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Fathers, Sons and Boxing
By Rick Farris
Over the years many a prizefighter was introduced to boxing by their father. Some fathers have encouraged their sons to become a fighter, others simply sought to teach their kid the finer points of self defense, to help them deal with the terror a bully can inflict upon kid. Those of us who follow the world's most brutal business are aware of a number father's who taught, trained and eventually managed the ring careers of a son.
In my case, things were much different, however, I still credit my dad for introducing me to the world of boxing, even if it was unintentional. For this I am grateful. My dad didn't intend for his oldest son to become a boxer. His only influence in my becoming one dates back to the early 1950's when I was just a toddler. It's no secret that in the early days of television, boxing was one of the most popular shows on the air. The old Friday night fights, broadcast thruout America, was one of the highest rated telecasts of the era and was as much a part of TV history as I Love Lucy.
It was sitting on my father's lap as he watched the fights that I'd get my first look at something that would become a major part of my life. Many people have asked me if my father was a fighter? I have to laugh when I hear the question and answer, "My dad wasn't a boxer, he was a banker." However, although my dad was never a boxer, he is without question a fighter. My dad's success over the years could not have been realized by anything less than a man willing to fight for what he wanted or believed in. Like many sons, I'm proud of my dad.
On December 10th, my father, Bill Farris, will be 78-years-old. The only thing more difficult for me to believe is the fact that I will turn 50 the following month. Hence the expression, "Time Flies!"
What I would like to do is step back in time nearly 32 years, to Februray 21, 1971. On this date, Allan Malamud, the late sports editor of the now defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, wrote a half page story on the second page of the Sunday paper about an upcoming L.A. featherweight & his dad. It was a story about my dad & myself. I'm going to reprint the story below for my father and anybody who who cares to read it:
THE BANKER'S SON IS A FIGHTER
By Allan Malamud
Prizefighters have been raised by banking families ever since the Marquis of Queensbury first laid down the ground rules. The list of sons of tellers, messengers, watchmen, janitors and robbers is endless.
But when Ricky Farris, 18-year-old bantamweight, visits his old man at the Bank of America Headquarters building downtown he rides to the opulence of the seventh floor.
Then he walks past orderly rows of desks to the neat, private office in the back where the name plate reads, "William N. Farris, Vice President".
The pugs father, you see, is the head of the Loan Adjustment Department for all of California.
Bill Farris invites you to take a chair, puts down the Wall Street Journal and talks enthusiastically about the eldest of his three sons who takes his licks for a living at swat-shops like the Olympic Auditorium.
"I'm damn glad my son is boxing, " he tells you. "Not that he would, but he could be getting into a lot of other things - smoking pot, gulping pills and getting into all kinds of trouble."
"This way he has no opportunity to. He's too busy. I always know where he is."
For instance, a week ago Friday night father was watching son at the Sports Arena. Ricky floored a tough Mexican named Antonio Villanueva three times, the last time for good in the sixth round.
The match was scheduled for six, and like everybody else who fights this distance in Los Angeles, the banker's son was paid $150.
It was by far the most impressive effort in Ricky's six month professional career and brought his record to five wins, one loss, and one draw.
The following Monday, Ricky was back to his usual routine and his dad could find him any hour of the day.
From 6:30 to 9 in the morning, he was delivering messages for the banks Data Processing Center. Then he drove to Valley State College (today known as Cal State Northridge) for two real estate classes, finished his school work at the family's Burbank home, drove downtown for a two hour training session at the Main Street Gym and hit the road for a four-mile run with his friend Bob Seagren, the pole vaulter.
But it is prizefighting that comes first to Ricky, his work second, and his schooling third.
"I really want to make boxing my living," says the bright, handsome kid. "Sure, I have other interests in life but I'm devoting most of my energy to becoming a top fighter. I just moved up from four rounds to six and by next fall hope to be fighting ten round main events."
He rises 5-foot-6 1/2 today (I tell everybody 5-7") and scales about 120 pounds - figures which help reveal why the banker's son took to violent action early in life. His friends could be bigger, but they didn't have to be better.
He was a Pop Warner football player, a Little League baseball player and a sidewalk fistfighter way back when.
"I always fought guys bigger than myself," he recalls. "I'd win a couple and then lose a couple. I figured that if I could learn to fight with gloves I'd get much better."
So one afternoon at age 12 he looked up the number of a promising young heavyweight named Jerry Quarry and asked where the best place was to learn boxing.
Quarry recommended the gymnasium of Johnny Flores, they were friends then, and Ricky's grandfather took him to the ring behind the garage of Flores' house.
Ricky soon discovered he liked boxing better than Judo for which he had been taking lessons.
"In Judo you just stood around and the intructors wouldn't let you hit anybody," says Ricky. "It was like going thru the motions. In fact, you'd get penalized if you hurt the other guy. In boxing, it was different".
Ricky went on to win 40 of 46 amateur bouts, won the Western Region Golden Gloves and Southern Pacific A.A.U. Championships, and turned pro shortly after becoming eligible on his 18th birthday.
Today his father is his biggest rooter. He leads a cheering section of 15 to 20 bankers every time Ricky fights. A smile came to his face the other night at the Sports Arena.
"You know Ricky had fought Villanueva twice before." said Bill Farris. "The first time they drew. The second time Ricky won a decision , but it was close.
"But he showed a lot of power the last time and you have to give Dwight Hawkins the credit. The "Hawk" has done wonders with Ricky. He's quite a man.
"That's the thing that impresses me most about boxing. It's been a pleasant surprise to discover how clean living the people are. I haven't met one crumb bum yet."
The banker's son does nothing to hurt the new image, either.