In November of 2003, it would have been appropriate to use the old adage of geriatrics all over the world by saying that the “times were a changing.” At that point, the US had entered and stayed in the country of Iraq for eight months. The Democratic Presidential Nomination process was entering the home stretch prior to the last minute scramble and victory of John Kerry nearly a year prior to his 2004 loss to President George W. Bush. The Boston Red Sox were entering a tough off season following a game seven collapse in their classic American League Championship Series against the hated New York Yankees.
There are particular fights throughout history in which one fighter becomes a different boxer than he was before the fight. These occurrences happen in terms of ascending or descending patterns. A boxer can climb the stairs or fall down them in terms of making a name and symbol for himself. Sometimes, like Jermain Taylor did against Kelly Pavlik, one can stumble physically while succeeding metaphorically.
The same happened to Erik Morales in his second fight with Manny Pacquiao. In the first fight, Morales, 48-4, 34 KO’s, was able to put together the punches necessary to not only hit Pacquiao, 41-3, 33 KO’s, hard but also hit him often. The battle had been a twelve round bloody mess, with Pacquiao’s face looking to be covered in Halloween prop scars. Morales, with bloody shorts, was able to raise his hand that day when he was announced as the winner by unanimous decision.
There was not a more sought after rematch in the sport at the time. There was plenty of controversy following the first fight. Besides that, Pacquiao’s greatness was hailed through out the sport after his beat down of Marco Antonio Barrera. Morales had won the first fight by choosing the right times to box and bang.
There were several quirks to the first fight. The most dramatic of these was Morales’ decision to box southpaw in the twelfth round and get rocked so badly that it looked at times as if he would go down. The bewildering decision by the Mexican fighter combined with several other elements to cast doubt on the outcome.
Pacquiao was originally denied the use of his preferred gloves because of a contract signed by his promoter. Also, Pacquiao suffered a huge gash over his eye that was clearly caused by a butt. The cut was ruled from a punch, sending Pacquiao into a mode of urgency.
All these wide turns of could have affected the outcome of the fight and left plenty on the plate for each fighter in the second fight. It also meant that both men would be hungrier than ever to get back at an opponent. Whether or not Pacquiao would turn on the guns and take back the initiative was yet to be seen.
As a sign of weakness and point of entry into Morales’ ability and arsenal, he was coming off of a loss entering the rematch with Pacquiao. In between the first two fights, Morales faced Zahir Raheem in what was supposed to be a tune up fight. Rahim applied relentless pressure to Morales and bullied him all the way to a unanimous decision in September of 2005. In that fight, the crowd booed and groaned as it became more and more apparent that their favorite fighter was destined to lose.
Now, Morales struggled to make the 130 pound super featherweight weight limit necessary to fight Pacquiao. Even so, odds for the rematch were dead even in most audiences and very narrowly tilted in favor of Morales in Las Vegas. The scene at the Thomas and Mack Center was a chaotic frenzy. Every seat in the house was packed and screaming and got what they deserved for their money. From the opening bell, the action never stopped.
The first two rounds featured a blitzkrieg by Pacquiao, with the southpaw slithering and rushing his way inside and landing numerous strafing left hands and crosses down the middle. Morales was rocked hard several times in the round and landed only occasional leather. When he did land the shots were strong. Pacquiao more or less dominated the pace and returned to his style at the end of the second round.
Morales was back in the right gear over the next few rounds. Moving in a slightly more tactical manner, Morales landed plenty of jabs and combinations to pile up points. He also abandoned his flat footed counter-punching for a stick and move strategy that utilized his reach. It seemed as though he had taken control and found a road map to winning the fight.
Pacquiao came out like a gangbuster in the sixth round and put on a fearless display that would set the tone for the rest of the bout. His hands increased in speed as he landed shots in bunches of five and six. He rocked Morales with shots to both the body and head and nailed him with a volley that stumbled Morales badly with less than thirty seconds to go in the round. Morales returned to his corner looking beaten, with blood coming from his nose.
Over the remaining rounds, Pacquiao continued to unleash his fury on Morales’ battered body. With each round, Morales would flurry back for less and less time and return to his stool looking more and more dejected. With each round, Pacquiao landed more and more combinations and dictated more and more of the pace.
Throughout rounds eight and nine, Pacquiao began to land more and more vicious shots. His right uppercut and his hard left hook thudded at will. Morales returned to his stool both times with blood shot eyes and a busted face.
It was in the tenth round that Pacquiao finally sealed the deal against a flat footed and fatigued Erik Morales. He unleashed a flurry of punches that sent Morales back one last time, softening him with right hands to the body. Morales retreated and dropped his hands to protect his ribs, leaving Pacquiao just enough room to land a crushing left hook that sent Morales to the mat on hands and knees for only the second time in his career.
Morales showed his nearly routine display of courage by climbing to his feet, but it appeared that the bout was over. Pacquiao jumped on him immediately after he rose from the mat and ended the fight by putting him back down. Kenny Bayles made the merciful stoppage at 2:33.
Pacquiao ran to his corner and basked in his victory. The performance was impressive and career defining. He had beaten back one of his ghosts convincingly. He credited himself… and his gloves.
“The gloves I use Cleto Reyes are the gloves I like and they are more comfortable,” Pacquiao he said in a post fight interview. “Every time I hit him in the body he stopped punching but I was careful because he was a power puncher. He was hurt to the body first before I hit him in the head. If he got up the second time I knew I would finish him.”
Morales told the cameras what most already knew. I was tired and it is an accumulation of all the hard fights,” Morales confided after the defeat. “It was just very hard and I fell down because I was just tired. I was tired because of making weight. I hadn’t made 130-pounds in over a year and the body can’t take that much more and I was just exhausted.”
Of course, Morales found it appropriate for there to be a third fight between the two. He fought Pacquiao ten months later and was swallowed up in three rounds. He fought one more time again after that and lost a close decision to WBC Lightweight Champion David Diaz in August, announcing his retirement afterward.
Pacquiao went on successfully to beat Oscar Larios before taking the rubber match with Morales in the third fight. Then, he trounced Jorge Solis by an eighth round knockout and settled business with a clear cut unanimous decision victory of Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao is slated to fight early next year in one of many possible combinations that are expected to be all time classic match ups. Possible opponents that have been mentioned include Juan Manuel Marquez, Juan Diaz, and Edwin Valero.
Guilty: The Other Side of the Hurricane. RSR Sits Down with Herald News Reporter, Cal Deal to Discuss Rubin Carter, Part III
Interview by Geno McGahee
In 1974, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s autobiography: “The 16th Round” was released to the public and documented his side of the story, stating that he was falsely accused by a racist system and was a victim his entire life of bigotry. The book was a major success. A new trial was granted when a recorded statement from one of the eyewitnesses, Al Bello, was withheld by the prosecution, and that’s when the celebrities appeared, all supporting this wrongfully accused former boxer. Bob Dylan wrote and performed a song entitled: “Hurricane” and covered the incident at the Lafayette Grill from Carter’s perspective. Muhammad Ali and Burt Reynolds were also behind the former middleweight and it seemed that a great injustice was about to be undone.
