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A Remarkable Journey through Boxing – The Career of Dennis “The Magician” Milton

Interview by Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

 “I was just blessed enough to get into boxing and once I did I was able to go around the world and be somebody that other people looked up to.” – Dennis Milton

I remember my first glimpse of Gerald “The G-Man” McClellan. It took him less than a round to walk right through John “The Beast” Mugabi back in 1991, and from that moment on I was hooked and in awe at the unmistakable combination of destructiveness and talent. The obvious self confidence and momentum behind him made it inconceivable that he was summarily routed just a few short years before, as if by some act of magic, but indeed such had been the case. Digging a little deeper, the realization hit me and the pieces came together. That first loss was handed to him by Dennis “The Magician” Milton, a diligent fighter who had paid his dues and toiled in the shadows for years. He had been brought in as the opponent but took virtually everyone by surprise, demonstrating the drive and the talent that would one day take him to a title shot.

I first noticed “The Magician” in 1989, having watched him take Michael “The Silk” Olajide, a talented contender who had at one time fought for a world title at middleweight and later would go on to challenge for one at super middleweight, to the very brink. It was the type of win that made you raise an eyebrow and take notice. When I put two and two together, I noticed that it had indeed taken an act of magic to turn back “The G-Man”, and that Dennis Milton had been the magician that pulled it off. It was a privilege to sit down and speak with Dennis “The Magician” Milton about his unlikely beginning that led to a remarkable journey through the amateur and professional ranks of boxing. Over the course of that discussion, I picked-up on his positive nature and what I sensed to be a good and giving spirit to those around him, and that regardless of the victories and disappointments, this was a man whose feet were firmly planted on the ground.

MP: Starting off, for your fans that followed your career through the late-80’s and into the mid-nineties, what are you doing today?

As of right now I have a restaurant up in Mount Vernon, New York. It’s called J&D’s Tasty Fish Chips which is right across the street from City Hall. I’m also getting into real estate. I’m actually starting out as a real estate investor. I should end up doing pretty good. My business will be online shortly; I know we start advertising in November. Right now I work for an advertising company, I’m their concierge. I’m doing fine.

MP: What made you decide to become involved with boxing and where did the nickname “The Magician” come from?

I was part of the Boys Club. We were a group of kids that went to the city-wide billiard championships to compete playing pool. We lost in the finals. We were the runner-ups down in Manhattan. After the loss in the finals we decided we all wanted to stay together. Over at the PAL organization they were starting up a martial arts program, so we left the Boys Club to join the karate team. When we got there it hadn’t started yet and they had boxing going on. So we sat down and watched and we became so interested in boxing we forgot about karate and decided to go into that. It wasn’t my original intention to go into boxing because I grew up as a kid cherishing Bruce Lee.

MP: You eventually won the New York Golden Gloves championship four times, as well as the 165lb. Open Championship in 1981, defeating future three-division world champion Iran Barkley and the 156lb. Open Championship in ’82, ’83 and ’84. What are you recollections of this period?

It was a good time and I fought a lot of good guys. We had a lot of fun. We met a lot of people that just by chance I am now back in contact with online because of Facebook. I’ve been on Facebook now for maybe about a month and I’ve spoken with guys like Paul Gonzalez who was the first Mexican-American to win the gold medal back in 1984. Before Facebook I hadn’t spoken with him in 25-years. I’m also now in touch with Henry Tillman. He like Paul is on the other side of the country. Wow! The recollections and everything. It’s just fantastic! The internet is fantastic. That’s why I’m taking my business to the internet.

MP: Turning professional in 1985, you went 11-2-1 before a breakthrough win over future WBC/WBO Middleweight champion Gerald “The G-Man” McClellan. What is your recollection of McClellan and at the time did you believe that the victory would propel you toward bigger opportunities?

