Ted Sares fought as an amateur boxer in the Chicago area in the 50's. He has since become a boxing historian and member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He specializes in articles that capture the pathos of the sport. His works have been featured on a number of boxing sites and magazines including East Side Boxing, Fightkings, WAIL Magazine, IBRO Journal, Saddoboxing.com, and many others

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Legacy of Dana Rosenblatt

By Ted Sares:

He wasn't the greatest prospect but he sure as heck wasn't on the lower tier either. He started garnering more serious attention after his leg twitching first round KO of "The Irish Express," Sean Fitzgerald, 29-2-2, for the New England Middleweight Title on December 16, 1993. The fight was at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT. He would attempt to punctuate this win when he met Chad Parker in 1995 at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas for the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title. In between, he beat guys like Sean Fitzgerald, 29-2-2, Ron Amundsen, 22-13-1, rugged Brett Lally, 32-12, Tyrone Moore, 32-19-3 and Frank Savannah, 15-1-1, (whom he defeated by TKO for the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title). Both Rosenblatt and Parker were undefeated, but one seemed to be the real deal, the other, well let's break it down.

Chad Parker was a relative unknown who won his first 15 all by stoppage, but his first 19 opponents had losing records. Included among them were Jake Torrance, 22-79-2, and Anthony Travis, 5-50. He drew with Tim Rabon, 14-12-2, then fought Keheven Johnson, 24-70-5, Anthony Ivory, 33-77-5, and David McCluskey, 20-72-6. A year before the Las Vegas fight, he fought Tim Dendy, 17-44-2, and won by DQ in 9 which indicated that Parker might be more hype than fight. All told, his opponents had an eye-popping combined won-lost record of 252-753! One of his opponent prior to May 1995 was one Kirino Garcia, currently 38-27-3, whom he beat by points in Biloxi. Garcia was on a streak of his own......18 straight "defeats" right out of the professional gate (but 12 were on points and most were fought outside of Mexico suggesting the specter of bad decisions). The fight with Parker would be the last of the 18. Amazingly, Kirino would then go on to beat such name fighters as Meldrick Taylor, Jorge Vaca, Terrence Ali, Eric Holland, Simon Brown, Buck Smith, Frankie Randall, and Derrick Whitley. Just last year he lost to to Danny Green in Australia. Garcia is now considered one tough hombre and the question was did Parker catch the old Garcia or did he beat the new one? An analysis of their respective records clearly points to the former.

But so much for the undefeated fighter from the South. A break down of "Dangerous" Dana Rosenblatt's record up to this fight reveals equally interesting data. Rosenblatt once held a black belt in Karate, a brown belt in Judo and was a former U.S. Amateur Kickboxing champion. His boxing opponents' combined won-lost record going into the Parker bout was 208-163 reflecting far superior competition. Moreover, while many of Parker's fights were in small venues, Dana performed regularly at Foxwoods often filling it with a faithful following from the Boston area including a large number of Jewish fans from both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Just prior to the Parker fight, he beat Randy Williams, 24-8, by TKO in 4 at Bally's in Atlantic City. Though Caesars Palace undoubtedly loomed large for both fighters, "Dangerous" Dana was clearly more accustomed to the pressure of fighting in large venues.

Unless you had broken it down analytically (like bettors do), the fight in Vegas did not live up to its billing. As he did with Sean Fitzgerald in 1993, Rosenblatt knocked out the mismatched Parker in spectacular fashion in the first round. While the exposed Chad would never fight nor be heard from again, Dana would go on to fight such notables as comebacking Olympian Howard Davis, Jr. 36-6-1, (whom he ko' d in two and put an end to the comeback), former 5-time champ Vinny Pazienza (splitting two exciting bouts), rugged Glenwood "The Real Beast" Brown, 48-12, tough Arthur Allen, 26-8, future Hall of Famer Terry Norris, 47-9, ( Rosenblatt dominated the early rounds and then, exposing a pattern tracking to the Allen fight, seemed to run out of gas but his early lead held up for a UD), James Crawford, 40-12-2, (the first of two frustrating technical draw caused by butts and resultant cuts), and Will "Kid Fire" McIntyre, 36-4-1. But after his boring win against McIntyre in October 2000 and just when his star was positioned to rise to the next level, his career moved in the opposite direction.

A series of shoulders injuries, a hand fracture (suffered in the Brown fight) and several scheduling problems kept him inactive and caused him to drop out of the world rankings. He would not fight again until June 28, 2002.Finally, after many months of rehabilitation and frustration, Dana stepped into the ring against Juan Carlos Viloria for the first time in almost 20 months. In what would turn out to be his last fight, he was again accidently head-butted in the third causing a deep cut and rendering him a bloody and ghastly mess. The fight was ruled a technical draw. Dana was handily winning at the time and looked extremely sharp, but this final gut wrenching frustration convinced him it was time to consider walking away which he did in August 2003.

He retired with a fine record of 37-1-1. Unfortunately, Dana Rosenblatt's legacy likely will be defined by his two memorable fights with the fiery warrior from Rhode Island, Vinny Pazienza, 50-10. I'll skip most of the Pazienza part, for that has been treated by any number of writers and it would be virtually impossible to give it a unique slant unless, perhaps, I approached it by comparing it to the old ethnic rivalries of the past. Suffice to say Dana avenged the only defeat of his career (a 4th round KO loss to Pazienza in 1996 at Bally's in NJ) when he defeated Vinny in a 12-round hotly disputed split decision on November 5, 1999 at Foxwoods. If one wanted to label his legacy with one word, "redemption" might fit nicely......but it should be more than that and that's what this piece is about.

More to the point, Bob Trieger, his former publicist was quoted as saying,“His body began to break down on him little by little. All the wear and tear over the years, it finally caught up with him, and probably kept him from achieving everything he really wanted to in boxing. It kept him from earning the real big paydays.” He added, " He stood for something that’s very atypical when the discussion of professional boxing comes up.........you always hear about........all the bad guys that hurt the reputation of boxing. But you never hear about guys like Dana, a guy who represents what most boxers are about. Most of them are good, caring people.”Ironically, Dana's exemplary life style, (he was articulate, gentlemanly, affable and a college student to boot), made him somewhat of an oddity in boxing and may have fueled some dislike for him to wit: "My hatred for him is true," said the theatrical and likable Pazienza [who during one-on-one interviews can be sensitive and extremely candid] ....I could break every bone in his body and feel no remorse. He's a condescending, little punk with that community college degree and I hate every ounce of him. I hate him for all the s--- he said about me back when I was supporting him. He hasn't earned the right to talk like that. He ain't been there, done that." And on another occasion,"I hate him,'' said Cranston's five-time world champion. "I absolutely hate him. And that's no bull. I'd rather die than lose to this guy.'' And that was mild, but maybe Dana was keeping in mind Author Eric Hoffer's quote: "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."

He also had been criticized for not making tougher fights and some of the criticism was justified. Fights with Sven Ottke, Omar Sheika, Eric Lucas and Scott Pemberton, for example, would have been a real test, but this remains speculation. What is not speculation is that Dana was among that group of humble boxers who gave their opponents their due, did not badmouth them, and did not act like they were "victims of bad breaks" after a fight.......boxers like Curry, Ward, Barrera, Mosley, Gatti and Hatton. Dana, now a Bunker Hill Community College honors graduate, is a decent and caring person who walks the walk. He wears nice suits and speaks in measured and articulate tones. He has been a frequent inspirational speaker at universities, kids' camps and religious events visiting temples all over the Boston area and beyond and talking to the kids on the importance of having been a Jewish fighter. Indeed, he is proud to be Jewish and proud to have been been a boxing role model for his religion. When he fought, he always wore a Magen David (Jewish Star)on his trunks. He says ".....that fighters have their identity on their trunks. People like to see the symbol. I get letters from Jews all around the world. The star makes us all proud and elicits a sense of pride."

