|. . . THE CYBER BOXING ZONE JOURNAL||
|SPIRITUAL ADVISER ON ALL MATTERS FISTIC:
HISTORY & RESEARCH:
Hank Kaplan, Tracy Callis, Matt Tegen
BoxngRules, Chris Bushnell, Adrian Cusack, DscribeDC, Francis Walker, Dave Iamele, Phrank Da Slugger, Pusboil
Enrique Encinosa, Randy Gordon, Pedro Fernandez, Joe Koizumi, Mike Moscone, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Jim Trunzo, Barry Lindenman, Katherine Dunn, Pete Ehrmann
Editorial: Rinsing Off The Mouthpiece
Well, it's that time of year again and with summer blazing across the USA, the CBZ Journal is gonna take the rest of it off... But fear not dear readers, the CBZ itself will still be running on all cylinders. Fight reports, schedules and news reports will continue unabated.
Even though this will be the last regular issue of the Journal until after Labor Day, our founder/publisher Mike DeLisa intends to put out our annual August boxing history issue. For those of you with a historical bent for the sport - this is not to be missed!
I'd like to give our readers some advice on how to fully utilize the many areas of the CBZ:
If you bookmark the journal and don't explore the other areas of the CBZ you are missing out on a lot of good stuff. I strongly recommend that readers check out our news section on a regular basis. We have, in my not so humble opinion, the best news wire on the internet or anywhere else. We have cutting edge, daily reports from all over the world that you won't find anyplace else. Among the many well known boxing writers who contribute to these reports are Pedro Fernandez, Joe Koizumi and Fabian Weber. We also have detailed fight reports on every major fight around the world.
Probably the most important function of the CBZ is our Boxing Encyclopedia, which I dare say is far more detailed and accurate than the old Ring Magazine Annual Record books. You can literally spend hours going through the history of boxing we've compiled that stretches all the way back to the 18th Century...
Since this is the last ish of the vernal equinox, we've decided to really load up on this one to give our readers something they can really sink their teeth into. Our stalwart crew has really come through and it must be noted that Katherine Dunn, Tom Gerbasi & Francis Walker do double duty by contributing two articles apiece.
This issue also marks the welcome return of one of my favorite boxing writers, Enrique Encinosa. The inimitably irascible Joe Bruno, also contributes and speaking of snarky, our former webmaster, Pusboil, checks in with his edgy view of the Sweet Science.
Our new Irish correspondent, Alan Taylor who debuted last month, weighs in with a moving piece that correlates boxing and the Irish "Troubles". Also not to be missed is a remarkable bio of the great "Boston Tar Baby", Sam Langford, by one of boxing's most diligent historians, Tracy Callis.
And finally I have the pleasure of introducing two new writers, Ed Vance & Rick Farris. Ed is our stalwart webmaster who pulls yeoman like duties for the CBZ. He's invaluable folks, he's the guy posting all the new info every day, not to mention coming up with cool stuff like our new search engine. Rick is a former boxer & current trainer who brings a different perspective to boxing journalism. This is how he put it in an excerpt of a letter he wrote to me:
"I'm a 47-year-old former pro boxer who fought in the Los Angeles area in the early-to-mid 70's. I started boxing at the age of 12 under Johnny Flores. After winning a number of amateur titles, I turned professional at 18 before graduating from high school and retired in 1976 after 38 pro fights (28-8-2 14 KO's).
I was never a top contender but got a lot of attention due to the fact that I was a white kid whose father was an executive V.P. for Bank of America. I was also in some very exciting fights on some major cards at the Olympic Auditorium, The Forum and other local venues of the era. I can validate all of this through news clippings including a feature story written about me by Alan Malamud for the Sunday Herald-Examiner on 2/71. I was very close to Danny Lopez, Bobby Chacon and many of the boxers who headlined in the L.A. area during that time.
After retiring from boxing I went to work in the film industry as a lighting technician and worked with Michael Landon for many years prior to his death. His co-star Victor French and I became very close friends. He had seen me fight on TV years earlier and was a major boxing fan. In fact, it was French who bankrolled Dan Goossen and family enabling them to begin promoting fights in the mid 80's and acquire Michael Nunn after the '84 Olympics. Through French, I returned to boxing and started training boxers.
Recently, I've relocated to Phoenix, Arizona where I'm currently working as a trainer at the "Ricky Ricardo Boxing Gym". This is the Gym where Mike Tyson has returned recently to begin training for his comeback. I'm not part of the Tyson camp but do assist when needed. Mike's not in any kind of shape at the moment and is very overweight. He has yet to start sparring and in fact, Al Williams, one of his sparring partners dropped dead of a heart attack last week at only 28 years of age.
I am not interested in writing news related stories or Op/Ed pieces, I think I'm best suited to write something more related to the human element of the sport (despite opinions to the contrary, there are actually a few humans involved in the sport!). I've a feeling I might be able to come up with something related to Tyson simply by virtue of my being close to him at the moment. You'll have to decide, of course, what will best suit your publication".
Yeah, well... I dunno about the rest of you, but I'm really looking forward to future articles by Rick. This month he kicks off with an excellent piece on the Main Street Gym in LA. This article has special meaning to the Ol' Spit Bucket as Howie Steindler, the legendary proprietor of the gym was a life long friend of my father's.
Before I end this editorial there is something The Bucket has to comment on: Roy Jones Jr.
Ever since Roy's waltz with Reggie Johnson, which annexed the IBF light heavyweight title to go along with Roy's WBC and WBA belts; the mainstream media has anointed Roy as the 2nd coming.... I've even read reports claiming that Roy is the greatest fighter EVER(???) under 200 LB's.
Wow! Hype and Crap are definitely king ... First off, Roy is NOT the lineal light heavyweight champion no matter how many spurious title belts he accrues. Darius Michalczewski is the champ until Roy beats him.
Darius is the man who beat Virgil Hill and Henry Maske and at one time was the holder of the WBA, IBF & WBO belts. He never lost any of them in the ring, instead he was stripped of his titles due to the political machinations of
Roy first won the "interim" WBC title from the ancient and by then undeserving Mike McCallum. Lou Del Valle was hardly the 2nd coming of Bob Foster when Roy beat him for the WBA belt. Reggie Johnson won the IBF belt from the very forgettable William Guthrie before losing to Roy.
To the uninitiated boxing fan, Roy is seemingly the undisputed champ. If beating set ups & has beens who had been handed their titles by organizations with less credibility than Jerry Fallwell or the NRA constitutes an undisputed championship, then the inmates have truly taken over the asylum...
It's the same sitch as when Leg-Iron Mike held all the title belts in the 80's but was not the true heavyweight champion until he beat the lineal champ, Michael Spinks.
I will say that Roy is the greatest athlete to ever box - his reflexes & moves are definitely out of this world. The only fighters that I have ever seen that were even close to his athleticism are the young Cassius Clay, Ray Leonard, Michael Nunn and Naseem Hamed - but, he is not the greatest fighter. Hell, he ain't even a warrior, he's a safety first run and gunner with the killer instinct of an avocado...
Despite a recent, ludicrous, KO Magazine article which claimed Roy would have had no problems with ANY light heavyweight of any era - does anyone seriously believe that he could easily beat light heavy's like Gene Tunney, Billy Conn, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore, Harold Johnson, Bob Foster and Michael Spinks??? At middleweight, do you think he'd walk through Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon or Marvin Hagler? At jr. middle, do you really believe he'd beat Leonard, Hearns, or even a prime time Mike McCallum? All of these guys were true warriors, a mind set that Roy doesn't even have a passing acquaintance with...
I've been either a fighter, a cornerman or a boxing journalist for 42 years. I think I can safely say I have a good perspective on the squared circle. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these old farts that believes modern day fighters don't stack up against the old time greats because certain ones definitely do.
I've seen just about every fight of Roy's and here's my unsolicited take:
1-Bernard Hopkins. The "Executioner" was Roy's first real test. As with every fighter whose talent he respects, Roy went into a shell and beat Hopkins in one of the most unexciting & stultifying middleweight title bouts ever.
2-James Toney. The Toney who showed up that night had seemingly dug himself out from under a mountain of fast food containers. He barely slipped off the feed bag long enough to get in the ring. Faced with a Toney who was quite & very ready to be blown away, Roy did just enough to win. No more. No less.
3- The first fight with Montell Griffin. I watched a befuddled Roy get smacked around more than he ever has to the point where he was flinching off of feints! By the time he finally got to Griffin he was so out of his element he fouled out about as stupidly as a fighter can. Granted, in the 2nd fight Roy FINALLY (and for the only time in his career), fought with the stones you would expect from a great fighter.
4- His fight with a 39 year old, totally shot, Mike McCallum. Roy froze and got extended 12 rounds by a fighter he should have gotten out of there within 5 rounds. I say a prime McCallum would have taken him that night. And again, he was flinching off of feints.
5-Eric Lucas, Canada's favorite white meat. All I can say is the fight was a total disgrace.
6-Otis Grant. What was he doing in the ring with Roy? He was out sized, out skilled, out gunned and yet lasted 10 rounds?
7-Reggie Johnson. Reggie has always been a better than average fighter who froze against Roy & again we got a 12 round snooze fest because Roy seems more than willing to take the easy way out whenever he can.
These kind of performances make me wonder where anyone gets the greatest fighter under 200 in history thang...
I will say this: If Roy had his head on straight he DEFINITELY has the potential to be one of, if not the greatest - but he doesn't. In boxing, strength of mind, unbending will to win is what makes a great fighter. In my mind Roy, despite being the complete physical package, is a boxing hypocrite. He endlessly talks the talk, but he certainly doesn't walk the walk. He's got great moves but he's all style & absolutely no substance.
And lets be honest, with very few exceptions, Roy is almost as boring to watch as Pernell Whitaker. He has devolved into a by the numbers fighter who brings no great passion to the ring...
Passion, conditioning, and will is what makes a great fighter, not being a great athlete. Here is a perfect example: The first Ray Robinson-Carmen Basilio fight in 1957. Robinson is almost universally acknowledged as the greatest fighter pound for pound in history. Carmen Basilio doesn't even come close in that kind of historical ranking.
Basilio was a small, awkward welterweight, with a style similar to his contemporary, Rocky Marciano. Both were short armed fighters, tough as nails with limited boxing skills and an inhuman ability to absorb punishment. The main difference between them (other than weight class), was that Marciano was a devastating puncher, Basilio was not.
On paper, the Robinson-Basilio fight was a glaring mismatch. On one hand you've got arguably the greatest fighter of all time. On the other you had a a small welterweight champion with very limited skills ... But that's why
they climb through the ropes, folks...
Sugar Ray put the "Big Hurt" on Basilio, but Carmen kept wading in, absorbing everything that Robinson threw at him. and incredibly, by sheer force of will he somehow won the fight by decision.
That's why Carmen Basilio was a great fighter and is deservedly in the Hall Of Fame. He had the heart of a lion & engaged in brutal wars similar to the modern day Arturo Gatti. He never flinched or took a step back and utilized every ounce of his skills to endure.
Something that Roy Jones Jr. will never do.
Now that I got that off my chest, I suddenly feel better... So much so I've got another burr in my saddle to vent about: Michael Grant.
Jeez, whatta Palooka.
One of the Ol' Spit Bucket's pet theories about heavyweights is that there never has been and never will be a great heavyweight over 6'3. Big 'n tall guys work for B Ball & Football - not boxing.
Ali, George Foreman and Larry Holmes are the three biggest heavyweights to achieve greatness and they were all 6'3. Holyfield is 6'2, Sonny Liston & Jack Johnson were 6'1. Joe Louis & Jack Dempsey 6' . Joe Frazier, Rocky Marciano & Leg-Iron Mike were all well under 6'.
My theory goes like this: Fighters over 6'3 lose a certain fluidity of movement and with the lone exception of Riddick Bowe (6'5 & he hardly qualifies as a "great" heavyweight champion), they've all been arm punchers telegraphing their punches from here to Tehachapi. Lennox Lewis is a perfect example of this. These big guys are seemingly incapable of snapping off punches or having any real mobility.
Think about all the giant heavyweight champions: Jess Willard, Primo Carnera, Riddick Bowe & Lennox Lewis, all of them were stiff, slow and ponderous. Even former and present contenders like Abe Simon, Buddy Baer, Ernie Terrell and Henry Akinwande all over 6'5 & every one of them basically a tomato can.
Which brings me to the sculpted body beautiful that is Michael Grant. Somehow the media has bestowed upon him the mantle of being the next great heavyweight... Gimme a freakin' break! Michael Grant is nothing more than the Ernie Terrell of the 90's.
His recent fight against Lou Savarese (another big stiff), is the perfect example of what I'm talking about. Grant's best offense was clinching with Savarese & leaning all his weight on him in a dispirited effort to tire him out.
