|. . . THE CYBER BOXING ZONE JOURNAL||
SPIRITUAL ADVISER ON ALL
RINSING OFF THE MOUTH PIECE
After the Reid-Trinidad fight the Ol' Spit Bucket felt vindicated. 43 years in the fight game has taught me that there was NO WAY a novice with 14 fights was gonna beat an experienced, battle tested warrior, in his prime, like Tito. Going in, it reminded me of Duran-Moore & to a lesser extent, Holmes-Cooney. I don't care how talented prodigy/novices are within the squared circle, experience counts; in all three of these bouts the inexperienced fighter took gruesome beatings ... Which brings me to De La Hoya-Mosley. I feel the same applies here. While Sugar Shane has had plenty of fights ... Who the hell has he fought? Who has ever truly tested his mettle?
& fighting Oscar is about as big a pressure cooker of a media circus as there is in boxing. As my stalwart associate editor, Tom Gerbasi, who knows, likes & is very much a proponent of Shane's pointed out, Mosley is
not as media savvy as De La Hoya is & The Bucket feels he may well be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event.
The same script could also apply to the up coming Vargas-Quartey fight. Again you have a very inexperienced fighter going up against a veteran fighter at or near the peak of his career. I don't feel that scenario bodes well for Vargas ...
At the same time, The Bucket's track record for calling fights is about as dismal as Boris Yeltsin's attendance record at AA meetings ... So it felt good to call one right for once.
Christy Martin has turned into a total wank. The decision rendered in her favor over Belinda Laraquente was outrageous. Hell, it was worse than Holyfield-Lewis I. The Bucket had it 6-2 & I was being generous.
The more I see of Martin the less I want to. She's Butterbean without the whimsy ...
The Bean, as I have come to understand, after reading Tom Gerbasi's refreshingly revealing feature on him, in last month's issue, at least knows & understands his humorous space in the fistic scheme of things. He knows
exactly who & what he is & most importantly, what he isn't ...
Martin, on the other glove, is the Roman Empress, Messalina, of denial. She has shown her true colors & instead of being the avatar of women's boxing as Sports Illustrated & Don King tried to persuade us she was - has turned out to be a mean spirited, vitriolic, trailer trash bitch, who is about as sympathetic a figure as Tonya Harding in boxing circles.
Stylistically, Martin & The Bean are very similar: Corpulent, wild swinging, heavy handed punchers, relying on brute force & eschewing any semblance of actual boxing skills, as they man (woman?) handle carefully chosen lack of opposition.
In other words, Christy is Butterbroad.
My good buddy & fellow sybaritic CBZ contributor, Lucius Shepard, who is way far more unkind than The Bucket (I've never thought that was actually possible ...), liked my metaphor, & suggested: Butterbeaver.
While I thought that was very funny, being the always, oh-so-politically correct maven that I always am, The Bucket would never allow a sexist & crude term like Butterbeaver, to be used in the CBZ Journal ...
If Butterbroad ever actually steps into a ring with Lucia Rijker, she will be mandible deep in the Big Muddy. No matter what my feelings about women's boxing may be ( & they ain't good), I can't argue with the fact that
Rijker, is not only by far the best female fighter I've ever seen, she's so for real there are plenty of male fighters in her division I think she could beat. Rijker is the real deal.
Lucia would vaporize Butterbroad.
Butterbroad's latest "chosen opponent", Belinda Laraquente, really impressed the hell outta The Bucket. Admittedly, my experience with women's boxing is limited & tenuous at best ... But Belinda is the most technically
sound & skilled female boxer I've yet seen. Beautiful moves, jab, foot work & balance.
Strangely enough, who she reminded me of was the great, but sadly, forgotten today, Panamanian lightweight champion, Ismael Laguna ... I know, I know, it sounds crazy but watch her fight & then watch a tape of Laguna ...
So far in the new millennium it's Big Bang & not a theory for us boxing fans. Morales-Barrera was a fight for the ages, De La Hoya-Coley didn't reek & Reid-Trinidad was a surprisingly dynamic fight & if not for Morales-Barrera, would be a definite front runner for fight of the year.
The Ol' Spit Bucket owes Marco Antonio an apology ... Before the fight I figured Barrera for a shot fighter. He seemingly hadn't been the same since his first loss by KO to Jr. Jones back in '96. Since the rematch in '97, he has fought a succession of nobodies culminating with a NC last December in
Mexico City. The fight was declared no contest because his opponent was not only fighting under an assumed name - it somehow went unnoticed by Barrera & his camp, even though the "opponent" was a former regular sparring partner of Barrera's.
Gee ... Go figure.
So anyways, I didn't feature this as a big night for Marco Antonio. Anticipation for the fight put me inna south of the border kinda mood. So before the fight, I fired up the wood stove, grilled a whole lotta meat, whipped up some hellacious home made salsa, heated up some beans, rice & tortillas & made The Mother of all platters of killer tacos & chimichangas.
By then, The Bucket's bunker, located deep, in the weird, wild, storming woods of the Pacific Northwest, was warming right up. I called in my two beast/dogs, Hell & Hound, rolled up some good boojie, cracked a Tecate beer & a bottle of Herradura Joven Tequila & hunkered down for an evening of meat & mayhem ...
A couple of hours later, inspired by & driven by the sheer power, glory & majesty of the mega-struggle between two fearless Mexican warriors; not to mention copious portions of bloody meat & tequila ... The Bucket & his slavering brutes, Hell & Hound, tumbled out of the bunker into the lashing storm that raged through the pines & started inexplicably careening through the gloaming woods as we roared & howled at the thunder & lightning bolts bursting all around us ...
Yeah, well ... It was just one of those night's ... I will never forget the titanic battle those two little 122 pounders put up. The two of them together weigh less than Lennox Lewis or Michael Grant.
But both of them showed more heart than Lewis & Grant ever have or will ...
As stated earlier in this screed, so far, it has been a banner year for boxing. Before the end of February, we have already been presented with two terrific fights. On the immediate horizon are some more intriguing bouts: Ruiz-Holyfield, Vargas-Quartey & most fascinating of all, De La Hoya-Mosely.
Before everybody gets too warm & fuzzy about the shiny, happy, outlook on even more terrific upcoming match ups, keep in mind that Year 2000, also kicks off a new millennium of that glorified, quadrennial, dwarf tossing contest, we know, love & not-so-begrudgingly, pay, bribe & corrupt, through the gills, whole metropolis' for ... To experience the simon pure stench of Amateur Athletics that is filtered through that Gaping Maw Of Raw Corporate Greed ; Juan Antonio Samaranch's, Olym-Pits - that make the NFL's Super bowl, a seemingly modest festival of hyperbole & avarice in comparison.
Ol' Juan is a Hall Of Fame grifter who makes a skell like Jose Sulaiman seem a piker when it comes to total subservience of any morality in order to maintain a strangling choke hold on their respective organizations.
But, even an immoral rhino like Sulaiman, would never have the stones or utter gall to claim that the WBC is bigger & more influential worldwide than the Catholic Church.
Even in boxing there are limits ...
While the Olym-Pits do provide (diminishing drastically since the '84 team), an invaluable championship farm system for boxing, they also seem too for some reason, mummify professional boxing promoters in the interim. Starting early this summer, the great match ups we've been unexpectedly treated to so regularly in the last year or so will suddenly cease.
In fact, so pervasive is the power of The 'Pits that even the TV networks have cowered & broken -delaying the traditional September start of the 00-01 season until October.
& it won't be until October that we will see any significant fights. At best we are looking forward to Oscar-Tito II, Holyfield-Tyson III or possibly Lewis-Tyson. (Yeah, I know, & even a jaded old fart like me is sorta excited about the yak about Hamed vs. Morales, Corrales & Mayweather, but I'll believe it when I see it ...) Personally, none of these fights really interests me. Any fight involving Tyson or Holyfield is immediately highly suspect & Lennox Lewis will never send anybody screaming & clawing too get to the turnstiles ...
Obviously, for the multi-cultural myriad of athletes participating, The Olym-Pits is a glorious moment in their lives. & they deserve every accolade & dead president they can squeeze out of the experience. The Bucket's problem is not with the athletes who have devoted years of their lives for this one brief moment.
It's with the greedy swine who have run this noble endeavor with all the grace & style of frenzied used car lot salesmen during a midnight madness sale ...
When I look at past Olympians like Kerri Shrug (sic) & her diminutive ilk; I see legalized dwarf tossing . . . When I see the Dream Team beating up on hapless opponents; I see a farce.
Next Olym-Pits up, we are supposedly gonna have major league hockey & baseball players competing . . . If we can beat up on other countries with pros, why not Leg-Iron Mike representing us in the heavyweight division? Or Tito representing the light middleweights for Puerto Rico?
It's beyond absurd!
Whatever happened to the amateur ideal of the Olym-Pits? If you think the Dream Team can really beat up on the Filipino squad . . . Jez wait until Leg-Iron gets in the ring with some scared 17 year old from the Bikini Islands . . . & speaking of boxing (after all, that is what this column is about), I love boxing & what I see at the 'Pits is pillow fighting with incredibly inept judging.
Boxing used to be one of the flag ship, high profile events at the 'Pits. These days it's relegated to the real big empty of network scheduling . . . Which is probably for the best since what we are seeing (when we get to), is not boxing - or competent officiating for that matter. Ever since the bleedinghearts encumbered the boxers with head gear & gloves the size of cotton candy clouds there has been one essential ingredient missing from the mix:
It's almost impossible to really whack a guy with all the gear the fighters are laden down with & without the elements of danger, pain & consequences; I'd rather watch two chicks mud wrestling ... At least there's some drama.
Way back, in the middle, latter part of the 20th Century, when Lil' Bucket was a tender amateur boxer, my life would have been inestimably easier if I could have fought under the present conditions ... H, E, double hockey sticks (in my dreams), I mighta' been a contender.
The Ol' Spit Bucket wants to apologize to every Gyno-American he might have offended by using the expression, "chicks". It was only used as an expression of poetic license & was not meant as an indictment of your gender
Frankly, Trinidad - De La Hoya II is a no brainer ... Tito is a fighter either at, or very close to his prime. Arguably he is still improving & getting stronger as he rises in weight. Oscar, on the other glove, is a fighter that has stagnated. We've already seen the best of De La Hoya. He has nothing new to show us. He hasn't really improved since the Miguel Angel Gonzales fight.
In fact, in some ways he's devolved ...
There is no hunger or mountains to climb anymore. Oscar has received accolades & perks on par with a rock or movie star. There are no more worlds & not too many women left to conquer. De La Hoya is phat & sassy. The only thing left to do is avenge his loss to Trinidad. Only it ain't gonna happen. There is too much gamesmanship, politics & massive galaxies of hubris involved.
Oh sure, the fight will probably happen - if Oscar gets by Sugar Shane & that's not a given - but as fighters, De La Hoya is heading south while Trinidad is heading north. Admittedly, this is based in large part on their last two performances. With Oscar, against Coley, we saw an awkwardly still
tentative fighter, groping for a defining style against a decidedly inferior opponent. With Tito vs. Reid we saw an improving, confident fighter, fast approaching his prime who is still hungry & strutted his stuff against a dangerous opponent.
Like I said, this one's a no-brainer ... & it pains me to say that because Oscar De La Hoya & Evander Holyfield are the fighters that have spear headed the sweet science throughout the 90's. The Bucket, at times has disparaged De La Hoya on these pages but while he does deserve a lot of criticism for being such a pampered pustule, at the same time he has carried the banner for
boxing for the general sporting public.
& whether you like him or not as a fighter & "personality", all of us boxing fans owe Lil' O a debt for maintaining some credibility for boxing with the media & the sporting public.
The only other fighter who has shouldered the burden of carrying the sport (again, like Oscar, with various degrees of success), has been Evander Holyfield. Roy Jones seemingly would have been the natural choice as boxing avatar, but he made it clear long ago that he was going to deal with his success strictly on his own terms ... & while that might be great for him, it hasn't meant squat in terms of improving the squared circles always seamy public profile.
But I digress ...
It is this month's stellar issue of the CBZ Journal that I should be presenting: For instance, two of the articles I'm proudest to publish are Katherine Dunn's & Randy Gordon's. Coincidentally bi-costal exposes, of the on going corruption of both the New York, Washington & Oregon's state boxing
Both of them write about boxing commissions whose brain pan's are as finely honed as the edges of butter knifes in the Columbine High School cafeteria ... Actually, we got so much great stuff in this issue that I hesitate to mention any of them in case I inadvertently neglect one of our writers ... But, I gotsta give special props to the welcome return of my fellow freak flag waver, comrade in arms, the always unusual, Lucius T. Shepard.
I assigned the De La Hoya - Coley fight to Lucius. As always, the emminently resourceful, Tom Gerbasi, got him a press pass. I told Lucius I didn't want or need a blow by blow account of the evening's going on's - instead I wanted a piece about going to a (very-semi) mega event like that
... Lucius, while he is decimated by certain genetic character flaws, really came through, big time, on this one.
The other piece that deserves special mention is Eric Jorgensen's impeccably hilarious & brutally real interview with former 70's & 80's heavyweight contender, Scott LeDoux.
I'm gonna digress again, because the road to this interview is kinda interesting. In what's left of The Bucket's mind, it seems that lately, a whole lotta the great new writers that have joined the CBZ's have all come with six degrees of separation from Katherine Dunn.
Katherine as our regular readers know is an acclaimed novelist & journalistwho has graced our not-so tattered web site for the last year or so. Through our connection with her, she has turned us on to esteemed writers who have been gracious (& in some cases crazy enough, considering the enormous amount of no $$$ ...) to contribute to the CBZ like, Lucius Shepard & Mark Jacobsen.
For instance, because of the hook up with Mr. Jacobsen, he introduced us to Max Kellerman (who did a terrific interview with JD Vena two issues ago). Max groks what the CBZ is all about & called up The Bucket & suggested we check out Mr. Ledoux. I knew that the perfect guy to conduct the interview was, (I love heavyweights & my favorite guy is Jack Dempsey), one of the CBZ's most diligent boxing historians, Eric Jorgensen.
Let me tell ya folks, the lad did not disappoint me ... This is one mother thumper of an interview. It's so detailed & humorous that it will be run in two parts, concluding in next month's issue.
So that's it for this month, enjoy the new issue.
Scott LeDoux: "The Fighting Frenchman
By Eric Jorgensen
Scott LeDoux, "The Fighting Frenchman", was a rough, tough, 6'2", 220 lbs. heavyweight contender in the late 70s and early 80s, who knew his trade, came to fight, and who always gave the fans their money's worth. In a 10-year professional career, he fought the best the heavyweight division had to offer at a time when it was as good as it has ever been, compiling a record of 33-12-4 (21 KOs). That record, impressive enough all by itself, is a bit deceptive, however, as most observers agree that 4 of his "losses" (to Dino Dennis, Johnny Boudreaux, Ron Lyle, and Gordie Racette) were flat-out robberies, as were 2 of his "draws" (with Leon Spinks and Ken Norton).
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Scott (over the telephone) and to interview him about his career, what he has been doing since he retired from the ring, and his thoughts on the state of boxing generally. As you read the interview, I'm sure you will find, as I did, that Scott is a bright, witty and thoughtful individual with many insights to share concerning the sweet science; a class act all the way around.
Eric: Maybe we could start with your giving me brief overview of how it was you first got started in boxing.
Scott: I was a 17-year-old freshman in college at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, which is a Northern branch of the University. I played football up there and, in those days, football ended in late October.
In November, a guy named Jim DeJarlis asked me to come box with him. He was a big, tall basketball player from Northern Minnesota. I said "I've never boxed", and he said "neither have I, but I've been working out at this gym and I've got no one to box with and I've got a fight coming up in a couple of months." I said I'd give it a try. A basketball player, how tough could he be, you know? So, I went down there and, gosh, he just jabbed my head off, drove me crazy. I got so frustrated that I kept going back every day. I really started to enjoy it; I enjoyed the competitiveness of it, and came to really embrace the challenge of learning the technique of how to slip inside and throw punches and stuff with a guy like that. DeJarlis ended up winning that first fight by a knockout but he never fought again. He retired. It was really very funny -- I thought that probably should have told me something right there. [Laughs]
I ended up having my own first fight about a year later in a tournament, which I ended up winning. It was pretty exciting, but I understood why DeJarlis was so challenged. It was such a rush and there is so much fear prior to a fight, you know -- the unknown, wondering what this guy's got and what he's going to do and the fear of getting hurt. All those things go into it. I don't think fighters like to admit the fear factor very much. You know, they're all "no, I'm okay". Well, I always told people I was afraid and scared to death up until 5 minutes before the bell rang. With about 5 minutes to go, though -- and in most cases I was the main event because I was a heavyweight -- they would knock on the door and say "5 minutes to go!" . . . that's when I lost my fear . . . it was too late, too late to be afraid anymore.
Eric: So did you quit football right away in order to take up boxing full-time?
Scott: No, I stayed with football too. That was my Freshman year and I played two more years. I started as a Junior both ways, played offense and defense. I was a pretty good football player. I enjoyed myself, I really did. But, then I went into the Army in 1969. I didn't box while I was in the Army. I got out of the Army in '71 and went back to the gym that fall and started boxing again as an amateur.
Eric: Where were you stationed while you were in the Army?
Scott: Fort Lee, Virginia. I went in as a new golfer and came out with a 4 handicap. [Laughs]
Eric: No kidding, that's terrific.
Scott: If I had re-enlisted I could have played golf forever. What a great job.
Eric: I never got below a 12 handicap myself, so I'm impressed.
Scott: I have been playing so badly the last few years 'cause I've been so busy with work. You have a job and it just really screws up your golf game. Then, last year, I really got into lifting weights and that made my game even worse. I went from and 11 handicap to a 20 last year. I just played awful. My game -- I describe it as above reproach or beneath contempt.
Eric: Back to your early career, here: How'd your parents take it when you announced you were going to take up boxing full-time?
Scott: [Chuckles.] They were not excited about it. My mom was really not excited about it, and my dad kind of shrugged and said "do whatever you gotta do". Of course, mothers, they don't want to see their kids get hit at all. I dont think she ever did see me fight. She would come to the fights but she would never watch. She'd be out in the hallway. She couldn't stand it. The only fight I think she watched the last couple rounds of was the Norton fight, and that was only because someone from my family went to get her saying "you've got to come in and watch this, he's kicking Norton's butt!" She watched the last couple of rounds of that one.
Eric: I really thought you were gonna get him in the last round of that fight.
Scott: In actuality, I did get him. If you watch the tape, you can see that he was over the top rope, which is a knockdown, and the referee should have stopped the fight but he didn't. He choked and that's just the way it is. There's nothing you can do about that. But, if you read the rule book, any time the ropes are all that's holding a fighter up, then that constitutes a knockdown. He should have counted Norton out right there. But thats okay.
Eric: I've got your record here in front of me. You turned pro in 1974.
Scott: February 4, I think it was. Art Pullens wasnt it?
Eric: That's exactly right; February 4, Art Pullens KO 3. Ran up 12 straight wins and 9 knockouts coming out of the gate.
Scott: There was Floyd Cox, Steve Patterson, Larry Penniger was like the 5th fight. 6th or 7th fight I fought a kid named Tom something from Oklahoma
Eric: Tom Berry.
Scott: Yeah, Tom Berry. I fought Lou Rogan in there and Ron Draper.
Eric: Then you ran into Cookie Wallace in early '75.
Scott: He caught me with a great head-butt in the first round.
Eric: I remember seeing a picture of that cut in a boxing magazine somewhere. That was a pretty deep gash.
Scott: Right, it was a headbutt in the first round and, in those days, you lost. Today, that fight would be called a no contest or something. If an unintentional head-butt occurs before three rounds, then there's no fight. Today that wouldn't be a "loss" for me, but back then it was. It was pretty frustrating because Wallace would have left early if he had continued to fight, but they didn't allow it because I was cut so badly.
Eric: I remember reading somewhere how hard you tried to get him back in the ring but he didn't want to have anything to do with a rematch.
Scott: No, because he had a "win" over me and that was a real big deal for him. He used that to make some money. They could bill him as the guy who beat Scott LeDoux, who was undefeated up to that point. So they used that for years. We kept trying to get him back but couldn't. He wouldn't do it.
Eric: You fought some pretty tough customers early on -- Rodney Bobick.
Scott: I beat Rodney in a 10 rounder. I also beat him once as an amateur. Then I beat him as a pro. Then I lost to Duane, and there was a period there when I had three losses in a row and everybody was bad mouthing me saying I couldn't fight. I said wait a minute -- these guys got a combined record of like 104-1 and the only loss was Foreman's to Ali. It's not like I'm in bad company here. [Scott was referring to his losses to Duane Bobick, Dino Dennis, and George Foreman.]
Eric: That's for sure. Before we get into that, though, let's stick with your early fights a bit longer. You knocked out this guy who fought Joe Frazier for the Title, Terry Daniels.
Scott: That was a scary fight. I started out hot I started blasting him the first round and I was blasting him in the second round, and, in the third round his one eye swells shut and I'm still blasting this guy, and I tie him up and I say to the referee "this guy can't see". The referee steps between us and looks at Terry and looks back at me and says "box". I'm like, "what?" When the bell rang I went over in the corner and said "Joe, he can't see me anymore", and Joe says "you gotta knock him out. If he cuts you or butts you, you lose. You gotta take him out of there." So, the bell rang to start the fourth round and I come up off the stool and the doctor stops the fight.
Eric: Joe who? Your trainer?
Scott: Yeah -- Papa Joe Daszkiewicz. [Spells it for me.] And when I can't spell that anymore then I know I've been hit too much.
Eric: Ha ha ha ha. Then you got the other one of those guys who fought Frazier, Ron Stander.
Scott: Ron was a tough kid. He could really take a shot. He had been my sparring partner when I fought Rodney Bobick. I really liked Ronny. He really was a tough guy, and he really could hit.
Eric: He knocked out Earnie Shavers once.
Scott: Yeah he could hit. But, you couldnt miss him. I remember in the 10th round I hit him with a right hand and he fell into me and I grabbed him. If I had let him go he might have fallen down and never gotten up. I grabbed him when he fell into me you know what a tough guy, what a character. That was one of those fights when the next day your hands are really hurting, but it was a fun fight.
Eric: Then you boxed a draw with George "Scrap Iron" Johnson.
Scott: Yeah, I had a terrible staff infection in that fight. I was really sick. I think I had been like 217 or 218 and I got down to 207 after that fight, I was so sick. I was sick for a week after that fight. He was a tough guy and he would just maul you -- grab and wrestle you. That was a real learning experience for me. If you look at my career, and if you could go back and look at the records of the guys I fought, when I fought them, they were all good, winning fighters. Larry Penniger was undefeated when I fought him in my 5th fight. Each guy I fought had a winning record when I fought him. I was never given any patsies. I was given guys who could fight. But, you know, my trainer's philosophy was, "you cant be a journeyman fighter unless you learn your trade". I really learned my trade. It paid off down the road as I fought so many world champions and did very well against all of them.
