After 12 months there have been various changes, including the retirement of Bernard Hopkins who reigned at the top of most pound-for-pound lists everywhere. Though he has mentioned returning to active duty I will wait until that time comes. Meanwhile there are plenty of active prizefighters deserving mention.
A few fighters have returned to the list including Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley who fought their way back against elite competition. Others who were on the list a year ago have dropped out after suffering postponements or losses like Jose Luis Castillo, Diego Corrales and Antonio Tarver.
Two fighters making their debuts are Mexico’s Israel Vazquez and Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. remained at number one after a year. He moved into the welterweight division and beat two of the top 147-pounders convincingly.
Here are the final top 12 boxers in the world:
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (37-0, 24 KOs) – Known as Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather, he continues to prove size does not matter if you have the skills and know-how to counteract. His wins over Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir in the welterweight division with an injury to his right hand prove he’s the guy.
2. Manny Pacquiao (43-3-2, 34 KOs) – Maybe the junior lightweight doesn’t have boxing skills on a par with Mayweather but he is the most exciting boxer in the world. The man he beat twice last year, Erik Morales, formerly held that title. Now Pac Man is on the move from number four last year to number two. Could Pac Man beat Mayweather? Good question. People forget Mayweather ruled this division and now rules three divisions higher. Could Pac Man beat a welterweight as Mayweather has done? I don’t think so. But Pac Man is definitely the most exciting fighter today.
3. Winky Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs) – Though he suffered a draw against Jermain Taylor, many felt he beat the middleweight champion. Last month he bludgeoned Ike Quartey and became the first opponent to make him say ow.
4. Marco Antonio Barrera (63-4, 42 KOs) – The master fighter from Mexico City is beginning to show his age. But you can’t outthink Marco Antonio Barrera. He’s looking for a rematch against Manny Pacquiao. Barrera wants to go out with a bang.
5. Rafael Marquez (36-3, 32 KOs) – The bantamweight world champion wants to move up in weight now that he’s proven he’s too much for the 118-pounders. Rafael Marquez combines classic boxing style with knockout power. If you make a mistake when fighting him it’s all over.
6. Joe Calzaghe (42-0, 31 KOs) – Welshman Joe Calzaghe has fought professionally for 13 years and has never suffered a defeat. But it took a challenge from super middleweight Jeff Lacy to finally get recognition. Now he faces America’s Peter Manfredo. No easy task.
7. Jermain Taylor (26-0-1, 17 KOs) – The Arkansas middleweight has the world title but his lackluster performance against the much smaller Kassim Ouma and the 12-round draw to Winky Wright have many doubting his talent. It’s his fighting heart that keeps him undefeated.
8. James Toney (69-5-3, 43 KOs) – Lights Out Toney has erased all doubters about his presence in the heavyweight division. On Jan. 6, against Sam Peter, he gets a fourth chance to win the heavyweight title. Will this be the last hurrah for Toney?
9. Oscar De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) – The Golden Boy returned to the ring after a near two year absence and beat two-time world titleholder Ricardo Mayorga to a pulp for the junior middleweight title. Few believed he could do it. Now he meets Mayweather for the pound-for-pound title on May 5, 2007 in Las Vegas.
10. Joan Guzman (27-0, 17 KOs) – As a junior featherweight Joan Guzman couldn’t find anyone willing to meet him in the ring. So he moved up two weight divisions and people jumped to fight him. He promptly beat former junior lightweight world champions Javier Jauregui and Jorge Barrios. Now people are considering other paths. Guzman is for real.
11. Shane Mosley (43-4, 37 KOs) – After losing twice to Winky Wright people began to say Sugar Shane doesn’t have it anymore. But two wins over Fernando Vargas convinced everyone that the Pomona speedster is back and better than ever in the welterweight division.
12. Israel Vazquez (41-3, 30 KOs) – Known as El Magnifico, Mexico City’s Israel Vazquez proved it once more against fellow Mexico City fighter Jhonny Gonzalez. Their match last May gave boxing fans the best fight of the year. Vazquez could be facing yet another Mexico City fighter Rafael Marquez for the junior featherweight title. It could be another fight of the year.
When a true giant of boxing’s storied past dies – for those who love the nostalgic grip that boxing lore exerts – memory connects into the present, arteries of feeling open up for imagination’s coursing. In this year, 2006, featherweight champion, boxing legend, Willie Pep died on November 23rd. “Boxing really is supposed to be about hitting and not being hit… this is the idea of the game… like being an artist.” Has any boxer ever had a nickname more befitting the style of his in the ring performance than Willie Pep – Will-o’-the-Wisp! Born near Hartford, Connecticut, on September 19, 1922, Pep managed to make fashionable deft defensive jitterbugging boxing with slash and dash all-around effectiveness during the era of Joe Louis, Ray Robinson, Beau Jack and Ike Williams. When Pep curved into view, snapping out punches, he was already gone, just beyond the range of counter measures; that’s where Pep the boxer jived and jilted, thriving just beyond the range of furious returns.
Mostly, his opponents were left frustrated, their best right hands glancing off shoulders, left hooks pushing along the clouds of ringside cigar smoke. His small body radiated energy most all of his life as if the atomic structure of his body was in discharge. A man of his time, a Depression Era kid at heart, Pep gave away money to family and friends almost as fast as he could fight to earn it; he did buy a house and clothes for his parents, cars were purchased and given away. “I was a soft touch.” He’d seen America close to starving and wanted everyone to bask in the glory that his ring royalty, his speed and agility won him. Just consider that from his professional career debut in 1940 until October, 1948 he tallied a record of 134-1-1. In black and white, a hero of another century another wartime, boxed to keep in condition instead of training camps, a featherweight king during the eight division ring world of boxing past, a phenom who made it over the long haul call him a champion: Willie Pep.
Speaking of legends, we can discuss Erik Morales in the past tense, unapologetically, if not officially. No, Erik Morales has not yet officially retired. But we know the man and we remember the talent, the trials, the triumphs and the titillating moments he made happen in the prize ring, for his fans, for all of us who love the stealth and steel of championship encounters. It always seemed Morales was fighting to become a champion or defending as a champion his belts of honor and labor. It didn’t matter if a championship contest was even officially sanctioned; just to have the matured Morales in a ring meant that the highest form of the sweet science was about to be assaulted, presented, and contested for assets monetary and heroic. When Morales battled Marco Antonio Barrera the entire conceptual frame of boxing became clear, the tradition and challenge of what it means to be a great fighter on display, the dramatics self-defining.
Though in his last four years as a professional, Morales drifted toward the expedience of a ring banger at the expense of discipline boxing, we who remember the best of Morales admire the memory of the Tijuana fighter as a master boxer with big clout. Two years ago I asked Morales if he felt he’d lost his patience in the ring, the patience to box and slowly let his fight plans adapt to the opponent. At first he delayed responding, then he said, “I feel I am still patient and can do what I have to do… in the ring you have to fight according the circumstances and it depends on what works for you.” I will always remember that pause, because it had the sound of an echo, the echo of memory tolling. He had indeed lost the patience to box and fight situationally, driven by the compulsion to be marketable late in his career. His occupation as a promoter of fights in Mexico and his decade long battle with his weight finally altered the essential balanced perspective his best boxing was born of. Late in his career, Erik Morales tried to merely combat, fighting to enflame the passionate engagement of the fans that had for so long loved him as fighter, a champion and a man.
