Revered trainer Eddie Futch passed away on October 10th, 2001 at the age of 90. Futch dedicated his entire adult life to the sport of boxing, remaining active over seven decades working on the sport that he loved.
The Futch family moved from Hillsboro, Mississippi to Detroit, Michigan and it was in the northern city that Futch learned boxing. Eddie Futch gravitated to the Brewster Recreation Center Gym, where he had a decorated amateur career from 1932-1933, culminating in a Detroit Golden Gloves Championship. Despite competing as a lightweight, stories from this time also tell of Futch holding a preferred status as a sparring partner with Joe Louis, the future Heavyweight Champion. It was in 1936 that Futch was diagnosed as having a heart murmur, which derailed his plan to turn professional.
Early accounts of Futch from around this time describe a natural born teacher and leader, and Futch gravitated towards passing on his knowledge of the sweet science. Despite his growing wisdom and understanding of the game, and his ability to transfer that knowledge to other men, success did not come instantly for Futch as a trainer. Throughout the 30’s Futch kept other employment, but always gravitated back to the gym and back to boxing. Throughout World War II, Futch is said to have worked welding jobs to make ends meet.
By the 1940’s insiders in boxing circles knew about Eddie Futch from Detroit for his exploits training the areas’s boxers, and he was respected for his understanding of the sport from the very beginning. By the mid 1940’s, Futch had impacted the national boxing scene by preparing contenders Jimmy Edgar and Lester Felton. In 1958, after relocating to Los Angeles, Futch trained his first World Champion when Welterweight Don Jordan captured the title on December 5th, 1958 at the Olympic Auditorium, defeating Virgil Akins. In the 1990’s he guided Heavyweight Riddick Bowe to the World Heavyweight Championship for his final titlist.
Futch is most famous for being the trainer and corner man for Joe Frazier during his epic third battle with Muhammad Ali, called ‘The Thrilla in Manila’. When Futch called a stop to the fight before the 15th round with his fighter Joe Frazier begging to continue, Futch took what is probably the most memorable action of any corner-man and trainer anywhere in the history of boxing. Futch stopped the fight with the conviction that he was saving Frazier´s life, such was the output of energy and display of guts his fighter, and indeed both fighters, had displayed.
In 1996, Futch left the camp of Riddick Bowe, who would be his final world champion. Futch left Bowe with this statement, showing that until his very last days, he remained a man of strong convictions who did not tolerate distractions from the task at hand. He was 85 at the time:
“I’m withdrawing my services from Riddick Bowe because of irreconcilable differences. It’s been in the works for a long time. When I started with Bowe (in 1988) I told him not to waste my time, that I was not going to let him or anybody waste my time.”
Futch said he had not talked to the Bowe, but had informed manager Rock Newman. “I told him I can’t deal with it anymore,” Futch said. “He told me, `I could see it coming’.”
In the end, a list of World Champions trained by Futch includes not only Frazier, Jordan and Bowe, but also includes champions Alexis Arguello, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Montell Griffin, Michael Spinks, Marlon Starling, Hedgemon Lewis, Trevor Berbick and Virgil Hill, among others. Another of his students, Freddie Roach, went on to a solid boxing career and is considered one of the best boxing trainers in the world at the start of the 21st century.
Futch remained active as a trainer until 1998, when he slowed down a bit. He was always around boxing, and he passed away on October 10th, 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada where he lived for the last years of his life. Gone but not forgotten, Eddie Futch.