He now represents Countrywide Home Loans in the Boston area and works with realtors, builders, real estate investors and home buyers. As with his boxing career, his hard work and dedication has moved him into the top rankings of loan officers. Unlike too many other boxing stories, this is one that ends on a positive note. The story here is one in which the retired fighter looks content, fit and ready, feels fantastic and works at a new and rewarding career to which he seamlessly and successfully transitioned; it is one in which there are no "what could have been's" nagging at his conscience; it is one about an ex-boxer who delivers motivational speeches on how to achieve goals despite facing steep obstacles. The story here is that Dana Rosenblatt left the sport he toiled at with a proud record of 37-1-1 and winnings that were wisely invested.

While never a great fighter, he was a pretty darn competitive. More importantly, he left boxing on his own terms and with few regrets......and that should be his real legacy.............

"He that can't endure the bad, will not live to see the good." Jewish Proverb

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net

Dja Vu All Over Again

By Ted Sares:

It was July 29, 1997 at the Theater in Madison Square Gardens and my friends and I had great seats. It was time to see what this so called "contender" had......and because I had done my homework, I had serious doubts that he had anything. Right out of the professional gate, he had won 18 in a row, 11 coming by way of first round KO. Only one of his fights went the distance and that was a 4 rounder against the immortal Edgar Turpin (0-6). In all, he had fought 29 rounds in 18 fights or 1.6 rounds per fight. "He" was Richie Melito and he was nicknamed "The Bull." He was from Flushing but unlike another fighter from that part of the city, I sensed he was more flash in the pan than flash. As best I could determine, none of his first 11 opponents had even won a fight. Finally, he fought unknown Chris Gingrow who sported a 1-7 record and dispatched him in one round. He then stepped up and fought tough journeyman Mike Dixon in Memphis and did manage a TKO in 4, his longest fight to date. Dixon, 16-30, had been in with may top level fighters so maybe "The Bull" had a little something after all. When he fought John Carlo in his 17th fight, it incredibly marked the first time he fought an opponent with a winning record. This fight was for the vacant New York State Heavyweight Title. Carlo's record was 14-2 with his only distinguishing accomplishment being a first round KO over a completely shot Leon Spinks in 1994. It was one of Spink's last fights. Other than that, he had fought no-names with losing records. In fact, Carlo's most recent fight leading up to July 29, 1997 had been against Eddie Curry (13-27-2), out of South Carolina, whom he beat by a TKO in the third round. Tellingly, Curry had lost 17 fights inside of three. Completing the circle, he had even lost to Leon Spinks by DQ in 1994. Prior to"The Bull," Carlo had been defeated by one Derek Amos (14-22) and Crawford Grimsley, both by first round knockout. Grimsley's claim to immortality would be a 13 second knockout at the hands of Jimmy "From Down Under" Thunder! At any rate, "The Bull" beat Carlo by KO in the second round and "captured" the crown. Clearly, Richie "The Bull" Melito's 18-0 record had been over-hyped by fighting 17opponents with losing records....and most had never even won a professional fight. Their combined won-lost record was 60-138.

Now being a betting man, I had done my due diligence....my research. I was poised like a hawk waiting to swoop down on its prey (which in this case consisted of several ill-mannered and, more importantly, ill-informed "fans" from Flushing eager to depart with their money. As W. C. Fields once said, "never give a sucker an even break" and I wasn't's about to. This looked to be a profitable affair because lo and behold, Richie's opponent this night would not be the usual warm body; oh no, it would be tough and seasoned Bert Cooper.

The fight would be for Melito's New York State Heavyweight Crown. Smokin' Bert, a Philadelphia fighter always coming forward and throwing left hooks, had literally fought just about all the name opponents you could come up with. Arguably, there have been few fighters who have fought a tougher schedule. Unlike Melito's fans, it's a good thing I knew about the qualitative nature of his record going into the MSG Theater that hot July evening in New York. Appearing on Coopers resume were names like Moorer, Holyfield, Tillman, Foreman, Carl Williams, Mercer, Orlin Norris, Bowe, Weaver, Joe Hipp, Corrie Sanders, Larry Donald, Jeremy Williams, Chris Byrd, and many more. Interestingly, he beat prospect Willie DeWitt in 1987 in Regina, SK, Canada. DeWitt, a Canadian 1984 Olympic silver medalist was undefeated (14-0-1)and highly touted, but was badly beaten by the rugged Cooper who put him down four times before taking him out in the second. DeWitt had been exposed. I smelled deja vu all over again.

Leading up to this bout, Cooper had lost to Samson Po'uha by 4 round TKO and many thought he was washed up as a competitive fighter having fought too many wars. Fortunately for me, Melito's camp and many of his fans thought so as well. Bert outweighed the short and not-so-ripped Melito by 13 pounds coming in at 232, an observation that also did not escape me. However, something did pass by me and these were rumors allegedly circulating that the "fix" may have been in but the rumors later proved to be false. But false or not, had I known this, all bets would have been off. But ignorance is bliss and my bets were in.

It was fight time.The boxers were given their instructions by Referee Wayne Kelly, the bell rang, and before you could say "deja vu," it was all over in just one minute and fifty one seconds. Cooper had annihilated Melito with a number of brutal shots finishing him off with a debilitating blow to the body that put him down and out. The squat Bull had been exposed! But then, I already knew he would be.

As we left the MSG Theater and headed for cocktails and an expensive steak dinner in one of Manhattan's better restaurants, I lighted up my cigar, this time a 60 ring maduro Gloria. As I collected and counted my winnings. I looked over to my friends, winked and said, "hey, this one is on me tonight."

To Richie Melito's credit, he later fought against much better competition and won nine straight, eight by way of stoppage. In fact, he won the vacant IBF/USBA Northeastern Regional Heavyweight Title in April 1999 by beating Don Steele (45-6) in Myrtle Beach, SC. His last fight, according to my research, was a win against Damon Reed (41-11) in 2001. I don't know whether he plans to fight again. Bert Cooper would go on to lose five of his last seven bouts before closing out his career in a TKO loss to Darroll "Doing Damage" Wilson in 2002. He would finish with a 36 (30-KO)-22 record.

"It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money." W.C. Fields

The Journeyman

By Ted Sares

Without the journeymen, there likely would be no boxing. They provide the foundation and grounding for the sport we love so much. Being a journyman is not a bad thing. Unlike some fighters who are matched to lose with the certainty of the sun setting......fighters like Andre Crowder, Danny Wofford (who has lost over 100 fights), Frankie Hines (lost 120), and Marcus Rhode, the journeymen are solid and competent fighters capable of an occasional surprise though they rarely rise to the top. Some, like Ross Puritty, Quinn Navarre, or Everett Martin are the tough gate keepers through which others must pass to reach the next level. Others, like Kenny Craven, Terry Crawley or Louis Monaco, fight six rounder's or less to fill out a promoter's card much like a chef puts garnish on a plate to give it a sense of false fullness. Hell, Kenny fought Eric Esch 4 times going 2 and 2! And some, like Garing Lane, Harold Sconiers or Jeremy Bates, get an occasional main event opportunity of their own. Often journeymen are all three..............but some, like Evander Hollyfield, Saad Muhammad before him, and perhaps Joe Mesi tragically and needlessly drop to this status because they fail to heed the warnings.

During the past several days, there was a piece involving a journeyman named Irish Mike Culbert's and his "last" professional fight. I think it received four comments...two of which were from me. I was struck by the stark contrast that, say a thread on Wladimir Klitschko or Shannon Briggs might receive. The thread on Irish Mike slowly moved into the archives with no more attention. But wait. He had his share of successful 6 and 8 and even 10 rounder's. Surely he had earned a better send off.

