Ho, ho, help! Against the jolly 257-pound ex-heavyweight champion with the charismatic personality, Santa, weight unannounced, never had a chance. Foreman came to town for his first fight after a 12-round loss to heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield last April 19, and not even the anemic credentials of his novice opponent, a 27-year-old Caucasoid ex-linebacker out of Boise State named Jimmy Ellis, could diminish his magnetic appeal. People poured in to see Foreman's wholesome lounge act.
"Well, it's not really a fight, but an event," said Mark Neebling of Harrah's Reno, which ordered $30,000 worth of tickets, called for more, and finally wound up doubling its original allotment. Another 200 Harrah's guests were on standby. "We are damned pleased. This is an invitee event, with tickets going to our premium guests. Our list was expanded well beyond our normal boxing fans. They want to see George more than they want to see a fight."
That was fortunate for the high rollers, because Santa would have stood a better chance against Foreman. With no amateur experience, Ellis came in with 16 knockouts and a draw, all against people who should be driving a cab for a living. His last 10 opponents, average age 31, had lost a combined 128 fights, 64 of them by knockouts. One of them, Darrell Young, had a pro career that lasted less than one round. Another, 278-pound Jerry Duke, had three fights, was knocked out three times, and then quit. Ellis would have had a harder time if all his opponents had been found in a Brooklyn saloon.
"I think I am definitely qualified to fight George Foreman," said a confident Ellis, whose entire pro career spanned less than 35 rounds. In contrast to Ellis's round count, Foreman had more than twice as many fights. Only two of Ellis's fights lasted more than two rounds, and only one, a draw with 33-year-old club fighter Greg Gorrell, went as long as eight. His biggest purse was $4,000, which he made in his last outing, a two-round knockout of 38-year-old Dwain Bonds, a professional sparring partner who had not won a fight in four years.
"I just want to get lucky," said Dan Goossen, Ellis's promoter who somehow persuaded the HBO suits to pay $325,000 for his 228-pound toothless tiger. "I have had skilled fighters and they haven't worked out." Goossen could sell sand to a Bedouin.
The afternoon of the fight, one HBO executive was overheard talking to a friend by telephone from his suite. “No, not that Jimmy Ellis. Can he fight? Jesus Christ, he’s white.” After watching Ellis workout for about five minutes, the embarrassed HBO suits went to a non-denominational chapel and prayed that Foreman would knock out his inept opponent in the first round.
For Foreman, paid $5 million by the cable network for his 73rd professional fight, it was less a fight and more of a test of his right knee, which had undergone arthroscopy surgery twice since his loss to Holyfield. One operation should have corrected the problem. Foreman re-injured the knee while on assignment as a boxing color commentator for HBO last August. During a basketball game in Palm Springs, he twisted the knee while falling on Akbar Muhammad, one of promoter Bob Arum's boxing people. Foreman was not happy. Akbar was not too pleased, either.
The injury changed Foreman's training regime, which is considerably less demanding that workouts at a fat farm for senior citizens. Rather than doing roadwork while training for Ellis, he rode a stationary bike in his suite. A bottle of painkillers was kept handy just in case. In "secret" morning sessions at the Eldorado, which purchased $100,000 worth of tickets for the privilege of hosting the former heavyweight champion, he pounded the heavy bag slowly. far beyond the normal three-minute time periods. It works for him.
Foreman's two-hour afternoon sessions, where he walked through sparring sessions between self-deprecating jokes, belonged to the public that began lining up two hours before the doors opened. The room held 1200 people, and as quickly as one body left another filled the vacated space.
"One day we had 1500 in there. I was worried until I saw that it was the fire marshal letting them in," said Carano. "That day we had to turn away another 500."
Many in the crowds were woman queuing up to have their photos taking with Foreman. Some just wanted to touch him. "He's not just another superstar," said Kate Warner of Caesar’s Tahoe, which wound up nearly doubling its original order of 98 tickets. "He is very real to the people. The public looks at him like just another one of the guys. He never keeps them at a distance and he talks to them for hours on end."
Foreman gave the courageous Ellis just seven minutes and 36 seconds, which is about twice as long as the fight should have lasted. With a nose that has been badly broken and an unshaven jutting jaw bristling black, Ellis at least looks like a fighter. It is only at the opening bell that the image quickly fades. Behind a punishing jab and ponderous one-at-a-time sledge-hammering punches, Foreman pounded him almost disdainfully.
Early in the second round, a short, cruel hook turned Ellis's legs to rubber and he reeled drunkenly about the ring. Still, Ellis refused to quit. He has the heart of a lion; he just cannot fight like one. After a searching glance at referee Richard Steele, Foreman continued his heavy-handed assault. At the end of the round, as Ellis lurched about looking for his corner, his handlers hurried out and got him.
Shockingly, the same comer men sent him out for the third round. Ellis should have called a cop; instead, he tried to fight. A minute and thirty six seconds into the round, after an apparently annoyed Foreman had hammered home 40 of 49 punches, Steele had seen enough. Ignoring Ellis’ protests, the referee waved a ceasefire.
The nearly capacity crowd of 6,284 filed out happy. "He could have shadow boxed and they would have come," said Greg Fine of the Sparks Reno Convention Center.
Said Bally's spokesman Brian Lawson: "After his fight with Holyfield, everybody just fell in love with the old guy. It's the damnedest thing I have ever seen. We committed to buy $50,000 worth of tickets and wound up buying $65,000 worth. When Larry Holmes defended his heavyweight title against Carl Williams here the fight didn't do this well."
