“I really started traveling to shows in the late seventies,” said the 62-year-old Jowett, who markets electrical meters around the world by day and works as an amateur referee and renowned reporter for Boxing Digest, among other publications, by night.
“I had always gone to fights before then, but the late seventies casino boom really got me going. As exciting as Atlantic City was in the early days, I enjoyed the Embassy Hall in North Bergen (New Jersey) and the CYC (Christian Youth Center) in Scranton (Pennsylvania) even more. Matches that were equally bad turned out good because of the crowd involvement.”
Most of the fighters that were Jowett’s favorites are long forgotten by all but the most diehard aficionados. He loved guys like Conrad Tooker, Pat Murphy, Georgie Cahill, Philadelphia Ray Staples, and Dave Morine, all of whom went nowhere but into Jowett’s well-kept notebooks that signify his decades long love affair with the sweet science.
“Staples fought Joe Frazier and had a thunderous left hook, but he threw it from the floor,” said Jowett. “Morine was a classy stylist.”
Although they had seen each other at fights over the years, Jowett hooked up with Jeff “KO JO” Obermayer in the summer of 1979. They started traveling together when Frank Gelb ran a summer series in Atlantic City, from which both lived in close proximity. .
“That’s when all hell broke loose,” joked Obermayer, as they sat next to each other at a recent show in North Bergen, New Jersey. “We were like ying and yang but were kindred spirits. Opposites attract, and we are opposite in every possible way.”
“Jack’s a sex addict, and I can’t get any,” jokes Jowett, who Obermayer admiringly refers to as Jowett Boy. (Obermayer also affectionately calls Eric Bottjer, the matchmaker for Don King Promotions, “The Creep,” and ShoBox announcer Steve Farhood “Steve Fuh-huud” because of Lebanese heritage).
“I’m hyperactive and he’s cool, calm and collected,” added Obermayer. “I’m the hare and he’s the tortoise. He’s the steadying influence, but I’m the brains of the operation.”
Whenever the two travel together—which is often—it is the now retired Obermayer who books the room, secures the press credentials, and arranges the travel itinerary, which seems to always include a stop at a classic old diner, which both ying and yang have a passion for. Including a recent trip to Wyoming, the dynamic duo has traveled to 23 states together.
Because Jowett travels so much on his own for business, he often finds himself in out of the way venues in even further out of the way states, He remembers driving for hours from Los Angeles to a tiny show in Chula Vista, California, which he reported on in Boxing Digest. “It was the most obscure place I’ve ever been,” he said. “And I’ve been to some pretty obscure places.”
One night he was on business in Dallas when he heard about a Spanish show being put on in Sundance Square, an outdoor arena a few hours away. He raced to the scene and was able to see the first fight from the parking lot. He remembers that onetime New York sensation Brian Adams was on the show.
Another night he left Chicago for Sharkey’s Billiards in Glendale Heights, Illinois. He took two trains and a bus to get to the venue, not realizing that all the mass transit had stopped running before the show was over. Miraculously, the one person he knew in the arena, matchmaker Jack Cowan, drove him back to the Windy City.
“There were only fours and sixes (round fights) on the show and I still couldn’t get there quick enough,” said Jowett.
He also loves the intimacy of the Avalon Hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania. The one show a year put on there, Jowett says “is a gem.” The York Hall in London, according to Jowett, is akin to the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia.
Other favorites include the Colonie Coliseum in Latham, New York, and the Old Alhambra in Philadelphia. In all of those arenas, as well as the Scranton CYC, Jowett says he saw explosive riots that proceeded the boxing matches.
“The intimacy of the atmosphere, the immediacy of the crowd, the ad-lib type way the shows were put together all contributed to the unpredictability of the crowd,” said Jowett. “It’s not fun when you are in the middle of a riot, but they make for good conversation later.”
A graduate of Gettysburg College, Jowett lives in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. He regularly judges amateur shows at the collegiate and the military level. The purity of those idealistic young fighters is a joy to behold for him.
However, Jowett’s favorite fighter of all time is current trainer George Benton of Philadelphia. “He was the greatest stylist I ever saw,” said Jowett. “He could stand in front of his opponent’s face – be just six inches away – and the guy wouldn’t be able to hit him. Meanwhile, he’d be beating your face at will.”
Jowett is not usually so appreciative of light punchers like Benton, who campaigned from 1949-70 and retired with a record of 61-13-1 (36 KOs). But, Jowett says, although Benton was “a consummate boxer, he would stay flat-footed, in your face, and still hit and not get it. He could block punches, slip punches and counterpunch. Nobody was ever quite that good. George was never dull, and it’s hard to compare him to anyone.”
You can be sure that the money was good; otherwise Angelo would have advised his kid (he refers to them all that way, including Muhammad Ali) to take another option. As for the WBF being recognized, it is true that most people don’t even know its real name: World Boxing Foundation. Even some top guys, call it World Boxing Federation. Anyway, I discovered that in Brazil everybody recognizes the WBF and therefore considers Rodrigues a legitimate world champion.
That’s what another trainer told me. His name was Sidney Gomes and I met him in Jersey City on October 2004. Gomes told me that Rodrigues was one of his amateurs, they became close friends, and Adilson wanted him in his corner after splitting with Angelo. Of course, Gomes (who also coached the Brazilian national team for five years) knew Angelo Dundee and told me good things about him. Like everybody else I met in the boxing business, in Italy and the United States.
