paying attention?)
It was the best of shit.
It was the worst of shit.
It was the best of shit.
It was the worst of shit.
It is the worst of shit.
It's the shittttttttttttttt.
PROPHECY AND POSTPHECY
"2000 Man"--who'd have thunk it?
What seemed at the time like a bit of comic relief, a topical joke on side one of Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones' entry (11/67) in the Sgt. Pepper overproduction sweepstakes, now reads like one of the great, and maybe the last great, documents of future-think.
"My name is a number, a piece of plastic film"..."I am having an affair with a random computer"...even a dose of multiplanetary multiculturalism: "Oh Daddy, proud of your planet; oh Mommy, proud of your sun"--how's that for prescience?
Who'd've thought such a lampoon of future-think would come to pass so quickly, so thoroughly--or was it a truism even then?--and nobody'd even be snickering?
And that other more-than-date: 1984.
By which time, compared to the hand history had actually dealt, "1984" (the concept) had become a mild little what-are-you-complaining-about?, the Orwell vision having been superseded by something far more weasely and malevolent. Big Mean Uncle certainly did watch you, but more than that you were watching him (his 8-ring circuses, his news and commercials, his Master Program), addictedly, on a monitor YOU paid for. (More effective and cost-effective.)
And the year itself, diggit: Reagan had to be Prez; the Olympics had to be staged in L.A. (Vegas wasn't ready yet). There was no irony left in the world.
A year later, when Terry Gilliam's Brazil came out, a reviewer or two copped to its taking place, perhaps, in not so much the future as an alternate present, but nobody picked up on it as a film in fact about the past--1965, say--a time when Control was still analog, and occasionally (in both theory and practice) fallible. A nostalgic little period piece.
AS I LAY DEAD (CHAPTER FROM A NOVEL
THE CENTURY WOULD NOT LET ME FINISH)
It's 2035. I've been dead 30 years. Welcome to my treasure trove. My hand-chiseled mausoleum. You and eight or nine others have stumbled in here: lots of goodies, take 'em and enjoy! And take your merry time, they ain't going anywhere. Where the hell were you when I was alive?
Ah! the thudding frustration of "slipping through the cracks"--"dying invisible"--or even worse: being branded a "cult writer" (whatever that is. Sounds like caves and dungeons. Moonlight); the bitter exhaustion of having to cheerlead my own act, my so-called career (why do we strive? why do we strive?)--fuck me. Luck was never mine. Whatever could go wrong, did. Now that it's over, what's the diff? What ever was the diff?
But anyway, come in, take your shoes off, probe and grope me. While I was alive I didn't care much for the notion of scoring--being "discovered"--after I died. It means nothing to me now. "Me" doesn't exist, not anymore, "I" don't either, and "we" never did.
Don't wanna sound like a frigging solipsist (I die...it's over...I take it all with me), it has nothing to do with such biz. Obviously life goes on--the last reader isn't dead yet--so here's how we maybe should play it: I was generous then (i.e., now: my now), always gave the whole wad away, squandered my fluids on writerly whims with but the most esoteric of payoffs, spent 5-6-7 years on books that didn't get me laid, didn't earn me a can of clams, and the bounty of that generosity lingers on. If I can have a corpse, if I can be a corpse, so can my work...consider it dead. Bountifully. Does death fascinate you?
(While we're on the subject, I sort of doubt my corpse wishes were heeded: to be left naked in the street for the flies to feed on. Please be sure my grave is kept clean.)
Anyway, here 'tis: a gen'rous helping of smut, rant, provocative grocery lists, reviews of wrestling and lubricated condoms, bon mots, lively filler, evidence galore of the author's having ripped the eyes off his face, ripped the skin from his bones and poked it with an icepick, hammered the bones with a claw hammer, lopped them with poultry shears...a carload of fine "stuff" from a deadman who knew how!
Hey, I was a contender--almost--in the final uneasy days of writing as we the still-living know, er, knew it. Or am I lucky I ever got published at all?
None of which exactly matters, y'understand, but it can still be a pisser, still living, to live with it. The taint of "failure." Non-recognition. Something almost like "shame." A cheesy burden on waking consciousness. (Fuck me fatuous.)
And why do we strive? Why in the face of setbacks and etc. there aren't sticks (bats) (clubs) enough to shake at, do we persist in believing it matters? Damned if I know. (Don't give me any hogwash 'bout the "indomitability of the human spirit.")
Listen, I grew up at a time when TV was new...none in my home till I was five years old. Imagine such a world (a world also without rock-n-roll). Now you're probably six steps beyond laser discs--I'm talking your now. Do "novels" exist anymore? Books as such (without compulsory audio/video/smellorama)? Is "text" just something you at your option download off a CD-ROM, database X or the Internet, or whatever's replaced them? (Do eyes exist anymore? Do teeth?) This is not a science-fiction novel. Or maybe it is. I don't care if you don't.
In any event, behold the document: a "kitchen sink" (as we might once have called it) of life-wish and death-wish and grandiloquent nullity...a swag chest knee-deep in glowing all-for-naught...a rich accumulation of aromatic dust.
Early in the final decade of the last century, I got interviewed for a French documentary about a 1960s band called the Doors. Their singer was hot shit for a while. "How," I was asked, "would you describe the sexuality they projected?" Well, I told the guy, making it up as I went along, it wasn't basic rock whiteboy sex of either the '50s or '60s, it wasn't black, y'know, R&B sex, the blues, and it wasn't British-style androgyny or anything especially kinky or even all that topically macho. It wasn't specifically any of that so much as--well--it seemed from this end, seeing them in this crummy little club every night, like nothing less than a musical evocation of MY OWN dick.
May this heap-o-pulp likewise serve as the ur-expression of YOUR vanity. A foretaste of your own aftertaste, of your own extinction. Don't be shy: use me. I don't mind at all being useful. Let my legacy be your legacy. Fuck legacy. Fuck fuck--I'm a duck.
Personally, I don't think the CIA killed JFK, and the first click in my head after something reminds me of his snuffout is its position, of all things, in sequence with the rebirth of rock and roll. The snuff occurred in November '63, late, and by the dawning of '64 rock was back again, full force, after being dead in the water since 1958. Really, trust me on this, that was the sequence, one two, bing bing, in the consciousness/mindset of callow American whiteys my age (18-19)--I was THERE, believe it.
Anyway, back again: doing its trademark mind-body-heart-soul redemption number: the second flowering of rock-roll as such, as an officially so-named whatsit, or if we're talkin' real history (or izzit prehistory?), counting the '20s--Delta blues--as the first, and postwar Chicago as the second, early '50s R&B as third, maybe throw in '40s jump blues too, we're looking at possibly the fifth or sixth time it happened (no sweat, tho--it worked): but in any case also its LAST flowering (punk as long as it was punk was something else).
But flower and flame it did, and no matter how you slice or critique it, by '65-'66 it was like this torch held high in the World--as bright as your proverbial 10 thousand suns--which in congress with certain other factors more or less formed the mid to late 1960s--where, regardless of what Clinton and his ilk would prefer you to believe, something, as they say, OCCURRED.
The frigging SIXTIES!--the buzzword, the stereotype, the noumena & phenomena!--plenty of bullshit, too, of course (too kneejerk an Us-versus-Them, too fat and specific a brand new style sheet)--but what did happen was elemental and massive, involving tens of millions of people, a third (easy), maybe even half, of the youth of America, in a just-say-no to toomany things to grocerylist here, and a hogwild hell-yes to even more.
If you wanted to, heck, you could try and isolate a few of the chickens and eggs, some primary causal "culprits." Drugs (natch). Consciousness as a tangible whoozit (and nascent Force). Probably some residual sadness (cynicism) over Kennedy. The ur-loathsomeness of tootoomuch mainstreamamerican life (revealed!) (along with the means, and the warrant, to burn every BRIDGE to it). The hoodoo of the too-long "forbidden," its allure magnified by context to the breaking point: forbidden no more. The demotion of God (from boss to player) in the court of the cosmic and eternal. A provisional end to manymost variants of Judaeo-Christian guilt. Vietnam, the last war with a draft (fear of death at its most functional) gave the whole show mega-sufficient urgency and gravity, but England and Canada didn't have 'Nam, and it happened there just as elementally, and maybe even as massively.
And one of the most telling, and most underrecognized, aspects of the whole business is kids, the cognoscenti, having better, livelier things t' do, DIDN'T WATCH TELEVISION.
What they did was hang out with friends, play records, smoke reefer and take pills, stay up all night, carry on, meet and greet the world, and if all else failed they might have turned a TV on with the sound off, smoked more reefer and GOOFED ON IT. (These wags nowadays who wanna claim TV helped radicalize people in the '60s--news pics of action in the War, for inst--are only looking at a sampling of Old Squares too numb and dumb to have "known" such stuff without the see-Spot-run--not the already converted.)
Oh, and it didn't end suddenly somewhere towards the end of the decade--"decades" have nothing to do with anything, and certainly nothing to do with this--but in increments, and by sections. The rock side of things--the torch held high--was hanging much less high by the three-quarter point of '67. Corporatization was rapid-fire and crass. "They can't bust our music," read a Columbia Records promo for several of the bands in their "stable," including the hapless Moby Grape (in whose behalf they pulled the inane grandstand play of simultaneously releasing five singles, thus dooming the truly terrific LP from which they were culled). Too many labels across the board signed (and would never stop signing) too many bands. MGM tried to pull off an "instant scene," the Bosstown Sound--Boston, y'dig?--featuring such happy hokum as Ultimate Spinach. "Alternative culture" came to mean nothing more, nothing less, than alternative product (in the same old, if resized and repainted, marketplace).
Even before the '68 Democratic Convention, before even Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy got shot, the political wing--the "Movement," the "Revolution" (ha ha ha), and more concrete (and practical) manifestations like the Panthers--was already gimpy and staggering under the weight of reactive brutality and internal frustration, coupled with diminished ideology. "Purity" is never an easy stance to maintain.
When at last it finally did end, it was clear it was over. Thuddingly. By the spring-summer of '69 (Easy Rider, say, then the fucking Moonwalk), everything in counter-land was down the tubes, the toilet, sixty feet under, and with it the last vestige of interest ('cept to necrophiles, archivists and profiteers) this century. Events after that, from within and without, were just nails in coffins, coffins, too many coffins to count. And Manson had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, I don't think the CIA killed JFK (with a chessplaying org so concerned with Control, it's hard to believe you would take the KING, and I don't mean Camelot, off the chessboard--especially one whose politics were prob'ly more their own than their founder Truman's, for inst--and expect to retain the social order...like he was one of our more RIGHTWING postwar presidents, f'r godsakes, and one so natural to the PR of it all--the source of Reagan!--he had the masses considering him "liberal," a populist, how absurd...as to a "splinter group," some buncha renegades, acting independently--against the dominant Agency grain--you've gotta imagine there would've been repercussions, retribution and whatnot, heads would have rolled or at least bounced, conspicuously...and mustn't Kennedy have had his PARTISANS inside the Agency? wouldn't there have been some ripples of reaction from them?...anti-Castro Cubans as perps?--while meanwhile, way after the Bay of Pigs, which the Agency botched, not him, he'd never lost his enthusiasm for KILLING CASTRO--checking the agency's progress towards which was a daily task assigned to brother Bobby--I'm not sure why we're s'posed to believe the Cuban faction wasn't a party to, or at least privy to, that number...as to the need to even shoot the prez, make a martyr out of him for whatever the hell he was or wasn't, there had to 've been e-z ways to neutralize and subdue him--White House fuck tapes? photos of him "doing" Marilyn?--if in fact there was much of anything to subdue...heck, if the Agency, if some agency, had a hand in undoing Nixon w/out murdering his weird ass, why the need for bullets with Kennedy?...not to mention he was a literal IVY LEAGUER like manymost of them, an elite goddam player from the getgo, unlike Ike/Dick/Harry/et cetera...whereas the prospect of, say, the Mafia--some mob guy whose girlfriend Johnny mighta diddled--committing the deed, eh, now that seems eminently credible), yet they certainly didn't waste any time TAKING CREDIT for the deed (so future idiots like Carter and Clinton would be certain they'd done it and never risk "stepping out of line" during their own presidencies), doctoring and creating evidence to the point where relatively little of it, especially the sort of "new evidence" still surfacing at this late remove from the event, is to be trusted; nor do I believe in Conspiracy Theory in general.
Very few designated conspiracies, in fact, would seem to be the outcome of collaborative intrigues, of confederates sitting down at a table, planning you do this, you do that, and together we'll fuck with history, by gum--they're usually just the inevitable consequence of manypeople--way beyond those at any and all conceivable tables--being simply on the SAME TEAM. Like Foucault, I don't think you need sinister coalitions willfully scheming anything--whole entire SHITLOADS of folks who'll never meet are already on the same team, and the way teams do their thing hasn't changed much since the dawn of civilization. Did Reagan have to "ask" Hollywood to make the cultural cornerstones of his presidency (the enlistment films of the post-braindead multi-decade), Rambo and Top Gun--or even, for that matter, the soft-sell slop of Stripes? Was it really necessary to bean-count heads in "both" parties to guess the upshot of Clinton's "impeachment"? Did Bonnie Raitt need to be "cajoled" into vacating the bench of that other team, the long-in-a-slump Peace Team, to lend her careerist "support" to the we-love-our-boys-in-the-fucking-Gulf fandango? (Or might it be, apropos of how a fellow sing-songer had put it, that she jus' wanted to be on the side that appeared, for the moment, t' be winning?)
There are, however, some historical scenarios that look too, too scripted, where unscripted is extremely implausible--as if, well, some well-oiled think-tank or somesuch MUST HAVE conceived, coddled, brought them to fruition. "Been responsible" in an originative sense. In this category I put MTV.
Fact: the '60s, whatever did or did not (in reality) go down, scared the shit out of lotsa people in lotsa pockets of power and privilege, your so-called "entrenched" interests, including the grimgrey forces of Death-over-Life per se (you know them). Fear. Trembling. A taste of vulnerability (for the previously invulnerable). Were instilled.
Is it plausible that such slaphappy fuckers, their "world" thus threatened, would hesitate a second, once the threat had passed, in tossing 'round the bigbucks, funding to the TEETH any and all nefarious efforts to ensure that nothing similar would ever go down again?--or at the very least, failing to achieve such omnipotence, and since accidents do happen, to see to it that some failsafes be in place to limit the damage?--is it plausible they'd pass THAT up?
Enter: one or more mercenary "study groups," gaggles of amoral brainstormers--pay 'em, they'll without compunction piss on any world including their own. If happyfolks at the Rand Corporation (as we later were told) dropped acid and sat around discussing ways of winning nuclear war--fun & games w/ the Apocalypse--imagine what a hoot some favored colleagues had in running down the psychedelic '60s.
And a prime ensuing "project," it sez here, was to make sure the youth of America got its full dose of TV like ev'ryone else (come rain or shine).
Becuz here were these pricks who (upon reflection, and after research) DID notice how many kids had passed on "the tube" from such a date to such a date. And why didn't they watch? For starters, the obvious: the sorry dearth of televised rock on a regular basis. There was all the Dick Clark shit, sure--ersatz till you puke--and occasional name guests on Ed Sullivan or The Smothers Brothers, but nothing to set your watch by. As a youth sop, Mod Squad fooled no one with two-tenths of a brain (and it didn't have cameos by actual bands). (Only 8-year-olds watched The Monkees.)
Needed: a viable means of both showcasing and neutralizing (compromising) a steady stream of frontline rock on the home screen.
So however these things work...seeds planted...circumstances tweaked...record companies goosed (dig this new marketing tool)...a slow, steady groundswell of greed fomented...advertisers felt up and out (let 'em think it's their idea)...greasing the wheels (c'mon, somebody greased 'em--y'don't buy the MTV "instant success story," do ya?)...say, isn't that former Monkee Michael Nesmith over there?...until finally, early '80s, here 'tis: an actual rock-roll channel. Network. Crowd control module. Whatever.
By which time, in the wake of punk having bit the dust, then circled back itself t' join the marketplace, rock on its own was already not about redemption (or liberation) (or empowerment) or anything close, and couldn't wait to comply: the wundaful world-o-videos. (Monkee-ization of the whole shebang.) When the frigging MINUTEMEN did a vid you knew it was completely over. The commercial, the come-on, was the product, the thingie, the "art form." Where once there had at least been a semblance of polarity, of a dialectic (the Big Score vs. unbridled Whoopee Per Se), now you had none. Rock and the marketplace were indivisibly one, no separation, not even an argument, just like TV and the 'place: an early warning that dialectical materialism (as we knew it on earth) would soon give way to unrepentant MATERIALISM. For the rest of our lifetimes, anyway.
FINE TIME TO BE BORN
Couldn't be finer.
May 11, 1945. Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" is recorded in New York. Though not the original version, this is the ONE, with players including not only Charlie Parker but Sid Catlett, arguably the greatest drummer jazz has produced (more sizzling in context, it could be shown, than Elvin Jones at his Coltrane-era best), and it's probably produced more great-great A-1 drummers than A-1 alto sax players. Parker, 24, the highwater mark for alto, jazz's most mind-blowing soloist (any instrument), and prob'ly the greatest musician (period) ever to record a note, would be dead in less than 10 years. Gillespie, a more cautious breed of hellion, would live to perform "Salt Peanuts" at the White House, with guest vocal by once and future peanut farmer Jimmy Carter: great moments in kitsch.
I'm one day old.
If I'd been born just two days earlier, my parents would later claim, they'd've named me Victor--for V-E Day--lucky me.
And luckier still for THIS, and its ilk, to have been the music vibrating the air, if not down the block then close enough, in the very town where I entered this life, though it would be 17 years (during one of rock's major down times) before I would fortuitously get t' hear it: frenzied, frenetic, frantic--stop, start, fly, floop, over and out--go 'head, call it nutty. But not nutty like Spike Jones, or Hellzapoppin or a Bugs Bunny cartoon: nutty like a miracle in the wilderness.
NUTTY, RECENT, WHITE
Twenty anagrams for "Twentieth Century":
THERE WENT UN-CITY T. (Trumancapoteville: g-g-g-gone!); HENCE U RENT TWITTY (y'need Conway for a party, so you pay for him); WHUT TEN-C ETERNITY? (what endless import, 10 centuries?--"millennia" debunked); IRENE NETTY "T.W." CHUT (1914-76, proponent of "tough weakness" therapy for substance abuse); TENT-CUT THY WIENER (so sayeth Leviticus, one O.T. scholar insists); W.C.T.E.: 'NUTHER ENTITY? (is the Women's Christian Temperance Enfederation really diff'rent from their Union?); HY TRICE WENT T' UTNE (Hyman Trice, co-founder of the Utne Reader, went there straight from McCall's); WET TEN-INCH RYE TUT (medium-size Egyptian novelty bread, after the rain); TENTH WETT-URINE CY. (nine, make that ten cyclopses, consecutive, whose pee ain't dryy); CHEWY TINT-NET--TRUE (no lie about edible colored women's hose); TUNNEY ET IT W/ "H" CERT (Gene followed lobster with a heroin-flavor breath mint); HEY, T.R. WENT T' TUNECI (no shit: Teddy Roosevelt attended classes at the Technical Univ. of Northeast Connecticut, Illimantic); NEUTER THE WITTY N.C. (Noël Coward should be desexed, humorless critics contend); TEEN WINE TRUTH: C.Y.T. (choose your toxin, kids); TWIN TRUENCY TEETH (geez: she cut school twice t' visit the dentist!); RECENT N.U. WYETH TIT (exceptional breast painting by Andy Wyeth's unheralded cousin, Napoleon Ulysses Wyeth); WUTHERIN' TENCTETY (Emily Brontë's turgid, yet still unpublished, sequel to Wuthering Heights); T. IN THE EYE, 'TWURN'T "C" ('twas only English Breakfast, not cancer, thank fuck); TUNE THE Y. WIRE (CTNT) (made-for-Canadian-cable film o' the year for '93); YET THE WINTER CUNT...