Rubin Carter and John Artis were released on bail in between trials and the public support and backing by many of the biggest names in Hollywood and the sports world, gave the duo a lot of momentum that would quickly disappear when controversy hit. Carolyn Kelley was one of the biggest supporters of the “Hurricane,” and the leader of the Carter Defense Fund. She met up with Carter and claims that she was beaten into unconsciousness at the hands of the former middleweight, which is a claim that he denies. He has stated that it was extortion and that he tried to work with her, but her demands were unreasonable. Whatever the case, when this news leaked to the press, the public support and the celebrities disappeared. Carter and Artis would quietly go into the second trial and be found guilty yet again.
In 1985, Judge Lee Sarokin released both Rubin Carter and John Artis, stating that the prosecution appealed to racism over reason. It is such an emotional story that you want to believe that an innocent man was released after a racist system sent him away. That is the story that the majority of the press has ran with and that the majority of the public believes to be true. Cal Deal has bravely faced off against the masses and has presented a compelling case creating some doubt of Carter’s innocence, as you will see in the third part of this RSR exclusive interview.
GM: A young man named Lesra Martin and his Canadian adoptive family of sorts played a very big part in the release of Carter. How effective were they and what was their relationship to Carter.
As far as I understand, they had absolutely nothing with getting him out of prison. His lawyers did it. He got out on procedural errors…technical stuff, and that’s how he got released. He wasn’t released on anything that they found in their alleged investigation. Let me tell you about them. I was on a coast to coast radio show in Canada. I told them that if we were interviewed at the same time, we wouldn’t get anywhere and that we should be interviewed separately. They came on and said that everything on my website was false. That’s it. They basically said that I’m a liar, a deceiver, a cheat, and that I can’t be trusted. For them to say that about me and I’m a pretty ethical person, without even knowing me, told me everything that I need to know about them. You don’t say something like that unless you have a basis of it, and they don’t because everything that I say is true. It just showed what kind of people that they are, and there’s nothing that I’m aware of in their so-called investigation that cleared Carter. They’ll play on that Monaco-Polara thing, but what somebody says at a hearing years later versus what you say within in hour of the crime. What are you going to put your confidence in?
Guilty: The Other Side of the Hurricane. RSR Sits Down with Herald News Reporter, Cal Deal to Discuss Rubin Carter, Part II
In the movie, “The Hurricane,” an evil and racist detective harassed a young Rubin Carter and maintained this course throughout the majority of his life. Carter most definitely had to deal with racism because it was an extremely volatile time in America with ignorance everywhere, but some of the things that he has stated and that we have seen in the Hollywood production, are less than accurate. In a situation where Carter is trying to come off as a man with impeccable character may have done himself a disservice as he blurred important facts to get his point across. Whether or not this means he’s guilty is not for me to say, but it definitely makes you think.
One of the scenes in the movie, where a white child molester approaches Carter and his young friends, a courageous “Hurricane” stands up to this predator and is forced to stab him in order to save his own life. The police’s account states that a fourteen-year-old Carter actually mugged the man of a $55 dollar watch and that the pedophile story was fabricated. There were many things about the movie that was based on his autobiography “The 16th Round” that are put in there intentionally to steer you in one direction, but that is the way that Hollywood operates, so I can’t fault Carter completely for making the man a victim twice, if that is what he did.
One of the biggest controversies from the boxing world’s perspective was the depiction of the bout that Carter had with Joey Giardello. This was a bout that the majority of the boxing experts claim that Giardello had comfortably won, but in the movie, racist judges joined the vast conspiracy and stole the victory from “The Hurricane.” There was a lawsuit filed and eventually settled, lending proof that the press was correct and that the movie had blurred another fact, possibly hurting the reputation of a great fighter.
The motivation to fabricate situations may have been to make the story more appealing to the public, and to make Rubin Carter a righteous character, or perhaps, as Cal Deal contends, it was an effort to take attention away from the facts of the case. Deal has supplied RSR with a lot of evidence that seems to support everything that he says.
GM: I want to talk about Detective Desimone, who is portrayed in the movie the Hurricane, which I will get to later as a racist corrupt police officer, out to get Carter. Now, on page 35 of James S. Hirsch’s book: Hurricane, Desimone is described as a racist. Hirsch writes that his confessions had less to do with gumshoe police work than with intimidation, he was feared. Was he a racist that used strong-arm tactics to get the answers that he wanted regardless of guilt or innocence?
No, first of all, I don’t believe that Desimone was a racist. I didn’t know him well. I met him a couple of times…talked to him on the phone, and I always got the impression that he was an honorable man. There was this little poem that he carried around in his wallet and was with him on the day he died and it’s called “The man in the mirror” or the “face in the glass” or something like that, and it’s basically a poem that says that you have to look yourself in the eye in the morning and do the right thing. It is about the importance of your name and reputation and being an honorable person. He gave a copy to his son and had a copy in his wallet, and that was the kind of person he was. Now, I’m sure that there were circumstances where he had to play the tough guy, but when you are dealing with tough people, you can’t be a wimp. Who knows what he’s done to play act, but I think that the real person wasn’t a racist. Believe me, if I thought that this was a racist prosecution and that Carter was prosecuted because he’s a black man, I would be on his side and not theirs.
That Bello interview that everyone thinks is so significant, but Bello had already identified Carter twice before ever talking to Desimone. He had nothing to do with Carter being identified by Bello. Bello had told it to a detective that ran into him at a bar and he sat down with him, and Bello was being rattled because he was getting threatened by Carter’s friends to keep his damn mouth shut. He’s around Paterson and around people, so he’s vulnerable. So he was rattled. He says to the detective that “you had the guy but you let him go,” and then finally tells the detective that it was Carter and he asks Bello if he will come back and tell his boss and he agrees.
Bello and the detective go back and tell Captain Mohl and so you have the detective and Mohl being told by Bello that it was Carter and only then do they arrange to send it to the county and Desimone gets involved and does that interview. So, it was a done deal before Desimone was ever involved in the case. Carter’s car was identified by Bello and Valentine and Carter, himself, was identified by Bello way before Desimone was involved…so, how can you blame him?
To further dismiss this racist business with Desimone: his boss, Burrell Ives Humphreys in 1976, the new prosecutor was a member of the NAACP. He was a guy that was such a principle man that he was not racist and defended a black couple that was having difficulty buying a house in his white neighborhood. They were being refused and he represented those people against his own neighborhood. That’s the type of principle man that Burrell Humphreys is. The fact that he was a member of the NAACP doesn’t scream racist to me, and he was very, very concerned about the race issue. He did want to be perceived as a white versus black thing. He made certain, and this terrified his fellow prosecutors, that there were blacks on the jury. They could have gotten them off, but he wanted them on and he got them, and those blacks voted to convict. Calling Desimone a racist is the same thing that Carter does to me…painting me as a racist, but in Desimone’s case, everything was already done before he got involved. It wasn’t him to get Bello to identify Carter or the car.