Ernie Terrell must be proud of his stylistic clone...
Great heavyweights whack guys out, they don't screw around. & for a guy so big and ostensibly powerful, Grant is really a wank. I watched a tape of his fight with David Izon in which Grant hit him with 44 unanswered punches and Izon was never in danger of going down!
And I'm supposed to believe that the living statue that is Michael Grant is gonna be the next great heavyweight???
I think not, Dude ...
Well, that's it for now, I'm done venting & as the old song said" "I'll see you in September".
The Main Street Gym
By Rick Farris
For more than half a century, it was a musty pugilistic monument- preserved in linament and sweat - where generations of Los Angeles prizefighters learned the lessons of "The sweet science."
The Main Street Gym, in the heart of skid row, was the rattiest workout venue in the city (maybe the world), but it was also one of the most famous. "World Rated Boxers Train Here Daily" read a sign above the entrance. It's where young boys with little education and lots of heart came to train, and listen hungrily to boxing tales from the old men who had spent more than half a century of their lives there. I remember it well, I was one of those little boys more than three decades ago.
The grimy little gym, where the bell rang every three minutes and the old wooden floors creaked, drew some of the greats and not-so-greats who didn't know a left hook from a fish hook. It opened in 1933 at 321 So. Main St. as the successor to the Spring St. Newsboy's Gym. The building burned down in 1951 (while the night watchman slept), and the gym moved across the street to 318 1/2, atop the old Adolphus Theater.
There were other gyms in the city, but none had Main Street's reputation. At various times, fabled champions Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, Jim Jeffries and Sugar Ray Robinson trained there. One afternoon in 1969, when I was a 17-year-old amateur boxer, I arrived at the gym early for my workout and only one boxer was working out- Sugar Ray Robinson, who had retired four years previous but would still workout at Main Street to stay in shape. While punching a heavy bag right beside the great Sugar Ray I watched him nearly fold the bag with a left hook and between rounds I asked him if that was the hook he flattened Fullmer with. Robinson just laughed and when I said "I wish I could throw a hook like that", he took a moment of his time to give me a couple of pointers. It has to be one of the greatest moments of my life.
But it was the gym's proprietor, Howie Steindler, who ran the place with unquestioned authority - like a drill sergeant in boot camp - and kept it going with the help of two savvy sidekicks, Arthur "Duke" Holloway and Rip Roseburrow.
Steindler was an amateur boxer in New York before drifting to Los Angeles in 1942, when he began working at the shipyards. Later, while working as a prop man for RKO Studios, he met a former featherweight professional, whom Steindler trained for a successful comeback.
Drawing on his years of experience, Steindler took over the Main Street Gym about 1960. The feisty, crusty and often sarcastic manager/trainer kept a lock on his phone in the gym's office. He cultivated a tough guy persona, but was known up and down skid row as a soft touch for a hard-luck story.
It was risky navigating the street in front of the gym with the Union Rescue Mission nearby. But Steindler kept a billy club hanging on the wall in case of trouble. Occasionally, a bum would find his way up the stained marble stairs, where Steindler or one of his assistants would eject him with a few harsh words- except on rainy days.
Holloway, a big man with a big cigar and derby, trained and nurtured some of the greatest, including Joe Louis, whom he trained back into shape after the champ was discharged from the service after WWII.
Routinely, young boys peered through a crack in the door, straining for a glimpse of their heroes, while others paid a dime or two for admission to watch sparring sessions and champs readying for a fight at the Olympic Auditorium, Hollywood Legion Stadium or other boxing venues in town.
Before Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, died in 1946, he hung out at the gym, flashing his gold toothed smile at the young tough youths. At different times, cocky heavyweights would coax the 60-year-old man into the ring. He'd take off his shirt and put on his 16 ounce gloves. Johnson never threw a punch. He just stood there and picked off with his gloves every punch thrown at him.
In 1977, Steindler, 72, locked up the gym, walked down the dirty marble staircase and got into his new Cadillac for the last time. On the street near his home in Encino, he was jumped by unidentified assailants. They beat him savagely and smothered him by pushing his face into the car's seat cushion, robbed him and threw him on the floor in the back seat. They then parked the car on the Ventura Freeway near the Laurel Canyon Blvd. off ramp in Studio City.
Theories of what triggered the slaying of the local character were numerous. Steindler had longed to manage a world champion, and he had finally achieved his ambition with featherweight champ Danny "Little Red" Lopez. He also managed Danny's brother, welterweight contender Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez, treating them more like sons than meal tickets. But not everyone shared Steindler's happiness, and there was talk of a contract hit.
Adding fuel to such speculation was the fact that Steindler had tried to contact a state senator the day before his death to discuss problems he was having with the State Athletic Commission.
The murder remains unsolved.
Steindler was the model for the old trainer played by Burgess Meredith, whose character managed Sylvester Stallone's character, Rocky Balboa, in the "Rocky" movies. Scenes for all of the first three films were shot in the Main Street Gym, as were for other movies and TV productions.
It was a place of bruises and dreams, spit and blood, and it's ambience for the movie industry was perfect. Life-size cutouts of champions and posters of boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling lined the peeling walls. A sign on the wall read: "Please don't bring children under 8-years-old in the gym. We don't want anybody smarter than us in here".
Steindler's daughter, Carol, a lifetime boxing fan, assumed control of the gym after his death, managing it until 1984, when it was demolished for a parking lot. When the Main Street Gym was torn down, a colorful chapter in boxing history was closed.
Consider The Mismatch--the modern, cost-effective Fix
By Katherine Dunn
(This essay first appeared in PDXS newspaper in June of 1997)
The worst thing you can say about any sports event is that anybody knows for sure how it will end. Still, all sports have occasional uproars involving somebody trying to script the ending--from the Black Sox scandal to NBA point shaving, from marathoners hopping a bus to the whacked knee of Tonya Harding's skating rival. "The Fix" in professional boxing has a gloriously grubby history that includes bought judges, biased referees, seductive sirens, drugged water bottles, blinding ointments, trapdoors and ringers, the whole magillah.
But fixed fights in the form of the old fashioned dive, AKA splash-down or tank job, are actually pretty rare nowadays. In the classic dive a capable boxer deliberately fakes his own defeat, usually with a simulated knockout. In the grand old mob days the dive was a gambling asset in big matches where betting made the cost of "fixing" a boxer reasonable overhead. But the premise of the dive is that if you don't buy or threaten the guy, or hold his crippled sister hostage in a cellar, he just might win.
The occasional, well-funded dive may still occur, (some fans are suspicious of Bruce Seldon's disintegration in Tyson's mere proximity, for example) but fashions change. The current trend is the cost-effective form of fix known as the mis-match, in which you simply pick an opponent who couldn't beat your golden boy with a bazooka. No bribes or thugs are required. All you need is a promoter who wants to build the fighter as an attraction for the gullible public, and a boxing commission that's either stupid or corrupt.
There have always been mis-matches, of course. They have many valuable uses. Mismatches provide safe, training-wheel experience for the young prospect, inflate the protected fighters' win record without risk, exercise the accomplished fighter between real bouts, allow promoters to feature bigger names without having to pay big purses, etc. Everybody from Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali to George Foreman has had "bum of the month" stretches in their careers. The fact that Iron Mike Tyson was fed tomatoes such as Peter McNeely and Buster Mathis Jr. after he was released from prison was openly discussed if not approved in the press.
The fans in the bleachers are not blue-noses. We understand that no U.S. Olympian will face a live body in his first ten fights. We understand that an undefeated record with a lot of first round knockouts strongly suggests vegetable opposition. We know that a twenty buck ticket to see a ranked heavyweight in a bingo hall is not likely to include actual competition. And, because it is BOXING, in which anything can and will happen, an occasional drastic miscalculation allows us the startling joy of an upset victory by the designated victim. But there's a limit-- admittedly a wavy line -- where disgust sets in.
Some of the least capable "opponents," as the mis-matchees are politely known, have not been informed of their status and risk serious injury by actually trying to fight. The fastidious fan finds these muggings morally and aesthetically offensive. More experienced losers look for a soft place to fall early rather than take a beating. This creates the hybrid stench of the mis-matched dive. One or two of these fiascos on a fight card can make the most tolerant fan think bitterly about fraud and refunds on tickets.
The demand for bi-pedal punching bags is so great that some booking agents, often called "Meat Packers," specialize in providing guaranteed losers in all sizes. An investigation published in February, 1997 by Oklahoma state boxing regulators reported that an Oklahoma meat packer named Sean Gibbons--a cousin of former lightweight champ and ex-USA cable boxing commentator Sean O'Grady--ran a revolving stable of bad-to-mediocre boxers who traveled the mid-west pretending to fight each other under phony names, creating fraudulent wins for fictitious fighters with "respectable" records, who could then fall down in front of protected
boxers, often on televised cards. Similar stables are based in California, Texas and elsewhere.
All of these forms of fix screw the ticket buying public, of course. But it is important to remember that the protected boxer is almost never responsible for choosing his opponents. His manager and/or promoter do that. In fact, the protected fighter is often screwed himself in the end.
Which brings us to one prominent example of the protected class-Washington heavyweight Joe Hipp. A plump, amiable southpaw power puncher, Hipp calls Yakima home, and is often billed as the first Native American heavyweight contender. His manager is the wealthy Roland Jankelson of Seattle who launched former world champ Pinklon Thomas to such success that Thomas was buzzed away by the big time Duva operation. Jankelson has nursed Hipp's career carefully. Hipp held the North American Boxing Federation Championship in 1994.
But Joe has a habit of losing the big fights. He was stopped by Bert Cooper, by Tommy Morrison, and, in a world title fight, by Bruce Seldon back in August of '95. Moreover, Hipp is fragile. He breaks. His knees, elbows, cheekbones, and hands have had repeated surgical repairs. After each set-back, his manager works intently to get him back into line for a top ten ranking and a big-money title fight. Recently this involved Hipp fighting tomato cans approved by his home-state commission. He won seven bouts after his loss to Seldon. This section of his record in Fight Fax looks something like this:
Joseph Thomas Hipp
Record: 37-4-0, 27 KO's
12-15-95, Martin Jacques, WA, KO 1
7-17-96, Anthony Moore, ID, TKO 5
8-4-96, Bill Corrigan, WA, KO 1
9-23-96, Fred Houpe, WA, TKO 1
10-5-96, Troy Roberts, WA, KO 2
12-13-96 Will Hinton, WA TKO 1
3-29-97 Marcus Rhode, WA TKO 1
Each of these opponents fits the mis-match pattern. Anthony Moore had two wins and five losses when he lasted five rounds with Hipp but that was in Idaho. Jacques Martin's record does not appear in the trusty Fight Fax Record book, even going back to 1993. Bill Corrigan had a record of 9-12-1 and had been KO'd in six of his previous 7 fights. Fred Houpe's record was 13-5 but he was 46 years old when he met Hipp, and had retired from the ring in 1978. Troy Roberts had a record of 7-3, 6 KO's going in, but most of his wins were in Canadian Tough Guy bouts. He'd been stopped in the third round in his last bout. Will Hinton had lost six of his last ten fights, five of the losses by stoppage.
Marcus Rhode--15-3, 15 KOs going in--looks like either a meat packers product or a classic example of the worst results of over-protection. This Missouri boxer had a long string of first and second round knockouts over unknowns as long as he stayed in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. When he left home he got creamed. His claim to fame was having been knocked out in the first round by HIV positive Tommy Morrison in Japan in November of 96. Joe Hipp knocked him down three times with body shots before the ref stopped the bout in the first round.
On the strength of this come-back streak, Roland Jankelson attended the IBF convention in Texas, lobbying futilely for a higher place in the rankings for Hipp. Mr. Jankelson has not returned our recent phone messages, so we can only speculate about the why and wherefore. But the rumor was that Hipp would not be allowed to move up in the ranks unless he fought somebody "real."
Boss vs Boss
Then came word that Joe "The Boss" Hipp (38-4, 27 KO's)was signed for a June 15, 1997 match against a serviceable journeyman named Ross "The Boss" Purity (22-10-1, 20 KO's) of Arizona. An ex-college football player, the 31 year-old Purity is 6'3," weighing a sculpted and muscular 248 lbs. Hipp was his first southpaw opponent. Most of Purity's opponents are unknowns, but he stopped the Cuban, Jorge Luis Gonzales, in the 7th and he drew with Tommy Morrison (who stopped Joe Hipp in the 9th round). Few would claim that Purity is more than a mediocre heavyweight, but he has a definite pulse. On paper Purity looks like he's just real enough to help Hipp move up the rankings without being genuinely dangerous. The bout was to be broadcast on CBS television.