And like many people in the movie business, too, the most famous of them being Russell Crowe. I tried to get an interview with him many times, but never could. So I called Angelo and he said: You are gonna get the interview. About a week later, I received a call from Russell Crowe’s assistant saying that the actor would call me the next day. He did. The Oscar-winning star talked to me for about 45 minutes, from Australia, and turned out to be a very nice guy. At the end of the conversation, he said: Angelo asked me to do it and I did it. Don’t you consider a privilege being a friend of Angelo Dundee? My answer was: Absolutely! I never met anybody like him in Milan. Angelo’s experience makes him one of the most knowldgeable persons around, a man whose opinion counts. That’s why I asked him about the current status of the heavyweight division.
If you were active today, who would you manage?
Samuel Peter. He is a talented kid and has the most important quality for an heavyweight: sheer power. I saw him fighting many times and I’m convinced he still has a lot to learn. He must also improve his strategy, but he can make it big. Samuel can definitely become heavyweight champion.
Do you think he can rule the division, like Mike Tyson did?
I don’t think so. If you look at the history of the division, you notice that only a few fighters dominated their era: Joe Louis (1937-1942 and 1946-1948), Rocky Marciano (1952-1955), Muhammad Ali (1964-1967 and 1974-1978), Larry Holmes (1978-1985), Mike Tyson (1986-1990 and 1996-1997). Outstanding talents like them are rare. That’s true for the other divisions as well.
In the other divisions, what fighters do you like?
Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Their battles remind me of the great fights of the past, like Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta. Guys who give it all every time they step into the ring, who land hundreds of punches and do not surrender when they get hit. These are the real champions. Barrera and Morales remind me of Carlos Zarate, Salvador Sanchez and many other legends.
Going back to the heavyweight division, do you think it is in bad shape, now?
I don’t think so. There are a lot of good fighters. Of course, you cannot compare them to the all-time greats. As I said before, the situation we are in now is the norm. One fighter dominating for many years knocking out everybody else, is the exception.
About one year ago, George Foreman said he wanted to get back in the ring against younger fellows. Many people considered it the final proof of the lack of talent in the heavyweight division.
Not me. If anybody could come back and be successful, that would be George Foreman. He has always been talented, he has a great working attitude and can knock everybody out with a single punch, even today at 56 years old. Remember that a boxer can lose his speed, reflexes, coordination, but not his power. George Foreman is nu bravu guagliunu (a good guy, in Southern Italian slang). Besides, who can be sure to defeat him?
You said that George Foreman is nu bravu guagliunu. Do you still remember the Calabrese dialect?
Of course, I do. The Calabrese dialect is my first language. My parents were from Roggiano Gravina, a small village close to the city of Cosenza (in the Calabria region). To make the readers of The Sweet Science understand where Calabria is: Italy has the form of a boot, Calabria is the final part of that boot. Anyway, my parents spoke only the dialect in the house. That’s why for the first six years of my life, I spoke only Calabrese. I learned English when they sent me to elementary school. You could say that I’m the original greaseball. In school, everybody told me I spoke English with an Italian accent. In Italy, they tell me I speak Italian with a Calabrese accent. Who cares? I’m happy to know many languages. I also speak Spanish.
Are you planning to return to managing fighters?
No way. I’m happy to live in Florida and to travel across the United States when they invite me as a special guest to boxing cards and events. Last June, I was at the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction cerimony in Canastota. Among others, I met Nino Benvenuti, Emile Griffith and Gil Clancy. Last October 26, I went to the Black Tie Boxing card promoted by Gerry Cooney and Joe DeGuardia (I’ve been a friend of his father for 50 years) at the prestigious Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Right now, I’m in Tampa living in my son’s house and taking care of my grandchildren. Next year, I would love attend a major boxing show in Italy. If somebody invites me, I will be happy to come.
Angelo Dundee’s world heavyweight champions:
1st Title Reign: Undisputed Champion from February 25, 1964 to March 22, 1967 (last defense against Zora Folley.
2nd Title Reign: WBA/WBC Champion from October 30, 1974 to February 15, 1978
3rd Title Reign: WBA Champion on September 15, 1978. Ali never defended the title and announced his retirement on September 6, 1979
Jimmy Ellis – WBA Champion from April 27, 1968 to February 16, 1970
Pinklon Thomas – WBC Champion from August 31, 1984 to March 22, 1986
George Foreman – WBA Champion on November 5, 1994. IBF Champion from November 5, 1994 to April 22, 1995
Adilson Rodrigues – WBF Champion from March 12, 1995 to May 18, 1996.
Stan Grossfeld in the Boston Globe has a bittersweet column on former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks: years after gaining world fame and fortune, it's been a hard fall from glory for Leon Spinks, reports Grossfeld. Leon Spinks now cleans the local YMCA for $5.15 an hour on weekends, sometimes unloads trucks at McDonald's, and volunteers to help the homeless. 'Well I'm still breathing, still making money," says Spinks. There is something admirable in the way he still holds his heads high. But say all you want about cliches, this sport still has too many hard-luck stories.
Great column in the Detroit News about the fight to save the Kronk Gym in Detroit. Emanuel Steward is trying to wield his influence to stop the closure of Kronk. I hope he is successful, as my life will not be complete until I get one of those yellow Kronk t-shirts. Emanuel also seems to be aware of the value of the Kronk brand: Steward said he's looking into marketing the familiar red-and-yellow Kronk logo and merchandise.