Obviously, centuries don't exist. Not like days, nights, seasons, or years do.
Ten fingers (Caesar had them, as do we), hence the decimal system.
In long retrospect or short, sequences, chronologies, linkages could doubtless be otherwise. All ascription of the squawk of moment, of its raunch correlation with neighboring moments (and the longer haul), more than, oh, two years after the fact is purely revisionist.
It so happens the 20th ends now. If it ended in 1956 or '57, unencumbered by the anathema such truck would entail today, we could conceivably be discussing, even in this exalted weekly, gross inanities like GREAT CHICKS (HOT BROADS) (BOSS BABES) OF THE CENTURY (Josephine Baker...Harlow...Lana...Ava...your ballot on page 52!); might even be proposing, in the afterglow of her lurid bump through The Girl Can't Help It (co-starring Little Richard), Jayne Mansfield as THE manwoman of the whole cha-cha-cha.
Is there not something grossly revisionist, in a very real sense, that only a current menu of options--contexts--perspectives is "legitimately" considered?
We all comply at times in our own undoing.
Lots-o-persons in most lines of etc. have thrown in the towel, but for writers to have done it as early as they did was a particularly bad omen, a foretoken of just how quickly and nastily all the dominoes would fall.
Sheesh...it's downright tragic.
Writepersons, who at least in theory should know better, and who dealing in words and ideas and such crap--keepers as they are of the oldest flame going: the flame of MEANING--bear a certain, uh, responsibility for and to the welfare of all livingthings, well they shoulda knowed right off the bat what it meant.
Publishers of newspapers & mags, to save money, make things "go faster," started firing typesetters, and the writers for these rags became typesetters, what they turned in was already set, but no savings or perks of any sort were passed on to them. Editors, editing on these little screens, fucked up more than before, stupider typos, more ridiculous line breaks, as copy routinely got mangled. The only side of writing that one could argue had been improved was the clerical side (hey, y'mean I don't gotta retype? it'll check my spelling?--gosh), never the creative side.
Nor the economic side. Where once all anyone needed t' write was a pencil, suddenly you had to INVEST IN all this ugly machinery, the equivalent of a washer-dryer-airconditioner. And that clickety-clack typer that'd served your techno needs--manual; electric; even a Selectric--well it won't write to disc or double as a printer, so chuck it: a useless antique.
In '91, after being told by every paper I worked for that if I didn't submit copy on disc I would hafta come in and retype it into their computer anyway, I succumbed to the coercion and bought my first computer. Not wanting to be distracted by superfluous opticals--I'm a writer, 's not a hobby, don't insult me with toys--I got a monochrome monitor. My first impression was of having to drive to work--to work at home. A bleary-eyed commuter. It made the process of writing so unpleasant that the genesis of paragraphs, pages, pieces ultimately took me longer.
Today, with e-mail and the Internet and truckloads of unwanted "applications" and vid-games and Zip drives and scanners and all the standard compulsory whatnot--shit I don't want, and don't want to need--it feels like I've bought this car that was out of my range, and I also had to shell out for 7000 teddy bears and a million pairs of purple socks and a 300-year subscription to Field and Stream. Ninety-nine percent superfluity. (Every second I'm sitting at the fucker, I feel like I've been HAD.)
"Personal" computers: nobody needs th'm. It isn't about need! Well, animators for the graphics on Monday Night Football need th'm, but FUCK the animation on Monday Night Football. The world would go on fine without it.
Coercion. Fooling ostensibly all of the people closer, ever closer, to all of the time. Soon we'll be expected to pay our goddam bills online, and if y'ain't on it yourself you'll have to subscribe to a service that does it for you. How long before we gotta pay to breathe? Don't know your take on this madness, but it's the bitter END of mammal life as I used to know it.
The stations of my loathing...
I basically haven't watched TV news since 1980, or about the time Jimmy Carter reinvented the Cold War, table-setting the Reagan years. The fraudulence of this prick's daily TV PERFORMANCE, the sick macho gesture of an Annapolis wuss who'd used coverage of Three Mile Island (him in a spacesuit) to prime the pump--this to me was what the Cuban Missile Crisis had been to others...never again. My decision wasn't driven by escapism--an attempt to avoid knowing "what was going on." I simply no longer wanted any part of Master Control's by-the-numbers show & tell--the sights, the sounds, the easy trifling with every sinew of our being.
Likewise, with computers, it is not bad enough that they exist and are heinous and more or less mandatory. Knowing that is merely knowing that, but to SEE its ubiquitous face is to BE THERE yourself, witness to the SAME pinks, luminous greys, cerulean blues, all the dings and dongs from cyber hell, which constitute the universal workspace of the damned, lockstepping to the horror, the horror.
A future-vision straight out of Disney, or to be precise, Disneyland the original weekly series. Several times each, they'd served up pap from Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland before finally, in '54 or '55, they aired the first Tomorrowland segment--some unremarkable animations of space flight shown-and-told by Werner von Braun. With much cash, effort, and national sacrifice, said the denazified Nazi of the hour, we might make it to the moon by the year 2000...ooh, wouldn't das be wunderbar.
Well, they never did get us there, the bastards, but they also never lost the pre-rock fiftiesness of the dream, which they assault us with today WITHOUT MERCY: Eisenhowerland!: whitebread über alles!: thesauruses w/out the word "shit"!: mall-world before malls! A perfect formica simulation, now that they don't even make that stuff no mo'--that's what I see on MY so-called desktop (don't know 'bout yours). On which must be endured an endless procession of ads for shit I don't want/need/wanna know about. Every screaming icon is a product i.d. How long before you click on "save" and there's an ad for some fucking bank?
All this "virtual" bullticky--addresses that aren't addresses, access that isn't access, e-mail "relationships"--is an imitation-of-life more ludicrous (and hideous) than made-for-TV movies of the '70s and '80s. "User friendly," what a laugh--as bogus as "have a nice day"--while an elite core of PLUMBERS are the only ones who even sometimes know the bowels of the operation, what's indeed going on. This isn't relative unreality, but the absolute unreality of it all--as sham as a speech by Pat Robertson. Or is an absolute anything no longer feasible?
Why don't people read books anymore? Because after a day at the office in front of a freakin' screen, they're TOO BLIND to read a book. Fewer books being read, and fewer being bought, "literature" is no longer a category at a single major U.S. publishing house--true!--you could call 'em up and ask. Coffee table garbage, self-help, textbooks, designated bestsellers, and of course computer books--such is our current literary lot. And I'm not talking "good writing" vs. "bad writing," I'm talking language as a solemn goddam cross to bear, writing by people who take risks as large as life (when it was still large) itself.
There is more need right now to unplug from the prevailing "real world" scam than there was in the '60s. Are you man/woman enough?
The year instant replay became standard for major league baseball, not merely for homers and crucial fielding plays but practically every pitch ("Curve ball, low and away, Ralph").
An accursed season not even redeemed by the up-from-the-sewer N.Y. Mets snatching the World Series.
This wurn't no simple, gratuitous recoverability number, like reruns of old films or "oldies but goodies," the concept/package introduced on AM radio around 1960, but something (in the scheme of things) genuinely pernicious: the undermining of spectator consciousness.
An end to unidirectionality...to events in time heading somewhere...to time/expired actually meaning something.
PLUS: the root beginnings of nonstop cross-cut sports editing (with hyperactive fans and players' wives and the crippled kid who's got a month to live and all o' that), employing "cinematic" means to manipulate the perception of real-time events in real time, thus rendering space permanently unreal (first done "experimentally," and with major malice, in the live broadcast of the JFK funeral some five-plus years before), a follow-the-dots aimed at more than a quaint li'l studio audience: the stay-at-home sporting masses, bub!
Our first taste of such as STANDARD MALICIOUS BROADCAST PROCEDURE.
A very early warning.
In his first novel, the Less than Zero of its time, F. Scott Fitzgerald plays the hole card of socialism, only his socialism is quitelike fascism, and not just the way it might transmute into something like fascism, y'know down the road, like when Stalin would go and do all these purges (and pogroms) in an excess of institutional whatever, but fascism already, originally, pretty much by definition.
In short order, This Side of Paradise would sell 2 million copies, a prototype of the literary killing for ages-to-come of young American doodooheads, and make its author (the emperor's new clothes of mock-modernist trend-think; jock-sniffer to the Rich decades before Capote, Tom Wolfe, or P.J. O'Rourke; debaser of the concept of "jazz" before it was even a third of a concept; grandfather, godfather--or simply harbinger?--of the Yuppie) the toast of who fucking gives a shit.
Imagine the play he'd've got on Entertainment Tonight or PBS. 'S a good thing, in those days, only the literate were subject to such crap.
Why do you think Nixon abolished the draft? Not from compassion, that's for sure. No draft = no draft resistance. Or much resistance, or protest--as opposed to mere objection--to anything, really. Why do you think there's no perceptible leftist presence, nor even much of a politics, among the formerly draftable (18 and up) anymore?
AIDS. Not too many're claiming anymore it was custom-designed--scientists (outside of fiction) just ain't that ingenious--or even, especially, that somebody in fact invented it. It would still seem, howev, that at some point, by hook or by crook--"accident"? "discovery"? "engineering"?--whoever they were had something on their hands, this virus, this bug--what t' do with it? First off, let's see what it can do--who'll we test it on?
And why does it seem likely it was tested? 'Cuz epidemiologically, ha, there apparently is NO WAY (contrary to the usual "explanation") for AIDS to have gone from being a heterosexually based epidemic (in Africa) to a homosexual one (in the U.S., "via Haiti"--or so the story went) as rapidly as it did. It isn't even a longshot--it's off the actuarial page. Demographic breakdowns on early HIV distribution--the earliest hints of outbreak--point, out of all proportion, to recipients of an experimental hepatitis B vaccine tested exclusively on gay U.S. men, and of a tainted batch of smallpox vaccine administered by health workers in Africa. Tested, inotherwords, on a pair of population groups--blacks and gays--deemed expendable.
From genocide to mass-manipulating the living. Once the virus was out there, the policy among the elite that knew (however much or little) was to let it flourish, reveal nothing that might prove helpful in saving a life or umpteen thousand. If junkies and hookers were soon getting sick, fine, that's cool--who needs either o' them, either? By which point new malevolents were "joining" the plot, hopping the bandwagon, to make damnsure there would be no needle exchanges, no free condoms, no encouraging people to just beat off already, no advice to anyone except just say no, and by all means keep away from queers--demonized this time around as the source of pestilence. (And what, pray tell, is the Ameri-Christian beef with homosexuality? That it is, bottom line, from their tightassed perspective, prima facie sexual--the very word conjures up images of sex acts--sperm flying all over the place--while the fact of Donnie Osmond, say, as a professed heterosexual evokes nothing.) When the bandwag reached its broadest mass-media phase, the evil got more omni-directed, and the goal, clearly, became one of trying to SCARE THE SEX OUT OF EVERYONE. Hedonism = freedom...fuh...it'd gone on long enough. One custom-designed consequence: an upswing in hetero monogamy--gee, how sweet--to nudge the birth rate up another notch.
Disposable diapers. As the '60s were waning, the American birth rate was at a postwar low. This at a moment when young'uns were fucking like krazy--and abortion was still, in most places, illegal--so how to 'splain it? More important for corporate America, how to overcome it?--to reattach babies to the sex urge?--get some economic mileage out of orgaz and ejaculation? Whaddaya think the REAL objection to abortion is in high U.S. places? Squeezing votes from the most easily led of constituencies is small potatoes--there's always other ways, too many ways, to pull those people's chains. Nah, chalk it up to corporate greed. Corporations always want MORE mouths to feed, and bodies to dress, and suburban commuters to sell cars and gas and garage door openers to, and more occasions to market symptomatic relief to more sufferers from a life more inhospitable every day. If it ain't more, it's as bad as less. Plus: more unwanted (and unterminated) pregnancies means more neurosis in the world, which means more consumers consuming neurotically, thus micro-manageably, on corporate dotted lines.
For the record: starting during Reagan's first term, and no diff due to a Democrat taking office, the U.S. has done its utmost to dismantle every third-world birth control program it helped initiate in the first place. Keep 'em hungry, keep 'em needy, sell 'em more and bigger Bruce Willis movies--keep those debtor nations under our boot! The Population Explosion, that late-'50s cause célèbre--when there were only two billion people in the world--what ever happened to THAT? (And don't tell me Ben & Jerry name flavors for it.)
So anyway...births...'60s...down...how come? And somewhere on the massive list of "reasons" some research outfit ultimately compiled--way, way after the important stuff you can't do much about, in some cases 'cause you caused it, oh, like the unlivability of life (y'know at this stage of decay on the planet); the basic expansion of people's moral conscience over their parents' (the karma stops here); the magnanimous avoidance of the sheer ego-puke of "my son, my daughter...mein kampf"; the polygamization of p.o.v. (even if you're only sequentially lining up alternate partners, offspring complicate breakup and mobility); the cost of baby food, baby shoes, the cost of...college (none o' that gettin' cheaper); a simple, basic refusal to get sucked in, go with the program (better to stick your nose in a garbage disposal)--down near the bottom had to be diapers: who wantsa deal with 'em? To dissuade that marginal minipercent to whom such b.s. might somehow be a deciding factor, voilà:
Disposable diapers (but won't they pollute the earth?)--who could ask for anything more?
Since then we've had ovarian vogue...the culture of babying...10 billion baby films...a population increase of 70 million (U.S. alone). Dominoes, anyone?
RED HERRING OF THE CENTURY
Child abuse. Child abuse?
All parenting is abuse. (Sure as meat is murder, property is theft.)
Physical abuse bothers you? Well, what about spiritual abuse?
My idea of a major felony: inflicting on a child, age 0-12, the concept of heaven and hell. Especially hell.
"Teaching" a kid hell oughta be worth a mandatory minimum of 20, no, 30 years. On a fuckin' chain gang. No lunch breaks. (Don't let nobody say I'm soft on crime.)
In its sorry, sordid end run, has "religious freedom" as practiced in this country ever done much more than buck up the right, the compulsion!, of various afflicted grownups to perpetuate the germplasm of whatever strain of fire-and-brimstone they themselves were once branded with, i.e., to inflict their ongoing dogma on innocent, unmolded lumps of dough? And what of the rights of goddam dough? Where are all our "victim's rights" advocates on this one?!
If Satanism, whatever the bloody hell, in theory or practice, that even is (though a 'ligion, like all others, f'r sure), can be systematically denied Constitutional protection, then phuck its hand-in-glove "opposite" number.
(Crowd control in the ozone, crowd control from hell.)
The "threat" of pornography to today's unwashed youth (on or off the Internet).
Dunno about you, but I wouldn'ta made it to 13 without pics in smutmags to cue me to what the whole wide world of carnal oo-poo-pa-doo was ABOUT.
The aforementioned Jayne! Mansfield!--hoo wee!--tits out to HERE--first nipples I saw on anyone 'sides my mother: oh nurture! Just a peek, mind you--mags back then didn't really show that much--but otherwise there'd've been no peek, nothin'.
1956: forty-three years ago. We're supposed to believe preadolescents need this shit less TODAY? (Pshaw.)
Denying them porn would be abusive.
Some cheezier modifications of the record:
Cus D'Amato as a "fine boxing mind"--as opposed to just the formulator of an ultra-safe "Floyd Patterson strategy." Floyd lacked ferocity ("killer instinct"), grit, guts, nerve, much of a punch, viable footwork, and a chin--a lot to cover for. All he was was fast. So Cus matched him against nonentities--Roy Harris, Pete Rademacher--and even these clowns embarrassed Floyd, knocking him down in early rounds, though through the accumulation of punches he ultimately triumphed--big deal--the most unloved heavyweight champion since Jack Sharkey.
Only because of his short-lived connection to Mike Tyson, whose stock-in-trade, when he was still on, was unleashed ferocity, plus enough power in either hand to take out a mule, things beyond being taught, was Cus, in his lifetime, ever regarded as anything but a marginal schmuck.
The title of an article in Sport magazine around '58 or '59, before Floyd got KO'ed by Ingemar Johansson, whom Cus regarded lightly (he was European, see) or he wouldn't've allowed the fight, said it all: The Terrible World of Cautious Cus.
And try this on for size:
The Beatles will not fare well in the new century, if only 'cause the full gamut of their once-accessible sonic past no longer exists. 'Cept on warped, scratched vinyl, and when they stop making record needles, that's that. By going beyond normal remastering to REMIX certain "classic" Beatle cuts for CD reissue, Paul McCartney has canceled any ongoing role for them--except as an adjunct, largely mythical, to his own vanity. Devastated in the process is music (yes: music; not recollected youth! not sociology!) an even billion people have got stored in their heads, their hearts, their bones--and can imagine verywell, having memorized every nuance--but will never HEAR, as vibrating columns of air, again. (Unless they're enterprising millionaires who can score lingering undebased analog sources and do what they fucking want, formatwise, with the sonic genepool. Otherwise, from here on out, there is no sonic genepool.)
Which is kinda like taking some print classic like Huckleberry Finn, something read and reread for the last 100 years if for no other reason than it's always been there, burning all copies, then issuing it in BRAILLE ONLY, or on the backs of oatmeal boxes (in Greek).
For ex.: "Penny Lane," a full half, along with "Strawberry Fields," of the second greatest two-sided hit of all time (after "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel"), was originally a very decent treble-heavy song, but in remix Paulie brought his bass way up, and the drums feel different too, and it all sounds between two places (almost like the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby," an early, not totally successful, rock experiment with strings), which it didn't before, it felt indivisible--it's not the same song, not even close. And it's more offensive when we get to a Lennon song, "Baby You're a Rich Man," on which John played this squeaky, spooky, very interesting keyboard thing (a clavioline?)--it was WHAT made the recording so engaging--that's now mixed down, and Paul's bass is up again--it sounds like crap. (Plus John is dead, eh?) These two cuts heard in sequence, on the CD version of Magical Mystery Tour, are particularly exasperating, they make me gag.
What's this cheesepuff solipsist worth, 8 billion dollars? Why can't he leave this shit alone?
BEATS "R" US
Mea culpa, mea culpa. Yes, I have colluded in denigrating, sullying, STINKING UP the Beat archive. Can't you smell it?
The redolence of coffee, of Starbucks, and of coffee tables.
There's probably been more unmitigated bullcrap written about the Beats than any quantitatively similar culture scene, including white probes of black music and all the dumb inquiries-cum-exploitations of the hippie '60s. John Updike scolded the Beats as bratty, self-involved children; that academic slime Norman Podhoretz called them leather-jacketed savages with zipguns: these too-generous, too-virtuous rogue pilgrims whose writings were as perfect an antidote to '50s Drear as rock & roll, as sublimely uplifting, if less instantaneously magical (you had to spend time and read 'em).
And NOW, folks: the coffee table scuzz of The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats (1999). While not the first c.t. Beat book--Allen Ginsberg did at least three c.t.'s on his own (as opposed to just large format, 9x11, like the posthumous Kerouac whatzis, Some of the Dharma)--one of the heavier ones with more text than pixtures...I've got the longest thing in it.