"You've got to love him," said Chuck Miller of the Peppermill Hotel, which bought $50,000 worth of tickets for its A-list customers, the ones with six-figure credit lines. "The only attraction equal to him is New Year's Eve, our biggest night of the year."
OK, Santa, you can come out now. The Big Guy has gone home to Texas.
On the night of the Jones-Tarver rematch, I wonder if I had stood at the entrance of the fight venue taking a poll of those attending the fight, asking them who would've won had the Antonio Tarver who is fighting Jones tonight fought the Michael Spinks who won the WBA light heavyweight title from champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad? I think that's a fair question. Tarver had just given Jones the toughest fight of his career. And some fight observers, although they're wrong, thought Tarver deserved the decision that night. Tarver’s stock clearly had never been higher than it was the night of the Jones rematch.
That being said, I would be more than willing to bet an overwhelming majority of those I surveyed would say that Michael Spinks would've soundly defeated the Antonio Tarver who was only hours from fighting Jones for the second time. In the most anticipated light heavyweight title fight of Roy Jones’ tenure as light heavyweight champion, Tarver knocked him out with one big hybrid left hand in the second round to win back the title.
The fight started with Jones coming out more aggressive than he usually does in the first round, and he clearly won the round. In fact, Tarver didn't land a single meaningful punch in the first round. Jones came out in the second round picking up where he left off in the first. A little past the midway point of the round, Tarver beat Jones to the punch with a massive left, knocking him out. Before connecting with his lottery punch on Jones, Tarver had been credited with landing just six punches by Compubox punch statisticians.
Within weeks after scoring the biggest victory of his career, Tarver was the talk of the boxing world and was often mentioned as a future opponent for fighters such as Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Vasilliy Jirov, and Mike Tyson. Tarver was also starting to be talked about as a great fighter. It was only a short time after stopping Jones that Tarver was being compared favorably to Michael Spinks.
Michael Spinks happens to be the most accomplished light heavyweight champion in the 101 year history of the division. He went undefeated while fighting at light heavyweight, going 11-0 in title fights as the division's ruler. Not to mention he was the first reigning light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title by defeating the reigning heavyweight champion, who just so happened to be 48-0 Larry Holmes.
As unbelievable as it may seem, there were actually boxing fans suggesting that Tarver - based on his knockout of Roy Jones - may have been as good as Spinks. When I heard that I didn't even get the slightest bit mad or upset. It just confirmed for me that many fans and writers crave to see greatness so badly that they base far too much on one fight.
Less than a month after beating Jones in their rematch, Antonio Tarver was being compared favorably with one of history’s greatest light heavyweight champions and fighters, and this was based solely on one punch. Prior to beating Jones, Tarver was viewed as one of the upper-tier light heavyweight contenders in a sub-par era. But he was never mentioned as a possible all-time great. And the thought of comparing him favorably as a fighter with Michael Spinks was beyond comprehension. Again, based on nothing more than what has to be considered a lottery punch landed on Roy Jones, Tarver went from top contender to all-time great?
Someday those who base everything on one great/outstanding fight will learn not to rush to judgment so foolishly.
This past weekend Antonio Tarver fought for the first time since knocking out Roy Jones seven months ago. His opponent was a fighter named Glencoffee Johnson who also knocked out Roy Jones in his last fight. Heading into his fight with Tarver, Johnson was 9-9-2 in his last 20 fights and 3-2-2 in his last seven. During the week of the Tarver-Johnson bout, many prediction polls were taken among boxing’s finest and most astute observers and followers. In every poll taken, Tarver was picked to beat Johnson by at least 80% of those polled.
In what has to be the best year of Johnson's professional boxing career, he closed it out by winning a 12 round split decision over Tarver. With upset wins in his last two fights over the two best fighters in the division, Johnson is now viewed as the top light heavyweight fighter in boxing.
Guess what I heard today?
In what is becoming more and more routine in sports, boxing certainly being no exception. I heard and read some writers and fans questioning how Johnson matched up with former beast and WBC light heavyweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi, the former Dwight Braxton. However, don't worry about me losing it, because I view it as progress and a sign of hope. At least they waited for Johnson to win two big fights before making ridiculous statements and comparisons.
Forget about Qawi vs. Johnson, I just want to know if Antonio Tarver is still better than Michael Spinks.
Universum Box Promotion had argued that their contract with Wladimir Klitschko was valid until Feb. 22, 2005, and that their contract with Vitali Klitschko was good until May 20, 2005. But the presiding judge, Dr. Mückenheim, overruled their claim, saying that the contracts had ended much earlier – Wladimir’s on June 22, 2004, Vitali’s on Oct. 22, 2004.
The ruling means that the Klitschko brothers and their contracting partners acted lawfully with regard to the boxing matches of Wladimir last Oct. 2 and of Vitali this past Dec. 11 since the contracts with Universum had already terminated by then. The Klitschkos should no longer have to fear being held liable for damages by Universum either, the court declared.
Said Vitali Klitschko, the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion:
“We are very happy and satisfied that it is at last certain our contracts with Universum have terminated and had already ended at the time of our last fights. We can now plan our future sporting and professional career without being disturbed by this dispute and do not have to be afraid of damage claims either.”
