Margarito (34-4, 24 KO’s), the WBO Welterweight champion, looked anything but unbeatable against the hardnosed, African fighter who is no pushover in the first place. If you knew Clottey’s history, you knew he was extremely durable and resilient in the tradition of the legendary Azumah Nelson who also hails from Accra, Ghana. Margarito had quick praise for his opponent. “He was very tough, he had a great guard. You really have to give this guy a lot of credit. He took some very hard shots,” Margarito said. The shots Margarito has been taking in the press as of lately have also been very hard. “There will always be critics. I think that the long layoff had an affect on me, but the bottom line is that Clottey is a strong and durable fighter. My plan was to pressure him all night. I knew I had to keep busy in order to win. In the end, I worked harder and feel that I clearly won the fight.”
Margarito’s manager, Sergio Diaz, felt his fighter’s performance wasn’t up to par and also agrees that his opponent had everything to do with it. “Everybody has a bad night. Clottey was a very rough and tough opponent. Everyone expects Tony to blow these guys out but Clottey isn’t someone you do that to,” Diaz said. Diaz is right. Before Margarito, Clottey’s only loss was a disqualification in a fight many thought he was winning against former world champion Carlos Baldomir.
Diaz and Margarito met up with Clottey later in the night. “We ran into Joshua at the hospital. He said that hitting Tony was like hitting a brick wall. He hurt both of his hands. He said he was very close to calling it quits. He’s a guy with a lot of courage just like Tony,” Diaz said. After reflecting on the bout, Margarito believes he should’ve done better. “I looked like I was wide and out of distance with my shots. I know I should’ve blocked more shots. Clottey landed a couple of good shots but my conditioning paid off. I knew he wasn’t going to seriously hurt me.”
Margarito was there tending to his own injuries, which were disclosed as being a wrist injury on the right hand and a re-injured ankle. TSS scribe David Avila broke the news of Margarito’s original ankle injury which he sustained during sparring a few weeks before the Clottey fight. http://www.thesweetscience.com/boxing-article/4631/boxing-chatter
Ranked #1 by the WBO, Paul “The Punisher” Williams has been very vocal about wanting to exercise his option to fight Margarito as soon as possible. Margarito is happy to oblige, hoping to put some bad rumors to rest that have been on his mind. Williams has made claims that he was hired to spar with Margarito and then dismissed from camp when “The Punisher” made Margarito look bad. “Those are all lies. I don’t understand why he would say that. I can’t believe he says that. The fact is that we offered Williams more rounds of sparring and they turned it down,” Margarito said. “His trainer said that Paul would only spar four rounds and wouldn’t go five. Those lies have to stop. We’ll settle that in the ring. He’s got a big mouth.”
According to Margarito, the rumors perpetuated by Williams are unnecessary and disrespectful. Margarito adds: “We hired Williams before the Daniel Santos fight and after that camp he started running his mouth. He said he hurt me and that he dropped and cut me, that my manager had basically told him to leave camp,” Margarito said. “But it wasn’t like that at all. Why all the talk? Why all the lies? Especially after he’s the mandatory fighter and we're going to fight anyway.”
WBA Champion Miguel Cotto, who looked so impressive in his fifth round stoppage of Carlos Quintana, is also someone that lurks in the back of Margarito’s mind. The Puerto Rican star went up in weight to the Welterweight division and a clash against Margarito is an easy promotion on many levels. Margarito believes that Cotto is definitely in his future. “It was a good fight for Cotto. Quintana didn’t show me much in the ring. I knew Cotto was going to win. I’m glad he won. It’ll make for an interesting fight between the two of us. What’s better than a fight between a Puerto Rican and a Mexican?”
The fight between the two has been tentatively scheduled by their promoters at Top Rank for next June if Cotto gets past Oktay Urkal and Margarito gets by Williams.
Margarito is poised to make 2007 his year. He plans on getting the big fights that have eluded him for years. “2007 will be a great year. I’m going to keep winning and my goal is to unify the title,” Margarito said. “All I can say to the boxing public is to keep watching cause I plan to keep on knocking heads off to make that a reality.”
I’d arrived in London the previous night, and when I went downstairs for breakfast, Marvelous Marvin was sitting in the coffee shop with his trainer Goody Petronelli.
I remember asking Marvin that morning whether he thought he could get a fair shake against Alan Minter in England.
A resolute expression on his face, he held up his fists, one after the other.
“This time,” he said, “I’m bringing my own two judges with me.”
It wasn’t by a longshot the last time I’d hear Marvin make that same vow, but to my recollection that morning in London was the first.
Ten months earlier, in November of 1979, Marvelous Marvin had challenged Vito Antuofermo for the middleweight championship of the world. In that fight at Caesars Palace, Hagler appeared to have built up a commanding lead after a dozen rounds, but (on the advice of his corner) boxed so conservatively over the last three that a seemingly certain victory had slipped away as the three ringside judges split three ways on the issue. (One of them, Duane Ford, who scored it 145-141 for the challenger, for years identified himself as “the judge who got Antuofermo-Hagler right.”)
The draw, in any case, had allowed Antuofermo to retain the undisputed title.
That Vegas fight card – Sugar Ray Leonard would win his first world title, stopping Wilfred Benitez with seconds left in the 15th – had provided most American scribes’ first introduction to Alan Minter. As the World Boxing Council’s top-ranked contender, the Englishman presumably loomed the next challenger for the winner. Accompanied to Vegas by his father-in-law and trainer Doug Bidwell, Minter was a ubiquitous presence at Caesars Palace that week, and at one point the late Hunter Thompson somehow convinced himself that Minter was stalking him.
Thompson began to see Minter in his sleep. Once he peeked around from behind the faux Michelangelo’s ‘David’ statue planted in the corridor to see if “that damned Minter” might be lurking in the hallway, and on another occasion when he spotted Minter strolling through the lobby, he’d ducked under a cocktail table at the Galleria Bar to hide from the Englishman.
Minter and Bidwell were inseparable in Vegas that week. One night the English boxer and his wife’s father brazenly strolled through Caesars with matching hookers on their respective arms.
Under normal circumstances, the controversial nature of the Antuofermo draw might have put Hagler in line for an immediate rematch, but, since he held both the WBC and World Boxing Association titles – the only ones extant a quarter-century ago – the Mosquito was first obliged to defend against Minter, and that fight, in March of 1980, produced one of the more bizarre scoring discrepancies in the annals of the sport.
Two judges, including one who scored the fight 7-5-3 (in rounds) for Antuofermo, had it reasonably close. The third, Roland Dakin, scored the fight 149-137, or 13-1-1 for Minter. That one-sided scorecard, coupled with allegations of misconduct on Dakin’s part, rendered Antuofermo’s rematch position even more compelling than Hagler’s.
“When Antuofermo fought Minter, Minter won the fight, but the English judge kept signaling to the British television people after each round,” said Hagler’s promoter Bob Arum. “When the television tapes confirmed that, the WBC ordered an immediate rematch. As far as I know, the guy (Dakin) never judged a title fight again.