An edit-down of a five-year-old article originally called "Another Superficial Piece about 176 Beatnik Books"--they cut me down to 158--but it's anything but superficial: a stone-serious take on Beat as writ and published...text as direct emanation of self...the intersection of kicks and cellular concern...the litrachoor of let's-get-naked-for-10-minutes-and-maybe-tell-the-truth--if we fail, at least we tried, y'hear? I talk about all these books and point out how like On the Road is really no better than Jack Kerouac's fifth or sixth best novel, after Big Sur (one of the two or three ur-masterpieces of the English language), The Subterraneans, The Vanity of Duluoz, Tristessa, and possibly The Dharma Bums...so maybe you don't read the wrong one first, just 'cause you're s'posed to, and get discouraged, and never read Jack again. Nothing on my part to be embarrassed about, I guess, but, but...I dunno.
Shoot, there were some very suspect early Beat collections that included people like NORMAN MAILER, someone about as Beat (or Beat-cognizant) as Tony Curtis. Thank heck he's not in this one, but take a look at the sad parade of interlopers, slummers, and party poopers who are: Yoko Ono, Johnny Depp, Lee Ranaldo, Deborah Harry, Graham Nash...Graham Nash? My erstwhile pal Patti Smith, as phony as 80 days are long, whom I remember in '71 calling Ginsberg "that Jew queer," contributes the gushing, almost toesucking "Dear Allen" (p. 274). On p. 307, Don Waller, a slick-haired hepcat wanna-be, the 2nd or 3rd jivest person I've ever met, one of that vast army of jerks who have made the term "cool" useless till the end of time, makes the claim that "Any serious discussion of 'Beat humor' starts with Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce"--no it doesn't!
Nor were the Beats themselves especially "hipsters"--sure they were, but they were also distinctly (and distinctively) not-that, and some--Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, Carl Solomon--were not-that, period. Kerouac once presented his take on karmic responsibility as "No rest until every sentient being is redeemed"--show me the hipster in them apples, Don.
Listen, I'm no Beatnik--born in '45, you can't be one in much more than spirit (unless you're Anne Waldman, who based on her connection to Ginsberg at Naropa, though she isn't even small-b beat, often gets tapped the youngest "actual" Beat) (Trixie A. Balm, eat yer heart out)--but at least I've got some respect, see, for those that truly be.
Ain't no Buddhist, but I hold this stuff sacred, okay?
And it gives me a creepy feeling to be in a volume so brimming w/ not only coffee grounds but COOTIES.
So why am I in the damn thing? Why have I given it my consent? Hey: I even participated in a reading at Borders to hype sales. I give it my consent for the illusion of visibility, the self-deception of a mission of truth, and last but not least, a mess of pottage.
WHALE OF A POET
As dandy a poet as Sappho, Shakespeare, Blake, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Dickinson, Whitman, Pound, Ginsberg, or Ogden Nash.
Now that everything he wrote has been devalued from science to hermeneutics ("interpretation"), while Jung is classed (and revered) as some weird sort of pagan mystic, and frontline beatniks never lost their affection for Reich, let's just keep Siggy around for what he most IS: an ole-fashioned coke & tobacco motherfucker whose unabashed MAGNILOQUENCE puts him up there with Freddie Blassie and Rabelais.
Poetry: the root, if not route, of ALL philosophy (and science!) worthy of the name.
ED WOOD VS. COCTEAU: WHO WILL WIN?
The notion of Greatness--the judgment, the sentiment, the nervous tic: great albums, great cinematographers, great draft beers--do we really need to waste our time on that worn and weary road? Is it any longer an attribution of anything pertinent--germane--worth a ding dang dog's dick?
The rise! the fall! (the bloody persistence) of Charisma. As in the charismatic Brad Pitt--a dishrag who "looks like James Dean."
The April '98 Gentlemen's Quarterly, a "special collector's issue," pays tribute to the Athlete of the Century, Muhammad Ali. There was a time, back when I was more immersed in boxing, when I'd've called him the Man, the Manwoman, the PERSON of the Century. Of course, no doubt, beyond all hype, he is the sportsperson of the 20th, just as he was with 25 years still remaining, and his '74 knockout of Foreman in Zaire stands as one of the two or three most conspicuous public achievements since, well, after my own arbitrary cutoff date, '69-'70.
But achievement, merit--what is the cash value (in the William Jamesian sense) of either of THOSE curios at century's end? Possibly they never meant a fuck of a lot without the requisite hype, without a coercive lesson plan for dumbass mortals, a hierarchic see-Spot-run of canonical More to our abject Less...so good riddance. And in one sense at least, if still below the level of reflexive consciousness, of our common awareness, I think we are rid of one twang of the shuck: "high" art vs. "low."
And I don't mean 'cause people in gen'ral seem more, more?, maybe more attracted to lowstuff like gothic romance or yuppie sitcoms or whatever, which isn't really even the low I'm getting at (that stuff's just lowest common denom, and what's at issue here is lower than the denom--low as in lowlife: gutter stuff)--I mean that among incrementally more of those who not long ago would've been patrons of high, exclusively, it's no longer as systematically, or as automatically, exclusive (with or without the alibi of "guilty pleasure"). And like I said, not too many of these geeks are actually, wakingly aware of it, but habits of valuation have changed--slightly--there's a certain piecemeal laxing of the rigor--even among those of 'em you can fool all of the time.
DADA come home to roost? Duchamp (et al.) propheteering? Hardly.
Marcel Duchamp, who abandoned "retinal art" not long after painting the arch-retinal Nude Descending a Staircase, was one of the supreme foreshadows of the early 20th, even begetting a workable copy--a xerox--a silk screen, anyway--in Andy Warhol, but his wisdom, his shrewdness, his cool-customerhood would have been as zilch without an adventitious mass means of activating some mighty riffs (as infantile as they are intellectual) lurking in everyone's art-critical toolbag, of deconstructing sundry impractical (but ingrained) valuational norms, of delivering the package on a bedrock of common utility, of normal situational perception, and that means was/is/has been--to the extent that it has been AT ALL--not the beats, not Pop Art, not the hippies, not punk, not specifically anyway, but rock & fucking roll--the Whole Damn Thing--45 years down its long & winding pike, still rolling (clunkily) on.
The massive means, the massive hap, the massive rub. To even begin to collapse, demolish, reduce (or at least fuzz over) crucial distinctions in the public eye between high and low, we've needed more years of rock than it's actually functioned as rock (as opposed to as Big Culture, or as Typical Showbiz, or as Monster Trucks Soundtrack): the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s...longggg after it ceased being useful for much of anything else...
If you view them with an open heart and an unjaundiced eye, Jean Cocteau's Orpheus, the celebrated "art pic" of 1950, and Edward D. Wood's Night of the Ghouls, "celluloid trash" from '59, offer surprisingly, yet undeniably, similar takes on Death and the Other Side, but the bottom line is this: Wood is what Cocteau is trying to be, he's a Cocteau pulling no punches, (put this in his résumé!) COCTEAU WITHOUT RESTRAINT. Testament of Orpheus, meanwhile, the Frenchman's pretentious '60 sequel, is the stale sweat of a sweaty poet, while the meagerest works of Wood radiate sheer delight.
(Wood: you might know him from Tim Burton's less than flattering Ed Wood, '94, which doesn't completely mock the guy's work, heckles it mostly in fun, but stops far short of true admiration. At least, tho, they now got some actual Wood films at the video store, at more video stores. For starters, I recommend Bride of the Monster.)
No more Art (sent or received) on a pedestal: wouldn't that be nice!
Carl "Bobo" Olson, born July 11, 1928, Honolulu. "The Hawaiian Swede."
Champion? Also-ran? Both.
Great? Not-great? Not-great.
Overreacher? Underachiever? Overreacher.
Interesting? Interesting enough...
In '53, following the retirement of Sugar Ray Robinson, won 15-round decisions over Paddy Young and Randy Turpin to gain recognition as world middleweight champ.
June '55, moving up in weight, challenges Archie Moore for the lightheavyweight title and is knocked out in the 3rd round. In December, Robinson (unretired) KO's Bobo in 2, recapturing the middleweight crown, and in the rematch six months later, in 4.
1960: campaigning as a lightheavy, with pretensions of moving up to heavyweight, he is kayoed in 6 by an up-and-coming Doug Jones, the first serious challenge (two years later) for the young Cassius Clay.
Career continues through '66. Final record: 92-16-2. In the end: broke.
Rumors of bigamy? Of two entire families in different cities? Um...uh...that's more or less correct.
Did someone say bozo?
STALER BREAD, GRIMMER CIRCUS
My wife's been sick, the young'uns too,
And I'm durn near down with the flu,
The cow's gone dry and them hens won't lay,
But we're still a-livin', so ever'thing's okay.
--"Everything's Okay," Luke the Drifter (Hank Williams)
The commoditization of despair...the "populism" of universal slip-slide...the no-future of an illusion...the mega-marketing of leaner pickings.
In 1980, during the Iran hostage crisis (and the CIA's Afghan incursion), Slash editor Claude Bessy, a/k/a Kickboy Face, punk-rock's hottest voice-in-print, announced, without a trace of grief: "We will not live to see the end of this decade"--he figured Carter would be blowing up the planet any day. "I only regret," he added, "that I won't live to see enough of the horror." Slightly later, after the threat had subsided (but why forget its sting?), Slash reviewer Chris D. hailed some German punk LP as "adequate sonic preparation for the heat-death of the world." Torment, torture, and subjugation as the trip...dig it.
The X Files: of course they lie to us--or is it simply we'll believe anything? Either way, the endless wellspring of a real kink of a show...both ABOUT the ruse and the ruse ITSELF...Twilight Zone, or is it Gilligan's Island?, as 60 Minutes...escapism and surrender at the same time, in the same breath...can't wait for the next episode!
David Cronenberg's eXistenZ: the abhorrent yuck of what cybershit hath wrought, and of what we've been duped into demanding from it...done as perhaps the most seamlessly, elegantly crafted LSD movie, ever.
KEROUAC NEVER DROVE, SO HE NEVER DROVE ALONE
You're born alone, you die alone, you pull into a 20th century truckstop alone where every trucker looks like the devil. Like pictures of the devil. Like they'd kill you worse than cops or buy you a beer, two beers, if they knew what you were thinking. About their looking like the devil or killing you or buying you beers. But there's no beer at this stop, so it's only devil, killing...
"Q & A with Sugar Ray"
By Dave Iamele firstname.lastname@example.org
To say Sugar Ray Leonard was the Oscar De la Hoya of his day may be an insult to Ray Leonard. With all due respect for "The Golden Boy," who is one of the few true boxing stars of today, you could not create a more perfect boxing superstar than Sugar Ray.
As of Sugar Ray's most current retirement, his record stands at 36 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw-- with 25 KO's. Ray Charles Leonard, out of Wilmington, South Carolina, won the Golden Gloves championship in 1973
and 1974 before capturing the gold medal and America's hearts in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada. In a year when the United States took home five Olympic boxing gold medals (including the Spinks brothers'--Michael and Leon), Ray stood out with his handsome looks, movie-star smile, and photograph of his wife and two-year-old son taped to the side of his boxing boot.
Ray was paid $40,000 for his professional debut, which was televised on CBS. This was a record payday for a professional debut. His opponent, Luis Vega, was paid $650 for his effort, which I believe is not any sort
of record. The Sugar Man captured his first world title on November 3, 1979, stopping Hall of Fame champion Wilfred Benitez with six seconds left in the final round. Along with the welterweight title, Ray pocketed a cool
million-dollar paycheck. Not bad for the challenger!
The road to superstardom was not always an easy one for Leonard. In June of 1980, Ray suffered his first defeat at the hands of Roberto Duran. In front of more than 46,000 fans in Montreal, Canada, Duran goaded Leonard into a macho slugfest and won the title. Surgery for a detached retina sidelined Ray from November 1982 until February 1984. Although Ray Leonard KO'd unheralded opponent Kevin Howard in the ninth round, he was knocked down himself for the first time in his career and promptly re-retired until April of 1987. The draw on Leonard's record from a June 1989 rematch with Thomas "The Hit Man" Hearns was clearly a gift decision for Ray, as Hearns dominated the bout and dropped Ray twice. After an uninspired third bout with Roberto Duran at the end of 1989, Ray was inactive until unwisely deciding to face "Terrible" Terry Norris for his WBC junior-middleweight title. Ray was pounded unmercifully for 12 rounds by his younger and stronger opponent. Ray was inactive again from 1992 until March of 1997 when he was KO'd in five rounds by Hector "Macho" Camacho--his only KO defeat.
But the shining moments in the ring far surpass the few dark times. Although Ray lost his first bout and title to Duran, he received $8.5 million for his effort and won the rematch in November of 1982 in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the famous "No Mas" bout. He also won another title in 1981: the WBA light-middleweight title from Ayub Kalule, and in September of that year, engaged fellow champion Thomas Hearns in a true welterweight superbout. After a back and forth battle, His Sweetness put a hittin' on The Hit Man and KO'd Hearns in the 14th round. Along with Tommy's WBA welterweight title, Ray collected a record $11-million purse.
But perhaps the crowing moment came in April of 1987 when Ray did the seemingly impossible by coming off a three-year layoff to beat Marvelous Marvin Hagler, a boxing super-talent in his own right. This time Ray collected the WBC middleweight title, $10 million, and the bout was voted both fight and upset of the year. The following year Ray collected his fourth and fifth titles by KO'ing Don Lalonde for the WBC super-middleweight and light-heavyweight titles. In 1997, Ray was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the sport's highest honor.
In his on-again, off-again boxing career, Sugar Ray Leonard earned over $100 million in the squared circle. Oscar could take a few lessons from Sugar Ray.
Ray Leonard was on hand at the Turning Stone Casino in the early winter of this year to call attention to a couple of young boxers he is managing. For a variety of reasons, neither of the boxers actually got to fight (through no fault of their own), but luckily Sugar Ray graciously agreed to talk with me about his career in the ring and what
he is up to now.
DI: "How did you become involved in working with Gary "Fast-Hands" Jones and Willie Phillips?"
SRL: "I've always been involved with boxers at one point or another, but back in the early 1990's I began to manage fighters, but it was difficult because it was still kind of ambiguous as far as my (boxing) career was concerned. But now that I'm truly retired, I reopened the door to managing and possibly promoting. Guys like Gary Jones have so much talent that I tend to become involved with them . from a managerial and promotional standpoint. For me it's like déjà vu--back when I was that age coming up through the ranks."
DI: "How did you become involved with boxing as a teenager?"
SRL: "When I first started boxing, I was 14 years old. My brother, Roger, used to kick my butt for no apparent reason, and that kind of prompted me to do it (laughs). I didn't want to play basketball or football . believe it or not, I used to feel intimidated playing those sports. Boxing was kind of my thing because I was going against guys pretty much the same weight and height as me. I enjoyed the individual competition."
DI: "I think one of the most amazing things about you as one of the most successful boxers of all time is that you didn't even want to box professionally after the Olympics. Also, it seems odd that the guy who didn't want to fight professionally couldn't stay retired ."
SRL: (Laughs) "That's true! No, once I won the gold medal back in '76 in Montreal, I just felt that that was it. Plus, I had really bad hands. My hands were very fragile, and after each fight my hands would swell, and I'd have to put them in buckets of ice. So, that--along with the grueling workouts I didn't particularly care for. I couldn't
envision myself continuing to do that. I had plans of going to Hollywood, being on the Wheaties box, and being in the movies--but things didn't work out that way. My father was gravely ill at that time. He had spinal meningitis and tuberculoses, and he went into a coma. We needed money . fast . so I turned professional to help assist
the family with those hospital bills. Then I found myself with better hands and went on to have an illustrious career, and then in the latter part of my career, when it was time to call it quits, I still found reasons to continue. I had my taste of boxing two years ago, and now I'm retired for good, believe me!"
DI: "You pulled in some amazing purses during your career. What was it about you that allowed you to generate this huge amount of money?"
SRL: "I think it was a combination of things. I came along when there was free TV doing fights: ABC, NBC, CBS. The Olympics was great world-wide exposure. Also, Ali had just pretty much stepped down, so there was timing there . that all created an opening that I took advantage of."
DI: "Do you think your peers were jealous of the money you were making, or do you think you helped them earn more money by them fighting you?"
SRL: "It goes both ways. It's kind of a double-edged sword. There was some resentment, naturally, because these guys were in the game just as long as I was, or longer, and then for me to come along and make three, four, five times as much, there was some resentment. On the other hand, when they fought me, they made more than they ever had in their career."
DI: "After your initial retirement, you had surgery on a detached retina and traveled over to England. Is that where you had your surgery?"
SRL: "No, I had the surgery done at John Hopkins in Baltimore. About three to five weeks after the surgery, I filmed a documentary over in London. Part of the story was me going to have lunch with Davey Boy Green. I met a bunch of boxers, and it was really just a wonderful experience."
DI: "You were inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. That was a controversial year for a couple of reasons: 1) Don King was also inducted that year--and, of course, he's always controversial; and 2) You found a loop-hole and became the first boxer to ever be inducted and then actually fight after your induction."
(Note: A fighter must be retired for five years before being considered eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame. Ray's last bout was February 9, 1991, he was voted into the Hall of Fame in January of 1997, and he fought his last bout on March 14, 1997.)
SRL: (Laughs) "I wish it was the other way around. It was a loop-hole and I got through it!"
DI: "Were you uncomfortable with the fact that Don King was also being inducted with you that year?"
SRL: "I never thought too much of it, you know? I was just excited to be inducted."
DI: "You've had so many great moments. What stands out for you?"
SRL: "I've had quite a few moments, fortunately. When I won the gold medal, without question that was a major accomplishment because it's the ultimate achievement for an amateur. Winning my first title against Benitez, wining the rematch with Duran, unifying against Tommy Hearns, coming out of retirement to beat Hagler. I mean, I've had some great moments. So, I was very lucky and blessed to be in a great era with so many great champions."
DI: "When you went through your tough times--the eye surgery, the retirements, personal problems, etc.--did it get you down, or were you always upbeat through it all?"
SRL: "To put things in perspective: I retired when I was 25! People don't retire at 25, so it was a tough adjustment for me. I was like in a state of limbo. But, with the help of family and friends, I pulled myself together and pushed on because I had too much to live for, too much to give. To have the opportunities I've had only comes along once in a lifetime, so I cherish more what I've accomplished."
DI: "After the Hagler bout, was there talk of you fighting "The Cobra," Donald Curry?"
SRL: There was a lot of talk at one point. I don't know how serious it was. It was rumored, but it never materialized."
DI: "How disappointed were you in losing the Camacho bout?"
SRL: "Very. Very, very, very disappointed because, you know, I had the opportunity to . you know, I enjoy shocking people, beating the odds. And again I had the opportunity to do that. Although, without discounting the talent of Camacho, as crazy as he is, he's a good fighter and a champion, but I should have postponed that bout because of my injury. Then what happened, I came across as a whiner when I revealed that I had an injury, and that really sent me for a loop. That's something that I live with. But, you know what? I think that what I accomplished overshadows that little blurb in my career."
DI: "Have you had a chance to meet Sugar Shane Mosley, and what do you think of him carrying on with the 'Sugar' name?"
SRL: "I've met Sugar Shane, and I've seen him fight. I think he's got a lot of talent. He has great potential to be a great fighter."
