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Thread: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

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    Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Part One & Two
    By Lee Groves from Max Boxing

    Potential can be a fighter’s best friend or his worst enemy. Every so often, an athlete comes along whose abilities are so incandescently brilliant that the talk isn’t about whether he would become the man of the moment but whether he could become the best of his generation.
    Boxing is a sport prone to hyperbole. It’s easy for writers to get carried away and deem a fighter the "greatest" when he was only the "latest." When a luminous talent performs extraordinary deeds, we who observe them can’t help but wonder how high they will set the bar and how they eventually will compare to those who have already completed their course. Only a precious few blue chippers over the past 30 years have fulfilled the destinies predicted for them. Two of them – Roberto Duran and Pernell Whitaker – will write the ultimate chapter of their athletic stories this June when they are inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    More often than not, though, the flavor of the month ends up being just that after they run into an opponent who forgets to read the advance press clippings. Others are able to succeed inside the ring for a time only to find that their most formidable opponent is either life beyond the ropes or the personal demons that constantly eat away at their souls. But the cruelest impediment of all happens when a fighter on the road to lasting greatness is tragically struck down before he has a chance to completely perform his personal symphony.

    The American poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier put it best when he wrote, "For all sad words of tongue and pen/The saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" This three-part story will profile 12 star-crossed individuals who had the talent to put together extraordinary achievements only to fall short. All of them had achieved a measure of renown, and some of them are either Hall of Famers or soon will be. But for all of them, there will always be that pang of sadness that always comes when the mission is not quite accomplished. Without further adieu, here is one man’s list (in alphabetical order) of some of the fighters who could be deemed boxing’s "might-have-been" men:

    Tony Ayala Jr. – 1980-2003 (31-2, 27 KOs): Along with Bobby Czyz, Johnny Bumphus and Alex Ramos, Ayala was part of the "Tomorrow’s Champions" group that was prominently featured on NBC in the early 1980s. Of the four, "El Torito" was the most explosive as he splattered opponent after opponent with his deadly left hook. In just his ninth pro fight, Ayala proved against Mario Maldonado that he had grit as he overcame a resounding first-round knockdown to polish off the fringe contender in the third.

    "I wasn’t as high on him as other people were as I was about 8 or 9 years old when he was coming up. I was comparing him to guys like Hagler and Leonard," said HBO "Boxing After Dark" analyst Max Kellerman, who covered several of Ayala’s comeback fights when he was on ESPN2’s "Friday Night Fights." "He demonstrated during his comeback that his level of talent was top, top shelf. He was beating up lesser caliber guys even though he took a 17-year hiatus that was spent mostly in prison. You could see that he had the physical tools all along but he didn’t have the stuff psychologically to make himself a truly great fighter. But people responded to his ferocity and naked aggression."

    Though he experienced nothing but success inside the ropes, Ayala had problems containing the fury that drove him forward in the ring. Robbie Epps had once been a stablemate but he left Ayala’s trainer/father Tony Ayala Sr. The younger Ayala took out his anger on Epps as he scored a one-round demolition, after which he got in a few extra punches after the stoppage. Still, Ayala continued to rack up knockouts and his world rating zoomed up as quickly as his profile.

    Following a third-round TKO over former title challenger Carlos Herrera, Ayala, still just 19, was in line to fight WBA junior middleweight champion Davey Moore and a potential showdown with Roberto Duran had fans and media alike salivating. But all that fell away on New Year’s Day 1983 when Ayala broke into the home of a New Jersey woman, then tied her up and raped her. Ayala was sentenced to 15-35 years in prison, and it appeared his meteoric career was at an end.

    "As was the case with Tyson, nobody wanted to hear a Teddy Atlas kind of guy talking about the warning signals," Kellerman said. "The natural reaction after something like this is to be disappointed because fans are not following them as human beings but as athletes. If you find out your star number-three hitter, your star point guard, your star wideout or your favorite fighter has off-the-field problems, the primary concern is how it could be affecting them on the field or how it affects your team. At the time, there was disappointment in his behavior because he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his potential as a fighter and as a human being."

    But it ended up that all was not lost for Ayala the boxer. He was released in 1999 after serving a little less than half the maximum sentence. The 36-year-old resumed his boxing career with a third round KO of Manuel Esparza and followed it up with four more knockouts. There was even talk of Ayala securing a world title shot, but all of that stopped after Yory Boy Campas scored a ninth round TKO.

    "Ayala was beating the hell out of Campas early on, and I was thinking ‘wow!’" Kellerman said. "Campas was a world-class fighter for a number of years and a guy who was in jail for 17 years shouldn’t have been able to do this for any amount of time, yet he was doing it. He showed he had this physical potential but when Campas wouldn’t go away, Ayala showed he had some give in him psychologically."

    Ayala continued to have his issues with the law as he was convicted of burglary with the intent to commit aggravated assault after he broke into a young woman’s home in San Antonio, Texas. During the incident, Ayala was shot in the left shoulder. He wore an ankle bracelet during his 10-round decision win over Santos Cardona and went on to score three more knockouts before losing his final fight by 11th round TKO to future "Contender" star Anthony Bonsante on April 25, 2003. A little more than a year later, Ayala was stopped for speeding and charged with possessing drug paraphernalia. Ayala refused to take a drug test and he was summarily sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating his probation from the burglary conviction in San Antonio.

    "I always thought he would knock out Davey Moore," Kellerman said. "Moore was a good natural talent and a good skilled fighter but he wasn’t greatly talented or greatly skilled. Ayala had more physically than Moore. Everyone was talking about Ayala fighting Duran but I thought Ayala would end up fighting Hagler. In retrospect, Duran would probably beat Ayala in an awesome action fight. Physical attribute for physical attribute, Ayala could have gone one on one with Duran but not psychologically. As for Hagler, I think he dismantles Ayala."

    Jose Becerra – 1953-1960 (71-5-2, 42 KOs)

    Like Ayala, Becerra showed incredible talent even though he was barely out of his teens. At 20, he twice outpointed perennial contender Joe Medel in a span of three weeks and turned the trick a third time the following year. In 1959, Becerra knocked out former bantamweight champion Mario D’Agata and two fights later he captured the 118-pound crown by eighth round knockout over Alphonse Halimi.

    "I’ll never forget his first fight with Halimi," said Hall of Fame boxing historian Hank Kaplan. "I even remember who I watched the fight with; his name was Sal Vunetta and he was the brother of the director of ‘The Honeymooners’ with Jackie Gleason. He used to train a lot of good fighters like Mike McCallum and he used to train my stable of fighters. Becerra really surprised me that night. Even though I didn’t know much about either of them, I thought Halimi was going to beat him."

    When sizing up Becerra, Kaplan saw the complete package.

    "Becerra was a pretty good all-around fighter," he said. "He used to throw this cute little double hook to wherever he found an opening and he was a good puncher with both hands. He was a great competitor at close range. He was a guy who never clinched and was always busy on the inside. He was a good defensive fighter who used to block punches well and he didn’t leave himself wide open and flail aimlessly. He also loved to fight off the ropes and he was good at rallying to get out of a tight spot. He was one of the great early Mexican stylists that became visible to us because of television."

    After capturing the title from Halimi, Becerra continued to add to his budding legend. He knocked out Halimi in nine rounds nine months later, then decisioned Kenji Yonekura in Tokyo. Becerra seemed primed for a long reign but was shockingly stopped in eight rounds by Eloy Sanchez. Then, at just age 24, Becerra stunned the boxing world a second time by announcing his retirement. His decision to stop fighting was probably prompted by a non-title bout that took place three months after capturing the title from Halimi. Becerra knocked out Walter Ingram in nine rounds, and Ingram died from his injuries just two days later.

    "No doubt it had a great influence on his decision," Kaplan said. "He must have been a very sensitive guy and he must have considered his own mortality as a fighter. He decided that it was time to retire. Perhaps he was admonished by his own family about being a fighter and was advised by his parents to quit. That’s what made the decision for him."

    Unlike most other boxers who retire – especially those who do so that young – Becerra was never tempted to launch a full-scale comeback. He did make one more ring appearance at a benefit show on October 13, 1962, winning a six-round decision over Guadalajara’s Alberto Martinez, and he remains one of the most popular boxers Mexico has ever known.

    At the time Becerra retired, the career of another great fighter – Brazil’s Eder Jofre –was beginning to blossom. Had Becerra chosen to fight on, a match-up between the two stars would have been inevitable. But Kaplan believes the peerless "Golden Bantam" would have taken the measure of Becerra.

    "Jofre was a superior boxer and would have out-boxed Becerra in a 15-round fight," he said. "Jofre knew all of the tricks and was a beautiful fighter to watch. He was a real treat if you’re looking for boxing skills. Becerra’s and Jofre’s style would have had some electricity and it would have been a great fight. But Jofre would have been too clever for him."

    Still, Kaplan would have rated Becerra highly among the bantamweights, which has historically been a very deep division.

    "Throughout the years there have been a lot of great, great 118-pound fighters," he said. "If you’d put the names down on paper, you’d be amazed about all the great bantamweights who covered the landscape in the 1920s and 1930s. There were a lot of great bantamweights who had never won a title. But Becerra belongs up there with the best."

    Hector Camacho – 1980-2005 (78-5-2, 37 KOs): Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Camacho and his family moved to New York’s Spanish Harlem when he was a boy. The young Camacho loved to fight and when he wasn’t competing in karate or amateur boxing, he was doing so on the streets. As an amateur, Camacho won three New York Golden Gloves titles, defeating Paul DeVorce and Tyrone Jackson to earn the final two.

    After turning pro in September 1980 with a four-round decision over David Brown, Camacho quickly made a name for himself with his blazing hand and foot speed as well as his flamboyant personality. Camacho won the NABF super featherweight title by decisioning Blaine Dickson and stopped the usually durable Refugio Rojas in a single round to earn a spot in his first nationally-televised fight. On July 11, 1982 at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum – and before CBS’ cameras –Camacho was in prime form as he halted the previously undefeated Louis Loy in seven rounds and from then on he was a TV staple.

    "Until Floyd Mayweather came along, Camacho was the greatest junior lightweight I’d ever seen with my own eyes," said Kellerman. "People have a tendency to put all quick fighters in a group but Camacho was even quicker than the quickest fighters. At 130 he was untouchable; he was not only beating fighters he was destroying them. His fight with Bazooka Limon was no contest, though Limon was past his prime, and he was moving up and down between 130 and 135 and beating everybody. He was a phenom."

    The quicksilver southpaw blended his speed with a finely honed mean streak to produce fireworks. Against John Montes, the 21-year-old Camacho demonstrated veteran skill (and borderline dirty fighting) by missing with a jab, holding Montes’ head in position and letting go just before driving a pulverizing left uppercut to the jaw. The fight was stopped a little more than a minute after the opening bell, and Camacho was really on his way.

    Two fights later, Camacho won the WBC super featherweight title that was stripped from Bobby Chacon by knocking out Rafael "Bazooka" Limon in five rounds and defended it for the only time against Rafael Solis. Camacho moved up to lightweight and was at his brilliant best when he decisioned Jose Luis Ramirez to win the WBC 135-pound title.

    "I agree that this was Camacho at his best," Kellerman said. "I think that Camacho-Ramirez – more than Hagler-Hearns, Duran’s performance against Hagler or the rise of Donald Curry – made Leonard come out of retirement. Camacho-Ramirez showed Leonard that ‘here is this lightning-fast, scintillating performer who is about to occupy the same space I did in this sport.’ It made him jealous – and there was some bickering between those guys at the time – and it was as responsible as anything for his eventual comeback. That’s the kind of performance it was; it said that it was ‘Macho Time,’ and that boxing is his sport."