Eric: That's for sure. So, okay, now we are at April 76 and your first run-in with Duane Bobick.
Scott: He just had my number. His style was not right for me. Styles make fights, and he was way to busy for me, and I was too excited about proving that he couldn't beat me up, couldn't knock me out. I just was out there to prove that he couldn't do that. It was stupid on my part. He had a great style to fight me. Plus, he was a real good fighter anyway.
Eric: He was a good fighter.
Scott: He was a good fighter. You don't have the amateur career that he had and not be a good pro, and he had a good professional career and he did very well. He just had my number. Just one of those things.
Eric: He knocked out Larry Holmes in the Olympic trials, didn't he?
Scott: He did. He also had a win over Teofilo Stephenson. Not too many people have that.
Eric: True enough. With Duane Bobick and you coming out of Minnesota, were there any sort of "grudge match" issues involved?
Scott: There was a lot of heat between the two of us and the fact that I had beaten Rodney twice had caused a lot of heat for him and his family. They did a lot of terrible things, which I won't go into, to try to mess me up in my camp, but it was stuff that was very disgusting, and I'll leave it at that.
Eric: Okay, your next fight was against John "Dino" Dennis. As I recall, you got robbed in that one.
Scott: Big time. I beat him up really bad. Here's the interesting thing: I cut him over both eyes, busted up his nose, busted up his ribs, and, when, the fight was over, on the judges score cards, I did not win a single round! Wait a minute . . . who was hitting him then? Someone better take a look at the referee, 'cause somebody busted this kid up. I busted him up big time. . . never won a round. Talk about getting shut out. Holy smokes!
Eric: That fight was in Providence, RI. Was that Dino's hometown?
Scott: That's where he was from, alright. It was interesting, one of his owners, managers, trainers was a guy named Gus something. His home adjoined Lincoln Downs, a race track. That's where the press conference was, and that's what I remember about it. We knew going in we were fighting in somebody's backyard. You know, you gotta knock him out to get a split decision.
Eric: Your next fight, I guess that was a disaster, huh, Big George Foreman in Utica, NY?
Scott: It actually wasn't. The very first round I had him bleeding out of his nose. I hit him with a left jab and some good right hands to the body. In the second round, I was doing okay, but then he blasted me with a right hand. I mean, there's no "disaster" when you get hit by a guy like George Foreman. Who hasn't he hit that he hasn't taken out, except Ali? I don't know of anybody else.
Eric: No, that guy had about the biggest right hand ever, I would think.
Scott: And, years later, Gil Clancy, who was working George's corner in that fight, told Papa Joe that, after the first two rounds, Foreman was shook up. Clancy said Foreman was upset because his nose was bleeding. Clancy said I hurt him with a body shot and that Clancy was worried about the fight until the third round. Clancy told Papa Joe, "your guy was just coming out". At that time I had no idea what fear was, I was just fighting you know.
Eric: That's interesting. All I have ever seen of that fight is a clip of the third round, but obviously that doesn't tell the story.
Scott: The first two rounds I hit him with some real stiff jabs, I hit him with a right hand to the body that really hurt him. That to me was always my best punch. I called it the right hand swing. I'd throw a little jab to the head and throw a big roundhouse right, right to the rib cage, and I used to kill people with that.
Eric: Yeah, you caught Ron Lyle with some of those.
Scott: I just destroyed Lyle with that punch. He was a mess when I got done with him. He was hurting.
Eric: Shortly after the Foreman fight was the travesty of the United States Tournament and Johnny Boudreaux.
Scott: Yeah, was that really just a joke. I mean really a joke. I mean there wasn't anybody there that didn't think I won the fight. Everyone that saw the fight knew I won it. It was just a real joke.
Eric: I tell you what, I went on the internet the other day asking for anecdotes or stories about Scott LeDoux and I must have received a hundred responses saying that the Scott LeDoux - Johnny Boudreaux fight was the worst decision in the history of boxing.
Scott: Oh gosh really?
Eric: I was surprised how many people who watched that fight remembered it and were still outraged by it. Absolutely.
Scott: Terrible thing, and even worse is that Howard Cosell, the "Mr. Tell-It-Like-It-Is" guy, tried to cover it up.
Eric: He sure did.
Scott: He tried to cover it up, and it was an interesting scene after that. You dont have the tape where I kicked is toupee off, I do.
Eric: Somebody responded to my internet query with "you know, as I recall, Scott was so mad that he did something, there was some sort of scuffle afterward." Was that what it was? You knocked Cosell's toupee off?
Scott: What happened was, as soon as the fight was over, Cosell called me over to the side of the ring and he said "as soon as they announce the decision come down here." Well, he knew I won. So, I was excited, I thought, you know, here I am, a small town kid from Minnesota, and Cosell is going interview me, this is cool. And then they announced the decision saying Johnny Boudreaux's name and they announced it in such an odd way. I mean it wasnt like they brought us to the middle of the ring or anything. If you remember, they just said "Johnny Boudreaux wins", trying to shuffle it by. At first, I thought they were just saying "hey, give a hand to Johnny Boudreaux" and I turn around and his arms are up in the air. I'm like "what"? Then I went over to Cosell and started screaming "this is the time, Howard, you have to tell it like it is, you're going to have to tell the truth!".
By this time, he had brought Boudreaux down to interview him and I'm yelling at Cosell "tell it like it is, I beat this chump and you know that!" Then Johnny Boudreaux called me some names, something to do with my mother of course, and that's when I tried to kick him in the mouth. I kicked out at Boudreaux and, when I did, Boudreaux jumped back and got his foot entangled in the head set and Cosell's toupee went right off with the headset. [Laughs a long time] I have it on tape and, when I feel low some nights, I put that on and run it back and forth, back and forth. Then, I feel better.
Eric: That's hilarious.
Scott: He was such a jerk 'cause he would never "tell it like it is". Then, after that fight I fought Lyle in Vegas and it was broadcast by ABC, so Cosell was the interview guy. So, prior to the fight, he interviewed me and asked me some questions and it was cool, we got it done. Then, when I saw the tape, my answers didn't coincide with the questions he asked on air.
Eric: No kidding?
Scott: They did not coincide and I went ballistic. The next time I fought for ABC (when I fought Holmes for the title), Cosell wanted to interview me again. I told him "I'm only going to do this if you will ask the same questions on air as you do to the tape". He said "you can't tell me what to do", and I said "then I'm not doing the interview", and I got up and walked. The producer came and grabbed me and said "no, we'll do it straight". He promised me that they wouldn't do anything funny. I won't put up with that kind of thing, I dont care who he is.
Eric: You know, Boudreaux pretty much disappeared after that didn't he?
Scott: If you watch my career, the guys I beat up, even when they got the decision, they didn't fight much afterwards. And later on, when I started fighting name guys, they didn't fight much after fighting me either. Look at Johnny Boudreaux, look at Marty Monroe, he disappeared, he disappeared after I fought him. His manager was Marty Cohen and I saw him about 10-12 years later in Miami at a convention, and he came up to me and said "you ruined my fighter". At first, I didn't know who he was talking about. He said "Marty Monroe, he never fought again after you beat him up." I was a body puncher. I banged guys to the body big time. Like Rodney Bobick. I messed up Rodney's ribs so bad. About four months later he had a fight coming up and no one to spar with and they called and asked if I would come box with him. I said sure I'll come box with him, I had no hard feelings and I liked Rodney, he was a good kid. All he said to me was "don't hit me in the ribs".
Eric: Okay, so then there was the "draw" with Leon Spinks, which most people felt you won. They were promoting him for . . .
Scott: He was already signed for the title shot. It was just terrible. You know what they did? That fight was October 22 and they called me October 3 for the fight to sign me. I'm laying in bed sicker then a dog, I have the flu, my trainer called me and said they want you to fight this kid Spinks. I said "make the match. There's not a guy 200 lbs. yet that I can't whip". He said "yeah, but they want it on the 22nd"; I said "make the match, I'll be there". He said "but you're sick", I said "I'll be at the gym tonight". I got out of bed that night and went to the gym and started training. I was sicker than a dog but I got in good shape, went down there. Got to admit, he had a lot of heart, but we beat that kid.
Eric: He had a good first three-four rounds but he . . .
Scott: Very quick early on, but he couldn't take the body shots. I hit him to the body big time and just roughed him up, shoved him around. He wasnt used to that kind of treatment. Everyone else he had fought before me had names like "Dusty Trucks", "Willie Getup", "Kenny Last", I mean those were the guys he was fighting. Well, I was in there to stay for the 10. You want to go 10 rounds, we're gonna go 10. He wasn't ready for that. He wasn't ready for the body shots and he was still very green -- not educated in fighting. He was an Olympic fighter, but when I got inside I kept hitting him with an elbow, then hitting him with a hook afterwards. He never figured it out for 10 rounds. Kept putting his head over by my right elbow. To me it was like setting the guy up. You lift him up with the elbow and then you hit him with the hook. The referees for some reason never call you for a foul if you follow the foul with a clean punch. They will not call a foul. I dont know why that is.
Eric: You and Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano all figured that one out.
Scott: Oh yeah, if you throw a clean shot after a bad one, they dont say anything. It was funny. Pat Summerall, I think, did the fight. Anyway, one of the commentators said "if I'm gonna fight in the alley, I want LeDoux with me." Between rounds, they showed me hitting him with that elbow then hitting him with the hook. I always made sure the referee was on the other side. The referee would always go over to your left side and I would hit the guy with the right elbow and the left hook. Gotta be a rocket scientist to figure that out, you know.
You know, about Spinks, it bothered me that Cosell took advantage of him and really ripped into him. Here's a guy who had a degree in law and all this and he's ripping a kid from East St. Louis. Leon never said he was a genius. What he said was "I can fight". One of the things I remember when he won the title, the day after the title fight, they showed a picture in the paper with his wife and he was buying her a ring, you know. It said his money won't last long this way. I thought "what do you care? -- it's his wife".
Hey, when I first made some money, the first thing I did was go out and buy my wife a nice new car. She had stuck with me.
Eric: There you go. So your next outing, I guess, is sort of the stuff of legend. You went into to Chicago and bounced Muhammad Ali around for 5 rounds.
Scott: Yep. We really did. We had a good day. I always remember the 2nd and 3rd round I looked at Ali and he was bleeding out of the nose and the mouth. The rope-a-dope was such a con, you know. I don't think people realize that, what a con that was. He really was getting hit and he was taking punches. But, he would shake his head like he wasn't getting hit.
Eric: He was tough, boy.
Scott: What a shot he could take! He could really take a shot. That's why, when he fought Foreman, I was one of the few who picked him to win. They had selected 12 guys in the Minneapolis paper and asked them who was going to win the fight, and I was one of the three who picked Ali. I said Ali can take a punch, he's just as big and strong as George, but he's faster and he's smarter. That's why I picked him, and he won the fight. George just wasn't prepared to fight that kind of a guy, who was that smart and tough.
Eric: You would never figure you would find someone who could take Foreman's right hand and look right back at him.
Scott: [Laughing] Like "nice shot kid, is that all you got"? Thats what Ali did to Foreman, it was amazing to me.
Eric: Then you ran off a few more wins and then came the loss to Ron Lyle in Las Vegas another robbery.
Scott: I had him down in the, I want to say, 3rd round, and I him hurt again, I mean I had him hurt several times during the fight.
Eric: They were trying to set him up to fight Holmes. [Note: that plan came undone when Lyle was upset by Lynn Ball shortly thereafter].
Scott: Right. I knew I something was "up" because, when the fight was over, but before they announced the decision, Don King got in the ring and hugged Ron Lyle. We knew where we were then. Papa Joe looked at me and said "we're in trouble".
Eric: You get the impression Don didn't leave a lot of things up to the judges when it really counted. It's funny because your next fight was the draw with Norton, where you got cheated again. So, you have a loss to Lyle and a draw with Norton back-to-back, but your stock skyrocketed, right? You became a lot more popular because everybody saw you win both those fights on national T.V.
Eric: Next up was Mike Weaver. That was a good fight.
Scott: That was a good fight, a good 12 round fight, but the real story there was they had screwed up the timing on the T.V. thing, so, to kill time, they had a guy go in and sweep all the rosin out of the ring. Now, I was wearing leather-soled shoes and Weaver was wearing rubber-soled shoes. I got in there and I couldn't stand up. It was like I was on skates. Between rounds, I was begging my trainer to do something with my shoes. Take 'em off. Let me fight barefoot. I mean anything! I couldn't dig in at all. I couldn't throw a punch. I had no footing whatsoever. It was terrible. That was not to take anything away from Mike. Mike was a good boxer. He had a good day that day. He boxed very well. Good combinations, he hit hard . People dont realize, he really hit hard. Just because he didn't knock me out doesn't mean he couldn't hit. In fact, when he fought John Tate, I never counted him out. I was in Vegas watching Holmes fight. He was fighting Leroy Jones. He retired Jones with all the thumbs.
Eric: I'm coming to that.
Scott: Jones never fought again after that fight. If you look in that record book.
Eric: I didn't realize that.
Scott: He never fought again. He went blind in one eye with a torn retina. He couldn't fight any more. Bummed the hell out of him.
Eric: I'll be darned. In your next fight after Weaver, you beat the tar out of Marty Monroe.
Scott: Yes, but you skipped a fight too. You skipped one right after the Boudreaux fight. Pedro Soto.
Eric: Pedro Soto, yeah thats true.
Scott: That was a great fight in the Garden. And, the day before I fought him, it was announced in the paper that he was gonna fight Ali his next fight. I thought wait a minute, I don't think he's gotten through this one yet, has he?
Eric: I'd forgotten that, he was a prospect at one time.
Scott: He was ranked 6th or 7th in the world the day I fought him. He had announced in the New York papers that he was gonna fight Ali. But he didnt get that opportunity, unfortunately. Bill Clancy, his manager, was just sick after that fight. And what's the guy's name at the Garden who made all the matches who just died?
Eric: Teddy Brenner.
Scott: Teddy Brenner, he was just sick after that fight. Oh, we just pounded that kid.
Eric: Now we come to your July 1980 World Heavyweight Championship fight against Larry Holmes and his thumb.
Scott: Oh yeah, he was very good with that thumb. He stuck me with that thumb in the 7th round. We'd still be fighting if he hadnt thumbed me. He couldn't hurt me. He had no punch. I've always said to people, I said, as far as boxing skill, he was number 2 to Ali and that was it. He was one of the best boxers I had ever boxed with. He could control that ring with his leg movement and his long reach and his jab was great. There is no question he was a good boxer and a good fighter. But he was not a puncher. I always said to people, name the guy you saw him knock out with one punch. There is nobody. He was not a hitter. To be a hitter you gotta have a lot of courage, 'cause you know you're gonna get hit while your trying to throw that bomb. Guys like Earnie Shavers, they are hitters. Earnie Shavers, he just fears nothing, except Jesus Christ, that's it. He is just unbelievable. So is Foreman. They just hit and their punching power is off the scale. Holmes is not a banger. He boxed well and could take a good shot. That's the other thing people never really realized is that he could take a good shot. I saw him when Earnie Shavers dropped him to the deck face down and he just got back up. I was amazed.
Eric: That was one big league right hand Shavers landed.
Scott: I was sitting ringside and I'm looking right at his face and his eyes are shut at the count of 2. At the count of 5, he's starting to get to his feet! I'm like, "how the heck does he do that?" I was just amazed that he could get off the deck like that. And, then he won. Thats a great fighter to me. I always felt that way. Anybody can win out in front. It takes a great fighter to get up off the deck to win.
Eric: That's true. That thumb he gave you, has that bothered your vision any since then?
Scott: No, we've been fortunate. No it has not. I waited a day or so and then I went to see a doctor right afterwards. I had some bleeding in there but no retina problems at all.
Eric: That's great. Then you won a couple more fights after that and then you ran into Greg Page down in Nassau, Bahamas.
Scott: Oh, Boy that was not my day , I'll tell you that.
Eric: For one of the only times in his career, Page showed up in shape.
Scott: [Laughs a long time] He made me so mad! Every fight he'd been fighting 240, 250, 260, coming in like a blimp. I get him and he's what 224 or 223? I'm like, "what is that all about?" He was terrific. He had a great right hand. The funny story about that fight was that he knocked me down, I think it was the 2nd or 3rd round, he had me down on the deck and I get back up and came to the corner and said to Joe, I said "Joe, what in the hell is he hitting me with?" He says "he's hitting you with a right hand over your jab." I said "boy, I'm glad somebody's seeing it." I was throwing my jab, I wasn't bringing it back. I was leaning out and he was just reaching over and nailing me. He could have been a great fighter. He had a lot of skills. He just couldn't motivate himself to train.
Eric: No question if Greg Page had stayed in the gym, he would have been a great fighter.
Scott: He wanted to play basketball one time. He's like that goofball we got now, what's his name? Such a good fighter and loves playing basketball. . .
Eric: Roy Jones.
Scott: Yeah, Roy Jones. Figure it out. Basketball is a fun game but that's not where you belong. But, Greg Page had great skills and, hey, it just wasnt my day. I mean, the last time I looked, there was only one undefeated heavyweight whom I know of and that was Marciano.
Eric: That's true and he cut out at the top of his game.
Scott: And if you look . . . I've always looked at my record and I had I guess 12 loses.
Eric: I didnt count them up here.
Scott: 12. I look back and I think, you throw out Boudreaux and throw out Dino Dennis, you throw out Gordie Racette. Gordie Racette, I mean that was a joke. There were several of those losses that didn't belong in there.
Eric: You forgot Lyle.
Scott: Lyle, Cookie Wallace.
Eric: Then take the draws against Spinks and Norton and turn them into wins.
Scott: You know, not a bad record.
Eric: No, no, hell no.
Scott: Everyone always laughed and said youre the great white hope. I said "No, I was white and I was hoping."
Eric: I don't think you had the establishment behind you the way Jerry Quarry and Duane Bobick did.
Scott: And Gerry Cooney.
Eric: Cooney too.
Scott: Huge establishment behind him. Big money behind him.
Eric: The really wanted him to be champion.
Scott: I'd have won against Cooney. I would liked to have fought him.
Eric: He was careful; he did everything he could to avoid people who could fight.
Scott: He was a smart boy. It wasn't him as much as his handlers. Those guys from New York, they really took care of him and protected him.
Eric: They almost blew it against Jimmy Young because Young showed up in shape for the first time in several years. Didn't he get elbowed or something and then they stopped the fight on cuts?. Until that point, it looked like Young was going to give Cooney some real trouble.
Scott: Jimmy Young could give anybody trouble. . . everybody trouble. Jimmy Young was so gifted defensively. He was a terrible guy to fight. He just would be a terrible guy to fight I think.
Eric: Now were coming up towards the end of the line. Gerrie Coetzee.
Scott: Down in Africa, yeah. A tough fight and and interesting event. The guy that refereed, what the hell is his name? The day before the fight . . . you can print this . . . the day before the fight, we meet with him and he is the Commissioner there! He's telling me all the rules, right? We are in Africa, and I'm going "cool, that's fine". When he gets all done he looks at me and he says "Gerrie Coetzee is a great fighter, be heavy weight champion some day." I said "screw you, I didn't come here to lose" and I got up and walked out. You know, Commissioners don't do that. You dont sit and tell another fighter how great your fighter is. Sure you feel it, your pulling for your hometown guy, but you dont say that to them! You are a neutral body. So I got up and walked out.
The next day, it's an outdoor fight and I get in the ring first and there's a big crowd and I'm loosening up and I see Coetzee coming through the crowd and out of the corner of my eye I see the referee get in the ring. I turn to acknowledge him and guess who the referee is?
Eric: The Commissioner.
Scott: Same guy. Same. . . we don't have a shot. In the 2nd or third round, I get cut with a right hand, but I'm not worried because Papa Joe is good with the cut stuff in the corner, so I go to the corner after the round and Joe is just standing there staring at me. I said "what's wrong?", He said "when you got cut they came and took my bag and said it was illegal". He had nothing. All he could do was put vaseline on it for each round. That's all he could do. It was just bullshit. In the 8th round, he cut me again and I took a knee and I looked over at Papa Joe and he's saying stay down, 'cause now I can't see out of my eye. At the count of 8, I stood up and the referee came over and said "are you okay?", I said "screw you". He stopped the fight. Joe said "why did you get up?", I said "no one's ever thrown a ten over me before, and it wasn't going to be him."
What a jerk. That's just so horseshit to do that. Your fighting up hill the whole way. I really think that that fight probably took the wind out of me right there. It really did. I think that was the real beginning of the end for me. I was so disillusioned by boxing and by what had happened over there and the way I was treated. It really took it out of me. All the other stuff I had been able to fight up against and keep it going, but that just took the wind out of my sails I think, when I look back over my career.
Eric: You didnt fight many more times. Then you had the fight with Frank Bruno.
Scott: Yeah, the Bruno fight. That was the real tallying point for me that I knew I was done. Even my wife knew it. In fact, she knew I was done before I did. When the fight was over Bruno knocked me down and split my eye really badly (it is one of the only real bad scars I have from boxing) -- I went in the dressing room and my wife said "you okay?" and I said "yeah, I'm okay". She said "it's over isn't it?" I said "yep". I said "how did you know?", and she said "you're not crying". She said "I've been with you for 20 years and I have never seen you win or lose without crying". I'm very emotional and whether I won or lost I would be very emotional and tears would come. And, there were no tears. And she also said, "you never clean out your locker". She said "you cleaned out your locker before you left, you brought stuff home to get washed up. You never do that".
Eric: Well, you sure came along during an era of tough heavyweights.
Scott: I look back at my career and people say I didn't have a great career. I say "you know what?, I had a great career and a great time. I fought at a time when boxing had a great thing going and it was all kinds of fun. It was a wonderful career.
[Next month: Scott talks about his personal life and what he's doing now and offers his thoughts on the state of boxing today.]
A Night At The Garden With Oscar and Arturo
By Lucius Shepard
The night of February 26th, exploring the cement depths of Madison Square Garden, I walk past the baskets used during Knick games, past hockey side panels trimmed in Ranger colors, past traction boards and a Zamboni and a couple of EMS vehicles, one of which will convey Joey Gamache to the hospital later that evening. Security men stand around, talking and smoking; now and then a trickle of journalists pour off the elevator that carried them up from the credentials table and make their way into the arena toward the ringside press section. There is no electricity in the air such as often attends a big fight--Oscar de la Hoya is going to be in action, but he's facing an opponent whose chances of winning are only slightly less than his chances of hitting the lottery, and
though Michael Katz of the Daily News has picked Gamache to beat Arturo Gatti in the co-feature, most of us know that these matches are designed to make the favorites look good. Even the crowd, mainly Yuppies for Oscar with their cell phones and gelled hair, and Gatti supporters from Jersey and Long Island --florid, well-fed, leather-jacketed men and their big-haired dates in fur and stretch pants--seems underwhelmed, and I have a sense that people are talking about personal and business matters and not about the dramatic potentials of the evening...almost certainly not about the drab undercard taking place before a more than half-empty house.