“The English were delighted, of course, because Minter got another payday, but it turned out to be a year after the first Antuofermo fight that Marvin got his shot, and it had to be in England,” added Arum. “Basically, it had to be in England because of (British promoter) Jarvis Astaire [effing] around with the WBC.”
Marvin had bided his time, keeping busy with a pair of fights in Maine, neither of which got out of the second round. (In one of them he avenged an old Philadelphia robbery by stopping Bobby Watts, who would later become one of his principal sparring partners. In the other he solidified his position in the pecking order by knocking out French contender Loucif Hamani in two.)
Then, late that spring, Hagler had returned to Vegas, where he outpointed Marcos Geraldo in an ABC fight. Although he won comfortably, Marvin’s performance was less than dominating, and when Minter busted Antuofermo up and stopped him on cuts in the eighth round of their rematch at the Wembley Pool in June, the comparative performances combined to produce a growing confidence among British boxing fans that Minter represented the real goods among middleweights – and that Hagler, by inference, did not.
By the time he got to England, Hagler’s complement of sparring partners had been reduced to two: journeyman Danny Snyder and Marvin’s younger brother Robbie Sims, who had made his pro debut earlier that year. Snyder, like Minter, was a southpaw, while Robbie, in emulation of his older brother, was essentially ambidextrous and could produce a fair approximation of the Englishman’s style.
Snyder had been in England once before. When Mike Baker challenged another lefthander, Maurice Hope for the WBC junior middleweight title a year earlier, Danny had been the American’s principal sparring partner. In a session at the Elephant & Castle a few days before the Hope fight, Snyder accidentally knocked Baker cold. It hadn’t been a public rehearsal, but several eyewitnesses from the seemingly omnipresent London fight mob remembered him, and at Hagler’s first workout at Freddie Hill’s Gym, on the second floor of a Battersea pub, the Fleet Street crowd spent as much time interviewing “the bloke who knocked out Baker in the gym” as they did the American challenger.
Arum had offered Sims a spot on the undercard, but Goody and Pat Petronelli rejected the idea on the grounds that concern about his younger brother could prove a distraction to Marvin. Instead, Robbie’s next fight took place five nights later back in the States, where he knocked out Danny Heath in the first round on Rip Valenti’s live card at the Boston Garden, staged to accompany the Holmes-Ali closed-circuit telecast at the old Causeway Street edifice.
Another key member of the entourage – and the third man in the corner during the fight – was Hagler’s attorney Steve Wainwright. The scion of one of Brockton’s oldest and most prominent families (his father, George Llewellyn, was a former chief prosecutor in the District Attoney’s Office, and his older brother, Richard Llewellyn, was a former mayor), Steve was a partner in the firm of Wainwright, Wainwright, Wainwright, Wainwright, & Wainwright. Despite his lofty pedigree, on fight nights Steve manned the spit-bucket, conspicuous in a satin cornerman’s jacket with “BARRISTER” stitched across the lapel.
Wainwright was partial to José Cuervo 1800 tequila, which someone had warned him might be difficult to procure in London. As it turned out, it was readily available in most of the better pubs, but as a safeguard against a possible drought, he’d brought along a case of the stuff.
Like much of London, Bailey’s Hotel had recently been purchased by oil-rich Arabs. It didn’t take Wainwright long to make their acquaintance, and within a day or two he’d conducted a crash-course in the ritualistic art of tequila consumption. In what became a nightly routine, around closing time at the hotel bar Wainwright would be joined by a table full of sheiks in flowing white robes, who would gleefully lick salt from their fists, toss down tequila shooters, suck on limes, and break into high-pitched giggles.
During one such bash Wainwright promised that if Hagler won the world title on Saturday night he would shave his head just like Marvin’s.
As a psychological ploy, or so Bob Arum claims to this day, the British promoters had initially assigned Hagler and his party to another hotel, but between the traffic and the all-night noise Marvin couldn’t sleep. Bailey’s was no doubt considered a demotion, but a blue-collar boxer from Brockton wouldn’t have known the difference. Hagler was every bit as comfortable there as he might have been at the more elegant Dorchester just up the street.
Bailey’s was located in Kensington, near the Gloucester Road underground stop. Each morning before breakfast Marvin, along with Goody and the sparring partners, did his roadwork in Hyde Park.
Convinced that he’d been the victim of a least a larcenous decision, and possibly a betting coup, Marvin blamed the outcome of Antuofermo I on “Vegas judges,” and vowed never again to leave the outcome to the capricious whims of mere mortals, particularly in a town where hundreds of thousands of dollars might be riding on the outcome at the sports book windows.
Nevada might have been the only place in America where one could legally bet a fight in 1980, but it wasn’t the only one in the world. One afternoon in London I went out and surveyed several bookie shops, where I was surprised to discover that Minter was holding firm as an 11/10 favorite. At that attractive price I bet a hundred quid on Hagler.
When I got back to Bailey’s that day, Marvin was sitting with Pat and Goody in the coffee shop. When I started to reveal the results of my reconnaissance mission, Marvin abruptly shouted “I don’t want to hear it!” and stormed out of the room.
Convinced that the only way he might lose this fight would be at the behest of gambling interests, Hagler was just superstitious enough to believe that advance knowledge of the odds might somehow open the door for hanky-panky.
Although Hagler was an American challenging for an undisputed world championship, Ali was fighting Holmes at Caesars for the heavyweight title a few nights later, so the stateside press contingent was relatively small. Besides myself, Leigh Montville was in London covering the fight for the Boston Globe, as was Frank Stoddard for Hagler’s hometown Brockton Enterprise. (Sports Illustrated saved expenses by assigning the fight to its resident Brit, Clive Gammon.) ABC would televise the bout back to the US, but I don’t recall seeing Al Michaels or Howard Cosell until the night of the fight.
Another constant presence was Angie Carlino, Marvin’s personal photographer. Before he retired to pursue a career as a full-time boxing shutterbug, Angie worked for the MBTA in Boston, saving up his vacation days to coincide with Hagler’s fights. Jimmy Quirk, a merchant seaman pal of Angie’s whom I also knew from Cambridge saloon society, had arranged his ship-out schedule to coincide with the fight in London.
Antuofermo was there, having wangled a gig as a commentator for Italian television, and most evenings Vito would join Montville, Stoddard, Carlino, Quirk, and me, along with Bernie LaFratta, who had helped Arum package the European rights, and whatever Fleet Street scribes happened to be around, at our adopted headquarters – the Stanhope Arms across the street, where the publican was an affable Irishman named Peter Flood, thus ensuring that the establishment offered yet another London rarity – a decent pint of Guinness.
The five-hour time difference in our favor, along with the British licensing laws then in effect, sometimes made for an odd drinking schedule.
“The beauty of that trip, if I remember right, is that it was the one time in my life I could get drunk twice a day,” Montville would recall years later. “We would pound a bunch of beers before the two o'clock closing in the middle of the afternoon, then be back in the bar after watching sparring and writing our stories at night.”
