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Former WBO Middleweight Champion, Doug “The Cobra” Dewitt Sits Ringside with RSR

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

“I was blessed to have a boxing career and thanks for the opportunity to discuss it after all these years”. – Doug Dewitt

If there was ever a true New York accent, former WBO Middleweight Champion Doug “The Cobra” Dewitt had it while we discussed his stellar boxing career. Throughout our conversation, Dewitt, sharp as a tack, reeled off information about his career with relative ease. The highlight of which, was clearly his winning the first ever WBO Middleweight Championship on April 18, 1989 against Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s half-brother, Robbie Sims, via a 12 round decision.

Dewitt, still living in New York and retired now for almost 18 years, is still involved with boxing through a personal training business and his passion is very strong for it to continue to succeed.

BB: For the RSR readers, what have you been doing since you retired from boxing back in 1992?

I have been doing some acting and training white-collar people who wanted to learn self-defense and learn how to box through my company Doug Dewitt Boxing. It’s doing well for me, as well as the acting, which has given me a few roles in some feature films.

BB: On March 28, 1980, you turned professional in Tarrytown, NY. In this fight, you won a four round decision over Pete Pennello. What was it like to have your first professional win under your belt?

It felt really good because I was only 18 years old at the time. When I first started out in boxing, I really didn’t have the best people. They cared about me, but really didn’t know about boxing. In this fight, I broke my right knuckle. Pete was a tough guy for my first pro fight.

BB: Looking at your record, you fought in a city that I lived in for a couple of years named White Plains, which is located in Westchester County, NY. Is White Plains still a boxing town like in your early days as a professional?

No, it’s not. It’s starting to have a small resurgence, but still has a long way to go. Honestly, I don’t see it happening like it did in my day because the talent is not there and no one that is an upcoming fighter or has a name will want to come into White Plains to fight.

BB: You go 8-0 as a professional and on March 8, 1981, you drop an eight round decision to Ben Serrano in Atlantic City, New Jersey. What did your first loss do to your mindset as a boxer and what did you learn from it?

Well, in my mind, I didn’t lose that fight. Harold Lederman was one of the judges for that fight and he had it 6-2 for me. The two local New Jersey judges had it 4-3-1 for Serrano. It was a highway robbery.

BB: In the early days of ESPN, you had exciting bouts with Al Bernstein doing part of the color commentary and also featured the cable channel running an ESPN Championship Series where the winner was crowned an ESPN Champion. You fought “Irish” Teddy Mann in an exciting fight that took place on October 20, 1982 and you stopped Mann in the fifth round of the fight. What are your recollections of this fight? Also, what are your memories of that great series ESPN ran that saw many fighters such as yourself go on to win world championships?

A lot of boxing people thought he was too experienced for me because he was a veteran and had never been stopped to this point in his career. Mann had a very good chin and was tricky. My left jab really busted him up well in this fight.

The ESPN Champion series really spawned a lot of great champions and it’s too bad they didn’t keep it going.

BB: On February 17, 1984, you faced another fighter who was a constant on ESPN during this time named Mike Tinley. In a 12 round bout with him, you came out the winner by a decision. What are your recollections of this fight?

It was a very easy fight for me. I was able to out trick him, and outbox him during the entire fight that night. At this time, my skills were very good.

BB: On July 13, 1986, you faced former WBC Welterweight Champion, Milton “The Iceman” McCrory. In this fight, you drop a 10 round decision to him. What are your recollections of this fight, and how would you rate Milton as a fighter?

He outclassed me that night and on personal note, I was going through a lot of emotional crap in my life, but there are no excuses. He is a damn good fighter, but in this fight, I slept walked for ten rounds. I think if I was the real Doug Dewitt that night, I could have destroyedhim.

BB: In your very next bout, you faced a stable mate of McCrory’s in Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns. Unlike many of his opponents, you stay on your feet in this 1986 bout and drop a 12 round decision to Hearns. What was it about Hearns that gave you problems in your loss and how would you rate him as a fighter at this point of his boxing career?

In this fight, I busted Tommy up pretty good. In fact, he says it was one of his toughest fights when he faced me. Tommy was the best version of himself during our fight. When he fought Ray Leonard, the first time, he was still just a kid.

BB: On August 18, 1987, you faced yet another regular on the ESPN series when you took on tough club fighter, Lenny Lapaglia in a fight that had you winning the ten round decision. What are your recollections of this fight?

I knew I was a much better fighter than Lenny was, but the guy was strong and laid on the ropes. I got a little careless in the ninth round and he hurt me, but I snapped out of it.

BB: After the Lapaglia win, you face tough Tony “The Boxing Postman” Thornton on November 6, 1987. In this fight, you win the USBA Middleweight belt. But the interesting thing about this fight is you were dead even after 12 rounds and had to box a 13th round to determine the winner. Explain in detail how that rule came to be, and why you don’t see it around today?