For those boxing fans who missed it, Joe Mesi’s now 4-0 in his 2006 comeback run since being out of boxing for two years following his medical suspension after the March 12, 2004 Vassiliy Jirov victory at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. And that makes his career slate read 33-0 (26). Statistics can indeed be misleading; one only need examine his six-round unanimous decision win over a 3-7 Stephane Tessier at the Uniprix Stadium in Montreal in June to see just how perilously close to absurdity has the Buffalo heavyweight’s career careened. Even the telegraphing, amateurish Tessier was able to get home with right hands to Mesi’s jaw time and again. For the entire six rounds Mesi pushed his punches, lumbered into position and generally puffed his way to the decision nod. Good thing that Tessier, holder of one career knockout, has the hitting prowess of Mike Myers. Do we need to add that Tessier lost his next three fights in a row, nine in a row and counting for the now 3-11 (1), 34-year-old, 5’10” terror from La Belle Province?
One can only wait with apprehension what looms in the near term future for the likeable Joe Mesi in even a mediocre heavyweight division.
Speaking of retirements that should be made official, either by moral persuasion or an act of divine intervention if necessary, Roy Jones seems destined to fight again in 2007. Why? Call it the necessity of ego or because he can, because he can afford to indulge himself against reason, again all the signs of intelligibility that for over a decade marked his every more in the ring and outside of it. Just ask Ray Leonard; leaving the bright lights of personal notoriety and that which brought you to the attention of the world, well, that’s difficult. Even when your health is at risk? Seem so. And every boxing fan cannot but be amused or alarmed at the ironies of seeing the once trauma averse Jones playing the daredevil just when his ultrasonic reflexes have vanished, his willowing speed power ratio has been degraded by time itself.
It’s all so bizarre, this dance with indifference, as if his stardom is disposable, as if he’s now paying the price for the ingenious exploitation of his tailored career by walking into the lion’s den. The notion of Roy Jones, now 37 and counting, hanging on to go from Prince Badi Ajamu to whomever, Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, etc., seems an exercise in pointless melodrama. Besides, aren’t those men of metal moving in the shadowland of big time boxing? Aren’t they close to being finished as well? Tarver couldn’t even get up enough jam to force feed his famous left hand down the throat of Old Man River Bernard Hopkins. And Glen Johnson certainly fought credibly well against Clinton Woods losing over 12 rounds in September, but, Jones, Tarver and Johnson has the ring of a Senior’s Tour about it, ya, ok, a Champion’s Tour. Let it go Roy; you were the man and you made the real money. Enough already! If Hopkins wants to dangle his mask of menace in the face of Calzaghe or Kessler or, for another time, Taylor, let him have his perverse fun. You certainly had yours. And back then you were untouchable, a genius of unorthodoxy. But that was long ago and far away, a fighter’s lifetime ago, during your prime, back when you called yourself RJ and everyone could see who that was.
You have to wonder if former lightweight title holder Paul Spadafora will weather well in the coming seasons. The same could be said of Marco Antonio Barrera; you have to wonder if he learned something about a fighter’s mortality during his rounds with Rocky Juarez. Did he see his phantom self easily evade Rocky’s punches that were landing on him, driving him onto the ropes, his body a shell less and less responsive to the directions of mind and will. One thing is for sure if he’s going to remain active and a champion in spirit then he must bravely do what his old nemesis Erik Morales did, face up to Manny Pacquiao for a second time. Barrera’s first experience was not as successful as Morales’ was and so we understand the danger of such a challenge. Then again, what would his career mean if he were avoid that rematch; making money merely. Who would believe the great Marco Antonio Barrera capable of such an evasion? So, the dye is cast. And everyone who loves boxing is waiting for the official particulars. After De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. conclude their business, the road will be clear, the drumbeats relentless. For what other fate awaits Barrera the boxer, Barrera the legend?
Both hailed from Worcester, Massachusetts, where Fitzgerald, who was known as “The Irish Express” in his heyday, runs the Camp Fitzy boxing gym.
Although the 37-year-old Fitzgerald had known Palau since he was about ten, the two had become very close in recent years. It was Fitzgerald who convinced Palau, who had always displayed great pugilistic skills but lacked willpower and discipline, to finally utilize his God-given talent in a positive way.
Under Fitzgerald’s guidance, Palau turned pro in November 2005. Fighting throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, he compiled a 7-0 (5 KOS) record in just 13 months. He was a slam-bang fighter with bone-jarring power and immense fan appeal.
There was no doubt that the 27-year-old Palau was going places. On the way back from the Foxwoods, where Fitzgerald says that both he and Palau made a few dollars, they talked about both of their pasts, present and futures.
Just four days earlier, Palau had won a unanimous six-round decision over Hollister Elliott at The Castle in Boston. Fitzgerald, who compiled a 29-2-2 (11 KOS) record during a career that lasted from 1990-2001, was still gently admonishing him for dropping his hands, loading up on his punches, and for putting himself in a position where he had to lose 12 pounds in one day in order to make weight.
Amid all the shop talk, the two still found the time to do what they did best when together, which was incessantly breaking each other’s balls.
Their night ended at about three o’clock in the morning. Palau, who was scheduled to fight again in February, called his trainer at one o’clock the next afternoon to say hello. He called again at nine in the evening to check on Fitzgerald’s father, who had received a medical treatment that day. Five hours later Palau was dead.
Fitzgerald knew something was terribly awry when he was awakened early the next morning. He was expecting an oil delivery man. Instead he was greeted by Worcester police officer Tom Duffy, who Fitzgerald knows personally, WBA junior middleweight champion Jose Antonio Rivera of Worcester, who Fitzgerald co-trains, and a local boxer named Flaco.
They told him that Palau, as well as a female companion, had been killed earlier that morning in a car crash. The accident is still under investigation, but it appears that the car ran a stop sign and crashed headlong into a stone wall. The chances are that neither Palau nor his companion ever knew what hit them.
“We had a very special relationship,” said Fitzgerald as he choked back tears. “The day before we were talking about what a good year 2007 was going to be. This happening to him makes no sense. If God was going to take him, why didn’t he take him when he wasn’t doing good, when he was screwing up? He finally had his life in order. Things were really coming together for him. That’s why this is so hard to swallow.”
As a youngster Palau had won numerous amateur titles, including the New England Junior Olympics. Never known as a hard trainer, most of his success was attributed to his natural abilities, the bedrock of which was his tremendous physical strength and power.
“He only wanted to punch,” said Fitzgerald. “He just loved to fight, with or without mitts. He was the real deal, the kind of fighter that trainers dream about having.”
Palau’s amateur progress was interrupted by a conviction for armed robbery when he was 17 years old. According to Fitzgerald, Palau, who had been an A student, was fired from the fast food chicken restaurant that employed him.
An angry Palau returned to the eatery with his face obscured by a mask and demanded money. The owner knew right away that it was Palau who was hiding behind the mask, and implored him to stop the charade. Palau followed through with the robbery and was arrested, convicted, and ultimately sent away to some of the state’s most dangerous prison facilities.
Fitzgerald says that he, and many others, were surprised he got such a heavy sentence for what they believe was his first offense.
“He was a nice kid in a bad environment,” said Fitzgerald. “He was a little wild, like a lot of us are when we’re young, but he had a great heart. He was a really good kid.”
Upon his release from prison, Palau won the 2004 New England Golden Gloves 152-pound title. He even made it to finals of the national tournament.