    His first defense against former WBA champion Edwin Rosario would prove to be a huge turning point in Camacho’s career. Camacho and Rosario fought evenly over the first four rounds, but 45 seconds into the fifth, Rosario landed a torrid hook to the jaw that badly wobbled Camacho. The champion survived Rosario’s follow-up assault but was hurt again with a hook-cross combo in the final minute of the 11th. Camacho again showed his resourcefulness by weathering Rosario’s storm before receiving a split decision win. Camacho may have preserved his perfect record but he lost the aggressiveness that had made him so special. For nearly the rest of his career Camacho was a safety-first stylist and his "Macho" nickname became the butt of jokes instead of a point of pride.

    "Usually the story isn’t so simple; we tend to construct a narrative that follows a story but in this case it was that simple," Kellerman said. "I think Camacho thought he was invincible, he got shook up by an incredible puncher and it ruined his career. Looking back, the Rosario fight was probably Camacho’s greatest win. He fought an absolute prime and motivated Rosario, who was the greatest lightweight puncher of my lifetime and one of the great pound-for-pound punchers ever. Rosario was an awesome puncher and a good counterpuncher and he was completely motivated to fight him. Though Rosario can be called an underachiever, on his best night he was a formidable guy. The Rosario that fought Chavez gave Chavez his best fight at lightweight, and that Rosario wasn’t as good as the one who fought Camacho. When you consider that Camacho survived some shaky moments and still won a close decision against that (version of) Rosario, it was his best win."

    Though Camacho kept winning, he showed only flashes of brilliance in the ring from that point on. Greg Haugen controversially snapped Camacho’s win streak at 38 and his life outside the ring was dotted by various run-ins with the law. At 43, Camacho fights on but chaos continues to follow him. A riot broke out both in the ring and outside the ropes following his most recent fight, a 10-round decision win over Raul Munoz in Tucson, Ariz.

    "When people talk of all-time disappointments – not just in boxing, but in all sports – Mike Tyson’s name comes up immediately but Camacho is right there with Tyson, though not in terms of character," Kellerman said. "Camacho had all-time great talent and every time he took a hiatus it was unimaginable to me that he wasn’t going to come out of this cycle and get back to dominating. Camacho was a wild hoodlum from Spanish Harlem who used to steal cars and use drugs. He was a crazy dude, not a bad guy in personal interactions, but a guy who had a negative impact. He was an awesome physical talent and for a while he was a truly great fighter. I think that the closest parallel to Camacho – though the styles are totally different – was Tyson."

    Could Camacho have made it into boxing’s all-time top 20? Kellerman said that while the top 20 is a very exclusive neighborhood, Camacho proceeded down the road farther than most of his peers could have.

    "When you look at a prospect over his first 20 or so fights, you get an idea of what he might become," Kellerman said. "Camacho was such a phenom that what he did early in his career didn’t disqualify him from consideration as the greatest lightweight of all time someday, though he ended up falling way short. It’s instructive to look at what a fighter’s contemporary audience thought of him, and I remember a quote from Michael Katz at the time of Camacho’s prime that said ‘this is the greatest fighter I’ve ever seen.’ Based on what I had seen, he kept the hope alive until after the Rosario fight. That alone is very impressive and speaks to his level of athleticism and talent."

    Tyrone Everett - 1971-1977 (36-1, 20 KOs): Mention the name Tyrone Everett to any hardcore boxing fan and one fight will immediately spring to mind: His split decision defeat to WBC super featherweight champion Alfredo Escalera.

    Escalera-Everett is universally recognized as one of boxing history's worst decisions, and the injustice is further magnified by the fact that the 24-year-old Everett would be dead two fights and six months later after his girlfriend shot and killed him during a domestic dispute.

    "We were talking to Don King about a rematch," said Everett's promoter J. Russell Peltz, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004. "He had personal problems with his girlfriend and she shot him. Some people say that if he had won (the Escalera fight) that he would have moved out of the neighborhood, he wouldn't have gotten involved with those people and he'd still be alive today. I don't know if he would have moved out or not. He made $15,000 for a title fight that took place 30 years ago and we sold ringside tickets for $25. That probably would have translated to about $100,000 today."

    Most observers had Everett winning 10 of the 15 rounds as the slick southpaw used his speed and quickness to befuddle the champion.

    "He was too quick for Escalera," Peltz recalled. "He embarrassed Escalera in that fight with the way he dominated. Escalera would be winging punches and Tyrone would be gone by the time they got there. There were only one or two rounds that Escalera clearly won. I was standing at the ring when (ring announcer) Ed Derian read the decision. There was one Philly judge that we knew would be OK and a Puerto Rican judge who we knew would vote for Escalera no matter what. We focused all our attention on the Mexican referee. We never thought that the Philly judge would ever vote against Everett and when Ed announced he voted for Escalera I said, 'Ed, you idiot, you read the scorecard backward.' I was sure he made a mistake. And the Mexican referee ended up being the only one voting for us."

    The robbery against Escalera hurt both boxer and promoter to the core because they were so sure that Everett had done more than enough to become the new champion.

    "It was like he got raped in front of 16,000 people," Peltz said. "It's hard to believe that a bunch of outside people could come into Philly and embarrass you like that, and you're standing like a little kid with your pants down. It was just frustrating. Every magazine I've ever read since then said it was one of the worst decisions of all time. Everett came into my office a couple of days after the fight and he told me 'I made Escalera s**k my d**k.' And he did. It was terrible. It took Philly boxing a long time to recover and get over the stink of that fight."

    Everett was an immensely skilled boxer who had the ability to dominate while fighting on the road, and Peltz compared him favorably to two of the 1980s greatest speed merchants.

    "He had a little bit of (Hector) Camacho without the B.S., and though he didn't have quite the technique of (Pernell) Whitaker he had better hand and foot speed," Peltz said. "He was not in too many competitive fights. There were a couple, but he outclassed everybody with his speed. In the pre-casino era, there were no neutral sites; you either fought at home or you fought in the other guy's backyard. (Tyrone) wasn't afraid to go on the road and we would never worry about where he would fight. He beat Ray Lunny in San Francisco and he beat a Colombian (Hugo Barranza) in (Caracas) Venezuela in the rain. And he even won decisions on the road, which is even tougher to do. If you're a big puncher, you can knock him out but if you're a boxer and you still get a decision, that's the sign of a very good fighter."

    Despite being a defensively-oriented southpaw, Everett was a popular attraction.

    "Everett was drawing $50,000 to $60,000 houses and attract between 7,500 and 10,000 fans," Peltz said. "I could afford to fly in guys from Korea, Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and he was beating them up."

    Had Everett lifted the belt from Escalera, Peltz said a long reign would have been possible, but he said the toughest challenge might have come from Alexis Arguello.

    "Arguello was big and rangy," Peltz said. "But then again, Arguello struggled with Ruben Olivares, who was a slow methodical body-punching Mexican who was a little past his prime. Escalera had two sensational fights with Arguello and Everett dominated Escalera, so Everett could have pitched a shutout on Arguello too. Arguello would have had his hands full with Everett and I'm not sure if he wouldn't have licked him. Arguello was the best at 130, but I'm not sure if he would have been better than Everett."

    Unfortunately, we will never find out.

    Boxing’s Might Have Been Men - Part II
    By Lee Groves (Jan 31, 2007)
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    The first installment covered the careers of four boxers who had the talent to make a significant mark on the sport’s history but were denied due to a variety of circumstances. Some, like Tony Ayala Jr., Hector Camacho and Ike Ibeabuchi, engaged in self-destructive behavior while others, like Jose Becerra, willfully cut short his career following an opponent’s death. Today, four more boxers whose lives and careers suffered from Fate’s cruel hand – and in some cases, misdeeds of his own making – will be profiled. No matter how the events unfolded these men remain united under the unenviable cloud of unrealized potential.
    Ike Ibeabuchi – 1994-1999 (20-0, 15 KOs): Samuel Peter is known as today’s "Nigerian Nightmare," (a nickname first bestowed upon former NFL running back Christian Okoye), but for a time in the mid- to late-1990s, the nickname certainly would have applied to Ibeabuchi. At 6-2 and between 235 and 244 pounds "The President" was a muscular force of nature with boulders for hands, yet he could also work behind a snapping jab and skillfully blend combinations between head and body.

    "Ibeabuchi captured the imagination of boxing fans like nobody since a teenage Mike Tyson," said MaxBoxing’s Tim Graham, now the president of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America. "People saw him as potentially unbeatable, the type of guy who could go 50-0 if he stayed interested."

    A member of the Igbo tribe (the same tribe that produced middleweight great Dick Tiger), Ibeabuchi produced two signature wins: An action-packed 12 round win over David Tua and a five-round knockout over future heavyweight champion Chris Byrd. In the Tua fight, Ibeabuchi maintained a very high work rate and ended up throwing a CompuBox heavyweight record 975 punches. In fact, Ibeabuchi and Tua set an all-time record for most combined punches in a heavyweight fight with 1,730, 139 more than the previous record holder – Ali-Frazier III. Ibeabuchi dominated early and withstood a furious Tua rally to score a stunning unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Tua, the man thought to be the best young heavyweight in the world.

    "The win over Tua put Ibeabuchi on everybody’s radar," Graham said. "The sheer number of punches between two guys who could decapitate each other made for riveting action. Whoever won that fight was going to be the next great contender, and even the guy who lost was probably going to improve his stock. It was that kind of fight."

    Against Byrd, whose defensive prowess was a constant source of frustration for opponents, Ibeabuchi demonstrated impressive patience. Even though he whiffed on most of his bombs, Ibeabuchi was never discouraged. Ibeabuchi began to break through in the third and in the fifth he decked Byrd with a monstrous left hook and finished him off with a flurry capped off by two more left hooks that prompted referee Ron Rall to call a halt.

    "In the Tua fight he showed he could handle a slugger, and against Byrd he proved he could dominate a slick boxer," Graham said. "Ibeabuchi’s knockout of Chris Byrd established him as the man any champion would need to face eventually if he wanted to remain legit. Ibeabuchi was the fearsome, unpredictable menace out of Africa. He was prominent enough in the heavyweight conscience that dodging him would have elicited calls of cowardice from anybody who might have shrunk from his challenge."

    The spectacular win put Ibeabuchi in prime position to challenge the winner of the Lewis-Holyfield rematch down the road but this Nigerian turned into a true nightmare away from the ring. A few months after the Tua fight, Ibeabuchi abducted the son of a former girlfriend and drove into a concrete pillar along Interstate 35 north of Austin, Texas. The boy suffered injuries to his legs and will probably never walk normally again while Ibeabuchi served a two-month jail sentence and paid a $500,000 civil settlement.

    "Behind the scenes, people were afraid of him and for him," Graham said. "The smallest matter would trigger a trip wire in his brain. I recall the story Lou DiBella told me about the time Ike pulled a knife on him during a dinner meeting with Cedric Kushner at a Manhattan restaurant. There were the recurring stories about Ike and his mother seeing demons in their home. Today, he explains away the demon rumors as misunderstandings due to a language barrier. He said he was merely telling people he thought his home was cursed in a figurative sense because things kept breaking. But even if that’s true, people were geniunely scared of what was going through this guy’s head. People still had to be shocked when the kidnapping and the car accident and the Las Vegas escort incident went down. But the warning signs were there."

    Ibeabuchi was sentenced to five to 30 years for the battery and sexual assault of an escort at The Mirage in Las Vegas. He was denied parole on August 24, 2004 and will not be eligible again until December 2007, when he will be 34 years of age.

    "To guess where Ibeabuchi would be today had he not gone to jail is difficult," Graham mused. "The problem with trying to guess is he probably would have gone to the slammer for something else or gotten deported or murdered or who knows what. Like Mike Tyson, there were way too many X-factors in Ibeabuchi’s personal life to predict a long championship reign. I think his handlers would have been able to coax a world title out of him, but he was getting more and more out of control. Some very embarrassing things would have befallen him and the degrees could have ranged from trivial to tragic."

