WAIL! | The CBZ Journal | March 2005


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
Fame Inductions

Pictorial by Dan Hanley


A Different Kind of Fight Night

By Ted Kluck

DETROIT -- There is something very Roman Empire about the Detroit Athletic Club Chuck Davey boxing classic. Young proletarians(1) fighting for the entertainment of the upper class, in and of itself, is nothing new; and if that were the only purpose of the evening, there would be nothing remarkable to write down and record. But tonight the idea is to honor fighters, soldiers, and great boxing coaches.

The room, the food(2), and the people gathered at the Detroit Athletic Club are the finest the city has to offer -- even the ring itself looks a little uncomfortable in the middle of such a gilded room. I find legendary military boxing coach Eddie Weichers (pronounced "Fishers") backstage wrapping hands, something he has done for fighters for decades. Eddie Weichers is a dying breed -- a boxing guy committed to collegiate boxing.

"I have to pinch myself every morning on the way into work," he says. "I get to work with some of the most intelligent, highly motivated people in the world." Weichers began his coaching career at the United States Air Force Academy in 1976 and has produced 237 All-American boxers and 90 individual national champions.

There is little of the boxing-hustler vibe about Weichers, however. The idea of him parading around a podium in Vegas seems a little ridiculous, although there is certainly more money to be made there. But the haves of Detroit are here tonight to raise money for his programs, and to ensure that the boxing programs at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy don't fall by the wayside. Due to a lack of funding and emphasis on boxing at the college level, programs like these live in a constant state of budget-crunch.

There is live boxing happening now -- two cadets, one a sociology major from the U.S. Military Academy, the other a skinny kid from the naval academy wearing running shoes. In light of the current political environment of waffling, talking, and more waffling, it's nice to see something as concrete as boxing. A winner. A loser. Real pain and instant feedback. The colors in the ring remind us that there is also real talent dying in Iraq. Businessmen, musicians, fathers, and boxers. Weichers, Naval Academy coach Jim McNally, and Army coach Jerry Hart have seen and taught many of them -- the majority coming to them without any boxing experience.

"My job is to nurture," says McNally. "To get guys to perform in pressure situations so that when they're in the field -- in an airplane or in a battle situation -- they can perform without flinching."

Last year these service academies finished 1-2-3 in the national collegiate boxing rankings. And these kids can fight. They cover up, move their heads and throw straight punches. They are boxers.

One of the cadets is now bleeding from the mouth, and I am lucky enough to be seated across the table from Lem Barney, an NFL Hall of Famer. Barney is a longtime supporter of the event and seems to know every fighter on the card by name(4). Somebody asks Barney if he was ever tempted to get in the ring.

"No way," he says. "If I want to hear the crowd roar for me I'll make a tape. These guys are tough."

The tuxedo-clad crowd(5) shows their appreciation for the action in the ring. This is the second year the DAC has used the military academies for the Chuck Davey Boxing Classic. Davey himself was a member of the 1948 Olympic Team and is one of the finest professional boxers ever to come out of Detroit. From October 1949 to January of 1953, Davey went through 39 bouts without a loss, scoring 25 KO's, taking 12 decisions and participating in two draws. Davey defeated champions Rocky Graziano, Johnny Saxton, Carmen Bassilio, and Ike Williams, and he fought Kid Gavilan in 1953 before what was at the time the largest audience ever to witness a professional fight. According to DAC brass, Davey's memory is better served by the academy fighters.

"It's just so much easier, and the fighters always fight hard and put on a great show," said a member of the boxing committee. "In the past we tried to use local pros, and on fight night half of them wouldn't show up."

Welcome to the boxing business. Tonight, however, business is good. At $125 a ticket plus several corporate and personal sponsorships, the DAC will present $5,000 apiece to the military academy boxing programs at the end of the evening. Dollars that will allow Weichers to continue walking into battle with his men, both literally (boxing) and figuratively.

In the ring Mike Benedesso(6) is putting the finishing touches on a three-round decision of Mikoto Yoshida of the Naval Academy. Benedesso weighs 112 pounds and looks young enough to be my son.(7) The crowd rises to its feet; 250 CEOs and sons of CEOs yelling for a tiny kid from New Haven and his game opponent. Not bad. Not bad at all.

"My job," says Hart, "is to help these guys find the little warrior inside all of them. Most people have it and they don't even know it."

As a training ground for war, boxing is a nice measure of a man's tact, patience, and courage. It's even better as a substitute for war. I would much rather watch these soldiers fight for our entertainment than for our protection, but I admire and respect them for both. More than they will ever know.

  1. A member of the proletariat; a worker. I can't believe I just used the word proletarian in a boxing piece. This is a first.

  2. Filet mignon at a boxing show. Also a first.

  3. Boxing rings seem more at home in gin joints, field houses, little arenas, or casinos. There is none of the typical boxing show tough-guy swagger here. I almost miss that.

  4. Barney met the fighters earlier that day at lunch and happens to be a very astute fight fan; he scores each round on a makeshift scorecard.

  5. Tuxedos were required for entry. The event was really only promoted to club members and select guests, and the room is full. The DAC also offers a wine club, swimming, a literary guild, and networking opportunities according to its Web site.

  6. Benedesso addresses me as "sir" throughout the conversation and is one of the most polite people I have met in a long time. I think manners are a lost art. His favorite fighters are Bernard Hopkins and Rocky Marciano -- "because I'm Italian."

  7. All the weirder because I am only 28.

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