Rainone had injured his hand but the good thing was, it was his right hand. When you are a southpaw, an injury to the right mitt is preferable.
But the bad thing was, it was the right hand, the hand with which one uses to shake another person’s hand. And after Rainone’s second pro win, a lot of people wanted to shake his hand.
“I don’t think anything feels as good as winning your first,” said Rainone. “But this definitely feels good, especially since I had to overcome a hand injury.”
On December 8, at the Huntington Townhouse, on Long Island, Rainone (1-0) engaged in his second professional prizefight. It was a four-round welterweight affair against Jesse Gomez (1-2). As is his custom, Rainone saw to it that the action was spirited. But, as is the custom when any southpaw fights an orthodox fighter, the action was at times muffled. The first round was three minutes of feeling each other out, each man trying to figure out the best way to penetrate the other’s defense.
That changed in the second round. Rainone buckled Gomez’s knees with a straight left hand in the center of the ring. A few moments later, Rainone dropped him with a multi-punch combination.
The fight was decided then and there. Unfortunately, so too was Rainone’s immediate future. He had injured his right hand and any hope of coming right back and fighting again the follow week was gone. Rainone signaled to his corner that he had hurt his hand. He also sent the message to the Long Island faithful who follow him by holding up his gloved fist between rounds and shaking his had in the direction of some of his fans.
But there was still a fight to win here, which Rainone did. All three judges scored it 40-35 for Rainone. Although the right hand was damaged, he did plenty with the left, hurting Gomez several more times.
“I would have knocked him out but I couldn’t even jab,” said Rainone. “When I hurt him, I couldn’t follow it up. I popped him with a right jab on the forehead and I felt the knuckle move again. It was hurting me more to throw it.”
Back in the dressing room, he gingerly unraveled his bandages to reveal a swollen middle knuckle – the striking knuckle as the doctor would call it. He tried shaking hands with a few well-wishers, but awkwardly offered his left hand with a backhand type of grip. Everyone got the message.
“Next week is off,” he said, referring to his plan of fighting twice in one week. He was already booked on a card for Dec. 15 but would now have to give the promoter the bad news. But, first things first.
A New York State Athletic Commission doctor approached and said, “I promised your mother we’d tape up your hand so you wouldn’t hurt it any more tonight.”
So, once again, Rainone went through the process of getting his right hand taped. This time, it was for preservation, not destruction. The doctor also issued him insurance papers to take to the hospital so the hand could be x-rayed. Rainone tucked them away in his gym bag.
“I’ll go tomorrow,” he said. “If I go now, I’ll end up sitting in the emergency room all night.”
“Besides,’ he added, “Who is in a rush to find out bad news?”
The news wasn’t terrible. Rainone went to North Shore University Hospital in Syosset, Long Island the next day and the x-ray revealed a lot of broken blood vessels surrounding the third knuckle. There was no fracture. He was ordered not to hit anything for two weeks. That’s a tough one to adhere to if you are a boxer, but at least Rainone can enjoy the holidays without trading punches with anyone.
Rainone plans on fighting again in late January at The Tropicana in Atlantic City and perhaps in early February in Philadelphia. With a doctor-ordered ban on striking anyone or anything, he plans on doing his daily roadwork as well as other cardio-vascular workouts.
That workload should be just right for the holidays. This will mark the first Christmas in 10 years – since he was 16 years old – that Rainone will wake up Christmas morning in the same home as his mother and brothers. That, even more than 2-0, is cause for celebration.
“A lot of time will be spent in our new home,” said Rainone. “Gifts will be exchanged there with my mother and three brothers. Spending time with my family is very important to me.”
And his New Year’s resolution?
“To have a break through year, not just in boxing but in life.”
He’s 2-0. His family has come together again. It seems like he’s already on the way to achieving that resolution.
The process of making good boxing films is no different than creating other type of quality movie. First, there must be a great script to build from, and then solid actors are needed to bring life to the characters. The director’s vision of the film must also be effectively communicated to the cast and crew, who must then share that concept as well. The production must stay on track and the producer and director must work to overcome obstacles along the way. And like other films, quality technical advisors must be on hand to make sure the subject matter, i.e. the boxing, is accurately portrayed.
If boxing fans ever have gripes about Hollywood’s representation of the sport, it is in the details. Inaccuracies, be it historical or technical, are frustrating to anyone whose knowledge of the sport is even the smallest fraction below superficial depths.
Most boxing films have elements that border on ridiculous. The rounds and rounds of clean bombs to the head in the “Rocky” films make for great cinema, but in reality, such a brawl would leave most fighters dead or permanently disabled. Let us also not forget the fact that a referee would have stepped in and stopped all of Rocky’s onscreen bouts at some point or another.
In “Million Dollar Baby” (MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD), when Maggie (Hillary Swank) has her neck broken in the title bout with Billie “The Blue Bear” (Lucia Rijker) it is said that she lost the bout. Obviously, that element adds even more pain to an already heart-wrenching film. However, Maggie would have won by a disqualification and Billie would have likely been charged with, at the very minimum, assault.
The dilemma that filmmakers face is understandable. They have 90 to 150 minutes to tell a story. Sometimes it is difficult to explain or show the complexity of boxing in that time and still come away with a captivating film. In fictional modern-day stories, forgoing accuracy for the sake of drama is a little more acceptable. But with historical pieces, rearranging facts for great storytelling can be downright irresponsible. The most recent example is “Cinderella Man’s” representation of Max Baer as a despicable braggart who reveled in the fact that he once killed two men in the ring. The film is correct in saying that Frankie Campbell died from injuries suffered during his fight with Baer in 1930. What it does not say is that Campbell’s death haunted Baer throughout his career.
The film also states that Baer was responsible for the death of Ernie Schaaf in 1933. In one scene, Jimmy Johnston (Bruce McGill) tells Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) that Schaaf suffered such a beating by Baer that the first big punch in his next fight killed him. In actuality, Schaaf died as a result of an inter-cranial hemorrhagesuffered in his bout with Primo Carnera. He fought three times in between his bouts with Baer and Carnera. It is speculated that Shaaf’s fight with Baer helped lead to his death, but the film’s portrayal is completely false. The filmmakers could have portrayed Baer fairly without diminishing Braddock’s accomplishments. Because they did not, the movie suffers and generations of filmgoers will be left with an unfair impression of Baer.
