TABLE OF CONTENTS
Who's Hosin' Who?
Guest Editorial by Dan Hanley
Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
Million Dollar Heist
By J.D. Vena
Flynn Outfoxes the Feds
By Robert Carson
Divorced but not Forgotten
By Ron Lipton
A Different Kind of Fight Night
By Ted Kluck
Touching Gloves With...
"Irish" Gil King
By Dan Hanley
A Look Back: Larry Boardman
By Dan Cuoco
The Sweet Science
Reviewed by Katherine Dunn
Cinderella Man [PDF]
By Michael DeLisa
The Good Professor [PDF]
By Don Cogswell
Flashback to the 2004 Hall of
Pictorial by Dan Hanley
TOUCHING GLOVES WITH...
by Dan Hanley
This past October, while attending the 2004 World
Boxing Hall of Fame banquet, I was indulging my fistic fanaticism at the memorabilia show.
This is an annual treat at the banquet. The chance for the fan to rub elbows and get a
photo or simply get into a good hash session with these grand old pugs. It was here that a
30-year-old memory flashed across the old noggin. Although ex-leather slingers were
darting back and forth, one in particular caught my eye. I stared intently across the
canopied terrace at this fellow who had just entered the area and thought to myself,
"My God, that looks like Gil King." Of course, that was impossible. I had heard
Gil King was dead. Killed in some freak drive-by shooting. My curiosity soon turned into
astonishment when ring announcer Danny Valdivia announced to the crowd: "Ladies and
Gentlemen, now entering the area, former welterweight contender, 'Irish' Gil
Although the shock of blond hair has turned gray and a scar
-- a memory of his career-ending accident -- remains evident, the fighting heart of Gil
King has proved indomitable during a career and life that would find most men wanting. Gil
and his lovely wife, Mary, were kind enough to avail their time to me in granting this
DAN HANLEY: Gil, you grew up in the Midwest, didn't you?
Rubber capital of the world, Akron, Ohio.
What kind of amateur background did you have?
I was Cleveland Golden Gloves
champ four years in a row from '65 to '68.
The Olympics were held in '68. What were your prospects? Or was this something you
Oh, man, I would have loved to have gone to the Olympics, but I didn't win
the Nationals, and you had to take the National Golden Glove title in order to compete in
the Olympic Trials. However, my Cleveland teammate Ronnie Harris won the Nationals, the
Trials and Olympic gold at 132. My one consolation, although I was 139, was fighting
Ronnie in an exhibition at the Manger Hotel in Cleveland.
You turned pro that year and started running up a tremendous winning streak. But, it's
funny. I always remember you as 'Irish' Gil King, however, you had another moniker, the
They were just playing off of my name.
Maybe also because at the beginning of your career you had a slew of first round
Around 1969 or '70, you relocated to the coast. What drew you there?
opportunity. Back then the west coast was the boxing capital of the world.
When did you hook up with Suey Welch?
Immediately. I had a good amateur
background, undefeated as a pro, and was Ring magazine fighter of the month. So he
signed me up.
Suey Welch wasn't going to take on just anybody.
Oh, no, he had handled great
fighters like Gorilla Jones and Gus Lesnevich, but he was basically retired. He actually
came out of retirement to handle me. And he did have the connections.
Back then I don't suppose you were hurting for sparring partners?
Oh, man, I
hit all the gyms. I trained at Howie Steindler's Main St. gym, sparring with Indian Red
Lopez, the Hoover St. Gym with Hedgemon Lewis and Eddie Pace. It was there I had a tragic
I used to love sparring with Eddie Pace. We were both trained by
Cannonball Green, and he used to put us in together even though Eddie was a middleweight.
Eddie was coming off a fight with Carlos Monzon when we sparred and I caught him flush
with a three-piece. Left jab, right hand, left hook. Eddie went down and never again got
I never knew that. Was there an investigation?