Searching for my seat, I ask an usher in a red jacket for directions. A large, squarish, fifty-something man with yard-wide shoulders and Tony Bennett hair and the sort of seamed, forbidding face I associate with cinematic portrayals of 1950s union enforcers, he glances at my credential and tells me in a disaffected tone that it is not even good for a seat in the auxilliary press section: I will have to stand in the back of the arena. I know this to be untrue, but I realize he's the sort of guy who has for decades been a fixture of New York life, the guy you might see in the corner of a photograph of mobsters hanging on a streetcorner, or in the background of a shot taken at a police benefit, or the fourth guy from the left in a group portrait of mayoral aides--he represents the
essence of minor officialdom, a man whose purpose is not to assist but to deny, to clear away inessential clutter from his purview, and I'm forced to appreciate the judgment of such an archetype.
In the ring undefeated heavyweight Lamon Brewster is engaged in turning his Garden debut into a public relations disaster, and in process transforming himself from a prospect into just another muscular bore. His opponent, a fat punchless cruiserweight whose ringwalk was done to the theme music from the movie Conan the Barbarian, has spent the first five rounds in full-on panicked retreat, with Brewster plodding after him, throwing one punch at a time, displaying neither imagination nor talent, ignoring plaintive cries from his cornermen to pick up the pace. One of my colleagues, a Brewster enthusiast, suggests that Lamon is just getting some rounds in and that he will come on in the middle rounds with a finishing burst; when this fails to occur, he declares that this is not the quintessential Lamon, and suggests that the fighter's cross-training under Willie Gault is responsible for his sluggishness. But judging by what I'm seeing, a swifter, more flexible Brewster--although marginally more entertaining, perhaps--would still be a notch or two below the Shannon Briggses and the Hasim Rahmans, and rather than watch this mess drag out toward its inevitable conclusion, I turn my attention to the crowd.
Toward the end of the sixth round, a tuxedoed Larry Merchant comes bounding up the stairs toward the press room, moving like a considerably younger man, proving that his physical being has not suffered the same sort of deterioration as has his ability to analyze a fight. A few minutes later George Foreman ascends those same stairs, laboring mightily, like a man walking underwater, head lowered, rolling his shoulders with the effort. There's still some talk of another Foreman fight, but after seeing him negotiate the stairs, I wouldn't want to put him in against anyone with better reflexes than the cross-trained Mr. Brewster.
I spot Budd Schulberg looking for his seat, being warmly greeted by Thomas Hauser and Wally Matthews and Mark Jacobson and Max Kellerman and others of the boxing media. He's a diminutive, white-haired, leprecaunish man in his mid-eighties. Two of his children are with him, one a 16-year-old: proof positive that Mr. Schulberg can carry his punch late into a fight. There are a number of celebrities at ringside--James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, Michael J. Fox, and so forth--but Mr. Schulberg outshines them all in my estimation, because of his long and illustrious affiliation with the sport. I think about the fighters he watched in the old Garden, Robinson, Louis, LaMotta, Pep, Marciano, Monzon, Williams, Gavilan, Beau Jack, and I wonder if those worthy gentlemen from a grittier, less cheaply luminous era whose 15-round-dramas were enacted in grainy black and white (archivally speaking, at least) would be comfortable in this new building, battling beneath a gigantic gaudy cube of a scoreboard that seems as if it might have been part of an arcade game in some previous existence. The fighters at ringside, splendid in their $2000 suits, seem a different breed...though this is doubtless a romantic and ill-considered judgment on my part. Put a Shane Mosely or a Zab Judah back into the Forties and, while they would have surely lost some fights, with their talent and temperament, they would fit right in. And of course the new Garden is accumulating its own history and traditions--not far away is the corner in which Andrew Golota was assaulted with a cell phone following his first disqualification against Riddick Bowe, an act that helped instigate a riot of semi-legendary proportions and, subsequently, dozens of amusing anecdotes. I recall Jack Newfield, columnist for the New York Post and Don King's longtime nemesis, telling me that he was sitting with Tim Witherspoon when the riot started and people began streaming toward the ring, and Tim told him, "Jack, the brothers is comin' for your wallet, but I got your back."
The pink-clad, quasi-pulchritudinous Mia St. John enters the ring to desultory applause, and I consider going to the press room for a sandwich. My desire to be elsewhere is intensified by the fact that the guy sitting next to me, the Brewster apologist, calls St John by her first name and, as the fight begins, actually appears to be rooting for her--an activity I liken to rooting for tooth decay. St. John is catching a lot of right hands, which leads her number one fan to opine that she best cash in on her good looks now, because another year of taking punches and she'll be too hagged out to attract the attention of Playboy and such. Frankly, I think St. John's opponent, a dreadlocked blond, is the better looking of the pair; she's certainly a better schooled fighter and seems to be winning the lion's share of the exchanges with cleaner punching, but--Surprise! Surprise!--Mia gets the majority decision.
The house is only about 60 percent full by the time the anthem is sung, and Gatti and Gamache make their entrances--New York City is evidently not that interested in watching the self-proclaimed "new Oscar" fight yet another designated victim. Gatti passes close to me, and I'm taken aback by his freakish appearance. From the neck down his body is that of a young man, but his face, though smooth, looks ancient and leathery, almost monstrous, as if the years of attrition have scoured away his youth to reveal an alien presence beneath. By contrast, Gamache looks boyish...and tiny. The big hairs and leather jackets, drivers--I suspect--of Town Cars and Oldsmobiles with fake rubies on the mudflaps that spell out Kiss Me I'm Italian, jump to their feet and cheer. Less than two rounds later they're cheering even louder as Gamache lies unconscious on the canvas, the victim of a savage knockout that has since led the District Attorney to seize all records and video pertaining to the weigh-in, and has inspired a civil suit by Gamache against the various parties involved. According to informed sources, tape of the weigh-in plainly shows that while Gatti is standing on the scale, the bar is not even close to horizontal, and so it would seem that Joey Gamache may wind up wealthy from his boxing days...but at what cost, no one yet can say.
There don't seem to be many de la Hoya fans in the press section. Even those who cling to the notion that he's a great fighter have grown weary of his unvarying "I've-never-been-in-better-shape" pre-fight speech and the subsequent post-fight excuses, not to mention the whole "new Oscar" thing. For my part, I recently watched a number of old welter fights and have become convinced that Emille Griffith and Benny "Kid" Paret would have more than held their own against Oscar, and a Jose Napoles would have gone through him like Einstein through kindergarden. His opponent this night, Derrell Coley is--in a word--pitiful. I notice that he throws some of his body punches with a peculiar sidearm wristing motion, as if he were trying to skip flat stones across a river. Despite his lack of serious opposition, the new Oscar is much like the old; he comes forward, true, but he fights in spurts, and there are long sections of each round during which he walks after Coley but applies no real pressure. I find it's more interesting to watch Shane Mosely, dapper in a double-breasted cream-colored pinstripe suit, watching de la Hoya. For the first few rounds he's attentive, but then, as if he's seen all he needs to see, he begins laughing and talking with his companions, refocusing on the fight only after Coley catches de la Hoya flush in the fourth and buckles him. Once it becomes apparent that de la Hoya will survive this momentary crisis, Mosely returns to his socializing.
In the paid ringside seats nearby, a champagne vendor begins arguing with some inebriated customers. Being a rube from Washington state, where beer is generally the sole alcoholc beverage option for the live fight crowd, I'm fascinated by the concept of champagne vendors. What makes this particular evening champagne worthy? The presence of the Golden Boy? Or am I merely being provincial--is this a Garden staple? Do even the Heavyweight Explosions promoted by Mr. Cedric Kushner (sitting this night hard by Bob Arum, looking particularly sea-lionish in his tent-sized suit), disastrous bombs-away shows featuring old plodding thunder lizards and blubbery journeymen and unproven, wildswinging muscle freaks--do these splatterfests as well appeal to the champagne-swilling crowd? The vendor, a Puerto Rican man of middle years, apparently thinks he's been stiffed by two expensively attired yet physically unprepossessing white men in their late twenties, early thirties--both on the Butterbeanish side of chubby; they are accompanied by two overstuffed and heavily painted Latinas whose micro-mini outfits squeeze them centrally rather like napkinholders and look to have been selected from the Pork Me pages of the Bimbos 'R Us catalogue. The ladies do not participate in the conversation; in fact, they appear disinterested in the entire proceeding, and I have the idea that they are not close to their escorts, or--more precisely--that their closeness is dependent upon certain financial arrangements.
So enthralled am I by this potentially violent confrontation, I miss the punch that ends the more predictable and arguably less significant confrontation in the ring, and have to wait for the replay on the scoreboard to see Coley display the better part of valor and take the ten count. It appears I was wrong about the absence of de la Hoya fans among the press--the guy next to me is on his feet, pointing at De La Hoya in "You da man!" fashion as the mighty Oscar stalks about the ring, arms upraised in victory. My colleague hurriedly packs up his laptop; he wants to get a good seat at the press conference, an event that holds scant interest for me. I can pretty much write from memory whatever de la Hoya will say and thus it will be necessary to endure neither his bland gaze and practiced smile nor the unctious affirmations of Bob Arum. After being shoved aside by security to create a means of egress for Messers Arum and Kushner et al, I push my way toward Budd Schulberg's seat--we're supposed to have a drink at a bar across the street. But Mr. Schulberg, it turns out, is feeling a little tired, and so after shaking his hand, I wander back out into the cement corridors of the Garden, passing among groups of fight fans who exhibit no more excitement now than they did prior to the event.
Eventually I wander out onto Eighth Avenue and into the freezing neon midnight of Penn Station and environs, into the horn-blasting, horse-and-carriage paced traffic and gasoline fouled air of the city so nice they named it twice, the world still roaring along--a group of white boys sagging and bagging in their oversized jerseys and chinos, standing beside a lamp post and trading "Fuck yous"; a stylish, fast-stepping blond yelling into her cell phone; streams of Yellow Cabs stopping for anxious befurred businesswomen and student backpackers and families with stunned-looking babies and fold-up prams fresh off the Amtrak from Chicago, all unmindful of what went on inside the arena, and I'm thinking of the hundreds of previous nights when the names Robinson, Duran, Leonard, Ali, Hagler, Hearns, Frazier flashed from the Garden marquee, and thousands upon thousands of fight fans straggled out onto this same stretch of pavement after seeing an incredible drama of blood and bone enacted by the vivid personalities emblematized by those names, a bit disoriented to discover that the world had not been changed by the fury they had witnessed...and here I am, not even a tad disoriented, because for the last twenty minutes or so I've been trying to figure out where I want to eat, Chinatown maybe, and I can imagine no reason whatsoever why anything should have been changed in the slightest degree by the uninspired mismatches that have just taken place. But then a young black guy in a hooded down jacket falls into step alongside me, aggressively demanding a handout. When I shake him off he points at my chest and says, "How was it, man?"
I don't know what he's talking about, and he says, "The fight, man! How was the fight?" I have, I realize, neglected to remove the press credential with De La Hoya's picture on it from about my neck.
"Wasn't you at the fight, man?" the black guy asks. "How was it?"
And partly because it's the easy answer, the one most likely to get rid of him, but also because no fight night at the Garden, however ordinary and disappointing, is without its virtues and rude benedictions, being the intersection of innumerable intriguing stories both separate from and tangential to the event, the jeweled lens into which the brightly colored shadows of the pugilistic gods pour their energies, the central loop in the convulsed knot of boxing politics, the still point of its turning world, the nexus of its multi-million dollar contractual agreements and grotesque ethical infractions and petty disputes, its tragedies and glories, in all of which I have been steeped for the past several hours, I tell him, truthfully, "It was great!"
'Lennox Lewis, A Question Of Nobility Over Notoriety'
By Derek A. Bardowell
"Look in my eyes, what do you see. The cult of personality ."
- Living Colour
By exemplifying the characteristics that one would deem noble in a human being, Lennox Lewis has, perhaps, done more than any previous undisputed heavyweight champion, to demystify the legacy of the most coveted title in world sport.
This is not to say that gentlemanly characteristics are things completely foreign to heavyweight champions of the past and an attribute alien to greatness in the ring. Joe Louis, Gene Tunney, Floyd Patterson are just three of the heavyweights from years past who embodied the finest qualities and are noted as much for their achievements with gloves as they are for their reputations without them. Yet none of these fighters, perhaps with the exception of Floyd Patterson at times, carried such burdensome fighting characteristics to work with them; which is why all three have attained hall
of fame status.
It was legendary Pulitzer Prize winning writer Norman Mailer who wrote in '10,000 Words a Minute' that a heavyweight championship fight ". is to some degree the way a Hollywood premiere once ought to have been."Beyond the glitz, the glamour, the jewellery and the incessant facial creases so cruelly mistaken by the cameras as genuine smiles, there is, of course, the main event. The drama. One that, if it unfolds into an epic like 'Gone With The Wind', 'Citizen Kane' or 'Casablanca', quickly evolves into a classic. Unfortunately those are quite rare nowadays, particularly in boxing where the number of titles and weight divisions as well as the inflated purses rarely produces 'epics' that exhibit the do or die attitude of which such classics are made. If Lewis-Holyfield I and II were movies, they were excruciating examples of what the super fight has become - a formulaic, panned out drama, where lack of commitment replaces conviction. A drama not worthy of a crown that has come to represent the most important post in boxing. There was not even any moments to recount that approached the frightening suspense of the shower scene in Psycho I or the chilling severity of the final scene in 'Seven'.
The Lewis-Holyfield fight should have been a confrontation similar to the pairing of then young actor Andy Garcia and legend Al Pacino in the final part of the Godfather trilogy. Of course what evolved in the movie was nowhere as riveting, well acted or produced as the previous two; yet was enthralling and satisfying enough to establish Garcia's standing as a quality actor. Lewis' victory over Holyfield, however great and historic for Britain achieved something that one would have thought appeared near impossible under the circumstances. A huge question marks. In such a
beautifully violent art as boxing, it is rare that a victory - and one that has not come via controversial means - has left the victor with such question marks. There must have been more than a few that wished Lennox Lewis could do what his opponent Evander Holyfield was, perhaps, as good as any at doing, metamorphosing from devout Christian and a man, once described as needing 'a personality transplant' outside the ring into 'The Real Deal' or 'The Holy Warrior' in it.
How apt it is that Lennox Lewis does not have a nickname with which to identify him by.
In the March 2000 issue of Bert Sugar's 'Fight Game', Budd Schulberg - the author of 'The Harder They Fall' and the Academy Award winning screenwriter of the film 'On The Waterfront' wrote: ". nothing reflects character more nakedly than boxing ." In this excellent piece, Schulberg speaks of how he once regarded the heavyweight champion of the world ". with a reverence just this side of religious fervour." And how "The heavyweight champion was no mortal man but stood with Lancelot and Galahad ."
Like so many fans of boxing, I was introduced to the sport by my father. My father's tales of him growing up listening to Marciano fights on the radio in the streets of Galina, Jamaica was the most pleasant chime to my ears for me as a kid. Those stories were incredible because Marciano was such a hero, yet my dad, up until the 1980s, had never seen him fight on film or television. But he was heavyweight champion. And he was unbeaten and seemingly invincible. The stuff every kid's hero should be made of. The funny thing was, when my father finally bought a video recorder, some 26 years after Marciano relinquished the heavyweight title, the first cassette my father rented from the local video store was a Marciano bio-pic. Some things just don't leave you. The stories of Marciano were also fascinating because it was almost inconceivable for me growing up to have a hero that was human. Superman, yes. Shazam, Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk. Fictitious cartoon characters whose role it was to be heroes. But someone real?
Another of my dad's favourites, like so many, was Muhammad Ali. Unfortunately, I kinda missed the Ali era, only catching the horrific tail end of the most magnificent career in boxing. I grew up at a time when Larry Holmes presided majestically over the heavyweight division, but there was no way the 'Easton Assassin' could ascend to higher mythical, physical or political heights than Muhammad Ali, despite being one of the 10 greatest heavyweights of all time. By the time Ali and Holmes faced off in one of the most one sided fights in the history of the sport, I was seven; and Ali was the only sportsman that I was aware of - I'd never seen what Marciano looked like, but figured he had a similar mug to Sylvester Stallone.
My most vivid memory of Ali was when he fought Leon Spinks twice in 1978. Spinks was ugly to a kid; no front teeth and the scowl of a demoted worker. He was ugly to my mom too, and in my household, upon defeating Ali in the first fight, Spinks had been cast as the villain, which made Ali the hero.I had no conception of the magnitude of Muhammad Ali at the time. I didn't know what the Vietnam War was, or what it meant; I was blissfully naïve to the experience of sharing a ring with George Foreman or Sonny Liston and the Nation of Islam was something that I thought back then, was something only of interest to the Asian kids in my class. Such things paled in comparison
to who shot JR.
It was a Friday night, and as ever, my older sisters were in their rooms playing Blondie, The Beat and The Specials while I was lying on the floor crashing matchbox cars as if they were in a demolition derby. As ever, my mom and pops would come home from work, have some tea, or coffee before setting out to do the weekly groceries at Sainsbury's. But, it was fight night, and ITV were about to screen the Ali-Holmes fight at around 7pm or 8pm. In such emergencies like this, shopping could be put off until Saturday afternoon, if need be. My pops would suck up whatever verbal punishment my mom would dish out for the pleasure of watching a good prize fight. Well, an
Ali or Ray Leonard fight. On this night, however, my father, as if it were any other Friday, put on his jacket and made his way out the house with my mom to go shopping. I was in disbelief. Surely my pops knew the fight was on? What's happening? I mean, my mum and dad did not have an argument or nothing. The night was turning out to be a painfully plain Friday night, yet it was Ali night. My parents are my heroes, but at some point, and it can be one of the biggest head fucks for those kids with a close relationship with their folks, you realise they are not invincible. And that realisation was drawing closer to me at an almost petrifying rate. My dad's memory must have been going.
That wasn't it though. My dad was fine. My dad just was not interested. This was before the days of the internet and satellite television, and when teletext was not so popular. World information came from the television or the radio, more specifically the news; something to be completely avoided
for a pre-teen like maths homework. My dad, probably knew the result. I didn't. In fact, I'm sure I thought the fight was live, making my dad's hasty retreat to shopping - to shopping for God's sake - all the more startling. I pleaded with him, 'dad, where are you going, the Ali fight is coming on'. Holmes of course, like many of Ali's opponents was not even a co-star, but a mere extra in the proceedings. Such was his magnitude. Here was a thing that a 40-year-old man and a seven-year-old boy could clearly enjoy together in a house full of women. It was an essential part of our bonding process, more riveting than reading a book, better than watching cartoons or banging my Tonka truck on stool legs. My dad was mid way through putting on his coat, but without flinching or turning his head in my direction in response to my question, proceeded to cover the top half of his
body with it. He turned, and I never forget the look on his face. It was angry, aggravated even, and hurt. Must have been the first time I'd seen my father display an emotion of vulnerability, and as he replied, 'I don't want to see that fight', something sunk inside of me. I watched the fight, although it wasn't the same, and I understood too. Although I didn't quite understand.Maybe I'm romanticising the story somewhat, but that's part of the magnetic charm that is boxing. Something that is not scripted, is exciting and real too. The heavyweight champions of the past were larger than life characters, they had the cult of personality; something reserved usually for great politicians, humanitarians, dictators or artists whether it's JFK, Malcolm X, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe or Hitler. The heavyweight champion, almost by default, has to live up to this mythical title. The have to.
The lighter divisions, of course provide an sublime demonstration of skill, speed and movement, although the lack of power - generally that is - usually fails to captivate non fundamentalists. There's also that unwritten rule that if one of those lighter guys were in a barroom brawl with you, they'd crumble quicker than concrete amidst a volcanic eruption. The peripheral fan wants more. Wants someone that they can be in awe of. A hero. A brief respite from life. Someone that, for 45, or now 36 minutes, they look up to. The middleweights don't quite fulfil it either. Comparatively, they are the
complete demonstration of boxing excellence. They are the easiest to relate because, in person, a Nigel Benn or a Bernard Hopkins are no bigger than the average man, although, of course, physically much stronger. In our dreams, it is quite conceivable to be them. When Michael Nunn was in the ring, he was of a similar height to me, a similar build, and with a similar hairstyle to me, so to watch him was, in my dreams, to watch myself had I been a boxer and not a writer. But Ali? Tyson? Marciano? Dempsey? No, I couldn't be any of those guys, not even in my dreams. Those guys were big, tough and at one point, mythically, the best fighter on the planet. Imagine having that moniker, 'best fighter on the planet'. One more time, 'best fighter on the planet'. It was big enough props being the best fighter in my school, but in the planet? Man, he could whup anybody. Who cares if Duran was the meanest sonofabitch in the ring, or Robinson the greatest pound for pound, if they
got in the ring with Ali, goodnight baby. A simple matter of physical dimensions.
The myth, the cult of personality is something Lennox Lewis has, thus far, failed to fulfill, despite being a colossal 6ft-5in and close to 250 Ibs. Upon entering the ring to fight, Lewis appears almost unconsciously aloof to all that surrounds him, although completely aware of what is going on around
him. He's too alert to what's happening. It's almost as if he has got himself into a mindset that he does not wish to leave at any point during the evening's proceedings. It's completely different from any fighter, of that magnitude, that I've ever seen. Marvin Hagler, for instant, would enter the ring completely focused of being able to 'destruct and destroy' with complete conviction and a business man-like ruthlessness. Roy Jones Jnr. and to a much larger degree 'Prince' Naseem Hamed, use the music and dance to hype them up into an almost showman-like frenzy that gets their adrenaline
pumping to the same level as their intensity to battle. For each one however, there seems to be a multitude of emotions that dawns within their minds. It might not manifest itself in a facial expression, but maybe a look, a nervous glare, a sudden shadow boxing spurt to dust of their nerves like the sweat on their bodies. Sugar Ray Leonard used to speak of that time before the fight as a time he'd feel the fear, but would also try to picture the scenario of what was about to evolve in the ring.
