During a recent conversation I had with Randy Gordon, the ex-editor of The Ring magazine, ex-chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and current co-host, with former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney, of a Sirius radio show about boxing, he described a terrible live interview with an up-and-coming fighter whose manager had almost begged to have his guy come on as a guest. That request was granted, but the painfully reticent fighter provided a lot of dead air with “yes” and “no” answers to almost every question, no matter how hard Randy and Gerry tried to get him to open up. It was reminiscent of the time, after the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI, that CBS’ Tom Brookshier asked Cowboys running back Duane Thomas if he was really as fast as he appeared to be in rushing for a game-high 95 yards and scoring a touchdown. “Evidently,” a dour Thomas responded with all the enthusiasm of someone who had just been told by his dentist that he needed a root canal.
Interviews can be a hit-or-miss proposition, but there are certain individuals in boxing – Don King, Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman and a select few others immediately come to mind — who are or were veritable quote machines. You might have to go through a half-hour of meaningless babble, but it’s like panning for gold during the 1849 California gold rush. Somewhere amid mounds of worthless rubble is a gleaming nugget and presto, the ho-hum story you thought you had gets an immediate upgrade to buzz-worthy attention-grabber.
Going through my voluminous files – hey, 35 years on the boxing beat can do that – I was reminded of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of gold nuggets fight folks have obligingly sprinkled into my copy for the edification and bemusement of readers. Some were prescient, some were outrageous, but they were all keepers. Herein are a few in the inaugural installment of what might become a periodic TSS feature:
“It’s so big, even I don’t know how big it is. But it’s huge. There has not been anything like it in the history of mankind.”– Don King on Mike Tyson’s fight with Peter McNeeley
“James Toney makes out like he’s this big gangsta. He makes out like he’s from Detroit. Come on, the man came up in Ann Arbor. The only Big House they got there is the Michigan football stadium.”– Ex-con Bernard Hopkins on whether Toney had it tougher coming up than B-Hop did in Philly
“It sounded like somebody slapping a saddle, or a whip cracking against a piece of leather.”– HBO’s Larry Merchant of the body shot Roy Jones Jr. landed to put Virgil Hill down and out
“I’m cool with everybody, but they didn’t exactly greet me with a basket of goodies. I invite my neighbors whenever I have a party, but they still call the cops on us.”– Fernando Vargas on moving his family into a gated southern California community where no one else spoke Spanish
“Hearns was a rivalry, but Duran was in my head. It was personal.” — Sugar Ray Leonard
“I’m going to beat Hopkins, and beat him bad.”— Felix Trinidad before his 12th-round TKO loss to “The Executioner”
“Tommy Hearns lost a great fight to Leonard and a great fight to Hagler, but he could come right back and sell out arenas because of the way he fought. He always gave the fans their money’s worth.”– Emanuel Steward
“Boxing is more a part of the culture in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States.”– British-born Nigel Collins, former editor of The Ring
“The reason I am so loved by fans is because of my reckless style of fighting.”– Manny Pacquiao
“I believe there’s widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in boxing, and there has been for decades.”– Victor Conte, founder and president of BALCO, in 2010
“When people came to me and said, ‘You must be crazy, that big guy is going to kill you,’ I said, `What? Kill who? Y’all must’ve forgot.”– Roy Jones Jr. after he won the WBA heavyweight title by beating the much-larger John Ruiz
“The people here are wonderful, and the food’s great.”– Eric “Butterbean” Esch on his only fight in Philadelphia, at the Blue Horizon, in 1998
“When you become comfortable, when you get to taste some success, it can get harder and harder to say no (to temptations).”– Bernard Hopkins
“There’s nobody nicer than Evander, at face value, that is. Nobody is nicer than Lennox Lewis. But they can’t sell tickets. I can.”– Mike Tyson
“We don’t kick ’em to the curb, we resurrect ’em from the dead. So roll away the stone. Lazarus, come forth.”– Don King on his recycling of former heavyweight title challengers Oliver McCall and Henry Akinwande
“I believe he had a nervous breakdown. It might have been a delayed reaction to his way of living.”– WBC president Jose Sulaiman on Oliver McCall’s bizarre crying jag against Lennox Lewis
“At some point no fighter is going to be the same as he was before. But maybe I don’t have to be.”– a diminished Meldrick Taylor in 2002, 12 years after his brutal first fight with Julio Cesar Chavez.
“Hopkins-Wright is what I would call a businessman’s dance. By that I mean a fight where you have two guys and neither one wants to get hurt and both of them leave the ring looking the same as when they came in.”– Bob Arum
“I stood humble. I still am. I’m just myself, a normal guy. If you’re a nice person, I believe good things happen for you. God is looking after me, I guess.”– Micky Ward on his life story being told in the movie “The Fighter ”
“In all my years in boxing, I have never seen such a legitimate, mutual hatred than the one which exists between these two fighters.”– Bob Arum on the blood feud involving Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales
“I walk through airports now and people say, `Hey, it’s the grill man!’ I feel like saying, `Yeah, I sell grills, but don’t you remember when I was heavyweight champion of the world?’ Some of the younger people have no idea.”– George Foreman
“I will take Lennox Lewis’ title, his soul, and smear his pompous brains all over the ring when I hit him.”– Mike Tyson (uh, no)
“I think Mike Tyson belongs in a cage. He needs to be sheltered like you would shelter a lion or a tiger. You lock him up except when you want him to come out and jump through a few hoops. When that’s over, you lock him up again.”– George Foreman, in 1991
“Half the people are rooting for me to recover, and half not.”– Bert Randolph Sugar, ever the quipster, on being diagnosed with lung cancer
“Anything I say is real. I am never fake. I am the truth.”– Floyd Mayweather Jr.
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