To our profound disgust, Portland's CBS affiliate, Channel 6, KOIN TV, decided to air a cheesy third-rate movie on June 15, 1997 instead of the fight for the right to be called "The Boss." We had to wait for a video-tape to be freighted from Seattle before we could see it.
The bout was the main event of a Top Rank show in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 34 year-old Hipp is 6'1" and, at 256 pounds, weighed 23 pounds more than when he was KO'd by Bruce Seldon in August of '95. Still Hipp has been weighing around 250 for all his fights since then, and he seemed to have plenty of stamina. He was busy from the opening bell, throwing a lot of punches and focusing his attack on Purity's body.
Purity stayed calm in the face of Hipp's steady offense, covered up a lot, and popped out with right hooks and an occasional flurry. Hipp, with no visible defense, ate everything Purity threw. A diet of right hands to the face had both of Hipp's eyes swelling early. By the fourth round Hipp's right eye was bleeding. In the sixth round we saw that rarity, Joe Hipp backing up. In the seventh, Hipps' mouth was oozing blood. At the end of the 9th, a Purity flurry landed six punches solidly and had Hipp hurt and staggering at the bell. Hipp rushed out busy as usual for the tenth. Purity uncorked a barrage climaxing with a left uppercut and a right cross that made Hipp's legs melt from under him. Hipp fell on his back with his legs in the air and his face a bloody mask. He took far too long to get up, and he won't be moving up the rankings on the basis of this fight. Referee Fred Steinwinder III called it a KO win for Ross "The Boss" Purity at 1:43 of the 10th round.
Hipp was never much on defense, but he's clearly been in with too many guys who didn't punch back. After that long string of stiffs he's completely forgotten how to duck.
The mis-match quandry is exaggerated by artificial notions of the value of the "undefeated" status for youngsters, "building" records, and the dangers of "stepping up in class." The hooey jargon doesn't protect the real victims--the protected fighters themselves. They are often the first to be fooled into thinking they are as good as advertised. Too many find out too late that you can't train for steak by eating pablum.
Q & A With Heavyweight Contender Shannon Briggs
By Thomas Gerbasi
TG-You're training for the Frans Botha fight on August 7 in Big Bear, California. How has the altitude helped you in regards to your asthma?
SB-I was on the Internet and I read a couple of things about altitude training and asthma, and it was all positive. It's gonna be a test. When I go down for the fight, I'm going to see how it affects me. They said it adds more red blood cells to your muscles. I feel good though. I was already training in Miami. So when I got here, I kinda felt like, "Damn, what happened to all the training I had already done?" But it was all there. It's just a little different here.
TG-So you notice a difference?
SB-Oh definitely. The first two to three days I got here, I was going strong as if I was still in Miami. But then all of a sudden it just hit me. The air is thinner, and it's a lot harder to run, and it's just different.
TG-How did you hook up with Emmanuel Steward, and what are your thoughts on working with him?
SB-I was told by my manager and by other people that Emmanuel always thought highly of me before the Lennox Lewis fight. And once I fought Lewis, and he saw my showing, I think he said "You know, this guy could be champion." Because I was one punch away from being heavyweight champion. So after that, he contacted my manager and we started working out for a while. I went down to Detroit for a couple of weeks, he came to Miami, and we meshed pretty good. We clicked together, so we said "Let's take it from there."
TG-You mentioned being one punch away from being champion. What went through your mind at that moment when you had Lewis hurt?
SB-Well, I was a little excited. Because again, here I was, one punch away from being heavyweight champion of the world. But I think that mentally going into the fight I wasn't as strong as I was going into the George Foreman fight. So in my mind, I was happy because it was like a blessing. I had him hurt, and I just wanted to get it over with as quick as possible. Because I knew that I wasn't in the best physical or mental shape going into the fight.
TG-Why was that?
SB-In the fight before Foreman, I had broke my left hand. I had a fracture and some torn tendons. The Foreman fight came as a surprise, and I couldn't turn it down. I needed the fight bad, so I took the fight with a broken hand and won. Then right afterwards, there was so much controversy that I didn't have much time to enjoy it. Then 3 or 4 weeks later they said I was fighting Lennox Lewis for the title. SO how do you turn down a heavyweight championship fight? So I didn't have enough time to repair the hand, and I went into that fight with the same injury, but it was a lot worse this time. So the training was a lot different. I knew that I couldn't really spar, and I couldn't hit the bag at all really. So these factors played a huge part in my thinking.
TG-What are the differences between working with Emmanuel and working with your ex-trainer, Teddy Atlas?
SB-Just the whole atmosphere is different. He's a much more positive person, and that's a huge factor to a fighter. We were just talking the other day about the word "spirit". He was telling me about different champions he worked with, and how spirit is what brought them through. When you feel good about yourself, and someone believes in you and in your best interests, it makes a difference.
TG-So Teddy brought a lot of negativity to the table then?
SB-Yes. I don't choose to really comment on him because that's my past, and I don't really want to give him anything, because he likes to feed off that. He's the type of person that likes to keep his name in the papers, talking about people. And if it's not me, it's somebody else. It's a thing of the past. I'm glad to be out of the situation. I'm happy. Losing to Wilson and then him going publicly dissing me was the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly.
TG-Do you think your career would have progressed differently with Steward in your corner from the start?
SB-Definitely. I'm a talented fighter with a lot of skills, and they just had to be brought out. He allows me to be me, to be Shannon Briggs, to use my natural movement, my legs, and that was something that was taken away from me in the early part of my career. I'm using my boxing ability instead of trying to be someone else. Being Shannon Briggs, and not trying to be a Mike Tyson, a puncher. Knockouts will come. And I feel like now I'm coming more into my own, where I'm content with boxing a guy. My biggest assets are my speed and my legs, and I'm using those things now.
TG-What did you think of Botha's performance against Tyson?
SB-I thought it was a good performance. It wasn't much of anything though. It was Tyson's first fight out. He was rusty and he was coming forward at Botha, which made it a lot easier for him. But he did the best he could for 3-4 rounds. My whole mindset is different than Tyson's. I'm not a guy who is coming out of prison. I'm coming off a career that has been good up to this point, 31 wins, 2 losses. I feel good. It's going to be a great fight.
TG-Do you feel any pressure with this fight, like this is your last shot?
SB-There's definitely pressure added, but that's all good, that's part of being a fighter. It's a part of being successful. If it was that easy, everyone would be in my shoes right now. I'm taking it all in stride, and I'm just looking to be in the best shape possible. To answer your question, yes, it's the opportunity of a lifetime, and it's gonna definitely keep me on the top. At the same time, I feel great, and with heavyweights you're always one punch away. You can never write a heavyweight off. But I'm not thinking of tomorrow. I'm not even thinking about August 7, and well, if I lose I can comeback. This is to me like my last fight. I'm going into this fight to not only win, but to look great in winning, and to go to the next level, hopefully a fight with Mike Tyson will develop, or a fight with Holyfield.
TG-So you're the best of the Brownsville heavyweights then?
SB-Oh, by far. At this point. Of course Mike in his early career would have knocked me out in less than a second, but he's no longer the same Mike. Riddick Bowe was a great champion for a while. But right now, I'm the best of the Brownsville guys.
TG-Did you ever see those guys around the neighborhood when you were growing up?
SB-Nah, there was an age difference between all of us. Mike was out of Brownsville for a long time because he went to the Catskills, and Riddick lived on another side of Brownsville. He was already advanced in his career. He was doing a lot of travelling with the amateur circuit, and I was just coming up, so I really didn't get to see much of them.
TG-You mentioned your speed and your legs as your strengths. What are your weaknesses?
SB-Just developing as a fighter. Learning more, being in the ring, being more confident, more relaxed. Just that savvy, to get more experience in the ring.
TG-Why the long layoff after the Lewis fight?
SB-I finally got the operation on my hand after the Lewis fight, and there was more damage than we had thought because I had gone through with the fight. After that, I needed time to myself, honestly. The Foreman and Lewis fights were just too close. I wasn't really healed from the Foreman fight physically to jump into the Lewis fight. But like I said, it was the chance of a lifetime, and I couldn't turn it down, so I had to make the best of it. But I just needed some time to myself. For a while I was just living in training camps and stuff like that. So I got time to move, I had a son, and I got to spend time with him, and I just felt like it was a much needed rest. And now I'm at a point where I'm ready to resume my career and stay busy.
TG-I've never seen the press turn on anyone as quick as they turned on you. Why do you think that is, and how does it affect you?
SB-I know why it is. It had a lot to do with my first trainer. Once we went our separate ways, I think he had intimidated a lot of the press. Afterward they changed on me. It hurt me and it really affected me, but that was a great part of me growing up. It showed me that this is a business. For a time, you basically couldn't read anything wrong about me. And then for everything to change, it was drastic and dramatic for me. It was a great learning experience. It was actually what stopped me reading newspapers. I kept seeing so much negativity. One day I picked up the paper and some senator was even bashing me. My mother passed a couple of years ago, and I thought if she only knew how her son was even being talked about by senators. Who would have ever thought? It was hard because my family read a lot of the articles. It was difficult to go from being talked about so greatly, to being dissed all the time. It was a big change.
TG-Who's been the biggest influence on you?
SB-Honestly, I influence myself. Not to sound conceited, but with the ups and downs of life, I look at my own situations and say "Who would have ever thought?" I went from being a homeless kid to being not very liked, to being a very liked person. That affects you in a lot of ways. I look back and say, I could be here, I could be there, and I'm proud of my development. I could have cracked a lot of times under pressure, and I was able to learn from hardship. There's things in life that you may see or read that influences you, but to be honest, I look at my own life, and say, you've made it this far, keep on ticking.
TG-With all that you've overcome, how does it affect you when it's said that you have no heart, or no desire?
SB-Now I take it differently than I took it before. I used to try to combat it, and I would get angry with the press. But I learned that this is a business. When I'm long gone, they'll be talking about other fighters, just like they did me.(laughs) I mean, they talked about Jesus, they talked about Ali. So I learned to not take it so personally, to let it roll off my back. To just be the best I can be. I can't try to please everybody. I can just be Shannon Briggs, and if I fall a little bit shy of greatness, that's all right.
TG-After the Foreman fight, you had said that fighting him felt like "going to the death chair". Do you always feel like this before fights?
SB-No. See, that answer, right after you win a fight like that against a great fighter, a legend like George Foreman, you sometimes say things that are taken out of context. To be honest, the analyst for HBO really drew that out. Before, you asked me if I though the Botha fight would determine how my career would end up. Yes, and I felt that way before the Foreman fight. At the time, I was told by some people at the networks that I would never get a fight on television again. And to get the opportunity to fight George Foreman was a blessing in disguise. And let alone to win. I mean, George was in fights where he clearly lost and they gave him the decision. I felt that going to a decision wasn't in my best interests. So that made me a little nervous, and it wasn't a fear of him, it was a fear of losing, and of what was next. And I'm kind of in that situation now.
TG-Where do you fit in with the young heavyweights (Grant, Ibeabuchi,etc)?
SB-The good news is that they don't consider me a young heavyweight anymore. I guess I'm over the hill. Well, that's kind of good, because I don't want to make young heavyweight money.(laughs) I like fighting Lewis, I like fighting Foreman, for big purses. Those young heavyweights seem to be fighting for peanuts all the time. If not being a young heavyweight means that I'm going to make big money, fine, bring on the Tysons, the Holyfields, and the big dogs.
TG-Tell me about your company, Alter Ego.
SB-Right now, I had to put that aside, and really focus on my boxing. I'm at a crossroads, and I don't need the distractions. I'm just focusing on boxing.
TG-Where do you see yourself in one year?
SB-Definitely champion of the world. I'm happy. I feel great. Physically I'm learning a lot about myself. I'm developing. I'm getting older. I'm getting that "man strength" as they say. (laughs) Sometimes you never know how something will affect you until later. My early career affected me in a huge way, with the press, my first trainer, and I'm at the point where I've gotten over it. I don't look back, and I don't regret. It was all for a reason, and I feel like that's going to make me a better person. No, I'm not undefeated anymore, but I got two learning lessons in life.
Bruno On Boxing
By Joe Bruno
Former vice president of the Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association
Watch out, corrupt boxing organizations, there's a new kid on the block, and this kid seems to know what he's doing.The new kid is the World Boxing League, and the WBL is seeking corporate sponsorship, in the same manner NASCAR has successfully operated in the past. (The NASCAR Winston Cup Series is an example) The WBL is the brainchild of the dynamic duo of Fred Levin and Terdema Ussery, who have worked together on the marketing of world light heavyweight champion Roy Jones for Nike. Now Levin and Ussery have targeted Nike as the sponsor for their fledging sanctioning body, and you know what folks, this just might work.