Guilty: The Other Side of the Hurricane. RSR Sits Down with Herald News Reporter, Cal Deal to Discuss Rubin Carter, Part I
On June 17th, 1966, two armed men would walk into the Lafayette Grill in Paterson, New Jersey and open fire, killing three and severely injuring another. This is the crime that both middleweight contender, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and John Artis were accused of and eventually, convicted of. I first became aware of this case in 1999 when a movie entitled: “The Hurricane” was released. Anytime that there is a boxing movie produced, I will be the first in line to see it and this situation was no different. I had mixed emotions after I watched the film. First, Denzel Washington, as always did a great job, and it was an uplifting story of triumph over racism and depression, but I didn’t think that I was getting all of the facts. In fact, the movie seemed to use excessive racism to get the point across that Rubin Carter was the victim of a conspiracy and was, in fact, innocent.
I purchased James S. Hirsch’s book: Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter and it was truly a great read and answered many of the questions that I had at the time. It backed up much of what the movie presented and had many facts that I was unaware of. I was now satisfied that Carter was innocent and that there was racism involved. After all, we are discussing a time when racism was rampant and the playing field was not even for minorities. In 1955, just eleven years prior to the Lafayette Grill shootings, a fourteen-year old, African American, Emmett Till is kidnapped and tortured to death for whistling at a white woman by two white men. If you have never seen a picture of Till after the fact, I recommend that you don’t. It was one of the most disturbing things that I have ever seen. In the end, the two men that did it and would later sell their stories to the press on how they carried out the murder, were found innocent, despite the mountain of evidence against them.
The same year that Rubin Carter was arrested, James Meredith started a solitary march against racism from Memphis to Jackson. A sniper made certain that he would not make it to the finish line. Stokely Carmichael, who coined the phrase: “Black Power,” would finish the march in his memory, along with Martin Luther King, and Floyd McKissick. The militant group: “The Black Panthers” were founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale out of necessity, as they confronted the negative treatment by white America. This was a very racist time and a time of transition and people don’t like change, which is why Martin Luther King was murdered along with Malcolm X. If murder is not out of the question, then certainly framing a man that is popular and outspoken for a crime he didn’t commit is plausible. Rubin Carter claimed racism and it made sense when you look at the times, but not all agreed.
Cal Deal was there on the front line of the civil rights movement and has covered the case against Carter and saw the story differently than most. I stumbled across his website and I was seriously intrigued. It was put together very well and presented evidence that I personally, have never seen up to that point. Cal Deal was eager to get his side across and granted an interview to RSR, where he explains the other side of the Hurricane.
GM: You have created and maintained a website concerning Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Why did you make this website and what is or was your relationship to the Hurricane?
Well, the website was to counter the Hollywood version of his story which is not true. I first met Carter in 1975 and I went down to interview him and photograph him for our newspaper. Now I was mostly a photographer, but I also participated in the interview and before I went down, I didn’t know anything about the case. I didn’t cover it. I didn’t know the people involved. I didn’t follow it when it was in the news. So I read up the clip files and what was going on with the case and everything was very positive to Carter. It seemed like he was innocent and I went down to the prison with that in my head, but before we went down, I asked our managing editor. I said: “Can we offer to give him a lie detector test and will the paper pay for it?” And he said: “Yes.”
So, we went down there and started the interview and Carter was very outgoing and friendly…very persuasive to people that didn’t really know the facts of the case. We then offered to give him the lie detector test and he refused. We said that if you’re innocent and you’ve got such a good case, then why not? This whole thing as a PR campaign to win over the public and this would be a great thing to pass a lie detector test. It will be magnificent PR and it will be very interesting. So, he refused and when we drove back to the paper, we talked about that and were very disturbed by that fact. It just didn’t seem right that a person that is innocent would refuse such an offer. That’s when I started looking into the case on my own and started developing a four part series that we ran and then I began learning the facts and after not too long, I began to believe that he was guilty, and I haven’t changed my opinion since.
When you don’t know the facts of the case, and you don’t understand how all the pieces fit together, and you listen to his arguments that the cops did this and the cops did that and you don’t have it in the proper perspective, then his arguments can be persuasive, but when you know the facts and you know what really happened that night, the case just falls apart…that’s why he was convicted twice by the juries. So, years later, when the movie was coming out and it was based on his story and he was participating in it, I knew what it was going to be. That is when I began building the website.
The consensus best heavyweight in the world is the current IBO/IBF Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, and with good reason. He has beaten a lot of good fighters of late and in dramatic fashion, but none perhaps, as dramatic as the knockout that he was at the end of in 2003, when a pinpoint straight left hand from the huge underdog, Corrie Sanders, sent him to the canvas and out of the fight in just two rounds. It was the crowning achievement for an underachiever and placed the WBO Heavyweight Title around the waist of the South African.
Sanders was known as “The Sniper,” a fitting name for such a sharp and accurate power-puncher. He always seemed on the verge of doing something special in the heavyweight division, but he never really applied himself. He began his career with twenty-three wins in a row, sixteen of those by knockout, and some was against decent competition. He knocked out Johnny DuPlooy in one round to win the South African Heavyweight Title, got decisions over Mike Dixon and Mike Evans, both incredibly tough competitors.
One win that made the public take notice…at least the boxing fans that followed the sport, was a knockout win over Bert Cooper in 1993. In just three rounds, he dominated and dispatched him to the canvas. This was the same Cooper that just two years prior had given Evander Holyfield the fight of his life, knocking him to the canvas and nearly winning the world title, and then went on to trade knockdown after knockdown with future heavyweight champion, Michael Moorer. Cooper had a reputation of a tough guy with a big punch and a lot of spirit and Sanders extinguished it quickly.
A name that may not ring any bells, but was also known to be a very tough customer was Levi Billups. He wasn’t an easy man to stop, and he had actually picked up a good win just two years prior when he decisioned former heavyweight champion, James “Bonecrusher” Smith. Billups would later go on to go the distance with a young Lennox Lewis in 1992, taking the future hall of famer the ten rounds, but would get blasted out of the fight in just one by “The Sniper.” A follow up win over the one time prospect, Mike Williams, also in the first round, let the boxing world know that Corrie Sanders was a force to be reckoned with, but in 1994, the crueler side of the sport would chime in and the undefeated record would vanish.
I first became aware of Jeff Fenech after reading an article about him in one of the many popular boxing rags of the day, sometime back in early 1987. “The Marrickville Mauler”, the moniker most often attributed to Fenech, was an undeniable phenomenon in his homeland of Australia, but to the vast majority of boxing fans of that period around the globe and certainly here in North America, he was mostly just a name with a title belt fighting mostly Down Under.
