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BOOK REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS:
Photographs by Jim
The Iceman Diaries
by John Scully
The Boxing Bookshelf
by Dave Iamele
'The Iceman Diaries'
Book excerpt by John Scully
John Scully vs. Alphonso Bailey, November 1989, U.S.A. TV:
When my manager asked me about fighting Alphonso Bailey in November of 1989 on USA's
Tuesday Night Fights, I was a little skeptical at first. It was to be my second
nationally televised appearance as a professional, and it would come against a guy that I
knew about for quite sometime. Bailey at one time was the No. 1-ranked amateur light
middleweight in the United States, and as a professional he owned an Atlantic City victory
over long time No. 1-ranked WBC contender Dwight Davison.
My first TV fight was against Brett Lally just a few months earlier, and it was a fight
that saw me have to really struggle to get down to 160 pounds. This fight with Bailey
would also call for me to get down to the middleweight limit. I knew Bailey would be in
good condition, because he had come to our gym recently as a traveling sparring partner
for the headliner of the show we would match up on. IBF welterweight world champion Simon
Brown. I had seen them work together and Bailey looked good.
I was not at all looking forward to getting back down to 160 pounds again as the fight
would call for me to do, but at the same time, it was a fight that would be beamed all
over the USA on USA-TV and it would be the semifinal to the very exciting and popular
Brown. I didn't want to make weight but I wanted that exposure. I always found it hard to
ever turn down a televised fight. It was one of the reasons I got into boxing in the first
place! I didn't really feel like l could pass up an opportunity to get right back on
national TV again, and I also knew that I should be in good shape for the fight because I
would be going away to training camp before my fight with my stablemate, Troy "Schoolboy"
Wortham, who was preparing for a big fight out in Las Vegas for the WBA 154-pound title
with Julian Jackson. (After we got to Vegas, Jackson pulled out of the fight with a
detached retina and Troy fought Future Champ Julio Caesar Vazquez instead.) After the
failed fight with Lally I would need this fight to get me back on track in the eyes of the
Our manager, F. Mac Buckley, got us a house out in a wooded area of Marlborough,
Connecticut, where we spent our nights together -- me, Troy, and sparring partner Michael
"Knock em' out" Bell. In the daytime we would drive to the gym in the Bellevue Square
housing projects in Hartford and then return to the house in Marlboro at night. I didn't
want to punish myself like I did for the Lally fight and weaken myself to make 160, so I
decided to just eat more than I normally would (as opposed to almost starving myself) and
let the chips fall where they may. After we got to camp, though, I began to realize
(worry) that making 160 would not be any easier than it was for the Lally fight. I spent
half the time agonizing over having to make the weight and the other half of the time not
caring about it. Even though I had to make 160 for the fight, I would sneak
peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, potato chips, and soda into the house with me at night
and eat it in my room with the door closed. I was 21 and bored. I'd never been to training
camp as a professional, and I had nobody watching over me, so I ate more than I normally
would have or should have. I just decided to run more each day and if I still came in
heavy then so be it. If they canceled the fight it would be fine with me. That is the
mentality I had. I didn't want to go on TV and have a performance like I did with Lally,
and I certainly didn't want to put myself in a position like that with a guy like Bailey,
The fight with Bailey was held at the Springfield, Massachusetts, Civic Center and would
be the televised semifinal to the Simon Brown vs. Luis Santana IBF title fight. I came in
at 163 pounds, a couple pounds over the contracted weight limit, and I was lucky that
nobody made a big deal about it. Bailey was actually weighing just about the same as me so
it was not an issue.
That fight was the only fight of my professional career that I had ever really been
involved in a stare down. In almost every other fight of mine in my career, I used to
bypass the stare down, because I always saw it as kind of a silly exercise. More often
than not I would come to ring center for the instructions and I would turn my head away
from my opponent, and when it came time to touch gloves I would try to get back to my
corner without doing it and if the ref made me do it I would just look away from my
opponent as I stuck my hand lazily out towards him so that he would have to touch gloves
with me instead.