The WBL plans to be a sanctioning body consisting of a corporation whose stockholders will be major figures in the world of business and sports. The WBL will operate in the same manner as professional baseball, basketball and football leagues. A commissioner will oversee professional boxing, and the WBL claims it will recruit the best people to govern boxing officials, establish rules and promote the sport throughout the media. Now here's the part that I like. The WBL says it will contract the rankings to an independent ranking board and will be allowed no influence on the rankings. The ranking board will consist mainly of independent, knowledgeable sports media figures. It will operate much as the panel of sportswriters which determines the Associated Press college football rankings.This strategy has been tried before. I know. I was an integral part of it.
In 1981, there was two distinct Boxing Writers Groups; The Boxing Writers Association and the International Boxing Writers Association. I was the vice president of both. The Boxing Writers Association consisted almost entirely of New York city based boxing writers and former New York city boxing writers, who were then involved in public relations for various promoters. All members, even the press agents, were voting members, and the group voted each year for such boxing awards as Fighter of the Year, Manager of the Year, the James J. Walker Award---For Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing, etc. etc. The conflicts of interest caused by press agents pushing their bosses' fighters, and even their bosses themselves, for various awards were obviously and brazenly undertaken. One year the late Murray Goodman, one of the nicest men ever in the business, outwardly pushed his boss Don King for the Walker Award. Hey, even old Murray's had bills to pay. Then Marc Maturo, a boxing writer for the Gannett papers in Westchester, started the International Boxing Writers Association. Marc actively recruited boxing writers from around the world to join this new group, and Marc's main purpose for forming the group was to create the world's first and only honest ratings system in the eight major weight classes. Certain members of the Boxing Writers joined the International Boxing Writers, but the old group treated the new group as treacherous traitors. I mean, who were we to actually think we could better the sports of boxing. I was told by staunch members of the old group that boxing writers exist only to report the news, not create news itself. Well excuse me.
Marc recruited Mike Katz, then of the New York Times, and Steve Farhood then of of KO Magazine to be the ratings chairmen. The ratings committee consisted of 30 boxing writers from around the world. We had voting members from such far away places as Japan, Australia, Germany, England, Italy and France. The fighters were rated from one to ten; number one getting ten points and number ten getting one point. You get the idea Folks, this was 1981. There was no Internet and fax machines were far and few in between. So the ratings were done by mail, and by telephone where possible.
On the first of every month, the ratings came out and were published by the Associated Press Wire Services. They were made available to every newspaper in the country that subscribed to the AP Wire Service. The problem was nobody cared, and almost nobody in the boxing world wanted honest ratings anyway. I'll cite two examples: The International Boxing Federation, run by Bob Lee, held it's first annual convention in 1982. Promoters Dan Duva of Main Events and Mickey Duff from England liked our ratings system so much, they pushed Bob Lee to use our ratings, thus giving his new organization some much-needed credibility. Guess what? Lee told us thanks, but no thanks. Lee said he had his own ratings committee. Right then I knew something was rotten in the IBF. The recent investigations of the IBF seventeen years later are centered on Lee's IBF ratings system. No surprise here.
The second incident involved HBO, and it's weasel president, the Truman Capote-sounding Seth "The Shrimp" Abraham. Marc Maturo and I arranged for an appointment (an audience?) with Abraham in his offices overlooking Central Park. We were ushered into Abraham's office, and Marc got down to pitching out ratings system. Before Marc got two sentences out of his mouth, Abraham excused himself and left the room. Minutes later, an HBO flunky came in and told us to vacate the premises immediately. We were told that Abraham thought the purpose of the meeting was to do a puff piece on his highness, and not to pitch our stupid ratings. This punk Abraham didn't have the nerve to throw us out of his office himself.
So there you have it. We produced an honest ratings system for boxing, and we were treated like we had leprosy. The International Boxing Writers folded soon afterward. We were beaten to our knees by the big boys who knew the real score.
That reminds me of the time I interviewed the great Willie Pep in Madison Square Garden. The New York Boxing Commission was experimenting with the new thumb-less boxing gloves, created to decrease eye injuries. I asked Pep, "Willie, what do you think of the new thumb-less gloves?" Willie said, "They stink." I said, "Why?" Willie said, "Because you can't THUMB anyone."Same thing with honest boxing ratings. If you have honest ratings, then you can't cheat.
Not cheat in boxing? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Getting back to the newly launched World Boxing League. The whole idea of the WBL depends completely on establishing a ratings system beyond reproach. If Levin and Ussery produce that ratings system, they've got a damn good chance of knocking the WBA, the WBC, the IBF, the WBO and all the other alphabet cheats right out of the box, and off the boxing map. Good luck guys. I'll believe it when I see it.
Who said a leopard can't change its spots?
Hector "Macho" Camacho turned pro in New York city in 1980. At the time I was the boxing editor of the News World, a New York City Daily newspaper owned by the Reverend Sun Young Moon. Half the newspaper staff were Moonies, the other half non-Moonies like me. What did I care? As long as the good reverend didn't try to convert me to the faith, or ask me to sell flowers near the Holland Tunnel.Also owned by Reverend Moon was the Spanish Daily newspaper Noticias Del Mundo. My daily boxing columns were translated into Spanish and also printed in De Mundo. This caused me a lot of grief with the Spanish community, and especially with Mr. Camacho.
From the first time we met, Hector and I hit it off like oil and water. Truthfully, I can't remember the contents of one bad column I wrote about the Macho Man. But there were plenty. Hector was eighteen and I was around thirty. Two guys from the mean streets of Manhattan, where the main motto is, "Don't take shit from anyone." He didn't. And neither did I. We clashed. We argued. We almost came to blows several times.
One time in Atlantic City, Camacho was fighting an Angelo Dundee fighter called Louie Burke. It was on national TV one Saturday afternoon when weekend daytime fights were the big rage on all three major networks. I think I must've written sometime negative about Camacho before the fight. Truthfully, I can't remember. In the third round Camacho decked Burke. He went to the neutral corner, where I was sitting in the first press row next to boxing writer Mike Katz, then of the New York Times. While the ref counted over Burke, Camacho stuck his glove between the ropes and flicked it at my nose. He missed me by inches. I don't know if Camacho was trying to hit me, or maybe I had some lint on my nose and he was trying to help me out. Camacho won by a knockout soon after, and in the post-fight press conference, he had some pointed things to say about me and my hallowed brethren in the boxing press. I don't remember what he said, but I certainly did not use his fiery words in any resumes I sent out in the future.
Late that night I was alone in the elevator heading either to, or from the Casinos. As God would have it, the elevator stopped and Camacho headed in by himself. We both had obviously been drinking. We sneered at each other for a moment, then shook hands and went our separate ways.
Fast forward sixteen years later. I'm now retired and living in the sun-drenched splendor of sunny Sarasota, Florida. My friend Don Guercio (Donny G. to Sarasota TV fans) is part owner of Blab TV in Sarasota, Channel 36. He has a weekly sports program called "Let's Talk Sports", on which I occasionally appear. Through the Internet, I found out that Camacho is now living in Orlando, less than two hours away from Sarasota. His training camp supervisor is former middleweight Alex Ramos, also from New York City. Through Ramos, I arranged to go to Camacho's camp with a cameraman to film a spot for Donnie G's show.
How will Camacho react to seeing his old nemesis? Did I need a bodyguard? The answers were great, and not in the least. We arrived a little early. Minutes later, Camacho drove up in his white Isuzu Trouper. The car stopped. Hector and Ramos got out of the car. My heart fluttered. My gut tightened. My biceps flexed. All for naught. When I extended my hand, Hector took it, hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. He said, "What ever's past is passed."
I almost fainted.
The interview went well. Hector admitted in the interview that years ago he didn't like me. But he also said he couldn't remember the particulars of one single incident where we had clashed. And neither could I. After the interview was complete, we spent about an half an hour talking like old friends. No animosity. No nothing. Hell, the kid ( he's not a kid anymore) is a damn good guy, and I regret not knowing this sooner.
A leopard can change his spots. Only I'm sure both us old leopards had a lot of changing to do to for me to come to this conclusion.
There's an old saying that everyone has a right to earn a living, but this does not apply when your living includes duping the paying public, and disgracing the sport of boxing(as if boxing doesn't disgrace itself enough all by its lonesome). An old has-been (never was?) basketball player named Cozell McQueen was the chief architect of this abomination called "The Legends of Boxing Series." The chief premise of McQueen's is to dreg up old out-of-shape boxers up to the age of fifty, match them with equally flabby old champions, then put them in the ring in front of a live, paying crowd, on pay-per-view, for Christ sake.
The first two installments of this bilge fight card, which took place in Fayetteville, North Carolina, shows why this profanity should never be allowed by any state commission with a pulse. First, McQueen threw two ex-heavyweight champion whales named Larry Holmes and Bonecrusher Smith into the ring (ocean?). These two mounds of flabby flesh tried to punch at, lean on and basically caress each other for the better part of eight rounds. Then, surprise, surprise, Smith's shoulder gave out and the fight was stopped without reaching a logical conclusion. The live paying public was screwed, not to mention the dopes who paid for this sludge on pay-per-view.
The next fight was a rerun of obscenity number one. Two more former heavyweight champion moose named Greg Page and Tim Witherspoon were airlifted into the ring like that elephant in that Danny Glover movie. Both of these mediocre ex-champs had weight problems when they were supposedly in shape fifteen odd years ago. Imagine how they looked a decade and a half, and two million cheese burgers later. Not a pretty sight. This bore too ended too when one of the corpulent sloths injured an unused and unoiled body part. Terrible Tim pulled a hidden back muscle, and the fight was stopped in his corner before round eight.
The third "Legends" fight was former junior welterweight champion Billy Costello versus former featherweight champ Juan Laporte. Their weights were reportedly around 160 pounds. Costello won a ten-round decision. Fred Astaire would've been proud of their waltz. No wedding date has been set. The good news is that there were reportedly on 15,000 pay-per-view buys nation wide. The bad news is that there are 15,000 more dopes than this world needs.
PT Barnum was right. There is a sucker born every minute.
Old friend and boxing writer colleague Mike Marley, former of the New York Post, is now involved in the careers of several promising fighters. Marley has perennial heavyweight contender Orlin Norris JR. who recently scored a one-round KO over once-beaten Brit Pele Reid in 1:31 of the first round at London Arena, in London England. Marley is also handling welterweight prospect Tonton Semakala, "The New Swedish Hammer." Semakala was three-time Swedish national champ and bronze medallist in 1997 World Amateur Championships. He being tutored by the Argentine Professor Miguel Diaz in the gym. Also, Marley is an adviser to IBF jr. lightweight champ Roberto Garcia, who is undefeated and eagerly awaiting a showdown with Floyd Mayweather. Marley claims, "A Mayweather-Garcia fight would be to the 130-pound class what Duran-Leonard was in days of yore to the welters."
Huge praise indeed.
The Boxing Ghosts Of The Big Easy
By Enrique Encinosa
New Orleans was supposed to be a pure vacation, a decompression after several months of work on a draft of a Cold War novel set in Africa and a book of short stories in Spanish to be published later this year, or whenever the agents and editors reach agreements.
The Big Easy is a special place for me, a city visited sporadically over the last three decades with each trip searing a memory that only a hardcore boxing fan can understand. My first trip, while a high school student was capped with a handshake and a brief chat with Pete Herman, the great little rooster of the bantamweights, who owned a fine restaurant in the French Quarter. The second visit, while an amateur boxer and college freshman, provided the thrill of a ringside seat at the Municipal Auditorium, to watch Joe Brown out hustle a tough club fighter named Joe Barrientes, in one of "Old Bones" last performances. Such memories have linked me in a warm way to the city of Willie Pastrano and Ralph Dupas.
The last vacation turned into a quest. In the weeks preceding my trip to the Crescent City, I dug into old, yellowed magazines and newspaper clippings. I searched for an ancient site, the place where it all began, where time and circumstance joined together to serve as a midwife to the birth of modern boxing. Truly, I expected to find nothing other than a normal, run-of-the-mill street by the Mississippi River where long ago, history was made.
My cousin Jake, born and bred in the Big Easy, became a self-appointed tour guide. With his girlfriend Betty and my wife Ilia, we cruised the French Quarter. Bo Diddley and Eric Burdon and the New Animals were performing at the House of Blues. Street performers tap danced or played music at Jackson Square. The Cafe du Monde overflowed with tourists drinking Chickory Coffee and munching bignettes, flaky French pastries covered with powdered sugar. In the porch of a Cajun restaurnat a large metal pot boiled with red crayfish. Though the partially opened doors of strip clubs, slices of nakedness were glimpsed on the street. The air smelled of spices, broiled redfish and magnolias.