Offered Klitschkos’ lawyer, Dr. Sebastian Cording, of the law firm CMS Hasche Sigle:
“It is a Solomonic judgment that fits Dr. Mückenheim, who did not make this decision easy for himself. The court tried time and again to induce Universum to make a compromise and has now made a decision similar to a compromise in the final analysis. Although we are still of the opinion that the contracts ended as early as April 30, 2004, we have practically attained all the objectives we pursued in these proceedings. We therefore look upon the decision as a points win. Universum, on the other hand, could have achieved more by way of a compromise than the present outcome.”
Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee is offended by today’s singular role of the cutman. “A trainer is supposed to be able to handle all facets of the game,” he said. “I don’t believe in specialization in our profession. You have to be able to handle everything in the corner. Years ago, they didn’t have a species known as the cutman. The specialist evolved over the last 20 years. I guess they had to call them something on TV.”
Another Hall-of-Famer, Freddy Brown, may be responsible for boxing’s greatest save. In 1954, Ezzard Charles split the tip of Rocky Marciano’s nose. Brown described it as, “ripped lengthwise ... [Rocky] looked like he had two noses.” The cut occurred in round six. Brown stopped it from bleeding, and ordered Marciano to knock Charles out. Marciano did just that, retaining his title and unbeaten record in the eighth round.
Although he never explained it, many believe Brown used Monsel’s solution, which was banned from boxing corners in the 1940s. The solution is an iron-based paste that was mixed with Vaseline and applied to a cut. It stopped blood well enough, but many times the wound wasn’t cleaned properly and it was sutured with Monsel’s beneath the skin. The iron would then crystallize, leaving what Gavin calls, “shrapnel under the skin.” In the next fight, the cut would bust open after a few punches landed on the area.
Since then, flatnosed professors have experimented with everything from chewing tobacco juice to Preparation H to mend torn tissue. “The worst thing a cutman can do is make a secret potion,” says Gavin. “You have to stay with what you know. Don’t try to be a doctor and don’t try to be a chemist.”
When it comes to stemming the flow of blood, cutmen today rely on three coagulants. Adrenaline, the most commonly used, is a liquid that is applied directly to the wound with a Q-tip or gauze. Thrombin is a liquid mixed with water and applied the same way. Avitene is a white, globby solution that looks likes sawdust and has the texture of cotton candy. It blots the blood and is used as a last resort.
In the event of a cut, the routine is simple. The cutman wipes off the fighter’s face, removing blood, sweat and Vaseline from the injured area. Next he takes an adrenaline soaked Q-tip or gauze and applies pressure to the cut. The adrenaline will cause the blood vessels to constrict and form clots. Then he puts Vaseline on the cut, applying it with his fingers moving away from the eye. It all gets done in one minute.
“It’s not brain surgery,” said Gavin. “It’s more about having confidence and experience.”
* * *
Newark, New Jersey, August 16, 1995: Day trip. No postcards.
In suffocating humidity, Gavin nervously idles along Canal Street in nearly two hours of rush-hour traffic in Lower Manhattan just to get through the Lincoln tunnel. He reaches the Robert Treat Hotel, located in what was once known as the gritty Ironbound section of Newark, about 15 minutes before the first bout.
The smallish ballroom at the Robert Treat is dark, smoky and loud. Just the atmosphere one would expect from a club show. Most of the fighters are from Newark and most of them have sold tickets to family and friends, making fighters not from Newark very unpopular.
Dale Brown, a 1992 Canadian Olympian who is white, is probably the least popular fighter on the card. He is scoffed at when he enters the ring to face Maurice Harris, who is black and from Newark. It’s a good thing Gavin made it through the tunnel because Brown is cut badly across the bridge of his nose in the third round of his six-round fight.
Gavin stops the blood and was pleased with the way Brown, participating in just his third pro fight, responds to adversity. The cruiserweight protected his unbeaten record by knocking Harris out in the fourth round. Gavin pulls a Freddy Brown classic, minus the Monsel’s solution.
Brown is on his way to the hospital for stitches when Gavin is hired by Santos Lopez, a junior lightweight from Trenton, to work the last bout of the evening. Lopez, a tough little pug, was fighting above his weight class. The slight edge in weight is all his opponent needs as Lopez loses a disputed six-round decision to a fighter from Newark. “I thought we could have gotten a draw,” Gavin says after the fight.
Lopez is the last one in the dressing room. He’s visibly upset but the first words out of his mouth are, “Did you get paid Al?”
Gavin had already been paid. It is Lopez’ fifth loss in 13 fights. Not many 7-5-1 fighters go on to win titles. Lopez recognizes that. In the agonizing and emotionally charged moments that follow a loss, talk of retirement usually emerges. But Lopez is tough and has some talent so Gavin encourages him.
“Do you want to be a fighter?” Gavin asks.
Lopez keeps his eyes fixed to the stained carpet and doesn’t answer. The room smells of sweat and dirty socks. It is quiet, as a reporter sits in a corner and an inspector from the New JerseyState Athletic Commission finishes paperwork. The only sound is that of Lopez tearing athletic tape that once covered his fists. Then, Lopez’ conqueror is heard celebrating in the next dressing room. The sweet sounds of victory – laughter, cheers, the clapping of hands – stings Lopez like one last jab. The opponent’s trainer enters to “borrow some ice,” and sees Lopez with his head down.
“Nice fight,” he says.
