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Attorney Robert Shapiro: Found Guilty of Loving the Sport of Boxing

Exclusive Interview by “Bad” Brad Berkwitt (Reposted for Archive purposes)

“When you are in front of an opponent in the ring or in front of jury, it is just you by yourself.”–Robert Shapiro

Attorney Robert Shapiro is currently the Head of the white-collar defense section at the Law Firm of Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, LLP. 

Recently Shapiro was profiled in the New York Times as one of the nation’s most prominent attorneys. His list of high profile cases includes the defense of O.J. Simpson, and Christian Brando (son of legendary actor Marlon Brando), to name just a few.

Shapiro has written and lectured extensively on legal issues and procedures. He is also the Author of the New York Times Bestseller “The Search For Justice.”
If you look up the word passionate in Webster’s Dictionary, you will see a picture of Bob who feels that way towards the sport of boxing and the combatants who put their lives on the line each and every time they step into that coveted square circle. That passion for the sport of boxing rings out in this exclusive interview.

RSR wants to bring the readers not only great interviews with fighters and people who actually are in the boxing business, but to give the readers a different insight that someone like Shapiro can offer in an interview. He is actually the first person in this new series of interviews we will be conducting on RSR and from what you are about to read in his own words, we definitely picked the right person to begin with….

BB:  You recently participated in a charity event for Vista Del Mar Child and Family Service Charity that put on a boxing exhibition between you and former child star, Danny Bonaduce from the Partridge Family TV show and the reality show, Breaking Bonaduce. Tell the RSR readers a little bit about the charity and how you did in your boxing match?

The charity event was just great because it raised $750,000 in profit for Vista Del Mar Services, which is both an orphanage and a place for children at risk between the ages of 6 – 18, in West Los Angeles.  As far as the fight, I trained really hard for it.  In fact, I have been training regularly, but over the last eight weeks, I stepped it up when I found out that Danny Bonaduce was my opponent.  It was actually supposed to be just an exhibition where I was just “going to move around” in the words of the Promoter Jackie Kallen with a professional fighter. 

Then next thing I know, I am going to face Bonaduce who quite frankly, I never heard of.  When I started mentioning it to some people, they said, “are you crazy?” “He is pumped up like crazy, has huge arms while also being strong as an ox and on steroids.”  That was a perfect combination for me. (Laughs)

After hearing all of this, I really took this match seriously and actually went into the gym and sparred with some big guys who were much bigger than me. I weighed going into the fight 150 pounds and Bonaduce appeared to weigh about 165 pounds, though he reported he weighed 160 pounds.

I was sparring with guys who were around 180 pounds in the gym and getting hit pretty good which told me, I could take a punch.  Going in, I knew he was going to come right after me with those looping overhand rights, which would attempt to take my head off.  He actually had fight experience and I hadn’t.  My training is solely for my own benefit, which I do privately in my garage where I have a little boxing facility. 

When I walked into the ring, I was actually escorted by Mike Tyson, which was very neat.  I broke Danny’s nose in the second round and they stopped the round earlier because it was really bleeding.  They gave him extra time to recover and then took an applause vote on who the crowd felt had won the fight.  I won overwhelming. Jackie (Kallen) came up to the ring at the end and said we both did great and the fight should be a draw. I was fine with that.

BB:  How long have you followed professional boxing?  What are your earliest memories of the sport?

I have followed boxing since I was kid listening to it on the radio when Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, and Sugar Ray Robinson, for example, were fighting.  As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, I would go to the Olympic Auditorium and the Hollywood Legion Stadium to watch all of the great local talent.

BB:  Many times I have seen you sitting ringside at boxing matches and you seem to really get into the fights.  When you are watching the fighters in the ring, what excites you the most?

Well, obviously if it’s a highly competitive fight, such as the Marco Antonio Barrera versus Erik Morales fights are an example. There was just so much action in them.  Another example would be, (and) I was at, both heavyweight championship fights with Evander Holyfield taking on Mike Tyson and Holyfield versus Lennox Lewis.  At the heavyweight championship fights, there is more excitement in the crowd, then the actual contest itself, at times.