Tony will probably say, he was ahead, but I thought I had won it over the 12 rounds. We had to box a 13th round and they notified his corner, but not mine. He sat down and rested and I never sat down. However, I came out in the 13th round and was all over him.

It was a vacant title, which they had to have a winner for the USBA Title. (Note: I have never heard of this ruling since this fight, but if any of the readers can enlighten me on this rule and why we have seen other titles that were vacant fought to a draw, and no extra round was fought to ensure a champion was crowned then send in your answer to me.)

BB: On November 8, 1988, you go over to Monte Carlo to face then WBA Middleweight Champion, Sumbu Kalambay who stops you in the seventh round. What are your recollections of this fight?

This fight and Milton McCrory were my two worst fights. I was weak in this fight and I underestimated him going into the fight.

BB: In your next fight you faced a former opponent in Robbie Sims on April 18th, 1989 who had defeated you almost four years earlier by a ten round decision. This time around, you were fighting for the first ever World Boxing Organization (WBO) Middleweight belt. When the scorecards are tallied after 12 rounds you are the new WBO Middleweight Champion of the World. What did you find against Sims this time around that you were able to exploit in pulling out the win? Also, how did it feel to hear your name announced as the new Champion?

Yes, I was the first WBO Middleweight Champion. This time around, I was a better fighter and really focused, something I wasn’t in our first meeting years before. When they announced me as the new Champion, it was a shot in the arm for me. It opened the doors for other fights for me.

BB: Since the time you won your WBO belt over 16 years ago, do you think the organization has become better or worse along side other sanctioning bodies such as the WBA, WBC and the IBF?

I think it’s the same and there have been other big fighters that have held the WBO title.

BB: In your first defense of your WBO belt, you faced Matthew Hilton on January 15, 1990 and stopped him in 11 rounds? What are your recollections of this fight?

I knew I was up against a very tough guy that could really punch. My Mom had passed away nine months earlier and I had dedicated to the fight to her. I really was in phenomenal shape going into this fight and really refused to lose it.

BB: In your second title defense on April 29, 1990, you faced England’s Nigel Benn who stopped you in the eighth round to take your title. What are your recollections of this fight, and how would you rate Nigel as a fighter?

Again, I screwed up and underestimated him like I did Kalambay. If I had prepared for Benn like I did for Hilton, I would have knocked him out. Benn was a terrific fighter and I think Matthew Hilton would have beaten Benn. Bottom line: Benn was the better man in this fight and he won it.

BB: After your loss to Benn, you took 1991 off from boxing. What happened during this time and what did you do?

Stan Hoffman, who was my handler, ruined my career. I was told the entire week before my fight with Hilton that if I won it, I would face Roberto Duran or Tommy Hearns. Hoffman was in bed with Bob Arum and they both manipulated me into taking the fight with Nigel Benn. At that time, who the F*#$ was Nigel Benn?

I just had beaten Matthew Hilton and was a much bigger name than Benn was. Did I need Nigel Benn? No, I didn’t need him. I wanted to go forward in my career and maybe even have a fight with come backing Sugar Ray Leonard.

Hoffman and Arum came up with the Benn fight. I told them I wanted a rider in my contract saying that if I lost to Benn, he would have to give me a rematch. Arum never did that and told me go get a lawyer. For almost two years, I sat on the shelf and though I was just 28 years old, I was an old 28. It ruined me and when I did comeback, I was not the same. Bob Arum said, “Doug Dewitt made $500,000 for that cockamamie WBO title”. Here is my reply to that. “Doug Dewitt would have made five million dollars with that cockamamie title, if he was handled right”.

BB: In 1992, you come back with a draw against Tyrone Frazier, a ten round decision over Dan Sherry and in your last fight of your career; you face a young James Toney who stops you in the sixth round.

How would you rate Toney as a fighter back then? Could you see any signs that he had the potential to go on and win three world championships and now fight for a heavyweight crown?

At the time of this fight, Toney was considered the second best P4P fighter in the world. I was considered a retread that was tough in his prime, but was way past my prime. It’s irrelevant that I came and did nothing in this fight, but what did he do with me? He should have blown me out. He didn’t knock me down or even affect me with any of his punches. I think I could have beaten Toney in my prime. My trainer the late Victor Valle stopped the fight because I wasn’t doing anything.

No, I didn’t, but taking nothing away from his accomplishments he would later make, he wasn’t into our fight at all. Today, he is a heck of a fighter.

BB: In a 12 year boxing career that saw your record stand at 33-8-5, 19 KO’s which fight do you feel the boxing fans saw the best Doug Dewitt on that particular night and why?