In one of those articles he was described by the writer as a “Mini Marciano” after a particularly impressive win. It was then that I decided that I had to see for myself just what the hoopla was all about. I scoured the various sources with whom I periodically ordered VHS tapes of the hard to find fights and fighters of the day until I came up with a connection in Rockhampton, Australia. I paid a relatively steep premium for the privilege of setting my eyes on “The Marrickville Mauler” in action, hoping that I’d get something noteworthy and perhaps even colorful in return. When the slow boat from China finally arrived and I had my tapes, I wasn’t disappointed.
I was amazed at the whirlwind attack and technique Fenech displayed despite being a relative greenhorn. I found it mind boggling that a 6-0 fighter would be a mandatory fighter in line for a title shot. Sure, at the time the bantamweight division wasn’t particularly deep, but he had only fighting as a pro for some six months when given his first title opportunity. In hindsight, being made the IBF number one contender almost certainly assured a fast track to the opportunity.
It must be pointed out that Jeff Fenech earned the ranking with impressive showings as opposed to being brought into a situation to serve as cannon fodder, such as Mike Weaver was with his WBC Heavyweight Championship title shot against Larry Holmes, or perhaps more fittingly, when Leon Spinks took the opportunity to face an aging Muhammad Ali despite being ill prepared for the world stage. In Jeff Fenech’s case, the seasoning was already there despite the brevity of his record and experience.
“The Marrickville Mauler” did not disappoint, out working and ultimately overpowering Satoshi Shingaki in nine rounds to win the IBF Bantamweight Title in April 1985. Four months later, Fenech underlined the initial win over Shingaki by overwhelming the former champ in their rematch, this time ending matters in just four rounds. Notice had been served to the boxing world. Fenech wasn’t just there to keep the WBC Title belt warm. He was active between title bouts with explosive wins in non-title tune-ups and improving with every showing. Sharpness was a given for his title defenses and he took the role of being an active champion seriously.
Other matches I was sent equally impressed me. In his second defense, Fenech was taken the fifteen round championship distance for the first time with a tactical and at-times action packed win over the seasoned and undefeated American, Jerome Coffee. Despite Coffee’s 26-0 record and sturdy pedigree, “The Marrickville Mauler” made it look easy, demonstrating marked professionalism and patience once it became apparent that the challenger wasn’t about to be sent to the showers early. Watching it, I had to remind myself that Fenech only had eleven fights to his credit by that point. He had the look and composure of a seasoned veteran.
Fenech’s third title defense was another impressive point of note. He stopped Steve McCrory, the much hyped 11-0-1 American hopeful that had won the Flyweight gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, chopping him down in fourteen rounds.
By the time “The Marrickville Mauler” had moved-up to one-hundred and twenty-two pounds to challenge the undefeated Samart Payakaroon for the WBC Super Bantamweight Title in the spring of 1987, North America and the rest of the world was beginning to take notice. Fenech managed to notch his second major world title, in a second weight class, in less than three years of fighting as a professional. After trouncing Payakaroon in four rounds, he would go on to make two defenses of that title, the only blip being a disappointing four round technical draw with the 66-2 Carlos Zarate after a clash of heads.
In early 1988, Fenech won the WBC Featherweight Title with a tenth round stoppage victory over Victor Callejas, ultimately going on to make three defenses of that title over the next two years. In late 1989, after yet another jump-up in weight, Fenech faced Mario Martinez in a twelve round WBC Super Featherweight Title Eliminator, a bout in which Fenech had to climb off of the canvas in round six to pull out a stiff points win.
If the fire and ambition of his earlier years still burned deep within, the power he displayed at Bantam and Super Bantamweight was no longer as effective against the larger men he was facing at the higher weight. Regardless, the win positioned “The Marrickville Mauler” for a shot at the reigning WBC Super Featherweight Champion and a certified, if aging great in Azumah Nelson.
I remember attending the live closed circuit telecast for this bout in mid-1991 at a stifling venue in downtown Toronto. It was the chief feature on the under card of the Mike Tyson/Razor Ruddock rematch. Fenech was the decided favorite going into the bout. Nelson had been showing signs of slowing down for some time and many had him pegged as being ripe to be taken. In the bout, Fenech displayed his usual fire, forcing the match throughout, but intermittently, Nelson’s sharp counters would find the mark, momentarily disrupting Fenech’s forward surge and rhythm. As it would later turn out, Nelson’s periodic offerings were enough, ultimately, to cloud the issue, at least in the minds of the three judges at ringside.
From my humble vantage point, “The Marrickville Mauler” looked to have done enough to walk away with another title and the win, but fate had its say and decided differently, calling the bout a draw. I recall the bitter disappointment Fenech displayed during the post fight interview. Those seated around me were perplexed. Whispers of “Don King” and “fix” flirted with my ears.
In hindsight, this was the bout where I felt “The Marrickville Mauler” made his last appearance. I believe the fire that fueled him had been choked in the utter disappointment of the outcome, and from that point on, it appeared to me that something in Fenech’s game was gone forever. To this day, I always think of Jeff Fenech’s initial challenge of Azumah Nelson as “The Marrickville Mauler’s” last stand even though it wasn’t a defeat.
Almost a year after the their first meeting, Fenech and Nelson crossed swords once again, this time on Jeff’s home turf in Victoria, Australia. Going into it, the general expectation among those in the know was that Fenech would make right the wrongs of the first outcome. Circumstance was seemingly in his corner. The bout was in Australia and Azumah Nelson was nine months older and that much closer to retirement. But circumstance doesn’t always have first say in the sport of boxing and as Nelson went on to prove in their return and later in a few other notable bouts over his Hall of Fame career, he wasn’t about to be out done.
“The Professor” was one of the special ones, a fighter able to perform in surprisingly explosive fashion in rematches, late into his career. For the rematch, he laid to rest the question as to who was the best super featherweight on the planet, emphatically stopping remnants of the man that seemingly routed him months earlier, in eight rounds. I didn’t see the match live, only finding out the outcome via a two line results recap in the Toronto Sun a day or so after the fact. When a copy of the match finally arrived, my suspicions looked to be true. “The Marrickville Mauler” was long gone. All that was left were remnants of Jeff Fenech. Something indeed was lost, never again to be recaptured, lost forever in June of 1991 after the disappointment of the first Nelson match.
After the loss to Nelson in their rematch, Fenech fought just four more times over the next four years, going 2-2, losing notably to the former IBF Featherweight Champion Calvin Grove in seven inglorious rounds, then later to IBF Lightweight Champion Phillip Holiday in two. It was a sad and emphatic ending to a brilliant career.