It is pleasing to see that Hollywood is making more biopics on fighters. There are many great untold stories still waiting to be reintroduced to a new generation of people. But in telling them, the filmmakers have a responsibility to make a realistic and accurate film. That means studios must be willing to spend the necessary funds to recreate the period that they are showcasing. It also means that filmmakers must be willing to tell the true story and not go for the “good versus evil” ending if it is not there. The stories of fighters like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano are compelling enough to avoid a film that screens well with test audiences but grossly misrepresent the facts. Scrimping on cost and realism can leave a filmmaker with a glorified TV-movie.
In choosing which fighters deserve to have their stories told on the big screen, studios would also do well to avoid any fighter who appeared on HBO, Showtime, or ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Michael Mann’s “Ali” had many problems, but the most significant was summed up by a colleague of mine who upon the film’s release, said, “I saw all of that play out in real life. Why would I want to go see a movie about it?” The same principle can be applied to Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, and any other fighter of the past 40 years. Why see a reenactment of the “Rumble in the Jungle” when you can watch it on ESPN Classic any time you choose?
But there are plenty of classic fights where there is either no film documentation or the representation that is available is of poor quality. A well-produced recreation of Jack Johnson’s knockout of James Jeffries or Dempsey’s barnburner with Luis Angel Firpo would be very marketable. Filmgoers would also be better served by films showcasing an era where boxing had a much more influential grip on society.
However, filmmakers could apply all of these principles and still miss the mark. Boxing films are in many ways like the fights we watch. Some are good. Some are downright awful. Only a handful of them are classics. That is why we truly appreciate the great ones when they come along.
Some people are able to lift and inspire others. A sight of them is often enough to fill observers with hope while illusions of their heroism are safely preserved through remote distance. They are made into heroes because they embody qualities that others wish they had within themselves or may develop in the future. Hero worship is the worship of an image, an unrealised, projected self. When the observer first becomes conscious of the hero, it is as if the hero has already arrived into the world both fully-formed and perfect.
Davis Miller has written extensively about his childhood heroes, particularly Muhammad Ali, in his three books: The Tao of Muhammad Ali, The Tao of Bruce Lee and The Zen of Muhammad Ali. He’s also written for such magazines as GQ, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and Arena; been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, won the award for best essay published in an American Newspaper Magazine (1989) and been anthologised in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century.
Miller’s interest in Muhammad Ali began in January 1964 as Cassius Clay was preparing to meet Sonny Liston for the first time. Miller’s mother, who had been ill for a number of years with an undiagnosed kidney disease, had recently died leaving Miller and his younger sister Carol in the care of their father.
The adolescent Miller; underdeveloped, grieving and bullied; saw in Cassius Clay something that changed his life. “I first saw Ali when he […] had recently turned twenty-two, and heat rose shimmering around his sleek, hard body as he prepared to meet Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship. I remember sitting mesmerised in front of Daddy’s small black-and-white television as Clay’s voice roared and crackled from the huge world outside and through the TV’s rattling three-inch speaker.” The die is immediately cast. “Since then, many of the events that have defined my life have been related to Ali.”
Ali’s appearance to Miller is akin to that of a god from a dream we only barely remember. Holding court from the TV set, the Ali of 1964 was, as Ferdie Pacheco once said, the epitome of human perfection and this physical beauty, his prettiness, extended into the ring. He neither appeared as destructive as Liston or exhibited the erratic vulnerability of Patterson. Ali, for the first half of his career, moved around the ring like a stone skimmed over water and his opponents were overwhelmed, not with concussive one-punch power, but with punches that flowed like silk in combination.
The cultural climate changed as the 1960s became the 1970s. The Democrats were seen out of the White House by the Republicans, the Summer of Love ended. Muhammad Ali lost and then regained his license, lost to Joe Frazier and then regained his championship from George Foreman while everybody believed that he was travelling on the descent of his career. More importantly, Ali went from the world’s most famous pariah to its most venerated icon.
In 1975, as Ali was preparing to meet Joe Bugner, Miller climbed to the top of a mountain in Pennsylvania to spar with his idol. Ali, the world heavyweight champion, was holding an open training session at his Deer Lake Camp; Miller was a junior-lightweight in the beginning stages of a kickboxing career. As Miller climbed into the ring, he was introduced by Ali as a master of Karate (he wasn’t). Face-to-face with Ali, Miller was distracted by his years of worshipping the bigger man: “I recognise once again that no one else on the planet looks quite like him. His skin is unmarked and is without wrinkles, and he glows in a way that cannot be seen in photographs or television.”
In what seems less than a single minute of a round, Ali dodges Miller’s kick, dances around the ring, takes a hard strike off the diminutive future writer and then stuns his opponent with a single jab. Putting his arm around Miller’s shoulders, Ali escorts him from the ring telling him “You’re not as dumb as you look. You’re fast. And you sure can hit to be so little.”
As Miller reflected later, “He may as well have said he was adopting me.”
The sparring session formed the basis for Miller’s first published piece which ran in Sports Illustrated. By the mid-eighties however, Miller had long given up on writing as a full-time career and had settled in Louisville, Kentucky with his family. He was working as the district manager of a video rental chain, all the time aware that he was in Ali’s hometown. Then, one day, it happened. As he was driving past Ali’s mother’s house he noticed a ‘block-long White Winnebago with Virginia plates parked out-front’ and instinctively knew that Ali was inside. Although in The Tao of Muhammad Ali, Miller states that the meeting took place in 1989, he revealed to me that it had actually occurred earlier in 1988. Ali had been retired for eight years and his Parkinson’s was a publicly-known fact. Usually, the saddest part of growing up is seeing our childhood heroes broken-down in the present day.
“I wasn’t at all disappointed in Ali when I met him in 1988 or at any time thereafter,” Miller told me. “Spending serious time with Ali I learned that he was no less Ali because of his infirmity. That was heartening.”
Over the next eight years until The Tao of Muhammad Ali, Miller and Ali remained in close contact, meeting in locations such as Louisville, Berrien Springs, Las Vegas, Miami and Philadelphia. Ali consoled Miller when his father died and welcomed Miller’s kids into his home, even allowing them to stay over.
According to Miller, the relationship soured in 1996 after he sent an initial version of The Tao of Muhammad Ali to Ali and his wife. Phoning to receive their reactions, Miller was surprised at the coldness of Lonnie Ali. “Lonnie answers the phone. When she recognises my voice, I feel her go cold; the phone suddenly gets heavier in my hand. This is not a situation I’ve had with her before.” After a brief, terse conversation, the phone-call and the relationship between Miller and the Alis is over. Miller no longer has any contact with the man he later labelled his ‘childhood idol, mentor and friend.’