Since both Minter’s and Hagler’s sparring sessions were conducted in gyms located above pubs (Minter made the Thomas A Becket, in South London, his training headquarters), we often got a head start on the evening session, but somehow the stories got filed.
Another presence who arrived a few days before the fight was Fulgencio Obelmejias, a tall Venezuelan middleweight who had advanced to No. 1 in the WBA rankings and thus loomed the mandatory challenger to the Minter-Hagler winner.
The middleweight championship might have been what had by 1980 already become a boxing rarity – an unified, undisputed title – but the promotional rights were so thoroughly splintered that at least seven men had a piece of the action. Minter’s interests were represented by a four-man consortium headed up by Astaire, the Wembley impresario, along with Mickey Duff, Terry Lawless, and Mike Barrett. Arum was Hagler’s promoter-of-record, but Rip Valenti, the legendary Boston octogenarian who had staged most of Marvin’s early fights, also had a piece of the American challenger, as did Rodolfo Sabbatini, a courtly Italian Godfather whose mysterious interest in the 160-pound title dated back to Antuofermo, and possibly back to Nino Benvenuti.
“There was a tremendous ongoing dispute, me and Sabbatini on one side and Duff and Astaire on the other,” revealed Arum. “They were supposed to have a piece of the options on Hagler and I had a piece of the options on Minter. We resolved it by agreeing that whichever guy won, the others would drop out.
“Obviously,” added Arum, “Jarvis and Mickey didn’t think Minter was going to lose.”
Mickey Duff had provided the Hagler party with a van and driver to get them around London. The driver was a lovely kid named John who’d been in enough London club fights that his brains scrambled by the time he turned 21. John was great behind the wheel; he just couldn’t remember directions, so Duff had assigned a co-pilot, an old Welsh pug who couldn’t drive knew London like the back of his hand.
It didn’t take Goody and Pat long to notice that the Welshman spent a lot of time on the phone. The assumption, undoubtedly correct, was that he was reporting everything he saw back to Duff and Minter, but since everyone assumed he was a spy for the opposition, Goody made sure he didn’t see much.
At his secluded Provincetown training camp Hagler was famous for putting himself “in jail,” spending most of his waking hours brooding in his room as he mentally psyched himself up for the task at hand. Except for roadwork, sparring, and the odd meal in the coffee shop, he followed the same routine in London. It was somewhat surprising then, when a couple of the days before the fight he appeared downstairs and asked Steve Wainwright and me if we felt like going for a walk.
We spent a couple of hours strolling the streets of the British capital. Even though shaven-headed American tourists were a comparative rarity in London back then, Marvin for the most part went unrecognized. At a tourist shop he playfully tried on a London constable’s helmet. I still have the photograph of him and Wainwright posing on the sidewalk, the bobby’s hat perched on Marvin’s head.
At one point we came upon a building site, which gave Marvin pause to reflect on his previous occupation. For most of his boxing career, Hagler had supplemented his income working as a laborer for the Petronellis’ construction firm, as had his friend and longtime stablemate, Pat’s son Tony Petronelli.
Tony had at one point been considered the more promising of the two. At one point he owned the USBA light-welterweight title, but his career took a right turn when he was soundly whipped in a 1976 WBA title fight against Wilfred Benitez in San Juan, and he never regained his prior form.
As Hagler watched the laborers scurry about the London construction job he revealed, more with amusement than rancor, that Tony had been given a job as a bricklayer, while he was assigned to be a hod-carrier. For years Marvin had reckoned that he had the better job of the two -- until he discovered the disparity in their hourly wages.
Now that he appeared to be on the verge of supporting his family through his boxing career, Hagler confessed an ambition. He and his wife had talked it over and decided that once they had enough money they ought to open a laundromat. The notion of owning a business appealed to him. People who couldn’t afford washing machines still had to wash their clothes, he reckoned, and all he and Bertha would have to do would be sit back and watch them plop quarters into his machines.
Among the Hagler fans making the trip to London were a waitress from the Black Rose back in Boston and her sister. Before I flew to London they’d asked me to pick them up a couple of tickets, and Rip Valenti had supplied me with four. The other two would be used by Jonathan Sales, the son of my boss at the Boston Herald, and Sydney Reed, a friend from Dublin who was in London on business.
My wife-to-be came to London a few days beforehand, but since she had to get back to work on Saturday night, didn’t plan to attend. The night she arrived she, Sydney, and I started at the Stanhope and drank our way halfway across London before returning from Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in the wee hours of the morning.
I awoke the next day to a mystery that endures to this day. Although nothing else was missing from my room – my passport, camera, and typewriter were untouched – the Levis I had been wearing the night before had utterly disappeared. We tossed the room up and down to no avail, and began to wonder whether the maid might have mistakenly removed them. Finally Sarah phoned the front desk, where a very proper British concierge listened to the tale of woe.
“You’re saying he lost his trousers?” he intoned.
It wasn’t the only pair of pants I’d brought to London, but my wallet had been in the jeans, along with credit cards, a hundred quid or so in cash, and the four tickets to the Minter-Hagler fight.
At the hotel’s insistence we even had to file a police report, and got the same reaction from the desk sergeant.
“Your trousers? I see.”
Rip Valenti thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. Since the seat numbers had been recorded, Rip was able to approach Jarvis Astaire and secured replacement tickets, but with the warning that if someone turned up with the originals on fight night it would be left to security to sort it out – which, in retrospect, could have been an unholy mess.
Fortunately, as it turned out, nobody possessing the tickets ever showed up at the fight, and no one ever attempted to use the credit cards. The best we could figure it out, in our haste to disrobe after our night on the town one of us had fired my jeans across the room and in the darkness had managed to throw them right out an open window to the sidewalk three storeys below, where they were presumably collected the following morning by a London dustman making his rounds.
For the rest of his life, every time I saw Rip Valenti the first thing he would ask me was “Did you find your pants yet?”
In keeping with another long-standing practice, two days in advance of the fight – and a day before the weigh-in – Goody ordered up the fan and had John drive him and Marvin over to Wembley to inspect the venue.
“It’s partly to make sure everything’s all right from my standpoint, but mostly to familiarize the fighter,” Petronelli explained. “We talk about how everything is going to go on the night of the fight -- which entrance we’re coming in, where our dressing room is, which route we’ll take to walk to the ring.
“I want him to be as comfortable as possible and to know what to expect so there won’t be any surprises,” continued the trainer. “As we stood there looking up at the empty seats I reminded him that they’d all be full on Saturday night -- almost all of them with hostile British fans cheering for Minter.”
Goody could scarcely have imagined how much he had understated the case.
Possibly because they have been disappointed so often for so long, British boxing fans don’t need much of an excuse for becoming overenthusiastic, and Minter himself abetted the jingoistic frenzy in the run-up to the fight when he appeared at a rally staged by the anti-immigrant National Front and promised that “No black man is going to take my title.” By thus injecting a whiff of racism into the issue, the champion ensured that Hagler’s reception at the Arena would be a nasty one.