For those who didn't know it, Irish Mike, a super middleweight was born in Belfast (N. Ireland) almost 40 years ago and "closed out" an 18-year pro boxing career last week with a split decision win against another journeyman named Khalif “Panther” Shabazz in the 8-round main event at Memorial Hall in Plymouth, MA. That's right, journeymen fight 8-round main events. The "Panther" had been in with the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Julian Jackson and Tony Thorton, albeit unsuccessfully. With his win, Culbert finished with a fine 30-W, 4-L, 1-D record in a career that started in 1988 at the Boston Gardens when he TKO 'd one Santiago Hermida. He also closes with an unbeaten streak of 10 since losing in 1996 to the great Roberto Duran in six....the only time Mike was ever stopped (in a fight he took on just two weeks notice).

During his long career, which admittedly was fought against mediocre opponents with mostly losing records, he won the Massachusetts State titles in back-to-back fights, the super middleweight by 10-round decision against Carlos DeJesus and the middleweight by 10-round decision against Jimmy Cappiello. He also won the vacant New England light heavyweight title with a 10-round decision against Glenn Burnett on April 24, 1998 in Plymouth. Most of these fight probably don't mean much to the average fight fan, but to those of us in the greater Boston area, they provided entertainment and enjoyment, particularly for the many Irish boxing fans in the area. More importantly, they gave the affable and well spoken Mike a few days in the sun and maybe some egg money.

The last time I saw Irish Mike Culbert fight was when he won a hard fought 8-rounder over Jimmy Cappiello of Somerville, MA for something called the U.S.B.F. Regional Super Middleweight Championship at the Roxy in Boston on April 1, 2000. That's right. An 8 round championship fight! That's what journeymen sometimes do when they step up.The strangely disparate scoring of 79-75, 78-72, 74-78 favored Culbert. A standing- room-only crowd was up and roaring at the end, me included, as the two fought fiercely in their rematch for this Massachusetts "title." This was beer sloshing, slam banging, ball room boxing at its best; this was blue collar stuff and it was great.

Previously, on march 8, 1996 in Whitman, MA he was on the undercard with a young, but later to become infamous, Peter McNeeley. Mike moved his record to 12-2 beating Greg Cardiz of Hartford for the second time. With his nose mangled by a nasty second-round head butt, he fought courageously for each of the remaining six rounds winning them all. I was in attendance that night as well and I admired his grit and courage. It provided a pleasant contrast to the pathetic designated loser with whom McNeeley was matched.

But even for a journeyman, there comes a time to face reality, to acknowledge that it may be time to walk away. Mike Culbert is now almost 40 years old. He has two children and works full time as a supervisor at the Department of Youth Services in Brockton, MA.......the town he fought out of for most of his career and where he once trained with Marvin Hagler at Petronelli’s Gym. At the time, he was the youngest in the Brockton gym; now he is the only one left still boxing. If he is serious about his retirement, then let's hope he goes on to bigger and better things like two other New England fighters, John Scully and Dana Rosenblatt, did. They each finished with excellent records and launched promising new careers. Of course, they were not journeymen.

But there have been rumors that since Irish Mike has now garnered his 30th win, he just might want to move on to the biggest offer and payday he can get......one last fight in some fair grounds, armory or beery urban ball room. But heck, who can blame him? Isn't that what journeymen do?

"Writing about blue-collar folks is something I've been doing right from the start. It's a world I know pretty well. I like most of these folks quite a bit." Richard Russo

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mosley vs. Mayweather: The Perfect Storm

By Ted Sares

The middleweight showdown between Sugar Shane Mosley vs. Fernando Vargas II on July 22 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas affirmed that, like a perfect storm, everything is coming together......just the right things in the mix and with just the right timing. Team Mosley is now running on all cylinders. It will be hard for anyone to slow it down......and that perhaps includes Floyd Mayweather and Antonio Margarito.

Let's break it down:

One, Sugar Shane dominated Fernando Vargas from the start and finished him off with one big and deadly left hook in the sixth preceded by a dazzling display of jabs and hand speed throughout the bout. Referee Kenny Bayless stepped in and stopped it 2:38 of the round. This outstanding piece of work was reminiscent of a prime Mosley. Arguably, some might pose the question: was Mosley that good or was Vargas that bad? The thinking here is that Mosley was that good.

Two, he is once again using feints,dazzling speed, quickness, and crafty head and body movement that served him so well in his two wins against Oscar De La Hoya and others.

Three, his creativity and ability to improvise in the ring has returned and adds to his potent arsenal of weapons.

Four, he seems very comfortable having his father, Jack Mosley, 61, back in his corner for the first time in two years and if the Vargas fight is any indication, it appears he is back to stay. After all, he is man who directed his son to three world titles and the biggest wins of his career. Unlike the strained relationship between Roy Jones Jr, and his dad, Roy Sr., Shane Mosley, 34, embraces having Jack in his corner. He also is visibly content being promoted by Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins.

Five, Mosley, whose amateur record was an eye popping 230-12, knows his craft inside and out. He is a combination boxer-puncher but trainer Jack believes in power boxing, a method in which punches are thrown at a high rate of speed, most of them power shots with the hand speed generating the superior power. That style has worked well in the past as his son became a lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight champion.

Six, if Shane continues to fire wicked combinations that land with authority and if he is able to combine this with his trademark speed and reflexes, he will be every bit the formidable opponent for a Floyd Mayweather Jr who showed something to be desired in his last outing with Zab Judah. Again, a confluence of factors that come together to form a perfect storm.

Seven, a qualitative analysis and comparison of Floyd and Shane's respective opponents suggests that Sugar has fought the tougher ones. Vargas twice, Wright twice, De La Hoya twice, Forrest twice, Jesse James Leija, John John Molina, among others. Mosley has never been known for ducking an opponent.

Eight, Sugar Shane Mosley has his confidence back after his two losses to Winky Wright and an impressive win over strong David Estrada. More importantly, he has his swagger back.It’s crystal clear the 34-year-old Mosley is still on top of his game and that Team Mosley is turbo charged and aiming in the direction of the man with the heavyweight ego, Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather, Jr. For his part, Floyd says, "First, I'll beat Shane and then I'll beat his boss [De La Hoya]." Mayweather continues to dismiss a lucrative offer from Bob Arum for a date with tough and rugged Antonio Margarito.

At any rate, Mosley is back and that's great news for fight fans and bad news for other boxers in the welterweight division. With memories of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran looming in the background.....and with Margarito, Mayweather and Mosley now in the mix, it's time to............

"......let's get it on." Mills Lane

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer and boxing historian who can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net

Thje Big Detour

By Ted Sares

Sometimes in a boxer's career there comes a pivotal fight, one that turns his fortunes for the good and sends him to bigger and better things, as was the case when Irish Micky Ward suddenly and unexpectedly knocked out heavily favored Alfonso Sanchez with a deadly left hook to the body in 1997on HBO. And more recently, Edison Miranda's stunning TKO of Howard Eastman which catapulted him from prospect to world title contender. But there are two edges to this knife and one cuts far more deeply than the other. Bruce Finch discovered this after his crucial TKO loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1982. He would lose 6 of his final 7 bouts before retiring in 1985. The following is about four such fights......ones which would result in the loser's career taking a sharp detour the nature of which would shift inalterably. I'm sure you, the readers, could add some as well so please do.

"BIG JOHN" TATE captured a bronze medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and would go on to capture the WBA title in 1979 by defeating Gerrie Coetzee by decision in an impressive showing. Five months later, on on March 31, 1980, Big John defended his crown against Mike "Hercules" Weaver. Tate was well ahead on all cards going into the last and 15th round and the crowd was chanting, "Big John Tate, Big John Tate, Big John Tate." There was no way he could lose in front of his home town crowd. Then, out of nowhere, Weaver suddenly unloaded and landed a devastating hook to Tate's chin that left him unconscious and prone for several minutes. The crowd was shocked into silence. And so was I.