There is still no response from Lopez.
Gavin continues. “If you still want to be a fighter, don’t go out on this one. Get in the gym, get down to the weight you’re comfortable at and get serious.”
As Gavin departs, Lopez thanks him. “Al give me your card so I can call you sometime to say hello.”
[Postcard Postscript: Lopez listened to Gavin and in November 1995, upset former IBF super featherweight champion Eddie Hopson with a 10th-round TKO in Atlantic City. It was the highlight of his career. He retired in 1998 with a 9-9-1 record. Dale Brown became a top-ranked cruiserweight and remains in the top 10. He has lost in two world title fights. Maurice Harris moved up to heavyweight and lost a disputed split decision to Larry Holmes in 1997.]
* * *
GAVIN GREW up in New York City and started carrying a spit bucket for the PAL boxing team in 1955. In the decades that followed, his sport had taken him places he never thought he’d see. During a fight in San Antonio, he visited the Alamo. While in Poland for an Alex Stewart fight, he found himself 30 miles west of the site of the Aushwitz Concentration Camp.
“I didn’t think I was so sensitive,” says Gavin. “I try to think of myself as having a hard veneer. But I went to the site of the camp and I know people walked in these same steps knowing they were going to die. That was hard for me.”
He is talking now in a hotel lobby about 10 miles from his home in Bethpage, Long Island. Gavin is filling my notebook with stories prior to a small card at the Huntington Hilton. (How small are some of these shows? Gavin is the most famous boxing personality in attendance tonight, and that includes the main event fighters.)
He was asked, What’s the worst cut you’ve ever seen?
The answer was immediate and it involved Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner. “Chuck fought Sonny Liston at the Jersey City Armory in 1970,” he says. “Wepner got about 60 some odd stitches that night. There were multiple cuts. I worked his corner with Al Braverman. It was too much, too much blood. Braverman stopped the fight. Wepner didn’t want it stopped and he gave Al a tough time about it.”
Gavin was content with his ringside seat to history. He had pretty much seen it all. The exception was watching a referee raise the hand of his man after a world title fight.
“Before he died, Ray Arcel told me, `If you do good work, your time will come,” says Gavin. “One champion will fall in after the other.’ ‘’
Which is exactly how it happened. In early 1993, Lennox Lewis was awarded the WBC title vacated by Riddick Bowe. On October 23, 1993, Junior Jones, who Gavin has known since he was a 12-year-old PAL fighter, won the WBA bantamweight title. Six days later Michael Bentt knocked out Tommy Morrison for the WBO heavyweight title. On December 4, Kelley won the WBC featherweight title and then on February 13, 1994, Jake Rodriguez captured the IBF junior welterweight crown. Suddenly there was new pressure on Gavin. He had to remember which color cornerjacket he was wearing and what alphabet titles his fighters were defending.
Now, if he stopped a fight, the ramifications impacted a fighter’s career and his bank account. Still, the safety of his fighters remained his priority. In January 1995, he advised Kevin Kelley’s trainer to stop Kelley’s fight against Alejandro Gonzalez. The loss cost Kelley his title. But it may have saved his career and perhaps his eyesight. “He did his job,” said Kelley. “I trusted Uncle Al completely. To me, Al Gavin was a highly respected member of our team.’’
The decision wasn’t easy for Gavin.
“In a championship fight, you are talking about a fighter’s livelihood, his dream,” he says. “But there is a human element. You can keep a fighter in there too long. Then what do you say to his family if he’s badly injured? … ‘I’m sorry’ … That doesn’t cut it. It’s easy to be brave when somebody else’s butt is on the line.”
* * *
AL GAVIN always tried to do the brave thing because his sport was populated by brave men. He recognized the courage it takes to climb into the ring and fight. He worked with Lennox Lewis until the heavyweight champion retired, but always made time for a preliminary fighter. “When you work with someone for a world championship fight against a great fighter, it’s a rush,” he told me. But I work with four-round fighters and I get just as much a kick out of it.”
It seemed that Kelley and Jones and Bentt and Rodriguez were ex-champions just as quickly as they became champions. But Gavin always wound up with new clients – Oscar de la Hoya, Prince Naseem Hamed, Micky Ward. They wanted him because he was good cut man, but more importantly, because he was a good man.
I remember Al Gavin the same way much of the boxing community will always remember him. He was a calming influence whether he was working a corner or joining you for breakfast in a coffee shop. He was a friend in a business that breeds enemies. And no matter where he was in the world, he’d send a postcard to Maureen.
SHOWTIME will televise at 11 p.m. ET/PT (tape delayed on west coast). The telecast represents the 55th in the popular â€œShoBoxâ€? series, which debuted on SHOWTIME in July 2001.
The scheduled twelve round bout will be for the IBF # 2 ranking. Estrada currently holds the United Stated Boxing Association Welterweight Title and is ranked # 7 by the International Boxing Federation, its parent company. Smith currently is ranked # 14 by the IBF and # 11 by the World Boxing Organization and holder of the North American Boxing Association welterweight belt.
Since losing a unanimous decision to Ishe Smith on July 31, 2003 in his ShoBox debut, his only loss as a professional, Estrada has won two in a row, knocking out Nelson Manchego this past May and winning a twelve round unanimous decision over highly regarded and previously undefeated Nurhan Suleymanoglu on July 15, 2004, in a bout seen on the ShoBox series, winning in spectacular fashion by taking the last ten rounds on the scorecards.