Interesting interview with (former) heavyweight Corrie Sanders by our own Deon Potgieter. I always thought Sanders was an underachiever and he seems to agree: "When I fought [Vitali] Klitschko, [Lennox] Lewis chatted a lot with me and he admitted that they avoided me and were concerned about fighting me. I appreciated that he was prepared to admit it to me personally. It meant that I must have meant something."
September 2005 marked the 50th anniversary of Rockyâ€™s last fight, so this is the perfect time to revisit Marciano.
Young Rocco Marchegiano entered the world an underdog. He came close to dying of pneumonia when he 19 months old. He grew up watching his father trudge home exhausted from long shifts at the Brockton shoe factories. Despite the drudgery, there was still barely enough money to feed his growing family. Also, being Italian-American meant he was looked down upon as second- or third-class citizen. The discrimination, the want, the uncertainty, fueled a desire in young Rocky Marciano; he smashed the odds and common wisdom, the old one-two, to become the only champion in history to retire with an undefeated record (49-0, 43 KOs).
When, at the age of 25, after an unsuccessful stint in minor league baseball, Rocky decided to pursue boxing, people laughed in his face. They all said he was too old. They said he was too small. They said he was too slow. They said his arms were too short. They said he was clumsy. And they were right. What they didn't know, what they would soon discover, was in the manâ€™s chest beat the heart of a lion. He redefined the meaning of willpower.
A grueling regimen, one of the all-time legendary trainers (Charlie Goldman), canny if crooked management, conspired to lead Rocky to the summit, and Rocky did the rest. After becoming heavyweight champion and successfully defending his title six times, Rocky Marciano retired from boxing in 1956.
He was a beloved ex-champ, but his post-fight years were marked by restlessness and insecurity â€“ an unending parade of undocumented business deals, nonstop travel, and a never-ending string of meaningless personal appearances. Because of his phobia concerning banks, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, maybe more, is still unaccounted for â€“ buried treasure whose whereabouts are known only to Rocky and Rocky alone â€¦ a secret he took with him to his grave when he died in a 1969 plane crash.
Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews, research, and intensive study of each of Rocky's classic bouts, Everett Skeehanâ€™s Undefeated: Rocky Marciano â€“ The Fighter Who Refused to Lose is the definitive document of a heavyweight boxing legend. Read more at the BLOG
Next to these guys, Terrell Owens sounds like one of the Osmonds.
You don’t hear any of that “aw, shucks,” or “I just got lucky” talk from this crowd. No one is taking the humble road to greatness, ducking the bright lights and passing all the credit on to mom and dad, clean living and the best working corner in the fight game.
But that’s all right. When you’re as good as Judah is – shouldering your way toward the top of the best pound-for-pound list – you’ve earned the right to be a little arrogant. In fact, it’s probably healthy. Sells tickets and makes for good copy. And that’s Judah. Cocky, confident and brash, a guy at the top of his career looking for a few more dragons to slay.
The undisputed welterweight champ, Judah (34-2, 25 KOs) defends his WBC title on Jan. 7 at Madison Square Garden (SHOWTIME) against the WBC’s No. 1 contender, Carlos Baldomir (41-9-6, 12 KOs) of Argentina. An unknown who doesn’t have a jarring punch or a legendary chin, Baldomir’s only claim to fame is that he hasn’t lost in his last 19 fights, though he did rack up a couple draws. That’s not the kind of fight history that keeps Judah up at night. So if he’s glancing over Baldomir’s shoulder and looking down the road at a tentative fight against Mayweather in early April, you can’t blame him. All you can do is warn him.
”I’m looking for the big match-up and a big showdown with “Pretty Girl” (Floyd) Mayweather,” Judah said on a recent national conference call promoting his fight with Baldomir. “And I want to make it look good.”
The “Pretty Girl” shot is Judah’s way of firing back at Mayweather, who he says has crossed the line of disrespect with some of the colorful talk they’ve been swapping.
Judah insists he’s not looking past Baldomir, but he is. Aside from a possible fight with Mayweather, the biggest incentive for him in this fight might be where they’re holding it. He trains and lives in Florida, but he’s from Brooklyn, and he wants to make the Baldomir fight a special homecoming.
”The event of this fight is Zab Judah coming home to New York City,” he said. “We want to give (Baldomir) his 30 seconds of fame, because that is probably how long the fight will last.”
Baldomir must be wondering what he got himself into.
”I’ve been (working with) two dudes,” Judah said when asked about his sparring partners. “I’ve knocked out about eight sparring partners already, world champions and all. I am not going to use anybody’s name because I am not trying to embarrass anybody.”
Right. He sounds ready.
"My speed and power is nothing to play with,” he went on. “A lot of guys look at it and take it for a joke. But you see time and time again, they hit the floor like dust.”
You wonder if he writes this stuff down ahead of time.
Asked about his second-round knockout loss to Kostya Tszyu back in November 2001, Judah said he always knew he would bounce back.
”To once be on top and then to lose everything and come back and get it again, it’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “It’s not that you’re a bum or a garbage fighter with no chin. If you get caught, it can happen to anyone. Anyone. Muhammad Ali was knocked out. Joe Louis was knocked out. Mike Tyson was knocked out. It’s how you come back. Myself, I came back with flying colors.”
If the Mayweather fight somehow falls through, Judah – who won a rematch with Cory Spinks early this year after losing to him last year for only his second loss – said he’d look forward to a rematch with Tszyu.
