JUNE 2005


Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

Cinderella Man
Book Excerpt by Mike DeLisa

Entertaining Fighters and Prospects
By Adam Pollack

Fatty Langtry: Pudgy
Pugilist of the Past

By Robert Carson

John Klein: 19th-Century
Trainer Extraordinaire

By Pete Ehrmann

Ring Leader
By Ron Lipton

Incentives in Professional
Boxing Contracts

By Rafael Tenorio

Fight Town
Book Excerpt by Tim Dahlberg

The Regulation of Boxing
on Tribal Lands:
Towards a Pan-Indian
Boxing Commission

By James Alexander

Spotlight on Cut Man Lenny DeJesus
By Sam Gregory

Dick Wipperman
by Pete Ehrmann

Jack Johnson: The Dates,
the Events, the Sources

by Stuart Templeton

Touching Gloves with...
"Irish" Art Hafey

by Dan Hanley

RING LEADER

By Ron Lipton


If I have a bad day and I'm depressed, I go up to Floyd's gym and wait for the right time and say, "Hey, champ, show me some of those double weaves under the slip bag." Watching him practice defense, bobbing and weaving with the precision and perfect balance of a ballet dancer is, for a boxing aficionado, the ultimate appreciation. Watching him work out at 55 years old is looking back through a time warp into the 1960s. Floyd moves the same way. His handsome, rugged face still has that youthful look of health that only clean living and God's blessings can give a man.

But today was different. He was late for a meeting with the lawyers and in a rush, visibly upset from the aggravation of a business betrayal that could be settled only in a court. After a lifetime in the most brutal business in the world, the love for boxing was still there for the purity, for teaching boys to defend themselves, to become boxers with class, great on defense. But the sordid side of the sport, the betrayals, the cheating and the lying? Floyd has never taken part in that. That we know.

The champ's eyes were sad. The fighters in the gym were huddled around him, and I thought to myself, It's all in the face if you know how to read it. As he spoke about this meeting that had been written up in the papers that week, what struck me was that there was no anger or bitterness in his eyes or voice. Only the sadness that someone he had trusted had let him down.

We tried to make him smile. He doesn't smile too often, but when he does you know it's for real, and it's worth a million bucks -- like when his son Tracy Harris Patterson won the New York Golden Gloves. I saw the film and all I can remember is Floyd's smile. I'll never forget it. It was love personified. So when the champ speaks, you stop what you're doing and listen; you might learn something.

"I won't be able to be with you tomorrow," he told the boys. "I have to go to this legal meeting."

Made a mental note not to even go to the gym. After 30 years in boxing and (having worked with six world champions and most of the fighters from the '60s, I know Floyd is the one I have the most fondness for. I think it's because my father loved what Patterson represented in boxing, in and out of the ring. This was instilled in me very early, when I was 12. Dad told me first about this guy he saw in the New York Golden Gloves, named Frank Patterson.

"There's this guy Patterson who knocked out, Ralph 'Tiger' Jones." dad said. (Jones would later beat Sugar Ray Robinson.) "This guy is something."

Soon after, I heard about the fastest fighter Dad ever saw. Floyd Patterson, Frank's brother. "And what a gentleman," my father would always add. I used to hate hearing that. I was kind of a roughneck with a lot of fury in me going in the wrong direction. I got into boxing early, but my dad wouldn't come to my fights. "C'mon, Dad," I'd plead. "I'm going to destroy this guy tonight. I'll beat on him till he quits."

"You probably will," he'd say. "But you've got a lot to learn about being a champion. Floyd Patterson would never brag. He fights to win, to make a man miss punches, but not to purposely hurt someone."

I just couldn't understand. I was 19 with a string of KOs, a couple of Golden Glove titles, and the stubborn foolishness of youth.

When Floyd lost the title to Ingemar Johannson, I saw tears in my dad's eyes, so I picked up the radio on which we had listened to the fight and smashed it. We were strictly a boxing family, no other sports mattered. When Floyd won it back, it was like we won it back, that's how happy we were.

I went on to work with Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Ali, Charlie 'Devil' Green, Frankie Depaula, and a bunch of other champs and contenders from lightweights to light-heavyweights. I was young and headstrong and liked the "tough" fighters.

Some of them ended up in jail, deservedly so. Others got bad breaks, and I helped them. Some were only out for themselves. I went on to become a police officer and raise a family. I never missed a fight that mattered to me -- not in 30 years, especially all of Patterson's fights, always first-row ringside.

I ended up working with Ali quite a bit. Once I had to go to court, and Ali came there under oath as a character witness for me. He testified how he sparred with me before the Liston, Frazier, and Shavers fights, and he said some nice things about me, too.

The court case turned out as a win, and I love Ali for helping me with that and always will. But when he fought Floyd in 1966 and 1972, it kind of hurt me to see him taunting Floyd like he did. But I know it was a boxing thing and nothing from the heart.

I didn't know whom to root for then. It would be almost like going against my own father to root against Floyd. Well, Floyd was winning their second fight until his eye got cut. I was just glad neither man was hurt badly.

Stayed in touch with everyone in boxing, yet unbelievably I had never met Patterson. I heard he was quite a loner, like me. Also that it would take a long, long time for him to trust anyone to get close to him. which is understandable and wise, really. I didn't even know where he lived, until one day my son's high-school teacher told me Floyd lived only about 16 miles away in New Paltz and that he owned a gym.

I'd been away from boxing for quite a while with injuries I sustained as a police officer, but I sorely missed the gym and being around boxing people. Well. I brought my 16-year-old son up to Floyd's, and for two months listened to every word the champ spoke. I watched him train the new fighters and the experienced ones.

I listen and watch because I've seen them all. the cornermen, the fighters and the fight teachers. Floyd's the calmest and most concise. His advice is on the money. There's definitely something magic about having a real champ on your side.

Anyway, when you're 44 years old, like me, it's kind of silly to say any man is your hero, but Floyd comes close. He represents what all boxers wanted to be. But since both of us don't speak much when we're together, I didn't really get an opportunity to see his real personality, which brings me back to the beginning of this story.

As Floyd finished speaking he hurriedly said goodbye and rushed down the gym stairs. He was late for his legal meeting. I walked behind him toward my car. As Patterson headed down the driveway, he saw a boy about 14 years old, a good-looking Mexican boy with dark eyes. His clothes were a little shabby, but he had a pride about him. The boy looked a little nervous, unsure of himself, gathering up the courage to speak to Floyd.

"I want to be a fighter," he said. "Can I train here?" (I had heard Floyd mention another day that there were already enough guys in the gym. It was crowded.) Patterson stopped. For a second he looked at me, and there we both stood at 14, coming to the gym the first scary time.

Patterson stopped. He put his arm around the boy and told him that he would be welcome. Then he came back in and patiently showed him around. The kid's eyes were illuminated with happiness.

I haven't seen my dad for many years. He's been living in Florida. When I see him again. I'm going to sit down and tell him he was right, as always. Floyd is one of a kind, a role model that comes along once in a lifetime.

If you don't believe me, just ask all the guys in the gym. And if you don't believe them, there's always this number in Florida you can call.

Ron Lipton now lives in Hyde Park. This article is dedicated to his father, who passed away in 2002.

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