Eventually, somewhere between powdered donuts and buying a small statuette of Satchmo with his magic horn, I explained my historical quest to my Crescent City guides. So we piled into a white Honda and headed to a neighborhood close to the French Quarter.
The site I looked for is not listed in the tourist books. It is a square block of New orleans bordered by four streets: Clouet, Montegut, Charles, and Royal. My eyes scanned the street. To my astonishment, there it stood, a red brick wall wedged between two wooden residences.
"I can't believe it," I said, "There's still a wall left standing. This is incredible. Drop me off and pick me up in a half-hour."
I stood in front of 628 Clouet Street. The brick wall stretched the length of the property and curved around the back. I knew, from an old Lester Bromberg article that I was staring at the last remaining brick wall of the New Orleans Olympic Club, where the great John L. Sullivan lost his crown to Gentleman Jim Corbett.
I knocked on the door. A wiry man with long hair answered.
"Excuse me," I said, "I'm a writer and I...can you tell me how long this brick wall has been here?"
"Over a hundred years," Gerald Medina answered, "Yes, that is the wall."
"So you know what I'm talking about?"
"Yes. One day several cops showed up here and asked to see the wall. They are history buffs and they told me that some important fight took place here, and this is the original wall of the club. And an old timer around the corner also told me about the fight but I don't recollect the details."
Medina invited me into his home. As I walked around the back, looking at the red brick wall, I told him a brief story of the significant historical event that transpired in this street over a century before.
"In the past century boxing was illegal. Fighters fought on barges and barns, for bet money and with bare fists. In some cities, boxing was allowed only as exhibitions with gloves. The Olympic Club was a country club of the wealthy who sponsored athletes and sports. The political power of the Olympic Club joined with the permissive politics of Nineteenth Century Louisiana and legalized boxing at a big level was born here, during a three-day promotion where three title fights were held. It was the transition moment from the bare knuckle era to modern times, a significant moment in sports history. Did you ever see the movie 'Gentleman Jim' with Errol Flynn?"
"Yes," Medina answered, "I remember that movie."
"That's the story of how James J. Corbett beat John L. Sullivan," I said, "And now, my friend, you own a piece of history. Because this is the only wall left of the New Orleans Olympic Club. The two houses on the other side of this brick wall were built with wood salvaged after the place burned down years later. I'm going to write a piece about this and I'll send you a copy. Perhaps we can come up with some boxing fans or the city to put a plaque here. This is where modern boxing was born in the United States."
I walked around the block, entering a large yard where an industrial operation is established. I was walking on the site of the fights, on the place where Sullivan lost his crown, where Jack McAuliffe and George Dixon had flashed their skills. I asked more questions from locals, but nothing of value was gained.
I lit a Kool and stood on Chartres Street. I reflected on the significance of the events that happened here, in this square block by the Mississippi.
John L. Sullivan was significant for he was the first national sports hero and blue collar non-entrepreneur to earn a million dollars in Nineteenth Century America. He had brought some respectability to prize fighting, but was often arrested for his bare-knuckle contests. Corbett, a bank clerk from San Francisco was a handsome, lightning quick athlete, who advocated boxing with gloves, refusing to fight under London Prize Ring Rules.
I stood on Chartres Street and imagined the drama of a century before. Twelve thousand boxing fans arrived by train, filling the hotels and bordellos of the French Quarter. Gamblers consulted with Creole witches the possible outcome of the fight. A local politician complained that one of the three bouts featured George Dixon, the magnificent black featherweight, scheduled to fight a white contender long on valor and short on skills. Banners with photos of the fighters were displayed on storefronts and balconies. Fifty telegraph operators were involved in transmitting the round-by-round results of the event to awaiting crowds across America. New Orleans sparkled with excitement that week.
The arena, built with treated wood was the site of three title bots in three nights. The first event featured Jack McAuliffe, who as king of the lightweights would retire undefeated after twelve years of active fighting. The champion faced the "Streator Cyclone" Billy Myer, a top contender. A crowd of 4,357 fans saw the unbeaten McAuliffe stop Myer in fifteen face-slicing rounds.
The second night, "Little Chocolate" George Dixon performed with such brilliant finesse against club fighter Jack Skelly, that the white, prosperous southern audience gave the black featherweight a standing ovation, a significant gesture in an age not yet three full decades away from a bloody Civil War. Dixon defeated Skelly with ease, by an eight round knockout in front of 4,062 paying customers.
The night of September 7, 1892, Sullivan and Corbett faced each other in front of 4,973 fans with a door gate of 60,318, an astronomical sum in an age when a skilled tradesman made $3,000 a year.
It was a dramatic scenario. Sullivan was the idol of the Boston Irish, the first lad to become a national hero in America, a representation of his era, good hearted, boisterous, free spending and proud. The "Great John L." had up to this night, remained undefeated in twelve years of fighting with or without gloves. Forty two wins and three draws was his record as he entered the New Orleans ring, including his most famous victory, the bloody seventy five round brawl with Jake Kilrain in 1889. Sullivan was a brutal slugger who shattered ribs with his solid power.
"Gentleman Jim" was a handsome youth from San Francisco with a well combed pompadour and first rate style in dress and manners. Most important, he could fight, having beaten Joe Choynski and boxing a hard draw with top contender Peter Jackson. Corbett was an innovator, a pioneer in applying speed and technique over raw power. Pompadour Jim also had power, derived more from speed and accuracy than from brute strength.
It lasted twenty-one rounds. Sullivan charged as Corbett danced. Gentleman Jim drew first claret, bloodying Sullivan's nose in the third round. The Boston Strong Boy tried hard, but too many years of boozing and hard fights caught up to him, as the younger, faster contender danced and slashed. Twice Corbett became king and boxing entered a golden age.
I stood on that sidewalk and imagined it. A crowd of people lining up on the entrances on Royal and Chartres, most dressed in somber suits with derbies, while the flashier crowd wore straw hats or bright cravats. Little Chocolate dressed in a cotton suit celebrating his previous night's triumph over Skelly puffing on a Havana cigar. Sullivan leaving the building surrounded by his acolytes, his face a bruised mask of stunned disbelief. Gamblers paying or being paid. Neighborhood children on the outer fringes of the crowd, impressed with the drama of the spectacle. Corbett, triumphant, being congratulated by friends. Joe Choynski talking to boxing fans in the street corner under the gas lit lamps. Hansom cabs pulled by snorting horses filled with the sporting crowd in a festive mood. Blue suited policemen with handlebar mustaches moving along the masses, an eye out for the ruffian or pickpocket. Bat Masterson, the great lawman, walking with a slight limp, dressed in a suit with a brocade vest, a nickel-plated revolver resting on a dark holster at his waist. Old Southerners with well-clipped mustaches and linen dusters...
The white Honda turned the corner. Reality came back as the fantasy images vanished. Jake opened up the passenger's side.
"Where do you want to go now?" Jake asked.
"Anywhere you want," I answered, "I've seen it all today."
Thad Spencer: The Contender
By Katherine Dunn
(This essay appeared first in PDXS newspaper in July of 1998)
Boxing is almost as rough a life for promoters as it is for fighters. Don King just endured his third, or was it fourth, federal trial. The late Portland promoter Fred McNalley was driven to the fiery brink of bankruptcy. His predecessor, Sam Singer, died of a stroke while sitting on the toilet reading Ring Magazine, and twenty years later fight folk are still asking "Which issue? What page?".
On a recent Saturday afternoon, some-time promoter Thad Spencer's reputation caught up with him at the dog track. It wasn't a pretty sight. Scarcely a dozen people were there to see the big guy pacing around an empty boxing ring and row after row of empty chairs. A few weeks earlier a fan had presented Spencer with a replica of a championship belt, and he had it strapped on over his t-shirt, which gave him a defiantly rakish air.
The amateur boxing show scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, June 27, 1998 at the Multnomah Greyhound Track had actually been canceled the night before because none of the amateur clubs invited were willing to participate. Still, promoter Spencer seemed to be waiting as though boxers would miraculously appear along with a paying audience to cheer them. It didn't happen. But this was just the latest low point in Spencer's roller coaster history.
The casual fight fan might recognize Thad Spencer as the nattily dressed older black man in the crowd at Northwest fight cards who is hailed as a luminary and introduced in the ring during intermission. The announcers always inform us respectfully that he is the former top ten ranked heavyweight who got his early training at Portland's Knott St. Boxing Club and was in line to challenge Muhammad Ali for the crown back in 1967 when Ali was stripped of the title for refusing the draft. Spencer was, by all accounts, an excellent fighter back in the sixties. But, as he often explains, he dropped out of the ring and into a heavy cocaine life after that. He's been turning over new leaves ever since.
In the early 80's Spencer decided to be a boxing promoter. With a line of gab and a carefully assembled scrapbook full of news clips and solicited letters from old fight cronies and politicians, Spencer practiced promoting with what's known as "OPM," meaning Other People's Money. It's a grand tradition in which the guy with the boxing moxie talks an investor into acting as the Angel who foots the bills.
Spencer hooked up with David Liken of Double T Promotions, the rock and roll impresario, to stage a show in Seattle's Paramount theater in 1983. Then he came to Portland and the old city boxing commission licensed him as a promoter, the first black promoter in the history of Oregon, though he never actually presented a show here. He went into partnership with Arthur J. Palmer who owned Rose City Cab.
The Spencer/Palmer combo produced one memorable show on September 3, 1983, in Vancouver, WA at the gymnasium of the Hudson Bay High School. The Day of the fight Spencer was shocked to learn that he would not be allowed to sell alcohol in the high school, and his backer, Palmer, decided the show was going to flop and pulled out. Only a hundred or so ticket buyers wandered through the door which meant there wasn't enough money in the till to pay the boxers. Washington Boxing Commissioner Eddie Cotton took charge and held a meeting in the locker room in which the fighters and their managers agreed to take reduced pay. The prelim fighters were offered a hundred dollars each, which was presumably to come from the thin ticket sales at the door. The main event--Portland light heavyweight James Williams and veteran Rudy Robles of Los Angeles--agreed to half pay of $500 each, which would be delayed several weeks until the thousand dollar bond held by the commission could be claimed.
The show started, raggedly, some two hours late but Spencer disappeared before the first bout ever began. Ringsiders, including this writer, were told that Spencer had taken the meager till with him so none of the fighters could be paid that night. It's not clear whether the fighters in the three four round prelim bouts knew that when they climbed into the ring. Washington fight reporter Bruce Siebol and a ringside fan volunteered to perform the announcing duties. At one point Portland promoter Fred McNalley took the microphone to announce that anyone who presented a ticket stub from that night could get into McNalley's next show for half price. Williams decisioned Robles in the main event.
A couple of months later Spencer had a new angel, Dick Griffey, head of Solar Records in Los Angeles. Griffey, a friend from Spencer's glory days, paid the outstanding bills from the Vancouver show so Spencer could promote again in Washington. The list of debts submitted by the commission included the building rent, the ring rent, and pay for all the officials and all of the boxers.
In 1984, with Griffey's backing, Spencer staged a show at the Sea-Tac Red Lion, even flying Muhammad Ali in to help hype the fight. Still, the show was swamped in $14,000 worth of red ink. The slew of unpaid bills and other complications in the wake of that event prompted Commissioner Eddie Cotton to tell this reporter that the commission would never license Spencer again. In 1987 Spencer lobbied the Washington Governors office trying to get reinstated but he was denied when, in a letter to the Governor, Cotton explained that the commission believed "based on his past performance" that licensing Spencer to promote boxing "would not be in the public interest."
It took California longer to come to the same conclusion. In 1984, Spencer was licensed as a promoter in California with one Joe Coates named as his backer. Spencer managed to promote fourteen shows in California between 1985 and 1989, mostly in Bakersfield, with different backers each time. Former Portland promoter Cordell Blockson told Punch Lines he was one of many who invested in Spencer and lost a chunk of change. The California Commission suspended and fined Spencer a few times, and fielded many complaints from his investors. In 1989 California decided not to license Spencer anymore. In 1990 the California commission warned Spencer to cease and desist his unlicensed matchmaking activities.
Since then Spencer has apparently shuttled back and forth from Las Vegas to Portland, concentrating mainly on promoting various benefit events under the flag of fund raising for youth programs. Spencer has often told reporters about his desire to offer boxing as a life-saver for kids. Way back in 1982, Spencer talked the Portland Salvation Army into creating a boxing gym in the basement of the Moore Street Community Center, promising that he would come and coach amateurs there. A well-equipped gym was duly created but Spencer never came around to do any coaching and the project died out.