My best performance though a loss, was against Tommy Hearns. Iran Barkley was getting demolished by Tommy Hearns in their first fight until he caught Hearns with a punch that ended it all. I fought Hearns heads up in our fight when he was at his best. I feel the fight was a draw between us.

Also, I have to say my win against Matthew Hilton rates up there to with the Hearns fight.

BB: During your time in the middleweight division, who would rank as the top two fighters and why?

Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He had a great right jab and was just a great boxer with an outstanding chin. Hagler was just solid all around as a fighter.

Doug Dewitt. I was a lot like Hagler, but erratic. During my prime, I had quicker hands than Hagler did. He was a better prepared fighter than I was.

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

Yes, I do. It needs to be set up like the other sports such as the NFL, NBA and MLB. All of those athletes for the most part, have a college degree to fall back on. Fighters above any other athlete should have a pension fund. The boxers and promoters could pay into the fund, but there are many complex issues involved in doing this fund, but it must be done.

BB: How would you like the fans of “The Cobra” who followed your career to remember you?

That I was a guy who very gutsy in the ring and most of the times gave all he had in the boxing ring. That, during my boxing career, I was a top middleweight in the 1980’s era.

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

“Take one day at a time”.

Doug wanted to add the following to our interview:

I give all my glory to the Lord Jesus Christ for my boxing career. Also, my parents and fans that supported me throughout the years, I want to say I really appreciated it from the bottom of my heart.

Doug DeWitt
Nickname: “Cobra”
Division: Middleweight
Professional Record: 33-8-5, (KOs 19)

Date Opponent Location Result

1980-03-28 Peter Pennello Tarrytown, US W PTS 4
1980-05-14 Charlie Hecker White Plains, US W KO 3
1980-06-11 Calvin Cook White Plains, US W PTS 4
1980-09-17 Larry Davis White Plains, US W PTS 6
1980-10-15 Terry Duncan White Plains, US W UD 6
1980-12-17 Derrick Doughty White Plains, US W KO 1

1981-01-21 Larry Davis White Plains, US W PTS 6
1981-02-18 Willard Nance White Plains, US W PTS 8
1981-03-08 Ben Serrano Atlantic City, US L PTS 8
1981-04-24 Kevin Cheatum White Plains, US W KO 1
1981-06-25 Lenny Villers Tarrytown, US W TKO 8
1981-10-09 Danny McAloon White Plains, US W TKO 3
1981-11-24 Tony Suero White Plains, US D PTS 8
1981-12-22 Charlie Hecker Atlantic City, US W TKO 5

1982-02-04 Danny Long Atlantic City, US W PTS 8
1982-03-04 Bill Medei Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1982-03-21 Ben Serrano Atlantic City, US D PTS 8
1982-08-04 Mike Hyman White Plains, US W KO 6
1982-10-02 William Page Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1982-10-20 Teddy Mann White Plains, US W TKO 5
1982-12-03 Larry Rayford New Orleans, US W KO 6

1983-02-16 Vernon Reed East Rutherford, US W KO 1
1983-08-10 King Starling White Plains, US W TKO 8
1983-09-09 Hector Rosario New York, US W KO 4

1984-01-13 Freddie Boynton White Plains, US W RTD 5
1984-02-17 Mike Tinley Atlantic City, US W UD 12
1984-04-19 Bobby Hoye Atlantic City, US W PTS 10
1984-10-04 Jimmie Sykes Atlantic City, US W TKO 1

1985-03-08 Don Lee White Plains, US D PTS 10
1985-08-30 Robbie Sims Atlantic City, US L UD 10

1986-01-18 Luis Rivera Atlantic City, US W TKO 7
1986-05-06 Charles Boston Atlantic City, US W PTS 10
1986-07-13 Milton McCrory Las Vegas, US L UD 10
1986-10-17 Thomas Hearns Detroit, US L UD 12
NABF Middleweight Title

1987-02-20 Jose Quinones Atlantic City, US L TKO 3
1987-08-18 Lenny LaPaglia Atlantic City, US W UD 10
1987-11-06 Tony Thornton Atlantic City, US W MD 13
USBA Middleweight Title

1988-01-29 Ron Essett Atlantic City, US D PTS 10
1988-08-19 Alberto Gonzalez Atlantic City, US W KO 6
1988-11-08 Sumbu Kalambay Monte Carlo, MC L TKO 7
WBA World Middleweight Title

1989-04-18 Robbie Sims Atlantic City, US W SD 12
vacant WBO Middleweight Title

1990-01-15 Matthew Hilton Atlantic City, US W TKO 11
WBO Middleweight Title
1990-04-29 Nigel Benn Atlantic City, US L TKO 8
WBO Middleweight Title

1992-02-07 Tyrone Frazier Atlantic City, US D MD 10
1992-05-28 Dan Sherry Monticello, US W PTS 10
1992-12-05 James Toney Atlantic City, US L RTD 6

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