But for the cerebral Lewis, nothing changes. He rarely blinks upon entering the ring, and when he does, it's as if someone has pressed a pause button on his face before they open again. His dolefully glazed expression, belies the alertness in his mind and underlines the fact that, unlike the true greats, he cannot think instinctively. He cannot dwell within the two realms of cutting loose and expressing himself creatively in the ring while under some semblance of mental, fighting control. Lewis wants to be aware of everything around him, and be prepared for anything that may happen or any surprises, like someone who is afraid, but not completely scared of flying. Lewis is almost like a third person looking upon himself and instructing him of what is about to happen. He fears the fear. Something that if he can just conquer will spur him to greatness, or possible defeat. The risk for greatness. But he doesn't want to let go. He can't concede to his fears, and hence cannot conquer it.
It's rare, particularly in a heavyweight fight, which inevitably always starts slow unless Tyson's involved, that you'll get an opening stanza like Jaws; something, that could throw Lewis out of his peaceful, placid, third person mind-set like what Shannon Briggs did back in 1998. Allow Lewis to
settle, and he is unlikely, even with his abundance of talent, to try and up the ante. However, at some point in the fight, he'll get comfortable and his mind becomes complacent. It's not as bad as he thinks. He starts dropping his hands playfully, as if he's mocking the danger of the situation. He gets
confident and starts expressing himself. He starts to admire his work and poses subliminally after every punch. He finally becomes comfortable when, BANG. Turbulence. Before he tries his best to settle back into his third person.
Lewis is indeed a finer purveyor of the power of suggestion than a close friend that fancies you. He fights by suggestion. He throws a suggestive jab, progresses forward suggestively and now throws his big right hand with suggestion. Of course much of this may be down to the devastating defeat he
suffered at the hands of Oliver McCall, one that may have ended the career of a lesser man. Few fighters, have recovered from such an ego shattering defeat and, not only recaptured former glories, but in the eyes of many come back to become an even more significant force. Unlike many in a similar situation, the 'fight' was not drawn out of him in the McCall fight. But something was. The ability to think instinctively. He still does it in flashes, and when he does, one would not be foolish to be convinced that Lewis has the ability to be one of the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. Indeed, at his peak, Lewis' forceful jab may have allowed him to fend off the controlled ferocity of a 1988 version of Mike Tyson. His overhand right, somewhat telegraphed and amateurish in his early days, but since been tightened up by the excellent training of Emanuel Steward, would have been
enough to at least test the chins of an Ali or a Marciano. He has a full array of punches, including a vicious uppercut and a sneaky left cross, each when thrown with authority can knockout the best of opponents. When in tune, Lewis is a wondrous hybrid of speed, power and fistic grace. Then, of
course, there's the mobility, quite remarkable for one so big and an excellent defensive mechanism if pushed back by a more aggressive opponent. Although Lewis' retreats are often voluntary.
In many ways, Lewis' position highlights the barbarism of boxing in the sense that he is everything Mike Tyson can't be as a person, but nothing Tyson can be as a fighter. And as begrudging a point as it may seem to some, it is Tyson's understanding of boxing's basic barbarism, beyond the immense skill, that makes him such a massive draw. When he was over in London recently, he said in a television interview:"I'm a totally different entity to what most people think. I'm Tyson here - Mike and daddy to my children and my wife. Tyson is nothing. Tyson is a freak. The fans don't know why they cheer me. I'm the guy who makes the freak show happen. People come to watch me kill somebody, beat somebody up and knock somebody out."
To some, Tyson is buying into the stereotype of a boxer, and socially, and perhaps with greater
ramifications, the stereotype on a mean Black man. In fact, one boxing publication upon the possible arrival of Tyson to these shores carried the cover story headline of 'Lock Up Your
Daughters'. In truth, Tyson is merely highlighting the hypocrisy of boxing, and in particular the media. Despite Tyson playing the complete gentleman upon visiting England, itwas not a role the media, or perhaps anyone else, wanted him to portray. Hence the media picked up on any negative aspect they could upon their depiction of Tyson. What Tyson does out of the ring is completely irrelevant, unless it's bad. Whatever Lennox Lewis does in the ring is completely irrelevant, unless it's bad.
Their respective crimes are how they appear in the ring mirrors what they are out of it. As such, Lennox could not walk into Tyson's back yard and attain as much publicity.
The immense dissection of Tyson is one of the reasons why he remains so popular to those in the Black community in Britain. If it was not Tyson incurring the wrath of anti-rape groups, or the contention of letting a convicted rapist enter the country - even when far worse offenders have - or him not being allowed to train at night in Hyde Park to counsellors trying to stop him from touring Brixton, the Black capital of Britain, everything that surrounded the coverage of Tyson was negative.
As the Sunday Times' journalist Nick Pitt reflected: "The Daily Express produced a classic: 'Repellent spectacle, foul man, despicable entourage, sick insult, revolting quagmire of shame,' with the names of Tyson, Warren and Straw interspersed among the hyperbole. (Despite their sensibilities, the Express covered the fight and took paid advertisements for Sky's TV
When people speak of Black people and their relationship to boxing, the foundation is usually that this sport is some kind of escape route from the ghetto. And that such a tough upbringing and the desperation to succeed inspires the necessary mental and physical attributes required to emerge
victorious in the ring. The above which, if you study the upbringing of some the great Black fighters in history, is quite true. Lost however, in the corporate marketing of the sport - meaning that if Tyson were to fight in New York or in a place where 75 per cent of the tickets hadn't been purchased by the casinos, promoters etc and behind the most powerful, although heavily scrutinised man in the sport, Don King - lie the appeal boxing has for Black people. And this was none so apparent than when Mike Tyson visited these shores recently for his show against the hapless Julius
Indeed, it would be true to say that behind Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson is the most revered Black sportsman among Black Britons. More than Jordan, Pele and whoever else you care to mention. The ghetto has an endearing do or die quality that, for those who have never lived in it, cannot full understand. There's an unconditional love for the heroes that emerge from the ghetto, without changing who they are or what they are fundamentally about. There's almost a justification for any action they because the shitstem [as reggae legend, the late Peter Tosh used to say] is against you and we are products of our environment. The only way we know to get out is to fight our way out,
which is not entirely true, but aestethically, it is a lot more awe inspiring, particularly for our heroes. The spirit, the pride is one that Mike Tyson carries with him. He is the anti-hero, and as such someone we would like to be. Someone who is fearless, does not bow to convention and is not scared to stick two fingers up at the shitstem. It's a part within us that rages at things we think is not fair, but suppress in such situations to conformity. We applaud that raw emotion because, in a sense, Tyson is a lot more liberated than we'll ever be. And despite the consequences of his actions, he has not bowed to no one. Maybe the next time Tyson does a press conference, he should playback a recording of Tony Montana's restaurant speech from the ultimate anti-hero gangster movie, Scarface "Wha' you lookin' at? You all a fucking bunch of assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be wha' you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fucking fingers, 'that's the bad guy'. So, what that make you? Good? You're not good, you just know how to hide, and lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth . So say goodnight to the bad guy."
For Black people, particularly those from the ghetto, Tyson is the personification of their struggles. Being the victims of the shitstem for so long, those that fearlessly strike out against it, on whatever level, are often commended. Tyson won the hearts of black people world-wide because he was one of the few to cross the colour line without selling out. Without losing that spirit. And as such, it is something few Black people cannot forget, regardless of his actions. We all need heroes, but to see Tyson in positions that only Ali had been in previous, and like Ali, still representing is not just important but damn near God like.
The colour codes in England are not as apparent as in the States because we do not have as established a community; hence the nationalistic pride is not nearly as significant. And our roots of appreciation is not as strong as it is in Africa or the Caribbean for our own countrymen to the point where any Black person who embraces the Union Jack makes people in the black community feel uneasy. Britain has such a varied racial mix, that Blacks in the UK are on the frontline of the Diaspora because we embrace the lineage of so many struggles within our community. Black Britain embraces all, whether American, Caribbean, African or whatever. Hence there were probably more Blacks Britons supporting Jamaica and Nigeria at the last World Cup than there were supporting England. More Blacks probably support the West Indies in cricket than they do England. And if they do support England, it's more because there maybe a Black player or two in the side. It could also be true to say that if Tyson were to fight Lewis in front of a predominantly Black audience in the UK, more people might shout for 'Iron' Mike than LL. In many respects, that is quite a sad statement, but true nonetheless. It's something Lewis would understand having been thrusted, perhaps unjustly, into the role of anti-hero upon his announcement that he wanted to
represent England as a pro fighter. At the time, Frank Bruno was England's media darling. A nice guy out of the ring and an overachiever in it, Bruno was, however, everything that Black people rejected. He did not come across as articulate, and at the time he first became a known fighter in the mid-eighties, the presence of articulate Black people in the media was rare; he grinned at any opportune moment, like those butlers in those old 1920s movies; he had a white wife, which for many was an all too common thing for young rich Black men in the UK; appeared more comfortable with whites than he did Blacks and was embraced, almost unconditionally by the media like no
other Black in Britain had even been before. In return, Lewis had endure taunts against his right to fight for England and was a man that culturally identified with black people making him the complete antithesis of Bruno. Oh yeah, and he could fight too. As is always the case, with success came support. And in much the same way as 'Prince' Naseem and Chris Eubank, upon proving his worth as a world class fighter, the sceptics soon turned to followers.
Lewis has been in some stink fights; Oliver McCall's 'in ring' breakdown in their second confrontation and 'Huggin'' Henry Akinwande's impression of ballroom dancing both spring immediately to mind. But when pushed, Lewis responds, as he did against Briggs and Ray Mercer. Couple this with his devastating knockouts of Andrew Golota and Razor Ruddock, and Lewis' resume is quite impressive. He is a thinking man's fighter, that does not mean that he has the ring smarts of a Sugar Ray Leonard; it means he just thinks too much. However, it could be the case that Lewis is just too talented, and in years past, few have been able to penetrate that part of his repertoire. Nevertheless, Lewis - who I believe is past is peak - will not have skills as his greatest ally in the forthcoming years. Indeed, when his skills erode, it's possible that we'll see the true greatness of Lennox as he can no longer rely on his talent to bail him out of situations. It will come
down to guts, courage and desire, and while many may criticise Lewis for the way he fights, he has yet to be fail a gut check in fights where it has required him to do so. By fighting the way he currently does, Lewis' demystification of the heavyweight championship title holder will not redefine anyone's perception of greatness. However, in his quest for greatness, one that includes Michael Grant on 29 April, and perhaps in the future, Tyson, Ike Ibeabuchi, David Tua or the Klitschko twins, Lewis will
have to prove that he signifies more than just the power of suggestion.
The Greatest British Fighter Ever?
In becoming the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the 21st Century, Lennox Lewis has carved a unique niche for himself in boxing history. But just how great is he? At this stage, it's too early to be talking about him in terms of the Hall of Fame, but certainly as a British fighter, he must
rank among the best. Here's a list of the 12 greatest British fighters of all-time.
1) Jimmy Wilde
Record 131 (wins) - 3 (losses) - 2 (draws) (99 KO's)
World Titles World flyweight champion (1916-1923)
World Title Fights 3
2) Ted 'Kid' Lewis
Record 169 - 30 - 12 (70 KO's)
World Titles World welterweight champion (1915-1916), (1917-1919),
World Title Fights 10
3) John Conteh
Record 34 - 4 - 1 (24 KO's)
World Titles WBC light-heavyweight champion (1974-1978)
World Title Fights 7
4) Ken Buchanan
Record 61 - 8 (27 KO's)
World Titles World lightweight champion (1970-1972)
World Title Fights 5
5) Jackie 'Kid' Berg
Record 157 - 26 - 9 (62 KO's)
World Titles World light-welterweight champion (1930-1931)
World Title Fights 3
6) Lennox Lewis
Record 35 - 1 - 1 (27 KO's)
World Titles WBC heavyweight champion (1993-1994), (1997-present), IBF & WBA
heavyweight champion (1999-present)
World Title Fights 11
7) Lloyd Honeyghan
Record 43 - 5 (30 KO's)
World Titles World welterweight champion (1986-1987), WBC welterweight
World Title Fights 9
8) 'Prince' Naseem Hamed
Record 34 - 0 (30 KO's)
World Titles WBO featherweight champion (1995-present), IBF featherweight
champion (1997), WBC featherweight champion (1999)
World Title Fights 15
9) Freddie Welsh
Record 76 - 4 - 6 (32 KO's)
World Titles World lightweight champion (1914-1917)
World Title Fights 4
10) Nigel Benn
Record 42 - 5 - 1 (35 KO's)
World Titles WBO middleweight champion (1990), WBC super-middleweight
World Title Fights 15
11) Barry McGuigan
Record 32 - 3 (28 KO's)
World Titles WBA featherweight champion (1985-1986)
World Title Fights 4
12) Benny Lynch
Record 82 - 13 - 15 (33 KO's)
World Titles World flyweight champion (1935-1938)
World Title Fights 5
Armando Muniz Was "The Man"
By Rick Farris
Armando Muniz was one of several amateur boxers to become household names in Los Angeles during the mid- 60's. Muniz was one of many young amateurs that were a part of promoter Aileen Eaton's "Youth Development Program". This program would feature two televised amateur boxing matches prior to her weekly professional cards at the Olympic Auditorium.
The fans loved this. By taking two amateur boxers and putting them on TV as the opening act for top professionals, you almost always got two very hard fought, competitive matches.
Everybody involved with this program benefitted from it while it lasted. It gave the boxers a chance to build a following before pursuing a professional career and provided them with the experience of fighting before a large
audience. It benefitted the fans who would get a kick out of the often crude, but always exciting young boxers who would fight their hearts out before the television cameras. And, of course, it benefitted Aileen Eaton. Mrs. Eaton would usually have first crack at building the pro careers of the young stars who had already established a following. I can speak for the boxers who participated in this program because I was one of them.
Of all the young amateur boxers who got their start in this program, the career of welterweight Armando Muniz was one of many to find success in the professional ranks. Armando was one of several to go on to challenge for
a world championship. Another was "Irish" Jimmy Robertson who fought Roberto Duran in Duran's first lightweight title defense in 1972. Of course, a couple of others did pretty well also. Danny "Little Red" Lopez
and Bobby Chacon went on to win world championships.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Muniz when I was competeing as a junior amateur. Mando was several years older than I was and establishing himself as one of the nation's best amateurs at the time. When Armando wasn't training he divided his time between college studies and coaching kids at the Stanton A.C. near his home in Artesia. Muniz wasn't typical of the average boxer, as he was working toward a college degree at Cal State University Los Angeles and would eventually end up getting his masters.
However, as important as his boxing career and education was to Muniz, the work he did with the dozens of kids he coached was equally important. This is how I first got familiar with Mando personally. I had already seen him
fight at the Olympic, but as special a boxer as Muniz was, it wasn't a hint of how special a person he was. I would compete in the Jr. Golden Gloves tournament every year in Southern California and often would be
matched against one of Muniz' boxers.
Armando Muniz was a gentleman. He was quick with a smile and sincerely interested in everybody he talked to. His intellect and class were obvious. He was also one rough S.O.B. in the ring, one of the best welterweights to
ever come out of Los Angeles.
After defeating one of Muniz's kids in the 1967 Jr. Golden Gloves quarterfinals, Armando congratulated me after the fight. I was 15-years-old at the time and wished him luck in the upcoming Golden Gloves tournament. Mando thanked me but said that he wouldn't be entering the tournament that year. I was really surprised, not to mention disappointed, because Muniz was one of L.A.'s best hopes for bringing home a national Golden Gloves title. I had to ask Mando "Why"? Mando smiled and said he had just received his draft notice and would be going into the Army soon.
Unlike many 19-year-olds of that era, Muniz wasn't heart broken or brooding over the likelihood of ending up in Vietnam. Those were the cards he was dealt and he would play them the best he could. And play them he did!
Several days after Mando had entered boot camp word got out that Muniz was an amateur boxer. A sargeant who happened to be an ex-army boxing champion happened to investigate Muniz' boxing background and was impressed enough to contact the head coach of the U.S. Army's international boxing team. The coach just happened to be future U.S. Olympic coach Pat Nappi.
On the advice of the sergeant, Nappi made his way up to Fort Ord in Northern California to check out the new recruit and when he left Armando Muniz was the newest member of the nation's top amateur boxing team. Muniz was quickly transferred out of Fort Ord and two days later was sent to Venezuela to represent the Army in an International Team competition. It would be six months before Mando was sent back to Fort Ord to complete his basic training.
In the mean time, he traveled to the U.S.S.R., Germany, Korea and other countries around the world. While most soldiers were eating Army chow, Muniz ate the best food, got plenty of rest and was ordered to do nothing but train. As a boxer, the Army wanted Armando Muniz to "be all that he could be". And he was.
Several months after joining the Army team, Armando won the National A.A.U. Welterweight championship. A few months later he earned himself a birth on the 1968 U.S. Olympic team and would bring home a bronze medal for the U.S.A. at the Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Six months after winning his Oympic medal, I saw Muniz for the first time since our talk when he told me he'd been drafted. We met while we were both competeing in the 1969 National A.A.U. tournament at the San Diego
International Sports Arena. I was the Southern Pacific A.A.U bantamweight champion, representing the southern california team and, of course, Mando represented the Army. I remember I was sitting with my team mates in the dressing room area before the first round of eliminations when suddenly Mando walks up. Everybody on our team knew and loved Muniz, especially one of our team coaches, Jake Horn, who had trained Mando from the time he was a child.
We all congratulated Muniz on his medal and being rated the number one amateur welterweight in the world. I remember our welterweight Tommy Coulson said to me after Muniz left, "Damn I hope I don't have to fight Muniz". Luckily for Coulson he was eliminated in the first round.
I was 17-years-old at the time and made it to the semi-finals in the tournament that year. In the semi-final match I would be facing 23-year-old Caleb Long of the U.S. Army. Long had knocked out his previous three opponents in the tournament and Muniz made it a point to come over and talk with me before the match. "Ricky, be careful with this guy. He's had nearly 200 amateur fights and is a defending national champ as well as the all-Army and inter-service champ. He's KO'ed both the Russian and Cuban during the past few months". I don't remember what I said to Armando, but I'm sure I didn't thank him for inspiring any confidence in my chances. I ended up going the distance with Long but not before taking the worst ass whipping of my amateur boxing career. Caleb Long went on to win the National A.A.U. title for the second straight year, and so did Armando Muniz.
A little over a year later I would turn professional and Armando Muniz would finish his stint in the Army. After nearly three years of solid training and the best of amateur boxing competition, the 22-year-old Muniz would make his professional debut in July of 1970, a month after I had my first fight.
Muniz's first pro bout would take place in the same ring where he made himself a local favorite as an amateur, at the Olympic Auditorium. I would have my second pro fight that same night. After I scored a four round decision over Frankie Granados, Armando Muniz KO'ed a tough journeyman named Mike Seylor in the second round. This would be the first of a half dozen professional boxing cards in which Muniz and I would appear together.
The next one would also be at the Olympic on the undercard of the Mando Ramos-Raul Rojas lightweight fight. Then a couple months later we both scored KO's on the undercard of the Ken Buchanan-Ruben Navarro world
lightweight title card at the L.A. Coliseum. Later that year I would win on the undercard of Muniz's knockout over Clyde Gray at the Long Beach Arena. A few months later I'd appear again on the undercard of his losing effort to Emile Griffith at the Anaheim Convention Center. The last time Muniz and I fought on the same card was on July 10, 1972 at the Forum. Muniz would knockout his opponent (I forget his name) in the second round and I would engage in an eight round draw with Art Hafey in the bloodiest fight of my professional boxing career.
Although I would continue to fight on and off for the next four years, my career never went any further. However, Muniz would go on to challenge for the World Welterweight title four times. He would face champions Jose
"Mantequilla" Napoles twice for the title and Carlos Palomino twice. Although Muniz lost in all four of his title bids, he came very close to upsetting Napoles in their first fight in 1975.
The first Napoles-Muniz fight was held in Acapulco, Mexico in March 1975. Muniz shocked the crowd by battering Napoles for twelve rounds and opening cuts over both of the champions eyes. Muniz was well ahead on all the scorecards when the referee suddenly stopped the bout, giving Napoles corner all the time they wanted to stop the champion's bleeding. When the corner could not stop the bleeding the referee stops the bout and awarded it to the champion on a technicality, claiming that Muniz had opened the cuts with a head butt. It was very typical of what happens in Mexico to keep their countrymen from losing.
Mando would have a second shot at Napoles a few months later in Mexico City, but the brilliant Napoles would win this one easily. In 1977, Muniz would be stopped by Carlos Palomino in the 15th round in his third attempt at the title and finally lose to Palomino a second time by way of a 15 round decision.
The last time I saw Muniz was at the Forum in 1990. We were both attending a featherweight title fight between Azumah Nelson and Mario Martinez and ran into each other outside the "Forum Club". Mando looked great and told me he was teaching high school in El Monte and sold real estate in his spare time.
I had'nt seen Muniz in years and had forgotten that he was shorter than I was. Armando Muniz was only a 5'5" welterweight. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr, used to call him Armando "The Man" Muniz. Only 5'5", Muniz was as big as any man who stepped foot in a boxing ring.
Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno--Former Vice President of the New York Boxing Writers and the
International Boxing Writers
News Item: "Hurricane" Shut Out Of Oscars.
After last year's farce of "Shakespeare in Love" winning the Best Picture Oscar over "Saving Private Ryan," the Academy Awards voters finally got it right. In the awards ceremony that took place in Tinsletown on the night of March 26, Kevin Spacy won the Best Actor Oscar for "American Beauty." And for his portray of Rubin Hurricane Carter in "Hurricane," Denzel Washington
In the words of that old song, "Hooray for Hollywood."
Right of the bat, let me say Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors on this, or any other planet. We both come from the mean streets of New York City, and the man can flat out act with the best of them. Still, I was rooting hard for Washington to lose the Oscar for Best Actor, just as hard as I root for any fighter to beat Mike Tyson, or for any prosecutor to jail Don King.
Washington was nominated for his portrayal of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, former fringe middleweight contender and a man convicted not once, but twice for a brutal double murder that took place in 1966 in New Jersey.
In the film, and I quote the words of old friend Wally Matthews in the New York Post:
a) Rubin Hurricane Carter was an upstanding citizen railroaded by a racist justice system in general and one racist detective in particular;
b) Carter's "vindication'' was obtained through the efforts of some crackpot Canadians, and
c) Carter was the victim of a racist, hometown decision against Joey Giardello and should have left Convention Hall in Philadelphia with the middleweight title.
All three of these statements have about as much veracity as the fraudulent words of Bob Arum, who once said, "Yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth."
Rubin Carter was never an upstanding citizen. He was a miserable skell from the day he was born, and he will remain one until the wonderful day the grave diggers plant this creep six feet into the ground. Carter was released from prison after two murder convictions not because he was deemed innocent, but because some crackpot, liberal, left-of-Lenin judge decided that the district attorney's summation to the jury in the second Carter trail smacked of racism. Carter was then released on a writ of habeus corpus, probably feeling like he had just won the powerball lottery without buying a damn ticket.
