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A Boxing Writer’s Reward

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  • A Boxing Writer’s Reward

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    Every writer seeks positive feedback and this writer is no exception. Whether it comes in the form of remuneration, e-mail messages, “likes” and “hits,” long threads on Facebook, praise from other writers, or in other ways and combinations, it is greatly appreciated. This story is about a reward that came out of nowhere but made things all worthwhile for me, a simple acknowledgment of a story I had written years ago about Bobby Tomasello, a fighter who was given the birth name of Robert Benson but fought under the same ring name adopted by his father.


    I first saw Bobby fight on April 1, 2000 when he stopped one Jose Carlos Beato in four rounds at the Roxy in Boston (where every seat is a good seat and the beer is foamy). He would win his next three fights, improving to 14-0, before taking on the highly talented Steve “The Destroyer” Dotse (18-3 coming in) on October 20, 2000. This fight was also held at the Roxy and was televised on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”

    This was the immensely popular Tomasello’s first 10-round bout, and while most of his opponents had losing records, 14 in a row is 14 in a row. Bobby was not about to fear Dotse, who was wrongly cast as the underdog despite having fought far superior opposition and having a great amateur pedigree, having represented his native Ghana in the Barcelona Olympics (although Bobby, a three-time New England amateur champion, also had a sparkling amateur resume).

    Against the Ghanaian, Bobby fought his heart out. Engaging in fierce, head-snapping, back-and-forth exchanges; he built up an early lead but faded against the physically stronger Dotse who came on late and meted out extremely heavy punishment during the last round. Bobby kept swinging back thus preventing the referee from halting the action; his fighting heart would not allow him to quit and that may well have been his downfall.

    The bout was initially scored a win for Dotse, but after some confusion it was changed to a draw when it was discovered that a judge’s scorecard had been read incorrectly. The change drew a big smile on Bobby’s face and a roar from the partisan crowd. Everything seemed fine at that point. Bobby was still undefeated.

    After going to the locker room, he told his father, who had worked his corner, that he didn’t feel good. Bobby’s father said, ``I was yelling at him, `Bobby, don't you fall asleep,' …I know what happens to boxers who do. . . . Oh God. I knew. I knew.'' Bobby then experienced moments of nausea and complained of a headache to his manager Norman Stone and then suddenly collapsed and was immediately rushed to New England Medical Center where he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot, relieve swelling, and stop the bleeding in his brain.

    “We’re just hoping for a miracle now, he is in very grave condition,” said the well-known criminal defense attorney Anthony Cardinale, Bobby’s heartbroken promoter and mentor. “He would hold his crucifix if he ever uttered a curse so Jesus wouldn’t hear it,” added Cardinale. A devout Roman Catholic, Bobby went to church almost every day.

    The long vigil ended at 11:45 AM on Wednesday, October 25. After five days on a respirator, the young fighter was declared dead. Bobby Tomasello Benson, born in the hardscrabble town of Somerville, Massachusetts (and a resident of equally gritty Saugus, MA), was just 24 years old.

    The death stunned the boxing world and rocked the Boston area’s boxing community to its core.

    “I was at that fight…I went to the hospital afterwards, walked over from The Roxy. I didn’t even know Steve very well but as a fellow fighter I felt I should go. I never got to see him. That was the second bout I attended in person where a fighter ended up passing away from his injuries. I hope I never have to go through that again, trust me.” - Iceman John Scully

    “He was in the fight of his life and then he fought for his life…It’s an awful, awful tragedy to all involved. His father was in the corner with me. His trainer, Bobby Covino, is beside himself. You start wondering, should I have done this, should I have done that? It’s too late. It’s too late. The fight went on and I thought he was winning the fight. Even in the 10th round…”—Norman Stone, Bobby’s manager

    “I remember him saying before the fight that he’d rather die than lose this fight.”—Bob Benson Sr.

    Steve Dotse would be KOd in June 2001 by undefeated Tim Austin in a bid for the IBF bantamweight title. A year later, he lost to Marcos Badillo (15-22-1), a terribly limited fighter. Dotse’s career ended badly in April 2003 when he was stopped by Cruz Carbajal in two rounds in Las Vegas. After that, he reportedly became penniless living in a dingy room above Jarrell’s Boxing Gym in Savannah, Georgia. A short but revealing documentary produced by Skylight Cinema titled “Ring of Fire,” describes his terrible fall, much of it attributed to aftereffects arising from the draw with Tomasello.