Big John attempted a comeback on June 20, 1980 against an up and coming Trevor Berbick. This was on the undercard of the legendary fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. However, he was easily defeated by the muscular Berbick who chased him around the ring in bizarre fashion. For the second time in a row, he was knocked unconscious by a clubbing blow that caught him on the back of the head as he was running away from Berbick. He lay prone with his leg twitching, another indelible, albeit surreal, boxing memory. Later Big John would be ridiculed in his hometown. Although he fought until 1988 winning 14 in a row before losing his last fight in 1988, he was never again taken seriously as a challenger.

Tragically, on April 9.1998, he died of injuries sustained in a one-car automobile accident. At the time, his nickname among his hometown friends in Tennessee was "Ordinary." The man who had once been the WBA heavyweight champion and had made millions was broke when he died at the age of 43.

SUGAR RAY SEALES, the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics, was a contender for the Middleweight title during the late 70's and early 80's. He won his first 22 fights before losing to Marvin Hagler on points in 1974. He then put together an unbeaten streak of six fights including a highly respectable draw with the tough Hagler. In December 1976 in England, he fought Alan Minter, a tough Brit who had garnered notable and credible victories over name opponents. This was a fight that many thought would propel Sugar Ray to a title shot, but it was not to be. He was TKO' d in the fifth by the determined and tenacious Englishman who caught Seales in a furious exchange, imposed his will, and prevailed. More to the point, Seales would never again fight at the same level of competence and was destroyed by Hagler in one round in their fight in 1979, being dropped 3 times. Later, In a 1980 fight with Jaime Thomas, he was thumbed in the eye, tearing his retina, and he gradually went blind even while continuing to fight. Seales retired in 1983.

Perhaps the best way to describe Sugar Ray's detour is to describe his trilogy with the great Hagler thusly: Sugar Ray Seales won his first 21 fights until losing a close decision to Marvin Hagler in Boston in 1974. Later that same year, he held Hagler to a draw that could have gone either way. Seales then fought and lost to Minter in 1976. Hagler then scored a savage first-round kayo in their rubber match.....in 1979.

One account has Seales currently working with autistic students at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. I hope it's true.

IRISH JERRY COONEY, as an amateur, won several international tournaments as well as the New York Golden Gloves title. His amateur record was a fine one consisting of 55 wins and only 3 losses when he turned professional. Best known for his devastating left hook to the body, he quickly ran up a string of ko wins before handily beating title challengers Jimmy Young and Ron Lyle, both by ko. By this time, he was ranked number one in the WBC and was a serious challenger to Larry Holmes' crown.

Then in 1981, he annihilated former world heavyweight champion Ken Norton by frightening knockout 54 seconds into the first round at Madison Square Garden and in front of an HBO audience. A year later, his life took a positive turn, at least financially speaking, when the "Easton Assassin" agreed to fight him. Cooney would get a purse of ten million dollars as the challenger, making it the richest fight in boxing history up to that time. Unfortunately the promotion of the fight took on racial overtones which, to Cooney's credit, he tried to distance himself from. If Cooney won, he would be the first white world heavyweight champion in 23 years. Predictably, promoter Don King, always the cunning choreographer, played this up by calling him "The Great White Hope," and the fight drew huge attention throughout the world. In fact, it was one of the biggest closed-circuit/pay-per-view productions in history, broadcast to over 150 countries.

Thusly packaged by King, Cooney finally stepped into the ring against Holmes on June 11, 1982 and lost a competitive and highly entertaining fight in which Cooney fought bravely and did nothing to disgrace himself. He lost by a technical knockout in the 13th when his handlers threw in the towel. But this would prove to be his "big detour," for he would never be the same after this fight and his post-Holmes career would be unimpressive to say the least.
He took a year off, intending to return in late 1983, but a cut in sparring forced him to lay off for another year. In September of 1984 he finally stepped into the ring beating mediocre Phillip Brown by a knockout in 4 rounds. He fought one more time and won, but personal problems again took him away from the ring. He fought poor competition until he was ko' d by by Michael Spinks in 1987. Despite being much younger than George Foreman, he was taken out in devastating fashion in 1990 ending what could have been an interesting, if not promising career had he not taken a detour from which he would never recover.
Cooney has since started the FIST Foundation, an organization which has helped retired boxers of all races find jobs. On a positive note, Jerry and Holmes have become close friends and Holmes has even helped with Cooney's organization.

EARL HARGROVE fought Australian (by way of Uganda) John 'The Beast" Mugabi on March 17, 1965 in Tampa. Hargrove, out of Philadelphia, came into the fight with a stellar 26 and 1 record....his first 24 fights being won by way of stoppage. Mugabi's record was even more impressive. Right out of the professional gate, the unbeaten Beast entered the fight with 24 straight, often spectacular ko's and had built a big reputation as a devastating puncher. This promised to be a battle between two bangers and someone was sure to go early. Maybe even a repeat of the Meza-Garza shoot out. Mugabi had beaten James "Hard Rock" Green, Frank "The Animal" Fletcher (whose nickname matched that of Mugabi's), Curtiss Parker, and Eddie Gazo.....all by stoppage. John would enter the ring to chants of "Beast, Beast, Beast." Hargrove's opposition was tellingly far inferior with Greg Stephens being one of the few with a decent record. When he did step up to fight tough Mark Medal, he lost by TKO in the 5th.

But back to Tampa where the fighters finally touched gloves and the bell rang. And just like that, before I had time to light up my corona, it was over. Hargerove was dispatched by the Beast in 1.33 of the first round. Earl was exposed and it was time for his detour.

He would finish a once promising career with a 32-6 (28-ko's) record finally losing to Darren Maciunski in 1995, Curiously, one of his wins came against NJ middleweight Lamont Haithcoach by decisive first round ko in 1986. Haithcoach had held Buddy McGirt to a draw in 1982 and was no pushover, but this devastating loss ended his short 11-bout career. He would close with a 5 (3-ko's)- 3- 3....suggesting that the entire sequence resulted in what one might term a "double detour."

"A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour." Bill Williams

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at

As a postscript, an undefeated and highly promising Mike Quarry fought Bob Foster on June 27, 1972 after having run up a string of over 30 wins, but I would just as soon not include that story here. May Mike Quarry rest in peace.

The First One

By Ted Sares

Maybe you can remember the first professional fight you saw and what impact it had on you. Though I had a pretty good idea about what my first one was and where I saw it, I nevertheless consulted with my older sisters and did some serious research. Here is the result.

Marigold Gardens Outdoor Arena on the North side of Chicago was a smoke filled place on June 6, 1948.....boxing being a bastion of political incorrectness and all. Of course, none of that idiocy existed back then. The smell of beer, cheap cigars and Italian sausage sandwiches mixed with an occasional whiff of perfume and sweat made it a comfortable setting for this 11 year old. I guess my dad, "Big John" as he was known, thought it was time I witnessed a professional fight. God knows he had to break up way too many street fights in which I was engaged so maybe he was working an agenda (another word that thankfully was unknown back then). We both had seen plenty of amateur fights at Rock-Ola Stadium near our home on the Northwest side or at Parichy Stadium in the western suburbs, but the atmosphere here was very different. While there were men of different ages in the seats (and some very pretty women), most of them seemed to be in their late 20's or early 30's and had a "devil may care" a kind of aura about them. I later determined this was due to there having fought in The Second World War which, of course, ended in 1945. In my young eyes, there were real men.....men like my late brother who served from 42 through 45.