In 2002, Jeff Fenech was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. Over the past several years, his name has been linked with fighters such as former IBF Flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan, super middleweight contender Sakio Bika and the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, “Iron” Mike Tyson, in the role of boxing trainer. In his homeland, Down Under, he enjoys celebrity status after easily becoming arguably one of the preeminent names in Australian boxing of all time.
In today’s torrid climate of pugilism, it seems as though the mantle of “greatness” is bestowed far too early on a given fighter after a couple of notable wins. For younger fans looking back, I would suggest a review of “The Marrickville Mauler’s” spectacular ring career. It’s an example of fierce determination, hunger, focus, ferocity, grit and unwavering ring character fused with finely honed ring craft. Jeff Fenech’s rise to the championship level was very quick. His tenure at the top was not. It was drawn-out like the campaigns of past greats before him, simply because like them, he too was truly a great fighter.
The immediate rematch took place on June 28th, 1991. For Mike Tyson, this was an unnecessary fight. Even though he had stated after his first bout with Ruddock that a rematch wasn’t a bad idea, he realistically wanted a shot at the title. Although he was heavily favored to win the rematch, he saw Ruddock for what he was: a dangerous puncher with a lot of heart. In the heavyweight division, anything can happen and whenever the “smash,” is thrown, there is a chance that the fight could be over.
Richard Steele and his relations or lack thereof with Promoter Don King is where the controversy lied. Steele had been accused of favoring King fighters and many have said that the two had a cushy relationship, an accusation that the experienced referee denied. Most likely, he bought into the Tyson mystique. He saw that Ruddock was hurt and tried to save the injured fighter, even though it was far too soon. The legend that was Mike Tyson forced the hand of Steele and he made the wrong choice.
The biggest loser from the first fight was the winner. Mike Tyson, seen as a poor loser in the past, was now seen as a co-conspirator. If Ruddock got too much confidence or if the momentum shifted, Tyson, King, and Steele, would make sure that the man that they wanted to win, won. The behavior of King and Tyson after the loss to Buster Douglas threw fuel onto the fire. When Iron Mike was clearly defeated, they protested and two of the three heavyweight titles were withheld. The claim that Tyson knocked out Douglas prior to being knocked out was a lame attempt to put the pieces back together. It failed and many saw Tyson-Ruddock I as another example of their misdeeds.
Razor Ruddock was in the position where he had everything to gain and nothing to lose. The loss to Tyson had boosted his notoriety and if he were to come back and with this fight, it would erase the first encounter and put him first in line to get a crack at the heavyweight title. His Promoter Murad Muhammad put it best: “Knocking out Mike Tyson is a shortcut to the heavyweight championship of the world.”
The press going into Tyson – Ruddock II was not good for Iron Mike. Sports Illustrated claimed that Tyson lost his fury and there was reported animosity between the fighter and his Promoter Don King that became physical. There was the persistent rumor that Tyson threw a toaster at King and then slapped him, which both denied. Another story going into this fight was the weight of Razor Ruddock and his preparations. He was 228 in the first bout and came into this fight at 238. Was he there simply for the payday? The answer was an emphatic no.
“I believe I simply had a style that could beat him (Marvin Hagler); it wasn’t about being a better fighter. It was styles.”– Michael “The Silk” Olajide
Being a fan that started following the sport of boxing in 1975, but became addicted to it in the 80’s, I have always enjoyed reaching back to those days to find fighters who defined that era. With that said, I had to reach out to a former top rated middleweight contender, Michael “The Silk” Olajide who is remembered not only for his 80’s hairstyle, but his colorful attire he would wear into the ring.
But don’t let those flashy things fool you. Olajide could fight. Turning professional just six days after Muhammad Ali had his last bout against Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas; Michael would win his professional debut and rack up 23 straight wins on his boxing résumé. However, in his first attempt at a world title (Vacant IBF Middleweight Championship), he was outgunned and lost a decision to former Olympian, Frank Tate over 15 rounds.
“The Silk” would come back after this fight, winning a few against the lighter opposition, but when he stepped up and faced the big boys, he would lose either by decision or knockout. In our interview, Michael talks very frankly about his first love for the sport of boxing, then at times, a detest for its dirty politics. He also addresses a career ending injury, for the most part, when he suffered a Detached Retina in one of his later fights in his career. This is for you 80’s diehard boxing fans. So sit back, and enjoy another RSR exclusive, with a 80’s legend in the sport of boxing.
BB: First off, catch up the RSR readers on what you have been doing since you retired from boxing in 1991.
Since 1991, I have stayed in boxing, but from a fitness and film perspective. I started a fitness program in 1991, which was a group fitness, shadow boxing class in a popular athletic club. From there I began choreographing stage plays, then movies (Ali-starring Will Smith, Undefeated, starring John Leguizamo, Miami Vice, and The Black Dahlia) and trained a lot of stars from Rapper 50 Cent, to model Iman. I produced and starred in fitness videos as well as written a fitness book for Warner Books. In 2006, I opened 2 of my own fitness centers, which I co-own with Leila Fazel, a former ballet dancer and luxury spa developer. I am also really exploring music and writing as a form of expression. This is all a little much, as it is much better if you have one focus, but I can’t help it. I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) brought on by too many punches to the dome.
Heart and Soul: RSR Sits Down with Vinny Paz to Discuss the Amazing Career of The Pazmanian Devil, Part II
“I felt it was awesome. Just to be even able to come back and do what I wanted to do in life. Because it’s all I ever wanted to do is fight, since I was five years old.” –Vinny Paz
We’ve all heard the various stories of altered destiny in the world of sport. How a fluke injury or unfortunate accident has altered the destiny of some up and coming hopeful or ended the career of a known athlete. Equally devastating but not necessarily so readily recognized is the toll such an unfortunate detour can take on one’s spirit.
In boxing, too often a fighter is only as good as his last fight. With few exceptions, a fighter’s body of work is too often forgotten in the blink of an eye after a major setback or heartbreaking loss. Such losses have taken the fighting spirit of many talented and great fighters, forever stripping them of the one intangible needed for success.
In the unique case of Vinny Paz, we have before us a man that has known his calling since childhood. He threw every fiber of his being into his quest to become a champion, enduring near impossible expectations and often unwarranted, even ignorant criticism. Ignoring the disappointment of setbacks and choosing to thrust ahead after being literally blindsided by fate, The Pazman is indeed a shining example of championship heart and soul, both in the ring and in everyday life.
I had the opportunity of a lifetime being able to sit down with The Pazmanian Devil for RSR to discuss his championship career and views on life. So often, when a fan meets a fighter he has followed for years, the realization hits that your subject is somewhat different than your original expectation. In the case of Vinny Paz, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was everything he seemed to be in clips of past interviews and in sound bits. I found Vinny to be a very generous, forthright and fun individual. The kind of guy you’d enjoy spending an afternoon with, over a couple of beers.