Yet Miller, ten years later, says that he harbours no ill feeling toward the Ali camp. “I’ve never been upset or angry with Ali,” he told me. “For years I was frustrated and resentful that Lonnie Ali misunderstood what I’d done with The Tao of Muhammad Ali. That troubles me still.
“Over the past year, I’ve found myself thinking abut Ali again, and in tender ways.”
The subtitle for William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience is ‘Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.’ Blake reasoned that one state cannot exist without the other; I see life as a progression from an infant state of Innocence to an adult state of Experience, the difference between the latter and the former the presence of regret.
Davis Miller’s Song of Innocence is his childhood adulation of Ali, the physical poet led by his own spirit into exile. “Like almost everyone else born before 1970, I can’t help but remember a time when Ali seemed to be constantly moving inside a private and wondrous rhythm, when his eyes shone like electric blackberries, when heat shimmered from his almost perfectly symmetrical torso. The young Ali’s seemingly endless energy promised that he would never get old.”
And, after Innocence – Experience brought about by the end of the relationship. As Miller discovered, Ali, who had danced across the ring so gracefully, is essentially human – the same as the rest of us. If Innocence is the admiration of the hero and the joy taken in the image, then Experience, the realisation that our heroes are human as well, should come inevitably as a disappointment.
Not according to Miller. “I learned that he was no less Ali.”
Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer in history, a three time heavyweight champion took Miller from Innocence to Experience. But the real hero in Miller’s life lay much closer to home.
Roy L. Miller was an ordinary man with the decency of a loving father. As a young man, he had turned down multiple offers of college scholarships to play baseball; instead, he married Sara, his childhood sweetheart and worked for the rest of his lie in a corrugated box factory in the same small town in Carolina. As other jobs came and went, he stayed put in order to give his children stability. Before she died at the age of thirty-two, Sara Miller made him promise that he would ensure that their two children, Davis and Cheryl, received college educations. It was a promise that he kept. In the late eighties, when his son lost his job, Roy Miller sent the family a cheque for an amount he couldn’t afford on his wages. Soon after, he died of heart failure; one of his final wishes was that Miller not tell his sister that he was in the hospital; he didn’t wish to have her worry.
After his death, he reached out still to help his children with two large insurance cheques. The money granted Davis Miller the time to write, enough time to find out if he was truly a writer. “He would allow me the opportunity he’d not had,” Miller wrote, “The chance to do something with life apart from work some half-ass job.”
Miller sums up his father with simple logic. “Daddy would never be Muhammad Ali or Johnny Unitas or Mickey Mantle, or any of the other folks people idolise and buy books about. Much of the best of who I am is directly because of my Dad. Growing up stoically during the Depression and World War Two in the industrial South, the son of alcoholic parents, and losing his only childhood sweetheart when they were both so young, I still marvel at his uncommon tenderness.”
William Blake believed that Innocence and Experience were the only two states of the human soul, each complementing the other. It’s easy to disagree; I argue that there is a third stage: Wisdom – the knowledge that genuine heroism is not leaping over tall buildings or winning sports championships but the consistent, unsung application of unconditional love and sacrifice.
“My Dad is the hero of my books.” – Davis Miller, again.
“That a person can really be a hero to a near and familiar friend is a thing which no hero has ever yet been able to realize, I am sure.” – Mark Twain, again.
Robinson, who had relinquished the world welterweight title earlier in 1950, had won Pennsylvania recognition as middleweight champion on a 15-round decision over Robert Villemain of France at Philadelphia. He had defended that title twice.
It was, however, the middleweight title recognized by the rest of the world and held by Jake LaMotta that Robinson wanted. So while awaiting a shot at LaMotta, he sailed to France on the Liberte, with an entourage of nine people, including wife Edna Mae, a sister and valet-barber. There were 53 pieces of luggage to haul on board.
The group took residence in the Claridge Hotel in Paris, and on Nov. 8 Robinson stopped Frenchman Jean Stock in the second round before a wildly cheering throng in the Palais des Sports.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Robinson recorded in “Sugar Ray,” his 1970 autobiography, written with Dave Anderson. “I had never been accorded such an ovation. I was a hero for the first time in my career. For all my success, I had never really been a hero in the United States, where Joe Louis was the boxing idol.”
Louis had come out of retirement and lost a 15-round decision to Ezzard Charles on Sept. 27, 1950, but by then he was a boxing icon.
On Dec. 9, Robinson heard jeers, not cheers, after he scored a fourth-round knockout of Dutch middleweight champion Luc van Dam at Brussels, Belgium.
“I remember knocking out Van Dam in the fourth round,” Robinson said in his book. “As he lay sprawled on the canvas, his wife jumped out of her seat behind his corner and angrily shouted, ‘Get up, get up,’ as if she were waking him in the morning.”
Most of the fans, however, were hollering other things in the belief that the Dutchman had beem fouled in the third round and should have been declared the winner. Robinson had landed a body punch, and Van Dam had gone down. He was saved by the bell.
“Robinson left the ring with virtually all 15,000 spectators on their feet booing the victor,” the Associated Press reported. The AP account said Van Dam “was holding his own until late in the third round when the American uncorked what appeared to be a low blow.”
A week later, Robinson showed up in Geneva, Switzerland, where he scored a 10-round decision over Frenchman Jean Walzack. “Afterward he had lumps all over his head, but I couldn’t knock him out,” Robinson wrote.
Then he was back in Paris, the Claridge and the Palais des Sports. On Dec. 22, he scored a ninth-round technical knockout of Robert Villemain, which drew a gate of $85,000, a record for the famed arena.
Robinson next went to Germany, where on Christmas Day he was entertained by children who sang Christmas carols under his Frankfurter Hof window. He then went to the Festhall and stretched Stretz in the fifth round.
“In a space of twenty-nine days, I had won five bouts, four by knockout,” Robinson wrote. “I had pocketed nearly $50,000, and I needed every penny. My entourage had run up a big bill at the Claridge, and Edna Mae had been shopping.”