Well, we had great seats...right up near ringside. And the featured fighters were two very tough hombres, Anton Raadik, out of Chicago by way of Estonia and 26-8 at the time, vs Tommy Bell, 44-16-3 and out of Youngstown, Ohio. Raadik, a great favorite among ethnic Chicago fans, fought from 1940-1952. Opponents included Marcel Cerdan (whom he knocked down 3 times in losing a highly controversial decision), Jake LaMotta, Joey LaMotta, Carl 'Bobo' Olson, Sonny Horne, Georgie Abrams, Steve Belloise, Danny Nardico, Harry 'Kid' Matthews, and Robert Villemain to name a few.

Two months before this 10 round fight, Bell, who fought from1942-1951, had lost a split decision to the great Kid Gavilan. His resume included a "whose who" of great fighters, California Jackie Wilson (twice), Sugar Ray Robinson (twice), Jake LaMotta (3 times), Steve Belloise, Fritzie Zivic (157-65-9 for an astounding total of 231), Maxie Berger, Cecil Hudson. If one added up the combined won-lost record of his opposition, it would have been staggering.

Based on his level of opposition, Bell was a slight favorite and I noticed the frenzy of betting that was going on. It added to the building excitement as the boxers came out to a cheering audience....the sound was almost gutteral. No music, no long trunks, no posturing or theatrics, no entourages or somebody waiving an inane belt. Just grim and serious looking pros with their trainers and cut men ready to get it on in the stiffing humidity of a hot Chicago night. By the time the fighters were in the ring, the fans were howling, some in Estonian, some in Chicagoan, some in a strange sounding combination.

The fighters were introduced and each modestly nodded to the crowd in the manner of the great Joe Louis. They were given their instructions, went back to their corners and the bell rang. From the beginning, it was Raadik stalking Bell all over the place but never really catching him. As the rounds went by, Bell kept the incoming Anton off of him with neat jabs a slick defense and good foot movement (and the fans began to boo), but finally in the eighth Anton landed some serious body shots that made a "whump" sound. In the ninth he caught the favorite on the ropes and attacked viciously to the body. When Bell dropped his hands, it gave Raadik the opportunity he was waiting for and he launched a series of deadly shots to Bell's head that brought him down to one knee bleeding. When he got up, he fell backwards into the ropes and the fight was halted. The tough-as-nails Estonian-Chicagoan had won by TKO in the ninth and the hometown fans were up and roaring as was my dad. Money was being exchanged in plain sight and drinks were toasted. Right there and then I caught the fever of this great sport and when Raadik winked at me from the ring as his hand was raised in victory, a chill went down my spine. Hey, this was no poetic rite of passage; this was plain old manly stuff and I was in it......hook, line and sinker.

Tommy Bell, a real road warrior, would go on to close his career with 53 wins (32 ko's) 29 losses and 3 draws. He would lose 12 of his last 15, mostly on points. His last was a 6 round TKO loss to the great Pierre Langlois in Paris. Raadik, another boxer who would fight anywhere in the world, would finish with 37 wins (26 ko's) 25 losses and I draw. He would lose 13 of his last 15....his last to rugged Garth Panter in Boise by 10 round UD. Two very tough middleweights who got me started on something I have since followed, participated in, bet on, handicapped, researched and now write about.

As my dad and I headed for a pizza, I asked when we could see our next fight and he said something about Rainbow Arena. We would later see Raadik fight again at the Chicago Stadium. I had found a whole new world and could only imagine what awaited.

Later, I would come to know names like Chuck Speiser, Bert Whitehurst, Tony Janiro, Beau Jack. Gene Burton, Chuck Davey, Chico Vejar, Ike Williams, the great Johnny Bratton (one of Chicago's most popular fighters ever), Verne Patterson, Anton Christoforidis, Bob Satterfield, Marciano, LaMotta, Graziano, Louis, Charles, Durando, Johnny Saxton, Gene "Silent Hairston (a favorite on Gillette's Friday night fights), Bobby Dykes, Charley Fusari, Livio Minelli, Gary's Tony Zalinski aka Zale, Luigi Valentini, Laverne Roach (whom I saw be fatally injured in the ring), Holly Mims, Georgie Small, Enrico Bertolo, and many lesser known guys who often fought in the Chicago area. This was my indoctrination period and these were some of the fighters who indoctrinated me.Today, this is sometimes referred to as "old school stuff." For me, it was neither better nor worse than watching a competitive bout today. It was what it was.......and it was joyous just as it is today. As an aside, in high school I heard about a tough tall fighter at Farragut High across town named Ernie Terrell, two years my junior, and often wondered why we never fought each other in the amateurs. As it turned out, I'm glad we didn't.

"Let the other guy have whatever he wants before the fight. Once the bell rings he's gonna be disappointed anyway." George Foreman relating boxing advice he received from Archie Moore on posturing before a fight.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Is It About Jamaica?

By Ted Sares

Jamaica is known for great reggae singers, hard working people, beautiful beaches, and an interesting bob sledding team. Though boxing is not be actively participated in Jamaica, the tiny island nation has produced or had a hand in producing (either by birth or by parentage) a disproportionate number of very tough boxers. But you'd never know it because many fight under the flags of the countries to which they immigrated. As Jamaican boxing expert and essayist Scott Neufville puts it, "The world has seen many great Jamaican fighters. The world has watched as they have pummeled champions, broken gladiators and stood proud above fallen warriors. But the world has not known they were Jamaican."

Two such fighters went to war recently at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL and when the dust settled, road warrior Glen Johnson had been crowned the new International Boxing Association (IBA) champion, but his opponent, Richard "The Destroyer" Hall had earned considerable respect for a competitive and gutty showing. Johnson, 44-10-2, 29 KOs, Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year two years ago and IBF IBA Light Heavyweight champion and now poised to do battle with Clinton Woods. Giving the night a distinctive Jamaican flavor, Hall entered the ring to Jr. Gong Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock."

There are many other fighters who can trace their origins to Jamaica. One of my favorites and one of best ever is the "Body Snatcher," Mike McCallum, 49-5-1, 36 KO's and World Champion at 154, 160, 175 lbs. But hey, Lennox Lewis, World heavyweight champion who retired with a fine record of 42-2-1, was pretty darn good as well. One is in the Hall of Fame; the other will soon be in as well.

Other solid Jamaican fighters of the past include Simon Brown, heavy handed Alex Stewart who waged war with Evander Holyfield and almost ruined Geroge Foreman's comeback, the troubled Trevor Berbick who came onto the scene with a stunning ko of Big John Tate and who beat an aging Ali in his (Ali's) last fight, Richard "Shrimpy" Clarke ( the much-loved 'Shrimpy' went within shades of winning the world flyweight title against Thailand's great Sot Chitalada), Michael Bentt, former WBO heavyweight champ who knocked out heavily favored Tommy Morrison in a monster upset, and the great Simon "Mantequilla" Brown, WBC and IBF Welterweight title holder who ko'd Terry Norris in1993 for the WBC Light Middleweight Title in Ring Magazine's "Upset of the Year," Lloyd "Jabba" Bryan, 22-13, Maurice Core, 15-2-1, the popular Bunny Grant (a promising young fighter who lost a decision to Eddie Perkins, welterweight boxing champion in 1964), Uriah Grant who beat an aging Tommy Hearns for something called the IBO Cruiserweight Title in 2000, Anthony Logan, 18-4-1, who fought both Benn and Eubanks and won the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title in 19990, Percy Hayles (who fought Carlos Hernandez for a championship in 1965 but Carlos prevailed in three rounds to retains the world super-lightweight title), leading contender Donovan "Razor" Ruddock who fought Mike Tyson twice and just about everyone else, Boston area light middleweight Marshall Simpson, who retired with a 25-1 record, Bunny Sterling, and the immortal Cuban amateur and multiple Olmpic champion, Teofilo Stevenson.