“He got there without hardly training,” said Fitzgerald. “He’d come to the gym and spar with Jose, who was a world champion. He had unbelievable natural ability.”
Fitzgerald, who had squared off with the likes of Roberto Duran, Dana Rosenblatt and Peter Manfredo Sr. during his career, finally convinced Palau to get serious. He wasn’t getting any younger and he had so much to offer the pro boxing game.
“He was smoking cigarettes and hanging around the gym,” said Fitzgerald. “He’d spar with Jose, but not really try to get better. He just relied on what came natural to him. He was a fighter, so all he wanted to do was fight.”
Under Fitzgerald’s stewardship, Palau decided to make a serious run at boxing’s brass ring. He began training with diligence. By fighting so often he became better known in Worcester and the best qualities in him came out. Prior to his untimely death, he had established quite a fan base at home. The roar of the crowd when he fought locally was deafening.
“He really learned from his mistakes,” said Fitzgerald. “He’d talk to the kids in the gym about doing the right thing. He’d help serve meals to the kids who weren’t going to have supper on the table when they got home. He’d give rock-solid advice.”
I had met Palau on the evening of September 23 in Hartford, shortly after he won a four-round decision over James North at the Connecticut Convention Center. I remember thinking to myself that he had a glow about him.
I don’t know if it was his boxing ability, the force of his friendly personality or the obviously tight relationship he had with Fitzgerald that was so appealing. What I do know is that I realized right away that this was a fighter worth following.
It was obvious that he was very comfortable with his boxing abilities, yet he didn’t seem the least bit boastful. And it didn’t bother him in the least that North was the first of five opponents to go the distance with him. He was glad to get the rounds in and more than happy to learn on the job against a well-traveled and durable journeyman.
Fitzgerald described Palau as having big balls. Coupled with his power and crowd-pleasing style, Fitzy assessed that he had superstar potential. He wholeheartedly believed that Palau had learned from his past indiscretions, and was mature enough to know that his best shot at a bright future was through boxing.
After Palau’s death, Rivera, who is a court officer by day, told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that Palau knew he messed up when he went to prison.
But, added the well-respected champion who is scheduled to defend his title against the undefeated Travis Simms on January 6, “When he came out of prison, he came out repentant. A lot of people had given up on him, but he wanted to prove to everyone that he was serious. I saw him transform himself into a real man.”
Rivera thought so highly of Palau, he said he was hoping to pass his championship torch onto him in the not too distant future.
It is obvious that in his relatively short life Palau positively affected a lot of people. Earlier today he was laid to rest at the Hope Cemetery, which is within walking distance of Fitzy’s gym.
It is hard to imagine that Palau, who left behind two young children, will not continue to affect people in a positive way.
“This kid meant so much to me, to a lot of people,” said Fitzgerald. “His being gone has left a big void in my life, in a lot of lives. You don’t meet people like Enrique everyday. He was what boxing and fighting is all about. Building yourself up, chasing dreams, and becoming a better person. Guys like him don’t come around very often. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people.”
Though rather small for a heavyweight at six-feet-one-inch in height, the Pittsburgh native Chambers represents the smaller more skillful prizefighter looking to upend the tall trees of the forest such as Klitschko, Shannon Briggs and Nicolai Valuev. All three exceed six-feet five inches in height with Valuev probably above seven-feet-two.
Chambers joins James “Lights Out” Toney who has shown height is not right, but rather can be chopped down if you’re using the right axe.
“They’re slow,” said Toney who fights Samuel Peter on Jan. 6 in a rematch. “The Klitschkos are like Frankenstein’s monster. I’ll chop them down.”
History has shown that size can be overcome but you have to have an ace or two up your sleeve. When Jack Dempsey demolished Jess Willard on July 4, 1919, thousands in Toledo, Ohio saw how a fighter could use speed and power to whittle down the much larger Willard. When Max Baer fractured Primo Carnera on June 14, 1934 in Long Island, New York it was pretty much the same story. Size couldn’t compete with speed and bone-breaking power. Then of course we had Mike Tyson display that most recently in his glory days.
For a six-foot-one-inch heavyweight like Chambers, the need for speed, power and guile are as important as breathing. And sometimes it comes just as natural as inhaling and exhaling air.
“When I was young I was getting picked on by other boys so my dad made me go to the local boxing gym,” said Chambers, whose father Eddie Chambers Sr. also fought professionally. “He had me enter a tournament right away and I stopped the first guy I fought.”
Fighting came naturally for the low-key Chambers whose gentle demeanor seems more suited for church than fisticuffs.
“That’s his problem. He’s too nice,” said Rob Murray, manager of Chambers. “We got to put some mean into him.”
Not too mean.
During a National Golden Gloves tournament father Chambers entered his son to let him know where he stood among other boxers.
“I didn’t think I’d win a fight,” said Chambers who was entered in the middleweight level. “The first fight I stopped the guy. The second fight I stopped the guy. I kept winning but it was a surprise to me.”
It took that kind of exposure to convince the young Chambers that he could indeed box. But could he do it against the aircraft carriers of the heavyweight division?
“We talked to a lot of people about Eddie Chambers and most of them told us not to waste our time,” said Dan Goossen. “He kept winning so we decided to take a look at him in Reno.”
Looking to find the right opponent to test young Chambers, Goossen matched him with the much taller and hard-hitting Domonic “No Joke” Jenkins.
“Domonic Jenkins beat our guy Malcolm Tann a year earlier,” Goossen said, adding that Jenkins was leading Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola before running into a barrage of right hands. “If he (Chambers) could beat Jenkins we knew we had something.”
That night Chambers looked overmatched entering the ring against Jenkins who was four inches taller and had beaten five undefeated opponents.
“When the fight began I could see this kid could fight,” Goossen said.
Chambers used his tight defense and quickness with advantageous results in the first two rounds. Then came the shocking power that wobbled the bigger Jenkins several times. The fight was stopped in the fifth round after Chambers unloaded a quick combination.
The crowd was stunned.
“Earlier before that fight I had been sparring with Wladimir Klitschko and Shannon Briggs. This guy was a lot easier than those guys,” said Chambers who now trains out of Philadelphia where more heavyweights are available.
Now Fast Eddie is ready to run the table.
So what did Goossen Tutor’s other pocket destroyer say about Chambers.
“James Toney told me ‘this kid can fight,’” said Goossen.
Chambers smiles embarrassingly when people talk about his ability. Almost every opponent he faces is bigger.
“I never thought I would be a boxer, especially a heavyweight,” he said. “But now I know what I can do.”
Ruiz can use all the advantages possible. The 33-year-old is coming off his first fight in almost three years. He looked impressive this November in dispatching Rodney Moore in a mere eighty seconds. He also looked impressive when he lost a close decision to Paul Briggs in his home turf of Australia in 2004. Ruiz believes he won that fight. “Briggs knows in his heart that he lost. He told us afterwards that he lost. I dropped the guy in the second round and I controlled the action,” Ruiz said. “It was a huge disappointment for me. I came so far and I ended up with a bad decision.” The fight was an important WBC eliminator. Had he won, he would’ve fought for the world title.
The hard-punching, Guanajuato, Mexico native had come a long way since his poverty-stricken childhood where his alcoholic father made his life a sad existence. Ruiz would’ve traveled the same alcohol-laden path but ultimately was saved by boxing.