    Stanley Ketchel – 1903-1910 (53-4-5 with four no-decisions, 50 KOs): "The Michigan Assassin" is still regarded as one of history’s greatest middleweights though his career lasted just six years. Standing just 5-9 and weighing around 154 pounds at his best, Ketchel fought with a savage fury that mirrored his chaotic life outside of the ring. He was orphaned at age 14 and after running away from his adoptive family he lived the life of a hobo, traveling the rails through Canada and the West Coast of the U.S. While living in Butte, Mont., he worked as a bouncer and fought unsanctioned bouts at a local theater against anyone brave enough to step inside the ropes. His first recorded pro fight, a one-round knockout of Kid Tracy, took place in Butte.

    Of his first 48 fights he only lost twice, both times to Maurice Thompson (L 6 and L 10). Just about everyone else ended up being pulverized. After losing to Thompson for the second time, Ketchel went 31-0-4 with 30 knockouts, which included 14 in a row.

    "He was a very determined guy with an incredible fighting heart and a great chin," Kaplan said. "As I look at his film he was not the greatest boxer or the most skilled boxer. With Ketchel the biggest thing about him was his determination. That is very, very important because a lot of fighters who weren’t that skilled won their fights because that kind of determination can take the heart out of his opponents. He was the kind of guy who was never going to quit, and if you weren’t ready to fight then you might as well have jumped through the ropes and go back to the dressing room."

    Ketchel won the middleweight title on May 9, 1908 by knocking out Jack "Twin" Sullivan in 20 rounds and defended against Billy Papke (W 10), Hugo Kelly (KO 3) and Joe Thomas (KO 2). In the rematch with Papke, the challenger sucker-punched Ketchel while at ring center to shake hands before the fight. Ketchel never recovered from the punch and was stopped in 12 rounds.

    Ketchel and Papke fought again six weeks later and the vengeful Ketchel unleashed his full fury. He stopped Papke in 11 rounds to become the first man to regain the middleweight title. In a 10-round no-decision bout against Philadelphia Jack O’Brien in March 1909, Ketchel absorbed a frightful beating in the first six rounds but came back to deck O’Brien four times in the ninth and 10th rounds. Had it not been for the final bell, O’Brien would have been a knockout loser. In their rematch 75 days later, Ketchel officially polished off O’Brien in three rounds.

    "Most of his middleweight fights were life-and-death affairs," Kaplan said. "He made great fights with everybody because he wasn’t necessarily too difficult to hit. He wasn’t a great defensive fighter, but his determination and aggressiveness allowed him to neutralize the skills of a boxer like O’Brien. As young as he was, he was able to hang in with those kind of guys because of that."

    After decisioning Papke over 20 rounds four weeks later, Ketchel challenged heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in Colma, Calif., on October 16, 1909. The 6-1 ¼ Johnson towered over Ketchel, who weighed just 170 ¼ to Johnson’s 205 ½. After a cautious first six rounds Ketchel began to let his hands go while Johnson landed enough punches to bloody Ketchel’s face, but no more. In the 12th, Ketchel decked Johnson with a right that glanced off the top of the head. Enraged, Johnson rushed at Ketchel and landed two right uppercuts that not only knocked Ketchel unconscious but broke off several of his teeth.

    Ketchel returned to the ring five months later and resumed defending his middleweight title as he scored a six-round no-decision over Frank Klaus. After a six-round no-decision bout against Sam Langford and a non-title three round KO over Porky Flynn, Ketchel notched the sixth and seventh defenses of his second reign by polshing off Willie Lewis (KO 2) and Jim Smith (KO 5). Ketchel wanted another shot at Johnson, but in the meantime he stopped at Conway, Missouri to get in some training. It was here that Ketchel’s story came to an abrupt end when a farm hand shot and killed Ketchel because he thought the fighter was trying to steal his girlfriend. The farm hand, Walter Dipley, was convicted of first-degree murder and served 23 years in prison.

    Though Ketchel died at a very young age, Kaplan believes the career of "The Michigan Assassin" was close to running its course.

    "I have a feeling that Ketchel was peaked out," he said. "I don’t think he would have become much better as a fighter if he had continued for two, three, four years longer. He wasn’t going to learn any more and he wasn’t going to get any better. In each successive fight you get beaten up and that takes a toll. There has to be a balance there. In every fight you are becoming less physically but you maybe get smarter mentally. But how do you put it together if you don’t have the physical ability to take advantage of it? He just fought too many wars early in his career."

    Bernard Mays 1978-1985 (26-1-1, 15 KOs) – Of all the great champions who have walked through the doors of the Kronk Recreation Center in Detroit, Bernard Mays had the potential to become the greatest of them all. His blend of speed and power was such that the nickname "Superbad" was eventually bestowed upon him. One story had it that his awestruck fellow boxers gave him the memorable moniker but Emanuel Steward, who handled Mays when the fighter was between 12 and 18 years old, tells a different story.

    "The first guy that everybody was crazy over at Kronk was Ray Leonard, who trained there for about a month in 1976 when he was trying to win a spot on the Olympic team," he said. "The nickname was really for Ray Leonard but Charles Davis (who was to later manage Mays) remembered that and gave him the nickname when he turned pro. But ‘Superbad’ was what he was."

    Mays, however, wasn’t a natural talent like Leonard; his skills came as a result of intensive one-on-one instruction from Steward that lasted months.

    "The most naturally gifted kid I’ve seen was Ray Leonard at 15, but that wasn’t the case with Bernard," Steward said. "I had a Golden Gloves team that won the team championship but in 1971 six members of that team joined the Marines. There was nobody at the gym and I was working at Detroit Edison as a lineman. I stopped by the area between the swimming pool and the locker room and I saw Mays sitting there waiting to go swimming like the other kids. I remembered him because he was a friend of Louis Holland, one of the boxers from that team, and I asked him if he wanted to learn to box. I wanted to teach somebody to box and I started picking him up every day.

    "When he first came in he was not super-talented, but I gave him my full undivided attention for seven to eight months with nothing but me and him when I got off work from Edison," Steward continued. "We spent hours and hours in the gym and I taught him every little trick I knew. It was a situation that never happened before and hasn’t happened since, and I developed a tremendous fighting machine. When he had his first amateur fight, everybody was shocked at how good he was. He was a 12-year-old that was knocking out 16-year-olds. Every kid in the city and their parents were coming to Kronk because of this one kid I taught. Hearns and the other kids came coming in because of Mays."

    As an amateur, Mays was a terror. According to Steward, Mays was 114-2, and the two losses came as a result of a bad decision and a retirement after Mays broke his right thumb during a fight.

    "He was a child amateur star and he and Leonard used to go to tournaments and people would crowd in just to see them fight," Steward recalled. "Leonard even loved to watch Bernard and I’ve never seen a 12- or 13-year-old that was as big as he was; he was attracting 2,000 people as an amateur. He was a combination of Joe Louis and Ray Robinson; he could box and punch and didn’t waste motion. He could slip a punch by half an inch on either side and then nail you."

    As a 14-year-old, Mays won the 106-pound national Junior Olympic title and two years later he won another one at 139 pounds. He also won two Ohio State Fair titles in 1976 and 1977, and the later title came despite having not trained for the better part of a year.

    "He won the Ohio State Fair, took off a year, and came back in 1977 in the open class," Steward recalled. "He hadn’t been in the gym no more than a week and he won everything down there. He stopped Kevin Rooney in one round in the final and was named the most outstanding fighter."

    But while he was spectacularly successful inside the ropes, his out-of-the ring behavior was far less so. He began drinking beer and smoking at age 14 and his father, Prince Milton, left the household.

    "By the time he was 17, he was like a lot of kids going off to do other things," Steward said. "Bernard was a superstar at age 12 or 13 and he experienced a lot of success early in life, but when they get a certain age they may lose their desire or discipline. He kept things away from me and he quit coming to the gym for about a year. When he showed up, I was surprised and I couldn’t believe he good he looked after a year off."

    Despite his damaging nocturnal habits and difficult home life, he continued to shine in the ring, destroying every opponent placed before him. Not long after he won the 1977 Ohio State Fair, he crushed the European amateur champion. He was too young to try out for the 1976 Olympic team and decided not to wait for the 1980 Moscow games.

    Mays turned pro in 1978 without Steward, who had hounded him about his drinking. ("He knew it would be a problem with me, so he ended up signing with my friend," Steward said.) In his first pro fight he smoked Sammy Myatt in two rounds and from then on it was off to the races. His best wins came in consecutive fights against Ralph Moncrief (W 10), former middleweight contender David Love (W 10) and onetime junior middleweight champion Oscar "Shotgun" Albarado (KO 9) – all of which took place over just 56 days.

    In his next fight two months later, Mays fought a 10-round draw with Ted Sanders but rebounded with a solid 10-round win over Lamont Lovelady. On November 21, 1985, the 25-year-old Mays fought Matthew Lewis at the Great Western Forum. A heavy right to the side hurt Mays badly and the fight was eventually stopped. The years of drinking had finally caught up with Mays as his damaged pancreas had inflamed. The examining physician told Mays that he would be risking his life by continuing to fight.

    "I never managed him professionally and I never saw him fight as a professional," Steward said. "Bernard’s reputation as a pro was never as good as it was when he was an amateur."

    Mays lived with his mother Victoria until she died about a year later. Broke, he moved into the New Light Nursing Home in Detroit, and approximately a year after doing so his condition began to deteriorate. He suffered from diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and chronic malabsorption syndrome and Mays died on March 1, 1994. He was just 33 years old. Before then, Steward saw Mays one last time.

    "After I heard that he was sick, I stopped by his house and asked his mother how he was," Steward recalled. "That was the first contact I had with him (since the days at Kronk). We sat down and talked about the old days, and he was laughing and rocking in his chair. I was out of town at a training camp when somebody told me that he had died. It was hard to believe. I believe that he had the ability to be right up there with Leonard as one of the all-time greats; he was that good. Even today, I’ve psychologically blanked it out because it’s too painful."

    Gerald McClellan – 1988-1995 (31-3, 29 KOs): Like Mays, McClellan got his start at the Kronk and like several of his teammates of the past he developed into a spectacular offensive force whose fireworks were worthy of a highlight reel. "The G-Man" possessed explosive power in both hands and is still regarded as one of the most fearsome punchers in middleweight history. His 30-second destruction of Jay Bell was the quickest middleweight title fight until Bernard Hopkins broke the mark with his 24-second icing of Steve Frank.

    "He was a combination boxer-puncher, but a very good puncher," said trainer/manager Emanuel Steward. "He’s one of the few natural punchers that I’ve been involved with. He hit hard with both hands and he was a very good body puncher."

    McClellan received the benefit of excellent sparring from a host of world-class athletes at and around his weight class, and because of that it was difficult for McClellan to make a real mark among his Kronk teammates.

    "At the time of his heyday, I boxed Gerald with guys like Frankie Liles, John David Jackson, Tommy Hearns, Michael Moorer, Leoonzer Barber and James Toney," Steward said. "I had other fighters like Michael Bentt, Oba Carr, Dwight Davison and Jemal Hinton, so it was difficult for him to be a standout in that group. He did OK in the sparring sessions but he wasn’t anything super-special. A group like that is like having a gifted basketball team with guys like Shaquille O’Neal and all those top players in a group."

    Following a successful amateur career that included a victory over Roy Jones in the semifinals of the 1988 national Golden Gloves, McClellan turned pro with a first-round knockout of Roy Hundley in August 1988. McClellan quickly rolled up 10 consecutive knockouts to start his career, all of which came in the first two rounds. But McClellan then experienced two surprising setbacks when he lost consecutive decisions to Dennis Milton and Ralph Ward, forcing Steward to become more personally involved in his training.

    "I was not training him in 1989 because I was so focused on the rematch with Tommy Hearns and Ray Leonard. I had an assistant trainer working with him," he said. "He wasn’t training properly and I was so focused on other things at the time. I realized after the two losses that I had to spend more time with him myself and I got more involved with him personally. Not to fault anybody, but I saw that certain guys can be trained only by a certain person."