In particular, British and Canadian boxers of Caribbean descent have dominated the national boxing scene since the early 1980s. In 1995 Frank Bruno, whose mother was a lay preacher from Jamaica, became Britain's first heavyweight boxing champion in the century. His reign was shortly followed by Lennox Lewis to become the world's premier heavyweight during the late 1990s. Middleweights Chris Eubanks, 45-5-2, (who spent his early years in Jamaica) and fierce warrior Nigel Benn, 42-5-1, (of Barbadian descent) both claimed world titles and fought a series of brutal battles in the early 1990s. In the 2000 Olympics Audley Harrison (who has Jamaican heritage) became Britain's first heavyweight gold medalist. Other fighters from the British African-Caribbean community include the Welterweight champion Lloyd Honeyghan nicknamed "Ragamuffin" due to his Jamaican roots, defeated heavily favored Donald Curry in 1986, Kirkland Laing, 43-12-1, welterweight who upset Roberto Duran in1982, tough Adrian "The Predator" Stone, 35-5-2, and heavyweight Rupert Thomas, 10-1-1.

On the current boxing landscape, O'Neil Bell, 26-1-1, who recently iced Jean Marc Mormeck to become WBC, WBA and IBF Cruiserweight Champion comes to mind as does current cruiserweight Chris Johnson, 26-3-1, hard punching middleweight Teddy Reid, 23-8-2, Owen Beck, 25-3, current heavyweight contender, and Otis Grant, 38-3-1, former WBC International Super Middleweight and WBO Middleweight champ. Also out there is Richard Grant, 19-13-1, who beat to tough James "The Harlem Hammer" Butler in 2001. After the fight, Grant approached Butler to hug him but was instead sucker-punched in the jaw by Butler, who was then arrested, convicted, and sent to jail for his trouble. Grant suffered a broken jaw. Also, Light Heavyweight Lloyd "Jabba" Bryan, 22-13 remains active.

Despite this rich and proud heritage, boxing likely will be limited to television viewing in Jamaica. One of the problems is that when there are prospects they leave the Island. Most of the gyms are closed and few kids really want to get involved in boxing. There are no programs nor is there any regular competition so there is really no motivation for boxers to train, not to mention the absence of someone to teach them the rudiments of competitive boxing.

"So as sure as the sun will shine I'm gonna get my share now what is mine - And then the harder they come The harder they fall." Lyrics from the "Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff

Sudden Fury in Kingston

Ted Sares

On Saturday, November 13, 1984, highly touted Jaime Garza was scheduled to meet cagey Juan “Kid” Meza in the main event at the Mid Town Neighborhood Center in Kingston, NY. Meza was a distinct 5-1 underdog to the 40-0 heavy puncher from Southern Californian who was being compared to Danny "Little Red" Lopez for his full throttle offense, porous defense, and ability to come off the canvas and put his opponent out. In fact, Garza won his title some 17 months before by coming off the floor in typical "Little Red" fashion to knock out Bobby Berna in two and take the belt vacated by the legendary Wilfredo Gomez. I was well ensconced in my den in Boston, with friends, beverage and cigars, ready for action as the fight was being aired on CBS with Gil Clancy and Sugar Ray Leonard at the mikes. But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The referee for this fight was Johnny Lo Bianco.The judges were Carol Castellano, Luis Rivera, and Bernie Freidkin. Everyone sensed their work would be brief since both fighters had an astonishing 75 KO’s on their combined resumes. Garza, was 40-0, with 38 knockouts (13 in the first round). "Kid" Meza, from Los Angeles, by way of Mexicali, was 49-9, with 37 KO’s. Both men scaled 121 ½ lbs. Knockout was the operative word this night. While Kid Meza had never been knocked off his feet, most experts felt the heavy handed Garza would do the trick.

But first, the limited but game Billy Costello, 140, of Kingston defended his WBC super lightweight title against tough but too old Saul Mamby in the co-feature and won a UD. Since this was Billy's home town, there was considerable interest in the card which also included Wilford Scypion. Little did the fans know what was coming.

Garza was handled by John Montes Sr. and Bennie Georgino (who curiously also handled "Little Red" Lopez) and threw lightening fast combinations punctuated with lethal hooks. If hit squarely, most of his opponents would go; in fact, 30 went in less than three. He was undefeated and ready to achieve superstar status.

As for Juan "Kid" Meza (whose trainer was Jimmy Montoya), two years before, the Mexicali native had fought well before being stopped in the sixth by the legendary Wilfredo Gomez. After losing that fight, he took off for a year. During this time, Gomez left the championship vacant to challenge for the Featherweight crown. Garza won the vacant championship by knocking out the aforementioned Berna. Meanwhile, Meza worked his way back into title contention with wins over Roberto Castillo (KO 8), Pongpan Sorphayathai (20-1) whom he ko' d in three in Thailand and two 10-round decisions over Javier Barajas. The "Kid" also was a quick starter with 21 of his 31 knockouts ending in less than three rounds.

Earlier in his career, Meza made his first noticeable mark when he knocked out Carlos Ortiz in one in 1977 avenging an earlier loss. He won 29 of his next 31 bouts, earning a following on the West Coast. Included in those 31 fights were a ten-round decision over Carlos Mendoza in 1981as part of the Gomez-Sanchez under card in Las Vegas, and a 9th round knockout over Antonio Guido as part of the Bentize-Duran under card in 1982. He was then ranked the number one challenger to Wilfredo Gomez's WBC world Super-Bantamweight title. By then, informed boxing people knew that Juan "Kid" Meza was never to be taken lightly. Nor, of course, was Jamie Garza who had 23 straight stoppages coming into this fight. Which brings us to November 13, 1984

As the bell rang,Meza reached out to touch gloves, but Garza was having none of it and kept his hands up ready to fight. Clearly, there was no love lost as there had been an altercation at breakfast between the two.They came out immediately winging and trading hooks. In this case, the old adage "never hook with a hooker" did not apply, for both fighters were deadly with this punch. Incredibly, after a right uppercut missed, a wide hook crashed off Meza’s temple and put him on the canvas for the very first time in his 47-fight career. With only only 40 seconds into the fight, Garza had now demonstrated beyond any doubt the power of his blows. One of my friends jumped up and said "don't go to the john." We were all standing and shouting as was the live crowd. This is exactly what we expected and what we wanted.

The Kid looked around and then picked up the count showing remarkable calm for a fighter who had never been floored. Garza charged in for the kill and drove Meza back toward the ropes, but the Kid responded with heavy shots that slowed him down. Garza continued to fire away with his all-offense, no-defense style, and showed little fear of Meza's punches. The Kid's jabs found their mark through Garza’s porous defense and the two began exchanging three and four punch flurry's. The fight took on the aura of a cock fight with back and forth winging. One could literally hear the swish sound when they missed and the thump sound when they didn't miss. I was up and screaming, "....end it Jaimie, end it, take him out......"

"Garza’s making the mistake of falling in with his hands down," CBS analyst Sugar Ray Leonard correctly noted as Garza kind of stumbled into the corner after missing a wild hook. When Meza went after him, Garza spun away and landed a cuffing hook that sent Meza to the canvas. Meza quickly arose and pointed his gloves toward the canvas to indicate he had been pushed. Referee LoBianco agreed and ruled it a slip. Garza then landed some jabs, but his speedy combos, launched with the evilist of intentions, missed; Meza's were more accurate marking an ever-so-subtle shift, albeit early, in his favor.At that point, commentator Gil Clancy pointed out spmething that I had also noticed, "The big difference that I see so far is that Garza is much the shorter puncher of the two......he’ll beat Meza to the punch because Meza is a wide puncher." Then, a split-second after he said that, it happened. Jaimie began to throw a counter hook after Meza had missed with a short combo. Unfortunatley for him, he kept his right arm low which created an opening. Meanwhile, Meza, by missing with his right dipped and in so doing was in excellent position to trigger his own hook. His blow was launched just before Garza’s. So here it was in plain sight.....hooking with the hooker. We all rose and started screaming because we knew what had just occured. Ready for a devastating result, we were not dissapointed. Meza had beaten Garza to the punch with shocking effect.