There were other fund raising ventures in the name of saving young people. Benefit dinners that drew six or maybe sixteen buyers to hotel banquet rooms prepared to serve the hundreds that Spencer had promised. But it was always somebody else's money that spilled in long red streams. In 1990 he talked the respected Oregon Road Runners Club, which organizes distance races for runners, into staging a benefit race called George Foreman's Run For The Future. A bitter letter from the club's then-executive director, Gordon Lovie, listed all the unfulfilled promises made by Spencer, which left the club several thousand dollars in the hole.
Spencer was actually licensed as a professional matchmaker by the State of Oregon in the early '90's, working for tennis promoter Brian Parrot. Parrot wanted to branch out to boxing promotions but the show never happened and Parrot dropped the project entirely.
In 1994 Spencer created an organization with the poignantly ironic name of Last Chance To Get A Life, which is registered as a non-profit in Nevada and lists Thad Spencer as President and Chief Executive Officer. The organization is described as serving underprivileged youth but Punch Lines has yet to discover any service to youth it has performed.
Then, in the summer of 1995 Spencer swerved back toward the professional fight world. Mike Tyson had just got out of prison and his comeback bout against hapless Peter McNeely was being hyped. Spencer got hold of a copy of the closed circuit contract for the fight from Kingvision, the Don King subsidiary that arranges pay-per-view and CC sales. The ever inventive Spencer made photocopies of the contract, inserting the letterhead for his own company, Prime Contender Boxing Promotions. He also changed the numbers. Where Kingvision was charging CC outlets $17.50 per seat, Spencer wanted $23 and a substantial cash advance. He offered to sell the CC rights to various hotels, casinos and other venues. He told The Oregonian newspaper that he had sole rights to sell the closed circuit show in Oregon and Washington. The Wild Horse Casino near Pendleton actually bought his pitch and gave him a four thousand dollar advance. When he approached some venues which already had deals with Kingvision, the management called Kingvision and squealed. Spencer had no right to sell the CC viewings and he was not licensed by the state to do so. The King organization, the State of Oregon, and the Wild Horse came down hard on Spencer. The four thousand dollars was returned to the casino and the matter was allowed to drop.
In 1996 Spencer acted as matchmaker for two small pro club shows staged by Portland's ex-wrestling promoter Sandy Barr in Vancouver, WA. Now he's trying to stage amateur shows and, so far, it's not working. The non-event at Multnomah Greyhound Track on Saturday, June 27,1998, was publicized as a benefit for Spencer's mysterious non-profit, Last Chance To Get A Life. It sounded like a good cause. But an amateur show requires an official sanction from the local amateur organization. Such a sanction can only be held by a member of U.S. Amateur Boxing, and Spencer is not a member. He approached coach Guy Villegas of West Portland Boxing Club, asking Villegas to get the sanction and organize the matches, promising that a thousand dollars would be donated to the West Portland Boxing Club for Villegas' labor. Villegas at first agreed but, when Spencer missed scheduled appointments and failed to provide promised expense money, Villegas told him he would not go on with the project. Spencer then asked Coach Scott Danielson of the now defunct Tillamook Boxing Club to do the job. Danielson, who has had his own organizational difficulties in the past, agreed.
Oddities piled up around the event early. An announcement in the Oregonian listed the names of two boxers supposed to participate, and one of them was not a registered amateur. Then Spencer staged a round card girl contest in a local bar. The posters said "Do you have what it takes to be the 1998 Portland Amature (sic) Boxing Miss Ringsider?" and "The 1998 Last Chance To Get A Life Search for Miss Ringside Continues." This is an unusual tactic for an organization aimed at helping kids, and the winners were supposed to appear at the Greyhound Park event. Round card cuties are not a common feature of the simon pure amateur shows. Also, the boxing ring Spencer rented from ex-wrestling promoter Sandy Barr for the bouts was already the subject of a national level controversy because it has steel cables, which are banned by amateur safety rules, instead of ropes.
Then on Friday afternoon, the day before the scheduled show, Scott Danielson telephoned Oregon registration chairman Trevor Lewis and cancelled his sanction for the show. He also called Oregon amateur Chief of Officials Harold Pakula and told him the show was off so no judges or referees would be needed.
An item in The Oregonian on Thursday, July 2 said the show was "postponed for lack of matches. Only four fights, instead of a minimum of 10, were finalized, an organizer said. Another card is tentatively scheduled for July 25."
That Thursday morning Scott Danielson phoned this reporter in a fury over the item in The Oregonian. "That is a flat out lie!" he said. "The show isn't postponed, it's cancelled. And there weren't four bouts, there were none. Not one match was made." Danielson says not a single amateur club he contacted was willing to participate then or in the future. "And I called every club I could think of," he insists.
Several of the coaches who refused Spencer and Danielson's invitations have since told us that they didn't want to be involved with anything Thad Spencer was doing.
Joel Caldera, coach of the thriving Knott Street Boxing Club in Portland said, "Thad's always talking about how he wants to help the kids, but I've never seen him spend so much as thirty minutes teaching a kid. If he was volunteering even two days a week it would be different."
In the usual bold way of the fight world, some coaches were not willing to be quoted by name but they made their feelings known. "Why is Thad doing this?" asked one burly coach rhetorically. "To line his pockets. That foundation of his is a bunch of bullshit. These outside promoters don't have clubs of their own and don't do any volunteer work but they all come on with the same story, how much they're gonna help the kids. All they want is to make a profit off these kids."
Folks in the amateurs tend to be touchy about parasites who think they can put on a cheap show and make money because they don't have to pay amateur boxers. Coaches volunteer thousands of hours and plenty of their own money every year to keep their boxers busy and learning. The refs and judges drive hundreds of miles in any weather, paying their own expenses, and they work their butts off when they arrive. They've been burnt before and they don't welcome freeloaders.
But not everyone thinks Thad Spencer is a con man. Long time Portland pro fight manager Mike "Motormouth" Morton has always had a soft spot for Spencer. "I wouldn't say he's dishonest," laughs Morton. "He's just a loser! He never actually makes any money. I can't tell you how many times I've had to loan him a hundred bucks so he could get home from his own shows!."
Postcard from the Edge
Well folks, as you probably didn't notice that Pusboil hasn't been around for a while. I've been out surveying the world looking for something that can fill the void in my life that was once my love for boxing.
I'm infuriated to report that there is nothing out there to quite fill this void, so I have returned to accept my punishment as a loyal boxing fan.
You see, I had pretty much lost it when the decision for the Holyfield-Lewis fight was announced. I actually was unable to believe that boxing could go this low. But it did and I just couldn't take it anymore.
At the time of that fight, I believe I wrote there would not be a rematch. Well there will be. I believe I also wrote nothing would happen to Don King, well the feds raided his office and also opened up some drawers in the IBF's offices. So I was 0 fer 2.
But, will the feds actually open a can of whoop-ass on the Don, or will this be another fruitless investigation where that idiot walks away smiling, chanting "Only in America"? Too soon to turn over the tarot card on that puppy. We'll just have to wait and see.
The latest thing that made me spew violently into the night was a pay per view card I saw listed in my television guide on the web. I didn't remember a big fight coming up so I clicked on the link to see what was on. My wife was thankful I didn't have anything chunky for dinner that night for when I read the description I saw something I feared.
It was an all chick pay per view card!!!! My apologies to the women who might read this scourge but when it comes to women fighting, you're chicks. Like the old saying goes, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, odds are it's a fucking duck. And these were chicks!!!
To quote Chandler from the tv series "Friends", why why why would they do this??? Needless to say I did not watch this, I wouldn't even have dreamed to look at what they might be charging for it as I am not a fan of having dry heaves.
Has the boxing world gotten kicked in the teeth enough yet?? I don't know who actually put this extravaganza together, but they need a check up from the neck up. Next thing you know the sanctioning bodies will be sponsoring a senior tour!!! Okay that was a really lousy segue but I'm out of practice.
Yes folks it's official, boxing had a seniors only night June 18, 1999. Mark this date down, it is obviously one of the signs of the apocalypse. Larry Holmes fought James "Osteoporosis" Smith, Tim Witherspoon squared off against Greg Page and Juan LaPorte went up against Billy Costello.
The average age of fighter on this card is over 43 years old. Yeah, boxing needs this. It's not like all of the fighters were fantastic in their primes either. Smith in fact has lost to two of the other three heavyweights on this card. The exception being 'Spoon who he KO'D in the first round!! On top of that Smith has these other distinguishing L's on his record, Marvis Frazier, Levi Billups, and Dan Dancuta. Puhhlease.
Holmes was a champion, key word is was, but at least a decent champion. Greg Page was champ for about 45 minutes somewhere around the end of 1984. Witherspoon was a two time champion for a combined total of about 16 months but here's the best part, he has a grand total of 1 yes 1 successful title defenses not to mention that he also lost his second title to Smith 13 years ago!!
I won't bore you with all the details. But in summation, Witherspoon retired in the corner because he threw out his back. Smith retired because he threw out his shoulder. See a pattern forming here??
Greg Page will probably receive a call from Victoria's Secret asking him if he wants to model the new male sports bra, sorry Larry but you'll also be receiving an offer.
I thought this was bad and told myself at least tomorrow there is a good fight between Michael Grant and Lou Savarese. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. A snoozer this one was from opening to closing bell. Neither one of these fighters proved anything except mediocrity.
Grant will never be a force in the heavyweight division. He might liken himself to Holyfield with spiritual ring entry music and physique, but it all ends there. There ain't a drop of fire in that kid's belly.
Boxing to me is like smoking, I'd love to quit but for some reason I just can't. If anyone finds a patch for this let me know.
SAM LANGFORD "HE EVEN PREDICTED WHERE THEY WOULD LAND"
By Tracy Callis
Sam Langford engaged in more than 290 fights during his career in different weight classes, ranging from lightweight to heavyweight. He was ready, willing, and able to meet any man who would get into the ring with him.
Physically, Sam was short and stocky with bulky shoulders and strong arms. His reach was very long for a man of his height. He was described as quick and slippery as an eel in action by Fleischer (1939 p 155). Langfords boxing skills were almost unlimited. He could fight at close quarters or a long range. He would attack the head or body with a two-handed barrage of punches that packed power in both fists. He would duck, feint, block, move in, move out, and shift his attack quickly upstairs or down. His timing was excellent. He used jabs, hooks, combinations, wide swings, short chops and mixed his punches beautifully. Also, he was as game as they come with a great capacity for taking punishment.
Fleischer (1939 p 123) asserted that regardless of which weight class he belonged to at the time, there was first rate fighting talent present but many of them dodged him because Langford was such a skilled pugilist. Even the champions avoided him. (He did find some takers among the heavyweights because they were larger than he was). The result of all this was that in order to get fights (and eat) Langford often had to agree to "carry" his opponents.
Sam, along with Jack Johnson, Joe Jeannette, and Sam McVey comprised a magnificent foursome of black fighters during the early part of this century. These men and other blacks were forced to fight each other on black cards many times and usually provided their own toughest competition. They traveled the country and fought in what the late boxing historian, Tim Leone, referred to as the "chitlin trail".
For example, Langford fought 18 bouts with Harry Wills, 15 with Sam McVey, 14 with Joe Jeannette, 13 with Jeff Clarke, 10 with "Battling" Jim Johnson, 9 each with Bill Tate and Jack Thompson, 7 with "Young" Peter Jackson, 5 each with "Bearcat" Wright, Lee Anderson, and Andy Watson, 4 each with Larry Temple and Dave Holly, and 3 each with big George Godfrey and Bradford Simmons. Historians are not certain as to the exact number of bouts between these men due to the lack of record-keeping at the time but at least the above numbers were fought.
Further, Sam demolished a number of the "White Hopes" who were chasing after Jack Johnsons Heavyweight Championship but were still willing to take a chance with him [Langford] Ed "Gunboat" Smith, Andre Anderson, Bob Devere, Dan "Porky" Flynn, Jim Barry, "Fireman" Jim Flynn, Tony Ross, John "Sandy" Ferguson, and Tom "Bearcat" McMahon. He beat several of these men many times.
In addition to the above mentioned fights, Langford pulverized the best European fighters too knocking out James "Tiger" Smith, Jeff Thorne, William "Iron" Hague, and Matthew "P.O." Curran during trips to Europe.
Some well-known champions bit the dust against Sam as well (but not for the title). He beat Joe Gans in 1903, knocked out the Dixie Kid in 1909 and 1910, knocked out "Philadelphia" Jack OBrien in 1911, and knocked out Tiger Flowers in 1922.
Stockton (1977 p 33) said "Langford had all the attributes of a great fighter, speed, punching power, an amazingly elusive defense, the ability to absorb punishment, and unlimited endurance". Lardner (1972 p 177) described Langford as being short and squat, a gnomelike man who had a long reach and incredible strength.