The prevalent mood was ratcheted up further by the outcome of the co-feature, which saw a young British middleweight named Tony Sibson knock out previously unbeaten American Bob Coolidge. Around the arena the bloodthirsty engaged in soccer chants. Many of the spectators had arrived bearing Union Jacks, which they brandished like battle-axes. There were even guys dressed in Beefeater costumes.
It didn’t help, either, that the concessionaires at Wembley were selling beer by the case. Not even a hard-guzzling Londoner can drink 24 beers in less than three rounds, meaning that by the time the fight reached its premature conclusion, many of the spectators had an abundance of ammunition at hand.
“I remember standing there in the lobby of the arena watching all these skinheads buying cases of beer, hoisting them onto their shoulders, and trudging up the stairs to the balconies,” recalled Montville. “I couldn’t have anticipated what was going to happen, but I remember thinking that no good was going to come of this.”
“I never saw anything like it,” said Arum. “It was like a huge, drunken orgy.”
The two girls from Brockton had brought along a hand-lettered sign bearing a message of support for Marvin, hoping, no doubt, that it would be seen on television back in the states. Alas, an angry skinhead had seized it and ripped it to shreds before ABC even went on the air.
In contrast to the fever pitch of the crowd, the fight itself was almost perfunctory. Less than thirty seconds had elapsed when a Hagler right jab ripped open a gash below Minter’s left eye, and Marvin went to work on the cut, using his fists like the hands of a skilled surgeon.
With the crowd chanting “Minter! Minter!” the champion fought back, and even nailed Hagler with a good left just before the bell ended the first.
Although Minter fought bravely in the second, he was engaged in an uphill battle. And while Marvin was plainly concentrating on the cut, each time he missed the spot he seemed to open up a new one – first, above the left eye, then alongside the right one – on Minter’s face.
It might have been close on the scorecards – after two rounds, two judges had Hagler up by a point, while one had Minter by the same score – but by the third the ring looked like an abattoir as Hagler pressed the attack, repeatedly rocking Minter with right uppercuts punctuated by the occasional straight left.
“I always thought in most of his fights Marvin showed too much respect to his opponents,” said Montville. “He was cautious in the first Antuofermo fight, and he was the same way against Duran and Leonard. But in this one he fought with an absolute fury. Once he had Minter cut – and that was almost right away – it was as if all the frustrations of his career were being unleashed.”
Many of the hooligans were either so drunk or seated so far from the ring they couldn’t accurately gauge the extent of the damage to Minter’s face, and erupted angrily when the referee, Carlos Berrocal, stopped the fight midway through the third and led the Englishman to his corner to have the wound examined.
When the blood was wiped away, Bidwell surveyed the damage and nodded to the referee to stop the fight. Berrocal officially terminated the action at 1:45 of the third.
“Marvin beat the sh-- out of him, and when they finally stopped the fight because of the cuts, they went crazy and started throwing bottles,” remembered Arum. “In the midst of what should have been a great celebration, everybody was ducking under the ring.”
Initially there was an angry roar, and then a second or two later the first bottle sailed into the ring, bursting and sending up a spray of beer that flashed under the ring lights. It didn’t take long for the rest of them to get the same idea.
As the bottles showered down from the rafters and exploded on the canvas, Pat and Goody Petronelli, Robbie Sims, and Danny Snyder all raced into the ring to shield Marvin from the grenade assault.
Harry Carpenter, the English commentator calling the fight for BBC described the scene as “a shame and disgrace to British boxing.”
It was only later when I viewed the tape that I realized how totally oblivious I had been to my own situation. As the bottles rained down from the rafters I was standing there beside the ring, taking notes. It was only when I looked around and saw that my British colleagues on press row were holding their chairs above their heads like umbrellas that it occurred to me I might be in any danger myself.
“I was holding my Olivetti over my head,” said Montville. “I remember thinking ‘These are Brits. They grew up kicking balls, not throwing them. They might have been aiming for the ring, but some of them were bound to miss, and if they came up short, we were right in the line of fire.”
A wayward beer can from the cheap seats aimed at Hagler, in fact, struck Carpenter on the head. To his credit, the British commentator didn’t miss a beat as he continued to describe the riot.
I quickly glanced toward the upper reaches of the arena where my gang had been seated. At the first whiff of danger, it turned out, Syd Reid had hustled the kids out of the building.
“I remember poor Rip Valenti,” said Arum. “Here Marvin has won the title after all these years, and I had to hold his hand and lead him out of the building. He was trembling.”
Protected by the phalanx of bodies, Hagler was hustled from the ring toward the safety of his dressing room, which was well attended by London bobbies. Antuofermo grabbed me by the arm and pulled me and Montville in the same direction.
As we tried to make our way to safety, a skinhead made the mistake of whacking Vito over the back of the head with a beer bottle. The Mosquito didn’t even blink. He wheeled around and laid the guy out with a picture-perfect right cross.
It may have been the best punch Antuofermo ever threw.
“I always wondered if the guy even knew what had hit him,” Montville reflected. “When he came to, did he know he’d been knocked out by the former middleweight champion of the world?”
We managed to get through the swarm and into the dressing room of the new champion. A shaken Cosell eventually crawled from his hiding place beneath the ring to interview the new champion.
In the past, Hagler had been so annoyed by Cosell’s refusal to call him by his Nom de Ring that he had gone to court and had his name legally changed from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Just before they went on the air, Marvin said to Cosell, “Let’s go with the ‘Marvelous’ tonight, OK, Howard?”
Marvin never did get his belts that night. When he departed the arena an hour or two later, there were still remnants of the rioting crowd waiting outside. One of them heaved a brick and smashed the windshield of the car carrying the new middleweight champion of the world.
Once they cleared the building and I returned to my seat, my typewriter was, miraculously, still there, but the Wembley crew had already ripped out my phone line. I had to appropriate one belonging to an already-departed Fleet Street scribe to file my story, and then, in the wee hours of the morning, we managed to flag down a cab.
By the time we got back to Bailey’s the celebration was underway. A contingent of Hagler’s Brockton friends had materialized in the bar, as had his mother, Mae Lang, and Marvin’s stepfather Wilbur. Wainwright had broken out the last of his tequila, and as the giggling sheikhs looked on, had made good on his wager, allowing Marvin’s wife Bertha to shave his head right there in the bar. (Shorn of his locks, Steve resembled Cueball more than he did like Marvin, but he retains the Hagler Look to this day.)
Marvin was indulging himself with a pint of ale. Arum was already contemplating his first defense, against Obelmejias. Pat and Goody were reflecting on the comportment of the English crowd.
“We’re never coming back to this place as long as we live,” vowed Pat.
By dispensation of the sheikhs, the hotel bar remained open all night. The morning light was peeking through the windows of the boozy, smoke-filled room when Danny Snyder and Robbie Sims descended the staircase, carrying an American flag they had somehow appropriated. Arum and I decided to reprise a scene from “The Deer Hunter” and broke into a heartfelt if somewhat drunken a capella rendition of “God Bless America.” The entire room, Marvin included, joined in.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were inaugurating a new tradition. With Hagler facing just one American-born opponent in a seven-bout stretch that began with Minter, the scene would be repeated in venues around the world as “God Bless America” became Marvin’s his post-fight celebratory anthem.
