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From the 72’ & 76’ Olympics Games to Top 1980’s Lightweight Contender – Davey Lee Armstrong Talks about his Boxing Career with RSR


Exclusive Interview by “Bad” Brad Berkwitt
I was on the greatest (76’) US amateur boxing team the Olympics have ever seen. Not taking anything away from the 84’ Team, who won many Gold Medals, but they just didn’t have the tough guys like we faced”.–Davey Lee Armstrong
Throughout my many years of doing interviews with a diverse group of boxers from the new school to the old, I always derive pleasure from going back and finding fighters we just don’t hear about anymore. Interviewing Davey Lee Armstrong happened to be one of those gems you stumble across and once you do, you are moved by it and thrilled to bring a history lesson to the newer generation of boxing fans who think boxing started with Oscar De La Hoya. No slam on Oscar because he has done tons to move the sport forward, but there is a history in the sport that has been around for years before he laced up a boxing glove.
The 1980s gave the children of the late 60’s, such as myself, lots of memorable fights along with many exciting fighters. Davey was one of those in the talent rich lightweight division. After going to the 72’ and 76’ Olympic Games, Armstrong turned pro in early 1980. He fought out of the now legendary Kronk Gym and had their leader, Emmanuel Steward, as not only his trainer, but also as his manager. Davey had success in a very short pro career, but never fought for a world title. He got out of boxing before making it to that level, but for very good reasons. The details of which, you will read in his exclusive interview with RSR.
BB: Let’s catch up the RSR readers on what you have been doing since you retired from boxing in 1983?After I retired from boxing in 1983, I went to work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as an Engineer Draftsman and did this for about five years. After that, I wanted to go back to College and attended Howard University in Washington, DC. I only went for one semester and missed my daughter who was back in Washington State, so I came back. I attended college in Washington State and obtained my Associates of Arts Degree. In 1991, I applied for and got a job with the City of Seattle as a Surveyor. I did this for a while and currently, still work for the City of Seattle, in Construction Management. BB: You were a world-class amateur boxer in the 1970’s and fought in the 72’ and 76’ Olympics, coming up just a little short in both. What was your amateur record? Also, looking back on this time, what are you fondest recollections of being an amateur and your biggest disappointments?
My amateur record is not accurate, but if I had to guess, it was around 190 fights losing about 30. I started in 1966 and they just didn’t keep accurate records at that time. My fondest recollections were traveling the world, a really beautiful thing to do. I went to countries such as Russia, Cuba, Poland, Australia, New Zealand and many others. I was very proud that from 1972-1979, I either won the National AAU Tournament or came in second place in my weight class during those years. Before every fight, I would always call home and have my Mom say a prayer for me. I credit all of this good fortune to Jesus. In both Olympic tries, I lost in the Medal Round. Had I won either fight, I was sure to have one at least a Bronze Medal. Looking back, I think I lost the fight I had in the 72’ Olympics Medal Round, but in the 76’ games, I felt I won the fight to at least win the Bronze Medal.Honestly, I have no disappointments whatsoever and I am very grateful for my amateur career.

BB: I want to throw out names to you from your 76’ Olympic Boxing Team and would like you to give me the first thought that pops into your head.First off, I really enjoy this question and commenting on my teammates for RSR.

106: Louis Curtis:“Sharp little fighter and a good boxer”.

112: Leo Randolph:“The Heart of Lion”

119: Charles Mooney:“A Strong Soldier”

132: Howard Davis, JR.:“Finesse Fighter”

139:Ray Leonard:“All around boxer”

147:Clint Jackson:“All around boxer like Ray”(When Ray and Clint sparred, everybody stopped what they were doing to watch them go at it).

156: Charles Walker, JR.:“Finesse Fighter”

165: Michael Spinks: “This Man wanted to win”

178:Leon Spinks:“Just like his brother, he wanted to win”

+178: John Tate: “A truly sweet man” God rest his soul.

BB: You turned professional on March 28, 1980 with a six round decision over Gil Hernandez. Did you find your transition from the amateurs to the pros difficult?

I sure did. The number of rounds was tough because I was used to going only three rounds and at times, it was a very difficult task. I would do my roadwork based on the length of my upcoming fight so I would have endurance to get through the rounds.

BB: In your first nine fights, you come up with a win in each of them, but in your tenth fight, on December 13, 1980, Agustin Caballero knocked you out in the fourth round. What are your recollections of this fight, and what did it change in you as fighter after getting knocked out for the first time as a professional?

Looking back, Caballero really didn’t look like a lightweight when I stood across from him in the ring. He was a last minute replacement and looked like a middleweight. He was a very strong puncher and caught me with a punch I didn’t see and that was the very first time I was knocked out as either an amateur or professional fighter.

It really didn’t discourage me because any fighter can get caught with a punch they don’t see.

BB: After your knockout loss to Caballero, you reel off 10 wins back to back. In your 18th fight on December 17, 1981, you face tough as nails Arturo Leon who extends you the 10 round distance, with you winning a decision. What are your recollections of this fight?

He was very tough and had I never seen him fight. Leon made every round tough so it was a good win for me to have on my professional record.