    With Steward back at the helm, McClellan was back on track and he rolled up 12 consecutive victories (10 by knockout) to set up a fight for the vacant WBO middleweight title against John "The Beast" Mugabi in November 1991. Naturally bigger and a superior one-punch hitter than even the formidable Mugabi, McClellan scored three knockdowns before stopping him just 2:51 after the opening bell. McClellan never defended the WBO belt, instead knocking out four more opponents before meeting WBC champ Julian Jackson in one of boxing history’s most high-octane pairings. McClellan was well aware of Jackson’s power and opted to show unusual respect in the opening segments.

    "Julian was a big puncher and Gerald was a little on the cautious side in the beginning," Steward recalled. "It was a big-time fight for Gerald. Even Mugabi wasn’t as big a fight because Gerald was just too young and strong for Mugabi and he physically overpowered him. Jackson had been known for coming on to knock out guys in the late rounds. Gerald had more physical size but he decided to be a more careful boxer here."

    But the caution came to an end when Jackson hit McClellan with a low blow.

    "The thing I remember most is that he was hit with a low blow, and instead of taking the five-minute break he said immediately ‘I’m OK,’" Steward said. "I knew by the way he said it that the careful boxing was going out the window and he was going to end it with a one-punch knockout. He knocked him out with what I call a ‘clean-up’ left hook. I’ll never forget the way his head hit the floor on the side of the ring. The wild streak came out of him and it exploded. It was one of the very special wins because after two losses virtually everybody gave up on him but I believed in him still. He was a personal project of mine who I spent a lot of personal time."

    The knockout of Jackson unleashed a beast within McClellan and he became obsessed with producing awesome displays of power. Ignoring his boxing skills entirely, McClellan would rush out of the corner and overwhelm his opposition with sheer force. The results: A record-setting 23-second knockout of Jay Bell, a 97-second stoppage over Gilbert Baptist and a repeat knockout over Jackson that took just 83 seconds. McClellan was a man in a hurry, and Steward was not pleased.

    "He had a real attitude about knocking out somebody quick," he said. "He felt if they went four or five rounds that they deserved to win and that he was supposed to knock people out early. Tommy Hearns would operate behind the jab; he was a very patient fighter and he would wait, then catch them with a sneak punch. McClellan would try to make the opening; he didn’t care about boxing at all. He just wanted to create the KO while Tommy waited until the time it would happen. It was getting to the point where it made Gerald start to go backward because I knew if his opponents would get through four or five rounds he would have been in trouble."

    McClellan’s uncompromising mindset had both benefits and consequences, and both sides of the equation came to fruition when he challenged Nigel Benn for his WBC super middleweight title February 25, 1995 in London. McClellan nearly ended the fight in the first minute when he knocked Benn through the ropes. Though Benn was able to scramble back into the ring, French referee Alfred Asaro held off McClellan for several crucial seconds, giving Benn valuable time to recover his senses. Benn managed to survive McClellan’s opening assaults and gained momentum with each passing round.

    Before and during the fight, Steward saw several troubling signs.

    "Against Nigel Benn, I was surprised that he weighed only 165," he said. "When he was a middleweight he weighed right on 160 and on the morning of the fight he would be 170. It was hell making the weight, so I was surprised he was so light. He went all out for the knockout in his typical way. Had I still been managing, I would have known that the referee would have been all wrong and I wouldn’t have let him work the fight. Gerald gave a tremendous, all-out effort but he was getting fatigued. As I watched the fight something was bothering me. I noticed he had problems holding the mouthpiece in. It was the same mouthpiece he was wearing his whole career. I was watching that continually."

    Though McClellan scored a knockdown in the eighth round, "The G-Man" fought unsteadily and following a clash of heads in the 10th he took a knee and allowed Asaro to count him out. At the time of the knockout, McClellan was ahead by one and three points and even on the third card.

    "When I saw him slumped on the canvas, I knew something serious had happened," Steward said. He was right; McClellan suffered permanent brain injuries and has virtually no hearing or sight. He requires constant care from his family and will need assistance for the rest of his life.

    McClellan’s almost supernatural punching power had fans salivating for dream fights against Roy Jones and James Toney among others, and Steward believes he would have matched up well with the two future Hall of Famers – provided he adopted a more balanced approach.

    "Everybody thought that he would bowl over Roy Jones and James Toney, but I don’t know that for sure," Steward said. "By that time he was too dependent on the early-round KO and that would have been a problem against Toney. Toney was becoming a very balanced fighter, and though Gerald had great one-punch power he was becoming more one-dimensional. It remained to be seen.

    "Gerald was a tremendous puncher and there was nobody else out there to challenge Roy Jones," Steward continued. "In the semifinals of the 1988 Golden Gloves he beat Jones in a very good, competitive fight. Roy was very fast and very good but Gerald punched a little harder. He landed a body shot that made Roy wince and he was just heavier handed. Those two would have been a super, super fight. It would have been a competitive match between Jones, Toney, any of them. He was a talented fighter who deserved to be right there with the other two."

    For more information on Gerald McClellan, visit http://www.geraldmcclellan.com/

    The third and final installment of "Boxing’s Might Have Been Men" will profile four more fighters for whom fate did not smile.

  2. #2
    Roberto Aqui
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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Part One & Two

    Quote Originally Posted by GorDoom
    Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Part One & Two
    By Lee Groves from Max Boxing
    Ayala continued to have his issues with the law as he was convicted of burglary with the intent to commit aggravated assault after he broke into a young woman’s home in San Antonio, Texas..
    He was charged with, not convicted. The charges were dropped because the 2 women who lived there lied to investigators as to what happened. Ayala knew the women and was probably there to get laid when one got jealous and shot him.

    His parole was revoked because he was in possession of a small amount of drugs and had been hanging out at a bar. So many people invested so heavily in him because he was such an intelligent spokesman for the rehabilitated criminal. It was a terrible letdown for criminals who are truly trying to clean up their lives and all of his supporters. Like Tyson, Ayala just has a self destructive disorder, a trainwreck waiting to happen.

  3. #3
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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Part One & Two

    Boxing's Might Have Been Men - Part III
    By Lee Groves from Max Boxing

    In the first two installments of "Boxing’s Might Have Been" Men, eight fighters who have made an impact on the sport’s landscape yet were prevented by achieving their full potentials for a variety of reasons were profiled. Some, like Tony Ayala, Hector Camacho and Ike Ibeabuchi, short-circuited their careers with out-of-the-ring incidents while others such as Tyrone Everett and Stanley Ketchel were snuffed out before they were given the chance to get as far as life would take them. Bernard Mays was undone by a mixture of the two while Jose Becerra called it quits because he didn’t want to risk having a second opponent die. Finally, Gerald McClellan’s career was instantly ended after suffering significant injuries against Nigel Benn in 1995. Today’s third and final installment of "Boxing’s Might Have Been Men" features four more fighters whose deeds run a similar gamut, but whose results are no less star-crossed.
    Masao Ohba – 1966-1973 (35-2-1, 16 KOs): One wouldn’t think that a link could exist between a Mexican featherweight and a Japanese flyweight, but the stories of Salvador Sanchez and Ohba are tragically and eerily similar. Sanchez is revered in the boxing world because of his considerable achievements during his two-plus year reign as WBC featherweight champion. By age 23, Sanchez amassed nine defenses against excellent opposition that included Danny Lopez (twice), Ruben Castillo, Patrick Ford, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson. Incredibly, he was still a couple of years away from his physical prime.

    But fans would never get to see Sanchez at his very best because he was killed in an automobile accident just three weeks after his sensational war against future Hall of Famer Nelson.

    Similarly, by the time Ohba was 23, he was in the process of putting together a tremendous reign as WBA flyweight champion. He dethroned the 25-1-3 Berkrerk Chartvanchai (KO 13) and his best victories as champ came against future three-time flyweight champion Betulio Gonzalez, former flyweight titlist Susumu Hanagata (who decisioned Ohba three years earlier) and three-time king Chartchai Chionoi.

    "He had a fierceness about him even though he was more of a boxer," said Jack Obermayer, who has written about boxing since 1968 and attended Chionoi’s fight against Walter McGowan in Bangkok while serving in Vietnam. "He could strike with fast, fierce combinations when he had to, and in the 1970s the Japanese people took to that because that was an anomaly compared to what you would have gotten in Japan at the time. He could think quickly on his feet and he had a two-fisted windmill style like Fighting Harada, but he wasn’t as great as Harada was."

    Ohba also demonstrated a touch of vulnerability, especially in the early rounds. He was floored and badly hurt in the first round against Orlando Amores, but Ohba roared back spectacularly to score a fifth-round knockout. The pattern repeated itself against Chionoi as Ohba was decked with a sweeping overhand right to the jaw just 38 seconds after the opening bell. Ohba withstood Chionoi’s bombs and countered effectively until early in the 12th round when a short inside right stunned the Thai. As Chionoi staggered into the ropes, Ohba unleashed a vicious assault that floored Chionoi for a two-count. After the referee allowed an unsteady Chionoi to continue, Ohba fired a 22-punch salvo that caused Chionoi to turn away and collapse in the corner, utterly exhausted. The Thai rose again, but Ohba polished him off with a final 12-punch assault that rendered Chionoi helpless.

    It was a glorious ending for Ohba, but no one could have known that exactly three weeks later Ohba would be killed in an automobile accident, just as Sanchez would be more than nine years later. With five defenses under his belt and his prime years still to come, one can only wonder how he would have fared against Miguel Canto a couple of years later.

    "I was a big Canto fan, and to me he was a great, great fighter," Obermayer said. "It might sound sacrilegious, but his style was based on the Willie Pep school and he was very tough to hit. He didn’t have much of a punch and took advantage of any opportunity to make you miss and pay. Canto was an all-time great flyweight while Ohba had not quite reached that plateau. I don’t know if it would have been a great fight because they were distance boxers. Based on Canto’s track record, I would pick him to beat Ohba, but finishing second to Miguel Canto is no disgrace."

    Still, Obermayer believes Ohba was on his way to making a significant mark on boxing history, and though his career was cut short he still places a checkmark beside his name on his International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot.

    "Yes, he is a Hall of Famer," said Obermayer, the original "Travelin’ Man" who has attended 3,042 boxing shows in 317 cities and 48 states as of January 25, 2007. "We’ll never know if the adulation would have gotten to his head or if he would have lost his focus and lost the title and never regained it. He certainly was on track to be a great fighter."

    Because the fates dealt Ohba a terrible blow the likes of which none of us could defend, we will never know just how great.

    Mando Ramos – 1965-1975 (37-11-1, 23 KOs): During the late 1960s and early 1970s, southern California was a breeding ground for precocious and talented lighter-weight fighters. Hall of Famer Bobby Chacon and should-be Hall of Famer Danny "Little Red" Lopez were just two outstanding talents that made their mark in the early 1970s. But before them was Mando Ramos, a native of Long Beach who grew to be a long and lean lightweight who possessed skills far beyond his years. Manager/trainer Jackie McCoy put the 16-year-old Ramos in the ring with stablemate (and world featherweight champion) Raul Rojas, and the youngster more than held his own.

    "Mando had so much talent," McCoy said in Dave Anderson’s book "In The Corner." "When he was 16, 17 years old, he was so good, I couldn’t keep from chuckling when I’d watch him work out. I’d be so happy with the way he looked, I’d tell myself, this kid is the kind of boxer you dream all your life of getting."

    At 5-11 with a 71 ½-inch reach, Ramos towered over his opponents and he knew how to use his snapping jab to set up his powerful combinations. Ramos turned pro three days after his 17th birthday with a five-round decision over Berlin Roberts and raced to a 17-0 (11 KO) record, which included impressive 10-round wins over 62-fight veteran Jorge "Baby" Salazar in his 11th fight and the 17-0-2 Ray Echevarria in fight number 15. Kang Il Suh scored an upset decision to ruin the perfect record, and four fights later Frankie Crawford scored a majority decision. After Ramos brilliantly out-boxed Crawford in his next outing, he came off the floor in the ninth to decision reigning WBC super featherweight champion Hiroshi Kobayashi in a non-title contest to earn a shot at Carlos "Teo" Cruz’s WBA lightweight title.