Speaking after a sparring session at the South Florida Boxing Gym under the watchful eye of Hall of Fame trainer, Angelo Dundee, the modest Estrada stated, "This is a great opportunity for me. Smith is undefeated and very highly thought of in boxing circles. A win over him shoots me up in the rankings at welterweight and that's what my career needs right now."
Although squarely focused on the task at hand, beating Smith, Estrada spoke of the welterweight division, "A lot of things are going to shake out in the next couple of months with Spinks and Judah fighting again in February. Hopefully, if I beat Smith I can get a title shot in the near future."
Of his boxing career so far, the 25 year old Estrada stated, "The loss to Ishe Smith was a bit of a setback but the win over Suleymanoglu got me back on track. He was the favorite and it was supposed to be his night but I went in there and took care of business much like my plan is for this fight against Chris Smith. The fight is close to New York City where he's from and he's never lost like Nurhan but if I take care of business in the ring it won't matter how many fans are there for him."
Speaking of growing up in Chicago, David said "there's a lot of good fighters in Chicago, guys like David Diaz, Fres Oquendo, Freddie Cuevas, Angel Hernandez--its great to see a lot of fighters in Chicago having success."
Finally, when discussing other highly ranked welterweights and prospective future opponents, Estrada said, "I'm confident in my abilities that I can beat anyone at 147, I just need to get in the ring with them."
For more information or interviews with David Estrada, please use the contact information below.
The International Professional Ring Officials (IPRO) is an organization of more than two hundred of the nation’s most respected Referees and Judges. It was created in 2001 by Barry Druxman, a referee/judge in Bellevue Washington, who recognized the need for greater training and dialogue among world rated officials The Executive Board consists of Druxman as President, Vice-President Joe Dwyer, (Judge, New York), Secretary/Treasurer, Glen Hamada (Judge, Washington), Dr Margaret Goodman, (Medical Director, Nevada) and Legal Advisor, Alan Krebs, (Attorney/Judge, Washington).
The organization provides boxing officials the opportunity to improve their officiating skills at the annual convention/training camp.
This year’s convention was held at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 14-15. The opening session for referees was hosted by Joe “I’m Fair but Firm” Cortez at his home in Las Vegas In a regulation sized ring within his fully equipped gymnasium built as an attachment to the house, Cortez went through the mechanics to be used in officiating a bout relating to hand and voice commands used in maintaining proper control of the action within the ring. Young boxers performing in the ring aided the instructor. In addition to Cortez, former world-class ref and current Director of the New Jersey Athletic Commission, Larry Hazzard, displayed his prowess in the squared circle. Robert Byrd and Vic Drakulich, two of Nevada’s premier referees also gave instructions on their style of officiating. It was an enlightening experience for the over eighty members who attended.
Dr. Margaret Goodman explained the telltale signs that boxers will exhibit resulting from head trauma which will be an indication that the bout must be stopped. Further explanation was given relative to the significance of the type of lacerations sustained by fighters, the location of the cut (possible damage to optic nerve, etc.), rather than amount of bleeding being the criteria for stoppage.
Day two was dedicated to the judging segment of the training session, with the panel consisting of Judges Chuck Giampa and Paul Smith of Nevada, and Joe Dwyer of New York, who hosted a lively rap session on the various means that they utilize in maintaining complete attention on the action within the ring, as well as the pitfalls to be avoided so as not to allow distractions to alter their concentration. (Such as obstructed view by photographers, noise, etc.) All in attendance were in agreement that ongoing training seminars are necessary to keep at the top of one’s game. Anything less deprives the boxers of their just due.
The current state of boxing mandates that officials be at their very best in providing fair, accurate, and honest decisions in boxing contests. More than ever before, the limited number of televised boxing shows places a greater demand on the modern day fighter. For a young upcoming fighter to suffer a loss on his/her record as a result of a poorly officiated match is devastating to that person’s career. In times past, many of the best boxers and champions had far from unblemished ring records and were able to spring back from a loss. That is not the case today.
Boxers seeking to make an appearance on the premier networks (HBO, Showtime) rarely get such an opportunity if they have less then an undefeated record. The proper training, confidence, and integrity of those of us privileged to officiate will be the answer to some young person attaining their dream. I’m sure that in doing our part they will do theirs.
In addition to IPRO many of the major Sanctioning Organizations (WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF) as well as select State Commissions conduct training seminars. The important thing is that ring officials attend one or more of these sessions to improve their skills. The IPRO Training Team is available to all organizations for the purpose of conducting seminars.
Membership in IPRO is open to all professional licensed referees, judges, inspectors and Commissioners. For further info go to IproOfficials.com or call (425) 867-5474.
Maureen’s father was Al Gavin, a boxing cutman who traveled the world with his fighters. He climbed up the steps with as many chumps as he did champs but he watched over each one as if the heavyweight title was at stake. And all those times he couldn’t be with his family, his thoughts were with them.
“My other children were older, they understood I had to travel,” Gavin told me. “Maureen was young, still growing up. She didn’t know where I was going all the time. So whenever I wasn’t in the house, I would write her a postcard.’’
On July 8, 2004, Al Gavin, 69, died at Long Island’s Winthrop Hospital from complications following a stroke. He left behind his wife of 51 years, Joyce, and his children, Barbara, Allan Jr. and Maureen.