BB: After the Leon fight, you reel off five more wins and on October 10, 1982, you drop a ten round decision to a very solid boxer named Greg Coverson. What are your recollections of this fight and how would you rate Coverson?

I remember this fight well because we both really came to fight. As you know, I was out of the Kronk Gym at the time and in my hometown. Neither of these facts stopped Coverson from coming out and fighting me very hard. It was a close fight and think the decision was fair by going to Greg. Coverson was a highly skilled boxer and our fight was probably one of his best performances in my opinion.

BB: On June 9, 1983, you face tough Canadian Nicky Furlano and take the decision over 12 rounds. What do you recall about this fight and how would you rate Furlano, who a little over one year later, would go on to face then IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, to whom he dropped a 15 round decision?

It was for a title, but the name of it slips me. It was in Furlano’s hometown up in Canada and Nicky really fought hard and didn’t want to lose. He really came on strong at the end of the fight. Furlano was a decent fighter.

BB: A little over a month after the Furlano fight, you face Steve Romero and drop a ten round decision. At this time you have only been a professional for a little over three years, but you retired from boxing. You had a solid record with some good wins and hadn’t challenged for a world title as of yet, but you called it a day. What made you retire so early into your pro career and without ever giving yourself a chance to fight for a world title?

Looking back on this fight, I felt I won it and there was talk that in between rounds, they slipped Romero some type of drug. I had him almost out in one round and the next; he was like an animal in there. I started to see myself not take my boxing career as seriously as I had before. Knowing this, I wanted to keep my losses low like they were. Since I was starting to lose the hunger to train, that was a direct signal to me that the end was near for my boxing career. Because of this, I decided to get out at that time in my boxing career.

BB: In your opinion, what was your best performance as a professional and why?

I would say the fight with Greg Coverson. Even though I lost, I was known as boxer, but in this fight, I also slugged it out with Greg, which gave the fans a great fight.

BB: At what point of your boxing career did you team up with Kronk Gym Legend and trainer Emanuel Steward? What was it like working with him at that time?

I think I teamed up with Emmanuel in 1981. Mr. Steward was a really good trainer and manager who really cared for me and I have nothing bad to say about him. On many occasions, he showed a lot of emotions towards me, which I appreciated. I can tell you this about the Kronk Gym, at that time, it was one tough place. The sparring we had with guys like Tommy Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, the late Dujuan Johnson and others were actually tougher than many of our professional fights were.

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. It really needs to be established and each fighter should pay something into as well as the promoters who are getting rich on the fighters. A fighter would have to be in boxing for a minimum of five years in my opinion to get something out of it once they retired.

BB: Now that you have been out of boxing for many years, how would you like your fans to remember you?

I would like my fans to remember me as a fair fighter who always conducted himself in a positive manner.

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

Jesus Christ is always in front of me”

Davey wanted to add this to our interview:

I would like to say to any of my teammates from the 1976 Olympic Team that may be reading this; I would love to get together with all of you because we were on the greatest US amateur boxing team the Olympics have ever seen. Not taking anything away from the 84’ Team, who won many Gold Medals, but they just didn’t have the tough guys like we faced.

Davey Lee Armstrong
Division: Lightweight
Professional Record: 24-3, 14 KO’s

Date Opponent Location Result

1980-03-28 Gil Hernandez Tacoma, USA W PTS 6

1980-05-04 Edmundo Arellano Seattle, USA W TKO 1

1980-06-19 Ray Saldivar Tacoma, USA W KO 3

1980-08-02 Miguel Flores Detroit, USA W KO 1

1980-08-09 Eric Bonilla Spokane, USA W KO 2

1980-08-29 Spencer Wilson Miami Beach, USA W KO 1

1980-09-20 Ray Gonzalez San Juan, Puerto Rico W KO 4

1980-10-24 Norberto Figueroa Uniondale, USA W PTS 8

1980-11-08 Eddie Murray Detroit, USA W KO 2

1980-12-13 Agustin Caballero Miami, USA L KO 4

1981-01-29 Daniel Rivera Detroit, USA W KO 7

1981-03-13 Tom Crowley Lansing, USA W PTS 10

1981-06-06 Danny Favella Detroit, USA W KO 1

1981-08-22 Willie Floyd McIntosh Traverse City, USA W KO 3

1981-09-29 Fili Ramirez Phoenix, USA W PTS 10

1981-10-13 Rosendo Ramirez Phoenix, USA W PTS 10

1981-11-17 Ernesto Herrera Phoenix, USA W UD 10

1981-12-17 Arturo Leon Phoenix, USA W PTS 12

1982-02-18 Mario Rodriguez Phoenix, USA W PTS 10

1982-05-06 Roland Avila Los Angeles, USA W KO 6

1982-06-22 Fili Ramirez Phoenix, USA W KO 3

1982-08-27 Richard Rozelle Detroit, USA W KO 2

1982-09-24 Donald Alston Crystal City, USA W KO 5

1982-10-10 Greg Coverson Detroit, USA L PTS 10

1983-03-19 Rosendo Ramirez Reno, USA W PTS 10

1983-06-09 Nick Furlano Toronto, Canada W PTS 12

NABF Lightweight Title

1983-07-22 Steve Romero San Jose, USA L PTS 10

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