So on the night of the Bailey fight, I definitely didn't plan it, it just kind of
happened. It maybe wasn't as great as the famous Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Wilfred Benitez
stare down of 1979, but it was still pretty good. I was very serious and looking him
directly in the eye while he was very cocky, saying loud enough so that it is audible on
the TV telecast "It's showtime, baby, it's showtime!" I never took my eyes off him
or changed my expression and, really, I felt kind of like I did when I was getting ready
to fight my rematch with Kertis Mingo in the National PAL in 1987. I look back on that
tape of the Bailey fight and I laugh, because I see my face and I remember how I felt at
that moment in the center of the ring, feeling like I could fight anybody that was in
front of me. That is a strong feeling to have. Boxing gives you a high like nothing else I
have felt in my life. I look back now on my career in amateur fights, pro fights. and
sparring and I have almost always done very well with guys that were cocky or showed me
disrespect. When guys did that it made me stop thinking so much about what to do and how
to do it and about my apprehensions. It took that to give myself that little feeling of
disregard that I think guys like Vinny Pazienza and Arturo Gatti have naturally most of
I trained pretty good for that fight and was doing some good sparring with Troy Wortham
for his upcoming fight with Julian Jackson, but I didn't sacrifice as much as I have for
other fights. I was sick of making 160 and wanted to move up to the newly created
super-middleweight division, but my manager at the time didn't feel that 168 was a
legitimate division yet, and he wanted me to stay at 160 where the money and opportunities
were bigger. (My feeling was that if I am losing weight too much and not feeling well or
fighting well because of it then there will be no money or opportunities -- but
that's another story.) One thing that kept me going in training was when the promoter, Don
Elbaum, was on a Massachusetts radio station one night talking about the fight and he said
"I am very surprised Mac Buckley took this fight for Scully. Bailey is the type of guy
that can come into a local guys backyard and knock him out and upset the whole applecart.
Alphonso has been getting great work with Simon [Brown] and is a real pro. Scully might be
in a little deeper than he thinks."
My lack of usual desire for the fight must have been apparent, because my manager at the
time was in the paper saying how he might pull me out of the fight and put another guy in
our stable in my place. But in the end, I was in the gym enough to take the fight. You
might think that a less than 100 percent effort in the weeks leading up to the fight might
result in a lack of conditioning, but nothing in boxing is as it seems, and I think of all
my pro fights this one was one of the top-five performances of my career, especially
seeing as how it came against a quality opponent. I think the reason I fought so well is
because for one I didn't put a ton of pressure on myself like I normally would. I just
decided that I would go in there and fight and whatever happened would be okay with me. I
treated it almost like a serious sparring session, and I didn't suffer from a serious lack
of eating. I let myself hold a few pounds and came in at 163 instead of killing myself in
the last twenty-four hours to make the weight. I figured that if I was a little over 160
and they canceled the fight it would be okay with me. I wasn't going to kill myself for
Maybe it was mental, I don't know, but every round that passed saw me gain more and more
confidence. Bailey was always on me, looking for the knockout but that only served to keep
me aware and ready and alert. I boxed him more than I had in any of my recent fights and I
punched more that I had in any of my professional fights up to that point, too. I was also
very happy with the body shots I threw in that fight! I like to look back at that fight on
tape even today, and I am impressed with myself and my ability to throw sharp and strong
body punches. That fight was probably the best one of my career in that department.
It was one of those fights like the amateur fight with Kertis Mingo, where I wish I could
have bottled the feeling to save for a day when I would really need it again. But that is
what makes boxing so frustrating and complex. Each day is so different. Sometimes you have
no idea which one of your personas will show up on a given day.
I had a very good first round, even though I was kind of tight. I usually have a pretty
good first round in my fights. The funny thing about being a boxer is that you become
trained to do so many things that, after a while, you have no idea that you are doing
certain things. I bet most boxers have watched themselves on tape in sparring or in a
fight and thought to themselves, Wow, I didn't know I could do that. This fight
was one of those fights for me. The crazy thing is that even though I didn't train
superhard -- or probably because I didn't train super hard -- for the fight my legs
were fresh and not beat down like they were for most fights. I had a lot of spring and
bounce, and my movement was very fluid. I knew Bailey was a good puncher from the
amateurs, and I made sure to keep alert and not let him get off on me. For the first half
of the fight, I boxed good and punched good and got off some very nice combinations. One
thing I was really excited to see on tape was that several times when I had him on the
ropes, I would throw a hook to the head first and then to the body afterwards
(conventional wisdom is to go to the body first). That is a combination made famous today
by guys like James Toney, Mickey Ward, and Shane Mosley, but that fight is proof that I
was doing that thing way back in 1989.