Yes, but we had 16-ounce gloves
on, so it was ruled simply a tragic accident. Eddie was a great guy and it affected me
Your fight with Crispin Benitez at the Olympic was very controversial. Tell me about
There was a lot of gambling going on for this fight, more so than
usual. I was actually approached to throw this one by a gambler, but whether he was
serious or not, I was 23-0 at the time and took my boxing very seriously. In the second
round I knocked Benitez clear out of the ring with a body shot. Twenty-four seconds
elapsed before they allowed the fight to resume. Now what was that about?
Looking into this, Title 4, Rule 237 of the California Athletic Commission rulebook
states: "A contestant who has been knocked or has fallen through the ropes during a
contest may be helped back by anyone except his seconds." Now, it was actually Referee
John Thomas who helped Benitez back into the ring. Most writers at that time chastised
this action as showing undue partiality. And I will agree. Helping a fighter up from a
slip is one thing, but what business did an official have helping a contestant up from a
knockdown, which is what it was, especially during a turning point in the contest?
Exactly! And by allowing so much recovery time, Benitez was able to get back in the fight.
In the fifth he decked me, first time in my career. I got back up, but John Thomas stopped
the fight. I was screaming, Suey was screaming....
You got going again, winning the State title with a 12-round win over Frankie
Rodriguez. You then fought a tough Nigerian named Cyclone Barth. Tell me about that
Man, Barth was a good one, a real hard puncher. He hit way too hard, he was
killing me, I had to get rid of him. In the eighth he tried pulling a rope-a-dope, and I
suckered him coming off the ropes. I caught him flush with a left hook and took him out
After that you had a real nice win over old pro Paul Armstead, before
losing your State title to Nate Robinson in a close one. What happened in that
That was very embarrassing.
Why was that?
underestimated him. I was looking for a title fight with Jose Napoles and simply looked
beyond him. I had done well sparring with Napoles and was looking too far ahead.
Who was Napoles in town for when you sparred?
Emile Griffith. In fact, I'll
tell you a funny story. I was a real student of the game. I lived and breathed boxing.
When Suey would visit Gorilla Jones, I'd tag along just to talk and get pointers. Well,
when Napoles was in town for this fight, he was training at the Elks building. I managed
to get in there and went three rounds with Napoles. A couple of hours later, I was over at
Howie Steindlers Main St. Gym going three rounds with Emile Griffith. Man, I just loved
Shortly after this you took on a hot prospect in Paco Flores. What can you tell me
about this fight?
Paco Flores was 16-0 and was very good. We fought in his
hometown of Tucson. The longer the fight was going the more nervous I became, because his
brother was the promoter and he came from a powerful boxing family. After the eighth
round, Suey said to me, "Gil, these judges are going to give him the fight!" So again, I
had to get rid of the guy and took him out in the ninth.
You were afraid they were going to steal it?
Exactly! This was the dirty side
of boxing. I had to turn it on again when I fought Jimmy Hamm down in Florida. He was
being promoted by the Dundees. I wasn't going to get the decision but managed to take him
out in the 10th.
Shortly after the Flores fight the west coast was on its ear when the two
hottest young welterweights signed to fight one another. Tell me about your fight with
That bothers me to this day. I was winning that fight and had a
nice cut dug under his left eye, when he catches me with a good shot in the fifth. Okay,
no big deal. But who comes to my rescue once again? John Thomas, of course, and he stops
the fight. I wasn't getting any breaks from that guy.
You had a really active schedule. You were fighting, like, once a month. This was the
first break in your schedule. You were off for about six months.
I was busy
because a fighter only has so much time. But I was so bothered after that fight. I was
never better. I won every minute of every round only for it to end like that.
When you came back, you returned against a fighter named Rosario Zavala. I'll tell you
a funny story about him. When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, there was a local
middleweight named Rocky Difazio who was making a bit of noise. Around '74 a promoter
brought Zavala to town to duke it out with the hard-punching Difazio, and Zavala was hyped
by the press as a fighter who had never been down. I yelled at anyone who was listening:
"What?! Two years ago I saw Gil King bouncing him off the canvas like a
[Laughing] That's right, two or three times before I knocked
him out in eight.