MP: In February of 1990 you signed for a WBO Light Welterweight Title bout with Hector “Macho” Camacho at a catch weight of 138lbs despite having faced your last several opponents at or just above 140lbs. What made you decide to go back down for such a gifted, undefeated southpaw opponent? What are your recollections of that bout, Camacho as a fighter and the oft-humorous build-up towards it?
Well, Camacho when I fought him, like a lot of guys I fought, they gave their last great effort against me. Just because they were so high, so prepared and in shape for me. They could never match it again and they went downhill after me. I feel that way about Camacho. He fought great against me and it was close, but he was real hard for me to hit. He was in great condition, and you know, he had everything on his side. The big ring, the weight to his liking, I couldn’t make the weight. He fought a good fight and that was it. He won a close decision and Joe Perez was on his side. The ref being from Puerto Rico also couldn’t hurt. I was pissed off because I wanted to beat him so bad. But…it wasn’t meant to be that day. We tried to get him to fight again at a heavier weight but he never would. He was very smart, Hector. Very smart business-wise and in the ring. Outside the ring he’s a crazy character. He’s crazy like a fox, Camacho. Know what I mean?
Heart and Soul: RSR Sits Down with Vinny Paz to Discuss the Amazing Career of The Pazmanian Devil, Part I
“Crazy, crazy stuff.” – Vinny Paz
For many and for me in particular, the eighties was a glorious period for boxing. In many ways, it seems only just like yesterday. It was a time where fans could tune-in and watch top-flight boxing matches on network television on a given grey weekend afternoon. Back then, up and coming talent, Olympic Medalists, top-ten contenders and world championship matches could all be had on any of the major television networks. PPV was a rare animal, reserved for only the most elite of mega-bouts.
In the mid to late eighties, a particular lightweight sensation was making waves within the sport, particularly on the east coast. His name back in the day was Vinny Paz, formerly known as “Vinny Pazienza.” To fans he became fittingly known as “The Pazmanian Devil,” an all action, whirlwind fighter of Italian-American heritage based out of Cranston, Rhode Island. At age fifteen, he decided that he wanted to become a fighter and world champion, finding his inspiration after watching the movie “Rocky.”
I first came across “The Pazmanian Devil” in early 1986 on network television on one of those grey weekend afternoons. I quickly became enchanted with his style and combative willingness as he ascended the lightweight ranks, ultimately culminating in his first world championship, the IBF Lightweight Title against Greg Haugen in 1987. The Haugen match was the first in a fun and heated trilogy of entertaining action reminiscent of rivalries from a past era, and all of it on free TV.
Possessing solid boxing skills, notable hand and foot speed, iron chin, respectable power, and extraordinary conditioning, Vinny Paz had the rare underpinnings required of those looking for a long run at the top. What he had in abundance, well beyond many of his championship contemporaries was over the top heart and soul and a desire to go balls to the wall every time out for his fans. To top all of that off, he had that quality we all look for but rarely find, natural charisma and the marked ability to evoke passion from all of those that he dealt with, spilling over in obvious fashion to all of those that watched him.
For me, it was a great honor and an absolute dream come true to represent RSR and spend time with “The Pazmanian Devil” to talk about his long and storied career, his many comebacks in and out of the ring as well as his views on life in general.
Love him or hate him, he was not to be missed and rarely if ever was he in a boring fight.
MP: You started your career on May 26th, 1983, against Alfredo Rivera in Atlantic City, New Jersey. What do you remember of that fight and what were your feelings?
I recall that it was a big moment in my life. He was a tough plumber from Puerto Rico and I beat his ass and stopped him in the fourth round. It was quite a day. I netted $24 for that fight. I love that!
“Everyone knows that the heavyweight division is wide open and I know that I can clean it up a little bit.”—John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz
On March 13th, 1996, on an HBO World Championship Boxing event took place pitting the young and promising heavyweights against each other. John Ruiz faced off against David Tua and in just 19 seconds, it was over. The man known as “The Quiet Man” was silenced and was then written off by the majority of boxing fans and the media. Most fighters that suffer a knockout defeat of this sort never recover, but Ruiz did, winning the world title twice and defeating some of the more notable names along the way.
That defeat was a turning point for a fighter that would typically start off slow in the ring. He tightened up his defense, tucked in his chin, and forged ahead, beating former World Heavyweight Champion, Tony Tucker, and then would beat the legendary Evander Holyfield for the WBA Title. Standing on top of the heavyweight world didn’t change the public’s perception of Ruiz. At the time, Lennox Lewis was the recognized champion and didn’t see Ruiz as a suitable opponent despite his ranking. The Quiet Man would have to fight to gain respect and it seems like an impossible quest. Many just cannot remove the image of Tua landing that left hook in 1996 and will not give credit where it is due.
“Mike McCallum is the most naturally gifted fighter I have ever worked with.”–Emanuel Steward
The dictionary has several different definitions for the word “respect.” It’s a given in life that each of us wants respect. Equally given, respect is that rare personal quality that must be earned, usually over the span of time through quality hard work and proven positive results. In the pursuit of respect, there can be no short cuts.
During the mid to late 1980’s, 3-Division Champion Mike McCallum quietly accumulated the respect of his peers and the boxing world as he stepped-up to face every challenge he was presented with, head-on. He avoided nobody and showed “respect,” by his own definition, in his willingness to accommodate all comers, despite being overlooked and sometimes shoved aside by the power brokers and superstars of the day. Where the masses failed, he was able to succeed.
Steadfast in his self belief, and driven by his ambition to succeed, boxing’s first Jamaican World Champion set-out to make an indelible mark in the sport’s long and storied history by conquering the divisions above light middleweight, a province ruled by bigger and younger men. Despite sanctioning body politics and a lack of promotional momentum, McCallum persevered, traveling the world and underlining, both in word and in deed, the true meaning of the designation, “World Champion.”
MP: You defended your WBA Light Middleweight Title against Julian Jackson, Milton McCrory and Donald Curry, all three were fighters who were world champions or would eventually become world champions. Each brought a distinct threat or skill set to the equation, yet you managed to retain your championship against each of them. Compare them for us as challengers.
Well, Milton McCrory was a bad boy. Uh, he was a good boxer. He could punch a little. We sparred a lot in the gym so we knew each other. That was a tough fight. We were going back and forth. As a matter of fact, in the second round he hit me, my back was to the ropes, he hit me with a nice left hook and kind of stung me for a minute, but you know I prevailed. It was hot in Phoenix that day man! That was the hottest time in Phoenix, man. We fought in a tent, sweatin’ like crazy. We had a hell of a fight. It was like a classic fight. Body shots slowed Milton down in the 7th and 8th. I could tell that he was hurt. He got cut over the right eye and was bleeding profusely so they stopped the fight in the 10th.