DI: "What are your thoughts on today's young talent rejecting contracts and demanding huge paydays? Are they crazy or just demanding what they're worth in today's age of high-paid athletes?"
SRL: "Well . I think they all see the top dollar, and I think they don't realize self-worth. They all see themselves as marquee names, but they may be good fighters, potentially great fighters, but very few marquee names that could sell a pay-per-view . Oscar De la Hoya, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, unless there's a package with several young fighters ."
DI: "Recently, ESPN was coming out with one of those lists.One hundred greatest athletes of the past 100 years, or some such nonsense. You were contacted about being included and you had some "terms" and you could not come to an agreement and subsequently were left off the list. What happened?"
SRL: "That was a misinterpretation or miscommunication between one of my representatives and ESPN. I have no problem with ESPN, and as far as being rated, it would be wonderful just to be involved with those athletes. I think things got out of hand and taken out of context."
DI: "I've taken a lot of your time here today, but just say something to the Ray Leonard fans out there reading this across the world."
SRL: "I just want to say that in the new millennium we will find greater fighters and champions, and I think the future is great for boxing.
DI: "Thank you for your time."
Well, there you have it, Ray Leonard's thoughts as he expressed them. Last time out I interviewed Marvelous Marvin Hagler, this time Sugar Ray, and now I hear Roberto Duran will be appearing at the Turning Stone to be on hand for a March 3 title defense for new IBF lightweight champion, Paul Spadafora! Keep your fingers crossed for a hat trick, to steal an expression from another tough sport.
Special thanks must go out to Mr. Mark Emery, Media Relations Manager for the Oneida Indian Nation at the Turning Stone Casino, for all his assistance, and, of course, to Mr. Leonard for being so generous with his time. Thanks Champ!
HISTORY'S GREATEST HEAVYWEIGHTS
By Eric Jorgensen
Ranking the all-time heavyweights in order of "greatness" whatever that means -- is a game almost every boxing fan likes to play. I like to play it too, and, for better or worse, have done so here.
Preliminarily, I should explain my own peculiar criteria for determining "greatness". Simply put, I rate fighters on a "who would have beaten whom" basis. In other words, I ask how each fighter, on his best night, would have performed against each other fighter, on that fighter's best night, ignoring considerations of "historical significance", "social impact", "longevity", "quality of opposition", etc., except to the extent those considerations bear on my analysis of fighting ability. The more hypothetical victories a fighter compiles in the round-robin tournament of my imagination, the higher I rank him. That having been said, there are one or two broad themes I'd like to address before settling down to discuss the fighters individually.
The Value of Eyewitness Opinion
First off, I believe very strongly that the more one knows about a fighter and the more of a fighter one has seen, the better one is able to evaluate that fighter. For instance, I have seen every major fight either Muhammad Ali or Larry Holmes ever fought, as well as most of the major fights their opponents ever fought. On top of that, I have read a great deal written about them by other people who have seen all their fights. Consequently, I have a high degree of confidence in my analysis concerning those two fighters. However, the same would not be true of a guy like Jim Jeffries. I've seen clips of his fights against Tom Sharkey and Gus Ruhlin, and clips of him sparring with Bob Armstrong, but it would be foolish for me to be as firm in my opinions regarding Jeffries as I am in my opinions regarding Ali because I don't have as much evidence to help me along with Jeffries as I do with Ali. For that reason, I am exceedingly reticent to depart from what I call the "consensus of eyewitness opinion" when it comes to those fighters whose major bouts are not all available on film.
For instance, those boxing experts who saw both Jeffries and Johnson fight in their primes were pretty evenly divided as to who was the better man (and, regardless of which way they came down on that question, almost universally believed that a fight between them would have been close). That tells me that those two guys better be clustered pretty close together in anyone's ratings. For a "year 2000" analyst to do otherwise, he has to say that he was able to glean more from viewing a few film clips and from his own re-interpretation of old newspaper accounts than the eyewitnesses gleaned from actually watching the fights, the training sessions, etc. One has to have an extremely high opinion of his own innate genius to take that position with a straight face, it seems to me. Either that, or he has to come up with some "clever" (that is to say, "contrived") rationalization for disregarding the historical consensus that at least ostensibly stops short of saying "y'know, I'm just a whole lot smarter than all those other guys were". My favorite one of those concerns Jack Dempsey and it goes like this: Dempsey was really aggressive and that style just happened to catch the collective imagination of the Roaring 20s culture, so all the fighters, trainers, sportswriters and fans of that period significantly over-rated him. Oh, okay. Condescending? Yep. Silly? Yep. But, I'm not kidding I've heard people say exactly that.
In any event, when I hear people rating Johnson in the top 5 of all-time whilst simultaneously ignoring Jeffries altogether, I tend to chuckle. I do the same thing when I hear some revisionist announcing that Jack Dempsey was an over-rated ham-and-egger but that Joe Louis was the greatest of all-time, given that Dempsey dominated Louis in the minds of those who saw them both fight.
Old-Timers v. Moderns
A lot of contemporary pundits will tell you that the "old-time" heavyweights were too small and too primitive stylistically to compete with their "modern" counterparts. I submit, however, that the foregoing grossly oversimplifies the analyses. While it is certainly true that most heavyweights of the pre-Sonny Liston era would have conceded a lot of weight were they campaigning today, it is also true that ability can overcome weight. For a variety of reasons, it seems to me that the old-time fighters were superior pound-for-pound to todays fighters such that the best of them could have more than held their own against their bigger successors.
For one thing, boxing was far more popular in the old days than it is now. More athletes were competing, fight clubs flourished, and, perhaps most importantly, there were fewer divisions and fewer champions. Nowadays, football, basketball, tennis, and other, safer sports attract the athletic talent, so overall competition quality has declined in the ring. Thus, the champions of old had to climb a higher mountain than the champions of today have to climb.
Moreover, the old-time fighters had far more fights in their careers, as a rule, than do their modern counterparts (for many reasons, primarily economic). Thus, those fighters became truly skilled and seasoned while still at their physical peaks. Dempsey, for example, had 60 or 70 professional fights (at least) by the time he won the title at age 24. Thus, he had a careers-worth of experience and his "in-prime" body at the same time. These days, a fighter can become a millionaire after 20-30 fights, or fewer, and so often loses some of his ambition. Thus, he slips into semi-retirement, fighting once a year or so, without ever learning some of the finer skills mastered by the busier fighters of legend. Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe are perfect examples of this. Both began losing strength and speed to age while they still had a lot to learn.
Nor have training techniques changed all that much. Boxers were way ahead of the times in recognizing the value of cardio-vascular conditioning (even John L. Sullivan skipped rope and did roadwork). Conversely (and bizarrely), they have been among the last to abandon old superstitions concerning weight-training. Angelo Dundee still thinks lifting makes a fighter "musclebound" (i.e., "slow and clumsy"). Thus, boxers have by and large failed to benefit from modern training methods the way other athletes have.
Proponents of the modern boxer often respond to arguments like the ones Ive just set forth with comments along the lines of, "well, that's clever, but just look at the films the old-timers look like a pack of clumsy amateurs". Films, however, can be deceiving. Though the old-timers may appear "awkward" on film (at least sometimes), the careful analyst must reason his way beyond mere appearances. He should think of the silent film era movies he has seen. The movements of the actors appear disjointed and clumsy almost cartoonish. They appear grossly uncoordinated and inept when performing even the most rudimentary physical feats. Yet, would anyone conclude that Clint Eastwood walks more skillfully than Charlie Chaplin walked? Of course not; to do so would belie all common sense. The difference, then, is not in the actor but in the quality (primarily the speed) of the film capturing the act.
Another point people should bear in mind is that conditions have changed considerably in the last 100 years. In the old days, fights lasted longer often being scheduled for 20, 25, even 45 rounds. That meant that fighters had to pace themselves more carefully. Today, if a fighter gets winded early, he can often hang on until the end, since the end will come after only, at most, 12 rounds. In the days of guys like Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson, conversely, fighters didn't have that luxury. Accordingly, they had to conserve their energy and their punches something to remember the next time you hear an old-timer being criticized for failing to throw "combinations". Another factor contributing to the "fewer combinations" phenomena among the old-timers was the size and quality of the gloves they used. Years ago, heavyweights frequently fought using 4 or 6-ounce gloves, which gloves were constructed of material (often animal hair) that became water-logged and "condensed" during the course of the fight. The upshot of all that was that the gloves protected a fighter's hands less (so one had to be more careful in shot selection lest an errant blow to skull or elbow result in a broken hand) and damaged the fighter's opponent more (less surface area, more impact) than is the case with today's bigger, better gloves. Consequently, the old-timers couldn't afford to spray "punches in bunches" around the way fighters can today, but that does not mean they were incapable of doing so or that they could not have adjusted to today's "12-round world" had the need arisen. [Of course, the "longer fight/lesser activity per round" concept cuts both ways: one can't conclude that Jack Johnson had greater stamina than Rocky Marciano had, for example, simply because he fought longer fights, since Marciano worked harder per round than Johnson did. One has to delve deeper.]
A Word About "Quality of Opposition"
One place where I feel a lot of analysts "slip up" is in connection with their assessments of a fighter's "quality of opposition". The knee-jerk, but simplistic, tendency is to look at the names on a fighter's record and then compare them to the analyst's own personal list of all-timers. If there are some matches, then the fighter beat some rough customers. If there aren't any matches, then the fighter knocked over a bunch of tomato cans. But, there's a little more to it than that. It seems to me that the top contenders in any given era are going to be first-rate fighters. Further, for reasons discussed above, I favor the 1910-1945 era as having produced, over-all, the best fighters pound-for-pound. In my view, then, the champions from that era all had to beat some very good fighters to become champions in the first place.
Joe Louis gets a lot of credit for beating "great" opposition because he knocked off several champions: Carnera, Baer, Sharkey, Braddock Schmeling & Walcott. But, take a closer look. Carnera, Sharkey, Braddock and even Schmeling were all pretty much "washed up" by the time Louis beat them (you could even say Schmeling was washed up by the time he beat Louis). Baer, too, was likely a little off his game, given that he'd had just 1 fight in 2 years by the time he ran into Joe. Marciano is another guy credited with having beaten a great set of opponents in Louis, Charles, Walcott & Moore. But, on closer inspection, one can see that each one of those guys was well past his best by the time Rocky handed him his metaphoric head.
Now, let's look at the other side. Sonny Liston beat only one champion Floyd Patterson. His other big wins were over Zora Folley, Eddie Machen & Cleveland Williams, mere "contenders" who don't make a lot of all-time lists. Joe Frazier caught Ali at the right time (3 fights into his comeback), but, other than that, the biggest names on his victory ledger were Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis & Oscar Bonavena. Jack Dempsey is in the same boat. He beat only 2 champions himself, Willard & Sharkey. Otherwise, he beat light-heavyweights Gunboat Smith, Battling Levinsky, Georges Carpentier & Tommy Gibbons, cruiserweights Billy Miske and K.O. Bill Brennan, and "forgotten" heavyweight contenders, Fred Fulton, Carl Morris, and Luis Angel Firpo. Again, you don't see those guys on a lot of all-time lists.
So, did Louis & Marciano beat a far superior crop of opponents than Dempsey, Liston & Frazier beat? Should Louis & Marciano therefore be rated far higher than Dempsey, Liston & Frazier are rated? No. In a nutshell, all of those champions really did beat, with only a few exceptions, all the top contenders that were available to be beaten. That means a lot, particularly in Dempsey's case when the over-all level of quality of the era was so high (for the reasons I outlined above). Indeed, I'd stack the in-prime, but less famous, names whom Liston, Frazier & Dempsey defeated up against the over-the-hill all-timers whom Louis & Marciano beat any day.
Now, on to the fighters:
Class I: The Elite Champions
There are 3 champions who stand out in my mind as having been a level above the rest. Chronologically, they are: Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis & Muhammad Ali.
Jack Dempsey: Dempsey was a force of nature: blazing fast, highly skilled, extremely durable, inhumanly powerful, and, possessing a tireless, unstoppable and utterly unshakeable will to destroy that has simply never been seen in the ring before or since. From the end of 1917 through the summer of 1919, he ran through the heavyweight division like Sherman through the South, beating indeed, destroying -- the best the country had to offer so easily and in such compelling fashion that he was already being hailed as an all-time great even before he crushed (the highly under-rated) Jess Willard for the title. After he did so, he was almost instantly acclaimed the greatest fighter of all-time, and remained the consensus selection in that regard well into the 1960s (when those who saw him fight began dying out).
Regrettably, though, it has become trendy in the last 10 years for younger boxing scribes to re-cast Dempsey as a slow, crude brawler who was unable to cope with defensive boxers and who survived as champion only by feasting on inferior opposition and refusing to fight any of the great black contenders who were clamoring at his door. All of that is utter nonsense, of course, but it is getting to be ubiquitous nonsense, so I will take some time here to refute it.
It amazes me that modern-day "experts" can contrive to question Dempsey's speed or skill, but some do. Really, I could fill 50 pages with quotes from eyewitnesses (beat writers, trainers, fighters) testifying both to Dempsey's near instantaneous reflexes (Nat Fleischer said Dempsey had better handspeed than Joe Louis did) as well as to his exceptional boxing skill (Tommy Gibbons said "don't ever let anyone tell you Dempsey can't box!"; Gene Tunney said Dempsey's ability to slip punches and to keep his chin tucked behind his shoulder rendered him virtually "unhitable"). The films absolutely bear this out. Anyone troubling himself to view the 2nd and 3rd rounds of Dempsey's fight with Willard (when Dempsey was catching his breath after his premature celebration following his apparent 1-round victory had left him a bit winded), would have to concede that Dempsey appears highly skillful -- bouncing nimbly beyond Willards reach, deftly slipping punches, feinting, etc. One is similarly impressed with Dempsey's technical ability upon viewing the Gibbons fight, or the first couple rounds of the Carpentier fight. As longtime boxing scribe Harry Grayson put it in 1962: "The greatest heavyweight of all-time was Jack Dempsey. He had tremendous speed, could punch as fast as anybody with the possible exception of Joe Louis. Jack was murder with either hand and was grossly underrated as a boxer." [Ring Magazine, Dec. 1962, p. 7.]
As to Dempsey's ability to handle "boxers", just look at his record. He went 3-0 against slick-boxing speedster Billy Miske, won 12 of 15 rounds against slicker boxing speedster Tommy Gibbons, and tracked down and pulverized multi-talented future champion Jack Sharkey (and that was on one of Sharkey's good nights). So, what "boxers" gave Dempsey "trouble" exactly? Gene Tunney? That's hardly fair given the virtual unanimity among experts that Dempsey was significantly past his prime by the time of the Tunney fights, not to mention the fact that Tunney was one of the greatest heavyweights who ever lived in his own right. Willie Meehan?
I should probably discuss Meehan a bit, since he has lately become the darling of the Dempsey-bashing set. First off, one has to understand a little more about the era in which these fights took place than a lot of current critics seem to be able to grasp. In the days of yore, fighters fought far more often, every fight was not necessarily "to the death", and a few losses here or there meant less in the grand scheme of things than they do today. In early 1917, Dempsey was having trouble getting fights due to the stench created by the dive he took against Jim Flynn in Murray, Utah. [He had to leave Utah altogether, recall, only to arrive in California to learn that word had spread.] Finally, he was able to line up a little "tours" against faded light-heavy Al Norton and Sailor Willie Meehan in Northern California (Oakland, Emeryville & San Francisco). He needed some money so he needed the tour to be profitable and thus couldn't afford to blow these guys out of the ring each time (remember, he was just another obscure pug in those days; no one was scouting him as potential title-shot material). He boxed a couple fast 4-rounders against Norton, clearly dominating but not trying for a knockout, and the ref called 'em "draws" as was a pretty common practice in those days when both fighters were standing at the end and the ref wasn't too interested in arguing with a bunch of gamblers. No big deal, and no one watching the fights thought Norton was anything close to Dempsey's equal. Then, Jack slipped up and tagged Norton in the 3rd fight, laying him out cold. After that, Dempsey couldn't get Norton back in the ring. Ce la vie.
Same general deal with Meehan. The record book lists Meehan as having "won" his series with Dempsey by a score of 2-1-2, but, as is often the case, the record book does not tell the whole story. The first thing to remember is that those fights were all 4-rounders (Meehan categorically refused to ever fight Dempsey at anything over 4 rounds because, in a longer fight, "Dempsey would kill me"). Had those fights been scheduled for 8 or 10, Dempsey would likely have scored knockouts in all of them. Second, Meehan could fight; he had no punch and no stamina, true, but he was very quick, very skilled defensively, and he took a great punch. This made him a hard man to beat in 4-rounder. Third, as with the Norton fights, Dempsey was more interested in keeping people coming back so he could put a little dough in his pocket than in doing Meehan any real harm. Besides, Dempsey arguably got robbed in a few of those fights, not that he cared all that much (Meehan slapped and grabbed a lot and many Dempsey especially -- felt Meehan received credit for fast flails that did not connect). The first fight (decision for Meehan) was close, and could have gone either way. The second time 'round, Dempsey who didn't mind "draws" but found "losses" annoying turned it up a notch and won by a country mile. The 3rd & 4th fights were back to business as usual Dempsey was clearly the dominant fighter but didn't mind overly much when the fights were, laughably, called "draws" (Dempsey always referred to these fights as "wins" in fact, which no doubt they really were). Again, in the early part of 1917, Jack had to be careful to protect his next gate and his next meal. Shortly thereafter, though, Dempsey hooked up with Kearns and began getting "important" fights, at which point he really started showing what he could do. The rest, as they say, is history.
Oh, yeah, the 5th fight in 1919. Bear with me whilst I set the stage here: it was a benefit for the U.S. Navy (contemporary accounts call it an "exhibition", in fact), Meehan was in the Navy, and the crowd was comprised almost entirely of Naval personnel. Due to the spirit of the proceedings and his friendship with Meehan, Dempsey adopted a pretty relaxed attitude in this fight, but not so relaxed that he didn't again dominate completely, chasing Meehan all over the ring, even dropping him (perhaps accidentally) for a count in the 2nd. There was no question that Dempsey was by far the better man that night. But, there was also no question whose hand the referee and sole judge would raise at the end. They say the crowd of cadets went wild. . . . Anyway, what it all boils down to is this: anyone bothering to conduct a little research into the Dempsey-Meehan series before presuming to analyze it will satisfy himself that those fights have no bearing on Dempsey's place in the all-time pantheon.
Next myth: Dempsey ducked Harry Wills and other black contenders when he was champion. Wrong. Dempsey signed to fight Wills twice. Both fights failed to materialize only because no promoter could be found who could/would put the fight together and meet Dempsey's price (as was done, incidentally, in connection with the Carpentier, Gibbons, Firpo and Tunney fights). The notion that Dempsey "feared" Wills or wouldn't have shown up had the money been there, is comical. Wills was viewed as a big, powerful contender whose general lack of speed and suspect chin (twice flattened by over-the-hill light-heavyweight Sam Langford and once by Dempsey sparring partner Battling Jim Johnson) rendered him "made-to-order" for Dempsey. As Dempsey put it, "those big, slow guys were meat for me". Sure, Wills deserved a shot. But, no, Dempsey did not duck him, and, no, Wills would not have come away from that fight with anything besides a pay-day and a concussion. After Wills, who was there? Jack Johnson, Joe Jeannette, Sam Langford, & Sam McVey were all well past their primes by the time Dempsey won the title and, anyway, all 4 had been removed as top contenders in one fashion or another. Dempsey employed George Godfrey, Battling Jim Johnson, Big Bill Tate and Larry Gains as sparring partners at various times, mangling them often, severely and publicly enough that no one was going to pay to see Dempsey mangle them "officially" in title fights. So, who were all these great black contenders whom Dempsey supposedly "ducked"?