The savage hook struck Garza on the sweet point of his jaw, snapping his head violently to the side. His body twisted grotesquely and crashed hard to the canvas, his head bouncing dangerously off the canvas. Garza’s eyes rolled up into his head. He was in bad shape but made a vailant effort pull himself upright after rolling under the ropes. His effort was too little too late. Referee LoBianco reached the count of ten a split-second before Garza fully regained his feet, but he would have been in no shape to continue even if he had beaten the count. A new and jubilant champion had beem crowned. The ko was named 1984’s Knockout of the Year by KO Magazine. Juan Meza became the first challenger in boxing history to be dropped in round one, get up and knock out the world champion in the same first round.

Garza would go to win four uneventful bouts but lost in shocking fashion to Daryl Thigpen (10-4) being stopped in the six after being down four times. After the devastating loss to Meza, Jaime was never the same and would never again win a meaningful fight. He went 2-3 in his final five finishing with a proud record of 48-6 (44 KOs) and an astonishing ko percentage of 81%.

Meza fought seven more times and beat always tough tough Mike Ayala in six rounds, but shockingly dropped his belt to prohibitive underdog Lupe Pintor in a thrilling 12-round slugfest. Sixteen months later, he challenged for a world title for the final time against slick Samart Payakaroon in Bangkok, but was stopped by the Thai with just five seconds before the final bell. He was far behind on points so the stoppage was academic. Later, Meza ko'd Lenny Valdez in one but was then stopped in eight by Javier Marquez. Remarkably, nine years later at age 40, he came back to stop Esteban Lozoya in four, but after being stopped in one by Wilfredo Negron, he retired. He ended with a fine record of 45-9 (37 KOs) and a ko percentage of 69%.

Now, among other things, being a serious boxing fan means accumualting a memory bank of great -fights......fights like Castiilo-Corrales, Brooks-Curry, Hagler-Hearns, Ward-Green-Gatti-Burton, Norton-Holmes, Chacon-Limon, Mancini-Kim, and many, many others. But for me, it also means Meza-Garza. Thanks for the memories.

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer whocan be reached at

On The Edge

By Ted Sares

Buddy McGirt once said, "I remember my fight with him like it was yesterday, He came up to me before the fight and asked for my autograph. He was wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, had a chew of tobacco in his mouth and a cup in his hand. He definitely could have been someone to look out for. He had an awkward style, but he could sure fight."

Buddy could have added that he shared something with the likes of Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Bobby Chacon, Saad Mohammed, Jaime Garza,Tito Trinidad and Arturo Gatti. He had that knack......that special flair for the dramatic.....of coming back from the brink of defeat to take his opponent out in breathtaking fashion. Only a fool would ever count him out. With a no-defense, full-offense brawling style, he would take take several blows to land one of his heavy handed straight rights. Hanging tough, he would suddenly and dramatically turn the tables at the end. Once he had his opponent hurt, he would close things out decisively.

He had emerged seemingly out of nowhere as one of the fight game's most exciting, tough-as-nails welterweights and the fans came to love him both as a fighter and as a young man with an obvious big heart, full of personality and promise. He was the quintessential blood and guts warrior who, like the aforementioned fighters, always seemed to grab victory from the throes of defeat. His come from behind victories over Anthony Stephens, Adrian Stone, and, in his final fight, Nick Rupa, won him not only the USBA welterweight title, but a hugh fan following throughout the boxing world and the ESPN circuit. Possible big fights were on the horizon and names like Tito Trinidad and Yori Boy Campas were being mentioned. In boxing parlance, he was a hot property. Hell, He was Gatti before Gatti.

He was also a loving son and was from a close knit family, but from another perspective, he lived his life the way he wanted to........freely and on the edge..........the wild and dangerous side, but as his boxing success increased, his personal life seemed to be stabilizing at least somewhat. Though, as his brother related, "settling down and going to work wasn't part of his life. He had several jobs, he was one of the best roofers in the County, but that just didn't appeal to him." By some accounts, he was also allegedly robbing drug dealers, an activity that can have the most serious of repercussions. Allegedly, he would do this in a dangerous, crime ridden area of his town known as "The Bottoms."

He became a professional boxer at age 21 on July 13, 1987 against Billy Pryor whom he knocked out in the third round in Mobile, Alabama. He knocked out his next four opponents. After these bouts, he was a bit inconsistent, though extremely exciting, winning some and losing to rugged Canadian Stephane Ouellett, and then to Eric Holland in a televised slugfest from Philadelphia in August 1994 featuring savage back-and-forth exchanges. Curiously, Holland, a bright prospect at the time, would never be the same after this brutal bout. Things changed for the better on January 4, 1994, when he fought tough Buddy McGirt in Florida. Even though he lost a ten round decision, he gained respect from those who witnessed the fight, but more importantly, he gained self-confidence knowing he could hang tough with somebody as capable as McGirt. I recall the look on Buddy's face toward the end of that fight and it was one of extreme caution and fear as he was being stalked until the final bell. I sensed something........here was someone to keep an eye on.

Things exploded quiet literally on October 26, 1994 when he fought Anthony Stephens for the USBA Welterweight Title. The fight was televised on ESPN. In a previous bout, Stephens had knocked Felix Trinidad off his feet before before being ko'd by Tito. Coming from behind, he savaged Stephens, knocking him down an astounding five times before the fight was mercifully halted in the twelfth and last round. Becoming the new USBA champion, he was now looking ahead to better fights and bigger paydays.

His next fight on April 7, 1995 against a streaking prospect from the UK named Adrian "The Predator" Stone reinforced his growing reputation for the dramatic. The undefeated Stone was the favorite, and in the early goings, he lived up to his billing giving him a solid beating. But he kept his cool, regrouped and suddenly, like a lightening bolt, took command winning by a sensational knockout in round ten. As is my wont, I was up and screaming at the end, hardly believing the sudden turn of events. One thing was now certain; he had become one of my very favorite fighters. I had found my Bobby Chacon and Saad Muhammad all wrapped into one fighterAfter quickly disposing of Kenny Lewis, he then faced capable veteran Nick Rupa on July 7, 1995 in what would turn out to be his last fight. True to form, he was losing the fight, but suddenly turned the tables and ko' d Rupa in round seven.... and he did it in front of his proud family. It was Rupa's first stoppage loss and he too would never be the same fighter. I could hardly wait for his next fight.

It would never come. Sadly, seventeen days after the Rupa fight, my favorite fighter was missing. Between July 24 and August 11, 1995, boxing had lost one of its grittiest warriors, but his parents, three younger brothers, wife and child, lost
far more. His truck was found on the railroad tracks outside of town where some speculated a "fierce battle" had taken place. Days later, his body was found in a swamp.The autopsy revealed he had received a blunt trauma to the head, but not one that would have resulted in his death. More than ten years later, the circumstances surrounding his death remain the subject of much speculation and have been detailed by far better writers than I and I'll leave that part of the unfinished and highly complex tragedy to them.* Suffice to say the pathos, intrigue and cross currents are the stuff of movies and best sellers.

One account I came across indicated that after he was found in the swamps, his body was loaded onto the back of a train engine and taken home to Mobile, Alabama as the sun was setting in the distant western sky. If so, then the man for whom he was named, the Outlaw Jesse James, must surely have been smiling down on the Outlaw Jesse James Hughes who lived like he fought...........on the edge.