BB:  In the last 40 years, what single fighter do you think has moved the sport of boxing forward the most and why?

That one is easy in my opinion and has to be Muhammad Ali who brought showmanship and a new style to the ring that had never really been seen before.  His personality in my opinion will never be equaled by anyone in the ring.  He truly raised it to an entirely new level.

BB:  What single fight do you think truly defined boxing in the last 30 years and why?

I would have to say Sugar Ray Leonard versus Tommy Hearns I (September 16, 1981), which I saw live. In Ray, you had someone who had such a great career, but looked so much smaller than Tommy.  Hearns was just so much taller than Ray who I actually was at dinner with a couple a nights ago and to my surprise, is shorter than me.  Both Tommy and Ray were at my fight, and when I looked at Tommy today, I was just amazed that someone his height could ever weigh 147 pounds. 

BB:  Who are some of the fighters you enjoy watching the most and try not to miss?

Up until recently, James Toney because I have been with him in the gym for years and he has helped me out a lot.  I love Manny Pacquiao who is one of the most exciting fighters of our time in the smaller weight divisions.  Floyd Mayweather, JR., is another fighter I love to watch because I enjoy technical boxing where you see the art of it, which Floyd shows in the ring.

BB:  Have you ever represented a boxer in court? If so, how did it turn out?

I have made a rule for myself and that is I want to be a boxing fan that gets along with the fighters and does not have to represent or be against any fighter out there today.  Being around it as long as I have, I really do know a lot of the folks involved and consider myself a true boxing junkie.

BB:  Being a famed attorney who is not shy to speak out about what he believes in, do you have any advice for a young fighter just turning professional from a legal standpoint, before he signs his first promotional contract?

Not really because honestly I have never seen a boxing contract. I guess if I could say anything it would be to have a good lawyer representing he or she’s best interest.

BB:  Do you feel since the time you first started following boxing, to present day, it has moved ahead or back and why?

I feel it has moved backwards, unfortunately.  In the days I was listening to it on the radio, they were fighting in open stadiums with huge crowds. Today, the fights are not as competitive as they used to be.  There are too many boxing organizations out there which makes it hard for the public to keep track of who the champion really is.  It is very hard to get consistently competitive fights because the promoters know that if you get a fighter with one or two losses, they may not be able to generate a big gate because of that. 

BB:  Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all boxers and if so, how would you like to see it accomplished?

Yes, I do!  Boxing is probably the only sport that on that level that is not regulated in an economic way.  You are dealing with men and I guess we have to say women as well, who start in this sport at a very young age.  Most of the other athletes generally have a college education to fall back on.  Today, you have some kids who come into the sport who are not educated or disadvantaged who come from other countries or from our ghettos in our own country. When they come into boxing, they don’t realize that they have a short life span to ply their trade in the ring.  When they are done, there is no residual income coming in to take care of them. 

I have never been asked this question before, but to give a response on how to implement I would have to say, the boxing organizations should take a percentage out of the purses and put it into a retirement fund. Not to stop there, the promoters should contribute equally to it. 

BB:  Do you think being a lawyer is very similar to being a boxer in the sense that you have to be on offense and defense, pick your spots, and close whether in a boxing ring or a courtroom?

They truly are very similar from a mental point of view.  First, it’s an individual effort with of course people helping you in your corner while you are fighting or when you are working a case in the courtroom.  When you are in front of an opponent in the ring or in front of jury, it is just you by yourself.  The atmosphere changes second by second in boxing and question by question in the courtroom. 

As prepared as you can be for knowing the facts in the courtroom, or the style of your opponent in the ring, you can be certain that you are going to encounter things that you did not anticipate.  You have to be able to adjust and think quickly on your feet in both professions because there is no script for these two endeavors.  

BB:  If you had the power to change one thing in boxing right now, what would that be?

That’s a great question.  I would eliminate the majority of the boxing organizations and have no more than two, maybe three tops.

BB:  Finally, what is the saying you live your life by?

“Set your goals high, and try to exceed them.”

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