As a baseball player, Dean Chance was a hard-throwing, right-handed starting pitcher with an unorthodox twisting windup. The Wooster, Ohio, native was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 1960 when he was only 19-years-old.
Although he never became a consistently dominating pitcher, Chance had an illustrious career that was highlighted by him winning the American League Cy Young Award in 1964 when he was only 23.
He was 20-9 that year with a 1.64 ERA. He pitched 11 shutouts, including six in which he won the games by a 1-0 score.
During a career that spanned from 1961-71, Chance played with the Angels, as well as the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, and Detroit Tigers. By the time he left the game, he was already involved in boxing, which was always his other favorite sport.
“When I was growing up I always wanted to be a ballplayer,” said the 6’3” Chance. “But I always loved boxing, too. I grew up listening to and watching Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. Boy, were they exciting.”
Chance became a boxing manager in 1969. His first fighter was light heavyweight Ray Anderson of Akron, Ohio, who in 1971 unsuccessfully challenged Bob Foster for the title. His second was future heavyweight sensation Earnie Shavers, another fellow Ohioan who Chance turned pro in 1969 and handled for his first 40 or so fights.
“Earnie was a brute, a helluva puncher,” said Chance. “He had a lot of talent and a lot of heart. I’m still surprised that he never won a title. He might be the hardest punching heavyweight that ever lived.”
Having been a sporting phenomenon himself, Chance understood the psychology of athletes. He believes those sensibilities made him a good manager, and he is proud of the work he did with Shavers, as well as another young Ohio heavyweight named Mike Boswell.
Chance got Boswell to 13-0 (12 KOS) before matching him with the ferocious Mac Foster, who was 25-1, in March 1971. After Foster stopped the once promising Boswell in four founds, Boswell went into a downward spiral and retired for good in 1981 with a deceiving record of 15-24 (14 KOS).
Boswell wound up moving to Rochester, New York, where he took this writer under his wing during my short-lived and uneventful boxing career in the late seventies and early eighties.
He treated me like a surrogate son as he encouraged me through the rigors of training. It was obvious that he saw more in me than I saw in myself, and my memories of him are very fond. He was a wonderful man.
“Mike was a great amateur who used to spar with Earnie all the time,” said Chance. “He beat Earnie in the Golden Gloves. He was going great until he fought Foster. He lost his desire after that.”
Having been a ballplayer, Chance also understands the potential for inconsistency among athletes, as well as the fickleness of fans.
As any young superstar would be, he was thrilled when he won the Cy Young Award, and couldn’t believe that he had garnered 17 of the 20 requisite votes. The great Sandy Koufax had only received one vote that year.
“That was the highlight of my career, maybe my life,” said the 64-year-old Chance, the divorced father of one son who is now the president of the International Boxing Association (IBA), a sanctioning organization that he started in the early nineties.
“Everybody in the world is a baseball fan, so being a Cy Young winner always opens a lot of doors,” he said. “I didn’t have to start cold, but I couldn’t have brought the IBA to where it is today without the help of some great people.”
He mentions Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler and California promoter Don Chagrin as being “great guys and great friends” and said they were instrumental in him getting the IBA respected.
Chance said his motivation for establishing the organization was twofold. His love of boxing played as much of a role in his decision as his desire to “give the little [men] a chance” to establish themselves in such a tough vocation.
The way he does that is by keeping sanctioning fees low and getting his fighters as much publicity and activity as possible.
“We have a lot of great, well-known champions like [heavyweight] James Toney and [welterweight] Carlos Baldomir,” he said. “But we also have great lesser known champions like [junior featherweight] Al Seeger, who is just fabulous. The IBA title will open up a lot of doors for him.”
Chance believes the credibility of his champions is due in large part to the respect the boxing community has for IBA ratings chairman Norm Longtin.
“He’s takes his job very seriously,” said Chance. “He lives boxing 24 hours a day. I believe that Norm is the most respected ratings chairman in the sport.”
Besides Seeger, whose record is 27-1 (27 KOS), winning the super bantamweight title on July 28, another recently crowned IBA champion is cruiserweight Punchin’ Pat Nwamu, 12-1 (4 KOS), who won the vacant title from John Battle at Madison Square Garden on August 5.
David Diaz, a 1996 Olympian, who has held the lightweight title since October 2005, won the WBC interim lightweight title with a sensational 10th round TKO of Jose Armando Santa Cruz on August 12.
Chance couldn’t be happier with the direction IBA is heading. Besides boxing, about the only thing he gets equally excited talking about is baseball.
Asked to list his favorite ballplayers, or at least the ones he most admires, he rattles them off as if he’d answered that question a thousand times before.
“The greatest defensive player I ever faced was Brooks Robinson,” he said. “The greatest relief pitcher was Dick Radich of the Red Sox. The toughest hitters I ever faced were Tony Oliva of the Twins and Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox. They always hit me the other way. If I had a runner on third and no outs, those were the last guys I’d want to see at the plate.
“The toughest competitor I ever faced was Frank Robinson,” he continued. “But the best all-around player was Mickey Mantle. He could hit with power or drag bunt with equal skill. And boy, could he run. He might be the best player that ever lived.”
He says that his all-time favorite fighter is Henry Armstrong because he would just “come on, come on, and come on all night long.”
Besides Armstrong, he was asked what other fighters he admires.
“I like punchers,” said the former fireballer who excited baseball fans for a decade. “I like the tempo and the momentum of a big fight between two punchers. There is nothing more exciting in the world.”