    Just two months short of his 20th birthday, Ramos lost a razor-thin decision to Cruz but lifted the title in the rematch five months later after Cruz suffered a severe gash over his eye. With the victory, Ramos became the youngest man ever to win the lightweight title. After blowing away Yoshiaki Numata in six rounds, Ramos’ future seemed limitless. He was young, successful, telegenic, charismatic and personable. All the ingredients for a long and profitable title reign appeared to be in place.

    Unfortunately for Ramos, he lacked the maturity to handle his elevated status, and much of that had to do with his upbringing. His father Ray, a former fighter himself, was an alcoholic and Mando began drinking at age 11 when he sneaked drinks from his grandmother’s restaurant. As a child he engaged in hundreds of street fights, even after he turned to boxing. Ramos also abused drugs as his marijuana use eventually escalated to heroin. Finally, he regularly cut training to further indulge in his extracurricular passions.

    The excesses led to problems reducing to the 135-pound limit and the combined strains exacted a terrible toll on his body. Ramos lost the belt in his second defense to Ismael Laguna when a combination of five cuts forced a ninth-round stoppage, but after three wins he earned a crack at the vacant WBC title against the 103-1-2 Pedro Carrasco in Carrasco’s hometown of Madrid. Strung out on heroin in the days before the fight, Ramos still dominated until being disqualified in the 12th for pushing. The resulting controversy spawned a rematch, which Ramos won by split decision and he captured a split verdict in their third and final encounter. Less than three months later, Ramos lost the belt for the final time to Chango Carmona by eighth round KO. Ramos fought on, going 4-4-1 before retiring in 1975 following a two-round TKO loss to Wayne Beale. Ramos was just 17 days short of 27 years old.

    Ramos worked as a longshoreman for several years and swore off drugs following his older brother’s death from a heroin overdose. Drug free since 1983, Ramos started BAAD, which stands for Boxing Against Alcohol and Drugs.

    "Mando had more ability than any fighter I’ve ever been around, but he never did reach his potential," McCoy told Anderson. "He could’ve been a super fighter. It’s amazing he won the lightweight title twice, because he admits himself now that he used every drug known to man plus alcohol since he was about 12 years old."

    At least Ramos’ story ultimately had a happy ending, but we’ll never know how much greatness he lost during those troubled years.

    Mike Tyson – 1985-2005 (50-6 with two no-contests, 44 KOs): I have often stated that Julio Cesar Chavez was the one fighter in the last 50 years who has made a credible run toward the top of the all-time pound-for-pound mountain. But no prospect in my more than three decades of following the sport had excited me more than the young Mike Tyson. Yes, Tyson sported an impressively muscular build but what made him special was his mind-blowing hand speed and well-honed defensive skills that helped set up his incredibly spectacular knockouts.

    "He was very fast, probably the fastest fighter ever in the heavyweight division," said Kevin Rooney, who trained Tyson from the beginning of his pro career until his showdown with Michael Spinks. "Tyson was with Cus D’Amato and me since 1980, I believe, and because he dedicated himself under Cus’ regime he became a great fighter. (His ability was like) a gift from God and we all were looking at this guy and saying ‘who is this guy who’s knocking everybody out?’ It was like, ‘wow!’ "

    His performances in the ring, combined with a brilliantly executed marketing blitz by managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, created a tidal wave of excitement seldom seen in any field, much less boxing. Tyson maintained a furious schedule of two or three fights every month and videos of his spectacular knockouts were regularly shown on nighttime sports casts around the country. The stated goal was for the teen terror to become history’s youngest heavyweight champion and he won his first piece of the title at age 20 years 4 months by wiping out WBC titlist Trevor Berbick in two rounds in November 1986. By the time he unified the titles by decisioning Tony Tucker, Tyson, now 21 years and 1 month old, was a full 10 months younger than Patterson.

    Despite well-documented personal and professional turmoil, Tyson ripped through his opposition, and this period in Tyson’s career was capped off by his one-round destruction of Michael Spinks to win universal recognition as heavyweight champion. Because Tyson was older than Patterson was when he achieved undisputed status, Tyson’s claim of being history’s youngest heavyweight champion remains a point of contention among observers. The impressiveness of his performance against Spinks, however, was beyond dispute.

    "That was his best fight," Rooney said. "The arena in Atlantic City was sold out and Mike went out there and knocked (Spinks) out in 90 seconds. The best thing about Mike that night was his mindset. He went out there ripping shots. Mike punches hard and he went out there and took Spinks apart. It was like ‘hello, goodbye, see you.’ "

    Soon after, Tyson fired the surviving members of his original team to sign a promotional deal with Don King. The first fight under the new "Team Tyson" took place against Frank Bruno on February 25, 1989, eight months after the Spinks blowout. The difference in form couldn’t have been more stark – and not in a positive way. Tyson ditched the defensive elements of the D’Amato style in favor of gunning for the one-punch knockout.

    "Bruno was nothing, a nobody and Tyson knocked him out but he wasn’t on top of anything," Rooney said. "Bruno hurt him in the first round with a left hook, and if he could have really fought he should have knocked Tyson out. I mean Bruno had Tyson HURT. He whacked him with a left hook and Tyson staggered, and if you have a guy hurt you get rid of him. The Tyson I trained would have gotten rid of Bruno. In the fights after Spinks he wasn’t moving his head, he wasn’t being elusive, he was just saying ‘let’s go…let’s go.’ "

    Tyson knocked Bruno out in five rounds and kept winning despite his diminishing technical skills. Tyson took a 37-0 (34 KOs) record into his 10th defense against 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo on February 10, 1990. An out-of-shape and disinterested Tyson was at his worst while Douglas, fighting just weeks after his mother’s death, was at the peak of his athletic life. Even after Douglas thoroughly dominated Tyson over most of the first eight rounds, Tyson managed to floor Douglas with a massive right uppercut. But Douglas would not be denied and he blasted the crown off Tyson’s head in the 10th.

    Tyson’s early career was marked by a desire to become the greatest heavyweight who ever lived, but by the time "Iron Mike" fought Douglas, Rooney feels that drive had been extinguished.

    "He didn’t train for that fight at all…AT ALL!" Rooney said. "Tokyo, Japan is a big time party town but when he fought Tubbs he trained. We went out there the first day and we got up and we ran. He was in shape for that one and he knocked Tubbs out (in the second round). But when Tyson fought Douglas he didn’t train at all because he thought he could beat Douglas. Douglas’ mother had died and he was motivated for her, then he went out there and whupped Tyson’s ass. At that point he was out of control. He was calling all the shots and he shouldn’t have been calling the shots. But King was in his pocket and it was a bad thing. In my opinion, Mike forgot who he was and what he was doing and that’s why Douglas beat him."

    After a pair of wins over Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Tyson was convicted of rape and served three years in prison. Following his release in 1995, Tyson regained much of his fearsome reputation by stopping Bruno in three rounds to win the WBC belt and blitzing Bruce Seldon in 109 seconds for the WBA strap. By the time he signed to defend against Evander Holyfield, many experts expressed concern that the "Real Deal’s" life was in mortal danger. In an upset that rivaled Douglas’, Holyfield knocked Tyson out in 11.

    From that point forward Tyson’s emotional shortcomings would come to the fore. First was the ear-biting incident in the Holyfield rematch. Next he attempted several times to break Frans Botha’s arm. Then he hit Orlin Norris after the bell and the resulting fall injured Norris’ knee, resulting in a no-contest that could easily have been a disqualification loss. Then Tyson bull-rushed over referee John Coyle to get in a few extra punches on Lou Savarese, who he knocked out in just 38 seconds. Tyson was well behaved in his three-round KO over Andrew Golota, but that victory turned into a no-contest after his post-fight urinalysis tested positive for marijuana. Then came the melee at the event announcing the fight between Tyson and Lennox Lewis during which Tyson reportedly bit Lewis’ thigh.

    His final pro outing against Kevin McBride was a microcosm of how far Tyson had slipped. Tyson generally controlled the action until the final minute of round five when McBride drove Tyson back with a series of uppercuts. Early in the sixth, Tyson became unglued. First he tried to break McBride’s left arm in a clinch, then a head butt which was judged to be deliberate opened a cut over McBride’s left eye, costing Tyson two points. Then he tried to break McBride’s arm a second time and after McBride withstood Tyson’s follow-up flurry, Tyson retired on the stool between rounds six and seven. Tyson then announced his retirement from the sport.

    "I’m just sorry I let everybody down," a humble and reflective Tyson said after the fight. "I don’t have this in my heart anymore. I’m just fighting to take care of my bills and I don’t have the stomach for this anymore. I don’t have that ferocity and I’m not that animal anymore. I’m not going to disrespect the sport by losing to these caliber of fighters." Then, perhaps in a nod back to the Douglas fight, he said, "I haven’t loved fighting since 1990."

    At the time he won his first slice of the title in 1986, Tyson had the potential to craft the longest and most prolific championship reign the sport has ever known. But because Tyson was unable – or unwilling – to control his impulses, Joe Louis still holds both records of 11 years 8 months and 25 defenses.

    "He became an idiot as far as I’m concerned because he wanted to forget everybody who helped him," Rooney said. "Cus had died and Jimmy (Jacobs) had died and (Bill) Cayton was the mastermind who made the business deals. He was focused when he was with me and he just went out there and did what we had to do. Had he stayed dedicated and had he stayed at home, he would have been the world champion forever because there was nothing out there that could have stopped him."

    Nothing, that is, except Mike Tyson himself.

    Pancho Villa – 1919-1925 (73-5-4 with 23 no decisions, 22 KOs): Picture Manny Pacquiao as a fighter from the 1920s and one would get a good idea of what Villa must have been like in the ring. The 5-1 dynamo from Iloilo in the Philippines was a typhoon that tore through everything in his path and as a result was immensely popular, especially back home.

    "Villa was an aggressive, two-fisted guy who could withstand punishment," said Hall of Fame historian Hank Kaplan. "He overwhelmed a lot of the classy and clever featherweights of his time. He had a busy style and because he was a great performer the fans loved him. I was talking with friends recently about how Villa would compare with Manny Pacquiao. You will not see many fighters better than Manny Pacquiao, who is the closest thing to Henry Armstrong that we’ve seen."

    As a boy Villa fostered a reputation as a formidable street fighter, and that reputation led promoter Frank Churchill to begin handling him. It was he who reportedly renamed the man born Francisco Guilledo after the noted Mexican bandit. Villa often fought – and beat – bigger men and built a 48-2-3 record with three no decisions before Churchill took Villa to America in search of better opponents. Villa fought two 12-round no-decisions bouts with Abe Goldstein and Frankie Genaro, though he did lose the newspaper decision in both fights. Five fights later – and on the heels of losing a 10-round decision to Genaro – Villa captured the American flyweight title by knocking out Johnny Buff in 11 rounds. In his first defense he avenged his perceived loss to Goldstein by 15 round decision and beat Terry Martin over 15 rounds to retain the belt a second time. But his nemesis Genaro struck again as he lifted the title by decision in a bout that most observers believed Villa deserved to win.

    Six fights after losing to Genaro, Villa engaged in his most famous fight against longtime British flyweight champion Jimmy Wilde, who came to America looking to unify the championship but found Villa to be a far more lucrative opponent than Genaro. On June 18, 1923 at the Polo Grounds, Villa battered the aging "Mighty Atom" with punches from all angles before stopping him in seven rounds.

    "Jimmy was at the end of his trail," Kaplan said. "Villa may not have been the classic defensive artist but his style of being busy and aggressive overwhelmed Wilde’s clever boxing skills. Plain and simple, he was too busy for Wilde."

    Villa maintained a very busy schedule by engaging in non-title 10-rounders between title defenses. Over the next two years Villa notched defenses against Benny Schwartz (W 15), Georgie Marks (W 15), Frankie Ash (W 15) and Clever Sencio (W 15). The Sencio bout took place in Manila and it proved to be the only time Villa would perform as champion before his home crowd.