Robinson’s next fight was in Chicago Stadium, where he became undisputed middleweight champion by stopping Jake LaMotta in the 13th round on Feb. 14, 1951, in what became known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
The Robinson-Stretz card was the only show I could find in the world on that Christmas Day. While there often have been several boxing shows on Dec. 25 in other countries,, the only recorded boxing cards in the United States on Christmas from 1946 to the present that I could find were single shows at Portland, Maine in 1968-69.
For most of the first half of the 20th Century, however, boxing shows on Christmas were quite common until the outbreak of World War II. There was one recorded show in 1942, none in 1943, and one each in 1944-46.
Many great fighters provided Christmas entertainments – Hall of Fame boxers such as Freddie Welsh, Jack Britton, Battling Levinsky, Ted “Kid” Lewis, Benny Leonard, Harry Greb, Tommy Loughran, Fritzi Zivic and Kid Chocolate. Benny Leonard, who would become a great lightweight champion, fought twice in New York on Christmas Day, 1911. He knocked Smiling Kemp in the first round, then he won a six-round newspaper decision over Sammy Marino.
The only Christmas championship fight I could confirm in the United States was in 1933 when Frankie Klick won the junior lightweight title by stopping Kid Chocolate in the seventh round at Philadelphia.
An historic fight was held the day after Christmas in 1908 when Jack Johnson became the first black world heavyweight champion by stopping Tommy Burns in the 14th round at Sydney, Australia.
With no title at stake, middleweight champion Harry Greb won a 10-round decision over Tommy Loughran, who would become light heavyweight champion, on Christmas in 1923 at Pittsburgh. Also on that Christmas, Battling Siki, a former light heavyweight champion, lost a 10-round decision to Jack Taylor at Philadelphia, and Corporal Izzy Schwartz won a 10-round decision over Babe Willard at Providence, .R.I.
Nyet, not any more. Mr. Gorbachev listened to Reagan, the wall came down, and the reign American superiority in the heavyweight division tanked harder than John Kerry’s 2008 prospects.
The ex-Soviets stormed the division and with something less than Kruschev-ian fire, tossed the Americans off their thrones, and assumed the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO crowns for themselves.
Fight fans figured out that Americans have been too fat and happy for too long. We’ve comprehended now that Americans don’t cut, and scratch, and yearn sufficiently to climb the razor-blade-studded ladder to prominence. We know now that someone from an impoverished nation, who grew up sleeping in a hut with a dirt floor with seven siblings clustered around you in your “bedroom,” and who is grateful for an extra helping of stale bread mom managed to commandeer for dinner, is more motivated to do what needs to be done to rise to the top tier of the fight game.
But even when we know these facts, a fighter with a rugged upbringing, like 25-year-old middleweight Edison Miranda (26-1, 23 KOs) from Colombia, still has the capacity to hammer home the theory that Americans are too cushy, too unwilling to sacrifice, to churn out top practitioners in a blood sport that demands the highest level of sacrifice and mental strength of any sport in existence.
Rugged, actually, is too tame a word. Perhaps horrifying is more fitting…You decide.
Edison Miranda, who’ll be fighting Willie Gibbs on HBO’s Boxing After Dark on Saturday, was tossed to the curb by his mother as a newborn. His mom was all of 14 years old, so one can almost understand that she wasn’t prepared to transition from teendom to mommy mode. A friend of the family took in little Edison, and he stayed with that family until he was 9. Then, he was again kicked out, as his adoptive family was overwhelmed with their own bloodoffspring. Miranda was left to his own devices on the mean streets of Colombia, which could make East New York look like Park Avenue. He slept in an empty park his first night on his own, he told me, but he wasn’t scared. He knew God would take care of him. Can you imagine an American nine year old, away from their Xbox and McDonald’s supply not peeing their pants in the same circumstance? Me neither…
Miranda then hunted down his mom, but she’d remade herself with a new family and wasn’t interested in accepting a ghost of her unpleasant past into the mix. She spurned her boy, again. Miranda hung out near a pier, and did some work for the fishermen, who paid him a bit and gave him food so he wouldn’t starve.
One day, when he was 11, there was no extra fish to be found and his stomach growled like a surly pitbull.
Miranda saw a dead rabbit, not too decayed, and grabbed it. He skinned it, built a little fire, and roasted the rabbit. Can you imagine an American child showing the resourcefulness? Me neither.
At 15, Miranda found his calling. He had a dream that he was a boxer, which was beyond strange, since he told me he’d never even seen a boxing match, or seen a pair of gloves up close. But, being the spiritually inclined person he was, Miranda took the dream as a sign from Above.
He found a gym, and the rest, as they say, is history. There were other speedbumps on the way, of course, including some unscrupulous handlers who took him to the Dominican Republic for fights and barely paid him.
Now the IBF’s No. 1 rated middleweight, Edison Miranda’s story is a success story, no matter what you might think of this sport at times when your conscience pricks you. Yup, he’s fighting on HBO from Miami on Saturday night, and he’s being paid a purse of $50,000 to fight the 20-1 Gibbs. Edison Miranda will never again need to roast roadkill to fill his belly.
SPEEDBAG I’m very curious to see what effect Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks has on James Toney for the Jan. 6 rematch with Sam Peter. Toney has been uncharacteristically lowkey in the leadup to the rematch. In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, there was no swearing and no trashtalking. Well, maybe a little trashtalking…
“In the first fight, Peter was an ordinary fighter,” Toney said. “The only time he hurt me was when he hit me on the back of my head.”
Toney also said that working with Blanks, who lets him eat only lima beans, has added years to his career span.
“I was going to fight two or three more fights but since they judges stole the last one from me, I’ll fight two or three more years, and since Billy got me going, maybe I’ll fight five or six more years.”
Blanks’ motivation has truly affected Toney’s gut…several times, the boxer said, Blanks has pushed him so hard he’s puked.
The karate expert said Toney’s benching over 400 pounds now, and that his inner warrior will emerge on January 6.
“Tune in January sixth for the rebirth,” Toney said.
Negotiations are underway to stage a showdown between Mora and Taylor for some time in April if all parties agree. If it’s signed, it won’t be the first time they’ve fought in the ring.
“We have a history with each other,” said Mora, who was the winner of the Contender television reality show in the first year. “Me and Jermain go way back.”
During the Olympic box offs in 2000, Taylor and Mora fought against each other in a rousing four-round bout to make the Olympic team. That day Taylor emerged the victor.
“It was a really close fight,” said Dean Campos, who trains Mora and was in his corner that day. “Sergio could have done more but he hurt his back in the fight before.”