    Fast Forward to April 2018

    Recently, the following message was sent to me via Facebook:

    “Hi Ted. My name is Jawn Mallon and I was Bobby Tomasello’s best friend. He was more like a big brother to me. His dad and my dad were best friends and we grew up next to each other and I idolized him for as long as I can remember. We trained together for 10+ years daily....well, more accurately put, he kicked my *** daily for 10+ years but we went to every fight together and I’d be in his corner from the Golden Gloves to the Dotse fight. My oldest is named after Bobby and I have a scrap book that I would love to send you some pics of if you’re interested. I think of him daily and my kids know all about their uncle Bobby even though they never met him. He was literally the best and most genuine person I’ve ever met.”

    “His sister sent me your latest and I believe second article about him and I just wanted to thank you for revisiting his legacy and writing such a beautiful and accurate piece on him. Thanks for allowing him to live on through avenues like that. Much love, Jawn”

    “Much love...” What more reward could one possibly want?

    - -

    I’m a Boston guy (via Chicago) and I came to love the Boston fighters who earned local glory—men like Bobby Covino, Tony Petronelli and others too numerous to list here. Bobby would have been one of them. To myself and many others, he will never be forgotten.

    Ted Sares is one of the oldest full power (raw modern) lifters in the world and is a four-time winner of the EPF’s Grand Master championship. He also is a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    A very sad and touching piece, Ted. Yet another sad story from the "sport" of boxing.


    • #3
      Originally posted by JohnnyTango View Post
      A very sad and touching piece, Ted. Yet another sad story from the "sport" of boxing.
      This one impacted a lot of people I know personally like Tony Cardinale, Ring 4 brother Bobby Covino,, and Norman "Stoney" Stone who I talked with last week at the RING 4 Annual Banquet. See the photo herein. Bobby was very well liked by other boxers as well as anyone who ever came in contact with him. heck, he carried a crucifix with him. The entire thing was a one-in-a million kind of accident. It was caused by one blow rather than an accumulation. Nothing could have prevented it. It was just very difficult and gave many pause as to whether they wanted to continue in boxing.


      • #4
        That's Stoney. And that's Bobby Covino


        • #5
          Great stuff as usual.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Ron Lipton View Post
            Great stuff as usual.
            Thanks Ron. Coming fro you , that means a lot to me. We need to keep the memory of these men and women alive and well.
            Last edited by Kid Blast; 04-14-2018, 03:11 PM.


            • #7
              This just in from Anthony Cardinale:


              "Thank you for keeping his memory alive. I miss him every day and he has provided me with inspiration from the moment we met at the gym to this day.

              "It's important to boxing that we remind ourselves daily of the risks that are taken in the ring, the need to take all preventative measures before and after bouts, and the courage of the families and friends who have to go on after such tragedies.


              And this from Joe Bruno:

              "Nice article.

              I was at four fights were fighter died from injuries in the ring.

              The first was Willie Classen in 1979 where I was one of the two judges. He was KO'd by Wilford Scypion. Eve Shain was the other and Lew Eskin was the ref. It was weird because in Scypion's corner was Emile Griffith who had killed Benny Kid Paret, a fight I saw on TV when I was a kid.

              The last one was in Venice, Fl around 1200 when Emiliano Valdez died after a fight with Teddy Reid. I was covering the fight for the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

              The second and third one involved the same fighter Gino Perez, managed by my friend Al Certo. In 1981, Freddy Bowman died after he was KO's by Perez in Atlantic City. I think it was on the undercard of Arguello-Mancini, but I'm not sure.

              In 1983, Perez was killed after he was KO'd by Juan Ramon Cruz at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden. I was at St. Vincent's hospital in the Village the next day with Certo, and Gino died a couple of days later.

              I was thinking about doing a book on ring deaths, but I scraped the idea a while back."
              "Joe Bruno

              Also, Charlie Norkus Jr. weighs in as follows:

              "Sad story Ted, an incredible tribute to a young man from Boston. Through the years, the names can be interchangeable with many boxers who fell the same way. Thanks for keeping his name known for many to remember..A tribute to you too putting ink to paper. Your friend, Charlie Norkus Jr."

              And from Don Judson: "
              oh man, that is a good article--you might be coming to be kind of like a real human being in your golden years; certainly writing nice stuff"

              This from author and historian Mike Silver: "Too many like this. Often makes you wonder if we can any longer justify this sport.".

              From Jawn Mallon from whom I received the Facebook message: "Beautiful! Thank you so much Ted. This is priceless to me."
              Last edited by Kid Blast; 04-15-2018, 03:23 AM.


              • #8
                Eternal peace and grace to coach Kenny Weldon , one of boxing's truly great TEACHERS ...He was a great friend of mine and a solid boxer (43-7-1) and trainer. A very religious man as well. He will be missed by those who knew him. Peace to you my dear friend.

                Attached Files
                Last edited by Kid Blast; 04-16-2018, 08:22 PM.


                • #9
                  Sad story...about both boxers.


                  • Kid Blast
                    Kid Blast commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yes. Both ended up bad. One dead and the other homeless. Boxing never promises a happy ending.