Finally, as alluded to above, the guys Dempsey did fight were not "bums" or anything close to "bums", revisionist lunacy to the contrary notwithstanding. Billy Miske was a beautiful boxer who lost just 2 official fights in his whole career to Dempsey and to Kid Norfolk (before he'd really developed). He also lost a few newspaper decisions (2 to Dempsey, 1 to Gibbons and a couple others), but his record was nonetheless spectacular. I see Miske as a Jimmy Ellis with a chin or an Eddie Machen with heart (and, by the way, Miske went 21-1-1 after his title fight with Dempsey, losing only to Gibbons, but also beating Gibbons, along with Brennan, Weinert, Fulton and several other blue-chippers, so don't tell me he was on his "deathbed" at the time). Tommy Gibbons was perhaps an even better boxer than Miske was, who, in a career spanning more than 100 fights, lost only 4 times: to Miske, Dempsey, Tunney & Harry Greb (getting the better of Greb in several no decision matches). He beat, basically, every other fighter the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions offered in those days (Levinsky, Brennan, Carpentier, Roper, etc.), and made Harry Wills run away and hide. K.O. Bill Brennan couldn't seem to get a handle on Miske or Dempsey, but his thunderous power flattened pretty much everyone else he ever met. You could view him as a Jerry Quarry who could lead as well as counter and who knew how to avoid a punch every once in a while. Georges Carpentier, Battling Levinsky, and Gunboat Smith were arguably 3 of the 15 greatest light-heavyweights of all-time. Fred Fulton didn't take the greatest punch in the world, certainly, but he was still a superb fighter -- fast, defensively adept and possessing a straight left/left hook/left upper-cut trifecta to make Gerry Cooney envious as well as a mean right hand -- who would have given a lot of champions a lot of trouble. He's forgotten today, but he beat Sam Langford twice in two fights, the first time when Langford was a pretty spry 34 and, incidentally, was the still number one contender to boot. He also flattened, at various times, John Lester Johnson, Gunboat Smith, Carl Morris, Arthur Pelkey, Fireman Jim Flynn, Charlie Weinert and a number of other first-rate fighters. Luis Firpo was, in essence, a Max Baer with reflexes and heart. He lost to Dempsey, but I doubt anyone else in the world at that time could have withstood his strength, speed and bone-crushing right hand, and that includes Wills (remember how close the grossly out-of-shape Firpo came to whipping Wills in 1924). At his best, in fact, I like him at least even money against any of the champions who reigned between Tunney & Louis. Jack Sharkey, when on his game (as he was for Dempsey), was a truly great fighter. Jess Willard has always been under-rated (largely due to Jack Johnson's claim of having taken a dive in Havana), and, contrary to popular misconception, was in great shape when he fought Dempsey (according to contemporary accounts posted by W.O. McGeehan, Ring Lardner, and Damon Runyon, all of whom visited Willard in training and attended the fight). Thus, despite shabby treatment from modern historians, Dempsey's opponents compare favorably to anyone's (with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali's); he has nothing for which to apologize.
At bottom, all this anti-Dempsey revisionist history is pure folly. Dempsey was a great talent who obliterated everyone they put in front of him when he was in his prime, and the folks who saw him fight if not to a man then at least by clear majority hailed him as the best of the best. Given all that, does it really make sense for someone to come along 70 years after the fact and announce, "hey, all those eyewitnesses who said Dempsey was a great fighter were nothing more than a pack of ignorant half-wits listen to me instead!"? To put it mildly, I think not.
Joe Louis: No doubt there will come a time in the next 10-15 years in when Louis's star will start to dim the way Dempsey's has. Thankfully, however, that time has yet to come. For now, Louis is generally regarded as well he should be as having been a fast, smooth and polished killing machine. He was a beautiful puncher perhaps the only one I have ever seen who threw every punch in the book perfectly. His speed was startling, his technique and timing without flaw, and his power awesome. He had excellent stamina, a solid (if not exactly indestructible) chin and under-rated mobility.
You could say that Louis seemed to have trouble with people who could out-quick him (Pastor, Conn, Walcott, Charles), that he had trouble with people who fought from crouches (Farr, Godoy, Marciano), that he had a tendency to get hit by right hands over the jab when he was really loading up on it (Pastor, Schmeling I, Braddock, Mauriello, Walcott), and that he had a less-than-granite jaw, and, to a certain extent, these criticisms are just. But, they also amount to splitting some pretty fine hairs. You can't simply say, as some people like to do, that "Conn was a classic boxer who almost beat Louis, Johnson, Tunney and Ali were classic boxers who were much better than Conn was, so Johnson, Tunney and Ali would all have whipped Louis". Again, always be on guard against overly-simplistic analysis. Johnson, Tunney and Ali were better heavyweights than Conn was because they were stronger, tougher, hit harder and had better endurance than Conn did. But, none was either quicker or harder to hit than Conn was (except maybe Ali), and those are the traits that helped Conn against Louis. Louis caught Conn, he would have caught Johnson, Tunney and Ali too at some point or another. Conn couldn't take Louis's power when the reckoning came. Neither could Tunney or Johnson have taken it, I don't think. Ali? Maybe, maybe not. That one's a close call in my mind (discussion below).
Louis had a killer upper-cut, so employing the crouch against him had its risks (as Godoy discovered in the rematch). But, yes, I have to concede that "crouchers" at least to some extent took away Louis's brilliant 1-2-3 (jab, cross, hook) combo that demolished so many opponents and hence left Louis at somewhat less than his best. Still, looking at all the 5 great "crouching" champions (Jeffries, Dempsey, Marciano, Frazier & Tyson), though, I think the only one whom he might (I said might) not beat was Dempsey. Joe was too good a boxer to lose to Jeff at long range, I feel, and he hit too hard for even Jeffries to dare to "swarm", so I think he would have gotten by the Boilermaker most of the time. And, he was far too quick, accurate and deadly a puncher to ever lose to fighters as easy to hit as Marciano & Frazier were. As for Tyson, I feel he just didn't have the "Gs" to beat a guy like Louis. [I discuss Dempsey v. Louis below.]
What about Louis being a sitting duck for the right hand, you ask? Simple: he wasn't, really. Louis was a good boxer and could avoid a right hand or anything else when he was on the lookout for it. Max Baer, for example, bounced a couple off the side of Joe's jaw (to no effect, by the way), but never got anywhere near the point of his chin. Marciano couldn't connect with the right, either, until the very end (it was a left hook that first separated the Bomber from his senses). Joe was most vulnerable to right hands when he was "careless" that is, when he thought he was dealing with a soft touch whom he could simply walk right through. So, he got surprised by the supposedly "shot" Schmeling the first time, as well as by old Jim Braddock, light-heavy Tami Mauriello, and unheralded Jersey Joe Walcott. Another thing to keep in mind is that most big hitters get hurt by straight rights when they get hurt at all (Dempsey, Marciano, Liston, Frazier, & Tyson along with Louis -- have all been accused of being "suckers" for right hands), particularly the quick ones. The reason for that is that many opponents don't care to come within hooking range when they gamble on a power shot, it's usually the straight right since there's a lesser chance of getting clocked in return than there would be with a left hook, which requires more "commitment", as it were. Obviously, if the majority of hard punches being thrown at a fighter are right hands, then the majority of punches that hurt him will be right hands too; so, getting hit by them on occasion does not necessarily reveal a technical flaw. Anyway, and again, Louis was no sitting duck for anything; he could avoid right hands when he really wanted to.
Finally, I've heard Louis's chin questioned an awful lot, and maybe he didn't take quite the punch of a Jeffries, Dempsey, Marciano, Ali or Foreman, but he did take a solid shot. Baer's best didn't make him flinch, it took Schmeling 12 rounds of solid pounding to finally put him out, and he took quite a bit from Marciano before falling, too. Louis was tough cat.
Minor imperfections notwithstanding, Louis's combination of skills was so complete that only a very few heavyweights in the history of the game could have even given him a run for his money; he was a destroyer of the first order.
Muhammad Ali: From hated pariah to beloved icon, Ali has come full circle. Indeed, Ali is so beloved today that he would almost certainly be over-rated if it were possible to over-rate someone that good. In his prime, his speed and skill made him almost impossible to hit, not that hitting him did all that much good since he was even harder to hurt than he was to hit in the first place (as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman discovered to their consternation). Add to that his limitless resolve and professional pride, and you get a fighter that was very, very hard to beat. There's no controversy here: everyone else seems to think Ali was among the very greatest, and so do I.
When people criticize Ali, they typically say he received a lot of gift decisions in the 70s, that he couldn't hit, and that he never learned to body punch or in-fight. It's true Ali never through a body shot in his life. As to the rest of those notions, however, I disagree. For my money, Ali must have been able to hit a little bit when he came down off his toes. Say what you want, he did manage to stop the following 5 fighters: Sonny Liston, Oscar Bonavena, George Foreman & Joe Frazier -- no mean feat. Neither Bonavena nor Foreman was ever stopped by anyone else. Besides Ali, the only other guy who ever stopped Liston was Leotis Martin, when Sonny was 45 years old if a day. And, besides Ali, the only other guy who ever stopped Frazier was Foreman. No matter what the circumstances, not one of these guys could ever have been stopped by any feather fist, period. As to the gift decisions, Ali maybe did receive a few, but they all occurred post-exile (I had Ali whipping Jones 6-3-1, by the way, and thought he had assumed total command by the 10th), at which point Ali was, in my opinion, considerably less formidable than he had been in the late 60s. The Ali of 1967 would have beaten Norton or Young handily, I believe. Maybe Frazier too. As to the in-fighting, well, he may not have hit very effectively in close, but he was extremely effective at tying his man up (wrestling?) and avoiding punches in the trenches. So, he was in fact a very good "in-fighter" from that perspective.
Dempsey v. Louis v. Ali: These 3 fighters are very evenly matched, as I see it, and none could have beaten either of the others every time out.
A Dempsey-Louis battle would have been a war to end all wars. Dempsey's crouching style and wicked right hand over the jab would have stood him in excellent stead. On the other side, though, Joe's hands may have been even quicker and more accurate than Dempsey's were, and that's saying a lot. A very very close call, but I favor Dempsey 6 times out of 10 on the basis of what I perceive to be his superior chin. Most experts down through the ages have concluded Dempsey took a better punch than Louis did, and, when 2 sluggers meet, I usually go with the better chin. [Nat Fleischer, Dumb Dan Morgan, Gene Tunney and Richard O'Brien all made exactly the same point in analyzing a Dempsey-Louis match, and I think they were right.] I wouldn't put any money on it, though.
Dempsey-Ali would have been pretty close to pick 'em, too. Styles make fights, at least when the combatants are in the same "class", to borrow a term from horse racing, and Dempsey had the style to give Ali trouble. Dempsey would have fought Ali the same way Frazier did, hustling forward, keeping the pressure on, throwing a lot of left hooks, which Ali didnt like. Ali did not really have the punch to keep Dempsey honest, and so would have had difficulty the whole fight. Also, I keep thinking of the trouble Ali had with Henry Cooper. Dempsey was the same size as Cooper and had the same left hook. But, Dempsey had a right hand to go along with it, was much more durable, and, above all, didnt cut. At the same time, though, I can see Alis lightning hands and iron chin earning him a close decision. In any 10 fights, I guess I'd go with Ali winning 5 or 6, so I make him the slightest of favorites.
Louis-Ali, also, would have been a very tight match. As I mentioned above, I think Louis really would manage to "get his hands on" Ali at some point or another. Ali took a great punch, perhaps the greatest of all, but, just because he could handle one at a time from Foreman or Shavers does not mean he could have handled a 5-punch combo from Louis, even if Foreman did have better 1-punch power than Louis did. But, I think he could have. Ali was so tough and so cagey (particularly along the ropes, where he was extremely clever), I feel he would have found a way to stay conscious against anybody, and, as long as he was conscious, his unparalleled handspeed would be piling up the points. Also, I think his lightening quick, pinpoint accurate right cross would really throw Louis off and even ring his bell every so often. So, I take Ali most of the time (say, 7 or 8 out of 10). [For a contrary viewpoint, I recommend Monte Cox's excellent article that appeared in the December 1999 issue of the CBZ.]
Thus, today anyway, I rank them: 1-Ali, 2-Dempsey, 3-Louis. Tomorrow I might reverse the entire order, however.
Class II: The "Merely" Great Champions
The following fighters I place in the second echelon. Great champions all, but a shade behind my elite 3: In chronological order, they are: Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman & Larry Holmes.
Jim Jeffries: These days, Jeffries is often ignored when great heavyweights are discussed. However, those who saw him fight swore he was an awesome figure: powerful (particularly, though not exclusively, with the left), durable (indestructible?), virtually tireless, defensively adept, and underrated in terms of speed. Tex Rickard, who saw Johnson, Dempsey, and Tunney at their best, always picked Jeff as the greatest, as did Dan Morgan, John D. McCallum, and many other boxing experts during the course of the last century.
Critics point to the fact that Jeffries was, in essence, a heavyweight fighting light-heavyweights and having a tough time of it at that. They will say that a 218 pound slugger like Jeffries should have done to smaller men like Bob Fitzismmons and Tom Sharkey what Foreman did to Frazier. But, that's not entirely fair. First, Fitzsimmons was considerably more cagey and defensively adept than Frazier ever was and Sharkey was blessed with the great good fortune of having caught Jeffries first when he was relatively "green" and second when he had was suffering from an injury to his left (that is to say, his best) arm. More fundamentally, though, for all Jeffries's legendary durability, he manifestly did not like getting hit. Plus, he generally had plenty of time in which to operate (most of his important fights were scheduled for 25 rounds). So, he would hang back, with head down, legs crouched, and chin tucked safely behind his shoulder, and bang patiently away at long range with that thundering left until he broke his opponents apart. Then and only then would he close in for the kill. Sure, it took him longer to win some fights than it would have taken a more wildly aggressive slugger like George Foreman, but he never punched himself out, either. Usually, in fact, his strategy worked splendidly and he had a pretty easy time of things. Faced with a 12 or 15 round limit against a modern boxer like Charles or Walcott, though, I imagine Jeff would have stepped up the pace enough to have gotten the job done.
Jack Johnson: Johnson is a puzzle within a conundrum. Experts down through the ages have lauded Johnsons defensive ability, and Im not going to argue with that assessment here. Further, that Johnson was rated as the greatest by the likes of Nat Fleischer and Stanley Weston carries a fair amount of weight with me. Certainly, he had superb reflexes, a terrific all-purpose right hand (straight right, right cross, right uppercut), textbook left jab, nimble feet, and excellent stamina. However, Johnson did have one glaring weakness in his (in)ability to withstand punishment, as evidenced by his knockout losses to over-the-hill middleweight Joe Choynski (from a body blow) and to third-rater John "Klondike" Haynes, and by the knockdown he suffered against middleweight Stanley Ketchel. As for his punching power, that is difficult to accurately assess. He did not have a great knockout percentage, but most eyewitnesses say he in fact had terrific power which, for various reasons, he simply elected not to employ most of the time. I look at the films and remain, shall we say, less than 100% convinced of that, but have decided after much consideration to defer to the majority opinion. Thus, I will accept that Johnson in fact could really bang when he was of a mind to do so. Having made that leap of faith, I can view him as a very formidable fighter close to perfect with only that one flaw (chin) keeping him from the Dempsey-Louis-Ali echelon.
Gene Tunney: I regard Tunney as a souped-up version of Jim Corbett: every bit as fast, probably an even better boxer (he had more fights and, overall, fought rougher opponents), a far better puncher (who threw every punch in the book), and much more durable (I think Tunney had one of the greatest chins of all-time never knocked out, knocked down only by Dempsey and his stamina was amazing). Technically, he was superior to even Ali and Johnson, I think, as he was a far more skilled in-fighter and body-puncher than either (if you've forgotten Tunney's wicked left hook to the body or his inside right uppercut, which he wisely declined to employ against Dempsey, take a gander at the films of his fights with Carpentier & Heeney). A wonderful, thinking fighter who never received the credit he deserved.
Rocky Marciano: Marciano was a true warrior and an indisputably great fighter. His inhuman stamina allowed him to hurl really hard punches at an incredible rate (in terms of volume, if not speed). Though his wildness meant it usually took him a while to find the range, he always did find it, and theres no denying the guy hit a ton. And, of course, he had the heart of a hero. I question whether Marciano could have gotten away with his "walk through everyone" style if he'd actually fought anyone who could really hit, like a Dempsey, Louis or Foreman, however. Great as he was, I think he was too easy to hit to defeat those guys.
Sonny Liston: Liston is a hard guy to rate. He was a more skilled, if less powerful, version of Foreman, and his straight left hand would have caused anyone problems. He was a good boxer, pretty quick for a 214 pounder, had good stamina and took a great punch (Cleveland Williams didn't even make him blink). Still, extenuating circumstances or not, one has to question Listons heart based on his pathetic surrenders to Ali. Remember, unlike the other fighters on this list, Liston never won a tough fight in his whole career (he may or may not have suffered a cracked jaw against Marty Marshall the 1st time, depending on whom you believe, but he still lost that fight). So, for example, would his raw talent sweep guys like Marciano & Frazier aside, or would he be unable, mentally, to compete with the sheer guts and determination those guys would bring to the table? Tough call.
Joe Frazier: Frazier was similar to Marciano in terms of style and ability. Frazier was 20 lbs. heavier and so perhaps a bit stronger, and didnt cut. Marciano was probably a little better boxer and a better 2-handed puncher (Rockys left hook being superior to Joes right cross). Both had solid chins (you cant fault Frazier for falling to Foreman, a puncher far, far beyond the magnitude of anyone Marciano ever fought), and both had wonderful endurance. And, both could lay on enough pressure to make seasoned pros come unglued and panic. Two great champions who are hard to separate analytically.
George Foreman: Foreman had his flaws, of course, but his awesome power would have destroyed all but a handful of his fellow champions. His immense physical strength, 2-handed punching power, iron jaw, under-rated speed and intense aggressiveness made up for his lack of polish and, usually, for his lack of stamina. A true monster who was good enough in his 40s to terrorize the division a generation after his prime had passed. Very under-rated.
Larry Holmes: Holmes was a great fighter, but I wonder if he hasn't been a little over-rated recently. Though he had fast hands and elegant boxing skills, Holmes was not exceptionally quick afoot and did not possess a big punch. Thus, he had trouble with aggressive fighters who put the pressure on him, like Ken Norton, Mike Weaver, and Earnie Shavers. Fortunately for Holmes, those guys all had glass jaws and (except for Norton) no stamina, and so ultimately wilted beneath Holmess steady barrage. But could he count on that against a Dempsey or a Louis? No way, particularly considering his career-long tendency to get hit by right hands over his left jab (Kevin Isaac, Renaldo Snipes, Duane Bobick (in the Olympic Trials), Shavers, Tyson). Still, his skill, heart and chin would have kept him in the hunt against pretty much anyone.