“[Tszyu] has a personal invitation from Zab Judah, and any time he feels ready to step up to the plate, I’m ready to show the world that that was a fluke,” Judah said of that loss four years ago. “I showed everybody with Cory Spinks when I came back. I am ready for Kostya Tszyu.”
Matt, 24, has displayed poise and ring generalship far beyond his age, and he was recently named the No. 4 prospect in the world for fighters with 10 or less pro fights by Boxing Monthly magazine.
“I’d give myself an A- grade for 2005,” the well-spoken Godfrey said. “I was able to go from four-round fights to eight and quickly to 10 and win a title in my ninth fight. I may not fight as frequently next year because I’ll be in eight and 10-rounders against guys with at least 15 or 20 wins. I want to bring my power back that I had as an amateur. Even with puffy gloves and headgear, I knocked out people as an amateur. I had more time to spend on weight training as an amateur, but as a pro I did a lot more running and boxing. I’m now working with a fitness trainer and I’ll be working a lot more with weights.”
Godfrey has been fighting professionally for 19 months. Only nine fights into his pro career, Matt captured the World Boxing Council-affiliated USNBC cruiserweight title this past August with a near shutout performance (99-91, 98-92, 98-93) against Willie Herring, who was coming off of an impressive nationally televised draw versus highly-touted Shaun George, in Matt’s first 10-round match.
“We want Matt to have a shot at another title this coming year,” Godfrey’s manager Brent Hallenbeck remarked. “By the middle of the year we hope he’s fighting for the NABF title or a similar belt. I think that by the time we can get him to around 20-0, Matt will be fighting for a major title, hopefully in 2007.”
Godfrey’s most impressive fight was against former NABO champion Jermell “The Truth” Barnes (17-8), a high school science teacher Matt took to school, winning every round en route to a unanimous eight-round decision (80-72 three times).
“The first time I really stepped-up I won every round against Barnes and then I beat Herring for the title in my next fight,” Matt added. “And I just closed out the year (WDEC6) against a tough opponent, Billy Willis, who had knocked out my first opponent as a pro (Glen Morgan), something I couldn’t do. I would have graded an A or A+ if I had a couple of more knockouts in 2005.”
“Too Smooth” has tremendous upside and many believe he will be a better pro than amateur because of his sound, smooth boxing style, which led to his new nickname. A consummate boxer, he possesses incredibly quick hands and feet, particularly for a 200-pounder, as well as a complete set of boxing skills developed during his outstanding amateur career.
Matt started boxing at Manfredo’s Gym in Pawtucket (RI) with Peter Manfredo, Jr., a finalist in the recently concluded reality television series, The Contender, and his current stablemate, 2004 U.S. Olympian Jason Estrada.
Godfrey’s 194-23 amateur record included six national championships, four open tournaments including the 2004 Everlast U.S. Championships, plus two in the Junior Olympics. He was a Bronze medal winner at the 2001 Pan-American Games, Silver medallist in all four of the 2004 national major tournaments – National Golden Gloves, PAL (Police Athletic League), U.S. Championships and U.S. Challenge – and six-time New England Golden Gloves champion.
The second heavyweight alternate on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Matt decided to turn pro May 14 (2004), winning a unanimous four-round decision against Morgan.
Over the years as an amateur, Godfrey defeated many boxers who today are outstanding professional fighters such as Randy “The Gentleman” Griffen (22-1-2, 22 KOs), Lenard “Haitian Sensation” Pierre (18-1, 13 KOs), Devan Vargas (7-0, 4 KOs), Chazz “Mensa With Muscles” Witherspoon (9-0, 6 KOs), Corey “Black Ice” Cummings (14-0, 11 KOs) and John Johnson (10-0, 9 KOs).
Although he has started his pro career fighting as a cruiserweight, Matt probably will grow into a legitimate heavyweight within a few years. “I will not have any heavyweight plans until after I have a major cruiserweight title belt around my waist,” he concluded. “I have no business fighting as a heavyweight until then.”
“Julio is arguably the hottest prospect around," says ShoBox expert analyst Steve Farhood. "He is very fast and has natural knockout power. When he demolished Carlos Vilches, a solid fringe contender who had been in with some of the best, Julio sent a message that he could be dominant.”
Julio (25-0, 22 KOs) will face his toughest test when he puts his perfect record on the line against World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas Champion Robert “The Doctor” Kamya (15-5, five KOs). The 10-round junior middleweight battle will headline the “ShoBox: The New Generation” telecast on Friday, Jan. 6, 2006.
In what promises to be an action-packed co-feature, Raul “The Cobra” Martinez will risk his undefeated record against streaking Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma in an eight-round bantamweight battle. The Main Events Inc. doubleheader from Cicero Stadium in Cicero, Ill., will start at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
The telecast represents the 70th in the popular “ShoBox” series, which debuted on SHOWTIME in July 2001, and is the first of back-to-back fight cards on SHOWTIME. In the main event on Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, undisputed welterweight champion Zab “Super” Judah will defend against WBC mandatory challenger and No. 1 contender Carlos Baldomir. In the co-feature, two reigning cruiserweight champions will collide when World Boxing Association (WBA)/WBC champion Jean-Marc Mormeck faces his International Boxing Federation (IBF) counterpart, O’Neil “Supernova’’ Bell, in a world title unification bout.
Julio, of Columbia, is a hard-hitting, offensive-minded, aggressive, two-fisted slugger who never takes a backward step.