Just like in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam," Italian-American's were ripped to shreds in "Hurricane." Director/Producer/Screenwriter Norman Jewison invented a villain; a white, racist Italian-American cop who badgers Carter for years, then and railroads him on a false murder charge. The fact is, this man never existed.
As for the Giardello fight, in the movie, the champion Giardello looks like he was getting the spit kicked out of him by Carter, when in fact in the real fight that took place in 1965, the consensus at ringside had Giardello winning quite easily.
The truth is, Carter was never much of a fighter in the first place.
The first time I attended a professional fight in person was when Joey Archer fought Carter at Madison Square Garden in the early 60's. Archer, a nice boxer who couldn't punch even a little, smacked Carter around the ring for most of 10 rounds, winning on all judges scorecards by a 9-1 tally. Famed sports columnist Dick Young wrote the next day in the New York Daily News, "Sure Archer can dance. But so can Arthur Murray, and Murray punches harder."
Carter's entire reputation was built on a first round TKO over welterweight champion Emile Griffith in a non-title fight. On that night, Carter outweighed Griffith by 10 pounds. A minute into the fight, Carter got lucky with a right hand, knocking Griffith onto the seat of his pants. The next two knockdowns were more the result of a wobbly Griffith tripping over his own feet. The three knockdown rule was in effect, and Carter was declared the winner. Lucky him.
The fact is, in 40 pro fights, Carter lost 12 times, a whopping 30 percent losing percentage. Hardly the stuff bigtime fighters are made of.
In summation, the movie "Hurricane" was one big lie, and Denzel Washington got defeated in the Oscar's voting, just like Rubin "Hurricane" Carter got whipped 12 times in the ring.
Finally people, justice prevails.
The Lighter Side Of Leather Slinging
By Enrique Encinosa
Boxing is a funny business. Beyond the blood and bruises, the sleazy promoters, the flesh peddlers, inept commissions and money-hungry sanctioning bodies, there is a light side to the leather slinging game.
One of my favorite humorous anecdotes has Jimmy Braddock as the central character. Braddock was the "Cinderella Man" who came off welfare to dethrone Max Baer for the heavyweight crown. As a young, hungry fighter his first title opportunity came in 1929, when Jimmy faced master boxer Tommy Loughran for the light-heavyweight championship. Loughran was not a hard puncher but a clever performer who bruised and sliced his opponents with a crisp jab and pinpoint combinations. Somewhere in the middle of the fight Braddock walked back to his corner with a new bruise on his face.
"Jimmy," his corner man said, "You got to stop some of them punches."
"You dont see any of them going by, do you?" the tough Irishman answered.
Baer, who lost his crown to Braddock, was a wisecracking slugger with a deadly right hand. Max once described his assets as having a "million dollar body and a ten cent brain." In his bout with Louis, Max traded bombs with the Brown Bomber, returning to his corner feeling the after effects of several solid hits.
"You are fine," the corner man said, "He aint laid a glove on you."
"Then keep an eye on the referee," Max answered, "because somebody is beating the hell out of me."
Another Max, this one named "Slapsie Maxie" Rosenbloom was a former champ who made a living doing acting jobs as a tough guy or stand up comedy in nightclubs. Slapsie Maxie owned a club in which he charged a ten-cent cover to "keep out the riff-raff."
A quotable character was Fritzie Zivic, the former welterweight king. Fritzie was branded a dirty fighter, which he was, but the Pittsburgh pugilist was so clever that despite his dirty tricks he was never disqualified in a 230 fight career. When asked about his educated elbows and thumbs, Fritzie answered: "Well, we each have our own set of values."
Fritzie was a tough pro who never complained. When a member of the press came looking for an explanation after Zivic was stopped in ten by the very lethal Sugar Ray Robinson, instead of excuses, Fritzie answered: "I didnt do so bad. I came in second."
On another occasion, long after retirement, when a reporter asked his opinion on the newest crop of fighters, Fritzie looked glum.
"These young kids today," Zivic said, "are so inexperienced they think the laces are for tying up the gloves."
Randy Cobb was an iron-chinned Texan with a weird sense of humor. After taking a pounding from Larry Holmes, Cobb was interviewed by Johnny Carson. The comedian asked the heavyweight about his strategy on the championship fight.
"I had a strategy," Cobb answered in his easy going Texas accent, "My plan was to damage Larrys hands with my face."
"Would you consider a rematch?" Carson asked.
"I dont think so," Cobb answered, "I dont think Larrys hands could take that kind of punishment."
The quotable Cobb once described the toughness of Philadelphia fighters by saying that even "in the subway, when you see two homeless guys fighting, they are throwing combinations."
Even the stone-faced Joe Louis could crack a one-liner. Years after retirement the Brown Bomber appeared on a television show with Billy Conn. The Pittsburgh Kid once came within minutes on dethroning Louis, but made the mistake of trading shots with the lethal bomber. Reviving the fight in a happy banter, Billy joked: "You known Joe, you should have let me win the title. I would have given you a rematch."
"Billy," Louis answered with a deadpan look, "you had the title for twelve rounds and you didnt know what to do with it."
A few years back, while working as a boxing scribe, I sat ringside for a fight in a Hialeah fight club featuring Ken Whetstone, an undefeated local hero, against a journeyman middleweight named Frank Medina. The Nicaraguan, in his thirties had faced four world champions in a career that had been creditable but unspectacular. Medinas style was to move forward throwing hooks and overhand rights without finesse. Although he was a veteran of over sixty pro fights in some tough Caribbean locales, the Nicaraguan lacked style, being a fair puncher with slow feet, a brawling style and some tempting scar tissue.
Caron Gonzalez, a revered corner man and trainer was working with Medina. As the first round started Medina plodded forward, connecting with some shots but being outscored by the younger Whetstone. A man sitting ringside shouted: "Jab, Frank, use your jab."
The second round was a continuation of the first; Whetstone popping Medina while the squat man continued moving crab-like, throwing wild shots that often missed. The man sitting behind me continued to shout: "Use the jab, Frank, use the jab."
As the third round started, Gonzalez turned towards the man.
"Do me a favor," Caron said, "dont tell him to jab no more. He doesnt know what that is. You are just confusing Frank."
The man laughed. Medina won by a TKO and Caron winked at me in the joy of victory.
Caron was an old fighter who had worked with several world champions and top contenders. He was quick to come up with a one liner. After a baby-faced lightweight named Juan Arroyo won his second pro fight in Fort Lauderdale, a local fight manager burst into the dressing room, looking to sign up the talented but troubled young fighter.
"I want that kid," the manager said, "I love his heart."
"When he get a heart operation I call you." Caron answered in broken English.
One can not mention corner characters without naming Al Braverman. The burly man, when accused of using a foreign substance, angrily remarked: "Hell, no, it was made right here in the United States."
I conclude with one of my favorite tales. Years ago, a British heavyweight fought for the title, but spent the better part of the event running or clutching, coasting to a loss on points without effort to win the coveted crown. The British boxing writers were enraged at the totally defensive performance. At a dressing room press meeting, the British heavyweight was angered by the criticism of the English sports writers.
"See here," the heavyweight contender is said to have exclaimed, "Ill fight anybody. Ill fight Jesus Christ."
"Well," one of the writers answered, "You are just saying that because you know he has bad hands."
Interview Conducted By Thomas Gerbasi
How do you feel the media has treated you so far in your career?
Pretty much as expected. There are the ones that are like where is she going with this? and the ones that are happy that Ive entered boxing to bring more exposure to it.
You may be the most famous woman boxer out there. Do you feel a responsibility to the sport?
The type of person that I am, it wouldnt matter if I was the most well-known or not. In anything I do, I want to be the best at it, and I want to set a good example. Of course, Im not going to do anything to make the sport look bad. Just like Joe Fraziers daughter. Everybody wants me to fight her now. But I know that shes not really trying to take her boxing career far. She hasnt put the time in the gym, so Im not going to fight her and turn it into a circus show.
What was your reaction when you heard that she was going to fight?
Im a realistic person, so it was no surprise to me. I know that when you want to market yourself, you do a lot of talking. We all learned that from my father. So it was no surprise.
Do you feel that youre unjustly being lumped in with the other daughters of legendary fighters (Frazier, Duran, Foreman, Moore, etc)?
Yeah, I think so. Im new in the sport. Before they started fighting the attention was just on me. And people were pretty much saying the same thing, oh, shes only fighting because of who her father is and where is she trying to go with this? But I havent personally done anything to make myself seem better than anybody else or try to get any more attention than anybody else. Ive been having untelevised fights. I dont make a big deal out of it. I just do what I do. I cant help some of the things that go on around me. Im going to market myself and it wouldnt matter what my last name is because I refuse to be just another one. I want to be the best at what I do. The name is not going to do it for me. It can only take you so far.
Do you enjoy the attention, or do you wish you could have been Laila Smith or something?
I dont wish I was somebody else because being my dads daughter has been whats given me the strength and a lot of the natural skills that I have. But at the same time it would have been nice if I could have just started off without so much attention on me.
Im never scared before a fight. Of course I have the regular anticipation of whats going to happen, but I always have to be concerned with the footage. The thought always goes through my mind that I have to look good. I would probably be having those same thoughts regardless, but I know that everybody is watching me. People arent always going to be like oh, shes a beginner, shes doing great. People assume that if something happens that they can make a story out of, they will.
Have you been approached by any of the big promoters (Don King, Bob Arum) about fighting for them?
I dont know exactly who has called because my manager doesnt involve me in all of that, but a lot of bigger promoters have called and have wanted me to do things.
Weve all heard your fathers reaction to your decision to fight. What was your mothers reaction?
It was kind of different with my mother. My dad found out after I decided I was going to do it for sure. My mom was there for the process of do I want to do this? My mom is a very spiritual person and she believes that whatever path I take is the one which is meant for me. She doesnt really worry about me. She knows Im doing well and that I have good people around me. She doesnt feel the same way my father does. My dads like a big worrywart anyway, about everything. Theyre just two different types of people.
Your mother has seen the bad part of the sport. Has she warned you about that?
I already knew about that myself. I had grown up around it.
Has boxing been easier or harder than you expected?
You take steps. When I first started training, it was hard to me, and I had to get in shape first. Now Im on a different level where Im training at a faster pace. And its going to keep going. Theres always another hurdle to jump. I want to keep bettering myself. I can never do enough because my team is always staying on me. It takes a lot of dedication. I have to remind myself that if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, and everybody would be a champion. It takes a certain type of person to stand out from the rest.
Were you a boxing fan before you took up the sport?
Are there any fighters you like to watch today?
The fighters I like watching are Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather. I just enjoy watching boxing now because I have a different appreciation for it. I look it and the main thing Im thinking is I cant wait til I can do that.
Are there any women fighters youve seen that youve liked?
Lucia Rijker I like. Tracy Byrd. There are a lot of different ones out there, I just dont know all the names.
Your manager (John McClain) is also your fiancee. Is it tough for you to separate your business and personal lives?
Its not really tough. He doesnt really involve me in anything until its final, business wise. Sometimes Ill just want to make conversation, and Ill be like whos that on the phone? and hell say Laila, you dont need to be involved, because then I get all into it and hes like I get these kinds of calls all the time. And then as soon as I overhear something, I get all involved in it over nothing, because the deal may not even go through. And when theres something that needs me to be involved, well sit down and talk about it. He deals with the headaches.
He is the most important person in my boxing career. He was a fighter, a two-time world champion, and he knows what it takes to be a champion. He knows how I feel a lot of times, and what Im going through. He knows when and when not to bother me with something.
The competition at your weight isnt as strong as it is in some of the other divisions. How does this affect you?
Im going to make the best of whats available. Thats all I can do. You never really know whos out there, and whos going to come out. I look on the Internet and I see people in my weight class that are the ones who are considered good, and right now Im not really concerned with them because Im just beginning. So I have a little ways to go before I really have to start worrying about whether there is going to be anyone "good enough" for me. Im trying to get up there with them. I just take it as it goes. Im going to be very careful about what I do. Like Frazier and Foremans daughters, theyre trying to be in my weight division because their whole careers are based on wanting to fight me.
Just like your father.
Well, she needs me, I dont need her. People are always asking me, why dont you just fight her, it would be a big payday? I dont want money bad enough to make myself look bad, and to satisfy all these people who are wondering about what my motivation is and make them think thats all it was.
Has your father had any reaction to the talk of you fighting Frazier?
I think that he doesnt want me to fight her. He knows pretty much that shes just in it for the money and that Im serious about what Im doing. Im not really sure though, because my dad plays games with me sometimes. Hell say are you going to fight that Frazier girl? and Ill say no, dad, Im not really concerned about her. And hell say Ok, good. But you know you can make a lot of money, millions of dollars. Why dont you just go ahead and fight her? So Im trying to figure out if he wants me to fight her and make the money or not. It doesnt really matter though. Because what he wants me to do is not going to affect my decision.
By Lee Michaels
It was boxing's biggest mismatch since Mike Tyson versus Robin Givens. And it was thisclose to becoming the sports latest tragedy.
It was Arturo Gatti versus Joey Gamache, and it was supposed to be a semi-competitive boxing match in the 140-pound junior welterweight division. However, on the night of the fight, HBO's unofficial weigh-in showed that Gatti weighed 160 pounds. In other words, because he had gained nearly 20 pounds the day after the official weigh-in, he would enter the ring as a middleweight.
Gamache, on the other hand, clearly did not. And it showed. Gatti destroyed Gamache with a viscous - and I mean viscous - 2nd round knockout. Gamache, who was on the canvas for seven minutes, spent two nights in the hospital due to a concussion.
Now retired from boxing, Gamache is looking into taking legal action against the New York State Athletic Commission. Gamache's camp believes that Gatti actually tipped the scales well over the legal weight limit at the official weigh-in.
Folks, if this is the case, then boxing needs to open up its eyes, because .
Hold on I just got a phone call its Mickey Walker.
He told me to tell y'all, "What's all the fu**in' fuss about here?"
To become a big-time, Major League Baseball player, one must often make the long, hard journey through the minor leagues.
So what defines a big-time fighter? If you ask me, the biggest factor in determining a fighter's status is the amount of their purse. Of course, a big-time purse doesn't always equate into a big-time fighter.
Take the case of Julius Francis, a supposed professional fighter who was knocked down five times by Tyson before being stopped at 1:03 of the second round.
The appropriately named Francis recently lost the coveted British heavyweight title, via decision, to Mike Holden. Yes, THAT Mike Holden, he of the 7-4 record. Yes, THAT Mike Holden, the former chauffeur, bricklayer and car repairman.
Holden, at 32 years of age, earned $9,600 for the fight, which was held in a 1,200-seat arena.
When Francis fought Tyson in front of 21,000 fans he was paid $560,000.
Archie Moore, God bless him, must have turned over in his grave.
SHOULD TUA GET HIS DUA?
The WBA has told Lennox Lewis, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, that he can keep their belt, but with a big, fat "IF."
Lewis, after his April 29th bout with Michael Grant, must then face mandatory WBA challenger Johnny Ruiz. Panos Eliades, promoter of Lewis, has already booked London's Earl's Court for a July 15th date. Had the Lewis camp not agreed to do this, the WBA would have stripped Lewis of their belt.
The WBA commission voted 5-2 in favor of this stipulation. In other words, there were actually two idiots who didn't want the WBA to sanction the Lewis-Grant bout because they believe that fans deserved to see a Lewis-Ruiz bout instead.
In related news, Eliades also announced that Earl's Court would pass out sleeping bags and bibs for fans that fall asleep and drool while attempting to watch the fight.
But wait, there's more. David Tua, the IBF's top-ranked contender, has sued that organization because he believes that they should not sanction the Lewis-Grant fight.
Then, seeking to get back into the heavyweight picture, Julius Francis announced that he's suing the WBA, IBF, Lewis, Tua, Tyson, Primo Carnera and Henry Cooper.
EXCUSE DE LA HOYA
Oscar de la Hoya has officially changed his first name from "Oscar" to "Excuse."
Am I the only one who is getting tired of Oscar's act?
At the press conference announcing his June 17th fight against "Sugar" Shane Mosley, Oscar was quoted as saying the following: "At 12:01 of the new century, I thought, 'Hey, what were you doing (against Felix Trinidad)? Wake up and smell the coffee and fight the way you used to fight.'"
He also added, "I'm going to stick to my game plan (against Mosley), just keep going straight ahead."
It is as clear as a bright, sunny day that Oscar de la Hoya is one lost fighter. The man absolutely refuses to recognize that he is a rarity in this sport, a pure boxer/puncher, a baseball player who can hit for average while still banging out 45 home runs.
Instead, Oscar is a brawler one fight and a boxer the next. Yet you can always expect one thing from Oscar when the fight is over: excuse after excuse after excuse.
Some people believe Oscar won the Trinidad fight hands down, whether he ran the last few rounds or not. I disagree. This is boxing. A champion should never assume anything. Never leave it up to the judges, if possible. Therefore, Oscar simply gave that fight away.
And, if Oscar was able to easily outbox Tito in the early rounds, why did he change strategy and run away from him later? Well, Oscar will tell you it was his corner's fault and that Gil Clancy told him to do so. Hence, Clancy's being fired after the bout.
Oscar is correct about one thing - he was certainly instructed to run from Tito. But we all know Oscar by now. Oscar does what Oscar wants to, in and out of the ring. His corner may have wanted him to run away from Trinidad in the final rounds, but the fact of the matter is, if a Concord jet had flown
ringside, Oscar would have been the first one to get onto the plane.
Simply put, Oscar was afraid that Trinidad would turn up his aggressiveness, thus increasing the chances that Oscar would have tasted some heavy-hitting leather. Strategically-speaking, Oscar was the equivalent of a football team running backwards into the end zone for a safety while holding a one-point lead with 15 seconds remaining in the Super Bowl.
As he mentioned above, Oscar plans to go straight ahead at Mosley. I wish him well. Mosley is a devastating body puncher who can punish opponents with either hand. And in the quickness department, Oscar doesn't even compare. If Mosley can steer clear of Oscar's big left, he'll walk away with an easy decision.
But in the excuses department, Oscar will always be the undisputed champion of the world.
It's not getting any better, it's only getting worse.
Once a rising and growing foundation led by the likes of Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker and Kathy Collins, women's boxing is now a freak show, a pitiful, putrid and horrific excuse for a sport.
Once thought to be the fight that would become the first pay-per-view headlined by legitimate female fighters, Martin versus Rijker may soon get beat to the punch by Ali versus Frazier.
That's right - 21 year old Laila Ali versus 38 year old Jacqui Frazier-Lyde.
And, as Tim Graham of ESPN.com recently reported, the daughters of Archie Moore and Roberto Duran are also looking to fight professionally. But it's not over yet. On April Fool's Day, 23 year old Freeda Foreman - yes, that Foreman - will make her pro boxing debut.
My sources also tell me that all 17 of Jack Johnson's daughters will debut shortly as well.
See where I'm getting at?
Women's boxing is laughable, folks. True, whether you're an Ali offspring or simply a daughter of someone named John Smith, you certainly have the right to become a professional fighter.
But using (meaning, taking advantage of) the names of the men who dedicated so much to the sport, whether you call them "pops" or not, disgusts me.
Jacqui wants to fight Laila? She wants a female version of the Ali-Frazier trilogy?
How about establishing herself heck, how about helping establish her sport first, and THEN, after there's a foundation to build upon, THEN worry about Lady Ali versus Lady Frazier?
Hence, the problem with these new, big-named newcomers to women's boxing: there's no respect for the sport.
Rather than hone their skills first, these ladies simply want to jump right into all the glory and use their names for marketability and profitability.
Don't believe me? At a recent bout of hers, autographed Laila Ali posters sold for $35, while t-shirts and caps went for $17. All this for a fighter who was fighting in her 4th professional bout.
Imagine if these ladies actually had boxing skills. Imagine if they actually did what their fathers had done and established their boxing careers, first and foremost, before wanting to stage their own version of an Ali-Frazier trilogy?
But why waste our time imagining?
It's obvious why people pay (or will pay) to see these ladies fight. So let's breakdown some of the "biggest" names in the sport, excluding Martin, Rijker and Collins
LAILA ALI: 5-foot-10, 166 pounds, beautiful and Muhammad's daughter. Actually, she does possess some athleticism and boxing skills, but good luck finding fit, skilled opponents who can match her combination of size and skills. Women's boxing is light years away from having a formidable middleweight division. It may never happen. The solution: if Laila wants to be known as a legit fighter, she needs to fight real competition like Martin or Rijker. And that means losing major poundage.
JACQUI FRAZIER-LYDE: People will pay to see her 1) because of her name, and 2) because she can't fight. Frazier-Lyde's debut was similar to a bad Toughman contest, which means all offense and no defense. She threw punches as if she were Popeye or a pitcher delivering an overhand screwball. Elephant sex on National Geographic is more aesthetically appealing to watch. She has as much potential as Mark Gastineau did in the ring.
MIA ST. JOHN: As negative as I am towards this sport, I am quite sincere when I say that I realize that there are thousands of women across the country who are trying to become legit fighters, but are getting zero recognition.What's keeping them from getting their big break? Ladies like Mia St. John. She simply is a puppet for her promoter, Bob Arum. The only physical pain she has ever caused was to men who kept flipping through her pictorial in Playboy. St. John willingly goes along with what Arum wants her to do, which is look pretty and throw some punches. You'll never see her fighting a legitimate opponent. What's sad is that her fights will continue to be placed right next
to pay-per-view main events for some time. And rather than try and become a pioneer for women's boxing and discover some legitimate talent, Arum has decided to put his large sack of money where he ain't so large - right between his legs.
Until it attracts trainers (who will train these women properly) and promoters (who will back up the sport with money) who are dedicated to making the sport legitimate, women's boxing will continue to be the joke that it is.
Questions or comments? Feel free to e-mail me email@example.com
Lucia Rijker--War with Christy Martin--War Rumors and More Rumors
by Katherine Dunn
It wasn't just a cat fight, more a tiger brawl that broke out on Monday, Feb. 28 at a public workout session for David Reid and Christy Martin in Los Angeles. The session was part of the pre-fight hype for Friday's Reid-Trinidad extravaganza. Martin was scheduled for the undercard. Don King was there, bent on tantalizing the multiple TV crews and reporters. David Reid was in the ring working out when female boxing star, Christy Martin encountered world champ Lucia Rijker in the audience. Fur flew and the L.A. TV news that night rolled with Martin spewing invective in the aftermath.
