February 2006

Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
By GorDoom

Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

The 2005 CBZ Year-End Awards
By J.D. Vena

Women to Watch For in 2006
By Adam Pollack


Lou DiBella: No Joe Palooka
By Dave Iamaele

Lamon Brewster, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon

Touching Gloves with...
Clyde Gray

By Dan Hanley


Iron Mike Tyson: Myth or Monster?
By Jim Trunzo

Jess Sandoval: The Coach Says,
"Bundle Up"

By Katherine Dunn

The Legend of the Cuban Baron,
Ramon Castillo

By Enrique Encinsoa

Paul Thorn
By Pete Ehrman

Battling Nelson: Always Battered,
Seldom Beaten

By Tracy Callis

Kid Chocolate, the Cuban Bon Bon
By Monte Cox


Shadow Boxers
Photographs by Jim Lommasson

The Iceman Diaries
by John Scully

The Boxing Bookshelf
by Dave Iamele

Jess Sandoval:
The Coach Says,
"Bundle Up"

By Katherine Dunn

Jess Sandoval was a dangerous featherweight and a zoot-suit dandy in 1940s Los Angeles. WWII interrupted his boxing career, landing him on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific.

Fifty years later, when I met him, he was still hatchet-faced, a careful dresser, and a gentleman. He had strict notions of courtesy and the right way to do things. No rap music in his gym. No cussing.

His voice was a whisper, probably from breathing acid fumes in the chemical factory where he spent too much of his non-boxing life. But he never strayed far from boxing. After work everyday for years he trained the Ramblers amateur team for the Jewish Community Center in Portland, Oregon. His best-known pro fighter, middleweight Mike Colbert, fought twice for the middleweight crown, and stayed in the Top 10 world rankings for a decade in the '70s.

Jess had a warrior aesthetic. He saw beauty in a clean, bone-crushing punch. He respected courage. But he was a gentle trainer, fussing over the welfare of his students in a way that was downright motherly. When a boxer caught a cold, Jess gravely recommended chugging hot red wine spiked with lemon, followed by swaddling in heavy blankets and a long sleep.

One of his fiercest rules was to stay warm after a workout. He'd hobble after a fighter headed for the door to make sure the jacket was zipped, a sweater hood up, or a scarf wrapped snug around the throat.

Jess told stories to fortify his points. His story sessions usually took place after a workout with Jess perched on a folding chair to ease his ailing legs and the fighter resting next to him. The gym noise rose and fell and Jess' whisper required sharp attention, your eyes on his face as he spoke. His "Bundle Up" tale still sticks in my head.

I can't reproduce his exact words, but the story was about a hot prospect he'd known back when Jess was a youngster himself. The guy was a bantamweight in Los Angeles in the 1930s. He was talented and he worked hard. Finally he got his first main event, a tough 10-rounder at the Olympic Auditorium. He won all right, and he was ecstatic. Completely jazzed.

He took a shower and got dressed and went out with his friends to celebrate. His hair was wet from the shower, and his body was hot from the fight. But he was a proud guy who looked good with his tailored shirts draping off his wide shoulders and tucked in at his slim waist. He didn't wear a coat. It was January in Los Angeles, a chilly night.

His pals took him to a nightclub and things happened. He wasn't a drinker, but a brawl started and the cops came. The fighter was Mexican, so naturally he was the one who got arrested. He sat all night and most of a day in a bare jail cell with a window that had bars but no glass. No blanket, no coat. By the time he got out and went home, he had pneumonia.

He didn't get well. The pneumonia became tuberculosis. He lay on his narrow bed in the back room of his mother's house. He was a guy who liked fine clothes but he told his mother, when I die you got to throw all my clothes out the window into the alley, and all my blankets and sheets. And you got to burn the whole pile so nobody else will use them and get this disease. But he had a younger brother who envied his clothes, and his mother was crying so hard that he didn't trust her to do the necessary.

Late one night he felt the time coming. He opened the window to the alley and threw out all his clothes from the closet. He threw his sheets and blankets out on top of them. Then he leaned out the window and squirted on lighter fluid, and dropped a match. While that pile of rags burned, he lay down in his underwear on the cold bare floor and he died.

The next morning young Jess saw the black smoke coming out of that smoldering alley and knew his friend was dead.

"So when I tell you to bundle up after a work out," Jess would whisper, "there's a reason. You wear a coat. I don't care if you're just going to your car and then home. I don't care if it's August. You wear a coat and a hat, because you don't know what can happen between here and your door, between one moment and the next. And I know you don't want all your fine clothes on fire in some alley."

Jess died in his sleep, and his fighters cried for days.

Contact Katherine Dunn at editors@cyberboxingzone.com.

> contents <

Home News CBZ Encyclopedia Back Issues Contact Links