During the box-offs, Mora was wrestled to the ground by a frustrated Sechew Powell, who was disqualified for his illegal tactics. Though Mora moved on to the finals, he suffered a back sprain that kept him from fighting at his best.
“Truthfully, I don’t know if I would have fought any better because I was pretty excited,” said Mora, who is currently ranked number 10 by the WBA and WBC in the middleweight division. “After that fight I was pretty sore.”
Mora was a virtual unknown to the boxing world when he surprised most experts by emerging as the champion of the television reality show that featured more recognized and touted boxers such as Ishe Smith, Peter Manfredo Jr., and Jonathan Reid. Since then, he’s racked up wins against middleweight contenders Archak Ter-Meliksetian and Eric Regan.
“I would love to fight Jermain,” said Mora (19-0), who feels he needs one fight to get the kinks out of his ring rust.
Taylor, who fought a gritty battle against hard-charging Kassim Ouma on Saturday Dec. 9, has not ruled out fighting Mora or any other middleweight. In fact, make that any other super middleweight too.
“Whoever wants to fight me I’ll fight,” said Taylor (26-0-1) after his unanimous decision over Ouma. “If Sergio wants to fight me I’ll fight.”
Taylor, 28, seems to have cleaned up most of the middleweight division, but it’s only a mirage. As always, it’s one of the toughest of all divisions and is filled with numerous opponents capable of ending the great Arkansas fighter’s undefeated streak.
“I saw some weaknesses in Taylor,” said Mora, 26. “It was very interesting. I was surprised at Ouma’s ability to take Taylor’s punches. That really surprised me. Ouma is so little.”
But Taylor has shown an ability to win fights. Whether he looks pretty or not, he comes out on top.
“You can’t let Jermain Taylor set up,” said Mora evaluating the Taylor-Ouma fight the next day. “If you let him do that, you’re in trouble. He can get you out with that right hand.”
After Taylor’s fight with Ouma, the middleweight world champion evaluated his own performance honestly as usual.
“He fought all 12 rounds. The little guy is a tough guy,” said Taylor of his five-foot- eight-inch opponent Ouma. “I wanted a knockout so bad I think I threw myself out.”
Mora watched the fight with extreme interest. He’s a middleweight and a big match with Taylor looms if the fighter’s management can agree to terms. Before this month, other names had popped up such as Fernando Vargas or Oscar De La Hoya. But fighting for the middleweight world championship has special interest for the East Los Angeles boxer Mora.
“I’m excited about it,” said Mora from his home.
Taylor has mentioned his amateur fight with Mora was one of the toughest of his career.
“Sergio Mora is surprisingly strong,” Taylor said.
Other middleweights on TV
Colombia’s Edison Miranda meets Philadelphia’s Willie Gibbs in a middleweight contest that will be shown on Saturday Dec. 16, on HBO After Dark.
It’s Miranda’s first return to the ring since losing a hotly contested battle to WBO middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham in Germany last September. The Colombian was deducted several points for headbutts and low blows that all resulted in a loss. But Abraham suffered a broken jaw and was reportedly ready to quit. But he survived all 12 rounds and won by unanimous decision. A rematch is scheduled for next summer.
Miranda faces a tough Phillie fighter in Gibbs whose only loss came to hard-hitting Daniel Edouard two years ago. It should be an explosive matchup.
The twenty-four-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico took the fight to Parisyan from the start and never relented. He grounded and pounded Parisyan in a classic confrontation that showcased Sanchez’s intense style.
The win was a loud statement to MMA fans: There’s a Nightmare in your future.
Parisyan put up a valiant effort but just couldn’t match Sanchez’s ground skills and super stamina. “It was a great fight. Karo was probably my toughest opponent to date. I was in fantastic shape and I had no quit in me,” remembers Sanchez.
Sanchez, undefeated in seventeen fights, will be tested yet again on Wednesday night when he takes on the very tough Joe “Diesel” Riggs (28-8) from the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California. A special card presented by the UFC for military personnel which will be broadcast nationally on Spike TV.
Riggs is considered talented but Sanchez sees some cracks in his game. “Riggs is a strong wrestler and a good striker. I do feel he has some weaknesses. I think his mental strength is questionable. I don’t think he’ll be able to handle the pressure,” said Sanchez. Call it cockiness or confidence, Sanchez tells it like it is. Or like he thinks it ought to be. Sanchez can’t help it. His surroundings programmed him to fight and to never surrender. Ever.
Sanchez is a homegrown Albuquerque product who was influenced by his tough “vato” uncles who instilled the spirit of the Chicano street warrior in the kid who grew up as an only child. Even then, he usually found himself surrounded by family. “I had a lot of cousins growing up. I had a lot of uncles who were these real tough guys who grew up very poor which made them hard and they were guys who had a lot of pride in themselves,” said Sanchez. “I took on that type of mentality and my cousins would advise me to stay clean and focus on my football or my wrestling. They helped pave the way to where I am now.” With his family’s help, he eluded the gang life and survived high school where he managed to keep a 3.0 grade point average.
He’s a long way from his days as a star wrestler at Del Norte High School. His memorable triumph on Spike TV’s first installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” made him an instant star. Since then, his impressive wins and relentless style has convinced many that Sanchez is the future of MMA. Trainer Rob Garcia feels that his charge is ready for a title shot right now. “Diego’s been ready for a title shot. However in MMA there are so many diverse styles that you have to train in several different disciplines. We want Diego to be well versed in all those styles so that when he wins the title, he hangs on to it for a long time,” Garcia said. Garcia has impressive credentials with a client list that includes former world champions Terry and Orlin Norris. In 2000 he was hired to be the conditioning coach for boxing’s biggest star: Oscar De La Hoya. Garcia’s approach to training is considered unorthodox in the industry. He makes sure Sanchez doesn’t get too comfortable with his surroundings and sparring partners. Sometimes their training takes them to Miami or Albuquerque. Sometimes out of the country.
Sanchez recently spent a few months in Mexico City training with former boxing prodigy Francisco “Panchito” Bojado. “I trained with Panchito Bojado for a year straight. In fact I was recently in Mexico City training with him for a few months,” Sanchez said. The trip had a profound effect on him. “It was a humbling experience for me. It’s a hardcore gritty and grimy city. The biggest city in the world. There are areas that are very poor,” remembered Sanchez. “It made me appreciate what we have here in the .U.S. I got to work on my Spanish and saw a lot of different things. I remember being in an old cab and seeing a guy walking on the street without shoes. It made me think a lot about what’s important.”