“I used to beat on Tommy Hearns.”—Mike McCallum
Notoriety and greatness do not always go hand in hand. From his humble yet well grounded beginnings on the island of Jamaica, Mike McCallum has always understood the value of hard work and in paying his dues. He embarked on a journey through life, first as an amateur fighter, plying his trade in the shadows as a sparring partner for seasoned pros, hoping for the honor to represent his homeland at the Olympics, then later, fueled with burning national pride, becoming boxing’s first Jamaican World Champion. Everything he achieved came with years of low key diligence and traveling the globe looking to compete with the best boxing had to offer. There were no gold medal send-offs or high profile cable contracts.
During this period in the mid to late 1980’s, there was a high profile round robin of lucrative matches going on in boxing between “The Fabulous Four” – “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. At his best, McCallum was as good as any of them, no less than a 50/50 proposition in a potential head to head match-up. Despite this, he was shunned, shoved aside and locked-out of any opportunity to prove himself up to the task of competing with his high profile contemporaries.
Through it all, he forged ahead and cut his own swath through each division he competed in, even if it meant kicking-in the back door for the opportunity. In all, he defeated seven highly respected world champions, winning and defending titles at light middleweight, middleweight and light heavyweight. With rightful enshrinement into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003, history will look kindly on the career and legacy of this once great warrior from Jamaica. For me, it was a great honor and a dream come true to represent RSR and spend time with “The Bodysnatcher” to talk about his journey through boxing and life.
MP: Starting out as a youngster, who were your boxing hero’s and what inspired you to take up boxing as an amateur?
Ray Robinson and Bunny Grant. Yeah, Bunny Grant was a Jamaican like me. As a matter of fact he was the one who really started me out with the body shots. He was the one that punched me to the body. Whenever Bunny was getting ready for a fight, he’d have me spar him at the tail end of the sparring sessions. If he set out to spar eight rounds, he’d bring me on for the last three or four rounds. He’d hit me to the body and I couldn’t deal with the body shots. He’d use me as a 17 year-old youngster full of energy, jabbing him like crazy. I’d be surprised at Bunny, he’d be setting me up for the body shots. What really happened is, he asked for me, telling me and others that “that boy is a good fighter, that boy is full of promise.” So Bunny Grant is the one that I really and truly learned the body shots from, and uh, he was a vicious puncher to the body. As a young amateur fighter I used to watch him very closely. All of his little tricks towards getting to the body. I picked up all of his little tricks and stuff and I took it a little further.
“I have been a fighter all of my life”–Tony “The Tiger” Baltazar
During the late 1970s and early to mid 1980s, the lightweight division was full of talented fighters that included names such as Hector Camacho, SR, Edwin Rosario, Roger Mayweather, Cubanito Perez and our man of the hour in this interview, Tony “The Tiger” Baltazar, who by the way, when he was younger, looked like a dead ringer for a young Tony Danza when he starred on the TV show Taxi. Tony, a tough as nails fighter based out of Los Angeles, California, would turn pro on Feb 8, 1979, when he stopped Art Silveira in just the first round of their boxing match. From there, Tony would fight seven more times in just 1979 which today, a fighter is lucky to have a total of five fights per year, even an upcoming prospect for the most part. Tony would win via the TKO, KO and decision route remaining undefeated in 24 fights over a four year period. In his 25th fight of his career, he faced former 1976 Olympic Gold Medal winner and slick boxer, Howard Davis, JR. In this fight, Tony would taste defeat for the first time via a decision in Davis’ favor.
Tony would go on in his boxing career, beating some big names along the way such as Roger Mayweather and Roque Montoya, while being stopped by another hot prospect named “Rockin” Robin Blake. Baltazar for whatever reason which we will get into during our interview could not secure a World Title shot until his 11th year as a professional fighter when he faced Hector Camacho, SR. for his WBO Junior Welterweight Title on August 11, 1990, dropping a decision to the “Macho Man”.
“It’s very nice to be remembered from an Era that was very strong in the Middleweight Division”–Mustafa Hamsho”
In the history of boxing, we have had so many diverse personalities come through the sport. Some were hailed as the “Golden Boy’s” while others were labeled as “Black Bart” the guy who wore all black in the movie westerns and was supposed to be the bad guy. Mustafa Hamsho throughout his career was labeled the bad guy, but titles can be quite deceiving. During our interview, Hamsho was honored to be remembered and spoke fondly about his boxing career that saw him rise to the top of the middleweight ranks, twice challenging, Marvelous Marvin Hagler for his Undisputed Middleweight Championship of the World.
There is no doubt in today’s boxing; Hamsho would have been a World Champion and excited fans as he did in his heyday…
BB: First of all for the boxing fans who watched many of your exciting matches in the early to mid 1980’s, what are you doing today?
I am an average guy working hard to get ahead. Currently, I do public relations for a New York restaurant and own a small deli.
“The Iceman Cometh” – Former WBC Welterweight Champion Milton "The Iceman" McCrory Talks about his Career with RSR
“It really felt good to achieve my dream of winning a world title.”– Milton McCrory
So many times today in boxing, you hear guys my age in their early 40’s reminiscing about the days when boxing was on ABC, NBC and CBS. Fighters we were able to watch on these networks during the late 70’s and mid 1980’s dazzled us with their brilliance, ring generalship and miles and miles of heart. One such fighter comes to RSR for the first time to break bread and share what can be defined only as a world class career.
That man, as the title of this interview says, is Milton “The Iceman” McCrory, former Kronk fighter and WBC Welterweight Champion of the World. McCrory is yet another fighter out of many that you can bestow words like class and dignity upon and who has a huge respect for a sport that saw him rise to the top.
That top came on his second try at the vacant WBC Welterweight Championship of the World that saw him face Colin Jones in a draw, back on March 19, 1983, but in his second attempt on August 13, 1983, Milt won a tough, close fight by a spilt decision over Jones, giving Kronk their third world champion.
Throughout this interview, McCrory laughed, looked back fondly on his career, was grateful for his time in the lights of the coveted squared circle and movingly talked about a baby brother (Steve McCrory), who also was a world class fighter that the McCrory family lost tragically back in 2000.
BB: You have been retired for over 15 years now from boxing. During that time, what have you been up to?
I currently work at the Chrysler Corporation for the last twelve years doing assembly line work. Also, I am still in boxing, teaching the amateur kids out of the Kronk Gym for about the last four or five years now.
A Champion Who Never Got His Just Due From Boxing When He Reigned Supreme – The Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson Story
“You just don’t know what this interview for RSR means to me after all these years of not being mentioned”–Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson
A man goes through life plying his trade to maintain not only himself, but also his family in the process. This man may be a carpenter, a truck driver, a Wall Street broker, or, in this case, a World Champion prize fighter. All men yearn for respect when they give their profession everything they have. Desiring recognition in ones respective field from their peers is a very human trait. Former IBF Featherweight Champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson went to the mountaintop of the boxing world firmly digging his stake into the record books when on February 26, 1993, he beat then IBF Featherweight Champion, Manuel Medina, via split decision for the belt.