By the time the stragglers headed off for bed it was time for the rest of us to open up the Stanhope Arms. We wandered across the road to the pub, where we were shortly joined by a posse of Fleet Street journalists who’d been dispatched to write about the aftermath of the riot.
“That wasn’t a boxing crowd,” one of them assured me. “That was a football crowd.”
Marvin, Pat, and Goody flew back to Boston later that day. I made my own way home via Dublin, and didn’t get back to the States until the night of the Holmes-Ali fight. I raced straight from the airport to the Garden, where I watched the closed-circuit telecast in the press room in the company of the Herald’s theatre critic, Eliot Norton, and the late Red Smith.
In the coming months Marvin would make his first two title defenses in the same building: The following January he stopped Obelmejias in eight, and in June of 1981 he had his rematch with Antuofermo and busted up Vito so badly that The Mosquito’s corner stopped it in the fifth.
Alan Minter only had three more fights, and he lost two of them. A year after losing his title to Hagler he retired from the ring for good after Sibson stopped him in three.
Over the next half-dozen years Hagler successfully defended his title an even dozen times against the likes of Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran, but when it came for the 13th defense the residual memory of that long-ago night in London once again came into play.
When the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced its slate of judges for Hagler’s 1987 fight against Sugar Ray Leonard, one of them was an Englishman, Harry Gibbs. Remembering what had happened that night at Wembley, Pat Petronelli exercised a peremptory challenge and demanded that Gibbs be removed from the panel.
“No English judges,” Pat told the NSAC. “We want a Mexican judge.”
They got one. His name was Jo-Jo Guerra, and in Hagler’s final fight, one most reasonable men thought to have been very close, he gave Leonard 10 of the 12 rounds.
Back in England, Harry Gibbs, watching on television, scored the fight for Hagler.
(This is a work in progress of a series of boxing reminiscences by George Kimball)
Singapore’s boxing history began in the 1930’s, before it achieved its independence. In the forties and fifties, the country was known as “The Mecca of Boxing” in Asia and produced a handful of journeymen fighters.
In 1989, Indonesian fighter Ellyas Pical successfully defended his WBA super bantamweight belt against Mike Phelps of the U.S.
It would be seventeen years before another event would take place; in June of this year, The Sweet Science was on hand to see Indonesia’s Daudy Bahari score a unanimous decision over Bart Abapo of the Philippines.
The number of fights and the pool of Singaporean fighters in the past thirty years has dwindled to zilch but promoter John Leung and manager-trainer Barry Pestana are doing their part to bring back the days of old.
This Thanksgiving at the Sun-Tec Convention Center, Leung’s company, Pure Details, promoted a show headlined by Philippine fighter Dondon Sultan (14-7-2, 7 KOs) and Eddie Delic (11-7-2, 2 KOs) of Australia for the vacant WBF (World Boxing Foundation) welterweight bauble.
Sultan won the belt when he scored a twelve-round unanimous decision in a sloppy but engaging matchup. Delic started quickly and controlled the fight until he suffered a cut in round four from an unintentional headbutt. The remainder of the bout was competitive but Sultan was too strong and in the end the judges scored in his favor.
”I’m so thankful I have finally achieved my dream of winning a world championship,” said Sultan. “Maybe now I can box in Las Vegas in a big-money fight.”
That’s the idea in boxing, to make the big money, but Sultan has quite a ways to go before he’s ready for Mayweather, Cotto or Margarito.
The Thanksgiving show consisted of four pro and two amateur bouts and while the bouts weren’t exactly Ali-Frazier or Hagler-Hearns, they were entertaining. The crowd got their money’s worth and boxing in Singapore took another baby step forward.
”We certainly hope to make Singapore a major boxing hub here in Asia,” said Leung. “Hopefully we can get some more sponsors and continue to promote better and better events.”
WBF president Mick Croucher concurred, stating “Singapore has the corporate muscle and definitely has the ability to become Asia’s premier boxing venue.”
Only time will tell…
On the undercard:
Emmett Gazzard (5-0, 5 KOs) without a doubt the best fighter on the card, dished out a beating to Thailand’s Saensak Singmanasak (12-15-2, 6 KOs) before stopping him in round six of a scheduled twelve-round bout.
Two Singaporean fighters fought on the card, one winning and one losing.
In a scheduled four-round bout, David Alexis (0-1), the thirty-eight-year-old Singaporean making his pro debut was on TKO’d in the first round by Dennadai Sithdara (6-4, 2 KOs) of Thailand. Alexis had an extensive amateur background, winning a bronze medal in the 1993 SEA Games but was ill prepared for his first pro bout and was taken out in 2:30.
Mohammad Nor Rizan took on Thailand’s Pornthep Kawponkanpim (7-6, 2 KOs) in his second pro start. It looked as if another fight wasn’t going to make it to the second round when Nor Rizan flattened the Thai but the thirty-five-year-old Kawponkanpim rose to meet his fate and was pummeled for three straight rounds before the referee finally called a halt to the slaughter. Nor Rizzan has some skills but it will be interesting to see how he fares when he faces someone who fights back with his fists instead of his face.
Showdown in Singapore Results:
Sun-Tec Convention Centre
Dondon Sultan UD12 Eddie Delic(Wins WBF Welterweight Belt)Judges scores: 115-112, 115-112, 117-113
Emmett Gazzard KO6 Saensak Singmanasak
Dennadai Sithdara TKO1 David Alexis
Mohammad Nor Rizan TKO3 Pornthep Kawponkanpim
News and Notes
On the December 5th King’s Birthday celebration, former WBA trinket holder Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (50-3-2, 39 KOs) stopped Iran’s Omid Gholizadeh (0-6) to win his fiftieth fight and sixth straight since losing his belt to Panama’s Vicente Mosquera. Sor Nanthachai has been languishing since the loss and at thirty-six doesn’t have much time left to make a run at a title. Certainly not enough to be wasting his time against fighters of the caliber of Gholizadeh. The Iranian boxer has fought all his fights inside Thailand and has yet to win a fight.
Also on the card, featherweight Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (17-0, 8 KOs) scored a seventh round TKO over Vinvin Ruffino (12-6-2, 5 KOs) to keep his run at a WBC belt alive.
* * *
Ring Magazine has launched a ratings advisory panel to help make The Ring Ratings even better. The panel consists of over thirty journalists from four continents who will review the ratings on a weekly basis and if necessary make recommendations. The editors will continue to make the final decisions, however all recommendations will receive serious consideration. The Ring Ratings Advisory Panel is the latest step in the publication’s effort to restore much-needed credibility and integrity to the sport of boxing. The WBA’s ridiculous situation with their cruiserweight champions is just one more of the countless examples illustrating how The Ring Ratings are advantageous to the alphabet soup policies.
Travis Simms is apparently the WBA Super Welterweight Champion of the World “In Recess,” whatever that means.