The sport that’s saved so many others in the past—people like Archie Moore and Roberto Duran and countless others who never achieved hall of fame greatness or even got a crack at any kind of title.
Ruiz remembers the moment that prompted him into considering a boxing career. “I was watching the lightweight champion Jose Luis Ramirez fighting “Chapo” Rosario,” said Ruiz. “I was really impressed by Ramirez’s style. It was a great fight and I became infatuated with the sport at that moment.”
It was enough to motivate Ruiz to fill a large sack with sand and use it as a punching bag. Eventually, Ruiz found a gym and trained hard, driven by world title dreams. He started off well as he reeled off fifteen wins in a row with thirteen stoppages. Included among those wins was an impressive TKO over 10-1 fighter Glenn Robinson on Fox Sports.
He was moved up in competition against former world champion Julio Gonzalez in what was most likely a case of too much, too soon. Ruiz also blames the loss on himself to an extent. “I was way too overconfident for that fight,” remembers Ruiz. “I remember saying I was going to knock him out. I count it as a learning experience. I learned a huge lesson.” The result was a ninth round stoppage for Gonzalez who would then go on to battle a prime Roy Jones for the world title in a losing effort before taking the WBO strap from longtime champion Darius Michalczewski.
Ruiz’s luck continued to sour after losing a technical decision to former world champion Montell Griffin. “The fight was stopped in the tenth round because of an accidental head-butt so they had to go to the scorecards,” Ruiz said. “I felt it was a close fight but I definitely thought I won. One judge had me winning.” He took a decision loss to Rodney Toney after he went down to the 168 lb. division. He left his strength and vigor on the scale since 175 lbs. is his natural fighting weight. He rebounded with three straight knockouts before losing the dubious decision to Briggs.
A layoff ensued as he took some time to get himself together. Presently, Ruiz is taking unusual steps to make sure his career gets back on track. He knows he’s got limited time in the game but feels that his new training regimen will make all the difference. “Take a look at my fight against Moore. Look at how strong I was. That’s how I feel,” an enthusiastic Ruiz commented. “I can run for much longer distances than I could when I was twenty-five. These treatments work for me. I swear. I wouldn’t be doing them so much if I didn’t feel they had a positive effect on me.”
It’s all part of a new approach that Ruiz and his promoter, James Breedlove, are taking in what they feel will prove to be an advantage over their competition. According to Breedlove, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an untapped resource that has been mostly ignored by the boxing community. “It works by saturating the body with Oxygen which helps a boxer like Chuy heal from any type of wounds he might acquire. It also helps to reduce swelling and speeds up recovery,” Breedlove stated.
The other F.D.A. cleared therapy used by Ruiz is called Enhanced External Counter Pulsation (EECP). It’s basically a bed where Ruiz is strapped up to his waist with cuffs which constrict and releases the blood vessels along his body, therefore increasing blood circulation throughout. “Increasing blood circulation helps the body to recover quicker and reduces fatigue,” Breedlove said. “It’s technology that’s been used by other boxers like Lamon Brewster before his fight with Wladimir Klitschko which would help to explain his rapid recovery between rounds.”
If the Breedlove name sounds familiar it may have to do with Breedlove’s famous father who made plenty of headlines during the sixties by breaking several speed records. According to Wikipedia.org, Craig Breedlovewas a five-time world land speed recordholder. He was the first to reach 400 mph, 500 mph, and 600 mph, using a jet-powered vehicle named "Spirit of America". His mother, Lee, held the woman's world land speed record of 308.56 mph.
Luckily for Ruiz, his son James inherited his father’s innovative spirit and is using it to help revive Ruiz’s career and body. Ruiz knows that second chances in boxing are few and far between and is extremely grateful. “I know that with Jim’s help I’ll get another shot at the title. I only have 23 fights. I’m not damaged goods. I’m fresher than ever,” Ruiz stated. “I have a lot of heart and I plan to meet someone for a world title soon. To all the champions and their promoters I say come on. Come and find out what a real Mexican Light heavyweight is made of. I’m here and I’m more serious than ever. This is the new and improved Chuy Ruiz. I feel unstoppable.”
To see the impressive eighty round demolition of Rodney Moore on November 10, 2006 by Jesus “Chuy” Ruiz click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KCGn-VPj7Y
For information regarding Jesus “Chuy” Ruiz or his (HBO) and (EECP) treatments please contact James Breedlove at firstname.lastname@example.org by going to www.breedlovepromotions.com
Along with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Brown was one of three high priests in the church of popular urban black music in the mid-20th century, but where Berry was the father of rock â€˜nâ€™ roll and Little Richard was pulling up the roots of r & b, James Brown, with his polyrhythmic complexity, raw vocals, and sui generis dancing, was laying the foundation for everything from funk to disco to hip hop.
"James presented obviously the best grooves," Public Enemyâ€™s Chuck D told the AP several years ago. "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close."
James Brown was born dirt poor in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, where he lived in a one room shack in the woods with his parents and too many sibs. When James was four his parents split up and he was passed over to his great aunt Honey Washington, who was the madam of a whore house in Augusta, Georgia. Brown danced for money in the brothel and on the streets. He shined shoes and picked cotton. He also sang in church. "Where I grew up there was no way out, no avenue of escape, so you had to make a way. Mine was to create JAMES BROWN." But at the age of 15 he got nabbed breaking into a car and was sentenced to between eight to 16 years. Behind bars Brown created and led a prison gospel choir, and he was befriended by a local musician named Bobby Byrd.
Upon Jamesâ€™ release from jail three years later, Byrd brought Brown into his gospel group, the Gospel Starlighters. With James Brown free at last and in the mix, the Gospel Starlighters changed their name to the Famous Flames. They also changed their musicâ€™s focus from singing about Jesus to singing about sex.
King Records signed the group in 1956, and four months later "Please, Please, Please," a quintessential James Brown classic, was in the r & b Top-10. James has been a hit machine/performance artist like none other ever since.
Brownâ€™s offstage life was often more dramatic than his performances with the Fabulous Flames on stages all across the world. There were allegations of Brown abusing drugs and alcohol and his wives over the years. There was also a well-publicized 1988 run-in with the lawâ€”where Brown, flying high on PCP, carrying a shotgun, with a towel around his waist, invaded an insurance seminar, apparently concerned that someone was using his private bathroomâ€”before leading police on a half-hour high-speed chase out of Georgia into South Carolina (it ended when the cops shot out the tires of his truck)â€”that landed Brown in the hoosegow for six years, but that dustup only served to burnish his rep as an outlaw artist to the core.
Brown won Grammys in 1965 and 1987, and was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1992. He was among the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and a handful of other pioneering greats.
James Brown wasnâ€™t being ironic when he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1989, "The music out there is only as good as my last record." Read more at the BLOG
My own kids, who are six and four, have not been immune to the spirit of Christmas either.
Thus, it should have come as no surprise when my oldest son asked his mother if he could call Santa. Somehow, he had managed to find Santa's direct number.
”Sure,” she said, nudging me. And off to my office I went. I locked the door, turned down the television and waited for their call.
A few moments later, the chirping of my cell phone sent me into full Santa mode. I answer and hear both of my sons on the other end of the line, giggling uncontrollably. Their voices are shaking with excitement and disbelief.
"Hello Santa, this is Alex,” shouts the older of the two.
“And this is Nicholas," his younger brother stated.
"Hello little ones,” I say, in my best Santa’s voice. “Have you been good little boys?"