“Quite simply, Julio is the most intriguing and explosive prospect in boxing,” said ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael. “The Colombian is a massive puncher who oozes charisma in the ring. His power is scary. We have said it before and we will say it again: If Julio can take a shot, he will be a world champion. Expect 2006 to be a big year for him. The bandwagon will pull away soon, but there is still time to hop on board.”
In amassing an unblemished record, Julio has pulverized his opponents in an average of 3.3 rounds per fight, including six first-round knockouts. In what was supposed to be a stern challenge, Julio took apart the more experienced Vilches (43-5-2 going in) on April 8, 2005, in Miami. The veteran Vilches quit on his stool after the third round following two rocket-like right hands to the chin from Julio.
“I got into boxing to knock people out,” Julio said. “I am not in there playing cat and mouse. I am a dog and I am going to attack. I am really excited about this fight and very happy to be fighting on SHOWTIME.”
Julio is ranked No. 8 in the WBC and World Boxing Organization (WBO), and No. 11 in the WBA. He has flattened his past nine opponents, including a fourth-round TKO over Hicklet Lau on Nov. 30, 2005.
Kamya, of West Palm Beach, Fla. by way of Uganda, snagged the WBC Continental Americas 154-pound title in his last outing with a 12-round majority decision over Alex Bunema (26-4-2 going in) on Aug. 13, 2005, in Chicago. In a hard-fought match, Kamya won by the scores 115-112, 114-112 and 113 apiece.
“It seems like I am always the underdog, and that is just fine with me,” said Kamya, who has fought in eight different states. “This is a tremendous opportunity for me, fighting in a nationally televised bout on such a high-profile stage as SHOWTIME. Julio is a good, young fighter, but he has never fought anyone like me.
“If Julio thinks he can get in there, push me around and blow me out in two or three rounds or whatever he is predicting, he is in for a shock.”
Martinez (12-0, nine KOs), of San Antonio, Texas, is a part-time substitute teacher and a full-time menace in the ring. As an instructor, his calm demeanor helps him in the classroom. As a fighter, his assets are his power, hand speed and heart.
“Being a teacher has helped me be more disciplined as a fighter,” Martinez said. “It has allowed me to be more mature and responsible, and that shows in the ring.”
En route to compiling a 70-20-1 amateur record, Martinez was a two-time U.S. National Amateur champion, two-time junior amateur champion, four-time Texas Golden Gloves champion and a quarterfinalist in the 2004 Olympic Trials.
As a pro, Martinez has stopped six of his opponents in the first round, including his last three. After 12 victories in as many fights, Martinez is ready for his “ShoBox” debut.
“I am in great shape,” Martinez said. “If Ledesma comes in on me, I will counter punch. If he wants to brawl, I will box him.”
Ledesma (13-1-1, eight KOs) of Columbia, will not only make his SHOWTIME debut, but also his first start in America, one day before his 26th birthday.
“Being on a nationally televised fight is a great birthday gift,” said Ledesma, who has won eight straight. “But I will not blow out the candles until I knock Martinez out. Beating him will be the icing on the cake.”
Ledesma has fought his entire career in his native homeland. On Oct. 15, 2004, he captured the Columbian super bantamweight title with a 10-round decision over Arcelio Ibarra.
Nick Charles will call the action from ringside, with Steve Farhood serving as expert analyst. The executive producer of the telecast is 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.
In the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING co-feature, two reigning cruiserweight champions will collide when WBC/WBA champion Jean-Marc Mormeck faces his IBF counterpart, O’Neil “Supernova” Bell, for the undisputed cruiserweight title. The winner of Mormeck-Bell will become the division’s first undisputed champion since Evander Holyfield defeated Carlos DeLeon in 1988 on SHOWTIME, and just the second since the division was created in 1980. In the main event, one of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers, undisputed welterweight champion Zab “Super” Judah, will put all his belts on the line against WBC mandatory challenger and No. 1 contender Carlos Baldomir.
Question: Jean-Marc, how is your training going?
Mormeck: Everything is fine. I am feeling better and better everyday. I am training in the morning and training in the afternoon and everything is good.
Question: Jean-Marc, what is your take on this fight for the undisputed cruiserweight championship, and what are your thoughts on O’Neil Bell?
Mormeck: I think that O’Neil Bell is a great champion because he has his IBF title. I think it will be a tough match because O’Neil Bell is not going to want to let his belt go away, but he has to get ready for this because I am going to take it.
Question: O’Neil, what are your thoughts on this fight and what do you think of Mormeck as a fighter?
Bell: This is a poignant moment for me to display my artistic abilities on SHOWTIME and to the world (and) to capture the IBF, WBC and the WBA championship. My training camp has been going well. I am up for this fight and I love it. The thing I have to say about Mormeck, I hope he does the same (is ready to fight and in top shape) too. Excellent shape, excellent condition. This fight will be like the war of attrition.
He wants to fight, I want it even more. So I am looking forward to that day.
Question: O’Neil, what it would mean to you to join Evander Holyfield and become only the second undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world?
Bell: I am considering all these possibilities and it is a great honor, although I do not think I will ever be able to fit in Evander’s shoes with all the accomplishments that he has done. I am really very happy just to even be considered for being the unification champ. am excited about all the possibilities that are going to come after the fight and also fighting Mormeck.
Question: Jean-Marc, what are your thoughts about joining Holyfield as only the second undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world?