    On July 4, 1925 in Oakland, Calif., Villa came into the ring against Jimmy McLarnin weakened by the recent extraction of a wisdom tooth and as a result he lost the non-title 10 round decision. A subsequent visit to the dentist revealed an infection that caused three more teeth to be pulled, and instead of following the dentist’s advice to rest he engaged in a week long party. The infection worsened and though his trainer Whitey Ekwert rushed him to the hospital it was too late. Villa was just two weeks short of his 24th birthday when he died of Ludwig’s Angina, an infection of the throat cavity.

    "His death could have been prevented, no doubt," Kaplan said. "He didn’t take care of himself because he didn’t think it was very important. He probably didn’t know the extent of the infection. He had a very deep pocket of infection in his mouth and jaw that spread very quickly throughout his body and by the time he got to the doctors it was too late to save him."

    Though Villa’s life and career were tragically cut short by a highly preventable death, Kaplan believes Villa deserves to be counted among the very best of 112-pounders.

    "He has to be one of the truly great flyweights of all time, no question," he said. "Because he was a great two-fisted battler, he would have been a great fighter in any era."

    So there it is, a list of 12 fighters whose careers never reached their potential, denying them the full flower of their greatness. There are many others who could have been included on this list because boxing, more than any other sport, seems to attract people who either find chaos or have it find them. There have been a fortunate few that have been able to rise above their circumstances and enjoy unqualified success, but there are far more who can relate to the stories related here. For them, all we can do is hope for the best and try to remember them in as positive a light as possible. But whenever they are remembered, there will always be the unavoidable cloud of what might have been.

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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Part One & Two

    Boxing's Might Have Been Men - Part III
    By Lee Groves from Max Boxing

    In the first two installments of "Boxing’s Might Have Been" Men, eight fighters who have made an impact on the sport’s landscape yet were prevented by achieving their full potentials for a variety of reasons were profiled. Some, like Tony Ayala, Hector Camacho and Ike Ibeabuchi, short-circuited their careers with out-of-the-ring incidents while others such as Tyrone Everett and Stanley Ketchel were snuffed out before they were given the chance to get as far as life would take them. Bernard Mays was undone by a mixture of the two while Jose Becerra called it quits because he didn’t want to risk having a second opponent die. Finally, Gerald McClellan’s career was instantly ended after suffering significant injuries against Nigel Benn in 1995. Today’s third and final installment of "Boxing’s Might Have Been Men" features four more fighters whose deeds run a similar gamut, but whose results are no less star-crossed.
    Masao Ohba – 1966-1973 (35-2-1, 16 KOs): One wouldn’t think that a link could exist between a Mexican featherweight and a Japanese flyweight, but the stories of Salvador Sanchez and Ohba are tragically and eerily similar. Sanchez is revered in the boxing world because of his considerable achievements during his two-plus year reign as WBC featherweight champion. By age 23, Sanchez amassed nine defenses against excellent opposition that included Danny Lopez (twice), Ruben Castillo, Patrick Ford, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson. Incredibly, he was still a couple of years away from his physical prime.

    But fans would never get to see Sanchez at his very best because he was killed in an automobile accident just three weeks after his sensational war against future Hall of Famer Nelson.

    Similarly, by the time Ohba was 23, he was in the process of putting together a tremendous reign as WBA flyweight champion. He dethroned the 25-1-3 Berkrerk Chartvanchai (KO 13) and his best victories as champ came against future three-time flyweight champion Betulio Gonzalez, former flyweight titlist Susumu Hanagata (who decisioned Ohba three years earlier) and three-time king Chartchai Chionoi.

    "He had a fierceness about him even though he was more of a boxer," said Jack Obermayer, who has written about boxing since 1968 and attended Chionoi’s fight against Walter McGowan in Bangkok while serving in Vietnam. "He could strike with fast, fierce combinations when he had to, and in the 1970s the Japanese people took to that because that was an anomaly compared to what you would have gotten in Japan at the time. He could think quickly on his feet and he had a two-fisted windmill style like Fighting Harada, but he wasn’t as great as Harada was."

    Ohba also demonstrated a touch of vulnerability, especially in the early rounds. He was floored and badly hurt in the first round against Orlando Amores, but Ohba roared back spectacularly to score a fifth-round knockout. The pattern repeated itself against Chionoi as Ohba was decked with a sweeping overhand right to the jaw just 38 seconds after the opening bell. Ohba withstood Chionoi’s bombs and countered effectively until early in the 12th round when a short inside right stunned the Thai. As Chionoi staggered into the ropes, Ohba unleashed a vicious assault that floored Chionoi for a two-count. After the referee allowed an unsteady Chionoi to continue, Ohba fired a 22-punch salvo that caused Chionoi to turn away and collapse in the corner, utterly exhausted. The Thai rose again, but Ohba polished him off with a final 12-punch assault that rendered Chionoi helpless.

    It was a glorious ending for Ohba, but no one could have known that exactly three weeks later Ohba would be killed in an automobile accident, just as Sanchez would be more than nine years later. With five defenses under his belt and his prime years still to come, one can only wonder how he would have fared against Miguel Canto a couple of years later.

    "I was a big Canto fan, and to me he was a great, great fighter," Obermayer said. "It might sound sacrilegious, but his style was based on the Willie Pep school and he was very tough to hit. He didn’t have much of a punch and took advantage of any opportunity to make you miss and pay. Canto was an all-time great flyweight while Ohba had not quite reached that plateau. I don’t know if it would have been a great fight because they were distance boxers. Based on Canto’s track record, I would pick him to beat Ohba, but finishing second to Miguel Canto is no disgrace."

    Still, Obermayer believes Ohba was on his way to making a significant mark on boxing history, and though his career was cut short he still places a checkmark beside his name on his International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot.

    "Yes, he is a Hall of Famer," said Obermayer, the original "Travelin’ Man" who has attended 3,042 boxing shows in 317 cities and 48 states as of January 25, 2007. "We’ll never know if the adulation would have gotten to his head or if he would have lost his focus and lost the title and never regained it. He certainly was on track to be a great fighter."

    Because the fates dealt Ohba a terrible blow the likes of which none of us could defend, we will never know just how great.

    Mando Ramos – 1965-1975 (37-11-1, 23 KOs): During the late 1960s and early 1970s, southern California was a breeding ground for precocious and talented lighter-weight fighters. Hall of Famer Bobby Chacon and should-be Hall of Famer Danny "Little Red" Lopez were just two outstanding talents that made their mark in the early 1970s. But before them was Mando Ramos, a native of Long Beach who grew to be a long and lean lightweight who possessed skills far beyond his years. Manager/trainer Jackie McCoy put the 16-year-old Ramos in the ring with stablemate (and world featherweight champion) Raul Rojas, and the youngster more than held his own.

    "Mando had so much talent," McCoy said in Dave Anderson’s book "In The Corner." "When he was 16, 17 years old, he was so good, I couldn’t keep from chuckling when I’d watch him work out. I’d be so happy with the way he looked, I’d tell myself, this kid is the kind of boxer you dream all your life of getting."

    At 5-11 with a 71 ½-inch reach, Ramos towered over his opponents and he knew how to use his snapping jab to set up his powerful combinations. Ramos turned pro three days after his 17th birthday with a five-round decision over Berlin Roberts and raced to a 17-0 (11 KO) record, which included impressive 10-round wins over 62-fight veteran Jorge "Baby" Salazar in his 11th fight and the 17-0-2 Ray Echevarria in fight number 15. Kang Il Suh scored an upset decision to ruin the perfect record, and four fights later Frankie Crawford scored a majority decision. After Ramos brilliantly out-boxed Crawford in his next outing, he came off the floor in the ninth to decision reigning WBC super featherweight champion Hiroshi Kobayashi in a non-title contest to earn a shot at Carlos "Teo" Cruz’s WBA lightweight title.

    Just two months short of his 20th birthday, Ramos lost a razor-thin decision to Cruz but lifted the title in the rematch five months later after Cruz suffered a severe gash over his eye. With the victory, Ramos became the youngest man ever to win the lightweight title. After blowing away Yoshiaki Numata in six rounds, Ramos’ future seemed limitless. He was young, successful, telegenic, charismatic and personable. All the ingredients for a long and profitable title reign appeared to be in place.

    Unfortunately for Ramos, he lacked the maturity to handle his elevated status, and much of that had to do with his upbringing. His father Ray, a former fighter himself, was an alcoholic and Mando began drinking at age 11 when he sneaked drinks from his grandmother’s restaurant. As a child he engaged in hundreds of street fights, even after he turned to boxing. Ramos also abused drugs as his marijuana use eventually escalated to heroin. Finally, he regularly cut training to further indulge in his extracurricular passions.

    The excesses led to problems reducing to the 135-pound limit and the combined strains exacted a terrible toll on his body. Ramos lost the belt in his second defense to Ismael Laguna when a combination of five cuts forced a ninth-round stoppage, but after three wins he earned a crack at the vacant WBC title against the 103-1-2 Pedro Carrasco in Carrasco’s hometown of Madrid. Strung out on heroin in the days before the fight, Ramos still dominated until being disqualified in the 12th for pushing. The resulting controversy spawned a rematch, which Ramos won by split decision and he captured a split verdict in their third and final encounter. Less than three months later, Ramos lost the belt for the final time to Chango Carmona by eighth round KO. Ramos fought on, going 4-4-1 before retiring in 1975 following a two-round TKO loss to Wayne Beale. Ramos was just 17 days short of 27 years old.

    Ramos worked as a longshoreman for several years and swore off drugs following his older brother’s death from a heroin overdose. Drug free since 1983, Ramos started BAAD, which stands for Boxing Against Alcohol and Drugs.

    "Mando had more ability than any fighter I’ve ever been around, but he never did reach his potential," McCoy told Anderson. "He could’ve been a super fighter. It’s amazing he won the lightweight title twice, because he admits himself now that he used every drug known to man plus alcohol since he was about 12 years old."

    At least Ramos’ story ultimately had a happy ending, but we’ll never know how much greatness he lost during those troubled years.

    Mike Tyson – 1985-2005 (50-6 with two no-contests, 44 KOs): I have often stated that Julio Cesar Chavez was the one fighter in the last 50 years who has made a credible run toward the top of the all-time pound-for-pound mountain. But no prospect in my more than three decades of following the sport had excited me more than the young Mike Tyson. Yes, Tyson sported an impressively muscular build but what made him special was his mind-blowing hand speed and well-honed defensive skills that helped set up his incredibly spectacular knockouts.

    "He was very fast, probably the fastest fighter ever in the heavyweight division," said Kevin Rooney, who trained Tyson from the beginning of his pro career until his showdown with Michael Spinks. "Tyson was with Cus D’Amato and me since 1980, I believe, and because he dedicated himself under Cus’ regime he became a great fighter. (His ability was like) a gift from God and we all were looking at this guy and saying ‘who is this guy who’s knocking everybody out?’ It was like, ‘wow!’ "

    His performances in the ring, combined with a brilliantly executed marketing blitz by managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, created a tidal wave of excitement seldom seen in any field, much less boxing. Tyson maintained a furious schedule of two or three fights every month and videos of his spectacular knockouts were regularly shown on nighttime sports casts around the country. The stated goal was for the teen terror to become history’s youngest heavyweight champion and he won his first piece of the title at age 20 years 4 months by wiping out WBC titlist Trevor Berbick in two rounds in November 1986. By the time he unified the titles by decisioning Tony Tucker, Tyson, now 21 years and 1 month old, was a full 10 months younger than Patterson.

    Despite well-documented personal and professional turmoil, Tyson ripped through his opposition, and this period in Tyson’s career was capped off by his one-round destruction of Michael Spinks to win universal recognition as heavyweight champion. Because Tyson was older than Patterson was when he achieved undisputed status, Tyson’s claim of being history’s youngest heavyweight champion remains a point of contention among observers. The impressiveness of his performance against Spinks, however, was beyond dispute.