You were back on track, fighting a month later and drawing in 10 with Arturo Lomeli, in
what was a candidate for fight of the year in California. Then the two of you were
re-matched for the vacant State title. This put you back in the mix, didn't it?
Arturo Lomeli was a top contender for the lightweight title, but I won the rematch and
with it the State title, so I was back in the mix. However, it was around this time things
started to go bad. I discovered Suey was skimming off of my earnings, and it just broke my
heart because I really loved that old guy. I couldn't stay with him after that and let my
contract run out.
You only had a few more fights after that followed by a yearlong layoff before heading
up to Toronto for what would be your final fight against the No. 1 contender, Clyde Gray.
I remember before the fight you stated to the press, "After this fight I want
Well, I may have been in Maple Leaf Gardens that night, but my head
wasn't. I was distraught. My mom had just died and my wife left me, and I'm ashamed to say
I just quit against Gray. After that I returned to Ohio to take care of some things after
mom passed away, and almost lost my life.
I was going into a convenience store with two girls. I was well
dressed and probably looked like an easy mark to the six guys outside the store. They
started mouthing off to the girls, and I guess I was just showing off. I told the girls,
"Do you want to see me knock out six guys?" One punch each I took out three of them, but
the fourth let me have it with a .410 shotgun to the face. I almost died from loss of
blood. I fought my way back but the career was over.
Did you return to the coast?
I had saved a little money and stayed in Ohio, but
Akron wasn't the place to be. Akron was my downfall.
Could you explain?
Well, after I recovered I was out and about on my new
motorcycle when a cop saw me pop a wheelie. He was a rough one, said he had to impound it.
I asked him if I could just take it home -- I was only a few blocks away -- but he started
pulling the chains out and I got mad and said, "You are not taking my bike!" And then I
decked him. After that, I was the "tough guy" in town and constantly harassed by the
police. Eventually they found something to stick and I served jail time.
[Gil's wife, Mary, joins us]
Mary, how did you two meet?
MARY: It's funny, we met at a place called the Hope Cafe. I had several different
people over the years tell me, "Someday you're going to marry a king." I was thinking,
"What, like an Arabian sheikh?" But we hit it off and I said to a friend, "Well, how is he
a king?" and they said, "Well that's his last name." And we're married almost five years
Was it some adjusting to an ex-pug?
MARY: Well I was no stranger to
sports. My Dad is Jack March, who is in the sports hall of fame as tennis player and
promoter. He's the one who brought advertising endorsements to tennis and was the brains
behind the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King extravaganza. So I've been rubbing elbows with top
athletes for years. But besides sports, our faith is something else we have in common and
What are you guys up to these days?
Gil is training fighters but is very
disappointed in their lack of effort and we're back and forth between homes in California
Gil, how do you think you would fare against the welterweights of today?
GIL: Well, I don't want to brag but I think I could handle all of them today except
for Oscar De La Hoya. He's something special.
Mary, when did you guys come back to the coast?
MARY: About a year ago.
There has been talk of a movie on Gil and we've finished his biography which we're hoping
What's the title?
MARY: Boxing's My Game, Gil King Is My
Gil King bears the visible scars life has thrown him with a shrug of the shoulders. The
inner scars however, formed from a very tough profession and the curve balls he was thrown
are still open. One would not notice this through his affable smile, but they are there.
Scars that would make a lesser man weep. This pain however, is assuaged by a marriage to
The pugilistic wannabes that Gil trains and frowns on today have so far shuddered at the
prospect of putting time in his gym. What would they say to a once a month fight schedule?
Or a career which kept missing that brass ring? Or having to deal with the seedy politics
abundant to our sport? Or finally, going out of ones way to fight or spar with every top
dog in the business? What did Gil King say? "I just loved the action!"
See ya next round,