"Yes Santa, yes!"
"What would you like for Christmas?” I ask. “Perhaps some old copies of Ring Magazine? Some autographed photos of Rocky Marciano or Muhammad Ali? Can I get you tickets to a fight in Vegas?”
There is silence. Apparently, Santa is confusing them.
”Would you like a photo of Jose Sulaiman to throw darts at? Or maybe Gilberto Mendoza?”
Slightly irritated, Alex decides to let it all hang out, “Santa – my daddy doesn’t like those guys and neither do I. We want toys!”
”Santa is well aware boxing is in need of a major overhaul. He knows, as many others do, boxing is run by men who some might even call criminals. You must give it time though – they will hang themselves eventually. Just give them enough rope.”
”Huh? What are you talking about Santa, I want a robot,” states Alex, now trying to take control of the situation. “Are you really Santa Claus?
I continue on, content to hear myself speak, ”Do you know what a world champion really is?”
”Santa – c’mon, can we get to our lists?” asks Alex.
”First let me tell you. A world champion is someone who earns their way to the top by beating the best fighters in his division – not by getting it handed to him or by winning some worthless belt.”
”It’s tough for a fighter to become a true champion nowadays because there’s nearly a hundred weight divisions and fifty different so-called championships. To tell you the truth, I’ve lost track of them.
“Everybody knows boxing’s in the sh – oops, the toilet, but nobody can do anything about it… yet. So the charade continues. In the old days…”
“Santa!” screams Alex, desperate to pass on his request for gifts.
Nicholas pipes in defiantly, “Santa, I want a computer and some videos – and a remote controlled car.”
They quickly rattle off what is on their lists. Remote controlled cars, CD’s, videos, Ultraman Laser Gun, Ultraman T-shirts, Ultraman this, Ultraman that – these kids have high expectations of Santa.
Apparently, they aren’t aware of Santa’s tight schedule. Fortunately, their mother knows what Santa is expected to bring. Sometimes Santa has a hard time remembering what he had for breakfast, much less two kids’ ever changing, need for toys.
”As long as you are good little boys, Santa will try and bring you everything you want. Now where was I – oh, about the champions. As I was saying…”
”Santa, we’ve got to go,” declares Alex. “Thanks a lot and make sure to bring me my robot, ok?”
I hang up, laughing.
After concluding the call, they both come running into my office, slightly out of breath.
"Daddy, we spoke to Santa! We spoke to Santa!" They are grinning from ear to ear.
Even in Thailand, Santa is spreading Christmas cheer to kids. Not a bad gig really.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Sweet Science in Thailand!
News and Notes
Rom Klao, Minburi, Thailand, Dec. 19: Once again proving his punch is to be feared, Poonsawat Kratingdaeng (26-1, 17 KOs) did exactly what was expected of him as he destroyed Filipino fighter Pederito Laurente (17-11-1, 8 KOs), knocking him out at 2:34 of round two.
Poonsawat has fought twice since his July defeat at the hands of Vladimir Sidorenko, winning both by second round KO.
Before knocking out Laurente, the Thai confidently stated, “I don’t know if I’ll go back down to bantamweight or stay at super bantamweight but it doesn’t matter who I fight or where. I’ll fight anyone, anytime, it doesn’t matter who they are.”
* * *
Dhurakijpundij University, Nonthaburi, Thailand, Dec. 22: Wandee Singwancha (51-7-1, 11 KOs) obliterated Indonesia’s Marti Polli (8-5, 4 KOs) in round three of a scheduled six round contest. Polli was overmatched from the start and it was clear from the outset it was only a matter of time before Polli was stopped.
On the undercard, Sataporn Singwancha (17-3, 10 KOs) rebounded from his fourth round KO loss to Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai when he easily outboxed Darim Nanggala of Indonesia before stopping him in round eight.
Former WBC belt holder Sirimongkol Singwancha, originally scheduled to compete on the show, did not compete. No official explanation was given; there were rumors he had not trained and his current weight was 150 lbs and there were also rumors he was unhappy with the purse offered.
* * *
For the second time in a row, WBC Bantamweight bauble holder Hozumi Hasegawa has won Japan’s fighter of the year award. No surprise here. Hasegawa recently decisioned Genaro Garcia, knocking him down two times in the process and knocked out former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom in round nine of their rematch.
Upcoming Bouts in 2007
January 3, 2007 – Ariake Colesseum, Tokyo, Japan Cristian Mijares vs. Katsushige Kawishima Edwin Valero vs. Michael Lozada
January 26, 2007 – Samut Sakorn, Thailand Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo vs. TBA Saddam Kietyongyuth vs. TBA Puangluang Sor Singyu vs. TBA February 16, 2007 – Klong Prem Prison, Bangkok, Thailand Siriporn Sor Sirporn vs. Ayaka Nongmai Sor Siriporn vs. Rungfah Sithpavan
February 24, 2007 – Tenggarong City, Borneo, Indonesia Chris John vs. Jose Rojas March 17, 2007 – Cebu, Philippines Z Gorres vs. Fernando Montiel Gerry Penalosa vs. Jhonny Gonzalez Rey Bautista vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon
1976 was also the year of Rocky (or as we are now wont to describe it, ROCKY I), Sylvester Stallone’s uplifting drama about a down-on-his luck pug who implausibly finds himself in a title bout and stuns the world by acquitting himself well, taking the reigning heavyweight champion right down to the wire.
If Ali remains the most recognizable boxing figure of the 20th century, Rocky Balboa, at least in the public consciousness, probably ranks a close second.
Stallone had drawn his inspiration for Rocky, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year (the defeated competition included All The President’s Men, Network, and Taxi Driver) from a real-life title fight in Cleveland a year earlier, when a journeyman heavyweight named Chuck Wepner lasted until the 15th round against the great Ali. Wepner, who was known for reasons devoid of irony as “The Bayonne Bleeder,” was even credited with a ninth-round knockdown.
On the evening of that bout, The Bayonne Bleeder presented his wife with a filmy blue negligee and instructed her to wear it later that night when, he promised, “you’re gonna be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world.”
Much later that night, having been taken first to a hospital to have his face stitched back together, Wepner stumbled back to his hotel room, to find his wife sitting up in bed wearing the filmy blue negligee.
“Well,” Mrs. Wepner asked her husband, “is he coming up here, or do I have to go to his room?”
The success of the first Rocky film begat a regrettable series of sequels, each more preposterous than its predecessor. Over the next 14 years, Stallone appeared to be either dangerously deluded or engaged in the practice of self-parody, as Rocky Balboa won the heavyweight title in a rematch and then went on to engage a series of villainous opponents lifted straight from the pages of superhero comic books.
We could but shudder when Stallone announced his plans for a sixth Rocky movie, and as Rocky Balboa – 30 years after Rocky I and 16 after Rocky V – moved into production in time for a Christmas release, debate raged over which was the worst idea of the year – another ‘Rocky’ film or the O.J. Simpson book.
Just as the initial Rocky drew its inspiration from an authentic Ali episode, so did this latest incarnation.
In 1969, while Ali was serving out his three-and-a-half year banishment from the ring, he participated in the filming of what was advertised as a “computer fight” against the 45-year-old ex-champion, Rocky Marciano. The two spent countless hours sparring at Miami’s Fifth Street Gym, preparing for every possible exigency. (Filming had to be stopped on a number of occasions because Ali repeatedly dislodged Marciano’s toupee with jabs to the head.) Ostensibly neither man knew the outcome, which would be determined by the computer.