Joe Jeannette once called Langford "the best all-around heavyweight" and said Sam hit him harder than anyone he ever fought. Harry Wills called Langford the best fighter he ever fought. "Fireman" Jim Flynn, who fought such men as Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Luther McCarty, Ed "Gunboat" Smith, and many others said "the hardest hitter I ever faced was Langford" (see Weston 1954 pg 20 58). Cannon (1978 p 89) quoted Jack Dempsey as saying "Sam probably would have knocked me out".
Hugh McIntosh, famous promoter of that period, rated Sam Langford as the greatest fighter of the time, even better than Jack Johnson (see Fleischer 1939 p 166). Grombach (1977 p 51) said Langford was probably the only fighter who could have extended Jack Johnson.
Many writers have expressed the idea that Johnson was afraid of Langford and that Sam almost beat Johnson in their 1906 non-title bout. The fact is that Johnson gave Sam a solid beating, knocking him down and probably out (except for a slow count). Langford said " he [Johnson] gave me the only real beating I ever took" (see Fleischer 1939 p 141).
Fleischer (1939 p 154) elaborated on the subject and said Sam never could have beaten Johnson. He called Langford a giant-killer but says the giants Sam put to sleep never possessed Johnsons science, power, and ring generalship. He later wrote (1969 p 79) that Johnson beat Langford decisively and was the complete master of the situation.
When Johnson beat Langford in their 1906 match, Jack weighed 187 pounds to Sams 156. Johnson probably did beat Sam soundly but realized that Langford possessed quickness and power to the extent that when Sam reached 180 pounds or so, he [Johnson] preferred not to risk a fight with him.
In spite of his wonderful skills, Sam never got a shot at a title. Carpenter (1975 p 45) called Langford "the finest boxer never to get a shot at a world title". Houston (1975 p 24) said Sam was probably the greatest contender who never won the title and described him as possessing "great punch-anticipation". Gutteridge (1975 p 93) wrote that Langford was perhaps the greatest non-champion of all.
"Dumb" Dan Morgan, famous fight manager, once compared Langford with Joe Louis by saying "Langford, who was a scientific knocker-outer, would crowd Louis, either lead to him or counter him, and take whatever Joe could dish out. I think Sam would finish Joe in about six or seven rounds of real slugging" (see McCallum 1975 p 46).
Langford, who spoke with a lisp (Ise Tham Langfod), was a happy-go-lucky man with a keen sense of humor. His fighting philosophy was simple "what dat otha man wanna do dont let em do it".
He often predicted the outcome of a bout and was so good at it, he could be called "the Prophet". He shook hands with Morris Harris in the seventh-round of a ten-rounder, told him it was his last round, then kayoed him. He stepped off six feet at a particular spot in the ring for Bill Tate, then knocked him out there. He deposited "Fireman" Jim Flynn in the lap of columnist Beany Walker (at ringside), who had once said Flynn deserved a win in a previous bout with Langford. In fact, Sam always brought the referee with him one who gave the "right" verdict his powerful right fist (see Weston 1954 pg 59 60 and Houston 1975 pg 24 25).
Diamond (1954 p 82) wrote "Sam Langford was a great fighter in an age of great fighters. In proportion to his height and weight there never was a greater fighting man. He was not the greatest of fighters but undoubtedly was one of the best".
Langford was a very good fighter in every weight class he fought particularly as a light-heavyweight and heavyweight. Charley Rose, old time fighter and manager, rated Langford as the best heavyweight of all-time. Nat Fleischer, boxing historian and founder of The Ring, ranked Langford as the seventh best heavyweight in boxing history. In the opinion of this writer, Langford was the fourth best light-heavyweight ever.
Cannon, J. and Cannon, T. 1978. Nobody Asked Me But (The World of Jimmy Cannon). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Carpenter, H. 1975. Boxing: A Pictorial History. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.
Diamond, W., 1954. Kings Of The Ring. London: The World's Work (1913) Ltd.
Fleischer, N. 1939. Fighting Furies: Story of the Golden Era of Jack Johnson, Sam Langford, and Their Contemporaries (Black Dynamite Volume IV). New York: C. J. OBrien, Inc.
Grombach, J. 1977. The Saga of the Fist. New York: A.S. Barnes and Co.
Gutteridge, R. 1975. Boxing: The Great Ones. London: Pelham Books Ltd.
Houston, G. 1975. SuperFists. New York: Bounty Books.
Lardner, R., 1972. The Legendary Champions. New York: American Heritage Press.
McCallum, J. 1975. The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company.
Stockton, R., 1977. Who Was The Greatest. Phoenix: Boxing Enterprises.
Weston, S. c. 1954. The Boston Tar Baby (Sam Langford) (contained in Boxing and Wrestling magazine, pg 18-21, 58-61).
Friday the Thirteenth
By Alan Taylor
The car exploded just before 10:00 PM. Shards of hot metal shattered windows and tore holes in the surrounding masonry. The engine would be found later on the roof of the town hall. Quick action by the police, and an element of luck, ensured the the streets had been cleared - no-one was injured. The immediate damage to the heart of the town was extensive. Then the fire started.
The uppercut exploded through the champion's guard early in the tenth. It was a brutal, bone-crunching shot. All things being equal the blow should have ended the fight and the champion's reign. But things were not equal. Seemingly disconnected from his senses the champion staggered across the ring, reeling from punches which reined in from all angles. He was driven to the ropes and for the next minute, a minute that for him and for all those looking on seemed an eternity, covered up trying to clear his head. Above all he refused to go down. His breath came in huge gulps. He started to feel his legs below him once again. And suddenly, amazingly, he was fighting back. The crowd that just before had been willing him to fall - for his own good - now willed him to somehow find a way out of his own personal hell. They roared as he landed a hard right uppercut. Another - harder. And now the challenger seemed weary. To his shock the 'beaten' man before him was now driving him back. As the bell rang it appeared that it was he, the challenger, who was in danger of defeat.
I was leaving my office when the bomb exploded. Simultaneously I heard the bang and felt the timber staircase move below me. My first reaction on going out into the street was, perhaps surprisingly, to move towards where the blast had come from. Turning the corner I could see flames rising from the twisted wreckage of what had once been a car. The fire reached out to the buildings nearby. Thirty minutes later I returned to the scene with my wife. Patricia's office was on the corner where the car-bomb had been placed and, as was normal, keyholders were asked to return to their premises - to check for further devices and the like. There was no returning this time however. In the short time I had been away the fire had taken hold. The buildings in that area were older with timber beams and lintels rather than steel or concrete. The flames spread and the whole block was burning. Standing about a hundred yards from the fire, among other stunned onlookers, we watched in awe and horror as firemen tried to tame the fire. The heat was intense. The night sky was red. We came upon Patricia's boss, Brian, and together we stood watching .... not speaking.....just watching. The fire was strangely hypnotic. It was hard to look away but eventually, perhaps an hour and a half later, we left - there was nothing we could do! We drank coffee and spoke little. Around 2 am I drove Brian back to his car. The flames were still high. As we drove alongside the river we passed over firemen's hoses - they were drawing water directly from the river, attempting to prevent the fire spreading further.
Evander Holyfield entered the ring two hours later, a man too small to be heavyweight champion of the world, a built up cruiserweight who was only champion because of the incarceration of Mike Tyson, the true champion. He would face Riddick Bowe - younger, bigger, heavier, much heavier. What followed was one of the greatest heavyweight contests in history. Holyfield took control in the first. He jabbed and moved. He used his speed to dart in and out, landing combinations, scoring points - it wouldn't last. Evander's warrior spirit meant that when tagged he would fight back. He went toe-to-toe with the bigger man. They burned with an intensity, a passion unseen since perhaps Ali-Frazier. Holyfield was taking the harder shots but hammering back. After nine rounds the fight was more or less even. Then came the tenth! I watched the latter rounds of the fight with a lump in my throat. I had never witnessed courage in the ring like that displayed by Holyfield in the tenth. In the eleventh he was clubbed to the ground, yet rose again when most thought he should stay down. When the bell rang to end the twelfth I knew the title had changed hands. I cried then. For Holyfield? Perhaps. For the town and all I had witnessed that night? Certainly! The emotion which had been held in was released. In the days that followed, while timbers still smoldered, people began to talk about rebuilding. In the next year the town became stronger, better than it had been. People pulled together. The buildings rose - a phoenix from the very real flames which had been unleashed that Friday night.
Almost exactly a year later Evander Holyfield was stronger, better than he had been. Against the odds, in the face of predictions of being seriously hurt, he regained the heavyweight championship of the world. As the bell rang to end the twelfth I felt tears on my cheeks. I knew he had won. I felt elated, inspired. Evander Holyfield will, perhaps, never know of these events. Those reading this will, perhaps, not understand how I can relate 'sport' to 'the troubles'. But people need heroes and we must take our heroes where we find them. For me Evander Holyfield is a hero, an inspiration to greatness. As he has faced the heart scare, faced and exposed the bully that was Tyson, and now the criticism following the Lewis fight, it is possible that my town and my country can rise above the past. It is possible that Northern Ireland can move beyond terrorism and embrace peace. We may yet face setbacks but the will to succeed is there. Evander Holyfield may not beat Lennox Lewis. Even if he doesn't he will still have earned greatness. While I don't share his religious faith I am inspired by his self-belief. What others see as 'pious, self-serving crap' (Bucket!!) I see as an affirmation of belief that obstacles can be overcome. I will cheer Holyfield on whatever.
Chris Byrd: "I Want To Fight The Champion To Be."
By Francis Walker
Recently, young heavyweight Chris Byrd was here in the Big Apple. During his brief stay, Byrd, a former silver medallist at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, discussed a variety of topics with myself: Lewis-Holyfield, Trinidad-De La Hoya, Mike Grant-Lou Savarese, and coming back from adversity... Byrd, as happy as can be, also shed light regarding his status and acceptance in the boxing community.
On the evening of Saturday, March 20, one week after the "controversial fix" between world heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden, Byrd, a blown-up 165 pound amateur, fought the gargantuan, 240-pound African, Ike Ibeabuchi.
Byrd, considered as "knockout proof" and "unhittable," was ahead on all three judges scorecards until the unthinkable happened....
In the fifth round, a single left hook to his chin grounded Byrd flat on his face. Byrd returned to his feet only to absorb additional punishment and have the bout waved off with just one-second remaining in the round.
Ironically, Ibeabuchi's ranking propelled to No. 2 in the IBF, while Byrd advanced from two slots up from No. 9 to No. 7. Since the loss, Byrd has won two bouts and continues to be active, en route to earning his first world
Francis Walker: Having lost to Ike Ibeabuchi in March, the IBF boosted your ranking to Number 7?
Chris Byrd: "That's what I heard. They ranked me up to number seven because, I came back so fast and got two fights under my belt. I don't know! I should have been number one, number two before I fought Ike. Number seven is really not that good."
FW: Well, at least you're in the top-10. If you are able to beat somebody in the top-10, the International Boxing Federation will mandate you in the top-3. David Tua is in at number one, Ibeabuchi, as I said before, is at number
two, and I hear Lennox Lewis may fight either one of them later on this year. If that happens, another door could open for you to force a mandatory.
Byrd: "Maybe, but I don't see myself fighting anyone in the top-10 again. I don't know what I really could do. I am going to wait. I want to fight Ike again, but we are not in the era of 'rematch.' "
FW: Have there been any offers thrown at you, in terms of some fighters wanting to fight you?
Byrd: "Not at all! Its been real hard. Everybody is saying.... I got caught. They say I still got the skills and still fear me in that aspect, but I got caught."
FW: But why did you stay against the ropes fighting Ibeabuchi?
Byrd: "Just trying to prove something. I thought I would never get caught like that against the ropes. Nothing affected me, but I just got caught with a good shot. The punches you don't see are the ones that knock you out!"
FW: Plus, in the heavyweight division, it takes one punch to turn things around.
Byrd: "Yup! The way Ibeabuchi kept coming after me, coming after me after I threw those flurries, the guy was on the defensive. I actually was having a lot of fun in the ring. It did not look like it, but I was having a lot of fun and the crowd had me pumped. My strategy for the first five rounds was to mess with him. The next half of the fight, I would just beat him up. I had him going. His cornermen told me, had he not caught me in the third or fourth round, he would have folded. He started to fall apart."
FW: You mentioned earlier that you took the Ibeabuchi fight for the opportunity. With a new promoter in Cedric Kushner, couldn't you have been rewarded a tune-up fight first before facing Ibeabuchi?
Byrd: "The opportunity was there at the time and I just had to take it. They see I came back and fight some guy, I don't think the opportunity would have been there. You give a guy too much time to think, especially with the type of style I present inside the ring, when he wouldn't have took it. I know he wouldn't have took it. So the opportunity was there at the right time. I had to take it."