* * *
On the undercard of the Winky Wright – Ike Quartey matchup, Filipino sensation Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista (21-0, 16 KOs) continued his roll towards a super bantamweight title. Bautista’s constant barrage of body shots caused sixty-two fight veteran Brazilian champion Giovanni Andrade to throw in the towel at the start of round four in their scheduled twelve-round bout. Bautista’s style is reminiscent of a scaled down version of Tito Trinidad; his economy of motion and pinpoint accuracy are certain to garner the Filipino a title. * * *
Japan’s Nobuo Nashiro, one of the four super flyweight belt holders, scored a unanimous decision over Eduardo Garcia of Mexico to make the first successful defense of his title. Nashiro won the WBA’s belt in July of this year when he TKO’d Martin Castillo in round ten.
* * *
The WBC has ordered a face-off between two of their top ranked Thai fighters in the super bantamweight division. Saenghiran Lookbanyai (Singwancha), ranked second, and Napapol Kiattisakchokchoi, who holds the top spot, are scheduled to meet at the beginning of next year. The date and locale of the fight will be announced later this month.
Upcoming Title Fights in Asia
December 17, 2006 - Chungmu Art Hall, Seoul, KoreaRodolfo Lopez vs. In Jin Chi
December 20, 2006 - Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo, JapanKoki Kameda vs. Juan Jose Landaeta
December 23, 2006 - Indoor Tennis Stadium, Jakarta, IndonesiaMuhammad Rachman vs. Benjie Sorolla
January 3, 2007 - Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo, JapanCristian Mijares vs. Katsushige KawashimaEdwin Valero vs. Michael Lozada
February 18, 2007 - PhilippinesZ Gorres vs. Fernando MontielGerry Penalosa vs. TBAJimrex Jaca vs. TBA
February 24, 2007 - Tenggarong, IndonesiaChris John vs. Jose Rojas
If you were in attendance on Tuesday, you could guarantee a master class in trash talk would follow. There would be some expletives, some inventive disparagements thrown at his opponent, maybe the threat of a bludgeoning towards his opponents’ management if they got out of line.
I readied my pen, and was poised to transcribe another Toney trash-talk special.
Instead, the former middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight champion did something that he never does: he kept it short, sweet and totally absent of profanities. Toney thanked everyone for coming, and said he was ready to rock, and that was it. He went back to his seat, and uttered barely a peep, except an occasional aside to his pal and advisor, John Arthur, seated next to him on the dais.
So what can we make of this behavior?
The unspoken message is clear: this time, Toney will let his actions do the talking.
Prior to the first Toney/Peter match—-and did you notice that this one is billed Peter/Toney?—-in September, Toney was in typical vocal form.
The Michigan-born boxer berated Peter on conference calls, playing the race card, dismissing him as a savage with minimal skills.
He blasted Peter’s manager, Ivaylo Gotzev, and his promoter, Dino Duva, and it seemed imminent that Toney and Duva would square off themselves if the bad blood continued to boil.
Not so this time.
Gotzev didn’t engage in any incendiary talk, Duva was in a kindly mood (perhaps still in a cocoon of fulfillment after King purchased half his promotional outfit), and Toney and Peter seemed to be looking at each other with the respect that comes with fighting 12 hard rounds with a foe, who shows you more than you thought he had. Oh, and the money being made here isn’t too shabby, and that quite likely is keeping people at a baseline level of comportment.
So, will this version of Toney (69-5-3), absence the motormouth, be better able to work his technical edge on the 26-year-old Peter (27-1), the cruder, but sturdy, Nigerian?
Toney turned 38 in August, and has been engaged in a battle with a most plebian foe, his waistline, for some years now. He debuted as a pro at 160 pounds in 1988. Heavyweight is the last weight class for him to participate in. He’s 5-10, maybe a shade less, so when he weighs in the 230s, as he has in his last four fights, and isn’t on a supplement cycle that strips his body fat content, he is no body beautiful.
That doesn’t much matter to me; after all, who am I to talk? And Toney has forgotten more about the sweet science than 98% of active fighters know. He knows and uses the intricate, subtle techniques that are taught by fewer and fewer trainers, as the elders take the little moves to the grave. Even with a jelly belly, Toney has enough stamina to fight 12, at a pace that may not be blazing, but isn’t too shabby.
So, I’m wondering, how much jelly will be on the belly come Jan. 6, when Showtime delivers this highly-regarded rematch, and continues their hot streak of viewer (and wallet) friendly fare?
At the Rainbow Room, Toney was wearing a suit, so I couldn’t see if his workouts with Tae Bo inventor, karate kid Billy Blanks, have had an impact on his frame. His face certainly didn’t look hollowed out. But his promoter, Dan Goossen, says that Toney has barred himself from his favorite deli for months now. He’s been working out with Blanks since October, and Goossen says, his cardio will be at another level when he faces off with Peter at the America Airlines Arena in Miami in the New Year. Before, Goossen says, Toney was in boxing shape, but now he will be The Kardio Kid.
No, Goossen told me, there isn’t a target weight. Blanks isn’t aiming to get Toney into the 220s. Rather, the deli ban, and ban on cigars, and carbonated drinks and amber colored liquids, will result in a fitter, finer Toney.
The judges, who I theorize deduct a point from Toney when they read about his expletive-laden pre-fight rants, and take another point away when he shows up, takes off his robe, and reveals his Everyman physique. Well, I tell them, get over it. Go judge a Miss USA contest if you want to factor body shape into your scoring.
No, none of us should expect Toney to morph into a LeBron James type frame. So, let’s get that out on the table right now. Judges, whoever’s working the rematch, please note this for the record.
Toney contemplated hiring Mackie Shillstone, who got Bernard Hopkins into form to fight Antonio Tarver in June, but chose to work with Blanks instead. Blanks has even been cooking some of Toney’s meals, and has him forcing down oatmeal in the AM. He also concocts a green, mystery drink, and Goossen assured me that the beverage is comprised of wholly legal, if foul tasting, materials.
Were I Sam Peter, I’d be a little bit more worried than I was before the first fight. This Toney, with Blanks acting as watchdog and motivator, may be in a position to let his actions in the ring on January 6 speak louder than his words ever could.
â€œContractually I am a free-agent,â€? says Brewster, â€œand I am ready to move on and go after what the public demands, and thatâ€™s an exciting aggressive American heavyweight who will unify the belts.
â€œThe eye injury was an unfortunate injury, and it cost me the title, but I learn from every fight, and I intend to be very aggressive in all my future bouts. My strength is my power and I intend to KO all opponents from now on.â€?
Many people had pinned their hopes on Brewster as the heavyweight champion to watch, especially after his dismantling of Klitschko, and even though those hopes were dashed by White Wolf Liakhovich, Brewsterâ€™s not done with boxing, not by a longshot.
â€œIâ€™m making a vow to the American people,â€? Brewster continues. â€œI will be in the best shape of my career, even before I begin my next training camp, and Iâ€™ll be in the best possible condition for every fight. I put all my heart into every fight and Iâ€™m the only heavyweight out there providing exciting fights to the boxing public. Iâ€™m going into the ring to take out all opponents quickly. Once I get a title back, I promise to only go after the other champions and to unify all the belts.â€?