When comparing the 8 fighters that comprise my 2nd echelon, I have a very hard time deciding who among them was the "best", and who was the "worst". Certainly, I feel no one of them could have beaten all of the others. Broadly, I would expect the swarmers, Frazier & Marciano, to perform well against boxers, Johnson, Tunney & Holmes, but have trouble against the "strongman" puncher types, Jeffries, Liston & Foreman, who, in turn, would have trouble catching up to the boxers. In the end, I looked mostly to which fighters I thought had the best combination of skills, whilst throwing in a big premium for the X-factor called "heart", which means a lot to me. Thus, I come up with the following, very tentative, order: 4-Johnson, 5-Jeffries, 6-Foreman, 7-Marciano, 8-Frazier, 9-Tunney, 10-Holmes, 11-Liston. I remain conflicted, though.
Those Who Did Not Make The Final Cut
My omission of the 3 dominate heavyweights of the 1990s, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Riddick Bowe will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. So, I will explain. My view is that they were all terrific fighters, perhaps even great ones, but in any case deserving to be ranked a bit below the fighters comprising my top 2 echelons. Tyson and Bowe had character flaws. Tyson crumbled when confronted, reverting into a sheepish, one-punch-at-a-time also-ran who bore no resemblance of any kind to the lightening destroyer we saw when things were going his way. Bowe had gigantic potential, but his indolence and lack of focus prevented him from reaching it. As for Holyfield, I like him, but the trouble he had with 40-something versions of Holmes & Foreman, not to mention Vaughn Bean, Michael Moorer and Bert Cooper, tell me he is a half-step below the 11 champions I discussed above.
Finally, my ratings. Please note that I am somewhat equivocal as to how I order the fighters within each echelon, but am quite comfortable (intransigent, even) as to which fighters belong in which echelon. For example, I may one day have Liston #4 and Johnson #11, instead of the other way 'round, but, I doubt I'll ever rate either above Dempsey, Louis or Ali, or below Tyson, Bowe or Holyfield.
My 15 Greatest Heavyweights of All-Time:
Those are my rankings. For the sake of comparison, below I reproduce some other lists of heavyweights I have found over the years:
John V. Grombach (1949)
[Grombach was an amateur boxer, longtime boxing writer and author of two classics no "boxing historian" should fail to read: The Saga of Sock and The Saga of the Fist.]
Associated Press Mid-Century Poll (1950)
1-Jack Dempsey (251 votes)
2-Joe Louis (104 votes)
3-Henry Armstrong (16 votes)
4-Gene Tunney (6 votes)
5-Benny Leonard (5 votes)
6-Jack Johnson (4 votes)
7-Jim Jeffries (2 votes)
8-(tie)-Joe Gans, Stanley Ketchel, Sam Langford, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mickey Walker (1 vote each)
[Each panelist was asked to name the greatest fighter, pound-for-pound, of all-time.]
Nat Fleischer (1958)
[Fleischer needs no introduction -founder of The Ring, author of many books, boxing guru extraordinaire. This list was taken from Nat's autobiography, 50 Years At Ringside. If Fleischer updated his list at some point prior to his death in 1971, I am unaware of it.]
The Ring Magazine Expert Poll (Dec. 1962 issue)
1-Jack Dempsey (13 votes)
2-Joe Louis (10 votes)
3-Jack Johnson (9 votes)
4-Gene Tunney (3 votes)
5-(tie)-Jim Jeffries, Sam Langford (2 votes each)
7-Rocky Marciano (1 vote)
[Each panelist was asked to name the greatest heavyweight of all-time.]
Panel: Dempsey votes = Elmer Ferguson, Jack Cuddy, Ned Brown, Frank Graham, Dink Carroll, Sam Cohen, Harry Grayson, Jersey Jones, Jack Koford, Dan Walton, Max Kase, Hugh Bradley, Al Buck; Louis votes = Dan Parker, Nat Loubet, Murray Rose, Lew Eskin, Dan Daniel, Johnny McDonald, George Whiting, Ted Carroll, Ray Grody, Al DelGreco; Johnson votes = Nat Fleischer, Willie Ratner, Dick Cullum, George A. Barton, Dick Young, Anthony Marenghi, Harry Keck, Arthur Daley, Johnny Sharpe; Tunney votes = Warren Brown, Chris Dundee, Jack Fried; Jeffries votes = Willie Ritchie, Sam Taub; Langford votes = Charley Rose, Bill McCormick; Marciano vote = Lloyd Larson.
Academy of Sports Editors (1965)
8-John L. Sullivan
R.A. Haldane (1967)
1-(tie) Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey
Honorable Mention (chronologically): John L. Sullivan, Peter Jackson, Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano & Muhammad Ali.
[Haldane was a renowned British sportswriter, author and boxing historian. His rankings, printed in his great book Champions & Challengers represented what he considered to be the consensus of historical opinion up through his time (and, incidentally, he presents a considerable amount of evidence in support of that conclusion).]
Charley Rose (1968)
[Rose was first a boxer, then a trainer & manager, and, finally, a long-time contributing writer to The Ring.]
World Boxing Magazine Reader Poll (1974 Annual)
1-Joe Louis (2527)
2-Jack Dempsey (2168)
3-Rocky Marciano (2161)
4-Jack Johnson (2083)
5-Muhammad Ali (1857)
6-Joe Frazier (1509)
7-Gene Tunney (1431)
8-Jim Jeffries (1379)
9-Sonny Liston (626)
10-Ezzard Charles (543)
11-Max Baer (484)
12-Bob Fitzsimmons (461)
13-Jim Corbett (413)
14-John L. Sullivan (409)
15-Floyd Patterson (287)
16-Max Schmeling (279)
17-Sam Langford (205)
18-Jersey Joe Walcott (114)
19-Jess Willard (39)
20-Tommy Burns (36)
21-Jim Braddock (30)
22-Jack Sharkey (27)
23-Primo Carnera (20)
24-Luis Angel Firpo (10)
25-(tie)-Peter Jackson, Jerry Quarry (9)
27-(tie)-Joe Choynski, Jimmy Ellis (8)
29-(tie)-Oscar Bonavena, George Foreman (4)
31-(tie)-Harry Wills, George Chuvalo (3)
33-(tie)-Marvin Hart, Ingemar Johansson (2)
[Fans were asked to select the greatest champ of all-time and the 5 runners-up. A fighter got 6 points for being voted all-time champ, 5 for being 1st runner-up, etc. The results appeared in World Boxing's 1974 Annual. Since George Foreman received only 4 votes, though, I have to conclude that the ballots were cast prior to "the midnight mugging in Jamaica" i.e., Foreman-Frazier I.]
The Ring Editors (Nat Loubet, Editor-n-Chief) (1975)
John D. McCallum (1975)
6-John L. Sullivan
[McCallum wrote numerous books on boxing, including The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions, in which these rankings appear, and The History of the Heavyweight Championship.]
Data Boxing Rankings (1978)
[Dr. Julian Compton's computer simulation program, Data Boxing, compiled these ratings on the basis of "thousands" of matchups. These rankings were printed in The People's Almanac 2, along with a computer tournament (Ali decisioned Dempsey in the final).]
Henry Cooper (1979)
1-(tie)-Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali
[Cooper selected these as the 5 greatest, but refused to put them in order.]
Alan Clevens (1981)
[Clevans is a publisher, writer and boxing analyst of wide sterling ability. I haven't seen much from him recently, but he published a very good series of independent magazines on boxing history in the early 80s, including an excellent tribute to Joe Louis after the Bomber's death (wherein he sets forth a superb analysis as to why he feels Louis was the greatest).]
The Ring Editors (Bert Randolph Sugar, Editor-n-Chief) (1987)
1-Muhammad Ali (95)
2-Jack Johnson (91)
3-Joe Louis (87)
4-Jack Dempsey (81)
5-Gene Tunney (80)
6-Larry Holmes (75)
7-Rocky Marciano (73)
8-Sonny Liston (69)
9-(tie)-Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott (68)
11-(tie)-Jim Jeffries, Joe Frazier (66)
13-(tie)-Floyd Patterson, Max Schmeling (65)
15-(tie)-Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons (63)
17-Jack Sharkey (60)
18-John L. Sullivan (59)
19-(tie)-Max Baer, Jim Braddock, George Foreman (58)
22-Tommy Burns (57)
23-Leon Spinks (50)
24-Marvin Hart (47)
25-Jess Willard (46)
26-Ingemar Johansson (45)
27-Primo Carnera (39)
[Each champ was rated 1-10 in 10 categories; 100 would have been a perfect score.]
Bert Randolph Sugar (1991)
[Sugar has written a number of books and edited, at various times, a number of boxing magazines including Ring and Boxing Illustrated.]
Herbert G. Goldman (1997)
14-Jersey Joe Walcott
[Note: Goldman rated Gene Tunney, Sam Langford & Ezzard Charles 1-2-3 in the light-heavyweight division and did not, therefore, consider them for his heavyweight rankings.]
The Ring Editors (Nigel Collins, Editor-n-Chief) (1998)
13-Jersey Joe Walcott
[Collins and his crew go on to list the Top 50, actually, but I thought I'd just hit the highlights here.]
George Kimball (1999)
[Kimball covers boxing for the Boston Globe.]
Michael Rosenthal (1999)
15-Jersey Joe Walcott
[Rosenthal covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News.]
Irichelle Duran: Little Miss Hands of Stone
By Thomas Gerbasi
Not many people in this world could bring the legendary Roberto Duran to his knees. Especially not a fellow fighter. But a 23 year old newcomer out of Duran's homeland of Panama did just that; Irichelle Duran, Roberto's daughter and aspiring pro boxer. When she told her father of her career aspirations, "He thought I was kidding. But when he saw I was serious, he got mad. He didn't speak to me for a week. Then we talked, and we're working things out.
Does having a Hall of Fame caliber boxer for a father translate into boxing success for his offspring? Laila Ali, Jackie Frazier-Lyde and Freeda Foreman are attempting to find out. And you can add Bantamweight Irichelle Duran to the mix. Says Ms. Duran about her uncanny timing, "I've loved boxing ever since I was a little girl, and I've always been involved with it. To some, women's boxing is not seen in a good light, so I needed to wait for the right moment to start. Now is the right time."
Irichelle, who resides in Panama, is managed by Steve Lockhart, and taught by respected Australian trainer Mark Pitz. "I'm going to spend a year in Australia to train," said Ms. Duran. "I want something different, a change in environment." And to complete her global conquest, Irichelle is being promoted by Golden Gloves Ltd, South Africa's premier promotional outfit; the Top Rank or DKP of South Africa, if you will. "My manager contacted Rodney Berman (head of Golden Gloves) and asked him if he wanted to be my promoter," said Irichelle via telephone from South Africa. "My Dad once fought for him. My Mom told me that he was a very good promoter. So I am now fighting for him." And Berman is just as excited, telling Clinton Van Der Berg of Fightnews.com, "I recognize the value of great champions' daughters. He didn't need to ask me twice."
But with no amateur experience, will Ms. Hands of Stone be ready for her professional debut in May? "I have experience, and my father has taught me a lot. I'm confident about myself," Is Dad going to be in her corner? "It's hard for a parent to see this; especially him because he knows this is a very tough sport. As time passes by, he'll accept it."
Fans have had mixed reactions to the early efforts of Laila Ali and Jackie Frazier-Lyde. Is there undue pressure on Ms. Duran? "There's pressure because people expect me to be like my Dad. But I'm different, I'm just trying to be me," Does she fight like "Manos De Piedra"? "Right now I'm still developing, but I would say yes."
Only time will tell if Irichelle Duran is a legitimate prospect or a media creation. While her loyalty to her father is obvious (said Irichelle "Favorite fighter other than my father? There's no one else but my father."), it is hard to tell whether she has that Duran fire...until her last statement.
In regards to the other female fighters at her weight, Irichelle had this to say, "I want to be a champion. Other woman fighters don't really worry me. I've got the skill. I've got everything."
You could almost see the ol' Duran sneer.
PHILADELPHIAS EDDIE COOL "PRIDE OF TACONY"
By Chuck Hasson
It has long been the perception that the typical Philadelphia fighter is a fearless, all action warrior who must be carried out on his shield before he will concede defeat. Indeed, Philly has had more than its share of this type of battler. But, generally overlooked is the fact that the city ha produced legions of highly skilled craftsmen, experts in the art of boxing.
Tommy Loughran, Philadelphia Jack OBrien, Midget Wolgast, Harold Johnson, Jeff Chandler, and Joey Giardello all won world titles due largely to their boxing technique. Of course, other top Philly men like Tyrone Everett, Johnny Hutchinson, Georgie Benton, Boogaloo Watts, Wesley Mouzon, Jimmy Young, Dick Welsh, Willie Monroe, Tyrone Crawley and many others were known primarily for their boxing skills. But, perhaps the best of them all was a cocky, undisciplined Irishman from the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia named Eddie Cool.
During the height of his career, Eddie was a drunk not an alcoholic, but a "passed out in the gutter" drunk, which he freely admitted. His escapades were legendary and he totally exasperated three of Philadelphias all-time greatest trainers Jimmy Coster, Jack Brady, and Jimmy Wilson, each of whom took turns trying to keep Eddie in harness and take advantage of his superlative talent.
Cool was born on February 16, 1912 and the sudden death of his father at age 15 forced him to become the sole support of his mother. Eddie, who loved to fight, figured boxing was the best (and only) way for him to succeed. After a short amateur career, he turned pro on Thanksgiving Day 1928, winning a four rounder from Mike Palmer at the Cambria where he would build a rabid following. Managed by a neighborhood iceman named Joe Bradley, Cool was virtually self-taught in the nuances of the fight game by facing unusually stiff competition at the beginning of his career. Suffering eight losses and three draws in his first 34 matches, Eddie learned his trade the hard way. He developed a swift counter-punching style that when properly trained was beautiful to watch.
By 1932, Eddie had become a constant winner. But, it was his victory over flashy Jackie Willis, the pride of the 20th and Federal, that really made people sit up and take notice. Eddie snapped Willis 32 bout unbeaten streak with a magnificent display of precision punching on April 22, 1932 at the Cambria, winning 9 out of 10 rounds.
Two upset victories over long time lightweight contender Lew Massey in November and December at the Arena put Eddie in the ratings. His second win over the downtowner was particularly impressive as he picked himself up off the floor being badly hurt in the second round to stage a spectacular rally to nip Lew at the wire.
Philadelphia, at this time, was a lightweight hotbed that included Cool, Massey, Willis, Tony Falco, Johnny Jadick, Tony Morgano, Georgie Gibbs, Young Firpo, and the top dog, Benny Bass, that provided the citys boxing fans with an exciting local round-robin of cross-town rivalries and neighborhood feuds, as all of the above faced each other in hectic matches. When the smoke cleared, Cool and Bass had licked all the others and become their own chief rivals.
On September 9, 1933, Cool scored a brilliant victory over Frankie Klick after ten torrid rounds at the Arena and issued challenges to Junior Lightweight Champion Kid Chocolate, who had dethroned Bass in July of 1931, and Barney Ross, recent winner of the lightweight crown from Tony Canzoneri. The Klick match was promoted by Morris Fried and Rudy Fishman, rivals of the top Philly promoters Herman Taylor and Bobby Gunnis, who now offered Cool the big money shot with Benny Bass on December 28, 1933 at Convention Hall. Fried and Fishman had tried to match Cool against Chocolate and after being outmaneuvered by Taylor-Gunnis, they countered by persuading "the Keed" to defend against Klick at the Arena on December 26. Klick scored a sensational seventh round upset knockout to win the championship.
Meanwhile, on the 28th, Cool seemed in awe of the legendary Bass and gave him a little too much respect in front of 8,500 fans who braved a monstrous snowstorm to witness a fast paced action match. Disappointed by losing both the Bass bout and the title shot, Eddie reportedly went on a long binge.
Now under the management of Sam Weinberg, after Cool replaced Joe Bradley whom he considered "too strict", Eddie would look great some nights and unmotivated on other nights and it was no secret that his conditioning and life style left much to be desired.
Matinee idol, handsome, and impeccably dressed, Eddie was hotly pursued by the young ladies and liked to step out on the town but after marrying in the summer of 1934, he seemed for a while to re-dedicate himself to boxing and wowed them at Madison Square Garden with a couple of outstanding performances, beating Al Roth and Teddy Loder. The New York press wrote "Cool was a brilliant boxer who landed with the precision of a fencer, stabbing and jabbing his opponent at will" after the Roth bout.
Cool was to prove a disappointment in his next New York appearance losing to Sammy Fuller with a lackluster performance. And it was about this time that reports of Cool sitting on the curb passing the bottle with the neighborhood rummies and passing out in the gutter, dead drunk in his cashmere topcoat, persisted.
Often, when questioned by boxing people and fans alike about the possible effects upon the success of his career by alcohol [abuse], Cool answered with a nonchalant but tragic retort, "My father died a drunk at a young age and I guess I will die the same way."
He still managed to remain highly ranked in spite of it all. Although he would drop a decision here and there, usually on the road, he was still able to score big victories over such top fighters as Benny Bass, Harry Dublinsky, Fritzie Zivic, Red Cochrane, Chino Alvarez and, in his greatest performance, outpoint Lightweight Champion Lou Ambers on October 28, 1936 at the Arena. Ambers in his previous match six weeks earlier had taken the crown from Tony Canzoneri. This victory catapulted Cool to the number one contender in his division where he remained for over a year hoping in vain for a shot at Ambers with the title on the line. But, Al Weill (Ambers manager) considered Eddie too much of a risk with too little financial inducement to even consider.
Eddies lifestyle would shortly catch up with him and he was totally washed-up by age 27. He crowded 140 pro fights into his career of which he lost 28, scoring only 15 knockouts, depending upon his boxing ability to thwart his opposition.
When discussing Cool with those who saw him perform, their descriptions of him could best be described as "shoulda, woulda, coulda." Willie ONeill, former trainer of Jeff Chandler, said Cool was "when in shape, the second greatest boxer ever to come out of Philly" (rating Midget Wolgast as the best).
The late Dan Cavanaugh (who saw almost every fight card in Philly from 1917 to the early 1970s), a great admirer of Tommy Loughran, said of Cool "when he was right, he was the best Philadelphia boxer of them all." And, long-time trainer Sam Solomon said "Eddie was a wonderful boxer who coulda been champ."
Eddie Cools record :
Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno---Former Vice President of the New York Boxing Writers
Association and the International Boxing Writers Association
News Item: New York Boxing Writers Announce their yearly awards.
Although they now bill themselves as the Boxing Writers of America, in early January the New York Boxing Writers did one of the two things they actually do to justify their existence (besides bending their elbows at wet
luncheons), when they announced their yearly boxing awards.
Now let's examine the dubious voting process, that somehow awarded Lennox "The Lummox" Lewis the 1999 Fighter of the Year. Lewis had two fights in 1999, both lackluster bouts with ancient and ring-worn Evander Holyfield. In the first Holyfield fight, Lewis was robbed by blind-judge officials, especially one Eugenia Williams, and their waltz was declared a draw. In the second fight, which many at ringside thought Holyfield had won (the ringside press were 3-1 in favor of Holyfield), Lewis won an uninspired 12-round unanimous decision. For this Lewis wins the NY Boxing Writers Fighter of the Year Award. How can that be? Well, if you look closely, there's a reason, no matter how dubious and contrived.