Respect came for the new champion, you would think. Well, you would be wrong. Ok the boxing world says to Johnson, “Prove yourself”. Johnson replies, “Sure I will”. And over the next four years, he wins in eleven title defenses along with a few non-title fights as well. Now he gets the respect he deserves right? Wrong again! He is hardly ever mentioned in the boxing world and this is a crime to say the least.
Only in title defense number twelve when he loses via TKO to, then WBO Featherweight Champion, Prince Naseem Hamed, does he get some press, but just that he lost the fight.
Sitting and talking with Johnson one would have to be hearing impaired not to realize he was proud to be a champion; something he has carried with him everyday since he won it back on February 26, 1993. As any other champion, before and after him, yearns to be recognized, but often a few fall through the cracks of the boxing columns through no fault of their own.
Well, that lack of recognition ends with this interview. RSR brings you Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson in his own words.
BB: Update the RSR readers on what you have been up to since you retired in 2002?
Well, I have being working really hard and went through a bad divorce, but trying to turn things around now in a positive manner. This week I am going back to the gym and actually as we speak, I am walking around at 136 LBS. I run as often as I can, and shadowbox every day between 6-8 rounds. I have no intentions of trying to make a comeback, but I want to be in shape because I would like to teach some of these young guys out there the proper way to box via being a trainer and hopefully guide a young man to a world title. Also, I work full-time at Collins & Aikman, an automotive plant here in Detroit, Michigan.
There are very few heavyweights that are marketable. Most of the men in the division do not draw the fans, as evident by the very low PPV rentals of the WBC Heavyweight Championship bout between Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev. The recent news of Mike Tyson putting on exhibitions in Las Vegas is everywhere, proving that he is still the biggest name in the game, despite the fact that he hasn’t been at his best in nearly twenty years. It is a sad reflection on the division. There are a few heavyweights that have that that “it” factor. They have the ability to draw fans and get people excited. One of those men is Shannon Briggs.
Briggs emerged on the boxing scene with 25 straight wins, 22 by knockout, before losing to the unheralded Darroll Wilson. He would rebound with four straight wins before the most controversial win of his career over “Big” George Foreman. It was a victory that looms over the head of Briggs, referred to most boxing writers as the worst decision of the year. The biggest win for “The Cannon” was dismissed by the press, but was enough to place him into a WBC Heavyweight Title shot against Lennox Lewis. This bout showed the talent as a left hook in the first round shook Lewis badly, but he would rebound and stop Briggs in the fifth round. It was a great moment in the Briggs’ career as he stood toe to toe with the best heavyweight that the world has seen in years.
“No matter what, I will always be known as a World Heavyweight Champion from my win over Greg Page for the WBA title.”–Tony “TNT” Tubbs
Former WBA Heavyweight Champion of the World, Tony “TNT” Tubbs, turned pro in March of 1980. The heavyweight division was endearing itself to the fact, that Muhammad Ali was no longer going to be around, and Larry Holmes two years early succeeded Ali to the throne whether the boxing public liked it or not.
Tubbs would fight his way up the ranks of the heavyweight division that was deep with contenders, tough journeymen and solid Heavyweight Champions in Holmes (WBC) along with Mike Weaver the WBA Champ. In fact, with all the rumblings in many boxing columns that there is nothing really to the heavyweight ranks today, pick up a tape or two on the heavyweights from Tubbs’ era and find out for yourself.
Tubbs cemented his name in the record books on April 29, 1985 when he won a 15 round decision over then WBA Heavyweight Champion, Greg Page. Tubbs would lose his title in his first defense a little over eight months later to “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, via a 15 round close majority decision that many felt at ringside he had won.
Tubbs would face battles outside of the ring with a drug addiction which turned out to be his toughest opponent. From all accounts, including his own, he is clean today and deals with his life one day at a time through his deep spirituality.
BB: Last month, you put your name back on the boxing world’s mind when you beat young prospect Brian Minto. The fight was close on the cards, but from all accounts, your experience helped you prevail. How would you judge your performance and what do you need to work on still? Also, off of this win, have any fights been kicked around for your next match?
That actually was the second fight I had back in 2004 that I won. If I had to do it all over again, I would have allowed myself more time to train for the fight. I really didn’t have any sparring and actually, only had four rounds for the Minto fight with Rob Calloway. I was doing everything else to prepare myself with solid bag work and running quite a bit. Going into the Minto fight and not being at 100%, I knew all I could do is go on my ability. When I reviewed the tape on Minto, I could see the kid was still green. I thought if I could not beat Minto, then my comeback was not meant to be. With all of these factors, I would judge my performance as a good, but with all of the right tangibles on my side, I will be much better in future bouts.
The things I need to work on are getting my weight down which I am working on, and get my sharpness back which will come from more sparring. I would love to get into a fighter’s trainer camp to spar and that will help me get my timing back quickly.
I really thought after this fight, the phone would ring. My rationale on this is that most of the upcoming young fighters would want to face me so if they did beat me, they had a recognized name on their records in the win column.
Being in boxing for almost 25 years, I am totally honest with myself and I would be willing to even take a six round fight, just to stay busy so I can get my weight off quicker and, continue to get my sharpness back.
From the 72’ & 76’ Olympics Games to Top 1980’s Lightweight Contender – Davey Lee Armstrong Talks about his Boxing Career with RSR
Reaching the Mountain Top – Up Close and Personal with Former WBC Heavyweight Champion Pinklon Thomas
“Winning the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World is an event I will cherish for the rest of my life.”—Pinklon Thomas
Pinklon Thomas came into this world at the end of the reign of the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World who was known as the original “Rock”, and was none other then, Rocky Marciano. And, when he turned professional in 1978, he came along at the end of yet another era for a Heavyweight Champion; this one nicknamed “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali.
Thomas in his trademark pink shorts, made his way up the heavyweight ranks, building his record and fan base that saw him win the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World on August 31, 1984, when he defeated “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, over 12 rounds. This win cemented his name in the history of the coveted heavyweight division, and no doubt will remain a close thing to his heart.
In the early 1980’s a pre “Bad” Brad Berkwitt who attended Pontiac Central High School in Pontiac, Michigan, watched with great anticipation of “Pinky” as we called him to get his shot at the title because as I did, he went to Pontiac Central High School. The one time of probably many he came there, I was unable to get up to the basketball game he attended to meet him in person, but my buddies told me he was a very nice guy and hung out after the game.
With memories like this from my childhood, it’s now an honor to have the opportunity to bring the readers interviews with guys that my age group grew up with and I have no doubt, have fond memories of.
BB: In your 15 years since you retired from boxing, what have you been up to?
I moved down to Orlando, Florida and got involved with the Center for Drug Free Living which helps substance abused, physically abused kids and works with teens with problems in Orlando. They are sentenced to the program through the Orlando juvenile justice system.
In this program, I have worked in many capacities as a youth specialist and counselor.