But Al Gavin’s family included the entire boxing community. His longtime partner and friend was trainer Bob Jackson. His company was welcomed by managers, promoters, trainers and the media. He was adored by his fighters, who simply called him, “Uncle Al.”
There was a period of time in the mid-1990s during which I had the opportunity to accompany Al Gavin on the road. My father was a former light heavyweight contender who was prone to cuts. At various times throughout his career, “Irish” Bobby Cassidy trusted Gavin to stop the bleeding. When my father became a trainer, he trusted Gavin to watch over his fighters. I was lucky enough to go along for the ride. In between the fights, we sat in traffic jams, coffee shops and dressing rooms. It was during those moments that Al helped me understand the art of stopping cuts and the business of boxing.
These are my postcards, from my days and nights with Uncle Al. His spirit remains palpable in boxing corners everywhere and it lives within the fighters who loved him dearly. Therefore, this is written in the presence tense, adding a voice to that spirit.
* * *
Worcester, Massachusetts, December 9, 1994: Winter has bitten New England. The blustering wind abbreviates Gavin’s morning foray into the city.
When Gavin is out of town - be it Worcester or Vegas - he follows a routine. He wakes up by 8:00 a.m. and checks the equipment in his duffel bag. He goes out for breakfast, purchases a lotto ticket and some postcards. By now, he knows where to get items like gauze pads, athletic tape and Vaseline in many small cities across the land. He spends the rest of the day walking or writing postcards until the fighter and the rest of the team departs for the arena. In this case, the arena is a church gymnasium.
Gavin has traveled four hours from New York to work with junior middleweight contender, Godfrey Nyakana, of Uganda. Gavin thinks Nyakana has what it takes to become champion so it is worth the trip even if the fight at the Mt.CarmelRecCenter is scheduled for eight rounds. After the weigh-in, where Gavin is recruited to work two more corners, including that of main event fighter Jose Rivera, he retreats back to the hotel. Gavin is talking with a reporter and a trainer when someone knocks on the door. The reporter answers and, after a brief, awkward silence, Genaro Andujar, asks, “Is this Al Gavin’s room?’’
He is invited into the room and exchanges a huge smile with Gavin as they shake hands. Andujar is scheduled to fight Rivera, lured into Worcester for a payday Originally from the Bronx, Andujar now lives in Lewiston, Maine. He asks Gavin to work his corner but the cutman informs him he was already working Rivera’s corner.
The first time Gavin worked Andujar’s corner was in 1992 when they had bouts at Gleason’s Gym. Then, as now, Andujar didn’t have a cutman. He suffered a terrible cut in the first round of a six-rounder. Someone from Andujar’s corner told a fan, “Quick, see if Al Gavin is in his office.”
Gavin was sitting at his desk reading the paper. He emerged with a cotton swab, adrenaline and gauze. He stepped onto the ring apron as the ringside physician was examining Andujar. “Don’t worry Doc, I’ll take care of it,” said Gavin. He did and Andujar won the fight.
It is not likely Andujar will beat Rivera, a fact that everyone but Andujar seems to acknowledge. Gavin, concerned for the kid’s safety, begins to ask questions.
“Who is working your corner?’’
“A friend who got me a job as a carpenter.’’
“Did you train for this fight, Genaro?”
“Not really,” he answers, breaking eye contact.
“Why did you take the fight,” Gavin asks, his voice rising slightly.
“I needed the money. Christmas is coming.”
Later, Nyakana wins by 5th-round TKO. The trainer traveling with Gavin is hired at the last minute to assist the carpenter in Andujar’s corner. Mercifully, he threw in the towel in the second round and put an end to Andujar’s punishment.
When it’s over, the carpenter looked at the trainer and asks, “What did you do that for?”
[Postcard Postscript: Jose Rivera currently holds a portion of the welterweight title. Andujar lost 12 of his next 13 fights. He remains active in Lewiston, with a career record of 11-28-2.]
* * *
THE BUSINESS of blotting blood is fickle. If you stop the cut, you merely did your job. The only time a cutman really gets noticed is on the night he fails. While Gavin was penning his long-distance relationship with his children, he was also diligently building his reputation. A good cutman is an asset in any corner and Gavin’s longevity is a testimony to his talent. “If you can’t stop the flow, then you go,” says Gavin, reciting the harsh perform or be fired reality of his craft.
As a career, closing cuts isn’t a prime choice for those seeking fortunes. A 10-round fight is worth $100 and the fee descends by 20- or 30-dollar increments according to the amount of rounds the bout is scheduled, bottoming out with $20 for a four-rounder. It is a difficult way to make a living, which is why Gavin and the rest often hire themselves out to fighters who don’t have the luxury of a traveling cutman.
The real money comes with a champion. In a title fight, the cutman receives two-percent of the purse or a fee agreed upon before the contest. Gavin toiled for years without a champ. He stayed in the business because he loves fighters. He stayed busy because he closes cuts and keeps his mouth shut. Often queried by reporters for inside info, he spits out his standard line: “I don’t know nothing about that. I won’t testify in court and you can’t make me wear a wire.”
Gavin won’t talk because he is loyal to fighters and their handlers. In a sport where the only thing most participants know about loyalty is that it resides in the dictionary somewhere between liars and lunatics, it’s smart business not to bite the hand that writes the checks.
Although they monitor and control swelling, the main priority of Gavin and his clot-forming brethren is to stop blood flow from the nose, mouth, cheeks, eyelids or scalp. It has to be stopped in the 60 seconds between rounds.
