MEMORIES WITH MLADINICH: Randy Neumann
Former heavyweight contenders Randy Neumann and Chuck Wepner split the first two of their three fights, both of which had the New Jersey State heavyweight title on the line.
Neumann was from Cliffside Park, the same town that spawned former light heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich. Wepner, who hailed from Bayonne, was nicknamed the Bayonne Bleeder because of the prodigious amount of blood that he shed in nearly all of his fights.
In the rubber match, which was held at Madison Square Garden in March 1974, Neumann suffered a severe gash from a clash of heads. When the referee stopped the fight in the sixth round, Wepner, who incorrectly assumed that it was his blood that was causing the stoppage, pleaded with the referee for a little more time.
Wepner was as shocked as anyone when he realized the fight was being stopped because the other guy was bleeding. That was indeed a rarity.
“It was probably the only time in history that one of Chuck’s fights was stopped because of someone else’s blood,” said the now 61-year-old Neumann, who attended the holiday luncheon hosted by the Veteran Boxers Association, Ring 8, in New York, on January 10.
Neumann regrouped from that loss by going on the road, winning five fights in a row in the Bahamas (twice), Milwaukee, Orlando, and London. Wepner, on the other hand, got a much bigger prize. A year later he challenged Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title. Not only did he garner a $100,000 payday, he became the prototype for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” character.
In December 1975, Neumann fought then undefeated Olympian Duane Bobick at MSG. Had he won, he too would have earned a shot at Ali. It was the eighth fight of the year for Neumann, and he was stopped because he says he “was knocked down too many times in the fourth round.”
During a career that lasted from 1969 to 1977, Neumann compiled a record of 31-7 (11 KOS). He won decisions over Jimmy Young and Boone Kirkman, but incurred high-profile losses to Bobick and Jerry Quarry.
Known as a smooth stylist more than a knockout puncher, he said he gave “boxing lessons” to both Young and Kirkman, and was beating Quarry until he was purposely hit low. After that, he could not get back on track and was stopped in the seventh round of their January 1973 fight, also at MSG.
Considering that Neumann had only begun boxing in 1967, in order to maintain fitness while attending college, he had come a long way in a short time. He had been a football player and wrestler in high school, but quickly became enamored of the sweet science.
Neumann was smart enough to realize his boxing career wouldn’t last forever, so he never gave up on his education. By the time graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1975, he was the ninth ranked heavyweight in the world.
After the loss to Bobick, however, he decided to call it quits. In an article he penned for the New York Times on November 20, 1977, he wrote, “I started when I was young. I was 18 and a freshman in college. Now that I’ve finished, at 28, I no longer feel young.”
Not surprisingly, as much as he thought that boxing was out of his system, he was lured back by the opportunity to compete in the newly created cruiserweight division in 1977.
In his only bout in that weight class, he was stopped by Ibar Arrington in five rounds. By this time, Neumann had grown completely disenchanted with the sport. His career high paydays were the $10,000 he made against Quarry, and the same amount he earned for a fight where he had to threaten the promoter after the check bounced the first time he tried to cash it.
“The promoter had an office on the 55th floor of a building, and I told him I’d bounce him out the window if the check bounced again,” said Neumann. “Later on he bragged that I was one of the [few] guys that he actually paid.”
As much as he thought he’d enjoy his post-boxing life, Neumann couldn’t give the sport up altogether. He said he did not want to be a “flesh peddler,” a term he uses to denigrate managers, or a promoter, so he set his sights on becoming a referee.
He called the late John Condon, an MSG executive, who got him the experience he needed and put him into the pro ranks. His success as a referee was almost as meteoric as the success he enjoyed as a boxer.
The first fight that really put him in the public eye was his decisive actions in the Mike Tyson-Carl “The Truth” Williams world heavyweight title fight in July 1989.
While there was some controversy associated with the first round stoppage, mainly because Williams still insists that he should have been allowed to continue, Neumann dismisses all of the hoopla.
“That was an easy one,” he asserted. “The man was concussed. He couldn’t hold his hands up. How do I know that? Because when I let them go, after rubbing them free of debris, they went limp. A lot of referees conduct a personal interview, the ‘how do you feel bullspit.”
Neumann defended his actions in that fight in an article he wrote for the New York Times on July 30, 1989. It was titled “Truth Didn’t Understand the Consequences.”
He was very critical of what he referred to as the sport’s “Dark Ages,” meaning the days in which he toiled as a pro. He lambasted the old practices of corner men dragging fighters to their corner to let them fight another round, using ammonia capsules to revive hurt fighters, a practice a doctor in the article compared to shoving a fork up your nose, and the use of Monsel’s paste, an iron-based compound used to stop bleeding but was also capable of causing blindness if exposed to one’s eyes.
Neumann also said the residue of the paste could leave “rocks” under your skin if not completely removed by a scalpel before sutures were applied to a cut.
Neumann specifically and articulately defended his actions related to The Truth’s condition. “He went down without a parachute reaction; i.e. extending his arms to cushion the fall. He got up clumsily at three, only to fall back again. At six he was unsteadily on his feet leaning on the ropes. Cognizant of all of the evidence of a concussion, I asked him a simple question, ‘How are you?’ Such a question is open-ended. I was not concerned with what he had to say, but how he said it.”
Neumann proved his mettle in that fight, and has been on a whirlwind ever since. He has been the third man in the ring for hundreds of fights, both big and small, in every corner of the globe.
Among the scores of champions he’s officiated are Wladimir Klitschko, Iran Barkley, Buddy McGirt, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones Jr., Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Sven Ottke. There is no sign that he will slow down anytime soon.
In December he officiated the compelling bout between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City. The fight was won by Williams, but Neumann thought that Julie Lederman’s score of 114-114 was on the mark.
Neumann said he was exhilarated to be part of such a competitive bout. He’s also glad that Williams is only middleweight, because he said that he had been accidentally hit by him several times during the action.
Over the years he has been impressed with Chris Byrd’s ability to dominate a rough fighter like Andrew Golota, who he admits to having had to work hard to keep the unpredictable Pole under control.
In another Golota fight, against Mike Mollo, Neumann said he was surprised that Mollo, who was taking a dreadful beating, kept egging on his opponent. “I really wanted to tell him to shut up, that he was making things worse for himself, but that was not my place,” he said.
Boxing is not the only passion that the multi-talented Neumann is involved in. A Certified Financial Planner, he is the president of Randy Neumann & Associates, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor based in Paramus, New Jersey.
His syndicated columns on financial matters have appeared in scores of publications, including the New York Times, Forbes, Signature, and Travel & Leisure.
On his web site, it states that his mission is “to assist our clients in achieving their goals and dreams.”
Another person he is assisting these days is his son Patrick, a promising amateur heavyweight who, despite being relatively inexperienced, battled to the finals of last year’s New York City Golden Gloves tournament and also won the Ringside Tournament in St. Louis.
The older Neumann, who is the father of four children, was asked what it’s like to mentor his son in a sport in which he has had no shortage of ambivalence over the years.
“It’s all good stuff,” he said. “It’s like I’m back in the ring myself.”
Check out Neumann’s web site at: www. randyneumann.com