Yes, I did think it would open up bigger opportunities. The fight itself, I remember it, I have a tape of it somewhere although I haven’t watched it in years. Gerald McClellan was without a doubt the most dangerous fighter at that time in boxing after Thomas Hearns. He was the next Thomas Hearns. I think that had he been able to stick around the boxing world would have been different where Roy Jones JR was concerned. Both Roy and Gerald were two very competitive individuals and they knew each other from the amateurs. I don’t think, and I could be entirely wrong, but I don’t think Roy would have had as much success in the ring if Gerald was around. He was the type of individual that could change a fight with a matter of just one punch. He was the most dangerous guy I ever fought, without a doubt.

MP: Does that include Julian Jackson?

Yes, including Julian Jackson. But Gerald McClellan, definitely to me, if you put both of them in front of me and asked me who I would fight and who I wouldn’t want to fight – I wouldn’t want to face Gerald McClellan again.

MP: Next came a decisive unanimous decision over perennial division policeman Robbie Sims and after that a close split decision win over former top contender and IBF Middleweight title challenger Michael “The Silk” Olajide. You seemed to really have it going on at this point. What are your recollections of this period and did you feel you could make it all of the way to a world championship?

The Michael Olajide match was a very tough fight. After the fight I went to the hospital for dehydration. I became very dehydrated in that fight. That had a lot to do with my physical decline after that point in my career. Olajide was, to me, in my personal opinion, the most conditioned fighter I ever faced in my career. There were two guys in a far as conditioning that stood out, Bernard Hopkins and Olajide.

MP: When you faced an up and coming Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins back in 1992, did you think he’d go on to become what he is today?

No. The only thing I remember about Bernard Hopkins was that he was in very good shape, he was very crafty and that he basically fought dirty. Hopkins was extremely crafty. He was like the new Mongoose. There’s the old Mongoose, Archie Moore, and he’s like the new Mongoose.

That’s what I most remember about him. I don’t want to belittle Hopkins because of some of the things he does. But I do think he does do things that aren’t necessarily in the rule book, and I knew this way back when. By the same token, the dirtiest fighter I ever was in with was Michael Olajide. We both were fouling. We threw the rule book out. I don’t see anything really wrong with what Hopkins does because the other guy has the opportunity to do it as well. If the referee is not going to take action and penalize your foe for using dirty tactics, you have to always be in control of the situation if you can’t count on the ref to do things.

MP: You challenged a prime 44-1 Julian Jackson for the WBC Middleweight title in September 1991, perhaps the hardest puncher in middleweight division history. What happened?

I was totally confident in beating Jackson, I just got caught early. Julian beat me in one round. The thing was if I had made it back to my corner at the end of the first round I knew I could have beat him. When we clinched I got to feel his weight, his strength and what not and I decided that if I made it back to the corner I’d be alright. There were things that were going on in camp that I never disclosed and I’m not going to disclose them now. There were too many things going on in my life at that time and Julian did what he was known for doing. No excuses whatsoever. He was the better man that night.

MP: Your final bout was against former WBA Welterweight champion Aaron “Superman” Davis in 1995. Tell us about it.

I always saw Davis around. I never really paid much attention to him. I knew he beat Mark Breland for the welterweight title rather easily in a rather ugly bout. I never really put him at the same level that I was at in as far as his boxing skills even though he had become a world champion. If you watch our fight, from what I can recall, I pretty much out boxed him from the first bell but by then my legs were no longer any good, and that had started a few fights earlier in the Olajide bout with the extreme dehydration. That was what changed my career. It just didn’t work out; it didn’t come out the way we expected it to. The Davis bout was the end of my professional career as a boxer.

I’m still in the game today. I’ve got a couple of kids I’m working with at the amateur level and I’m very excited about them. I have the opportunity to be able to be somebody that can be an inspiration for others and to guide them away from people that aren’t going to do right by them. One more thing I want to make mention of; my favorite fighter in the game is Oscar De La Hoya. I never really watched him as a young professional coming up. I remember him from when I lived in Las Vegas. A young kid before he went to the Olympics in the Top Rank Gym. He was the only amateur, other than Floyd Mayweather JR. that I remember.

