Fair to say that there will never again be a man who holds a heavyweight title belt, and answers to the name “Pink.”
Yes, indeed Pinklon Thomas, who held the WBC heavyweight title in the mid 80s, does have a few claims to fame tucked away, and, I confess, I got a kick out of conversing with him on the phone a couple days ago, and referring to him as “Pink” while I heard about his new business venture.
The Michigan-born former boxer beat WBC champ Tim Witherspoon on Aug. 31, 1984 and defended the crown against Mike Weaver before dropping the strap to Trevor Berbick. And far from holding a competitive grudge against ‘Spoon and Weaver, Thomas, age 55, is banding together with those two ex champs, as well as Earnie Shavers and “Bonecrusher” Smith, forming a crew called “Sports Titans.”
The retired pugilists are setting up dates to meet and greet fans and discuss their glory days, sign autographs and press the flesh with fans of heavyweight boxing from a prior era.
First things first, I had to get to the backstory of how Thomas was named “Pinklon.” He chuckled, and informed me that his father’s mom, a Native American Indian, was nicknamed “Pinky.” Pinklon’s dad, who by the way is still alive and turned 99 on May 20, is named Franklin. So “Pinky” and “Franklin” were mashed together, and voila, “Pinklon” was born.
Thomas said that he and the other titans are all good with each other, that no bad blood lingers from their battles. “At the beginning, we have to be mean, intimidate each other, make eye contact with them and see whose eyes drop,” he said, laughing.
Thomas never fought Shavers, but interacted with man known as one of the hardest hitters to ever grace the planet back in 1990, around the time Dundee enlisted Thomas for a how-to-box video. “Earnie was a great guy, very personable,” he said. “I mean there was always bad blood when we were going to fight each other, Don King made sure of that! But you have to realize it’s just a sport and it’s done.”
Thomas is in a positive place, even telling me he has nothing but love for Don King. That wasn’t always the case, by any means. He celebrated heartily Nov. 1990, when his contract with King reached an end. But today? “King did right by me,” he said. “You never forget where you come, or where you’ve been, how you got there. He gave me an opportunity.” Dundee’s sweetness rubbed off on Thomas, it seems like. “Angelo used to say, ‘It don’t cost anything to be nice,”’ Thomas recalls. “We’d be walking around in Vegas before a fight, and he’d see another fighter walking around with a frown on, chest tight, and he’d hit me, and say, ‘Don’t be like that! Smile. Be humble, be nice!”’ That’s Dundee’s obituary.”
Dundee would I think be pleased to see Thomas, who beat a dope addiction which began when he was pre-teen, and was using needles before he needed to shave, in a stable place.
Thomas (43-7-1, retired in 1993) recalled that he reached out to Dundee to train him early, around 1979, when he was about 5-0. Dundee said he was busy, but became un-busy when Thomas beat Dundee fighter “Quick” Tillis in 1982. Dundee thereafter had a crush on Thomas’ jab, which he used to compare to Sonny Liston’s. Nothing was able to retard Mike Tyson, though, when then 29-0 Tyson gave Thomas another title crack, on May 30, 1987. Tyson took out Thomas in round six, as a “Dundee Special,” a torn-glove break before that round, wasn’t able to break up Tyson’s rhythm. Thomas, an inductee into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame, then became something of a gatekeeper, losing to Evander Holyfield his next outing, and later dropping bouts to Riddick Bowe and Tommy Morrison.
I asked what Thomas thinks of the current state of the sport. Is he a Floyd Mayweather fan? “I never thought welterweights would rule like they do, the heavyweights have always been the top,” he said. “That’s another reason we came up with the Titans, that was a memorable era. Guys like Mayweather, they reign and they do good but I think we’re going to bring back a lot of memories in baby boomers, and we can talk about that era, and sign pictures and tell good stories and help bring boxing back.”
I was curious, does he ever lament that he was born at the wrong time, and does he fantasize about being in the mix today, and getting an opportunity to topple a Klitschko?
“I don’t wish I was born in a different era,” Thomas said. “But the Klitschkos, they don’t talk, there’s no shine, no glamour, no excitement there. You know what’s gonna happen in their fights before it happens so people are not really excited about it.”
Are there still competitive juices flowing when the Titans get together, I wondered. Thomas, who said the first Titans booking will be announced soon, admitted, with a chuckle, that each guy thinks he’s number one. “But none of them could get past my jab!” He paused, and noted, “They ain’t gonna like hearing that!”
Thomas said Shavers, Spoon and Weaver have done similar type events in England, where there is a solid market for such events. I ‘heard a rumor of a reality TV show, but Thomas didn’t want to confirm or deny that aspect of the Titans promotional push.
George Foreman has an XL personality, perfect for the Titans; did Thomas ask Big George to be part of the troupe? “I didn’t ask George, he has more money that God,” he said, cheerily. “But I think it will happen, George, and Mike Tyson, when they see how we’re moving along, getting good publicity, rocking the house, they’re going to want to come aboard. But I might tell some of them we got no more room on the dais!”
I’m hopeful the endeavor does well. I admit a soft spot for a man who held the heavyweight title who had the courage to enter the ring wearing pink shorts. Best of luck, Pink.