Yet the question remains: What drives this force of nature? “Family and the will to win and the fear of losing. I look at every fight as if my life is on the line. And it is,” Sanchez said. “If I lose then I’ll be letting a lot of people down. That’s why I’m always improving as a fighter. Anyone can get into the octagon and fight. That’s easy. The hard thing is to fight smart and be strategic.”
Although he feels ready for a title shot, Sanchez and company are smart enough to pace MMA’s new wonder kid. “I’ll fight for the title whenever we think we’re ready. My time will come,” Sanchez said. “I think I’d like to fight Matt Hughes first. That would be a great fight. I’m looking to get a title shot by the end of 2007.”
It looks like “The Nightmare” is just getting started.
Check out Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Riggs on Spike TV on Wednesday December 13. Also on the card: Jeff Joslin vs. Josh Koscheck and Drew Fickett vs. Karo Parisyan.
And yet we want to just enjoy the champions as they fight and defend, taunt their generational adversaries and posture themselves against all of the myths and legends of the sport that they will never face in a boxing ring. When we try to see the truth of the boxer who is the WBC/WBO middleweight champion, Jermain Taylor, we cast a gaze beyond the expectations and the limitations, the achievement and the questioning. This is a fighter who is toiling now, in his prime, trying to finalize all of the elements of craft and reputation that will construct his eventual legacy. So we gaze, interested, waiting.
Yet something strikes us oddly about Taylor, powerful and successful though he continues to be, defending and reigning high among middleweights; high and mighty or a high wire act, high on agendas like fighting the best of the best out there, as he says. Why does the picture of Jermain Taylor remain so fragmented, as if in his incomplete state of being he’s still good enough to best the rest, looking good, then better, but never at his best, the best we still envision for him? Why does this man who seems so plaintively right there, simple, reticently direct still elude us, his ring performances becoming a puzzle?
Perhaps, we were always looking to find something of a colossus in the young man from Little Rock; the named place of near contradiction so like his moniker of “Bad Intentions,” because the self-labeling has not yet materialized, as if he’s stuck at the level of intention. His career to date a poster for the champion he hopes to become? Sure, he’s ambitious, but yet so measured, tongue-tied shy, only able to express himself in starbursts of forced emotion, like his reactive boxing flurries. And knockouts have not come Taylor’s way, of late. Despite his furry of tenacious effort and withering flurries, he -- the champ -- does not overwhelm his foes. The talk amongst boxing writers before the homecoming title defense at the Alltel Arena in Little Rock, Arkansas, basically conceded that finally Taylor was going to have his knockout title defending win, live and simulcast on HBO in HD: hot damn! The sometimes playful but always perpetually combative Kassim Ouma was there, for the full 12 rounds, basically right where Team Taylor had predicted he’d be, right in front of the champion waiting to be hit and hurt. Ouma closing, wading past what ever of the champion’s blows could be parried, avoided or absorbed, was more than true, it was guaranteed due to the Ugandan’s size, fighting style and compunction.
And hit Ouma Taylor did. Repeatedly, with force, to the head and midriff and even between the gloves to the point of the chin, the champion’s punches slammed home. The punches coming not as a torrent ala Ray Leonard or Hector Camacho, but more in the manner of a Terry Norris, selectively served to explode as dynamite to alternating regions of Ouma’s awaiting anatomy. Yet the more the champion loaded up to detonate gloved distress the more he seemed to expel at the expense of inflicting damage. It’s true, fighters might not topple over at the impact of Taylor’s signature blows, but, one suspects -- all the same -- his opponents aren’t feeling too lively after the cameras are turned off, showered and dressed, the impact of a night with Taylor must come back into their systems like venom of poisonous recirculation, deep into tissue and the vital organs.
But the fans crave the big blow, the definitive ending marking the clearest statement of dominance. That’s what tradition tells us. That’s what champs do; they knock guys out, turn contenders into defenseless heaps. Taylor desperately wanted the knockout finish for his hometown fans, too much, and he swatted the air with recklessness over the first two rounds as proof. Ten rounds later, at the close of the full 12, no knockdown, no knockout had been executed. And still the effort was there, the striving and desire of a man sensitive to the speculations as to his championship quality and the criticisms of what he’s managed to make happen, thus far, as the main man in the world of middleweight boxers. The words Bernard Hopkins had uttered to try to deflate the “heir apparent” in the lead up to their July 16, 2005 showdown -- yes, he’s got youth on his side, but, in boxing terms he’s still a boy -- almost seemed to list, flutter just above the action like a truth telling specter, the man-child Taylor still fighting without total professional composure and honed deliberation.
He kept his title: Jermain Taylor, middleweight champion, WBC/WBO, if you need the distinctions of political endorsements. His Arkansas fan base had their fill, ten thousand strong at the arena, and rhyming his name with JT, bad intentions to be left for another night, for Winky or that Welshman JC. Hopkins’ unrealized threat echoes back to us: the truth will be told all over his face and when he’s brought to his knees. Taylor’s record remains intact, made to bend only when he’s allowed for angles to be bisected, counters to be measured; traps he sets to be sprung from off the ropes. Even though boxing at ring center he can dominate, even Ronald Wright. Thus you are made to wonder why does this guy six-foot-one and streamlined, with power and the ability to prepare so completely, why does he still manage to limit his total effectiveness. Why?
Winning fights can be art or escape, wrath or survival, calculation or miracle. Jermain Taylor winning middleweight title defenses seems to follow a plan that no one has written, a story improvised at the demands of last second emotions, completing a narrative, but with its ending lacking the overall full impact of excellence.
Maybe we have dreamed of a career for Taylor too large for him to fill, a picture too classical for him to fill. The man who dared to follow Hopkins: Jermain Taylor. The facts of his ring accomplishments tell us that in his last six professional fights (William Joppy, Daniel Edourad, Bernard Hopkins, Bernard Hopkins, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Kassim Ouma, in that order) he’s been undefeated and only once held to a draw, in what amounts to one of the most torrid big fight stretches in boxing over the period from December 2004 until December 2006. Yet we want more from Taylor. There have been moments of drama and check points during this stretch, which only his bravery applied has managed to keep him whole, brimming with undiluted promise. As a fighter Jermain Taylor still exists in the future; the full terms of reference regarding his career adding up and unfolding as if in super high definition slow motion replay, preview.