Whether or not Brewster can win a belt, let alone unify, only time will tell, but he has his eye on the prize and the four heavyweight champions still standing.
â€œI have one goal and one goal only: to unify the heavyweight division with resounding power and exciting bouts. I want to keep my promise to the people. Maskaev, Briggs, Valuev and Klitschko, if you have the heart, and youâ€™re not scared letâ€™s do it, letâ€™s give the people what they want, and letâ€™s return the heavyweight division back to the glory days with one unified champion.â€? Read more at the BLOG
The ostensible reason for yesterday’s presser was to announce the Jan. 6 rematch at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. between heavyweights Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter (27-1, 22 KOs) and James “Light’s Out” Toney (69-5-3 43 KOs) for WBC bragging rights and an eventual possible shot at Oleg Maskev’s crown, but after an extremely long afternoon (three hours) of self-adulation, mangled facts and barely comprehensible doublespeak, one couldn’t help but conclude that the press conference was less about Peter/Toney II than it was about Don King himself.
Tuesday’s presser was in a room with a view and a room fit for a King, but it began not with a bang but with a whimper. A tasty repast of steak, chicken, fish, veggies, salad and sugary meth-like desserts was served buffet style at 11:30. There was enough time, half an hour was allotted for the meal, to scarf down those goodies with time to spare for the commencement of hostilities at noon, but there was one small problem: Don King, one of America’s busiest men, is always running late, so the press conference began at about 1:00, by which time many of the assembled press were contemplating their afternoon naps instead of the goings-on behind the podium.
But there was to be no sleeping on the job, not that sleep was possible with the video-heavy production DK brought to NYC for our delectation. Instead, those in the Rainbow Room hoping to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow found King, Dino and Lou Duva, Jose Rivera and his trainer John Scully, “Connecticut Yankee” Travis Simms, James Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen and advisor John Arthur, Sam Peter’s manager Ivaylo Gotzev, and of course the two main eventers on the dais, and got to partake in what amounted to a celebration of Don King and his illustrious three decade-plus run in the sweet science.
In the middle of a short, all things being relative, introduction, where King expounded on patriotism and his view of American history as seen through the eyes of his Casino hosts the Seminole Indians, the maestro’s cell phone rang to bring a halt to the proceedings. Don pulled the cell from his pocket and told us, “It’s the President calling. Sorry.” Everyone laughed uproariously, even though King has used those exact same words, if not the exact same cell phone, many times in the past. (Rumors of DKP’s Alan Hopper calling from another room have yet to be proven.) Then the promoter, with the eyes and ears of the world, well, with the eyes and ears of the boxing world, upon him, snapped open his phone and said, “I’ll have to call you back Mr. President,” whereupon he snapped shut the phone and on went the show.
A Seminole Indian medicine man, without a doubt the grooviest cat in the room, said a prayer of protection or benediction for the assembled throng and assembled fighters, but since he was speaking in either Creek or Miccosukee, Lord knows what he actually said. But it was a sober moment, a pious moment, a serious contemplative moment, made all the more moving, and all the more incongruous, given the context and setting.
As mentioned, many video clips were shown, some of which you’ll see on Showtime as the date of the fight grows near, but the first one, a tribute to the career of you know who, lasted 30 minutes, but didn’t feel a minute over 29. I was taking copious notes, in lieu of counting sheep on my king-sized bed, and the notes reveal that on the video clip in question former heavyweight champion of the world Larry Holmes said, “We need more Don Kings,” boxer/priest George Foreman said, “This man has been a blessing to boxing,” and Seth Abraham, late of HBO and now working with the crew from The Contender, said, “Don King is even formidable in his sleep.”
The clip evoked many of the champs past and present who King had a hand in promoting, in addition to Holmes and Foreman: Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ricardo Lopez, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Ray Leonard, etc., and reminded us, “He’s made more millionaires than most corporations.” Then the video referred to Don King as the “Messiah.” Honest to God, that’s what the voiceover said… End of video.
King likes nothing better than to hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, and those on hand were putty in the hands of the verbal virtuoso. He compared the upcoming fight between Sam Peter and James Toney, which is modestly called “Redemption,” to the unforgettable “Rumble in the Jungle” between Ali and George Foreman in 1974, DK’s first really big promotion, in the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire no less, a fight that had it all, even, according to King, “cannibals in the bush.”
Those of us in the Rainbow Room were alerted by the promoter to the fact that members of the New York Police Department will be in Florida providing security at the Peter/Toney rematch. “Nobody is finer than the NYPD,” said King, even though they “go off every once in a while on the errant,” making a oblique reference to the shooting of an unarmed black man named Sean Bell in Jamaica, Queens last week. But King wasn’t in New York to discuss the psychology of boredom versus the physics of an itchy trigger finger, but to remind everyone that “Boxing is not down and out. Boxing is in a state of opportunity.”
Dino Duva of Duva Boxing, who just sold half his promotional business, and half his interest in Sam Peter, to King, described Peter/Toney II as nothing less than a “historic event.” His dad Lou Duva, one the game’s great old-timers, said about King, “I’ve been in boxing long enough to know the good guys and bad guys and what they meant.” Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor told us he “tells his kids” to “become lawyers, become doctors,” but whatever they do they shouldn’t get in “the boxing business.”
Don King got in the last word, which seems only right, but Samuel Peter summed things up beautifully when he said with a Cheshire cat grin lighting up his face: "Only in America."
George Kantor, who looked after Jean-Pierre Coopman for the Belgian’s challenge to Muhammad Ali at San Juan Puerto Rico, closed Coopman’s workouts to the public and press. Early in the morning on the day before the 1976 fight I saw Kantor in the lobby of the El San Juan Hotel and asked him if Coopman could fight. “Are you bleeping crazy?” Kantor shouted.
Coopman was knocked out in the fifth round.
Andrew Golota, waiting in his dressing room for the start of the final news conference for his fight against Mike Tyson, was wearing a sports jacket that had a frayed sleeve. “Look at that.” said Al Certo, Golota’s trainer, who also is a tailor. “I can make you a good suit.” Golota smiled and said, “You can make me a suit, but you can’t teach me how to fight.” He quit on his stool after the second round of the bout at The Palace at Auburn Hills (Mich.) in 2000.
Early in Don King’s career as a boxing promoter, I asked him what was behind his rapid success, and he replied, “Ed, when I was in prison I read all the great philosophers . . . . men like St. Thomas Aqui-nine.”
For more than 30 years I have known and written about promoter Don Elbaum, one of boxing’s true characters. Early in his career, Don often boxed on his own shows when a fighter did not appear. On one card, both a featherweight and a light heavyweight failed to appear. Elbaum was closer in size to the featherweight, but he chose to box the light heavyweight, figuring he would be faster than the bigger man. Besides speed, Elbaum hoped he had another weapon. As he met his opponent in the center of the ring, he said, “Don’t forget who signs your check.”