Mormeck: I have great respect for Holyfield’s career, for the warrior, the man, for everything he has done. It would be a great honor and something magic to do what Holyfield did.
Question: Jean-Marc, can you give more details about training, your schedule and how you plan to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in camp while being far away from your home and country?
Mormeck: I have wanted this fight for a long time, and this is the only thing that counts. The biggest party I can make is to take this belt and then party with my friends and his family.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you have any special message for the people back in France?
Mormeck: I know that the country of France is behind me and a lot of French are coming to Madison Square Garden. I am just happy to do this title fight.
Question: Has either of you given thought to the possibility of moving up to the heavyweight division once becoming the undisputed cruiserweight champion?
Bell: That is the motivation for me itself – to become the undisputed champion and then move up and conquer that division as well.
Mormeck: It is kind of a dream to go up to heavyweight. If I would have to choose someone to fight, it would be (WBO heavyweight champion) Lamon Brewster because he is really strong.
Question: Jean-Marc, what was your best fight and did you become discouraged from those back to back losses in 1997?
Mormeck: I was most impressed with my fight with Virgil Hill because he had great experience. Regarding the two losses, I learned a lot of lessons. When I get in the ring now, I want to win, win fast, and win with a lot of points. I do not want to take any risks.
Question: Jean-Marc, can you give a few more details regarding your training, and what will your strategy be against Bell?
Mormeck: I am in physical training in the morning and boxing lessons and sparring in the afternoon. I do not have any strategy for O’Neil Bell.
Question: O’Neil, can you talk about your training practices now?
Bell: I am a boxer that goes day by day. I do not necessarily have a direct mindset or strategy to overcome obstacles. I just deal with it as it comes.
Question: So you just wake up every morning and decide how you feel and then you decide how you are going to train?
Bell: That is exactly how it works. My trainer knows when I am slacking off and he knows when I am training too hard. Then again, I also listen to my body. I need running, but I do not need to have my knees hurting or my lower back hurting. So sometimes my body may be telling me to spar six to eight rounds. Keep it simple. I have no strategy. I just take it day by day as it comes along.
Question: O’Neil, what did you do today in regard to training?
Bell: When I go in the ring at five o’clock today, I will spar, and then there will be more mental practice with my trainers and we will analyze how I will approach Jean-Marc.
Question: O’Neil, would you say that perhaps most of the media and most of the boxing fans are automatically assuming that Mormeck is going to win?
Bell: I really cannot criticize my critics; I can just say just keep watching. I learn while I am in the ring. I do different things in every fight. I bring out the best in myself when my opponent wants to stand in front of me and get pounded on.
Question: O’Neil, Jean-Marc has one of the most sculpted physiques around. What do you attribute all that upper torso strength to?
Bell: You are a boxer; you should be a physical specimen. So that is not something to fear. It excites me even more to say it is a bigger and better challenge out there for me. So I commend him for being in excellent shape.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you intend to fight predominately in the United States?
Mormeck: Since I was a kid back in France, America has always been a dream. Today, I have a chance to fight at the Madison Square Garden. .
Question: Jean-Marc, are you familiar with David Hay and Guillermo Jones and what are your thoughts on them for a possible fight in the future?
Mormeck: I do not want to think about any other fight. My only goal is O’Neil Bell.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you have any timetable if you do move up to heavyweight?
Mormeck: I will be moving up to heavyweight, but I have no schedule.
Question: What do each of you consider to be your advantages in this fight?
Bell: My advantage over Jean-Marc is resilience and also being a multi-dimensional fighter. If you want to go ahead and strategize or go ahead and be a technician, I believe my training has given me all the possible knowledge I need to do that. I have exhibited that previously in some of my fights.
Question: O’Neil, did you not say, “The bloodier, the better”?
Bell: Oh, the bloodier, the better. Toe-to-toe, that is my best fight possible. If you go back to the Davis fight, I wanted to fight after he knocked me down twice. I really wanted to take him out. From the very first round, it is going to be an explosion.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you enjoy bloodbaths?
Mormeck: I do not like blood. I just love to win. As far as my advantages, it is not a question of size or speed; it is just a question of will. He did not want this fight. I have always wanted this fight and now I have got it and this is my advantage.
Question: O’Neil, how do you respond to Mormeck saying that you did not want this fight?
Bell: This is absolutely the first time this fight came across the table and I signed the contract. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Question: Jean-Marc, how do you respond to him saying this is the first time he has been offered a fight?
Mormeck: I do not care what he is saying. I left France and came to the United States. This is O’Neil Bell’s country. I am here to fight.
Bell: (To Mormeck) I would have gone there and fought you in your country and beat you in your country. I love this thing. It really does not matter where you are. If you are on the moon, I will come to you.
Question: O’Neil, you say you showed only 80 percent of your ability with Dale Brown. Do you need to try to put it all together and have one complete fight against Mormeck?
Bell: Yes, I was only 80 percent against Brown. The night before the match, I was up at dawn arguing with my manager. That is one of the reasons why I am managing myself now. I am up for this fight completely. I have wiped out all the negative influence in my life. I have been training for five and a half weeks. I am totally dedicated to this fight.
Question: O’Neil, if you defeat Mormeck, would you give Brown a rematch?
Bell: I wanted to give Brown a fight right after I fought him, but he never stepped up to the plate. The offer was there.
Question: O’Neil, is this the most important and biggest fight of your career?