Two years ago to this month, the characterization of Taylor, as he headed into his bout with former longtime WBA middleweight titleholder William Joppy was of THE contender on his way up, the guy with the golden jab. Jermain Taylor, in 2004, was The Contender. Tactically and aesthetically, Taylor was the middleweight with the jab. That left lead was his ticket to someday landing him a shot at the legend of Bernard Hopkins. Promoter Lou DiBella, ensconced in his Manhattan office, dreamed of the night his guy would take down the House of Hopkins, brick by burdensome brick. First, Taylor had to look a champion against a former champion, that inevitable audition hungry fighter’s live for, inhale. Though he battered and blanketed Joppy with almost every punch he wanted, it was that left lead that carved and clubbed his way to the threshold of the middleweight division’s royal chamber. Funny, how the Taylor signature punch for twenty-three fights began to erase itself soon after, lost in what his trainers and he felt was a more devastating arsenal.
Manny Steward who took the place of Pat Burns in the Taylor corner as trainer (before the Wright fight) has tried to give symmetry to the young champion in the ring, with reminders of structural flaws to be corrected: balance issues. Taylor, trying to turn the tricky corner from being a retreating jab enthusiast to a boxer-puncher capable of right hand attacks or surgical body tattoo artistry, had to learn to punch from different angles balanced, weight shifting for maximum power. Command ring center with the jab, jab and jab and lay down the law with right hand power then jab, jab until you need to clean up with the hook or send a message with an uppercut from downtown. Boxing Made by Manny. Motor City Madness! Thomas Hearns LIVES!
So far, Taylor has remained lost in transition. Remember the fighter who stormed out for round two against Bernard Hopkins in their first fight, all rash power hitting and conductive electricity almost short circuiting Hopkins right then and there? Then think about the guy with the belt facing Ronald Wright, who took mainly what was offered, ramming Wright’s body with thundering force and looking more the champion down the stretch. What we got were fragments, moments of daring and discharged not connected, not immediately repeated, patterned.
Jermain Taylor, the champion in progress, hasn’t graduated yet and still he reigns. Wonderful news for anyone associated with him or proud to cheer for him can hear. The air about him spells out champion, no matter how irritating that must be for Wright. He doesn’t rock the imagination, doesn’t emit a sense of awe. Yet he remains the almond-eyed gentleman from Arkansas with the title of middleweight champion who takes to the body in clusters, mostly abstaining from the dictates of his classic jab, still trying to master the old one-two with a Hearns like kick at the end of it; Manny has his man but the message has not yet been downloaded, made second nature to this middleweight who still, for all the world, looks more like the man than any one else has a right to.
I know that what I need to do is fight the very best fighters in the world and I will. That’s all I want to do. That’s what I want.
Yvonne Caples, who he has trained for three years, was here to battle Suzannah Warner of New York, via London, at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx on December 8. At stake was the NABF Atomweight (102 pound) title. Caples lost a competitive eight-round decision.
Caples, an English teacher at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, is a lot better fighter than her nominal record of 7-11-2 (1 KO) indicates. Much of that she attributes to Caldwell.
And Caldwell is proud of the work he has done with her. He guided her to the IFBA light flyweight title in July 2003. He helped make her a champion once, and he hopes to do it again soon.
Having fought the likes of Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner, Earnie Shavers, Trevor Berbick (twice), Pinklon Thomas, Gerrie Coetzee, John Tate, David Bey, Pierre Coetzer and Henry Tillman during a career that spanned from 1969-85 and produced a 27-31-5 (6 KOS) record, Caldwell knows a thing or two about boxing.
Considering the fact that his face is relatively unmarked and his mind is so sharp, no one can ever say that Caldwell was a catcher.
At one time or another he sparred with all of the great heavyweights of the seventies and early eighties.
He also worked for three years in the camp of longtime light heavyweight champion Bob Foster and helped prepare Gerry Cooney for his epic battle with Larry Holmes in 1982.
“If I didn’t fight them, I was their sparring partner,” said the 60-year-old Caldwell.
Several years ago Caldwell was banged up badly in a car accident. Although the injuries he incurred necessitated surgery on his feet and a right knee replacement, he is in relatively good health.
Unfortunately his health is about all he has going for him right now. He lost the gym in which he used to live and train several months ago when a local motorcycle club was able to pay a higher rent to the landlord than Caldwell could afford.
Before that he was partners in another gym, but opted out of that situation when things began to get ugly between him and his partner.
A month and a half ago, Caldwell, a Milwaukee native who had fought nearly 20 main events in various Las Vegas venues, found himself without a home. Although he has been forced to live in his 1992 Pontiac, he still trains fighters daily at the late Johnny Tocco’s gym at Main and Charleston.
Caldwell said that plenty of friends have offered to put him up and help him out. But, he adds, “I got a lot of pride. It’s getting cold now and people are inviting into their homes, but I don’t want to go. I don’t believe in asking. I believe in trying, but a closed mouth don’t get fed.”
A man of subtle and quiet dignity, it is hard to believe that Caldwell was the notorious street fighter that he says he was. Having never engaged in even one amateur bout, it was street fighting that led him to boxing.
Someone who saw him knock out two men at one time on a New Orleans street corner directed him to a local boxing gym. In very short order, he made his pro debut in June 1969. He stopped Speedy Heard in the third round. One month later Heard extended him the six-round distance, but Caldwell still emerged victorious.
Because Caldwell’s now gnarled right hand had been broken so many times in his street fighting days, he was forced to campaign as a pro with little more than his left jab. He says his jab was as much of a defensive weapon as it was an offensive one.
“I was a jabber,” said Caldwell, who although known in the seventies for his rare weightlifter’s build, says he never lifted a weight in his life. “I had hurt my right hand so much in street fights, I was afraid to use it. My left hand was my left hand, my right hand, my everything.
“I was always muscular,” he added. “It’s in my genes. I used to walk up and down stairs on my hands.”
After going 5-0, Caldwell was thrown to the wolves by his management.
In his eighth fight he was stopped in five by Terry Daniels in Corpus Christi, Texas. A little more than two years later Daniels would unsuccessfully challenge Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title.
In Caldwell’s next bout he was stopped by the murderous punching Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in ten in Orlando.
“When I fought Williams he was past his prime. He had already fought [Muhammad] Ali and been shot by the [state] trooper,” said Caldwell. “He stopped me, but that had more to do with my inexperience than anything else.”