Rijker, who is acknowledged by many fight scholars as the best female boxer of this era, has been trying to arrange a bout with Christy Martin for three years. The cagey Martin has consistently refused. Always a gracious sportswoman in the Tonya Harding tradition, the plump Martin consistently declares that she won't fight the muscular Rijker unless Lucia takes a chromosome test to prove that she's actually female. Rijker always accepts that stipulation willingly, but Martin has reportedly turned down very substantial offers (to the tune $750,000 and more) to fight Rijker.
Rijker lives and trains in L.A. She had approached Martin at a 1998 press conference there, and asked her personally for a match. That encounter triggered a screaming fit from Martin who was hauled off by her
handlers. When the pair met on Monday, the result was mayhem.
I had interviewed Rijker for some magazine stories over the years, and was corresponding with her by e-mail. The documentary film "Shadow Boxers," which includes an intense portrait of Rijker, won the Best Documentary Award at the Santa Monica Film Festival on Sunday, Feb.27. That same day, my article on women's boxing which focused on Rijker, appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. The first I heard about the Monday clash was this e-mail message from Rijker on Tuesday morning.
"I have to tell you" she wrote, " that after a great Sunday, Monday turned into a cowboy movie.
"I went to a public training session of Christy Martin and we ended up in a fist fight. ( Not just with her but with her whole team) I got in some good shots but against all those guys it was pretty tough.
"This women is an unfair player. She attacks me and than screams that I hit her, which I did as a reflex on her attack. And the media (channel 2-7-10 in Los Angeles) love her dirty mouth. Now she's calling me a "steroid dike." First she was calling me a man and now she's screaming "dike," and more wonderful filthy stuff.
"Don King said on the news that he will put some lawyers on it and I wonder if he really saw what happened.
"I am really sorry that it had to go like this, but let me tell you that this is the dirtiest business that I have ever had to deal with."
Reporter Rich Marotta was at the public workout session and saw the incident. His internet report described Rijker whispering something to Martin. Marotta wrote that he'd like to know what Rijker said because Martin reacted by shoving Rijker and screaming. Rijker reacted with a left hook and Martin tackled her and the pair fell to the floor with Martin's retinue landing on top of them, one man even putting a choke hold on Rijker to get her off Martin.
In televised interviews immediately afterward, Martin claimed that Rijker had "Sucker-punched" her, but still was unable to put her down. Much of Martin's commentary was bleeped out by the news broadcasts.
Two days later, by phone, I asked Rijker what she said to Martin.
"I didn't say a word," says Rijker. "I stood there and she walked up to me. I turned my face to the side to avoid a confrontation because the last time I met her she was so hysterical. She shoved me and started screaming. I hit her with a hook. Then it all got crazy."
"Afterwards I saw Don King and I shook his hand and said I was sorry. He said, 'No, you're not. You wanted this.' And I said, you know, you're right. I did."
Now, Rijker says, "I regret lowering myself to her level because it's not my style. But it happened. The fighter in me got challenged."
Rijker's manager, Stan Hoffman of New York, has an appointment to meet with King on March 3. The topic is a possible Rijker-Martin match.
On Friday, March 3, on the undercard of Felix Trinidad-David Reid, Christy Martin won a dubious decision over slick and smart Belinda Laraquente. Martin looked thick, slow and rusty compared to the fast moving Laraquente and fans and press are nearly unanimous in calling Martin's decision win a gift. The armchair matchmakers are already speculating about the potential glory of a match between the jab-and-run Laraquente and the fast-forward
Lucia Rijker......Answers Internet Rumors
Noting that various rumors about her had been circulating on the internet, I suggested to Lucia Rijker that she could discuss some of them in her own words. I sent her questions by e-mail and she responded.
KD--A lot of people are depressed about women's boxing and think it may be sinking back into obscurity.
Lucia--"I think that womens' boxing is more popular than mens' boxing right now. Some days there are more Women in the gym than Men."
KD--Since your December '99 bout was cancelled, there have been rumors that you are ill. Some people suggest that you have some chronic, debilitating blood disease--the hint is that you have HIV or hepatitis--something like that.
Lucia ---"Do I have WHAT in my blood?
"Last time I checked I was perfectly healthy. Last year in November, my manager told me that my fight on Mike Tyson's card was canceled (the 4th time in a row ) and then when he did fight they had another girl on the show who fights for less money. I started to have some problems.
"I got so upset that Mia St John was all over the news, and people were asking me "Do you think you can beat her? She looked pretty tough the other day", or "Why are you not on TV fighting? or in this show, or in
"Then Laila Ali started fighting, a nice girl with a big name, who got paid more than I do for a title fight in her first fight in her life! I tried to stay cool but my life was pretty shaky after my dad passed away
"I guess it was a little too much for my tummy. I found that out after 6 hours in pain on the floor, thinking 'Oh my god, my Dad died of stomach cancer, maybe it is my turn.' But it turned out to be an ulcer.
"So I canceled my fight in December. ( I didn't know who I was fighting, as usual, but I've read on the Internet that it was Denise something (Moraetes...kd) who thinks she is strong enough to make me cancel a fight !!!)
Well Denise, you are welcome to fight me any time this year!
"Then why am I not fighting? Well, after Bob Arum decided he enjoys Chick Boxing more than Women's Boxing, I left him to find a promoter who believed in me as a fighter. I signed a 4 fight deal with America Presents.
"I was going to fight on two little cards, and I did. Then I was supposed to fight on a pay-per-view show on the undercard of a Mike Tyson fight. I was ready. Then Mike, who had already bitten ears off, had to hit people in and out the ring after the bell on a Showtime card. So Mike was thrown out of Las Vegas and moved to Europe where people loved him so much that the arena was sold out in two hours.
"Basically, I'm looking for a fight.
I wonder if Christy Martin checks the Internet and reads the paper but I assume she doesn't, she probably only reads her own articles. Because then she will realise, that, if we build that fight (Lucia vs Christie) it will be the real deal in women's boxing history. We both have great skill, different styles, a great name and many years of experience, so why should we let Tits and Ass and those daughters (all my respect for the hard training women) of old legends take over the media and the ring. Hey, Christy, I've wanted to fight you for 3 years now and I will not retire before I beat you.
GENE TUNNEY "THE FIGHTNG MARINE"
By Tracy Callis
Gene Tunney was the type of man that comes along once in a hundred years the looks of a movie star, the intellect of a college professor, a student of Shakespeare, and Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World.
He was the epitome of self-will, discipline, dedication and commitment to purpose. He evaluated his abilities, mapped out a plan, followed it to the letter, achieved his objectives, retired, and pursued other goals which he also accomplished.
Blessed with a beautiful, quick left jab and a knack for counter-fighting, Tunney was one of the great defensive fighters of all time. Gene fought at a fast, steady pace throughout an entire bout and did not seem to tire as the fight progressed.
He was a superb tactician who boxed his man dizzy until the time was right to move in with the heavy blows. His hands did not allow a sustained attack based upon heavy hitting but when the time came that increased power was needed, it was there.
Grantland Rice (1954 p 155) described Tunney as a "man who dedicated himself to a task as no other athlete." From 1919 to 1926, Gene conducted the "Dempsey Analysis" whereby he studied every move of the great champion. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of Dempsey, inside out, upside down, and backwards.
When he confronted Jack in the ring, he read his moves perfectly except for once in the seventh round of their second fight. Some experts say he won 19 of the 20 rounds he fought with Dempsey.
Gene lost one fight during his professional career and beat that man (Harry Greb) four times afterwards. He was knocked down only once in his career (by Dempsey).
Durant and Rice (1946) wrote "The ex-Marine was a cool, intelligent boxer with a taste for literature. He was not a crowd pleaser but he always won." Litsky (1974 p 325) wrote "He was a brilliant scientific boxer with agility, speed, quickness, and power."
Durant (1976 p 75) commented "Like Corbett, Tunney was an intense student of ring craftsmanship. He planned each battle to combat his opponents style with the thoroughness of a general mapping out a campaign."
He described Tunney as follows (1976 p 77), "Gene was a determined, cool, counter-puncher, a boxer. He was fast and dead game, and a punishing hitter, but he was no knockout artist. He scored his shares of K.O.s, however, but mostly by wearing down his opponents rather than blasting them out of the ring Dempsey fashion. He was methodical, reserved, and cautious in the ring and out of it. He did not like the fight crowd, nor they him especially when it became known that he could and did read good books."
Durant and Bettmann (1952 p 173) wrote "A cool, intelligent boxer with unlimited determination, Tunney was not an exciting performer, but he always won." They added "In many ways he was like Corbett essentially a ring scientist."
Odd (1974 pp 29-30) said Tunney had brains in addition to a fine physique. He added that Gene studied every move in boxing, from the feet upwards, and placed the avoidance of a punch above the delivery of one.
Harry Grayson, writer, once said Tunney "could be mean and cunning in the ring. He liked to break your nose and cut you up. He never cared how much he cut you, he would always take his time. He showed you the difference between great and near-great fighters" (see McCallum 1975 p 30).
Lardner (1972 p 251) wrote "Tunney was a synthetic fighter. He studied, analyzed, rehearsed, pondered. He saw his opponent as a case history, a specimen, an anatomical object. He analyzed his foes strengths and weaknesses and constantly analyzed his own noting improvements to determine how best to attack and defend. There has never been a fighter who strove as assiduously to correct flaws, physical, mental, or spiritual."
He went on to say that Tunney had weak hands but made the best of the situation by learning how to box, hit accurately, and not waste punches. Later, when his hands had toughened to where he could smash hard blows, he profited by combining the boxing skills with the acquired hard-hitting.
McCallum (1975 pp 29 31) wrote "Tunneys ring career was a literal example of the triumph of mind over matter" and said "Few athletes in history ever have been better conditioned than Tunney. He developed stamina enough to step around at top speed every second of every round." He added that Gene had "nerves of ice."
Gutteridge (1975 p 85) said Tunney was "an underrated heavy with a fine style and the ability to absorb a hard punch."
Fleischer (1969 pp 277 279) analyzed the great heavyweights and said Tunney was the cleverest of the big boys since Corbett. He wrote that Gene was extremely fast, a master boxer, and an intelligent jabber. Further, he labeled Tunney as underrated and described him as being a cool, mechanical technician who was not colorful.
Grombach (1977 p 62) wrote "The story of Tunney presents a remarkable display of force of character and will to succeed." He was the man who would "rather beat Dempsey than have all the money in the world" (see McCallum 1974 p 111). He beat Dempsey twice and offered to fight him a third time. Dempsey refused.
McCallum (1974 p 123; 1975 pp 29-30) asserted "Tunney never entered the prize ring with the natural, instinctive fighting equipment of a Jeffries, a Johnson or a Dempsey.
He wasnt a natural-born puncher, his physique was not adapted to fighting, and although he did possess superb reflexes, they had to be adjusted to boxing. Through sheer will power and mental exertion, Gene converted ordinary equipment into one of the finest fighting machines the ring has ever known."
Nat Fleischer ranked Tunney as the #8 All-Time Heavyweight. Charley Rose ranked him as the #6 All-Time Heavyweight. In the opinion of this writer, Tunney was the #1 All-Time Light Heavyweight and the #6 All-Time Heavyweight.
Gene Tunney Boxing Record
Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers.
Durant, J. and Bettmann, O. 1952. Pictorial History of American Sports. Cranbury, NJ: A.S. Barnes and Company.
Durant, J. and Rice, E. 1946. Come Out Fighting. Cincinnati: Zebra Picture Books.
Fleischer, N. 1969. 50 Years at Ringside. New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers.
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.
Lardner, R. 1972. The Legendary Champions. New York: American Heritage Press.
Litsky, F. 1975. Superstars. Secaucus, NJ: Derbi-books Inc.
McCallum, J. 1974. The World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company.
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.
Rice, G. 1954. The Tumult and the Shouting. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company.
Shenanigans and Monkey Shines -- Roseland Fakery Fall-Out
By Katherine Dunn
(In which the antics of assorted ghosts, tricksters and other ringside denizens in Oregon trigger not 1 but 2 (count'em) investigations by the Oregon State Police)
The Dudley Do-Rights Squint At Their Own
The recent dust-up in which the Executive Director of the Oregon State Police Boxing & Wrestling Commission was hornswoggled by a falsified drug report and allowed a boxer to fight on a Feb. 19 show at the Roseland Theater in Portland after testing positive for drugs, has triggered two separate investigations by the OSP. The first is a criminal investigation of the phoney report.
The most recent inquiry is in response to a formal complaint accusing the Commission of a pattern of slip-shod practices permitted or committed by the Executive Director, Jim Cassidy, who has held the job since the spring of 1999, and his OSP liason officer, Captain Robert Miller.
The complaint took the form of a letter to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Attorney General Hardy Meyers with a copy to Oregon State Police Superintendant Ronald Ruecker. The complaint was filed by Denis Ryan of Portland, a successful realtor who is a licensed professional boxing judge in Oregon and is the former President of the Oregon Association of U.S. Amateur Boxing.
An early proponent of supporting Cassidy as a new Director learning a difficult job, Ryan now writes that he has been alarmed by what he calls "lax or non-existent enforcement of rules and laws critical for the protection of individual participants and the prevention of fraud upon the public."
Ryan lists 26 separate instances of violations of state or federal rules or laws under Cassidy's regime since June of 1999. Ryan's general description of these violations reads like this:
"The violations include, but are not limited to; Commission failure to license participants, multiple violations of the Federal Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 by permitting nationally suspended persons to participate, allowing a bout to take place while a fighter tested positive for drugs, failure to medically disqualify a fighter who has sustained two knockouts within 90 days, failure to enforce rules of the bout, failure to prohibit unlawful conduct by the promoter, permitting fighter contract violations, publicizing/advertising of events without signed contracts, and failure to collect the 6 percent tax."
On Thursday, March 23, Sergeant Aaron Olson, acting Public Information Officer for the Oregon State Police, told CBZ, "OSP did receive a copy of the letter sent to Governor Kitzhaber and Attorney General Meyers. We take all criticism seriously and an investigation will be conducted."
Sergeant Olson said he was unable to comment at this time about what kind of investigation will be conducted in response to the letter, or which department of the OSP will do the work.
We can't know exactly what the OSP is looking at until the agency tells us, but we can speculate. Denis Ryan's complaint deals with violations in six club shows that should certainly be examined. But to begin, just figuring out all the goofy goings-on surrounding the Feb.19 show would be interesting. The phoney drug report is only one of several curiousities about that card at the Roseland Theater.
Cheez It! The Cops!
--The Oregon State Police have already launched a criminal investigation of the cut-and-paste job that created a fake negative drug report for Jr. welterweight Awel Abdulai after the Las Vegas based fighter tested positive for marijuana prior to the Feb. 19 show at the Roseland Theater in Portland. The negative report was accepted by the energetic and friendly former referee and bartender, Jim Cassidy, who is the commission's executive director. Cassidy licensed Abdulai and allowed him to fight Mahon Washington on the card. Abdulai lost a six round decision. Detectives are reportedly interviewing potential witnesses. Federal law enforcement officials are also reported to be sniffing at this case because federal as well as state laws may have been violated.
As reported on March 7 in the CBZ Current Boxing News, the deception was not discovered by Cassidy until two weeks after the show, when a journalist notified him that laboratory records proved the negative drug report had been faked. Cassidy immediately placed several people on the National Suspension List: fighter Awel Abdulai, fighter Jamal Hodges of Las Vegas, who was never in Oregon, but whose clean drug test had been used to fabricate the phoney Abdulai results, Luis Tapia of Las Vegas, who manages both fighters, and Dan Stenado AKA Stenado Dan Williams, who functioned as a matchmaker for the Roseland show.
On And Off Again
As of Tuesday, March 14, all those suspended, except for boxer Awel Abdulai, have been removed from the National Suspension List. Luis Tapia and Dan Stenado tell CBZ they were never notified in writing of the Commission's intent to revoke or suspend as required by the Administrative Procedures Act. Tapia learned about his suspension when pals phoned to tell him he was listed on the Internet. When this reporter asked about the notification process, Cassidy indicated that he was not familiar with the Administrative Procedures Act, which defines and requires due process. Cassidy says he talked with the suspendees by phone and explained their rights, and that he then lifted their suspensions until he sees the results of the State Police criminal investigation.
Fingers Pointed.....Did Not!.....Did Too!
Written and verbal statements from Tapia, Stenado, and other witnesses identify low level fight booker Howard "Howie" Tanzman of Portland as the scissor wizard who created the fake report.
Manager Luis Tapia, is a businessman and the owner of the historic Johnny Tocco's Gym in Las Vegas. In his written statement to Cassidy, Tapia describes being in the hotel in Portland on the day before the fight was scheduled at the Roseland Theater. When he got a phone call from Cassidy informing him that Abdulai had tested positive for drugs and couldn't fight, Tapia says he told Dan Stenado, who had arranged the matches for the show. Howard "Howie" Tanzman, a local booker with a shady reputation, came into the hotel room while they were talking.
Tapia writes that Tanzman "introduced himself as a boxing promoter who was working in this fight," and asked what the problem was. When told that the fighter's drug test was positive, "Mr. Tanzman said not to worry, that he would take care of this problem," Tapia writes, "and he also stated that 'they always make mistakes with the tests.' He also stated that he would make a call to [the Las Vegas laboratory] and handle it."
Tapia goes on to describe Tanzman first calling the lab to have Abdulai's positive test sent to him at the hotel, and then phoning again to get the negative test of Tapia's other fighter, Jamal Hodges, sent to him.
"Mr Tanzman then stated that he would call [the laboratory] again and talk to 'people that he knew' because he 'still believed there might be a mistake with Abdulai's test.' Tapia says he had never had any trouble with Abdulai's drug tests before and thought it might actually be a mistake. He describes Tanzman leaving the hotel room with the two drug reports and returning about an hour later with a negative test for Abdulai. When asked how he did that, according to Tapia, Tanzman said "...he had called his friends at the [laboratory] and that the first test result was a 'mistake.' "
Other witnesses tell similar tales.
As reported previously in CBZ, the fake was apparently created by simply cutting the top off the Abdulai test with its name and personal information, and pasting it over the top of the Hodges negative test. Close examination later revealed inconsistencies in the report.
In a phone conversation with CBZ, Howie Tanzman flatly denied having anything to do with creating the fake report and declared himself "Absolutely shocked!" that anyone would try to pin it on him. Tanzman declined to offer any alternate version of what happened in the hotel room or with the documents in question. He suggested that the real culprits may be "the people on the suspension list," meaning Tapia and Stenado.
Tanzman may be best known to CBZ readers as the booker who took heavyweight journeyman Marcus Rhode to Japan for a fight in the summer of 1998, and then skinned Rhode out of more than $2400 of his $3,000 purse. Just flat didn't give it to him.
Tanzman's actual connection to the promotion at the Roseland Theater remains cloudy. Some of the managers say Tanzman talked to them by phone during the negotiations for the show, and this is corroborated by Dan Stenado. The licensed matchmaker, Thad Spencer, says Tanzman had "no job, no position, and did not help out," although he acknowledges that he and Tanzman are friends. CBZ saw Tanzman actively involved in shuffling paperwork at the weigh-in and bustling to and from dressing rooms with visiting fighters on fight night.
To the Tune of "Blame Canada!"
Booker Howard Tanzman claims he doesn't know how that pesky drug test got tinkered with, but he thinks he knows where the buck stops. In a telephone interview, CBZ asked Tanzman who he thought was responsible. He pinned the blame on the Executive Director of the Oregon State Police Boxing & Wrestling Commission.
HT--"Jim Cassidy! Absolutely. And I like Jim. But the reason I think it should be Jim is because the Director of Boxing is ultimately the guy who handles the show. He OKs the contracts. He OKs the bouts. He makes sure all the paperwork is in order. They were doing all the damned paperwork at the weigh-in. You saw how chaotic it was. Why do you have deadlines? There's rules to follow. There's a rule book........ You [don't] tell one promoter I need all your paperwork 72 hours in advance, but you work with another promoter and you say it's OK we're gonna let it slide. The week of that fight.... that fight was on, that fight was off, I'm talking about the whole card.... I think up until the day of the fight that goddamned card wasn't even together. Why do they have deadlines?....... It allows you time to get to the bottom of situations like this so it doesn't mushroom if there's bad paperwork. It gives you time to check it out. If.... people are suspended, it gives you time to check it out. ...But this whole thing could have been stopped.
"I realize Jim Cassidy likes boxing and he bends over backwards to make things happen. He wants boxing here. But you still have to have backbone and stand up and say if a guy comes back and has a bad pee test....or a bad blood test or whatever the test is.....He's scratched. That's it. You see if you still have enough rounds left to make the show go, you try and make it happen. ......maybe in order to make up for rounds you turn a four rounder into a six rounder, you can turn a six rounder into an eight rounder, something like that to make up for the rounds cuz you have to have so many, [a minimum of 26 scheduled rounds is required for a pro show in Oregon. The Roseland show had a total of 30 scheduled rounds including the 6 round bout in which the pot-positive Abdulai fought]. But you don't get a bad test on somebody and then turn around and all of a sudden you get another test, and it shows it's good....that's a red flag right there. Listen I've been at fights when the commission gets a bad pee test and they scratch that bout, that bout is done. So that's where I think this problem is starting."
Ivan Kafoury, whose company, Spartan Media, was the official promoter of the Roseland show, defends Cassidy. "Jim's done a hell of a job of helping us here," says Kafoury. "He enforces the rules and yet is flexible enough so we can get things done."
But the degree of flexibility shown in the Roseland show worries some people. The Oregon Boxing & Wrestling Commission consists, officially, of five volunteer members who are appointed by the Superintendant of State Police and act as an advisory panel. Although they had not been informed of the falsified drug report incident by Director Cassidy, at least two of the Commision members responded with serious concern, last week, to the CBZ report of the flap.
Adofo Akil of Portland was a top ten middleweight in the 70's and went the distance with both Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns under his ring name, Mike Colbert. Now a master electrician and an accountant, Akil called the drug report incident "dangerous for the fighters and embarrassing for the Commission."
Joe Pedrojetti of Medford, OR runs Wynan's Furniture business and the impressive Medford Bulldogs Amateur Boxing Club. Pedrojetti told CBZ he thought Cassidy's eagerness to help professional boxing shows happen was "commendable, but shouldn't come at the expense of protecting the fighters' welfare and the public interest." Pedrojetti said "I'm on the Commission and I'm responsible. I want to do things the right way. This incident is obviously disturbing." Saying he is "extremely concerned as a commissioner," Pedrojetti told CBZ he would be calling the office of the Superintendent of State Police, Ron Ruecker, "to make sure he knows what's going on."
Superintendent Ruecker is, by law, the final authority of the Oregon State Police Boxing and Wrestling Commission. Legally it is Ruecker who issues all licenses and suspensions after recommendations from the Executive Director.