Bell: Exactly, and that is why I am so serious for it.
Question: O’Neil, does it bother you that fans are sleeping on you going in, or is it going to be more satisfaction once you come out ahead?
Bell: My pro debut was against Evander Holyfield’s nephew, so I have always been the underdog. It is just like another day to me. It really does not discourage me. It actually gives me something to fight for even more, to disprove my critics.
Question: Jean-Marc, since you won the title, you have only been defending it once a year. Do you plan on staying busier in 2006?
Mormeck: I definitely want to fight more, but I have to clear this with my promoter, Don King.
Question: O’Neil, who have you been sparring with in preparation for this fight?
Bell: I am not going to disclose my sparring partners, but I know I have been getting excellent work. Like Mormeck said, he only fought once in a year and I have fought twice already. So I am well conditioned.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you have anything you would like to say to O’Neil?
Mormeck: He is going to have to fight because if he fights like he talks, it is going to be boring for everybody. He needs to get known and earn respect from everybody. He should not try to get known here because he is not going to get known by fighting me. O’Neil should just train and not talk that much.
Question: O’Neil, do you feel that because you have fought twice and he has only fought once that it gives you more of an advantage?
Bell: Of course. If you look at history, a man coming off of two wins, he is geared up. He is in a zone right now. “Supernova” is in his zone right now.
Question: O’Neil, when do you know when to box and when do you know when to slug?
Bell: I am diverse. I must be able to adapt to whatever situation arises. If it comes to a point where I need to fight him backing up, I will. If it comes to a point where I need to go toe-to-toe with him, I will. If it comes to a point where I need to set him up for a devastating knockout, I will do so.
Question: O’Neil, is there any chance of you being overtrained or overconfident?
Bell: No. I am very aware of being overtrained. Some days I do take a weekend off. I do sit in the house and just meditate, watch fight tapes. That is listening to my body.
Question: O’Neil, you were known as “Give ’Em Hell” and now you are known as “Supernova.” Why did you change your nickname and when did you change it?
Bell: I changed it after the Brown fight. I saw nothing good came from “hell.” So I think if you carry a name, you bring upon those evil spirits. “Supernova” is bringing about explosion of things, recreating your environment. “Supernova” is recreating a new atmosphere, a new way of thinking, a new way of life. It is a positive projection for me being “Supernova.”
Question: O’Neil, if you could give a nickname to Mormeck, what would
Bell: I heard one of the selections that stuck out the most – it was “Mighty.” But in turn, I remember the cartoon Mighty Mouse. I would think Mighty Mouse would be a better title for him after this fight.
Question: Jean-Marc, do you have a last comment?
Mormeck: Well, I really do not care about those his nicknames. O’Neil has been talking and talking for like hours. That is why he will never be a great champion. I am just waiting for the fight. That is all.
I thought I timed it well enough for us to miss the morning rush. As we approached the Long Island Expressway – the bane of local motorists – we see traffic at a standstill. Seated in my passenger seat is Miceli, the man who engaged in 110 bouts between 1948 and 1961. The man who fought 12 world champions. The man who fought six Hall-of-Famers. At 76 years old, he’s as sharp and as spry as a man 20 years younger.
I was anticipating a leisurely drive into the Big Apple and some pleasant conversation about the sport of boxing. What I found was that Miceli, once a truck driver, has an amazing knowledge of the roads.
With the traffic jam glaring at us, Miceli instructs me, “get out of this lane and go straight.” We head off on a detour and pick up the expressway several miles west. No traffic.
Along the way, Miceli provides a running commentary on the state of traffic, as well as the state of boxing. “In the ‘50s, there were so many great fighters. Then it got a little less in the ‘60s and a little less in the ‘70s. Who’s around today? … Watch this guy, he’s gonna cut you.”
That’s Miceli speak for another motorist intent on cutting me off.
I fiddle with the heat because Miceli appears cold. “No, I’m OK,” he says. “I’m always cold. That’s because I lost most of my blood in the ring.”
While Miceli certainly endured his share of cuts, he drew more blood than he spilled.
The 12 world champions he faced are an impressive list: Ike Williams, Kid Gavilan, Joey Giardello, Johnny Saxton, Johnny Bratton, Gene Fullmer, Virgil Akins, Don Jordan, Wallace “Bud” Smith, Curtis Cokes, Luis Rodriguez and Ralph Dupas. He beat Williams 2-out-3, beat Saxton, Akins and Smith, drew with Giardello and lost a split decision to Gavilan.
“I hit Gavilan in the Adam’s apple in the first round and he was really hurt, he was ready to quit, but I didn’t know it,” said Miceli. “He told me the next day at Stillman’s. He said ‘You had me in the first round.’ I said, “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh.”
There are times on the road that we both want to scream, “Aaaaahhhhhhhh.”
But Miceli remains cool and thanks the heavens for the HOV lane. By the way, he informs me early in the trip that it ends on the westbound side at Exit 33. When we arrive there, he’s correct.
It’s now a straight shoot to Manhattan, no more detours. But the conversation takes a detour toward regret.
Miceli mentions the name Sonny Boy West, a tough and sturdy lightweight/welterweight from the Golden Age. Miceli decisioned West in Milwaukee in September of 1950. He described it as a one-sided affair. Several times throughout the fight Miceli asked the referee to intervene, to stop the beating. But West kept coming and the referee instructed Miceli, “They (fans) pay their money to see you fight.”