The second priority is to prolong a fight if it is winnable. A good cutman is also a good con man. Sometimes, negotiating the one-more-round plea can last five rounds. It’s important to begin working a cut immediately and not just because time is short. A quick cutman can wipe excess blood from the area and get in the doctor’s way before he can examine the fighter. It’s all part of the con.
“A good cutman can save you a fight, save you a title, or even save your career,” said former WBC light heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde. “He can minimize the damage done so you won’t get cut the next time out or the time after that. And if you have a ref who is quick to stop a fight, a good cutman can be invaluable.”
* * *
Bushkill, Pennsylvania, March 17, 1995: Gavin is back on the road with Nyakana. Fernwood’s Resort, tucked away in the Poconos, has become somewhat of a boxing hotbed. Well, as hot as boxing can get in this rural part of Pennsylvania.
Top Rank, with TV time courtesy of ESPN, televises several cards a year from the resort. On this night, aging heavyweight Carl “The Truth” Williams headlines against young prospect Mevlin Foster.
A chill is still clutching Bushkill and once again, Gavin doesn’t stray very far from Fernwood’s. He doesn’t have to, the postcards are available in the coffee shop.
Gavin is a familiar face here. He is greeted by the boxing cognescenti milling about the lobby. The fight crowd seems oddly out of place among the middle age couples on third honeymoons or the young ski bunnies who occupy the rooms with heartshaped tubs. Such a regular is Gavin here that he doesn’t even get asked for a meal ticket when entering the dining room reserved for boxers.
Nyakana wins a 10-round decision on ESPN. He does not suffer a cut during the bout. But just as importantly, Joe Davone, the card’s promoter and manager of heavyweight Bruce Seldon, asks Gavin to work Seldon’s corner when he fights for the vacant WBA heavyweight title next month.
[Postcard Postscript: On April 8, 1995, Seldon stops Tony Tucker to win the WBA heavyweight title. Seldon purchases championship rings for his team and Gavin wears it proudly for the rest of his life. On August 29, 1997, Nyakana meets Verno Phillips in a junior middleweight title bout. Gavin is in his corner. Nyakana leads on points heading into the 11th round but is knocked out by Phillips. He returned to Uganda short time later and was recently elected to a seat on Kampala’s city council.]
READ PART 2 of this series, as Robert Cassidy charts Al Gavin’s rise from his days carrying a spit bucket for the PAL boxing team to working alongside world champions such as Lennox Lewis.
With the win, Johnson becomes the “The Ring” 175-pound champion and records the latest surprise in a year dominated by upsets.
Johnson won by scores of 115-113 (Melvina Lathan) and 115-113 (Chuck Giampa) to win the battle of Roy Jones Jr.-conquerors. Judge Marty Denkin scored the bout 116-112 for Tarver.
“Heart, hard work and determination,” Johnson told HBO when asked what won him the fight. “It’s been a long road. I had to get here. And I’m finally here.
I hope I’m appreciated.”
Johnson, 42-9-2 (28 knockouts) should be appreciated after a gutsy effort against a man who was taller and considered much more talented. He took the fight to Tarver, pounding the body and applying constant pressure.
It was a fast-paced fight that saw both fighters breathing heavy by round four. Tarver appeared to have an early lead, but seemed to relax down the stretch. And the ever-opportunistic Johnson took advantage.
Tarver, 22-3 (18 knockouts), slipped to the canvas in the 12th round, and was pummeled in a corner as the fight ended. But he had won the early portion of the round and appeared to many ringsiders to have pulled it out in the final two rounds.
HBO’s Harold Lederman scored it 115-113 for Tarver.
The fight was fought for the lightly-regarded IBO light heavyweight title after the IBF stripped Johnson and the WBA and WBC stripped Tarver for not fighting mandatory challengers.
But the quality of the fight proved it was the only fight in the division that really mattered.
Johnson started fast as Tarver appeared to be waiting for the one punch knockout that resulted in his career-defining victory over Jones on May 15, 2004. Once Tarver seemed to realize he couldn’t knock Johnson out, he began using his physical advantages.
But, by then, Johnson had already put some early rounds in the bank – at least according to the scorecards of Lathan and Giampa.
Both fighters at times appeared stunned, but neither seemed in serious jeopardy of being knocked down.
“I have to knock everybody out,” Tarver told HBO’s Larry Merchant. “Glen fought a gallant fight. But that’s the scorecards for you.”
Tarver said he injured his hand in the fourth or fifth round, but didn’t use that as an excuse.
“It was excruciating pain,” he said. “But I fought my fight.”
Both men said they wanted a rematch after a fight that had the L.A. crowd on its feet.
“Antonio Tarver is a great fighter,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect him to fight as well as he did.”
SHOWTIME televised the Gary Shaw Productions doubleheader at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). The telecast represented the 54th in the popular “ShoBox” series, which debuted on SHOWTIME in July 2001.
Elder (22-1, 14 KOs), of Newnan, Ga., fought aggressively throughout the fight, absorbing the best Burton had to offer before finishing the proceedings. With neither fighter leading decisively entering the final round, the fast-paced bout reached a fever pitch. Elder connected with a left quickly followed by a right to send Burton tumbling to the canvas. Burton staggered to his feet, eyes glazed, only to be caught with a straight left that tossed him into the ropes, before his body slumped to the canvas, ending the fight. Elder was deducted a point in the sixth round for a low blow. “The Extreme Machine” captured the vacant NABO lightweight title on Oct. 9, 2004, by scoring a sixth-round technical knockout over Ricardo Fuentes in Gainesville, Ga. The referee halted the contest following the fifth round due to facial injuries.