In its 1970 theatrical release in the United States, the computer had Marciano (who had been killed in a plane crash the previous August) winning on a 13th-round TKO. Everywhere else in the world, Ali won.
The genesis here involves another ‘computer fight.’ After ESPN airs a virtual video bout pitting a champion of yesteryear (Rocky) against the current heavyweight king (“Mason Dixon,” portrayed by then light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver), both men, egged on by rapacious promoters, are inspired to do it for real.
Rocky, his life barren and empty (Yo Adrian has joined Mick and Apollo in that big ring in the sky) is seeking fulfillment in a return to the ring. Dixon, though undefeated, has come under criticism for his reluctance to face even remotely dangerous opposition.)
Tarver was not the initial choice to portray Mason Dixon, but Roy Jones Jr. proved as elusive in his negotiations with Stallone as he had been with proposed opponents and his television employers alike.
“There were like 31 unanswered phone calls to Roy Jones,” recalled Stallone. “I was talking to one of the high ranking officers at HBO, who said, ‘Don’t feel bad, we pay him and he doesn’t return our calls, so join the family.’
“Antonio,” said Stallone, “proved to be more reliable.”
Alas, Tarver, in real life as witty a boxer as you’re likely to meet, isn’t given many good lines in Rocky Balboa. He reportedly partied so enthusiastically during the Las Vegas filming, which coincided with last year’s Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins middleweight championship fight, that by the time the movie was being edited he’d already lost to Hopkins.
Rocky, circa 2006, lives in the same Philadelphia row house, although over 30 years the turtles have grown somewhat larger. He spends his days pining over Adrian’s grave and his nights telling the same tired old war stories to the customers of his South Philly restaurant.
Although there’s not a hint of sexual tension, Rocky is provided a love interest in Marie, a barmaid he’d known as a girl. Marie has a son by a Jamaican father (“Jamaica,” nods Rocky. “A European, huh?”) and winds up with a job as a hostess at Rocky’s restaurant (which serves, notes the aging Burt Young character Paulie, “Italian food cooked by Mexicans”).
Muhammad Ali is 64, and the notion that he would be allowed to engage in such a fight is utterly ridiculous. But Stallone (and, presumably, Rocky) is, at 60, nearly as old.
Rocky is initially denied a boxing license (at a hearing presided over by the Philadelphia lawyer Jimmy Binns) but somehow prevails. (Whether as a result of his impassioned speech or because he crossed the commissioner’s palm with silver remains unexplained.)
Although the Rocky-Dixon bout is labeled an “exhibition,” nothing about it suggests anything other than a real fight. The participants don’t wear headgear, and it takes place before a sellout crowd at the Mandalay Bay. It is presided over by a real-life commissioner (Nevada’s Mark Ratner), with a real referee (Joe Cortez), and a trio of real judges, and broadcast by a trio of actual HBO announcers, Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Max Kellerman.
It is even presented by a real promoter – Lou DiBella, who in a wonderful stroke of typecasting plays a promoter called Lou DiBella. Other touches of verisimilitude include the artist LeRoy Neiman sketching away at the weigh-in, and Mike Tyson woofing at Tarver from ringside.
The fight itself is every bit as brutal as those in any of the previous Rocky films. (In real life, Cortez would have stopped it at least half a dozen times.)
Both combatants are repeatedly pummeled to the floor. Now, in real life anyone who truly loved a 60-year-old boxer would have been shouting at him to stay down after each of these, but Rocky’s son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) keeps encouraging at his father to get back up and fight some more.
So, incredibly, does Marie. Portrayed by the Belfast-born actress Geraldine Hughes, Marie proves herself to be the bravest boxing consort this side of Cheryl McCullough as she urges the bloodied Italian Stallion back into the fray.
The judges, by the way, should all have been impeached. Despite the multiplicity of knockdowns, all three of them submit scorecards of 95-94 in a split decision verdict, suggesting that each of them ignored all but one of the knockdowns.
When we pointed out this scoring discrepancy to DiBella, the promoter shrugged and replied “Hey, remember, it’s only a movie.”
Rocky Balboa, which opened in American theaters last week, isn’t very good, but it’s probably not among the three or four worst ‘Rocky’ films ever made.
After we attended a screening last week, a few of us repaired to an Irish saloon near Madison Square Garden, where DiBella summarized his acting debut by noting that “the original Rocky was an inspiration and drew me to the boxing business.
“I should be pretty decent playing myself, but I ‘m not planning on quitting my day job,” said the promoter, who added that it hadbeen “an honor” to participate in the making of the last ‘Rocky’ movie.
“And what,” I had to ask him, “makes you so sure it’s the last one?”
(Special thanks to The Irish Times, in which this column initially appeared.)
There are all kinds of sports lists. Best plays, best games, best chemists.
You get the point. And first, let me point this out: when ESPN bills itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” it is true. No other organization – with its network, web site, magazine – covers the world of sports with the same depth and expertise as the team hailing from Bristol , CT.
ESPN has also done much to promote the sport of boxing, with its weekly live cards, Classic fight segments, Brian Kenny’s “Ringside” from Gleason’s Gym and this year’s installment of “The Contender.”
Now that I am on record affording the network its proper respect, I have to take issue with ESPN’s list of the 20 greatest fighters of all time. Here is list as it appeared on a recent show broadcast on ESPN Classic:
1 – Muhammad Ali 2 – Joe Louis 3 – Sugar Ray Robinson 4 – Rocky Marciano 5 – Jack Dempsey 6 – Henry Armstrong 7 – Jack Johnson 8 – Sugar Ray Leonard 9 – Marvin Hagler 10 – George Foreman 11 – Joe Frazier 12 – Archie Moore 13 – Willie Pep 14 – Roy Jones Jr. 15 – Roberto Duran 16 – Mike Tyson 17 – Gene Tunney 18 – Evander Holyfield 19 – Julio Cesar Chavez 20 – Larry Holmes
For now, I will tackle the list using ESPN’s 20 fighters and later I will deal with the omissions. At first glance, it is obvious that the list has too many heavyweights. And while this is a common tendency to overexpose boxing’s glamour division, the fact that 11 of the top 20 fighters of all time are heavyweights is simply wrong.
The second point I wish to make is the inclusion of Roy Jones Jr. – a great fighter and certain hall-of-famer. But I believe he had to be included simply to give ESPN’s younger viewers a fighter with which they can identify. To gauge boxing achievement in this era is difficult. There are too many world titles being dished out, fewer active fighters competing and far more political machinations that go unchecked. Statistics can be deceiving in any sport and that goes for boxing as well. The number of belts, title defenses and wins doesn’t necessarily define the fighter.
More than ever, what defines the fighter today is the opposition he faces. There is no doubt that Jones Jr. is a great fighter, he just didn’t have the opponents in front of him to rank him among the game’s historical elite.
Back to the list.
I agree with the first three fighters on the list, but not the order. I would rate them Robinson, Ali and Louis. While this is like splitting hairs, I think Robinson rates the top spot because he could box or punch. Ali could box, Louis could punch (and box), but neither did both with the same proficiency as Robinson. Robinson and Ali both have the advantage over Louis when it comes to quality of opposition (See: Bum of the month club) but I give Robinson the edge because he dominated two divisions of great fighters.