GHOSTS : The Unlicensed Operators
The phoney drug report is just one of several oddities in that modest little club show in February. Maybe, if the OSP is checking out the operation of its Boxing and Wrestling Commission, they'll want to take a look at the intriguing variety of characters associated with the Roseland show who were operating without the professional licenses required by Oregon law. Howard Tanzman, of course, is not licensed to perform any professional boxing duties in the state. Luis Tapia, the manager who served as Abdulai's second in the corner, was not licensed because, as Cassidy told CBZ, he just didn't get around to giving Tapia an application.
More significantly, the actual promoter, the money-slinging, decision-making promoter, David Leiken, was not licensed to perform those functions as required by the state law.
The licensed promoter was Ivan Kafoury's company, Spartan Media, which is a licensed professional wrestling promotion. Kafoury, a long time radio station owner in the Portland area, started promoting local wrestling around the Northwest region a few years ago but has had trouble finding a good venue in Portland.
Kafoury says he was approached by David Leiken, the owner of the Roseland Theater, with an enticing proposition. If Kafoury would also get a boxing promoters' license, Leiken would foot the bill and handle all the arrangements for boxing shows. In return, Kafoury would get a very good deal on the rent for staging monthly wrestling events at Leiken's Roseland Theater.
Kafoury hosted a pre-fight press conference and brought his radio-honed skills to the task of ring announcing for the debut boxing show on February 19. Other than that, he was out of the information loop. Contacted by CBZ just days before the show, Kafoury did not even know who was on the card.
Leiken is a successful pop music promoter under the company name Double Tee. Leiken hired his old friend Thad Spencer as matchmaker. Leiken was known to be the boxing promoter by the various managers and fighters who got their pay from him, and by Commission Director Cassidy, who told CBZ he spent many hours in Leiken's office working with Thad Spencer in an effort to help the fledgling fight promotion get organized. In the troublesome aftermath, Cassidy told CBZ that if Leiken does any more shows, "He'll have to get a license."
It's no great wonder if a music promoter and a wrestling promoter don't know the state law requiring all those financially involved in boxing promotions to be licensed. It is surprising that Cassidy failed to inform them of the law and to enforce it.
Cassidy apparently did not inform the licensed promoter, Ivan Kafoury, of the flap over the phoney drug test. Kafoury said he didn't know about the affair until the third week of March when he read the March 7 CBZ story. "If I never do another professional boxing show," says Kafoury,"it won't break my heart."
Ghost Matchmaker--The Front Man
The licensed matchmaker, Thad Spencer, apparently did not make the matches. Spencer is a snazzy-dressing former heavyweight contender from the Ali era of the early 1960's. Spencer commonly informs journalists that his boxing career ran aground on party rocks of cocaine, and he proudly insists that he's never had a job outside of boxing. His specialty is charming other people into putting up money for his red-ink club level promotions. But he has a history of forgetting to pay the bills. In the past, both the California and Washington Commissions decided that licensing Spencer as a promoter was not in the public interest.
Always inventive, Spencer has attempted various unproductive "benefits" over the years, and dreamed up non-profit organizations, usually for that reliable wallet tapper, "at risk youth," although we have yet to locate a single youth who benefitted.
He ventured into Closed Circuit promotions without a license some years ago when he pasted his own logo onto a Kingvision contract, enlarged the numbers in the fee slots, and went around Oregon and Washington fraudulently peddling the CC rights to the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeely show. He clipped the Wild Horse Casino near Pendleton, OR for a substantial sum in cash before the former Director of the Oregon Commission caught him and made him give the money back.
One of his more recent ventures was an attempt to promote an amateur show, but the amateur coaches in the region decided he was just out to make money off their kids so they refused to play. For the Roseland show Spencer was back in business with a new guy to pay the bills and a shiny new matchmakers license issued by the state of Oregon.
Ghost Matchmaker--Unlicensed and Unpaid
The newspaper ads for the rumble at the Roseland bragged that Thad Spencer was the Matchmaker. But the actual phoning, faxing, negotiating, and nagging was apparently done by Dan Stenado, a former boxer, stuntman and cornerman who lives up the Pacific coast a few hundred miles in the Tacoma, Washington area. Stenado says he was contacted back in November of 1999 and asked to make matches as an "assistant" or "consultant" for Spencer. "They called me in when they found out Thad was incompetent," Stenado told one reporter.
Though he is licensed as a second in Oregon, and occasionally trains both pros and amateurs, Stenado's matchmaking experience is far from extensive. He says he was concerned about his unlicensed status and discussed it with Director Cassidy. "I didn't want to be in any grey areas, legally," Stenado says. Cassidy confirms that he knew about Stenado's activities and says that he was just acting "as an assistant for Thad."
Manager Luis Tapia dealt with Stenado. Tapia says Thad Spencer phoned him after the fake drug test came to light but Tapia refused to talk to him because he didn't know him.
"I never met him. I never talked to him. I don't know who he is," says Tapia.
Another manager, Arnold Manning, whose light heavyweight Jeff Simmons fought at the Roseland, says he dealt with Stenado and would never have agreed to the fight if he had known Thad Spencer was involved.
Stenado ended up arranging two shows. The first scheduled date for Roseland was in January but that date was canceled. Stenado notified everybody of the cancellation and re-signed some fighters but found mostly new faces for the February date. Stenado says he was worried about getting his phone bills paid for by the promotion but finally got a check for $200 from Leiken's company, Double Tee Promotions, in early January. He says he figured that was a first installment on the phone bills he ran up in the process of making the show.
Though Spencer acknowledges that he "worked with" Stenado, and the various fight managers confirm that Stenado was the one they dealt with, both Leiken and Kafoury have refused to pay any of Stenado's phone bills. Kafoury says the $2,300 in bills that Stenado claims for the two shows is a ridiculously high amount. Stenado, who had no written contract, is out in the cold, flapping his phone bills at whoever will listen. Stenado says he is taking steps to attach Kafoury's performance bond for lack of payment.
The Little Things--Chaos at the Weigh-in
The preparations for the Roseland show were helter-skelter. Director Cassidy repeatedly waived the paperwork deadline and on Friday morning actually declared the show cancelled before backing off in the face of the promoter's protests. The weigh-in that Friday night in the Best Western Hotel near Portland's Convention Center was a messy business that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. but didn't end until midnight or later. The doctor, Louis Rios, M.D., who is also the Chairman of the Commission, was an hour and a half late. Hungry, thirsty fighters waited and grew tired while their managers and seconds grew cranky. A flurry of late paperwork rustled at one end of the room. The scale sat precariously on the surface of a folding table flattened to the floor.
When the weighing actually began, light heavyweight Jeff Simmons weighed in on the dot and his opponent, Gabriel Cruz, weighed a pound over the contract limit. Simmons' handler, James Manning, asked Cruz to take it off. Cruz agreed instantly and headed for the door to go out and run. But a noisy dispute broke out. Stenado and others claimed it was normal "in any state in the union to allow a visitng fighter a pound or two extra because you can't lose weight on a plane." Manning said he just wanted to stick to the terms of the contract. The Oregon contract specifies that if the fighter refuses to drop the extra weight and the opponent agrees to fight him, a percentage of the overweight fighters purse is deducted and given to the fighter who made the weight. Cassidy interrupted the bickering by roaring that the fight was off, that the show was cancelled. Manning backed down. Cruz didn't lose the weight and Simmons didn't get his cut of Cruz' purse.
Off in one corner the visiting fighters asked this reporter if things were always this disorganized in Oregon. Embarrassing.
So How Did It Come To This?
The Oregon Commission was created by the State Legislature in 1987 and the founding Director, Bruce Anderson, had a consistent reputation as a hard-nosed, by-the-book law enforcer. The Commission set the highest safety standards in the nation and Anderson's critics accused him of trying to "kill boxing."
As one of the three authors of the initial legislation to create the Commission, this reporter prefers the view that boxing in Oregon and a lot of other states was already half dead in the late 80's. It had been poisoned by shysters and starved by the lack of legitimate, well-funded promoters. The last regular Oregon promotion ended in 1984. Sporadic isolated shows featured mis-matches that burned the cable-savvy audience. Tough guy shows were the most successful and regular events happening. The Commission eliminated tough guy shows.
Oregon's tribal casinos --and most pro boxing takes place in Casinos these days because they are the only businesses that can afford it--were late in developing and did not become involved in promoting boxing until 1998. Pro wrestling continued, but only about a dozen pro fight cards by five different promoters took place in the state between 1988 and 1997. Then in '98, the first tribal casino, Seven Feathers in Canyonville, began promoting successful shows. Director Anderson licensed two new non-casino promoters, the nation-wide company America Presents and the local multi-millionaire Alan James, just before he retired in January 1999.
It's just a guess, but it seems that, despite the successful shows under strict regulation at the Casinos, OSP somehow swallowed the old critics line that the strict enforcement of rules and regs prevents boxing. Whatever the reason, a distinct change in the tenor of the Commission took place in the spring of 1999 when Cassidy and his OSP Liason, Capt. Robert Miller, took the wheel. One clue is that Miller refers to promoters, managers and other ring denizens as the "customers." And, for this new Director, the customer is almost always right. Instead of a law enforcement stance, the Cassidy Commission has an economic development attitude. Cassidy always says his job is "to make boxing happen." And he's done that.
The five shows promoted so far by Alan James' company, Oregon Trails, generally were not high quality boxing--with the mismatches, the frequent forty-plus year-olds, and the famous incident in which three fighters on the National Suspension List all appeared on a single card, among other things. But they were "boxing."
Oregon Trails lost money on all but one small club show. In fact a cooperative extravaganza with America Presents at the Rose Garden featuring that charismatic fan magnet Jorge Luis Gonzalez lost something in the region of $100,000. But Alan James doesn't seem to mind, and he has nothing but praise for Jim Cassidy.
The five member Commission itself appears to be in some disarray. The last two Commission meetings have failed to draw the necessary quorum of three members so no official business could be transacted. Instead, jovial bull sessions were conducted with those members of the public in attendance. Good customer relations, probably. Indeed, at the last meeting Commission Chair Dr. Rios came prepared. He conducted a trivia contest with the audience. For every correct answer he cheerfully tossed out a lollypop as a prize. Our jolly government at work.
As information becomes available about the results of the two Oregon State Police investigations, CBZ will report.
By Don Colgan
Bout #3 George Foreman vs. Irish Jerry Quarry. Madison Square Garden. June 20, 1974.
If undefeated Heavyweight Champion George Foreman had defended his championship against number one ranked contender Irish Jerry Quarry on June 20, 1974 at Madison Square Garden. The bout, tentatively agreed to by Foreman and his manager Dick Sadler in early 1974 never came to contract. The resurgent Quarry had an unquestionable claim to a championship shot after nearly shutting out power punching Ron Lyle over 12 rounds in January 1973 and then dispatching power punching Earnie Shavers in slightly over two minutes at the Garden the previous December.
Foreman would be making his third title defense in route to a fall showdown against former titleholder Muhammad Ali. The powerful Foreman held a 22 pound weight advantage over the well honed challenger yet the rugged Irishman looked utterly unintimadated during the pre fight instructions. Having decisively defeated a pride of top ranked contenders during his nine year career along with his brutal, yet courageousdefeat at Frazier's hands Jerry knew this would be his final shot atthe championship. Big George was a 7 to 1 favorite against the Californian as the two met at ring center to recieve the instructions from referee Harold Valan.
Foreman rushed across the ring at the opening bell and wasinstantly tagged with a potent Quarry right that buckled George's knees and forced him to hold. The champion recovered quickly and began throwing every bomb in his considerable arsenal at Jerry. The challenger bobbed, weaved, clinched and counterpunched effectively. However, Foreman's poleax lefts and rights began to find the target. Jerry was surviving yet absorbing punishment as the round ended.
Jerry came out cautiously for round two, circling away from big George and landing several crisp counter right leads. Foreman stalked Quarry relentlessly. Missing wildly yet applying enormous pressure,Foreman clubbed a right that literally catapulted Jerry into the ropes, where he dropped to one knee. Referee Harold Valan gave thedazed challenger a mandatory eight count. Rising, Jerry again survived yet was still wobbly at the bell.
Quarry, bleeding from an inch long slice under his right eye, boxed strongly in round three as the champion continued telegraphing wild,looping bombs that Jerry was managing to avoid. George was landing and hurting Jerry yet the challenger was beginning to minimize the damage by moving inside and pulling the champion into several clinches. Quarry had taken Foreman's best shot and was still there!Just before the bell Jerry connected with a hard left right combination thatsnapped the titleholder's head back. Foreman, unaccustomed to extended combat, was beginning to look weary.
From the fourth through sixth rounds the ever dangerous Foreman pursued Quarry constantly. Late in the fifth George finally pinned the Irishman against the rope's in Foreman's corner and unleashed punch after punch as Jerry desperately covered up, leaning back into the ropes as Foreman landedseveral crushing hooks to the body. Many of George's blows sailed over Quarry's head. This time Jerry did not fall, and the battle hardened journeyman had survived the round.
Quarry had tasted hand to hand combat during his 1969 TKO defeat at the hands of Smokin Joe Frazier and the beating he absorbed from Joe that June evening four years earlier was beginning to pay dividends. Foreman, ever on the attack yet connecting with fewer and fewer punches, tasted Quarry's stinging right crosses and jolting bodyshots throughout rounds seven and eight. Jerry even began outmuscling the near exhausted Foreman inside, raking him with strong left hooks to the liver and ribcage.
Slightly behind on the officialsscorecards with his face bloodied fromcuts on his cheek and right eye, Jerry was growing confident. By the middle of round nine the tide had turned. Jerry opened up on big George with a barrage of shots to the head and body. Foreman's eyes were puffy as he tried to thwart the Quarry attack, forcibly pushingJerry out of range. The tenth round was a nightmare for the titleholder asJerry battered Foreman from pillar to post. George reeled across the ring from a Quarry left hook with thirty seconds remaining in the round. He could barely punch back. In between rounds 10 and 11manager Dick Sadler shouted at thebeleaguered champion. "Your title is slipping away, son. You've got to knock im out!".
Quarry, sensing the championship he had sought so long finally within his grasp, took no chances. With claret streaming down his right eye he jabbed Foreman hard, then delivered a smashing right to the champions liver. Foreman staggered badly and pulled the bloodied Quarry into a desperate clinch.George uncorked a wild left hook that connected yet it had little power. Jerry staggered Foreman again with a left hook and sent the 21,346 strong Garden crowd into hysteria when he dropped big George to one knee with a perfect right cross to the jaw. Referee Harold Valan tolled the count of nine as Foreman lurched to his feet to meet a ten punch barrage that draped the helpless championover thering apron. Valan intervened at 2:38 of round 11. Irish Jerry Quarry's dream had come true. He had become the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Randy's World of Boxing
By Randy Gordon
As I write this, investigators, like ants at a picnic, are swarming all over the New York State Athletic Commission, looking to bring a full report back to New York Gov. George Pataki on the status of the agency built under his administration. The investigation was brought about, in part, by a recent three-part series on the commission by writers Wallace Matthews and Jack Newfield, and in part by a lawsuit brought by boxer Joey Gamache, who suffered a career-ending knockout at the hands of Arturo Gatti, this after Gatti was weighed in by NYSAC Executive Director Tony Russo in what the Gamache camp feels was a rigged weigh-in. Fasten your seat belts on this case. Sources in the state capital of Albany, New York, tell me Gov. Pataki, New York's heavyweight politician, is fuming mad about the constant stream of embarrassments he is forced to endure from the agency he created. Expect Pataki to rip it down and start all over. Stay tuned.
Here's a test of your boxing knowledge. What is the name of the man who runs the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Question two. What is the name of the man who runs the New Jersey State Athletic Commission? Question three. What is the name of the man who runs the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission? Question four. What is the name of the man who runs the New York State Athletic Commission? Answers later in this column.
The New York Daily News' longtime boxing writer, Michael Katz, has left the paper to go to work for boxing manager Marc Roberts, handling the in-house publicity of Roberts' company, "House of Boxing" and their internet site "Houseofboxing.com." Katz' resignation comes as a surprise to many, who believed Katz was going to be a lifetime employee of the News. He had been with them since the 1980's, when he left his post as the boxing writer for the New York Times. He is an outspoken journalist whose columns are written to take no prisoners. For years he has been on the case of promoter Bob Arum and his top client, welterweight Oscar de la Hoya, whom he has dubbed "The Chicken," claiming he refuses to face top opposition. Even in the last year, as Oscar has faced two of the best fighters in the world--Ike Quartey and Felix Trinidad--Katz has continued to call Oscar "The Chicken." Like his predecessor, Dick Young, Katz loves stirring controversy. It will be interesting to see how Katz' new employers handle his quest for the truth when the Marc Roberts' stable of fighters face opposition far below mediocrity. WIll Katz become a "house shill" or (using a Howard Cosell line, "Tell it like it is")? I've been told that the Daily News will announce a replacement for Katz by mid-April. One of three finalists is Tim Smith, the outstanding boxing writer for the New York Times.
If the Lennox Lewis-Michael Grant heavyweight title bout doesn't get cancelled because of lawsuits and litigation, I'm picking Grant to knock the dreadlocks off of Lewis' head with some blistering right hands. It will be a shame to see Lewis' nice-guy manager Frank "The Phony" Maloney so humbled by the loss. I know this, however. I am in the minority who pick Grant to win.
How about this trifecta? Pick the three winners of Lewis-Grant, Fernando Vargas-Ike Quartey and Oscar de la Hoya-Sugar Shane Mosley. I'll go with Grant, Quartey and ODLH. Hmm. Or should I go with Sugar Shane? Or Vargas? Don't ya' just love even matchups?
There's a rumor going around that Nevada fight judge Dalby Shirley has been stripped of his license to judge. Not true. While the Dalbster has indeed been on the short end of many questionable calls (Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Vito Antuofermo I, Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns II & Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera, among others), The Executive Director of the
NSAC (whose name is the answer to the question above) has NOT yanked the veteran's license. Yes, Shirley scored the Morales-Barrera bout (a bout we all thought Barrera should have won) for Morales. However, in the bout's 12 rounds, Shirley was in the minority on only ONE of his scorecards. It has also been suggested by some that Shirley favors both WBC and Top Rank
fighters. Nobody knows better than Nevada's Executive Director if this is true. I know this much: If it were true, he would send Shirley packing immediately. I'm sure this man knows the whole story, and I believe he did the right thing in not sending Shirley into retirement. Let's keep an eye on
Shirley's future scores, however.
Despite the fact he says he wants Erik Morales, don't expect Prince Naseem Hamed to face him any time soon...Wow! All 20,000 tickets at Los Angeles' new Staples Center are sold out for Oscar de la Hoya-Sugar Shane Mosley on June 17, in what will be California's biggest-ever bout. When was the last time you heard of a boxing match being sold out three months in advance? Previously, the two biggest fights in California history were the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton in 1973 at the Inglewood Forum and the 1990 battle between Tony Lopez and Jorge Paez at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. The Ali-Norton bout drew a $500,000 gate while the Lopez-Paez
bout did a whopping $600,000...Tony Ayala Jr. signed a lucrative deal with Boxing Management, Inc. for four fights over the next six months. Ayala, 36, who is 3-0 since his release from prison, is 25-0 (23) overall, and hopes his four-fight deal will put him in a position to face a major contender and pick up where he left off in November 1982, when he became the number one-rated jr. middleweight in the world by flattening Carlos Herrera in the fifth round...Sure hope the April 8 date Thomas Hearns has to defend his IBO Cruiserweight title against Uriah Grant is the last fight of his career, as he has promised. Hearns is 59-4-1 (46) and needs nothing to prove to anybody. Nor does the 41-year-old Hearns need the money. It is said he still has the first nickel of his career and will never be hurting for money.
Please Thomas, stick to your word and hang up the gloves after the bout...On the undercard to the Hearns-Uriah Grant fight will be the fourth bout of LailaAli.
Okay, let's get back to the trivia question. Who is the man who runs the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Why, it's Marc Ratner. And who runs the boxing commission in New Jersey? Let me hear you say Larry Hazzard. And how about Pennsylvania? Yep, Greg Sirb is the correct answer. Now, how about New York? Don't have it, do you? Despite the fact New York is such a
visible and important state in boxing, you'd think you knew the answer. The reason you don't know it is that the Chairman of the commission is a low-profile guy, probably the lowest profile Chairman the commission has had in its 80-year history. Give up? His name is Mel Southard. Where'd he come from, you ask? An attorney, he replaced Floyd Patterson in 1997.
For those of you who may think boxing is slowing down, wonder no longer. The number of fight cards all over the country are rising and the gyms are reporting very heavy turnouts. Boxing rides crests like surfers ride waves. Right now, it's starting to look like high tide. That news, coupled with the fact that so many important matches are coming up, gives us all reason to smile our brightest smiles for the next couple of months.
LEN MATTHEWS "PHILADELPHIAS CANT MISS PROSPECT"
By Chuck Hasson
Back during the 1950s, the most fertile breeding ground in boxing had to be a section of North Philadelphia known as Strawberry Mansion. Gil Turner, Jimmy Hackney, Sugar Hart, Charley Scott, Von Clay, Bob Cofer, Stanley "Kitten" Hayward, and Len Matthews were all products of this neighborhood.
Len Matthews was born on May 12, 1939. Tall and lean, trigger-fisted with terrific power in both hands, he had already been wowing boxing people and fans long before he turned pro. Signing with Anthony Graziano and his surrogate father, Quenzell McCall (another Strawberry Mansion legend as proprietor of Champs Gym), he launched his pro career with much fanfare as a six round co-feature with Jake Josato on November 7, 1957 at the Cambria. Len stopped Charles Carter in the third round and became a big attraction for Al Lewis. Within six months he had scored nine straight knockouts and was such a sensation that he headlined the Deborah Hospital Show at the Arena in May, administering a terrific beating to the veteran Henry "Pappy" Gault, who barely managed to last the eight round limit.
Len next encountered hard punching North Philly rival Henry "Toothpick" Brown at Connie Mack Stadium as a supporting bout to Sugar Hart and Gil Turner. Matthews stole the show as he blasted out Brown in spectacular fashion in the fourth round, even overshadowing Georgie Bentons sensational knockout of "Slim" Jim Robinson on the same card. Now the whole town was talking about this new phenom who seemed to have it all.
The following month he was showcased in New York in a semi-final of a Madison Square Garden show by destroying the rugged Bobby Rodgers in three rounds, breaking his jaw in the process. Teddy Brenner now wanted Len to headline at St. Nicholas Arena, on the Dumont Television Network, against the tough New Englander, Steve Ward, whom he flattened in the ninth round with a performance that had the New Yorkers tongues wagging.