Caldwell still marvels at how muscular Williams was. Back then fighters with such heavy musculature were very rare.
“He had muscles up his [butt],” said Caldwell. “I thought I had big muscles until I met him.”
For the next two and a half years Caldwell stayed busy, picking up several wins in his adopted hometown of New Orleans.
He was matched with Ron Lyle, who was 4-0, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in July 1971. Lyle had recently been paroled from a Colorado prison where he served time for murder. A tremendous puncher, he was viewed as a can’t-miss prospect. Caldwell lost a five-round decision to him.
“Lyle could punch, no doubt,” said Caldwell. “But you can’t hurt what you can’t hit and he couldn’t find me.”
Two fights later, Caldwell squared off against George Foreman, who was then 29-0, in Beaumont, Texas, which was close to Foreman’s hometown. Foreman stopped him in two rounds.
“Foreman could punch about the same as Lyle,” said Caldwell. “He caught me. He was very strong and very determined.”
Nobody’s punching power, asserts Caldwell, came close to that of Earnie Shavers, who was 41-2 and still had hair when he stopped Caldwell in two rounds in a high school gym in Shavers’ home state of Ohio in October 1972.
“He was the hardest hitting human being I ever met,” said Caldwell. “He hit harder than Foreman and Lyle combined.”
Three fights after Shavers, Caldwell squared off against Oscar Bonavena at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. He was again stopped in the second round.
“I underestimated him,” said Caldwell. “I saw him fight Ali and wasn’t impressed. I was bouncing around the ring and didn’t realize how close to the ropes I was. I bounced off the ropes and he caught me square.”
After the loss to Bonavena, Caldwell was rarely stopped again. He battled Berbick to a draw in their first fight, in Berbick’s home country of Canada in June 1979, was stopped in ten by Pinklon Thomas, and went the distance with past or future titlists and prospects like John Tate, Berbick (in a rematch), Randy Mack (twice), Willie “The Cannon” Shannon, Stan Ward, David Bey, Pierre Coetzer and Henry Tillman.
During that same time period, he also beat prospects Jeff Shelburg, Dave Johnson, Fili Moala, and Mircea Simon, the latter of whom was 12-0-1. He battled to a draw with Kevin Isaac, and was stopped in five rounds by Gerrie Coetzee in South Africa. He later returned to South Africa to work as a sparring partner for Coetzee, who he described as a “good fighter and a good man.”
Although Caldwell was very busy, he wasn’t exactly breaking the bank. While his biggest payday was the $18,000 he earned against Coetzee, his purse for Foreman was
$1,500. For Shavers and Bonavena, he made $1,000 each. Sad to say, those were his high end purses and those numbers are the gross amounts before expenses were deducted.
Throughout his career, Caldwell, who had several children, was forced to augment his income by working as a nightclub bouncer and store security guard. Although he fought hard and often, his nominal purses did little to provide him with a lifetime of security.
“I was forced to take what I could get when I was fighting,” he said. “Managers had me believing if I didn’t take this fight, I couldn’t fight there (at that venue) again. I had no one looking out for my interests. When I retired, I had nothing.”
Besides the fact that he took fights on short notice for short money, Caldwell says he was often forced to travel to his fights alone.
“Ninety-eight percent of the time,” he said. “I had to make a living, but I had to do what I had to do by myself.”
Caldwell remembers being treated like a king by the poor villagers in Soweto, South Africa. Having traveled to that country twice, to fight Coetzee and Coetzer, he said that even the white people in Johannesburg treated him with reverence.
However one day he wanted to take in a movie, so he and his escort, a local black man, went to the theater. The escort kept warning Caldwell how difficult it would be for him (the escort) to get in the theater because of the oppressive apartheid laws.
“I bought two tickets, but the lady wouldn’t let him (the escort) in,” said Caldwell. “I asked for the manager and they said only I could go in because I had a passport. They were very hung up on colors over there.
“You and I (a white man and a black man) could not stand on the corner and talk to each other back then,” he continued. “Even a light skinned black and a dark skinned black were not allowed to talk on the street.”
As badly as he was treated by the boxing establishment, Caldwell says that he refuses to be consumed by anger. But he seems genuinely hurt when he talks about all of the main events he fought in Las Vegas, but is still unable to get a ticket to the fights these days.
He still loves the boxing game and hopes to mold another champion over the next few years. He currently trains several amateurs, as well as Caples and his son Caleb, a light heavyweight who is 1-1-1 (1 KO) as a pro.
“I have a lot of boxing knowledge,” said Caldwell. “Sometimes it hurts that I did so much for so many people, but no one did anything for me. That will only help me as a trainer. Besides teaching people how to box, I can make sure they don’t have to go through what I went through. No one should have to go through their career like that.”
At the age of 19 I received a call from a promoter by the name of Kieth Ellis offering me a shot at the Australian Cruiserweight title. I was a real dreamer who took fights at any weight division, anytime, anywhere… with no manager, just a trainer and a father whom loved me very much but didn’t want me hurt so he never wanted me to step into the ring. I accepted the fight right away and even though I had a record of 1 fight for 1 win, I was a 72.5kg middle weight being asked to fight an 86kg cruiserweight and was offered it in just 4 days notice, I had no hesitation in accepting.
My friends, family and critics who have heard or followed the Cruiserweight champ Peter Kinssella’s career could not believe I was silly enough to take such a bout with a guy with an 18 fight record, in his hometown and at that weight division with such short notice. My trainer believed I could do it though and lo & behold I jumped on the plane from Melb, got to the weigh-in the next day, jumped on the scales with mini weight plates in my baggy shorts pockets in order to make the weight for the officials to allow and sanction the bout, then got in the ring the next day to fight this giant Irish/Australian Champ.
With only one 4-round fight under my belt, which I'd won comfortably 4 weeks earlier, I was ready for battle. It was a sellout crowd as I looked around the Arena with plenty of nerves but at the same time excitement knowing that I'm here fighting for my country as the sub-main event to one of my childhood idol boxers, Joe Bugner versus an opponent he'd ended up knocking out that night.
Ding, ding the bell went and I outboxed the big fellow over 12 rounds and in the 12th I KO'd him with an overhand right and even though I had broken two medicarple bones with that punch, I created history in winning a fight that stunned a sellout crowd of around 2000 people. There was pandemonium that night and I became the Australian Champion in just my 2nd pro fight, with only my trainer believing I could pull it off.