Moving down the list, I believe that Marciano is rated too high. Yes, he retired undefeated at 49-0 but my biggest complaint with The Rock also rests with his quality of opposition. His biggest wins – Louis, Charles, Walcott and Moore – were against older fighters.
Every fighter on ESPN’s list is certainly a great fighter. But are they the greatest? I believe a few names were left off. Here’s my list:
1 – Sugar Ray Robinson 2 – Muhammad Ali 3 – Joe Louis 4 – Henry Armstrong 5 – Jack Dempsey 6 – Willie Pep 7 – Sugar Ray Leonard 8 – Roberto Duran 9 – Archie Moore 10 – Rocky Marciano 11 – Jack Johnson 12 – Marvin Hagler 13 – Benny Leonard 14 – Mickey Walker 15 – Carlos Monzon 16 – George Foreman 17 – Pernell Whitaker 18 – Evander Holyfield 19 – Emile Griffith 20 – Salvador Sanchez
The two lists share 14 names. Here is the argument for the seven I include on my list. Among each of them, will be the top notable competition and length of time fighting at the championship level:
Benny Leonard: Arguably one of the best pure boxers of all time. The lightweight champion (1919-23) fought over two hundred times and suffered only four knockouts: three early in his career and the fourth in his final fight. He beat Lew Tendler, Johnny Dundee, Jack Britton, Rocky Kansas and Johnny Kilbane, and drew with welterweight champ Ted “Kid” Lewis.
Mickey Walker: A two division champion – welterweight and middleweight – who routinely fought and beat bigger men. At 147, he beat Jack Britton, Lew Tendler and Pete Latzo. He lost a middleweight title fight to Harry Greb but later won the 160-pound belt by beating Tiger Flowers. He lost to Mike McTigue, Tommy Loughran and Maxie Rosenbloom in light heavyweight title fights. Although he beat McTigue and Rosenbloom in non-title fights. Among the rated heavyweights he beat were Paolino Uzcudun, King Levinsky and Bearcat Wright. He drew with Jack Sharkey. He was a champion from 1922-29.
Carlos Monzon: Held the record for 14 successful title defenses at middleweight until broken by Bernard Hopkins. A tall and rangy boxer with exceptional power at 160 pounds. Among the men he defeated include Nino Benvenuti, Bennie Briscoe, Emile Griffth, Jose Napoles and Rodrigo Valdez. He dominated the division from 1970 until his retirement in 1977.
Emile Griffith: His trainer Gil Clancy has said that Griffith may not have done any one thing great, but he did everything very good. He boxed from 1958 to 1977 and held the welterweight and middleweight titles. His record in world title fights was 16-6. Here is a sample of whom he defeated: Luis Rodriguez, Benny Paret, Gasper Ortega, Florentino Fernandez, Don Fullmer, Dick Tiger, Joey Archer, Nino Benvenuti, Gypsy Joe Harris and Bennie Briscoe.
Pernell Whitaker: A four-division champion (lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight) who had a 19-3-1 record in world title fights. While fighting as a lightweight from 1984 to 1991, he lost just once. And that was a disputed decision to Jose Luis Ramirez which was later avenged. Heck, there were stretches in Whitaker’s career that he didn’t even lose a round unanimously. Among those he beat were Ramirez, Greg Haugen, Azumah Nelson and Buddy McGirt. Many people also believe he defeated Julio Cesar Chavez in a bout that was scored a draw.
Salvador Sanchez: Who knows what might have been? The legendary featherweight champion was a boxer-puncher who had incredible balance, rhythm and agility in the ring. He was 23-years-old at the time of his death in 1982 but already compiled a 44-1-1 record with 36 knockouts. Among those he defeated were Danny Little Red Lopez, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson.
It's his own personal Battle of the Long Count, and Turman's old friend Jack Dempsey himself—no fan of long counts—would be cheering this one.
In 1999, doctors diagnosed Turman with Stage Four Hepatitis C with significant cirrhosis of the liver, and told him that if he were lucky he would live for one more year.
"I've got news for you," answered the former heavyweight champion of the Lone Star State. "You've never treated an old goat like me, and I'll go down fighting."
He has his good days and bad days, says Turman seven years later, but on the whole "I've actually improved since then. That’s one thing about old fighters. A fight’s a fight, and it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s sickness or just another guy. You’d better keep on punching and do what Dempsey used to advise me: ‘Don’t lead with your chin and keep your butt off the canvas.’"
On the phone from Longview, Texas, where he lives with and is cared for by his sister Gayle, Turman sounds exactly like actor Rip Torn (“Defending Your Life,” “Men In Black I & II”), a fellow Texan, in discussing the life and boxing career that took him all over the world, and the interesting people he’s met along the way.
They are also the subject of a book written and published this year by Turman’s younger brother, Joe Garner Turman, called “Buddy: The Life of Texas Boxing Legend Buddy Turman.”
Born on April 12, 1933, in Noonday, Texas, Buddy Turman—who’s gone by the nickname since he was old enough to walk, and was stunned to learn upon entering grade school that his real first name was actually “Reagan”—started working on the family farm when he was four, and after he met the great Dempsey years later and the latter advised him to start chopping wood to build up his arms and shoulders, Turman told him he’d been doing it since he was six. The Turmans listened to Joe Louis fights on the radio in the 1930s, and cheered when Louis—with whom Turman would also later become friends—nuked Max Schmeling in less than a round in their famous 1938 title fight.
At 17, Turman knew he wanted to be a fighter, but in east Texas then there weren’t a lot of opportunities for that. So he joined the U.S. Navy and learned the basics while serving a 16-month hitch. After he returned home, Turman worked in the oil fields and started fighting in the amateurs. He won 20, lost five, and had one draw. Fourteen of Turman’s wins were by KO, thanks to the left hook that was the main weapon in his ring arsenal. “If I didn’t knock ‘em out, I usually didn’t win,” he says. “Clever fighters always gave me trouble, because you don’t hit them too good.” In 1954, he scored the quickest knockout in National AAU Tournament history before bowing out in the semi-finals.
On September 27 of that year, Turman beat Buddy Babcock in four rounds for his first professional win. His manager was Bobby Manziel, a wealthy oilman who wasn’t interested in developing and nurturing his fighter’s skills via the traditional long-and-winding route of preliminary bouts and careful matchmaking. That’s why just one fight and only three months after he beat Babcock, Turman found himself in a Birmingham, Alabama ring with 19-3 Oscar Pharo, fighting 12 rounds for the Southern heavyweight title.
As if that wasn’t unnerving enough for the 20-year-old Turman, Manziel publicly announced beforehand that after Buddy beat Pharo he would try to arrange a match between him and world champion Rocky Marciano.
Pharo’s decision victory ended that pipedream, but a month later, on February 24, 1955, Turman made national headlines when he won a 10-round decision over J.D. “Sporty” Harvey in the first interracial boxing match allowed in Texas. Harvey had gone to court to overturn the ban against fights between blacks and whites. Turman announced his willingness to fight him to help matters along, but it wasn’t just his belief that Jim Crow had no place in boxing that prompted him. “I was a fighter, and I wanted to fight,” he says. “I’d feel like a cheat if I didn’t fight everybody. I wanted to be champion. It was just the right thing.”
(In his book, Joe Garner Turman relates that a few years ago Buddy was playing “Texas Trivial Pursuit” with some relatives and their friends, and cleaned up on the question, “Who were the boxers who fought the first mixed boxing match in Texas?”)