FW: So in that regard, can you look straight ahead?
Byrd: "I wish I could get the winner of Mike Grant-Lou Savarese. Grant is 6' 7," 256, Savarese is about 6' 2," 240. Savarese had two losses and was still able to come back. That's how boxing is in the heavyweight division. Mike Grant is the thing now. Everyone is high on Mike Grant, which is great."
FW: You think everybody is fond of Mike Grant?
Byrd: "Oh, everybody is! Mostly everybody is fond of Mike Grant."
FW: Has he proven himself?
Byrd: "Not yet! People in boxing says he is the next champion to be. I want to fight the next champion to be. That's my thing - I'll fight then all. Whomever is supposed to be the best out there, I'll fight them all. This is
FW: What is the most important thing for you right now? Staying active of fighting top opposition?
Byrd: "If I fought Ibeabuchi, I'll fight Mike Grant next. However, that's how boxing is. You have to call the so-called fighters out, and fight the best in the division."
FW: How has the press treated you since the loss?
Byrd: "They just say I got caught. Some people say, 'he should have beat a blown-up middleweight.' If I would have beat Ike, who would I fight? Think about it, you tell me who I would fight."
FW: Kirk Johnson!
Byrd: "No, he would not take it. If I beat Ike, I would have been sitting here waiting to fight a top guy on the undercard of a big show. They would have expected me to beat Ike. Ike is now number two? Was I number one or two? It's a joke man. How people are saying Ike is the greatest thing going. What am I missing? I know I have the skills, but to most people I'm a blown-up middleweight."
FW: Lets get to Holyfield-Lewis.
Byrd: "Lewis won easily!"
FW: Does the fix hurt boxing?
Byrd: "No! Boxing's still gonna survive with any kind of decision. The second fight will be bigger than the first fight. Everyone's gonna wanna see it now. It may have turned away a few fans, but a lot will be more interested in the rematch."
FW: Just look at this situation: promoters Don King and Cedric Kushner, as well as the International Boxing Federation all have a great chance of being indicted and possibly shutdown. Everything, the mismatches, the payoffs, and the corruption and mis-advantage of fighters are all coming out in the open to the public. Yet, in your view fans will still support boxing?
Byrd: "Oh, of course! Boxing will go on. Basketball will go on without Michael Jordan. Stuff happens, you got true fans out there. You're still gonna get some good bouts out of the deal, it will go on."
"You've got guys like Roy Jones, Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, and Evander Holyfield. Trinidad-De La Hoya, a lot better matchups will draw a lot more interest into boxing - I mean big-time! People are gonna be pumped for that fight. Two great fighters. risking their titles, and their undefeated records? Man, it can't help but help boxing!"
FW: So who wins, De La Hoya or Trinidad?
Byrd: "I gotta lean toward Oscar. He's my man from the 92' Olympics."
FW: What does De La Hoya present that can give Trinidad problems"
Byrd: "The left hook! Look at Pernell, he rocked Trinidad. He had him going the first couple of rounds. Let Oscar hit him with that same punch. Let Oscar catch him first and we have an interesting fight going. Everybody's sleeping on him - De La Hoya can punch. This is like a heavyweight fight, one punch can knock you out. They both have a left hook. De La Hoya's got speed too. They are both around the same height. I'm telling you, whoever connects first. Trinidad's chin ain't all that great."
"Everybody says De La Hoya lost to Quartey. Maybe so, but it was a close fight. Quartey is a great fighter."
FW: So, De La Hoya's victory is already in the books in your view?
Byrd: "At first I was looking at Trinidad. I'm thinking, 'Trinidad is gonna run through him.' It's going to be a close fight. They're going to be cautious early. De La Hoya's a converted southpaw. He has all the power in that (left) hook. If it lands, almost anyone in that division could go."
Review-World Championship Boxing Manager
By Thomas Gerbasi
It must be something in the water over in England. For some reason, the most detailed, addictive sports games come from the UK. But for the most part, the main recipients of this bounty have been soccer fans. No longer. Alex Deacon's World Championship Boxing Manager has hit the streets, and it follows in the same fine tradition as One-Nil, Championship Manager 3, and Goal. WCBM is just what it says in the title, a management sim. You sign and manage a stable of fighters, hopefully matching them well enough to get not only money, but a title shot. You control every aspect of the management game, from contracts, to training, to sponsorships, to arranging fights, and you can even train your fighter on fight night, giving him the strategies he needs to win.
This is the first boxing management sim I've seen, and any other developer would be hard pressed to surpass WCBM. It's that detailed and well done. You begin your career with either an empty stable, or with an existing stable of fighters. I chose the empty stable, and went about trying to sign my first boxer. The game includes a ton of all-time great fighters, as well as constantly generated fictional fighters, which effectively creates your own little boxing universe. Your universe is utopian as well, as only the original eight divisions are represented, and there is only one champion per division. You can also choose to have all fictional fighters in your game and create your own custom boxers.
Here's a warning. The game is not easy. Get used to rejection. I tried to sign everyone and their brother, to no avail. No one wanted to sign with me because I had no rep. My luck changed when the fictional Randy Fry decide to come aboard. He was a heavyweight looking to make his pro debut. I signed him for six fights, and we were on our way. When signing a fighter, you can offer a certain number of fights, but not the cash involved. Basically, whatever the fighter requests is what you'll be paying. I would have liked to have seen a little bit of negotiation included, but this is no biggie.
Each fighter is rated in 13 categories, and through this you can determine who you want to pursue. There is even a scouting option which will let you know who you have a good chance of signing, and a rookie list that lets you find the fresh blood in the game. Even if someone rejects you, you can shortlist him, and follow his career as it progresses. The amount of stats included in WCBM is staggering, and thus leads to long loading times. I can live with this though, as the alternative would be a game without all the detail which makes this one great.
The graphics are sparse but they fit in well with the game. My only problem is with the difficulty reading red or blue writing on a black backdrop. After a long night with the game (and you will have some late ones) it gets kinda hairy to read some of the text.
Once you've signed a fighter, you have to arrange for a fight. Once again, get used to rejection. Finally though, someone will agree to fight you in x number of weeks., or you'll be approached by another manager to arrange a bout. Now it's off to training camp, and setting up your charge's schedule. You can focus your training in eight categories, choosing any number from zero to eight. Obviously, the more you choose, the more $$$ it costs. And you can check your fighter's fitness level weekly, because you don't want him overtrained either.
As you do all of this, the boxing world keeps on turning, with new fighters coming up, old ones retiring, and new champs being crowned. All results are archived, so you have a running history of your game, and if you're a little short of cash, you can bet on any upcoming fight. A complete rankings system is in place, and you can check out in depth stats on ANY fighter in the game. Pretty elaborate.
But now it's time for your fighter to step in the ring. The game engine is solid, though I have seen some odd results, and I would like to have seen more elaborate blow by blow descriptions of the action. You can also check out any other fight which is on the schedule. A nice touch. As trainer, you have four areas in which to advise your fighter: punch location, style, movement, and whether to fight offensively or defensively. Your choices do seem to make a difference in the fight, and after going through the signing process, and training, you do have an emotional investment in your fighter's progress. At press time, Randy Fry is 3-2-2 with 1 KO. He's ranked 104 in the world, but he doesn't want to renegotiate his contract with me. What happened to loyalty? I have signed rookie featherweight Ross Beresford though, and he's in training for his pro debut.
World Championship Boxing Manager? Highly recommended.
You can download a fully featured demo of this program at http://www.boxing.clara.net/wcbm.htm
Shame and Butterbeans
By Ed Vance
OK. I did it. I'm not proud of it, but I did it. Last night at 9:40 PM Showtime replayed the Butterbean/McNeely fight -- and I watched it.
All of it.
I watched the pre-fight interview with the 'Bean. An interview in which the Butter, who is a very nice man I'm told, waxed poetic on what the fans wanted to see. And what did the fans want to see? They wanted to see the 'King of the Four Rounders'. Fans did not want to see a boxing match, they wanted to see a fight. And a fight was what the big Butterbean-o promised.
I watched, after the Butter on Boxing segment, shots of 'Gusty' Peter McNeely, doing some warming up with a trainer. Thankfully this did not last too long; I was getting tired of seeing McSqealy flinch from the softly thrown hands of his trainer.
I watched Butterbean pay homage to his twin, Prince Naseem Hamed, with his sultry-smooth boxing moves behind the sheets. Thank god for the sheet. The only thing missing from this grand entrance was the lasers. And the smoke machine. Oh, and Hamed. In case you were fooled, as I was, that wasn't the Prince. That was the King.
I watched Jay Nady give out his instructions, after giving a 'what the hell am I doing here?' smile as he was introduced. I watched as Mr. Nady exerted his control in the ring after being asked by one of the McCheesy minions where the Butterballs beltline was. Note to self: Don't try to tell Jay Nady his job...
Then the fight. Ahh, the fight. What can I say about the fight? There was no boxing, ButterBone was right on that call. Unfortunately, there wasn't any fight either. None. Nada. Zip. With 10 seconds left in the first round Jay Nady stepped in and stopped the fight. There was no defense in the fight whatsoever, which was predictable, and most of the offense came from the Buttered side of the ring. McNeely threw one or two punches, but stopped after being tagged once or twice.
My wife, bless her heart, sat with me through the entire 20 minutes. When it ended she looked at me, shook her head, and went to bed leaving me alone with my thoughts and shame. But there was a bright side to this fight. Given the short length not once did I have to see Bobby Czyz with another stunning segment of 'Between the Ropes'.
Bring on Tyson. Long live the Bean.
Tough-Talking Germans Stalk Light... Heavyweight???
By Francis Walker
It has been nearly three weeks since Roy Jones Jr. became the first in 14 years to unify the world light-heavyweight crown. With Polish-German based Dariusz Michalczewski bashing the idea of Jones being labeled as both undisputed king and the best fighter in the world, Jones currently contemplates a move up to the heavyweight division.
Michalczewski, the unrecognized WBO 175-pound king, and Graciano Rocchigiani, the interim WBC light-heavyweight titlist, repeatedly claimed that they are the class of their division. And each stalk a big showdown with Jones.
In June 1997, Michalczewski became the first fighter in history to unify the unrecognized WBO belt along with the WBA/IBF versions, via 12-round decision over Virgil Hill. However, due to the politics of the sanctioning bodies, Michalczewski was forced to vacate both the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association titles Jones won in the last 11 months.
Nobody beat Michalczewski for the belts, not even Jones. Michalczewski is undefeated in 40 professional contests, 33 by kayo. Therefore, the European press feels as though Michalczewski is the uncrowned undisputed champion of the light-heavyweight division. The World Boxing Organization is not recognized here in the United States, but is largely popular in all of Europe, namely Great Britain.
In addition, the World Boxing Council situation came across in 1997 as well. Jones, who was mandated to fight Michael Nunn, had great difficulty finalizing a proposed "agreement." Jones was not stripped or vacated the WBC crown, but was declared "champion in recess." The WBC instead ordered Nunn, the No. 1 ranked challenger in the world, to meet No. 2 contender, Rocchigiani. The winner would meet Jones to unify the WBC title at a later date.
Rocchigiani beat Nunn by 12-round split decision. Rocchigiani, afterward felt that since Jones did not fight Nunn, he should have been stripped. Thus, making Rocchigiani the sole-holder of the WBC light heavyweight crown.
After months of broken down talks between the two fighter's camps, Jones-Rocchigiani failed to materialize. To reconcile the situation, the WBC ordered Jones to either defend against Jones or vacate the WBC title and award Rocchigiani with a sum of $600,000.
Having watched Jones the last seven years of his career, it is clear Jones would have little trouble defeating either Michalczewski or Rocchigiani. Michalczewski is a relative unknown to fight fans here in the Untied States. Michalczewski's strong Polish-German following could prompt a campaign that would entice Jones to meet Michalczewski on foreign ground. Same for Rocchigiani.
Jones is just too strong and too fast for the entire light-heavyweight division, considering the fact he is a natural 160-pounder says a lot. That is good enough to skip the cruiserweights and compete as a heavyweight.
Should Jones prove successful, he would become the first middleweight in boxing history to win the heavyweight championship. A real throwback to the old school.
Jones as heavyweight is not a bad idea, considering his opponents are no taller than 6' 2," and weigh around 215 pounds. The best match-up at heavyweight for Jones would be against WBA/IBF heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield.
Holyfield is 6' 2," and fights between 210-218 pounds. Holyfield would have to train downward in weight for more speed to compete against Jones reflexes. By doing so, Holyfield at age 36 could drain himself. Not to mention the numerous rounds of wear and tear to his body, through so many wars.
Jones has a chance, a real good chance to make some noise in all walks of life.