One of my favorite boxing stories was told to me by Elbaum, who promoted a fight between Sugar Ray Robinson and Peter Schmidt at Johnstown, Pa., in 1965, the last year of the great Robinson’s career. At a pre-fight news conference, Elbaum surprised Robinson by presenting him with the gloves he wore in pro debut in 1940 at Madison Square Garden. A photographer asked Robinson to don the gloves, but suddenly Elbaum whispered, “Ray don’t do it.” Robinson quickly saw why. Both gloves were left-handed.
“This is Dr. Doo, a witch doctor, who has come here to help Kalule,” Irvin Rudd, another colorful boxing publicist, told reporters before Ayub Kalule defended the WBA super welterweight title against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1981 at the Astrodome in Houston. Kalule, a Ugandan living in Denmark, was stopped in the ninth round. It turned at that Dr. Doo was a gas station attendant living in Houston.
Scott LeDoux was a plodding heavyweight, who was stopped by Larry Holmes in a title bid. So there he was whirling around the ring before his fight against Greg Page in a preliminary to Muhammad Ali’s farewell fight against Trevor Berbick in 1981 at Nassau, The Bahamas. After several turns, LeDoux stopped above me, leaned over the ropes and shouted: “Ed, I’ve got to get my dancing in before the fight starts.” The dancing master was knocked out in the fourth round.
I always have liked Gerry Cooney. He is a big friendly guy who likes to laugh. We often swapped jokes when I covered several of his fights, including the last one in which he was knocked out in the second round by George Foreman in 1990 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. I had finished working and had just entered an elevator at Trump Plaza to go to my room when in walked Cooney, still wearing his boxing garb. He saw me and asked, “Heard any new jokes?”
For some reason, ESPN involved comedian Jackie Mason in their live telecast of the weigh-in for the Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks fight in 1989 at Atlantic City. “Spinks doesn’t need a weigh-in,” Mason said. “He needs a way out.”
Dwight Braxton decided to change his name to Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Shortly after the change, he was asked if his new last name ended with an “i” or an “e.” His reply: “Either way.”
I once talked with Carmen Basilio, a former welterweight champion who had won and lost 15-round split decisions in middleweight title fights with Sugar Ray Robinson, about how it seemed that more fighters of his era (the 1950s) fought with injuries. He proceeded to tell me how he had an injured his right hand for his third welterweight title with Johnny Saxton in 1957 at Cleveland. He said he called his doctor in his hometown of Conestoga, N.Y. about the injury. The doctor said he knew someone in Cleveland he had gone to medical school with, who could help Basilio.
The doctor went to Basilio’s dressing room the night of the fight. After trainer Angelo Dundee conned representatives from the boxing commission and Saxton’s camp into leaving the room, Basilio had the hand injected with Novocain. “I couldn’t feel anything in my right hand for two hours after the fight,” Basilio said. “It didn’t matter, I knocked him out with a left hook in the second round.”
I was talking to Joey Maxim about his successful light heavyweight title defense against middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson at Yankee Stadium on a sweltering June night in 1952. It was so hot that referee Ruby Goldstein suffered heat exhaustion and had to be replaced for the 11th round by Ray Miller. Robinson was far ahead in the scoring when he collapsed from the heat after the13th round and could not continue. Like many writers before me, I told Maxim the heat had saved his championship. “I didn’t have air conditioning,” Maxim said.
Bert Sugar, the boxing historian, once had a television show, and he had Pat Putnam, a longtime colleague and a forever friend, and myself as guests in a segment that was taped before a fight in Las Vegas. Sugar asked us to say something we always wanted to say but never could.
“Thanks for the drink, Bert,” I said. To Sugar’s credit he didn’t edit out my wise-guy reply. Bert does buy . . . . on occasion.
Rivera (38-4-1, 24 KOs), hailing from Worcester, Mass., became the WBA 147-pound champ when he beat German boxer Michael Trabant in Berlin in 2003, but a series of bad breaks â€“ Ricardo Mayorga couldnâ€™t make weight when they were supposed to meet â€“ Thomas Damgaard fell out on short notice prior to their bout on April 2, 2005 â€“ followed but a tough split decision loss to up-and-coming Luis Collazo â€“ left Rivera disillusioned with boxing and his state of his career.
After the bout with Collazo, Rivera tired of trying to make a weight he was no longer suited for and decided it was time to move up to 154 to challenge for the super welterweight title. On May 6 of this year Rivera won a lopsided unanimous decision against then-WBA super welterweight champion Alejandro â€œTerraâ€? Garcia to claim the crown.
Travis Simms (24-0, 18 KOs), from Norwalk, Conn., also has a history with the aforementioned â€œTerraâ€? Garcia: he gave him first loss to win the championship in 2003. Simms successfully defended his title against Bronco McKart in 2004, but has not fought since. Read more at the BLOG
Describing the conference call as â€œbad-tempered,â€? the BBC reports that Cook said, "Scott's been a good world champion, he's been there and done it, but now there is a new kid on the block and I'm ready to take over.â€?
Nothing especially bad tempered about that, not as I write from the land of James Toney and Mike Tyson, but then Cook took off the gloves to embrace the No More Mr. Nice Guy stuff for the British press.
â€œYou've had your day and you're just another fighter for me,â€? Cook, from Dagenham, England, told the Glaswegian Harrison, â€œso you can just shut your noise.â€?
Harrison, out on bail after five long weeks locked up in a Spanish jail on charges of assault and theft, was clearly cruising for bruising when told Cook, "I've seen your likes before pal, and I'll [effing] shut your noise!"
Nicky Cook, , whose major is fighting but who must have minored in getting under other menâ€™s skin, said, "I'm the one who's calm and collected and you are the one who's sitting there nervous â€“ I've got you rattled."
Rattled or not, the champion responded to the taunt as though Cook was dead meat about to be served up on a platter Saturday night: "You're just a typical big mouth and you don't bother me at all. I'll shove that phone up your a**. I'll see you on 9 December."
"Yeah, I hope I see you too,â€? spat Cook. â€œJust make sure you turn up!"
Say what you will about the British, but our comrades in arms from across the pond, to their credit, like nothing better than a good fight. Read more at the BLOG
Williams, who has been itching for a title fight and is as deserving as any welterweight without a belt out there, replied, "I don't need him to tell me I'm next. I couldn't be any happier being the WBO mandatory and I am in the gym getting ready to put my punishment on him. He likes to fight and everyone knows that I'm all action in the ring," which should make for a thrilling bout if Margarito/Williams does finally takes place.
Williamsâ€™ manager/trainer George Peterson is convinced his man has what it takes to take down Margarito: "That's a fight that Paul wants and he has been wanting for the longest time. Paul says, â€˜Look, I want to be the best. Some say Margarito's the best welterweight out there, so I want to beat him. I want to punish him.â€™"
"Boxing fans know that when I come in that ring I give 110% with my fists blazing," insisted Williams. â€œI'm going to dish out the punishment to Margarito for sure and do it in my nonstop punching fashion."
It look like the welterweight division, already the hottest division in boxing, is really starting to heat up. Read more at the BLOG