By the sixth round I had started feeling myself and was feeling like I could do
anything...very rarely have I felt more relaxed or more in control of myself in the ring
during live competition. It felt like sparring, and that was a great thing. Bailey was
relentless though, and he kept coming, kept working, and he brought out a lot in me. His
desire and doggedness was what kept me going, throwing punches. I guess I was in a
zone. In the sixth round I cut him after letting go a combination, and that brought out
the killer instinct in me and I let loose with a huge flurry at the end of the
round that had me thinking I was close to getting a stoppage victory. The round ended with
him bleeding profusely from the cut and my confidence was sky high.
The seventh round went just as the sixth, and I knew I was the winner. By the time the
final round came up, I knew all I had to do was finish the fight. I decided that I would
box him the last round and show off some moves, dancing laterally, imagining I was Ali.
Plus I had a cramp. A cramp has a funny way of making it so you don't want to get hit with
body shots anymore, so I boxed and moved for almost the entire round, even surprising
myself at how easily I could make him miss. I was an elusive guy when I chose to be. He
never stopped trying though, and with about 20 seconds to go in the last round, he got in
close with me and let a couple punches go that made me fight back hard. Emotions took over
and we both finished with a toe-to-toe flurry to end the round and the fight. Good fight,
good test for me, and it came against a solid fighter.
The decision was unanimous for me, and at that point in my career it was my most
impressive performance and went a long way toward proving that the non-effort against
Lally was somewhat of a fluke.
The funny thing about boxing is that sometimes right after a fight, the emotions run so
high and your adrenaline is pumping so hard that you don't always know exactly what you
are doing. I don't know how to explain it, but boxers should not always be allowed to
speak right after a fight. Sometimes they say things that they either regret or can't
explain when the dust has settled. Now anybody that knows me knows that money was never
really an issue with me in my decision to box as a professional. I had fights early in my
career where I fought on a Friday and my manager would hand me the money a few days later
and I would say, "What's this for?" forgetting that I didn't even get paid for the fight!
That's why it is so weird to watch a tape of me talking to Sean O'Grady in the post-fight
interview. When they asked me what I wanted to do in my career, I said, "Well, you know, I
would like to do what Sugar Ray originally did, get in, make the money and get out."
What?! I would never normally say that! I honestly have no idea where that came from or
why I said it, and I can only guess that I was a little rushed for an answer on live
television and that was all I could come up with.
Years later a trainer I had named George Cruz said to me, "After you fight Maske, I would
like to see you get a couple more good paydays so you can have enough to get out of this
game." And I honestly didn't understand what he meant. He obviously didn't understand what
I thought about this game and my career. I told him: "George, I don't want to make enough
to get out of boxing. I am not in this to get a million dollars and get out. I want to
make a lot of money and keep fighting as long as I will be able to. I don't
want to stop."
The funny thing about the fight with Alphonso Bailey was what happened afterward, when all
the fighters were in the hallway in the bowels of the Springfield Civic Center waiting to
get paid. That was in November of 1989. I think some of those people are still waiting.
The promoter, Don Elbaum, apparently found his way out the back door with the cash box.
Nobody got paid! My manager, F. Mac Buckley, paid me my purse a few days later out of his
own pocket. Elbaum ended up going to jail not long after, I think it was for tax evasion.
Boxing though is a funny business and our paths crossed again in 1993. I met up with him
in Aspen, Colorado, when I was there sparring with Vinny Paz for his fight with Danny
Sherry, and Elbaum was there with a cruiserweight named David Izeqwire. What happened in
1989 happened, and it was never even brought up in Aspen. As a matter of fact, Elbaum
asked me if I would help David out with some sparring for a couple days. I said yes,
because I could never turn down sparring like that (But...you know I got paid from the man
Epilogue: I know that even after I turned pro I was still heavily influenced by Muhammad
Ali. I liked to trash-talk sometimes in fights. I like to joke around at the weigh-ins. I
even still made the odd prediction here and there. I was reminded of that by a funny thing
that happened today (September 4, 2004). I was in the old gym I trained at, and some of
the very old lockers still had padlocks and equipment inside that people hadn't even had
access to in a long time.
F. Mac Buckley, who happened to be my manager/trainer when I fought Bailey, was there
trying to break the locks so he could get inside the lockers clean them out before putting
new locks on. I helped him break one open and when I saw the black magic marker
scribblings on the inside of the door I knew right away exactly whose locker it used to
be. He asked me how did I know? I pointed to the inside of the locker where the following
words, from November 1989, were still clear as day to read:
BAILEY WILL FALL THIS THURSDAY!!!
ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY 11-1989
Contact John Scully about his book, The Iceman Diaries, at
IceJohnScully@aol.com, or visit his Web site at