Seven more wins followed quickly (including another one against Harvey), and on November 28 of that year Turman—called “The Golden Boy from Noonday”—met undefeated Roy Harris for the state title. Harris won a 12-round split-decision, and went on to fight Floyd Patterson for the world championship three years later. “Roy was a clever guy, hard to hit,” says Turman. “He couldn’t take a big ol’ punch, but Roy was worthy.”
Over the next three years Turman proved his own worthiness, winning 17 (including a first-round KO over Oscar Pharo) and losing only by decision to veterans Art Swiden (“Probably the cleverest and most knowledgeable fighter I ever fought. You couldn’t hit the son-of-a-gun”) and Donnie Fleeman. In the meantime, his friend Dempsey, whom Turman met through Manziel, was not only touting Buddy as a future heavyweight champion but also, when Hollywood was planning a film biography of the Manassa Mauler in 1956, as the guy to play him. But thanks to legal disruptions caused by Dempsey’s ex-manager, Jack Kearns, plans for the movie were shelved.
Against Big Bob Albright, a huge, strong heavyweight based in Los Angeles, Turman did what so many opponents did with him: “I made a mistake, and you can’t make a mistake with a puncher.” Albright knocked him down three times and the fight at Hollywood Legion Stadium was stopped in round two.
Two months later Albright came to Tyler, Texas for a rematch. Outweighed by 30 pounds, Turman knocked Albright out in the tenth round, and Big Bob spent the night in the hospital for observation.
In his only fight in Madison Square Garden, Turman won an impressive decision over Robert Cleroux of Montreal, the Canadian’s first defeat in 13 bouts. “It was just three weeks after Albright,” says Turman, “and I had my confidence up. And I’m glad I did, because when the bell rang old Cleroux came out punching. I punched with him and got the best of it. After the fight he had a cauliflower right ear, because every time I threw my right he’d duck and I’d hit his ear.”
Cleroux won his next 11 fights, including a decision over George Chuvalo for the Canadian title, and on October 26, 1960, he stopped Turman in a rematch in Montreal. Turman, who hadn’t fought since beating Sonny Moore the previous April, took the fight on a week’s notice. “I hadn’t been in the gym in some while. They wanted to catch me out of condition and get the win back (for Cleroux), and they did. He came out for blood, and I hadn’t prepared.”
Turman insists that the decision he lost a month later to light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in Dallas should’ve gone his way. A visitor to his dressing room after the fight thought so, too. “You beat that old man,” said young Cassius Clay to Buddy. The future Muhammad Ali was then a member of Moore’s entourage.
Archie himself was impressed enough with Turman to invite him to his training camp in San Diego. Buddy went and they became friends. In the spring of ‘61, Moore contacted Turman with a proposal for a rematch in Manila, Philippines. Turman agreed, and left for Manila six days before the scheduled fight. Then Archie sent word from the States that he needed a three-week postponement. Since the heaviest fighters in The Philippines were lightweights Turman got in no sparring in the meantime, and when the fight came off on March 25, 1961, he lost a unanimous decision.
“Archie and I were good friends, but of course he was a very clever guy and I always kind of felt that, being the ‘Old Mongoose,’ he sort of arranged that postponement to make sure I was rusty,” says Turman with a laugh.
Moore himself wasn’t laughing when he told reporters, “Buddy Turman should be rated among the top five heavyweights in the world. I’ve fought most of ‘em, and I know what I’m talking about.”
But a difficult divorce broke Turman’s concentration and momentum. After an eight-month layoff, he was knocked out by Pete Rademacher, the 1956 Olympic champion who fought Floyd Patterson for the world title in his first pro fight a year later.
Moorehad stopped Rademacher in six a month before Turman fought him, and “I figured—wrongly—that if Moore could knock him out in six, I could do it in one,” says Turman. “But he was a better fighter than I thought. After three rounds I was exhausted. He gave me a pretty good beating, and I deserved it. My corner stopped the fight (in round nine). I was so tired I couldn’t walk, hardly.”
After two more fights (including a draw with Scrapiron Johnson), Turman was out of the ring for a year. But not out of the media spotlight. It was 1963, and in late November Turman found himself talking to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the man arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself shot to death two days later on national TV by Dallas strip club owner Jack Ruby.
A boxing fan, Ruby had seen Turman fight a few years earlier and they became good friends. Turman sometimes moonlighted as a manager and “nice bouncer” at Ruby’s club, borrowed money from him, and even stayed at Ruby’s apartment a few times according to the FBI report included in the Warren Commission report on the JFK assassination. He worked in Ruby’s strip club for the first half of ‘63.
“I liked Jack. We got along just fine,” says Turman, adding that at one point he was one of just two people Ruby was said to trust in all of Dallas.
Over the years conspiracy theorists have ascribed all manner of dark political motives for the murder that sent Ruby to prison for the rest of his life, but Turman, who says he was “not surprised at all” by Ruby’s actions, insists that it all boils down to the simple fact that “Jack was emotional, and he really liked Kennedy. They all try to make Jack a villain, but Kennedy was his hero. They all want to conjure up stuff, but he was apolitical.”
After Ruby’s imprisonment Turman was never in contact with him again. “I wrote him letters and sent him money (in jail), but they wouldn’t accept it.”
Turman hit the comeback trail in ‘64. After wins in Utah and Nevada, it took him overseas for the last three years of his boxing career. While training in Los Angeles, he’d become friends with German heavyweight Wilhelm von Homberg, who in the mid-’60s moved back to his homeland and became embroiled in headline-grabbing controversies inside the ring and out. Turman joined him in Germany and they worked each other’s corners in fights all over the country.
Turman loved Germany, and not just because he won all seven of his fights there. “I felt right at home. Germans are down to earth. I liked the people, the food and the frauleins.”
In other European venues, though, the natives weren’t so hospitable. “I never won a fight in Italy,” says Turman, who dropped decisions there to homeboys Piero Tomasoni and Dante Cane, “but it was all questionable.” In Austria, Turman was disqualified after a body punch put Yvon Preberg on the deck. He had Jack Bodell floundering after four rounds of their fight in England, and at the end of the fourth the referee came to his corner and told Turman he was stopping the fight. “It’s about time,” said the American, only to find out that the referee was calling it a TKO for Bodell because Turman had a bloody nose.
“I didn’t care,” he says about all that. “I got paid, and my dream of winning the championship was gone by then.”
After 62 fights, Turman retired in 1967 with a 45-15-2 (32) record.
From what he sees of current boxers, Turman figures he would “do all right” if he were fighting today. “I’d probably be in the Top 10. I was Top 10 material when I was fighting.” He enjoys reminiscing about his friendships with Dempsey, Louis and Rocky Marciano (who, says Turman, “wouldn’t spend a nickel to see an earthquake”), and he and Roy Harris had a reunion recently that was a lot more pleasant than their first meeting. Turman spends time each day reading and trying to maintain his fluency in German.
He’s getting more attention lately thanks to the biography written by his brother Joe, who was a Baptist missionary for 30 years after getting saved at a Billy Graham revival at Madison Square Garden. The book (available at Joe Turman.com) touches lightly on Buddy’s disappointments in life and even his abuse of alcohol and drugs in the ‘60s, but is intended to present its subject in a positive, spiritual light.
The subject says it succeeds in that regard. “After I read it,” says Buddy, “I said, ‘Jesus, what a nice fella!’”