Burton (21-3, 11 KOs), of Benton Harbor, Mich., seemed to get stronger as the fight got into the later rounds, baffling Elder by periodically switching his fighting stance. “Killer” opened a cut over Elder’s right eye in the third round and nearly closed his opponent’s left eye with his continuous assault to Elder’s face. Burton secured the NABO lightweight championship with a 12-round split decision over Francisco Lorenzo on Dec. 5, 2003, from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Two judges had Burton winning 115-114 and 116-113, while the third judge gave the nod to Lorenzo, 115-113.
Arnaoutis (12-0-1, 6 KOs), of Athens, Greece, dropped Gallardo in the second round with a quick double left jab, followed by a combination. At 2:40 into the third round, a punishing left cross dropped Gallardo, prompting the referee to stop the fight. Arnaoutis floored Jesse Feliciano three times in the initial three minutes to nab the vacant NABO junior welterweight title with an opening-round knockout Oct. 22, 2004, on “ShoBox” from Chumash Casino Resort. In his “ShoBox” and SHOWTIME debuts, Arnaoutis fought to an electrifying 12-round majority draw against Juan Urango for the vacant NABO junior welterweight crown on Aug. 5, 2004, from Hollywood, Fla.
Gallardo (16-3-1, 5 KOs), of San Diego, Calif., started the fight aggressively moving forward on Arnaoutis. He opened a cut over Arnaoutis’ right eye in the second round, but proved to be overmatched by his Greek opponent. “Killer” compiled a 173-11 amateur record and captured numerous titles, including the National Silver Gloves title from 1989-93. A National P.A.L. champion, Gallardo also won the National Junior Olympic silver medal in ’92, the National Junior Olympic gold in ’93 and the U.S. Olympic Festival gold in ‘94.
“ShoBox: The New Generation” features up-and-coming prospects determined to make a mark and eventually fight for a chance at a world title. The best of the new generation of hungry, young boxers will have an opportunity to showcase their talent and heart as they battle each other in competitive fights in front of a national television audience. “ShoBox: The New Generation” is pure, basic boxing, reminiscent of the golden days of the sport.
Nick Charles called Friday’s action from ringside, with Steve Farhood serving as expert analyst. The executive producer of the telecast was Gordon Hall, with Richard Gaughan producing.
For information on “ShoBox: The New Generation” and SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecasts, including complete fighter bios, records, related stories and more, please go the SHOWTIME website at http://www.sho.com/boxing.
I'm guessing he sleeps pretty well most nights, that it's easy to fall asleep wrapped in silk sheets, knowing you'll never have to work another day in your life if you don't want to.
Still, you've got to figure that once in awhile, the ghost of "what was" and "what could have been," slips quietly into his room and keeps him awake by poking him in the ribs and whispering in his ear until sunrise.
You remember Roy Jones Jr. He used to be something special back a few months ago, back before the unexpected arrival of Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, back when there were fewer bar-room arguments over who the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world was.
It was Jones and then everyone else.
He's the reason so many casual fight fans will be watching TV tonight on HBO, when Tarver (22-2, 18 KOs) and Johnson (41-9-2, 28 KOs) fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to prove who is the meanest, toughest, best light-heavyweight in the world is.
When the fight is finally over, each boxer can thank Jones for giving him the biggest pay day of his career, Tarver earning about $2.5 million and Johnson taking home a tidy $1.5 million.
Jones is the reason they're fighting. Maybe they should each cut him a check, a little payback for all the help.
It wasn't that long ago that the light-heavyweight division was a solo act, a one-man show with the same ending fight after fight. You kept waiting to see if someone could test Jones, rise up out of obscurity and take him into the later rounds of a close fight.
But it never seemed to happen.
Instead, they were usually short, violent nights, a few rounds of cat and mouse and then a final round of one-sided fury. You'd shake your head, mutter under your breath about another boring fight, and wonder if they would ever find some fighter who could put an end to all the beatings, could silence the cockiness which has always been a part of who Jones is.
We never expected two of them to show up in a span of only four months, Tarver stopping Jones in the second round in May, and Johnson stopping him in September in nine rounds.
For the first time in years in the light-heavyweight division, Jones isn't on center stage.
Tonight's fight is the last big fight of the year, and a good way to end it, with a clash of styles.
It's the tall, articulate, smooth-talking Tarver against the shorter, quieter, get-to-the-point Johnson, a guy who always comes to fight, but doesn't always do well when he gets there.
They will be fighting for fame and fortune, but they won't be fighting for a belt. Both gave up that opportunity when they agreed to fight each other instead of the mandatory challengers, Tarver giving up his WBC championship and Johnson turning in his IBF title.
Regardless of what they might say, going for the big money probably wasn't a tough decision to make.
"There are no certainties in boxing," Tarver said on a recent conference call. "You have to take advantage of the moment. I didn't lose my title in the ring, I vacated it. You can't pay the light bill or feed your kids with those belts."
"I have the same picture in front of me," he said. "You have to take the opportunity when it presents itself, otherwise it can slip away."