    "That was his best fight," Rooney said. "The arena in Atlantic City was sold out and Mike went out there and knocked (Spinks) out in 90 seconds. The best thing about Mike that night was his mindset. He went out there ripping shots. Mike punches hard and he went out there and took Spinks apart. It was like ‘hello, goodbye, see you.’ "

    Soon after, Tyson fired the surviving members of his original team to sign a promotional deal with Don King. The first fight under the new "Team Tyson" took place against Frank Bruno on February 25, 1989, eight months after the Spinks blowout. The difference in form couldn’t have been more stark – and not in a positive way. Tyson ditched the defensive elements of the D’Amato style in favor of gunning for the one-punch knockout.

    "Bruno was nothing, a nobody and Tyson knocked him out but he wasn’t on top of anything," Rooney said. "Bruno hurt him in the first round with a left hook, and if he could have really fought he should have knocked Tyson out. I mean Bruno had Tyson HURT. He whacked him with a left hook and Tyson staggered, and if you have a guy hurt you get rid of him. The Tyson I trained would have gotten rid of Bruno. In the fights after Spinks he wasn’t moving his head, he wasn’t being elusive, he was just saying ‘let’s go…let’s go.’ "

    Tyson knocked Bruno out in five rounds and kept winning despite his diminishing technical skills. Tyson took a 37-0 (34 KOs) record into his 10th defense against 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo on February 10, 1990. An out-of-shape and disinterested Tyson was at his worst while Douglas, fighting just weeks after his mother’s death, was at the peak of his athletic life. Even after Douglas thoroughly dominated Tyson over most of the first eight rounds, Tyson managed to floor Douglas with a massive right uppercut. But Douglas would not be denied and he blasted the crown off Tyson’s head in the 10th.

    Tyson’s early career was marked by a desire to become the greatest heavyweight who ever lived, but by the time "Iron Mike" fought Douglas, Rooney feels that drive had been extinguished.

    "He didn’t train for that fight at all…AT ALL!" Rooney said. "Tokyo, Japan is a big time party town but when he fought Tubbs he trained. We went out there the first day and we got up and we ran. He was in shape for that one and he knocked Tubbs out (in the second round). But when Tyson fought Douglas he didn’t train at all because he thought he could beat Douglas. Douglas’ mother had died and he was motivated for her, then he went out there and whupped Tyson’s ass. At that point he was out of control. He was calling all the shots and he shouldn’t have been calling the shots. But King was in his pocket and it was a bad thing. In my opinion, Mike forgot who he was and what he was doing and that’s why Douglas beat him."

    After a pair of wins over Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Tyson was convicted of rape and served three years in prison. Following his release in 1995, Tyson regained much of his fearsome reputation by stopping Bruno in three rounds to win the WBC belt and blitzing Bruce Seldon in 109 seconds for the WBA strap. By the time he signed to defend against Evander Holyfield, many experts expressed concern that the "Real Deal’s" life was in mortal danger. In an upset that rivaled Douglas’, Holyfield knocked Tyson out in 11.

    From that point forward Tyson’s emotional shortcomings would come to the fore. First was the ear-biting incident in the Holyfield rematch. Next he attempted several times to break Frans Botha’s arm. Then he hit Orlin Norris after the bell and the resulting fall injured Norris’ knee, resulting in a no-contest that could easily have been a disqualification loss. Then Tyson bull-rushed over referee John Coyle to get in a few extra punches on Lou Savarese, who he knocked out in just 38 seconds. Tyson was well behaved in his three-round KO over Andrew Golota, but that victory turned into a no-contest after his post-fight urinalysis tested positive for marijuana. Then came the melee at the event announcing the fight between Tyson and Lennox Lewis during which Tyson reportedly bit Lewis’ thigh.

    His final pro outing against Kevin McBride was a microcosm of how far Tyson had slipped. Tyson generally controlled the action until the final minute of round five when McBride drove Tyson back with a series of uppercuts. Early in the sixth, Tyson became unglued. First he tried to break McBride’s left arm in a clinch, then a head butt which was judged to be deliberate opened a cut over McBride’s left eye, costing Tyson two points. Then he tried to break McBride’s arm a second time and after McBride withstood Tyson’s follow-up flurry, Tyson retired on the stool between rounds six and seven. Tyson then announced his retirement from the sport.

    "I’m just sorry I let everybody down," a humble and reflective Tyson said after the fight. "I don’t have this in my heart anymore. I’m just fighting to take care of my bills and I don’t have the stomach for this anymore. I don’t have that ferocity and I’m not that animal anymore. I’m not going to disrespect the sport by losing to these caliber of fighters." Then, perhaps in a nod back to the Douglas fight, he said, "I haven’t loved fighting since 1990."

    At the time he won his first slice of the title in 1986, Tyson had the potential to craft the longest and most prolific championship reign the sport has ever known. But because Tyson was unable – or unwilling – to control his impulses, Joe Louis still holds both records of 11 years 8 months and 25 defenses.

    "He became an idiot as far as I’m concerned because he wanted to forget everybody who helped him," Rooney said. "Cus had died and Jimmy (Jacobs) had died and (Bill) Cayton was the mastermind who made the business deals. He was focused when he was with me and he just went out there and did what we had to do. Had he stayed dedicated and had he stayed at home, he would have been the world champion forever because there was nothing out there that could have stopped him."

    Nothing, that is, except Mike Tyson himself.

    Pancho Villa – 1919-1925 (73-5-4 with 23 no decisions, 22 KOs): Picture Manny Pacquiao as a fighter from the 1920s and one would get a good idea of what Villa must have been like in the ring. The 5-1 dynamo from Iloilo in the Philippines was a typhoon that tore through everything in his path and as a result was immensely popular, especially back home.

    "Villa was an aggressive, two-fisted guy who could withstand punishment," said Hall of Fame historian Hank Kaplan. "He overwhelmed a lot of the classy and clever featherweights of his time. He had a busy style and because he was a great performer the fans loved him. I was talking with friends recently about how Villa would compare with Manny Pacquiao. You will not see many fighters better than Manny Pacquiao, who is the closest thing to Henry Armstrong that we’ve seen."

    As a boy Villa fostered a reputation as a formidable street fighter, and that reputation led promoter Frank Churchill to begin handling him. It was he who reportedly renamed the man born Francisco Guilledo after the noted Mexican bandit. Villa often fought – and beat – bigger men and built a 48-2-3 record with three no decisions before Churchill took Villa to America in search of better opponents. Villa fought two 12-round no-decisions bouts with Abe Goldstein and Frankie Genaro, though he did lose the newspaper decision in both fights. Five fights later – and on the heels of losing a 10-round decision to Genaro – Villa captured the American flyweight title by knocking out Johnny Buff in 11 rounds. In his first defense he avenged his perceived loss to Goldstein by 15 round decision and beat Terry Martin over 15 rounds to retain the belt a second time. But his nemesis Genaro struck again as he lifted the title by decision in a bout that most observers believed Villa deserved to win.

    Six fights after losing to Genaro, Villa engaged in his most famous fight against longtime British flyweight champion Jimmy Wilde, who came to America looking to unify the championship but found Villa to be a far more lucrative opponent than Genaro. On June 18, 1923 at the Polo Grounds, Villa battered the aging "Mighty Atom" with punches from all angles before stopping him in seven rounds.

    "Jimmy was at the end of his trail," Kaplan said. "Villa may not have been the classic defensive artist but his style of being busy and aggressive overwhelmed Wilde’s clever boxing skills. Plain and simple, he was too busy for Wilde."

    Villa maintained a very busy schedule by engaging in non-title 10-rounders between title defenses. Over the next two years Villa notched defenses against Benny Schwartz (W 15), Georgie Marks (W 15), Frankie Ash (W 15) and Clever Sencio (W 15). The Sencio bout took place in Manila and it proved to be the only time Villa would perform as champion before his home crowd.

    On July 4, 1925 in Oakland, Calif., Villa came into the ring against Jimmy McLarnin weakened by the recent extraction of a wisdom tooth and as a result he lost the non-title 10 round decision. A subsequent visit to the dentist revealed an infection that caused three more teeth to be pulled, and instead of following the dentist’s advice to rest he engaged in a week long party. The infection worsened and though his trainer Whitey Ekwert rushed him to the hospital it was too late. Villa was just two weeks short of his 24th birthday when he died of Ludwig’s Angina, an infection of the throat cavity.

    "His death could have been prevented, no doubt," Kaplan said. "He didn’t take care of himself because he didn’t think it was very important. He probably didn’t know the extent of the infection. He had a very deep pocket of infection in his mouth and jaw that spread very quickly throughout his body and by the time he got to the doctors it was too late to save him."

    Though Villa’s life and career were tragically cut short by a highly preventable death, Kaplan believes Villa deserves to be counted among the very best of 112-pounders.

    "He has to be one of the truly great flyweights of all time, no question," he said. "Because he was a great two-fisted battler, he would have been a great fighter in any era."

    So there it is, a list of 12 fighters whose careers never reached their potential, denying them the full flower of their greatness. There are many others who could have been included on this list because boxing, more than any other sport, seems to attract people who either find chaos or have it find them. There have been a fortunate few that have been able to rise above their circumstances and enjoy unqualified success, but there are far more who can relate to the stories related here. For them, all we can do is hope for the best and try to remember them in as positive a light as possible. But whenever they are remembered, there will always be the unavoidable cloud of what might have been.

  5. #5
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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    No one ever had a better left hook than Beccera.

    Tyrone Everett was not killed by his "girlfriend."

  6. #6
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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    Everett was no more killed by his "girlfriend" than Liston was killed by a self-inflicted "drug overdose."

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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    Quote Originally Posted by Obama fan
    Everett was no more killed by his "girlfriend" than Liston was killed by a self-inflicted "drug overdose."
    Obama Fan, you are the biggest conspiracy believer on this board, and write like one. You say with great authority, and no doubt, that the 2 events above didn't happen as is commonly believed. Fine, sounds like you know the truth.

    So, what DID happen to Everett and Liston, and who did it to them?
    You must know, right? Or, you wouldn't be so sure the well known versions of the facts are wrong . . .

  8. #8
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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    If you want to swallow everything the news media hands you, that is your right.

    It is perfectly well known around Philadelphia what actually happened with Everett.

    And it wasn't what the newspapers were instructed to write.

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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    Quote Originally Posted by Obama fan
    If you want to swallow everything the news media hands you, that is your right.

    It is perfectly well known around Philadelphia what actually happened with Everett.

    And it wasn't what the newspapers were instructed to write.
    As usual, your say-nothing style. Great, a conspiracy? Hey, I believe them occasionally.

    But, as always, you have not said one informative thing in this post to clarify who did what to whom. Just more smoke.

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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    I always feel uncomfortable with puting Tyson in the "Coulda been" pile.

    I think a lot of people, especially all his former Catskills crew, don't see that Mike was Mike - They see what Mike SHOULD have been.

    It's sort of like Tyson's Cus connection made people expect Mike to turn out a similar person to Floyd. He wasn't - He was always troubled, came up from trouble and was then moulded into as ferocious a fighter as ever. However, as Teddy Atlas has articulated far clearer than I have and with the one really sobering voice from those early days about what COULD have happened to Mike - He was never equiped with the maturity or the tools of personal discipline and accountability for his actions.

    I am referring to all the passes his bad behaviour had when he was growing up in the Catskills.

    I think Tyson was what Tyson was. An amazing fast burning flame. I think he was what he was and that was about all you could have - Pushing the 'greatest of all time' pressure on Tyson that many had begun to do prior to his decline only added to that decline as Tyson's psyche obviously wasn't prepared to deal with that, if anything Mikes keen sense of boxing history only added to that gulf between what he had achieved and what he COULD achieve.

    People always talk about how prison and the myriad of other excuses prevented Tyson from becoming a true acendant in the all time great pantheon.

    But you only have to look at a true ATG in Ali to compare.

    Ali lost his three years at his prime and came back to achieve all that he achieved. He rose above the hardships life threw at him and then took the experience on his granite chin and then to the the hardships of arguably the toughest HW division in history.

    Tyson had his hardships and his character flaws were revealed for what they were. No matter what you think of the court cases - A volatile personality is an understament.