Being a member of the New York Boxing Writers from 1979-1991, I attended many NY Boxing Writer luncheons, where the nominations were taken for their various awards. Of the 60 odd members of the NY Boxing Writers, approximately half are public relations people who work for various promoters, or television networks like HBO and Showtime, who are in the business of robbing the paying public by showcasing dreadful fight cards at $49.99 a pop. Some of the PR people are staff. Others are freelance. But they all stuff their pockets with the boxing public's hard earned cash, that trickles down through the dirty paws of fascists like Seth "The Shrimp" Abraham of HBO, Bob "Bullspit" Arum and Dung King
After chomping down a roast beef lunch, and quaffing more than a few cocktails, the members of the NY Boxing Writers are then asked to nominate someone for each award. In almost every case, the nomination is put forth by a PR person interested in furthering the career of a fighter, manager, or trainer, his, or her boss, has a vested interest in, and sometimes even the boss promoter himself. Only one second is needed to place this nominee's name on the ballot.
In 1982, it got so darn ridiculous, Murray Goodman, then Dung King's chief flack, nominated the Dungster himself for the James J. Walker Award for Long and Meritorious Service in Boxing. At that time, King had been
meritoriously serving boxing, and mostly his own bank accounts, for the sum total of five years. James J. Walker, you may remember, was the notorious former Mayor of New York City, who resigned his office in disgrace, after
being caught with his felonious hand in the till. So maybe Dung King winning an award named after a famous crook wasn't such a bad idea after all. Still, in 1982, Eddie Futch won the James J. Walker Award in a landslide victory of good versus hairy evil.
After six nominees are selected for each award, the luncheon comes to an end, and the real drinking begins, at the expense of the NY Boxing Writer's checking account, of course. Sportswriters in general, and boxing writers in particular, are notorious freeloaders, and extremely tight tippers to the restaurant staff to boot.
I once raised the ire of an old time scribe at a NY Boxing Writers luncheon, by having the audacity to tip the bartender/waiter a ten spot, after I had imbibed about half a dozen Bloody Marys, several beers and a roast beef lunch. Foolishly, I thought it was the decent thing to do.
"Don't spoil it for the rest of us," I was chided, by this relic with a red nose, who had obviously had never worked for tips.
So after the luncheon is over, the secretary of the NY Boxing Writers, the truly lovable Tommy Kenville, for as long as I can remember, puts the nominations into an envelope and mails them out to all the members, even to
the PR flunkies who work for the greedy promoters. The members then scribble in their votes, and a few weeks later, the president and vice president of the NY Boxing Writers, along with Kenville as the scorekeeper, tally up the votes.
Being the vice president from 1982-86, I was present at several of the vote counting sessions. I once saw the president, who is now dead and will remain nameless because he was such a crass curmudgeon, take one of the
ballots he emphatically disagreed with, tear it up into little pieces and dump them into the trash. So much for one person, one vote. (This same dwarfish despot, as I was reading the first page of my four-page speech to present Tommy Kenville with the Walker Award in 1985, behind my back, tore up the remaining three pages of my speech, and I was forced with a red face to stammer, "And without further ado, I present you Tommy Kenville.)
So now you understand how the system works, and why we can never take the NY Boxing Writer's awards, or their awards dinner seriously until the rules are changed to allow only real boxing writers to vote for the awards. But since more than half the present voting group are PR people, that has about as much of a chance of happening as Don King and Bob Arum going shopping for silverware together.
What an amusing thought. I wonder who would wear the tight skirt?
New item: Sarasota Herald Tribune Columnist politely answers Joe Bruno's insults.
Okay, so maybe sometimes I get carried away. After the Emeliano Valdez-Teddy Reid fight at the Venice Arena, in Sarasota County, Florida, that left Valdez in a coma, Tom Lyons, a Sarasota Herald Tribune news columnist, wrote a column denigrating boxing. He also said in the column that "fighting (boxing) was not a sport."
I went into a literary rage and wrote my own column in the News Section of the CBZ calling Lyons "a word-challenged weasel, a dolt, a mental midget and Cowardly Lyons." I also said the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which is owned by the left-of-Lenin New York Times, "Is good for only wrapping your fish and paper training your puppy." I said "Boxers show more courage in a three minute round than a hundred keyboard puncher like Lyons display in their entire lifetimes. Combined."
So Lyons fought back, well sort of, with a column in the Sunday section of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. In his column, Lyons mentioned how I had disparaged him, but instead of slicing me to pieces, which he certainly was justified to do, he responded in an disturbingly civilized manner. Lyons mentioned we had spoken afterward, and that I had apologized. He ended his column by saying, "He (Bruno) started out like Mike Tyson, but finished like Gentleman Jim."
Now never in my long life have I ever been accused, except by the ladies of course, of being a gentleman. Lyons responded to my vicious barbs, by turning the other cheek, so to speak, and killing me with kindness.
His cunning strategy worked. I immediately felt pangs of remorse and I promised myself to never again attack someone so viciously in one of my CBZ columns. That is, of course, until the next time I get that irresistible
Hey, what did you expect? Martha Stewart?
Cudas Corner: Why Boxing Movies Arent Knockouts
By Matt Boyd Have you ever stopped to wonder why there are so few genuinely good boxing films? It seems odd that this should be so, given that boxing has so many of the classic ingredients sought to form a successful film. Boxing is perhaps the purest example of conflict and resolution in all of sport. It has action, drama, colorful personalities unpredictability, violence, and even occasionally comedy; all things highly sought after and greatly prized in a film script. Why then does the essence of boxing translate so poorly to the big screen?
But wait, you say, what about those few really great boxing movies? Sure, there have been a few; my personal favorites are probably Rocky and Raging Bull. But lets be honest, what is great about these films is the material between the boxing scenes, not the boxing footage itself. What makes these good films is the human drama that is cultivated using boxing as a backdrop. The boxing footage itself is pretty silly. Rocky must get knocked down eight or ten times in that fight, and staggered twice that often. Even the most permissible referee would have stopped that fight by the third or fourth round. But the human triumph of that film is predicated on the cartoonish unreality of the fight. And so authentic boxing is discarded.
To be fair, authenticity is sacrificed to some degree in any film, and more so with the genre of sport. Oliver Stones most recent effort Any Given Sunday is a perfect example. People going into that expecting a gritty, realistic, inside look at the world of pro football (as some of the promotional material promised) were sorely disappointed. What they got was a flashy, somewhat polished, moderately creative, more than a little trite, caricature of many of the most well known NFL stars and stories all crammed onto a single team in the last half dozen games of a single season. Miami Dolphins fans in particular noticed the similarities, with elements of Dan Marino, Don Shula, and Jimmy Johnson all worked in. Throw in a Dion Sanders figure, a Kordell Stewart and even a Lawrence Taylor (played by Lawrence Taylor!) and youve got enough sensationalistic material to float even an Oliver Stone film. But there was little authentic football in this movie. Nearly every play was a miraculous success or a crushing failure. Rare were the three and four yard runs or the quick pass routes that make up 90% of plays in any real game. And yet as fanciful as that portrayal of the gridiron was, it nevertheless seemed to capture the essence of football more successfully than most boxing movies capture the fight game.
Why then is boxing so elusive? To begin with, as any true boxing fan will tell you, boxing is a subtle art. The difference between a glancing blow and a knockout punch is a fraction of a second or of an inch. The punch is thrown the same, but how, when, and where it lands makes all the difference. That kind of subtlety doesnt translate well to the big screen. Secondly, boxing is spontaneous; there are no plays drawn up beforehand. How a fighter adapts to his opponent determines a fight. Improvisation cannot be choreographed, scripted, or rehearsed before filming. Thirdly, a boxers greatest assets are often intangible. How do you film good timing? How do you choreograph determination?
Then there are the realities of film-making. Boxing is typically a game of strategy. Only the relatively small body of knowledgeable fight fans will be able to recognize the nuances as strategies are developed and revised. To everybody else, unless fighters are throwing bombs, the match appears random and/or inactive. In that sense boxing is rather like chess, and as we all know, there is not a big market for spectator chess. A director must pace the action in a movie fight to appease his audience, many of whom are not knowledgeable about boxing. As a result, the action is very broad and exaggerated. Also, to maintain a proper dramatic arc, a director must have a fight build to a climax, requiring that the action get progressively more dramatic as the fight progresses. Real fights are seldom so formulaic. To the educated boxing fan, this predictability removes a crucial ingredient that makes boxing compelling.
All sports suffer to some degree when transplanted to Hollywood, but only one other is as thoroughly misrepresented in film. That other would be auto racing. Like boxing, racing is a subtle art which does not lend itself to film. Like punching, car control is a matter of fractions of a second or of an inch. Cinematically, there is little worth filming in an auto race, save the crashes and the last lap. The other 98% of the race is visually unimpressive to any but the truly knowledgeable. Try capturing drafting or threshold-braking on camera.
But unlike with boxing, it seems someone in Hollywood has shown admirable restraint with respect to auto racing. We have been subjected to mercifully few racing films in recent years, despite the dramatic increase in popularity of the sport. The last big racing movie was the brutally insipid Days of Thunder. Not even Hollywood heavyweights like Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Robert Duvall could save that stinker. There are persistent reports of Sly Stallone working on a Formula One movie, but development seems to be slow going. I expect Hollywood execs are a hard sell on the merits of a film that is predicted to rival Titanic for production costs and features a racing series which has a smaller American following than does Lacrosse.
Sadly, that industry savvy has not translated to restrict the number of poorly conceived boxing movies. The past few weeks have seen two films which prominently feature boxing competing directly for box office revenues. One of which, The Hurricane, would appear to have some merit as a film, despite the historical inaccuracies so aptly pointed out in Gordooms editorial last month. The details may suffer, but the story is a compelling one. It has received much critical praise from film circles, if not from boxing circles. But perhaps that is understandable, since boxing serves only as the backdrop (as with other quality films in this genre) for the social commentary that is this movies main purpose. After all, nobody slams The Godfather just because they dont reload often enough during the gun battles.
The second boxing film in theaters right now (although if good taste prevails, it may be out by the time you read this!) is Play it to the Bone. I have only the trailer to go by, but it seems to me the only compelling draw this movie has to offer is the opportunity to see Antonio Banderas and an Ally McBeal alumnus get decked on the big screen. But since both were prominently featured in commercials that seemed to run every three minutes on every major network for weeks on end, I see no reason for anyone to spend money on this cinematic train wreck and thereby delay its speedy descent into Blockbuster-bargain-bin obscurity.
The irony is that Play it to the Bone might have performed the service for the boxing movie industry that Days of Thunder did for racing movies, were it not for The Hurricane. But because The Hurricane has received so much acclaim, whether justified or not, it will doubtless inspire a few imitators. Chances are, those that follow will fail even to reach that level of quality. Which means, as likely as not, were in for another year-plus of mediocre boxing movies. As if Formula One wasnt going to be bad enough. Sigh. At least nobody makes golf movies.
To the astute observer of the fistic scene conjecture is an important ingredient that contributes mightily to the element of romance and steeped history that has provoked powerful arguments in bars, taxi cabs and living rooms throughout or country for generations.No sport has had as compelling a grip on the American sporting psyche as the Sweet Science.Furious debates often revolve upon that essential question.
Boxing has furnished dozens of the most recognizable moments in sport during thelate 19th and 20th centuries. Even the sports enthusiast who is only casually acquainted with fistiana vividly recalls the unmatched drama of Ali-Frazier I, the fury of the "Thrilla in Manilla", the confident, prepared Ray Leonard removing the mighty Hagler's Middleweight Crown, the punching fury of Aaron Pryor overwhelming the great Arguello, the intense rivalry of Holyfield and Bowe, the "Hitman" surrendering a late round points advantage under Sugar Ray's furious assault.The lore of boxing is endless. Ruby Robert Fitzsimmons, dropped in round six and thoroughly thrashed byChampion Jim Corbett over the first ten round, taking the fight to the tiring titleholder until he buryed the immortal "Solar Plexus Punch" into Corbett's midsection, securing the championship.
Those were epic contests and spellbinding moments frozen in time. Tunney's 17 seconds on the canvas. Schmeling writhing in pain, being awarded the Heavyweight Championship while he lie prone on the canvas. "Two Ton" Tony Galento nearly making good on his boast to "Moider Da Bum" as his booming left hookdecked the incomparable Louis. LaMotta preserving hisMiddleweight Title with a knockout barrage in the waning seconds of the 15th round, tearing the championship from Laurent Dauthielle's grasp.
These were the historic moments. Now we're going to explore another dimension in prizefighting's storied past. We are going to review the bouts that could have been yet never were. They would have happened, had fate not intervened. We are about to rewrite boxing history! Now let ustake a journey to ringside for a blow by blow account of "Bouts That Never Were".
Bout #1: Ingemar Johansson vs. Rocky Marciano
Ingemar Johansson's first defense of his world heavyweight championship was his return bout with the man from whom he wrested the title, former titleholder Floyd
Patterson. Seven brutal knockdowns in a span of two minutes the previous June 25 had electrified the fistic world and placed the handsome Swede and his "Toonder and Lightning" right hand in charge of the heavyweight division. The return bout was held at the Polo Grounds on June 20, 1960 with Johansson widely expected to repeat his knockout victory over Floyd and defend his championship.
However, Floyd was prepared, mentally and physically, for the big Swede. He hurt Ingemar with a big left hook early in the opening stanza and dominated the round, and the beginning of the second as well. Then Johansson landed his "Toonder and Lightening" right hand high on Patterson's forehead and Floyd was in trouble. His knees buckled and he wasclose to a knockdown. Johansson had his chance. Convinced he could take our the former titleholder whenever he wanted to he permitted Floyd to backpedal for the balance of the round and clear the cobwebs. Floyd regain control of the bout and stopped the Swede at 1:51 of the fifth round to become the first man to regain the world's heavyweight championship.
What if Johansson went for the knockout instead of biding his time?The shaken
Patterson seeks the refuge of a clinch. Another powerful right drapes Floyd over the ring apron. Referee Arthur Mercante give's Patterson the mandatory eight count. Swinging lefts and rights Ingo decks Patterson a second time. Again Floyd rises, clearly on queer street. Two boomng rights drop the former titleholder again and this time Mercante intervenes. Ingo is still the Heavyweight Champion of the world.
In the nearly five years since Rocky Marciano abdicated his throne as undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World he has resisted the temptation to return to the ring.Patterson's weak chin combined with the enormous gate this bout would have generated provided the Rock was ampleincentive during Floyd's reign. Despite an occasional hint to the contrary, the Brockton Blockbuster remained true to his retirement.
Now the scenario had changed. The Heavyweight Championship resided in Goteborg, Sweden and the confident Johansson, buoyed by his two brutal knockouts of Patterson, boasted that "No man can stand up when I hit him with the right". The heavyweight division was filled withdangerous contenders to test that claim. The brutal Sonny Liston had displaced Patterson as the number one contender. Cleveland Williams, a murderous puncher, had sights on Ingo's throne. Zora Folley, Eddie Machen and Henry Cooper posed deadly threats to the Smorgasbord Smasher.
Then there was Marciano. Johansson's claim to invincibility was difficult for the great champion to absorb.While the Rock felt he could have dispatched Patterson without enormous difficulty he respected Floyd and felt no overwhelming urge to return to the ring. With the championship belt residing in Sweden in the hands of the swaggering Johansson the Rock let it be known he would welcome the opportunity to bring the title home.
He would come out of retirement to fight Johansson!
The bout was scheduled for February 2, 1961 at Yankee Stadium. Ingemar was an 11-5 favorite at the outset but the odds had shrunk to 7-5 on the eve of the battle. Rocky had tortured his 38 year old body with four months of arduous training. The champion trained as was his custom, casually in public yet rigorous enough when the TV cameras were out of sight. Ingo was in top shape and his only pre fight comment was one heard often before. "When I hit him on the chin with my right, he will fall".
Yankee Stadium was filled to capacity as referee Ruby Goldstein called the two contestants to ring center. Marciano looked slightly pulply at a career high 192 pounds while the big Swede tipped the scales at 195 1/2 lbs. The opening bell saw the ex champion advancing on Johansson, practically telegraphing hispunches and missing badly. Ingo did little except flick his left jab into the challenger's face and tie him on several occasions. The pattern repeated itself in the second stanza except late in the round Marciano began shortening up on his punches and reached the Swede with a solid left hook to the liver at the bell. Johansson hadn't really landed on Rocky who was worked hard to shake the ring rust generated by five years of inactivity.
Marciano spent the first two minutes of the third hurling punches at Johansson's arms, shoulders and midsection. He was doing little visible damage and tiring himself in the process. The titleholder was contributing very little to the bout until the two minute twenty second mark. Then, emerging from a clinch, Ingo hit Rocky with the right!
As it always did, the mysterious "Toonder and Lightening" Johansson straight right seemed to have a mind of its own. It exploded flush against Marciano's chin and the great ex champion staggered badly, his left knee nearly brushing the canvas. Immediately Rocky covered up as the champion clumsily drove a left hook to the body and missed another blockbuster right hand lead. The Rock was on Queer Street and he was in trouble. Quickly he tied up Ingemar, tryingto avert further damage. Johansson followed up and landed on Rocky with regularity over the last half minute of the round. However, Marciano had not gone down!
The Rock recovered from the near knockdown and resumed his methodical assault of Johansson during rounds four and five. Many of his punches crashed against the Swede's forearms, elbows and shoulders. Yet he was tiring the champion, who continued pressing forward, flicking out his jab, looking for an opening. Twice in the fifth Ingo banged his right hand off the top of Rocky's forehead. The blows had force! However, the Rock had taken Johansson's Sunday punch, the same booming right hand that separated Patterson from his senses twice. Five years inactivity notwithstanding, this was not Floyd Patterson he was facing.
In the sixth the Rock began to hurt Johansson. A left hook to the liver drove the titleholder into the ropes where Marciano drove two hard rights to the head before Ingo could escape. Ingemar was telegraphinghis punches and beginning to take punishment. There was a mouse under his left eye and his lower lip wasoozing claret. The ex-champion was timing Johansson's jab. With twenty seconds remaining in the round Rocky slipped under the jab and drove his right hand to the Swede's jaw. The Rock was off balance as he fired the punch and that alone saved Johansson. His knees buckled as he was able to force a clinch as the round came to a close.
The Champion's handlers talked feverishly to Ingo during the rest period. The ten year age difference mattered little as the bell rang for round seven. Ingemar surprised the Rock with three stiff jabs to the head during the first half minute.
Then Marciano, from a crouch, sent a crushing right to the Swede's ribcage. Ingemar was hurt and he desperately held, forcing Goldstein to separate the fighters. Johansson threw a ponderous right that sailed over Rocky's shoulder.
Rocky hooked a left to the jaw and drove a hard right to the heart. The Swedish Titleholder tied up the Rock again. Then Johansson attempted to escape to ring center. He wearily flicked out his jab to Rocky's bobbing head.
Marciano crouched under the tired jaw and connected with hisIron Mike, a powerful short right hand flush against Ingemar's jaw. It wasn't as potent as the shot that felled Walcott nine years earlier. It didn't have to be!
Johansson crumpled to the canvas, rolled over and remained prone as Goldsteintolled the ten count at 1:58 of the seventh round. The greatRocky Marciano had succeeded where Dempsey, Schmeling, Walcott, Louis and
Charles had failed. He had regained the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Bout #2: Conn-Louis II: October 29, 1941.
If Irish Billy Conn had heeded his corners advice after Round 12 at Yankee Stadium on June 18, 1941. Owning a solid points lead against the Brown Bomber, Conn moves in and out on Louis throughout Round 13, scoring crisply with sharp left hooks and combinations; remaining on the outskirts of Joe's knockout power.