So Miceli kept fighting, kept punching. West wins a few bouts after Miceli and then in December is knocked out by Percy Bassett at St. Nicholas Arena and never wakes up.
“I feel like I had something to do with that,” says Miceli. “I still feel terrible about that. The beating I gave him.”
After a few minutes, we arrive at a better place. No, not Manhattan. We’re still on the LIE, but the conversation changes lanes to Stillman’s Gym, one of Miceli’s favorite places. The owner, Lou Stillman, who always carried a gun, charged spectators 50 cents to watch the stars train. He always made sure Miceli sparred in Ring 1. “Lou Stillman liked two people, me and Rocky Graziano. I don’t know why.”
A fighter from California, Charley Salas, came into the gym and his camp asked Miceli to work with him. They also asked Miceli to go easy on him. Joe’s standard response was, “If he bombs me, I bomb him. If he kisses me, I kiss him.”
The bell rings and Salas starts delivering the bombs. Miceli gathers himself and launches that famous, left hook-uppercut and knocks Salas cold. “They could have counted to 100.”
A few months pass and, guess what, Miceli and Salas are matched at the Ridgewood Grove for a 10-rounder. Miceli barely trains, figuring, “if I knocked this guy out with headgear and big sparring gloves, I’ll knock him out in a real fight.”
The problem is that Salas runs for 10 rounds. “I thought I lost it, but they scored it a draw.”
Of the all legends Miceli has faced, it is often the stories of the lesser known fighters that are the most amusing. The men that time has left by, who live only in the memories of a great fighter like Joe.
We arrive in Manhattan. The journey takes one hour, not bad for the volume of traffic. The interviews go well and by the afternoon we are making our way to the midtown tunnel. It’s close to 4 p.m. and there is no escaping the crush of people leaving the city. We’re caught in it. At the tunnel’s entrance, Miceli grows disenchanted with other drivers who don’t allow us access to the entrance lane.
“One and one. One and one,” said Miceli. “They don’t get it. It’s one … and then one.”
We finally exit the tunnel and Miceli informs me the rush hour traffic will begin to dissipate at exit 31. Amazingly, he’s correct. To pass the time, Miceli introduces me to “car poker.”
You play the four numbers on a New York license plate as your hand. It’s one dollar per car with “0” acting as the wild card. I win the first 2 cars – with hands of 4547 and 2234. Miceli wins the next three. We continue to play until the traffic gets too slow. No money changes hands. But he tells me the best hand he ever had was 5 nines. A truck drove by with 4 nines and a zero.
As we journey back to Long Island, the conversation meanders to 1949. That’s when Joe met Belting Willie Beltran in an eight-round main event at the Broadway Arena. His manager cautions Joe to “watch out for the guy’s right hand.” If Miceli wins this fight, it means a fight at Madison Square Garden. The Garden was perhaps the biggest carrot on the biggest stick during that time. Miceli needs no further motivation. He storms out of his corner and begins walloping Beltran.
Between rounds, Miceli is still breathing fire. “Watch out for the right,” says his manager.
The second round is more of the same, Miceli punishing Beltram. He can see his name on the Garden marquee. Then – BOOM – comes the right hand. Miceli goes down for the first time. He gets up, fights cautious. He drops Beltram for a nine count in Round 4. Beltram gets up – BOOM – another right. Two hours later, Joe Miceli is sitting in his dressing room talking to his manager.
“What happened?” he asks.
“A knockout,” said Bobby Nelson.
“Aawww. What round?”
Now Miceli begins to feel bad, coming to grips with a knockout loss. Nelson looks over. “Not you. You won by knockout.”
“I still don’t remember anything about those two rounds,” says Miceli, a huge smile on his face.
That may be so. But this is one ride I’ll never forget.
Major General Thomas R. Turner II of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division told King earlier this year he would welcome such an event.
“There are many things that make a unit successful in combat,” Turner said. “They need good equipment, the right number of people and good training. The army does that very well but the solider also needs to know that the American people support them and Don King has done that.”
King never forgot the major general’s comments and later presented a check for over $200,000 he raised to help create a 101st Airborne Memorial in Ft. Campbell, Ky.
He also visited troops fresh from the front lines in Iraq at Germany’s Landstuhl Hospital near Ramstein Air Base in September, and he now wants to bring a boxing exhibition to Iraq to give soldiers a taste of home.
“Major General Turner and President George W. Bush are absolutely right about helping the troops,” King said. “I intend to answer the President’s call and do all I can to support our troops. Our men and women in uniform around the world are defending our freedom and liberties. They need to know that we appreciate their service and sacrifices to honor their bravery and dedication.
“I intend to stage exhibition matches in Iraq displaying the skills of many great champions from the boxing world. I want to entertain the troops, raise their morale and let our soldiers know that the American people are 100% behind them. It will be an unforgettable, historic event. I’ll even stage a true championship match if I am allowed.
“While politicians in Washington debate the issues," added King, "we must show through action and deed that we support our troops fighting for our liberties and way of life. I honor them. I want to be the black Bob Hope of boxing.”
King is now discussing the formal arrangements with the White House, USO and the Department of Defense.
“I am proud to be an American, I love my country and I love my troops,” King said. “I want to do everything I can to lift them up in their hour of need but I cannot do it without the blessing of our commander-in-chief.”
King has quietly provided all telecasts of boxing matches he promotes free of charge to Armed Forces Network for over 20 years, so troops stationed abroad can view his telecasts.