    To judge his career in the context of what he COULD have done is neither fair to Tyson or to men who ACHIEVED more in their careers.

    I don't think Tyson is a could have been, I appreciate him for what he did and I was revolted by a lot of his actions as well. But I still think that someone who was an undisputed HW champ, that ignited the world like he did is someone that achieved it - He just couldn't hold onto it.

    That said, I get where the author is coming from - I just don't put him and Ayala in the same boat at all.



    .

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    Re: Boxing’s "Might Have Been" Men – Parts One, Two & Three

    Everett's girlfriend allegedy caught him with another guy and shot him. She did time. If she fronted for someone else, fine. Her family was big into drug dealing in South Philadelphia, members of Black Brothers, Inc., or the Black Mafia. If there is a street story version going around, I'd love to know it. Rumors are that Everett himself was into dealing drugs and he was supplied with money by the Italian Mafia, not the Black Mafia.

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    Missed this earlier

    Wolgast, thanks for resurrecting it.

    The piece on Bernard Mays intirgues me quite a bit:

    Bernard Mays 1978-1985 (26-1-1, 15 KOs) – Of all the great champions who have walked through the doors of the Kronk Recreation Center in Detroit, Bernard Mays had the potential to become the greatest of them all. His blend of speed and power was such that the nickname "Superbad" was eventually bestowed upon him. One story had it that his awestruck fellow boxers gave him the memorable moniker but Emanuel Steward, who handled Mays when the fighter was between 12 and 18 years old, tells a different story.

    "The first guy that everybody was crazy over at Kronk was Ray Leonard, who trained there for about a month in 1976 when he was trying to win a spot on the Olympic team," he said. "The nickname was really for Ray Leonard but Charles Davis (who was to later manage Mays) remembered that and gave him the nickname when he turned pro. But ‘Superbad’ was what he was."

    Mays, however, wasn’t a natural talent like Leonard; his skills came as a result of intensive one-on-one instruction from Steward that lasted months.

    "The most naturally gifted kid I’ve seen was Ray Leonard at 15, but that wasn’t the case with Bernard," Steward said. "I had a Golden Gloves team that won the team championship but in 1971 six members of that team joined the Marines. There was nobody at the gym and I was working at Detroit Edison as a lineman. I stopped by the area between the swimming pool and the locker room and I saw Mays sitting there waiting to go swimming like the other kids. I remembered him because he was a friend of Louis Holland, one of the boxers from that team, and I asked him if he wanted to learn to box. I wanted to teach somebody to box and I started picking him up every day.

    "When he first came in he was not super-talented, but I gave him my full undivided attention for seven to eight months with nothing but me and him when I got off work from Edison," Steward continued. "We spent hours and hours in the gym and I taught him every little trick I knew. It was a situation that never happened before and hasn’t happened since, and I developed a tremendous fighting machine. When he had his first amateur fight, everybody was shocked at how good he was. He was a 12-year-old that was knocking out 16-year-olds. Every kid in the city and their parents were coming to Kronk because of this one kid I taught. Hearns and the other kids came coming in because of Mays."

    As an amateur, Mays was a terror. According to Steward, Mays was 114-2, and the two losses came as a result of a bad decision and a retirement after Mays broke his right thumb during a fight.

    "He was a child amateur star and he and Leonard used to go to tournaments and people would crowd in just to see them fight," Steward recalled. "Leonard even loved to watch Bernard and I’ve never seen a 12- or 13-year-old that was as big as he was; he was attracting 2,000 people as an amateur. He was a combination of Joe Louis and Ray Robinson; he could box and punch and didn’t waste motion. He could slip a punch by half an inch on either side and then nail you."

    As a 14-year-old, Mays won the 106-pound national Junior Olympic title and two years later he won another one at 139 pounds. He also won two Ohio State Fair titles in 1976 and 1977, and the later title came despite having not trained for the better part of a year.

    "He won the Ohio State Fair, took off a year, and came back in 1977 in the open class," Steward recalled. "He hadn’t been in the gym no more than a week and he won everything down there. He stopped Kevin Rooney in one round in the final and was named the most outstanding fighter."

    But while he was spectacularly successful inside the ropes, his out-of-the ring behavior was far less so. He began drinking beer and smoking at age 14 and his father, Prince Milton, left the household.

    "By the time he was 17, he was like a lot of kids going off to do other things," Steward said. "Bernard was a superstar at age 12 or 13 and he experienced a lot of success early in life, but when they get a certain age they may lose their desire or discipline. He kept things away from me and he quit coming to the gym for about a year. When he showed up, I was surprised and I couldn’t believe he good he looked after a year off."

    Despite his damaging nocturnal habits and difficult home life, he continued to shine in the ring, destroying every opponent placed before him. Not long after he won the 1977 Ohio State Fair, he crushed the European amateur champion. He was too young to try out for the 1976 Olympic team and decided not to wait for the 1980 Moscow games.

    Mays turned pro in 1978 without Steward, who had hounded him about his drinking. ("He knew it would be a problem with me, so he ended up signing with my friend," Steward said.) In his first pro fight he smoked Sammy Myatt in two rounds and from then on it was off to the races. His best wins came in consecutive fights against Ralph Moncrief (W 10), former middleweight contender David Love (W 10) and onetime junior middleweight champion Oscar "Shotgun" Albarado (KO 9) – all of which took place over just 56 days.

    In his next fight two months later, Mays fought a 10-round draw with Ted Sanders but rebounded with a solid 10-round win over Lamont Lovelady. On November 21, 1985, the 25-year-old Mays fought Matthew Lewis at the Great Western Forum. A heavy right to the side hurt Mays badly and the fight was eventually stopped. The years of drinking had finally caught up with Mays as his damaged pancreas had inflamed. The examining physician told Mays that he would be risking his life by continuing to fight.

    "I never managed him professionally and I never saw him fight as a professional," Steward said. "Bernard’s reputation as a pro was never as good as it was when he was an amateur."

    Mays lived with his mother Victoria until she died about a year later. Broke, he moved into the New Light Nursing Home in Detroit, and approximately a year after doing so his condition began to deteriorate. He suffered from diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and chronic malabsorption syndrome and Mays died on March 1, 1994. He was just 33 years old. Before then, Steward saw Mays one last time.

    "After I heard that he was sick, I stopped by his house and asked his mother how he was," Steward recalled. "That was the first contact I had with him (since the days at Kronk). We sat down and talked about the old days, and he was laughing and rocking in his chair. I was out of town at a training camp when somebody told me that he had died. It was hard to believe. I believe that he had the ability to be right up there with Leonard as one of the all-time greats; he was that good. Even today, I’ve psychologically blanked it out because it’s too painful."


    And here is an article Kikibalt posted in another thread:

    By Fred Girard / The Detroit News
    How bad was Bernard “Superbad” Mays, the tragically flawed sensation who may have been the greatest prizefighter in the rich history of the Kronk Boxing Club?

    So bad that he won 200 fights and lost only one as an amateur; so bad that he won 40 straight bouts and lost only one as a pro; so bad that Thomas Hearns, who went on to six world titles, nearly quit boxing rather than face the prospect of sparring with him every day at Kronk.

    “Bernard Mays was the king,” Hearns recalled. “I almost gave up boxing because I dreaded going to the gym every day. I knew I’d have to get in the ring with Bernard, and it was going to be a brawl.”

    With all of that talent, Arthur Bernard Mays died an alcoholic pauper in 1994 at the age of 33, his brilliant talents withered.

    More than any other former star from the fabled, 80-champion Kronk gym, Mays represents the tragic waste of lives and talent that have dogged many Kronk fighters.

    Mays was born in 1960, the son of Victoria Mays and Prince Milton. He hated the name Arthur, and used only his middle name. When he was barely 11, an older cousin, a journeyman heavyweight fighter named Charlie “Big Tuna” Jordan, brought him to Emanuel Steward, the young trainer everyone was talking about at the Kronk gym. Within weeks, the quiet, angelic-looking lad was known only by the nickname he carried the rest of his too-short life — “Superbad.”

    Best of all

    “He was the most talented Kronk boxer of all,” Steward said. “He was like a legend, really.”

    Kronk boxers says Steward is not exaggerating.

    “It gives me chills just to talk about him,” said Robert Tyus of Detroit, one of the original Kronk team, winner of two amateur national titles. “Superbad Mays was like Sugar Ray Robinson — he had it all.”

    “Superbad Mays was the awesomest fighter I ever saw — he could devour you,” said John Johnson of Detroit, who won a national amateur title under Steward. “Speed is power — it’s the punch you can’t see that knocks you out — and Bernard had a wicked left hook that would just take the breath from your body.”

    Tournament winner at 14

    When he was 14, Mays swept to victory in the 106-pound class of the national Junior Olympic tournament. Two years later, he repeated in the 139-pound division. He fought more than 200 times as an amateur, losing only once, and at every fight, Steward said, the first two or three rows would be packed with managers and trainers who had brought their boxers to see Superbad Mays.

    But, “Bernard started disappearing on me,” Steward said. “He’d always been quiet, but he got moody, stopped showing up at the gym regular.”

    Sixteen-year-old Superbad Mays had become addicted to Colt .45 malt liquor.

    “Bernard and I had been drinking and smoking since we were 14,” acknowledged Eric Williams. That was also about the time, family members say, Prince Milton left and stopped being any influence on his young son’s life.

    Former world lightweight champion Jimmy Paul said that at the 1977 Ohio State Fair national tournament “I’d be in bed sound asleep the night before every fight, and Bernard would be out drinking beer with the ladies all night, then come in and absolutely destroy everybody else in the tournament.”

    Mays was named the tournament’s outstanding boxer. Later that year, he traveled to England and knocked out the European amateur champion.

    Turned pro in 1978

    When he turned professional in 1978, Mays parted company with Steward, who had hounded him about his drinking. His next manager, Chuck Davis, tried just as hard, and had just as little success.

    Mays hired noted Oakland County attorney Elbert Hatchett to break his contract with Davis. After he did so, Hatchett, who fought as a kid and followed the game all his life, decided to manage and promote Mays himself.

    “We lost a ton of money,” Hatchett said. “Bernard fought like Joe Louis. He was a middleweight, a classic boxer, just classic. He was the first guy (who) I saw knock somebody out hitting him in the side. But he would drink beer all the time.”

    Roland Scott, Mays’ last trainer, said. “That beer just tore him up. He would get absolutely smashed.”

    Won 40 straight

    At the age of 31, Mays had fought 40 times as a pro and won them all, when everything caught up with him in a bout in California. An opponent hit Mays hard and staggered him badly, costing Mays the fight. The next day Hatchett had him in a hospital.

    Mays’ alcohol-damaged pancreas was dangerously inflamed.

    The doctor told Hatchett, “Look, this condition has progressed to such a point that he takes his life in his own hands if he decides to fight,”the doctor told Hatchett.

    Superbad Mays would fight no more.

    He stayed with his mother for a time, and after she died, a broke Mays entered the New Light Nursing Home in Detroit.

    “He walked in here under his own power,” said administrator George Talley, and stayed for nearly a year.

    In the final weeks his condition deteriorated rapidly. “When I saw him there at the end, his stomach was so swollen it looked like he was pregnant,” trainer Scott said.

    On March 1, 1994, at 9:55 p.m., Superbad Mays’ heart stopped, unable to fight any longer against the crushing load of diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and chronic malabsorption syndrome.

    He is buried in an unmarked grave — Section 4, Row 18, grave No. 36 — in Mt. Hazel, a small cemetery on Detroit’s far west side that has been closed for years.

    Mays’ sister, Esther Farley of Ypsilanti, signed the death certificate.

    “It was a painful thing to visit Bernard” in the nursing home, she said. “He was always a real charmer, a sweetheart — who knows where his life might have led?

    “But alcoholism is a terrible disease.”


    As an amateur, he was amazing and developed his talents at a much earlier age than most.

    So much can be exxagerated legend, but Hearns's comments seem to lend quite a bit of credence to just how awesome this kid was as an amateur.

    What a waste.

    Hawk

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