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Something About Ray Lampkin

by Tom Smario

Ray Lampkin was no ordinary fighter.  But then Ray is no ordinary man either.  He's the only man who can say that he whipped Roberto Duran for 13 rounds in his own Panamanian  back yard in front of his mother.  Poor Momma, she must have   suffered seeing her bambino get his head jabbed about and slashed by the knives Ray sharpened for the occasion.  Fifty-five or so minutes of squirming must have made Momma's bottom sore.                                                        

Of course the 14th round comes around and Ray gets caught,    goes down hard and hits his head in the worst way and Duran   walks over to Ray laying there like a dead saint in the desert         sand and tells him that he'll kill him next time.  It was such a       quotable quote that it not only made Duran it helped make           Lightning Ray Lampkin too.  They could have put it on a billboard in Panama and it would have exemplified Roberto Duran for what he was to become.  But that's another story.                                   

I was with Ray recently when he ran into Duran at the          Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington.  When their eyes locked  on there was immediate fireworks of respect and affection for one another like any two men whose lives are embroidered into history together.  Duran called Ray "Lamkey" like a nickname one brother has for another.  They shook hands and looked at one another a long, long time.  I was wondering at
that moment what was going through their minds.  I didn't know.  I still don't.  What goes through the minds of men that nearly kill
each other not out of hate but respect.  Such nobility hardly exists
anymore.  There are no Aztec warriors left!  We're all soft now. 
Us fat Americans and even those skinny Panamanians.  I stood
there with my hands in my pockets watching these two who could have been reincarnated soldiers who probably fought on the battlefield in Greece and again in the Coliseum in Rome and on the battlefield in North Carolina in our own Civil War and finally in the ring in Panama City, Panama on March 2, 1975.                                                  
Before that Ray ran up an impressive record of 30 wins with     only 3 losses.  Everybody else was a victim of his artistry.  If        he wasn't a boxer he could have been a painter or musician or     a sculpture.  If Rembrandt lives again he lives in Ray's hands.        Artists' hands, fighters' hands, a right cross so fast he could        decapitate a cat, a jab so sharp he could slice salami with it.                                  

Ray fought and won his first 10 professional fights without the benefit of a manager or trainer.  He trained himself and promoter Sammy Singer would call him up, offer him a fight and he would be ready.  He was always ready.  When you're a hungry fighter you stay ready.  Working for Pacific Meat Company during       the day he trained and did his roadwork late at night.  Often he    caught the eyes of the Portland Police Department running through the streets at midnight in rainy Portland.  But the cops just had to get used to him because he wasn't gonna stop
running and they probably couldn't catch him anyway.                  

In 1971 he hooked up with Mike "Motormouth" Morton who  
already had established himself on the West Coast as the manager of guys like Andy Kendall and Jesus Pimentel.  Mike could talk. Mike could talk Mahatma Gandhi into eating a steak dinner.  When Mike got Ray he was like a genius vaudevillian car salesman selling a red Ferrari.  Together they teamed up to become the most colorful duo that Oregon has ever known.  They traveled the world together and represented Oregon in places that never heard of a beaver or a Trail Blazer but when they left everybody knew who Ray Lampkin and Mike
Morton were.                                                                

Mike did the talking and lots of it while Ray trained and kept knocking guys over. Jack Bracke became Ray's trainer and the   team was complete.  Jack fine tuned the instrument but the fighter was the maestro.  In 1971 it was Andy Anderson, Al Foster, Al  Lewis, Gene Green, Jesse Robles, goodbye!  In '71 he was literally unstoppable and remained that way until February 16, l973 when he lost a questionable decision to Esteban De Jesus in
Puerto Rico for the North American Lightweight Title.  He got off the floor that night and proceeded to paint the canvas that was Esteban but lost a stinker.  Got robbed in a better way to put it.  But what the hell, Teddy Brenner, the matchmaker for Madison Square Garden was there                                                                
  Now, Teddy was no fool.  He knew a jewel from a pretty rock. He fell in love with Ray's performance and offered him a fight at   the Garden with Chu Chu Malave, a local darling they were grooming.  Good looking kid!  Beautiful Chu Chu.  But Chu Chu could also fight!   He gave Ray a tremendous fight until the 8th round when Ray caught him in the middle of the ring with a fast flurry that left Malave on his face.  So Ray knocked over another one that left Teddy Brenner with mouth hanging open and the press and the media lizards wagging their tails with their tongues numb.  There wasn't anything left to write except "this guy can
do it all."  Trust me, he could. He was the difference between being talented and being blessed. Ray was blessed.                         
                                                                                            After that they gave him a title fight with Roberto Duran and of course, the rest is history.  After the Duran fight Ray fought      seven more times with wins over Gene Prado, Miquel Estrada
and Claude Durden.  His final bout was on November 11, 1976 against Randy Shields who stopped Ray in 3 rounds.  He retired with a record of 35 wins and 6 losses with 1 draw.                               
          The Matt Dishman Community Center in Portland, Oregon is not a fancy place.  It's not in the part of town where they serve  various types of coffee to "beautiful people" working out. Actually it's humble.  It's clean.  It has a soul which is the soul of the spirits of thousands of kids who came there.  In the lobby hangs a large painting of Ray Lampkin.  It's been there for years as an example to kids about what you can achieve with dedication, hard work and clean living.  It's an example for kids and adults alike. Ray in the lobby, in his prime when he was the pride of Portland. President Gerald Ford called Ray up once and told him how proud he was that Ray was an American.  How
thrilled he was to be an American in the same country Ray lived
in.  Gerald Ford!  Now ask a kid today at that community center about President Ford and most likely only a few will know much about him. But most of them can tell you about Lightning Ray Lampkin.  Yes, he could do it all. He was the difference between being talented and being blessed.                                                                         

Today he owns his own construction company and lives quite comfortably with a high quality of life with his wife, Versa, in their home in Portland. He's happy.

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