The Friday Night Fights were next for Len and he impressed a national audience with his skill and firepower easily beating Tommy Tibbs (a recent victor over Willie Pep). His next assignment was the cute Cuban warhorse Orlando Zulueta at Convention Hall.
Showing great determination after receiving a gaping wound on the left eyelid in the fourth round, Len blazed away with both hands at the former title challenger, dropping him in the sixth and seventh rounds and, having his man in full retreat, drubbing him the rest of the way.
On the surface, everything seemed great. In less than a year, Len was the talk of boxing. He was featured in The Ring magazine as the "New Lightweight Sensation." Boxing Illustrated headlined its article on Len as "Boxings Million Dollar Baby." He was labeled "cant miss" and the "Philly Phenom" in the press. But, some wise old railbirds cautioned of too much too soon.
Crusty disciplinarian Quenzell McCall and Anthony Graziano had been partners since 1955 and had enjoyed a good working relationship. Tony took care of the business end and McCall made all the boxing decisions. Now, with the prospect of huge money, there appeared to be a crack in the foundation as reports of encroachment into each others expertise by both was leaked.
On December 22, 1958 fighting in a tune-up for Al Lewis at the Cambria against club-fighting journeyman Ray Lancaster, Len was hard-pressed to get a draw from the officials. Only a desperation last second knockdown saved his undefeated string, now at sixteen.
Three weeks later, Len was again on national television meeting top west coast lightweight Paulie Armstead at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Fighting well, Lens unbeaten streak was ended by what Boxing Illustrated called "probably the worst decision of the year."
Some unfinished business with Ray Lancaster the following month at Convention Hall lured 6,930 fans as Len seemed to regain his old fire demolishing the opponent in the second round.
After this bout, Matthews purchased a brand new car over the objections of McCall, who believed automobiles made a fighter lazy. Of course, Tony approved saying the kid deserved some rewards for his achievements.
Some 6,881 fans were on hand on April 13, 1959 at the Arena to witness the most anticipated lightweight match in years as Matthews faced New York wonder boy Carlos Ortiz. After a terrific "give and take" battle for five rounds, Len was hurt with a screeching left hook in the sixth round. Ortiz opened a blistering assault, trapping him on the ropes. Len was unable to defend himself and referee Pete Pantaleo jumped in to stop it.
Tension between McCall and Graziano increased and many thought that Len would never be the same after taking such a terrible beating. Daily News boxing writer, Jack McKinney, disagreed, comparing Matthews defeat to that of Ike Williams loss to Bob Montgomery, and predicting that Len might come back better than ever and maybe whip Ortiz somewhere on down the line just as Williams had done to Montgomery.
Looking better than ever, Matthews went on a brilliant fifteen-bout run that was to establish him as the "Number One" challenger for the Lightweight Championship. Only a highly disputed loss to South African welter Willie Toweel, after decking him twice at Madison Square Garden, and a Miami Beach "hometown" draw with Doug Vaillant (that the press and a national audience thought Len won decisively) marred the string. Impressive television wins over contenders Johnny Gonsalves, Candy McFarland, and Paulie Armstead and sensational knockouts over Johnny Busso in one round (at the Arena with 7,648 looking on), longtime contender Arthur Persley at the Cambria in four, and a three round stoppage of top-rated Kenny Lane, screened from the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, highlighted the skein.
During this stretch, Graziano replaced McCall with Johnny Hutchinson. Hutch, like McCall, was a top-notch teacher but he was not the disciplinarian the former trainer was and rumors of Lens flashy lifestyle were reported.
The break-up with McCall was ironic since he and his wife had welcomed Len to live in their home for a few years before he married. They considered him a son. Tony, who had genuine affection for Len as well, seemed to indulge his every whim and his preparation for a rematch with Doug Vaillant on December 6, 1960 at Convention Hall seemed to lack the intensity needed against such a talented opponent.
Bringing back memories of the Carlos Ortiz debacle twenty months before, Vaillant caught Len with a vicious barrage of head shots on the ropes in the opening round that he somewhat survived. But, he took a battering throughout the bout and lost his chance for the title shot.
A savage beating by Paolo Rosi the following May in Madison Square Garden forced Matthews suspension by the New York Commission which requested that Len undergo electric brainwave tests before he be allowed to box in New York again.
Although never the same, he still had enough to knockout cross-town rival Jimmy Soo in the eighth round of one of the most sensational battles in local Philadelphia boxing history. But, when Kenny Lane exacted full revenge on Lenny at the Arena on September 15, 1962, dishing out such a frightful beating that referee Sweeney was forced to stop the slaughter in the ninth round, Tony Graziano and the Pennsylvania Commission requested that Len retire. Taking a nine-month layoff, Len returned to the ring for one last drive. Hooking back up with Quenzell McCall and adhering to strict training laws, Len scored six straight knockouts and returned to the ratings.
Eye problems finally forced Len to call it a career after losing a ten round decision to Chico Veliz (whom he had previously knocked out) at the Arena three weeks shy of his 25th birthday. A won-lost log of 42-10-3 with 29 knockouts and a "cant miss" prospect who just did miss, he was one of Philadelphias boxing legends.
Len Matthews boxing record
The Ex-file: colorful commentary of little import regarding Saturday night!
By Lynn H. DeLisa
As the soon-to-be-ex-wife of CBZ's founder and publisher Mike DeLisa, I was a little surprised and delighted to be able to attend the De la hoya fight card on Saturday night in Michael's absence. It is always a thrill to "hang" with some of boxing's great personas, meet other CBZ writers, and
mingle with the masses although there wasn't a great mass at the Garden. It seems that most of the seats were occupied by the press. Regardless of what gets reported, even the cheap seats were only two-thirds filled.
Nonetheless, the boxing was impressive. I thought the women's fight that night was hard-fought with Mia St. John and Kristin Allen both exchanging blows throughout, although they didn't appear to be too powerful from where I was sitting -- I couldn't even see what St. John had tattooed on her shoulder (although a questionable source told me that if I did some investigative reading of a certain magazine, I might find out). It seemed to me that St. John's punches were landing on the face, while Allen seemed to be focusing more on the body, overall. Both ladies did an admirable job and neither one of them danced. It is always refreshing to see boxing in the boxing ring. Mia won the bout with the judges scoring 38-38; 39-37; and 39-37 she looked good too, in hot pink!
The Gatti-Gamache fight was explosive with the occasional wild punch, a slip on Gatti's part, a fall through the ropes by Gamache, lots of punishment by Gatti, all resulting in Gamache's execution of the perfect "Nestea plunge" at 41 seconds of round two, in response to a beautiful right-left-right
combination. That's when I my own hysteria set in. . . I was certain that Gamache was dead and that he would be carried out of the ring on a stretcher. Leave it to a mother to over-react, as usual.
I was okay, however, by the time Oscar and Derrell entered the ring. I felt that Round One was getting-to-know-you boxing followed by Oscar spending most of Round Two looking for an opening, while his attempts to land "the big one" were having their intended effect.
By Round Three, Oscar looked intently focused like he was about to have Coley for dinner. One particular good left was followed by several body shots that hit their marks. For dessert, he placed a left uppercut to Coley's chin that would have ruined anybody's appetite.
What can I say about Round Four that hasn't already been said. The entire audience watched this round standing up (even Jon Bon Jovi who was seated a few rows in front of us thankfully he is short!) At first, Coley dominated, then Oscar came back. There were good exchanges throughout the entire round, and Oscar finished up with a body flourish that started Coley running.
In Round Five, Oscar kept the pressure on as he did in Round Six. Both rounds touted good boxing, and kept the crowd interested.
Round Seven surprised me. Oscar was leading, yet Coley was defending and trying to be aggressive even though his right eye was swelling. Then, next thing I know, it looked like Coley almost slipped because Oscar's right to Coley's left shoulder-blade didn't seem like "the" blow to knock Coley out. (I swear, I didn't look away to apply lipstick or anything, even though Jimmy Smits was present somewhere in the audience lots of the Soprano stars were also at the fight, but I wouldn't have fixed my lipstick for any of them, though I love the show!) But, I digress. . . anyway, you know the rest.
At the press conference, I almost forgot where I was. Oscar took 45 minutes before appearing (during which I should have taken a nap since there was lots of partying afterward) and then, when he wasn't answering questions in Spanish, talked more about the Trinidad fight, wherein he gave himself a ranking of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. For a time, I felt that I was in a high school math class as Oscar appeared to give a math word problem in explaining why he felt he won the Trinidad fight. It went something like this: "If a boxing match is twelve rounds long, and a Trinidad doesn't win more than six of those rounds, how can the winner not be a De la hoya?"
There were several after-fight parties/gatherings. Ultimately, I attended the Arturo Gatti party, which at one time, boasted about 600 people and an interesting game of pool! A great night of boxing was had by all.
Float Like A Butterfly And Sting Like A Pea: Pernell Whitaker vs. The Greats
By Alex Hall
Legends approached the ring as the fans cheered. They moved towards the ring thinking only one thought: 'I will beat Pernell Whitaker'. After a few rounds that thought had changed: 'I will win a round'. After 11 rounds it became: 'I will land a good punch'. Whitaker humiliated virtually every opponent he faced, and those he did not humiliate still lost. In British terms he was a 'slippery bugger'. He was greasy fast and near impossible to hit and to top it all off he was a southpaw. He was quite simply, the greatest defensive boxer since Willie Pep, yet he has never quite been given the credit he deserved. He has been condemned to eternally reside among the second tier legends between 135 and 147 pounds. As an admirer of the sweeter side of the sport, I have long claimed that Whitaker could have stood up to nearly every legend and defeated all but the very best of them. He was magic.
The truest measure of a boxer's greatness is to see to what extent he would have succeeded against the other great fighters. To prove my point, I have simulated 10 fantasy bouts against those generally considered legends in the two major divisions in which Whitaker campaigned. The legends I have chosen are: Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Ray Leonard, Barney Ross, Joe Gans, Ike Williams, Benny Leonard, Roberto Duran, Mickey Walker and Joe Walcott. These fights will be judged on the ten-point-must system over 15 rounds.
Vs. Joe Walcott
What a contrast! The 'Barbados Demon' vs. 'Sweet Pea'. This fight would be a battle.
Walcott is the less skilled of the two and the slower which enables Whitaker to pile up on points. Walcott was a mere 5'1½ and so inside exchanges are rare. However, Joe wisely targets the body and after seven rounds, Whitaker is beginning to tire badly. He is however, far ahead on the cards courtesy of his jab. Sensing and imminent KO, Walcott switches his attack to the head. Whitaker's chin has been greatly underrated and when he is unable to avoid Walcott's bombs, he survives being KOed. 'Sweet Pea' clinches well but takes a frightful beating in the eleventh round. He drops the 12th and 13th rounds as well but he now realises the seriousness of the situation. Whitaker puts all of his strength into movement and jabbing over the last two rounds and sweeps both. Walcott is convinced that the winner should be the one who hurts his opponent most in the fight while Whitaker feels he has outslicked the 'Barbados Demon'. The scores arrive: 142-142 even! 143-142 and 142-141 both for Pernell Whitaker. The exhausted Pea accepts his victory.
It would be a very close fight, but out of ten fights Whitaker would win 6 or possibly seven. Walcott's rally might even be enough to KO Whitaker but I would have to favour 'Sweet Pea'.
Vs. Joe Gans
Even the most optimistic fight fans fail to picture anything other than snore-fest '06. Both were master boxers and this would be a battle of wits.
Gans was able to master the jab of lightweight champion Frank Erne but Whitaker's jab was even more legendary and what is more is that this was a right jab. However, Whitaker's normally fight-winning jab is only seen on occasion and the jab of Gans does little more than fan 'Sweet Pea'. As a result, the only thing close to action in the battle are inside exchanges. Gans lands the harder shots but Whitaker lands more often. It is a judge's nightmare. Whitaker dips and dives while Gans steps back to find the range and land with his right. However, he is often caught by one-twos while stepping back. Most rounds contain less action than a battle between Michael Moorer's two dead, great grandmas, but Whitaker seems to steal more of the early and mid rounds and is roughly three points ahead after ten rounds when Whitaker slows the pace a little. The 'Old Master' lands more frequently to draw the bout even. Whitaker clinches to neutralise Gans' inside success and connects well over the last three rounds as Gans is unable to avoid Whitaker's jab as often. The first two cards read: 144-142 and the third reads: 145-142. Whitaker takes a unanimous decision.
Gans was a master boxer but Whitaker had a better defence which would make all the difference here. It would be close of course. Whitaker wins 7 out of ten with one fight a draw in ten matches with Gans.
Vs. Benny Leonard
Benny Leonard proved he could deal with the southpaw stance in his control of Lew Tendler but Whitaker was a different animal entirely. This fight would resemble Whitaker-Gans, it would be very slow with less action in 15 rounds than most fights contain in one round. Neither fighter proved to be lethal in any way and so you could bet everything of any value to you that nothing close to resembling a KO would happen. Whitaker would score with jabs to the body and would have greater success on the inside but would be caught by lefts and counter-rights from the man many believe was the most technically sound boxer ever to walk the Earth. Rounds would be very tight but Whitaker's craftiness would enable him to steal more rounds. Leonard simply did not possess the exceptional offence of Gans or the unpleasant punch of Walcott. The other two also displayed the ability to fight with exceptional intensity for more than 15 rounds. This fight would be very competitive and harder to score than the two previous bouts with several even rounds. After the fifteen round chess-match finishes, both men raise their arms in victory. The scores are 146-143, 144-142 and 145-142 all for Whitaker. Leonard was a master boxer but Whitaker becomes his nemesis.
Vs. Mickey Walker
How tough was Walker? It is quite easy to see that this was one 'Toy Bulldog' you could not break nor tame. He spent fifteen rounds with a fouling monster like Harry Greb. As with Walcott, this would be one helluva fight.
Whitaker spends the first round avoiding Walker's lunges and countering with lefts and utilising his superb southpaw jab. Walker turns up the heat and the second and draws Pernell into a wild brawl that 'Sweet Pea' clearly loses. In the third, Walker attempts to repeat the previous round's success but Whitaker clinches well and scores well to take the third and fourth rounds. However, Walker gets in some shots on the inside during the clinches and wears 'Sweet Pea' down. In round six, Walker snaps in a lethal combination that Whitaker fails to avoid. 'Sweet Pea' climbs to his feet at the count of five and backs off cautiously for the remainder of the round and is too inactive to take the 7th and 8th rounds. However, Whitaker's defence in these two rounds is so superb that Walker is unable to bank the necessary bodywork. Whitaker gets back his confidence and takes rounds 9, 10, 11. However he becomes too cocky and is caught by an excellent left hook while squatting in round 12 and take a count of four. Walker moves in at a fast pace in the 13th but is caught by exceptional combinations from Pernell who raises his arms in triumph after this round. The 14th round is very close; Whitaker lands excellent combinations but Walker thumps Pernell to the body enough times to leave the round a little in doubt. Walker targets the head too much in the 15th and his attack is easily avoided. The scores all read 143-140 for Whitaker. 'Sweet Pea' triumphs again.
Vs. Barney Ross
This fight would essentially be like Whitaker-Leonard but less competitive. Ross was slower than Leonard and had worse skill. Ross' chief asset was a purple heart (which won him the Congressional Medal of Honour in World War II). However, Whitaker too, has displayed a tremendous heart and so if the fight ever went down to a battle of guts, Whitaker would easily survive (although not win). Ross would have less success with the jab and in the end Whitaker would simply have out-boxed him. Ross would not be able to rally thanks to soft punches and Whitaker's tough chin. At either lightweight or welterweight, Whitaker wins by scores of about 146-141 of 147-141.
Vs. Henry Armstrong
If Whitaker-Walcott was a contrast then just what the Hell would Whitaker-Armstrong be like?
Armstrong charges right into battle from the opening bell. Whitaker gets right on his bike and snaps in whatever he can. He clinches all he can and takes about 4 or 5 of the first seven rounds. But trying to keep up with Armstrong takes its toll. Whitaker has fought at a tremendous pace and taken more whacks to the body than most could imagine. He is huffing and puffing as enters the 8th and Armstrong gets in all he has in his most decisive round. Whitaker's defence and chin keep him up for the next three rounds of punishment but he takes two counts in the 12th yet keeps on fighting. He tries as hard as he can but fails to win the 13th round and cannot survive the triple-crown windmill in the 14th as he takes yet another count. He summons all his courage for the last round and takes it on all three judges' cards, as Armstrong is reluctant to KO his brave foe. Whitaker thinks he has won. All three cards read 144-138 for Armstrong. Whitaker is cheered for a brave effort, but it takes more than guts to survive the cannibalistic and unceasing attack of Armstrong who sports a little swelling around the left eye compared to several gashes and swellings that dent the Pea.
In this case, I would not even say these two men split ten fights. Whitaker could not beat the human tank.
Vs. Sugar Ray Robinson
For the first time in his career, Whitaker finds himself up against a faster and more skilful opponent who can keep up a tremendous pace and carries an unpleasant sting in both fists. Whitaker finds himself in the position most of his opponents settled into and is completely outclassed from the very beginning. Whitaker defence allows him to takes two of the first ten rounds but he clearly looses at least six of the rest. Whitaker remains competitive throughout but is out of his depth and drops four of the last five rounds as Robinson's huge advantages carry him to victory. One card reads 148-138 while the other two read 147-140 and 147-139, all for Robinson.
Whitaker was great, but for my liking, the only fighter better than Robinson at 147 pounds was Muhammad Ali. Robinson would either win by KO or decision, but Whitaker would not win this one for sure.
Vs. Ike Williams
The pure boxer vs. the pure puncher, it's the old classic match-up.
Williams must surely make anyone's list of the top thirty hardest punchers of all time, but having a punch does not automatically translate into knockout ability. William's alltime career record stands at 125-24-5 (60). Counting all his fights in his professional career, his KO percentage was a faintly dismal 38.9%. Never regarded as a hard puncher, Muhammad Ali compiled a KO percentage of 60.6%. Amazingly, Williams' 38.9% is only a little higher than Whitaker's 38.6%! 0.3% difference between Williams and Whitaker suggests that he has been overrated. He is unable to land enough against Whitaker who boasted a defence far superior to any of those who dealt Williams his 24 losses. William's bone-crunching power is rarely a factor and Whitaker's chin prevents Williams from putting the Virginian in trouble. Williams takes a couple of rounds when he manages to get through with a few hard shots but ultimately, he is unable to get through with much at all for the first twelve rounds. He is however able to bank enough body work to leave Whitaker tired and unable to compete properly in the 15th round in which Williams swings wildly for a KO but fails dismally to even score a knockdown. Whitaker receives the cards of 147-138 and two scores of 148-137.
Whitaker would love this kind of victory, beating a hard puncher who finds himself too far in against Whitaker and needless to say, he clowns more than most ringsiders can tolerate.
Vs. Roberto Duran
'Manos De Piedra' vs. 'Sweet Pea' has been unfairly classified a mismatch. Whitaker has the edge in speed and defence but Duran was the harder puncher, the tougher fighter and had better stamina. I will say in advance that this match-up really classifies as pick 'em!
Whitaker opens the round by backing off and jabbing. Duran slips through and gets inside and takes a one-two. Whitaker ducks and dives landing a couple of shots and then clinches to offset Duran's momentum. Duran's superb (although not superior) defence and speed allows him to get through as well with harder punches though they come in smaller numbers. Duran uses foul tactics and Whitaker clinches and clowns excessively and both fighters are warned repeatedly. Whitaker has a point deducted in the fourth for clinching and Duran is penalised in the fifth for low blows. The first five rounds are as even as can be but Whitaker's pulling on Duran's leg, showboating, clowning, dipping to his knees and behind-the-back punches in the clinches are beginning to take their toll on the enraged Panamanian whose defence is being slowly eroded. He becomes more and more wild, much to the delight of Whitaker who sweeps rounds 6, 7 and 8. However in the ninth round Duran gets a little two wild and scores a knockdown with a nice combination, Whitaker rises and appears fine. However in round 10 is caught by a hard low blow and sinks to the canvass in pain. Duran has a point deducted and charges into Whitaker who clinches and wrestles 'Hands of Stone' to the canvass and is warned. Whitaker counters effectively to take round 12 but Duran's punches make round 13 hard to call. Duran is luckier in the fourteenth when a pair of right hands stun Pernell badly. Duran swings for a KO in the fifteenth round but apart from a stinging right hand midway into the round, is unsuccessful. The cards arrive and read 143-138 for Whitaker, 141-140 for Duran and 142-141 for Whitaker who accepts the split decision victory.
Out of ten fights Duran would take 3 with one draw.
Vs. Sugar Ray Leonard
Two confident and smart boxers who compiled less than 100 professional fights between them yet tested the cream of the competition from lightweight up to super middleweight.
Sugar Ray Leonard moved perfectly and outwardly looked like a legend and certainly was. He lost a close decision to Duran in an infight and was losing to Thomas Hearns who outboxed him until getting clocked. Whitaker is not comparable to either man and so it is difficult to picture this fight.
Whitaker outfoxes Leonard on the inside and moves well on the outside. Leonard's aggression is counterproductive and he begins to slip behind on points over the first five rounds. He controls his attack well to take the 6th and 7th with good combinations but looses the next three rounds. Leonard accelerates over the next five rounds to take four of them of them as Whitaker begins to tire a little. Whitaker fights back with a defensive masterpiece in the last round to take a unanimous (but close) decision by three scores of 144-141.
One must understand that I do not underrate Whitaker's opponents and nor do I choose to bash them (with the exception of Ike Williams who was included for the general consensus opinion of him rather than my personal opinion of his greatness). I regard all of his opponents in this article as highly as the next man, but I believe Whitaker has been unfairly treated, and not his legendary companions. Below is a list of where I include Whitaker among the top five lightweights and welterweights and top 10 pound-for-pound legends. Fighters who made the top five in the two divisions but not the alltime top 10 pound-for-pound have their positions listed next to them.
1.) Henry Armstrong
2.) Pernell Whitaker
3.) Roberto Duran (12th pound-for-pound)
4.) Benny Leonard (14th pound-for-pound)
5.) Joe Gans (22nd pound-for-pound)
1.) Sugar Ray Robinson
2.) Henry Armstrong
3.) Pernell Whitaker
4.) Sugar Ray Leonard (16th pound-for-pound)
5.) Joe Walcott (17th pound-for-pound)
1.) Muhammad Ali
2.) Sugar Ray Robinson
3.) Henry Armstrong
4.) Willie Pep
5.) Jimmy Wilde
6.) Roy Jones JR
7.) Pernell Whitaker
8.) Sam Langford
9.) George Dixon
10.) Eder Jofre
I realise that some historians would cheerfully ring my neck for placing Whitaker above fighters like Sam Langford and Joe Walcott but remember, I believe people are underrating Whitaker, not overrating the others.