I truly think that Oscar is a blessing to boxing because he’s done something that none of the other guys before him, including Sugar Ray Leonard, really did. That is to become more involved in the promotional aspect of the game and help young, struggling fighters who are trying to make it in the game to go on and do something with their lives, as well as the many positive things he has done in his community. He’s helped rebuild it and is giving young kids the chance to do something with their lives. I have so much respect for him for doing all of that where the other guys may have done some things but they didn’t do it to the level Oscar did. Because of his example, other fighters are now going out and promoting; grabbing a piece of boxing rather than letting people that don’t really care or don’t really know anything about the sport go on to become filthy rich off of it, without really knowing the sport and the individuals competing in it on a day in and day out basis.

MP: It sounds like you’ve made peace with boxing and that you actively give back to it.

Definitely. My initial goal wasn’t boxing. I was just blessed enough to get into boxing and once I did I was able to go around the world and be somebody that other people looked up to. A lot of times I’ll be somewhere or even on Facebook, people will tell me they enjoyed watching me. I just found some cards some kid out in California had sent to me, asking me to please sign them, telling me he was a big fan. That’s a shot in the arm for me. It shows that I did have some type of affect in the sport as far as some people are concerned. That’s very important. The sport changed my life. I could have gone in another direction and I didn’t go that way and because of that I am fortunate enough to be talking to you and talking about my career, talking about something good.

MP: Is there anything you would like to say to RSR readers in closing?

I just would like to thank everyone for supporting me and those that got me interested in boxing and for those that help to keep it alive. There are a lot of things that are going on in the sport that isn’t good but I think that the sport will continue to survive so long as we have good young blood coming into it. Also, it’s very important to have people, fans like yourself, who are getting the stories out there for the public to read. Be it on the internet, in print or on television, it’s very important that those stories get out there and are told in a way that is truthful for the fans as well as for the athlete. One last thing; I would like to acknowledge that I was blessed to have Manard Stovall as my boxing trainer. Manard like so many others trainers around the world, do not get enough credit for the work they do. I just wanted to say THANK YOU MANARD.

You can visit Dennis Milton’s business “IBUYISALEHOUSES, LLC.” The website is IBUYISALEHOUSES.COM. The company helps people buy, sell, lease and rent houses. They can be contacted at (347) 963-9970 or visit ibuyisalehouses.com next month.

Dennis Milton
Nickname: “The Magician”
Division: Middleweight
Professional Record:  16-5-1, 22 KO's

Date       Opponent                  Location                  Result      

1985-07-11 Greg Jones New York, USA W TKO 4
1985-08-29 Willie Monroe New York, USA W UD 6
1985-11-07 Cortez Mobley Atlantic City, USA W UD 6
1985-12-06 Mario Davis New York, USA W KO 4
1986-04-03 Ali Bey New York, USA W UD 6
1986-05-22 Ismael Negron Atlantic City, USA L SD 6
1986-08-14 Gary Tibbs New York, USA W PTS 6
1986-11-19 Fred Savage Richmond Hill, USA W KO 1
1986-12-26 Mike Peoples West Orange, USA W UD 6

1987-02-21 Sam Leonard Atlantic City, USA W PTS 6
1987-06-05 Tommy Davenport East Rutherford, USA W TKO 7
1987-08-01 Angel Sindo East Rutherford, USA L TKO 5
1988-10-25 Pedro Rivera Atlantic City, USA D PTS 4

1989-05-30 Pedro Rivera Atlantic City, USA W UD 8
1989-06-24 Gerald McClellan Atlantic City, USA W PTS 6
1989-09-12 Robbie Sims Atlantic City, USA W UD 10
1989-12-01 Michael Olajide Albany, USA W SD 10
1990-03-08 Jose Antonio Martinez Atlantic City, USA W UD 10

1991-06-28 Pat Brennan Las Vegas, USA W TKO 2
1991-09-14 Julian Jackson Las Vegas, USA L KO 1
WBC Middleweight Title

1992-01-31 Bernard Hopkins Philadelphia, USA L TKO 4

1995-01-14 Aaron Davis Atlantic City, USA L TKO 3

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