Midway throughout Round 14Billy gets careless. Joe steps inside of a wild Conn right and staggers the Irishman badly with a short counter right. Billy tries to get on his bicycle yet Joe cuts off the ring and drops the Pittsburgh Irishman with a jackhammer right cross. Referee Eddie Joseph tolls off the count of nine and Conn pulls himself erect. Badly hurt Billy forces a clinch and wrestles Joe into his own corner. Louis muscles himself free and rocks Billy with a jolting left right combination. However, Joe is tired too. The Light Heavyweight King replies with a sharp left lead to Louis' nose at the bell. Billy had survived!
Round fifteen finds Conn battered yet well aware that only three minutes separate him from the Heavyweight Championship of the World. He rakes Joe's face with stinging jabs. Tiring badly, Joe stalks Billy, growing frustrated as he cannot set up the smaller man for the kayo right. Arm weary, Louis cannot land the big punch. The final bell finds Conn outpunching the Brown Bomber. Jack Blackburn bury's his face in his hands. He knows Chappie has lost the championship.
Referee Joseph and the two ringside judges concur. 8-6-1, 8-6-1 and 8-5-2Irish Billy Conn, the winner by unanimous decision and the new Heavyweight Champion of the world.
Conn has the title and the public clamor for a return bout is deafening. Billy is only too happy to oblige. "Heck, Joe gave me a chance and I'll do the same for him. Only this time I'll knock him out!".
The Louis-Conn rematch, scheduled for October 29, 1941 is held again at Yankee Stadium. Conn, the Champion, is installed as an 11 to 5 shortender and seems to sense his grasp on the Heavyweight Title is fragile. Billy is aware that he'll have to set a different mousetrap this time. Remembering Louis-Schmeling II Billy backpedals from theadvancing Louis the entire first round. Late in the round Joe feints with his right and delivers a pair of jackhammer jabs to Conn's face.
A trickle of blood appears on Conn's left nostril at the bell. In the second stanza Billy begins to fight and rips two solid combinations to Joe's body and head.Louispursues the champion stoically, shortening the distance between them and punishing Billy behind a brutal left jab. His left eyeswelling badly, Conn
dances away from Louis early in round three. This time the Brown Bomber won't be denied. He pins Conn in his own corner and delivers a crushing right under the heart. Billy staggers forward, firing a wild right uppercut. Joe avoids the blow and drives a crushing short right flush on Conn's jaw. The champion was unconscious before his head struck the canvas. At the 1:43 mark of the third round Joe Louis was once again Heavyweight Champion of the World, the first former champion ever to reclaim the crown.
Next: George Foreman vs. Irish Jerry Quarry. Madison Square Garden,June 20, 1974.
13-Feet, 500 Pounds: Lewis vs. Grant. A Heavy Fight or A Real Stinker?
By Francis Walker
Making the first defense of the "Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship" Lennox Lewis (35-1-1, 27KOs), on Saturday, April 29, returns to Madison Square Garden, as he defends his crown against an undefeated world-ranked contender named Michael Grant (31-0, 22KOs). Lewis-Grant, to be televised on Pay-Per-View at another astronomical fee, promises to be a heavy battle, but could very well turn out to be a stinker.
Lewis-Grant, promoted by Main Events and Panix Promotions, in association with Madison Square Garden, promptly entitled "13 Feet, 500 Pounds: Two Big," will be televised on HBO/TVKO Pay-Per-View at a suggested retail price of $45.95.
Lewis, returning to the Garden for the first time since his controversial draw with former three-time champion, the legendary Evander Holyfield, last March in their first encounter, has never faced anyone quite like Grant. Although Lewis is tall at 6' 5,"and weighs-in at a trim 245 pounds before fight-time, he has never fought someone taller than himself, weighs more, and has more muscular mass than Grant. Although Grant is at the pinnacle of his career, he does not have the experience nor the talent Lewis, at age 34, has.
To go even further, 100% of Grant does not even mount-up to 75% of Lewis' ability. Yet, 110% of Lewis skills and attributes withers in comparison to the heart and soul of Holyfield, who Lewis barely defeated in their rematch several months ago, and the declining skills of an aging Mike Tyson.
Therefore, is Lewis vs. Grant the biggest and potentially the best heavyweight match-up that can be made right now? No! However, it is the most intriguing.
In the old days, guys like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman were too busy fighting one another in their primes in the 70's. Even Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Thomas Hearns gave one another their best showings in the 80's. However, in the 90's, it took Lewis an entire decade to land two career-defining battles against just one of the world's best fighters - arguably past his prime-in Holyfield.
Holyfield is on the decline now and all of the top heavyweights in his era are long-gone. Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Alex Stewart, and Michael Moorer, all came up with Lewis in the 1988 Olympic class. Despite holding a portion of the heavyweight championship through 1992-1994, Lewis never fought anyone worthy of giving him a run for his money.
Aside from defeating Razor Ruddock in October1992, he was subsequently named WBC champion after Bowe dumped the title into a trash can. Lewis lost it to Oliver McCall (KO 2) in September 1994.
Having regained the tile from McCall (W DQ 5) in February 1996, Lewis has defended against guys such as a tough and unknown Zeljko Mavrovic, and disappointing prospects in Shannon Briggs (KO 5), Andrew Golota (KO 1), and Henry Akinwande (W DQ 5).
Two fights against a 36-year-old Holyfield, despite unifying the World Heavyweight Championship, were monumental, but terms recognizing Lewis as a great fighter are blowing it all out of proportion.
As a result, Lewis has no choice but to fight past his against top young heavyweight challengers like Grant.
Of all the young heavyweights today, Grant is the most marketable. In his two best wins against Golota (KO 10), Lou Savarese (W 10), and Obed Sullivan (TKO 10), Grant has shown he is not much of a fighter. He is one of those big, tall dudes that punches and holds throughout a fight. He has a habit of keeping his hands down, throwing one punch at a time. Grant does not show great skills and seems puzzled as to what he should do inside the boxing ring.
Although Grant has Don Turner (Holyfield's trainer) in his corner to give him instructions, Grant still looks back at Turner as if to say. "Huh?"
The difference with Lewis is that he knows exactly what to do. Emanuel Steward constantly shouts instructions at him between rounds as if he is hard of hearing. It's the question of Lewis doing it or not.
At 6'7," 250 pounds, Grant is entering the pinnacle of his boxing career at 28. Grant is more athletic than Lewis, as he was an excellent baseball, basketball player at Mt. Southwest Junior College and Mt. San Antonio colleges. But fighting guys like Jorge Luis Gonzalez (TKO 1), Al Cole (TKO 10), Lionel Butler (W DQ 4), and Ahmad Abdin (TKO 11) is just not enough. In addition, considering Golota exposed Grant in his last showing in November.
Grant, who dropped and was damn-near stopped in the first round by a single right-hand and an accumulation of punishment afterwards, showed no type of passion or drive, until the tenth when Golota was knocked down and opted to quit once he saw Grant become excited.
Lewis is not that much better than Grant, but Grant is not as wise as Lewis. However, I am expecting an entertaining fight. One that Lewis should win, via knockout.
The Zone Where Nothing Normal Ever Happens
By Alan Taylor
I woke with a start, the rapidly cooling sweat making me feel clammy. I realized it had been only a nightmare ..... but it had seemed so real. Michael Buffer was announcing the contenders for the WBC heavyweight title, a title stripped from Lennox Lewis for being boring. The vacant title was being contested by Mike Tyson and the recently un-retired pantomime king, Frank Bruno. Bruno, the greatest heavyweight from these shores to be named Frank, looked as sharp as a broken pencil and had taken the unusual step of taping his ears. I woke screaming as the bell rang. It couldn't happen, of course. Could it?
The real nightmare had it's beginnings with the news that British Immigration officials might use their authority to refuse entry to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson due to his conviction for rape. It was never going to happen, of course, given that we had previously admitted convicted killer Don King and were refusing to extradite Chilean human rights activist General Pinochet to Spain, or Belgium, or any of the other countries who wanted to entertain him. No, Tyson was always going to fight in Manchester - money would see to that.
The announcement of a Tyson fight in the UK had led in the last few months of 1999 to a scramble between the legions of young, soon-to-be-great British heavyweights for the right to pound the former champion into permanent retirement. The honor was eventually handed to the Joe Louis-like Julius Francis, the British heavyweight champion who had proved his greatness by lasting longer with Vitali Klitschko than the fearsome Herbie Hide had (well a little longer). Francis stated the seriousness of his intentions by selling advertising space to the Daily Mirror on the souls of his shoes; a sound business decision as it turned out.
The chief architect of 'the biggest event in British sporting history' was promoter Frank Warren. And it was Warren who compared Tyson's arrival at London's Heathrow airport as "like the Beatles arrival in America". So America, let's clear this one up now. We sent you the most influential and important musical force since Ludwig and you sent us a reformed rapist trying to kid himself that he can reclaim his former glories by knocking over the cream of our gentlemen pugilists? Ah well we can always send him to the French! Whatever - it was the scenes of Tyson's arrival at Heathrow that made me suspect that we had slipped somehow into the Twilight Zone. Tyson was surrounded by hundreds of people - many from the press but others who later on camera swooned over how strong he was, how big his neck was and congratulated themselves on being able to touch him. Apparently media
darlings Baby Spice and toilet performer George Michael passed through the terminal unnoticed.
The entourage set up shop in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London converting a ballroom into a temporary gym and it was from this base that a soft spoken Tyson gave court.
Mike was asked about the uproar his visit had caused, and particularly the attempt by Justice For Women to have Home Secretary Jack Straw's decision to approve his visa overturned in the courts. Tyson theorized that the women had perhaps "been abused themselves and directly point their anger at any man who doesn't play into their stereotype as a gentleman."
Of the press coverage of his visit Tyson explained, "most writers are dysfunctional individuals. Who knows what they do? Who did they screw? Who did they fornicate with? Are they homosexuals?" He then questioned the media's apparent hostility towards him. He just wanted to do his job quietly and humbly and be 'a brother' to the people of Britain. Warren, at a press conference, tried to calm the situation by accusing the London Evening Standard of waging a campaign that 'bordered on racism'. It wasn't Iron Mike who was the true target alleged Warren. No, the newspaper was motivated by a desire to 'keep the niggers out'. (Enlightened man our Frank.)
Tyson's desire to keep his head down was shown in the presidential type cavalcade which toured the London streets when Tyson wanted to pay a visit to stores such as Versace. He was obviously intent of courting as little attention as possible. Tyson's visit to Regents Park mosque and to the largely black area of Brixton became media circuses and it was during the latter that the Twilight Zone nature of the whole event was emphasized. It was as if the nineties had never happened. Thousands lined the streets to view their hero. This man had certainly never raped anyone; or beat his wife; or fought aged motorists in the street; or bitten any ears; or lost a fight. This Mike Tyson was still champion of the world. The Douglas and Holyfield humiliations had never occurred. A black writer from the Brixton community asked, in an article in the London Times, that the press 'Leave our heroes alone'. In the piece he compared Tyson, not only to Muhammad Ali but, to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. I am at a loss to explain any of this unless one accepts Tyson's (or Mike's) explanation that 'Tyson is a separate entity who doesn't interfere in Mike's private life'. For me however, this argument lost weight when followed by Mike's admission that he was refraining from describing his true plans for Julius Francis for fear of antagonizing 'those women's libbers'.
And so to Manchester where similar scenes were enacted. And a fight of which the less said the better. Tyson looked much the same as in his most recent contests for four minutes and three seconds. The Daily Mirror saw their advertising five times. Shelley Finkel and Frank Warren claimed that Tyson would be ready for the title before the end of the year. The next opponent would be Lou Savarese. Mike would be coming back to Europe.
Is it me? Aren't the proposed opponents just McNeeley, Mathis and Seldon under assumed names? Aren't Team-Tyson trying the same con on another continent? Is anyone listening?
Frank Bruno!!!! AAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!
Corrie Sanders: At the Crossroads
By Thomas Gerbasi
It can't be easy to be Corrie Sanders. Despite a 35-1 record with 25 KO's, many confuse him with American heavyweight Corey Sanders, who gave Andrew Golota a tough fight a while back. And even though he is the WBU heavyweight champion, he's not even the most famous heavyweight in South Africa; that distinction goes to "The White Buffalo" Frans Botha. But with a win over former cruiserweight titleholder Al "Ice" Cole on February 19 in South Africa, US fans may be hearing a lot more about this Corrie Sanders. "I would have liked to have fought more in the US and on HBO, so the fans could see me more," said Sanders via telephone after a recent workout. "What's nice about it is that the people in America enjoy boxing. They love it, and it's great to fight there."
Sanders, who has fought in the States, knows that a return trip to the US will hinge upon his performance against Cole, a tough customer, who is recently remembered for two grueling battles with young contender Kirk Johnson. Sanders knows this won't be a walk in the park. "I haven't seen a lot of him, just some clips. Obviously he defended his title, so he's not a bad fighter," said Sanders. "If a knockout comes, I'll take it. I've got to win this fight, and there's talk of fighting Lennox Lewis." How does Sanders see the undisputed heavyweight champ? "I believe he's beatable. He's bigger than he used to be, so he lost a lot of speed. In the heavyweights, anyone can get anybody down. If you've got power, and Tyson showed it against Botha, you can knock anybody down."
And the one place Sanders will be looking to avoid is the canvas. His only loss, in 1994, came via knockout to Nate Tubbs, brother of Tony, and boxing pundits have questioned his chin. Sanders has heard the talk. "They talk about how I don't have a chin. I showed against Ross Purrity and the other guys that I can take a shot. I don't believe I have a weak chin." As for strengths, Sanders believes "My hand speed and footwork are my biggest advantages, and I can match my power with anybody."
Other than a possible match with Lewis, two other names frequently tossed around with Sanders' are Frans Botha and WBO champion Vitali Klitschko. In fact, Botha was originally scheduled to be Corrie's opponent in South Africa on February 19. "I'm disappointed," said Sanders about the aborted Botha fight. "Apparently Botha wanted too much money. He thinks he's more marketable. I do believe we'll fight eventually though." As for the unbeaten Klitschko, "He's tall and big but from what I've seen of him he's still got to learn a lot. It's not just getting in there and thinking you're going to knock everybody out. But he's a good fighter."
At the age of 34, Corrie Sanders' window of opportunity in the heavyweight division may be getting smaller. But a win against Cole puts him in the thick of things in the division. Fights against Lewis, Botha, or Klitschko will not only entertain boxing fans, but will line Sanders' pockets. But everything is riding on February 19, a true heavyweight crossroads fight.
Randy's World of Boxing
By Randy Gordon
I was asked recently, "What do you think of this whole mess involving the IBF and all the investigations going on right now?" My answer: Let it all happen. When it's all said and done with, boxing will be cleaner than it has
been in years...maybe cleaner than it's ever been.
Bob Lee Sr., President and Founder of the Newark, N.J.-based IBF says he has done nothing wrong. If that is so, I truly hope he is vindicated. If, however, he is guilty of all he's been charged with, he should pay for his crimes against the sport of boxing. The investigation should then move on to all of the other sanctioning bodies. If they hide behind the veil of saying "We have our offices out of the United States,"--and they certainly will!!!--then they should not be allowed back into this country unless they open their books and allow themselves to be examined from head to foot. I think every sanctioning body should be examined and I think every top promoter should also be examined. When the cancerous tumors which have plagued boxing for years are removed, the sport can get back on its way to becoming the great sport it really is.
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I am--and always have been--against a fighter overstaying his welcome in the sport. When his time is done, it's done...over...finito. You don't go from being a world-class fighter to being a "shot" fighter to taking a rest and returning to world-class status again. Such is the case with Julio Cesar Chavez. You saw how completely finished he is last year, when he was beaten up by club-fighter Willy Wise. But, according to the "honest" guys who make up the ratings over at the WBC, not only is Chavez not "shot," he is still the best in the world at 140 pounds. They've made him the number one contender, putting him next in line for a shot at Kosta Tszyu's WBC Jr. Welterweight crown. Yes, my friends, those laughable sanctioning-body creepolas continue to amaze us and show us how stupid they think we are. We can only pray that the FBI investigation into boxing slams them equally as hard as they have slammed the IBF...While on the subject of overstaying a welcome, up comes the name Terry Norris. The once outstanding Jr. Middleweight champion, who has gotten hammered in his last three fights and is showing signs of Pugilistica Dementia, would like to be licensed to fight in the state of Nevada. Thankfully, the Marc Ratner-led commission, along with its five fine commissioners, reviewed a tape of Norris from the early 1990's and again to the Y2K Norris. Not liking what they heard, they turned Norris down. Apparently, an angry Joe Sayatovich, Norris' manager, has said that Norris has passed a battery of medical and neurological tests and would take him to another state in the hopes of getting him licensed. First of all, we hope this is not true. Sayatovich cannot possibly be pushing for Norris to continue with a career which has for all intent and purpose ended years ago. Secondly, we all remember when Muhammad Ali passed those same medical tests in the late 1970's. If you recall, Ali's speech was just as slurred as Norris' speech. I don't think you have to be a neurological specialist to see what direction Norris is heading, especially if he takes any more punches. And third, should Norris attempt to be licensed anywhere else, that state should unquestionably turn him down. And anybody who pushes him into that state, such as a brave manager who will take none of those debilitating head punches, should be banned from boxing for life!
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Oscar de la Hoya fired the great Gil Clancy...again. The Golden Boy said it wasn't his doing, that other members of his camp wanted Gil out. The fact is, Oscar has the final say when it comes to who works with him, and it was Oscar--and Oscar alone--who made the decision. Over the years, Oscar has shown himself to be anything but a Golden Boy, and this was just another move which added to his legacy of lack of loyalty. In 1992, fresh from his gold medal-winning performance at the Barcelona Olympics, de la Hoya turned his back on the man who had supported him through much of his amateur career, Shelly Finkel, and signed a pro contract with businessman Steve Nelson and his boxing partner, Bob Mittleman. The ink was barely dry on their contract when de la Hoya broke his contract with them and headed to promoter Bob Arum. Interestingly, Finkel, Nelson and Mittleman all took de la Hoya to court, and all won judgments against him. Now, it's Clancy who is out. Gil, who is 77 and a family man, now gets to spend more time at home with his wife of over 50 years, Nancy, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Clancy has already won boxing's version of Hollywood's Oscar: he is a Hall-of-Famer. He doesn't need another Oscar, especially one who is such a backstabber as the ingrate from East Los Angeles.
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Rest in Peace: In the first week of February, boxing lost a great friend in George Jackson. George, who was born in Harlem, was a businessman, an entrepeneur, a filmmaker and a friend to all he met. Harvard educated, I met George when he was a senior at Harvard in 1980. As a graduation gift, he bought himself a ringside ticket to the first bout between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard (June 1980, Montreal). George had the smarts to be President of the United States and the compassion of a saint. He was kind to a fault and one of the most generous people I ever knew. Around 10 years ago, he and his partner, Doug McHenry, produced an inner city hit movie entitled, "New Jack City." One of his dreams was to produce a movie called "Sonny," about the life of former heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston. He was a true friend and a man of his word. In my life, I haven't met many with those qualities. At 42, he died of a massive stroke. I have never meant anything more when I say he'll be missed...Ring announcer Chuck Hull recently passed on, too. Through the 1970's and into the 1980's, Hull was the golden-throated voice of a majority of the title bouts of Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and thousands of other fighters. He always had a smile for people and always obliged an autograph seeker no matter if he was at dinner, at ringside or walking down the street. He was not only one of boxing history's great ring announcers, but one of the real fine gentlemen ever to step into a boxing arena.