"Boxing has become America's tragic theater." Joyce Carol Oates

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Essence of Boxing

The Essence of Boxing by Ted Sares

While there are innumerable ways to go after this subject, mine will take a more confluent, albeit less technical path that has different directions coming together in a way that hopefully exposes my visceral affection for this very wonderful pastime. Indeed, for me, boxing is far more than a bout between two combatants in a square circle that is entered with knowledge of deadly risk and anticipation of high reward. Boxing is an experience that includes many different things including the wherewithal for passionate arguments and the witnessing of two men going mano a mano with the hope, but no guarantee, that the third man in the ring knows when the right time comes to save one of them.....and sometimes, with tragic results, he doesn't. Boxing is a loser alone with his thoughts in the dressing room and a winner being hero worshiped by fans as fickle as the weather. It is defeat or victory, nothing more, nothing less, but the difference can break a spirit or generate confidence. In the words of former boxer "Iceman" John Scully, "The wait in the dressing room before a professional boxing match -that last hour- could be enough to strip a man that never boxed before of whatever pride, desire and heart he THOUGHT he had" (April 2002)

For some, it is a left hook to the liver the genesis of which began in Culiacan, Mexico. For others, a sledgehammer straight right originating out of Detroit. Or, in a fight for redemption, a Swede's foot twitching after he is knocked cold by a leaping left hook coming from the Catskills. For me, it's identifying with one of my favorites, particularly an underdog, as he overcomes adversity to snatch surprising victory from certain anticipated defeat. When that happens, that's me in the ring and when victory comes, its my victory as much as it is his and I'm cheering for myself as much as for him. I can't say it any better than that....that's the essence, the very soul of this thing called boxing. Boxing and I become one at that point.

Boxing is also Big Jerry Cooney catching Ken Norton is a corner and pummeling him with frightening left hooks, Ray Mercer catching Tommy Morrison with brutal punches rendering him senseless, Gatti knocking out Gamache with left hook from hell, and Oleg coming back from three ko losses, but it's also slick boxers named Sugar Ray or Sugar Shane showing new and higher levels of defense, foot work, combinations, and hand speed. Boxing is watching a Ward left hook to the body end a fight at any time and a Pretty Boy seemingly work magic tricks in a ring with art and finesse. It's is watching the "Kids".....Parret, Gavilan, Akeem and the "Rocks"......Durando, Graziano, Marciano and Rahman. Boxing is all about Hearns vs Hagler in savage and unmitigated action and Castillo vs Corrales and Indian Yaqui vs Saad in quintessential ebb and flow.....it's steamy Philadelphia gyms and the forum in LA or some fair grounds in West Virginia or Ohio. It's Don Dunphy thrilling listeners to the "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports," and it's both Lennon's, Johnny Addi, Buffer, Ed Derian, Mercante, Clancy, Cus, Manny, Dundee, Bimstein, Goldstein, Futch and it's PAL, CYO, and AAU. The sport is both tender and brutal. Some find Jesus, others find the devil. Boxing is watching a "lonely" Larry Holmes in the middle of the ring taking out a a popular Cooney and a confused John Tate running away from a Trevor Berbick..................boxing is about a warrior mentality that unmistakably demonstrates a willingness to engage in a punch-out.......a willingness to take three to get in one or a hard and tough guy patting his chest and waiving the other guy in as he spits out blood while the crowd rises and roars its approval and chills go down your spine. Boxing is the sum and substance of indelible memories and for those blessed with good recall, it is something to manifest with emotion, passion and conviction.

Look, I've been there and have seen up close the unpredictable excitement that was Bob Satterfield and Johnny Bratton in the 50's, the classics between Marciano-Charles-Louis- Walcott. The emergence of Chuck Davey and Chico Vejar. I saw LaMotta-Robinson, Ward vs Gatti-Green-Augustus-Diaz, Zale-Graziano, tough, ethnic guys from the 50's like Fusari, Demarco, Durando, Basilio, Janiro and Miceli. Who can forget Gene "Silent Hairston on Gillette's Friday night fights? Ali-Fraizer, Patterson-Johansson, Barrera-Morales. I was dumfounded by the illogic of Hearns putting Duran away with a paralyzing straight right, and then Duran beating Barkley who then knocked out Hearns. I watched in disbelief as Martin starched Liston, Bruce Curry and Monroe Brooks went to the edge, McClellan and Benn fought with uncommon fury. Oh, I saw Paret take 17 unanswered shots, and Roach, Kim, Johnny Owens, Jimmy Garcia, Beethoven Scottland. Leavander Johnson and too may others leave their lives in the ring. I witnessed the sudden fury of Mesa-Garza; the shoot outs between Moorer-Cooper and Lyle-Foreman;the big bopping round-robin between Cobb-Shavers-Norton at the end of their careers. I've seen the smashed noses, ridges of scar tissue and deformed ears. I witnessed the slow slide of Jerry and Mike Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, Bobby Chacon, Jimmy Young and far too many others. I can easily detect the early signs......the slurring of speech......the nasal monotone. I can also detect, but not quite so easily, signs of short-term memory loss or difficulty with equilibrium or the inability to take certain directions or perform certain chores. No, we don't much want to talk about Pugilistica Dementia but constant reminders are always there and that's the dark side, the other, horribly irreversible side of the risk reward equation. And most boxers are leery of this darker side as well they should be, for this is the one that can lead to that dreaded place called Palookaville from which there is no return.

Hey, I witnessed the epiphany of Foreman and the"what if," and terrible disappointment that was Tyson. I've seen it all and have been dazzled by the magic, felt the emotional highs, heard the music and seen the dance. I pray for Michael Watson, Willie Pep. Jimmy Ellis, Gerald McClellan and Greg Page and remember the courage of Robert Wangila and Pedro Alcazar. I have seen very good things, some not so good, and some downright ugly. I've talked to humble and decent guys like Saad, Haugen, Scully, Ward, Cuevas, Laporte, Galaxy and Chuvalo and have been snubbed by others.....but not many others, for most boxers are uncommon in their decency, respect and humility and that too is part of the mix.

Boxing for me is also a sensual confluence......of sweat, fear, testosterone, perfume, cigar smoke, stale beer, cheap after-shave lotion....it is a the sweet smell of success and sour odor of failure. Greasy and heavily mustard hot dogs, cheese steak hoagies, onions, buttered popcorn and warm beer at the Blue Horizon and frothy mixed drinks and expensive after shave lotion at the MGM in Las Vegas or at Foxwoods. Boxing is cheering, taunting, chanting, whistling, screaming, and clapping......and leering at scantily clad card girls against a backdrop of the periodic screams of winners at a Black Jack table or the mindless and never ending sound of slot machines simultaneously providing hope and presenting odds that will prevents that hope from ever being fulfilled. The ambience includes pretty blondes, voluptuous Latinos and beautiful black women dressed to the nines; guys with chains worth the price of a new car and clothes and hair styles to match. Vanity, conceit, egotism are words that come to mind as one looks over the occupants of the ringside seats, but why not? Narcissism is an essential part of this mix as well.

There is no political correctness here or "right" way to behave and that is another great thing about boxing. You either love it or hate it, but if you hate it, you had best tread with caution here. Boxing try's to be color blind, but those behind the scenes use issues of color and ethnicity to generate more cash. It is never about hate; it is always about cash....it is what it is....and in this regard should not be taken as seriously as it is. The "Russians Have Arrived," will likely be replaced by something else, maybe 'The Cubans Are Coming" or the "Americans are Back" or "Here Comes the British," but that's just the way it is and it won't change any time soon.

Boxing is camaraderie with macho banter and, at times, not-so-friendly betting. It is drinks and maybe a great steak after the fight, or perhaps a hotel room with TV, friends, champaign, shrimp cocktails, maybe some poker, all the right ingredients for another indelible memory. Sure, the fight is the linchpin, but the entire experience is often just as much fun...it all goes together and blends in the mix. And the mix is the essence.

Boxing has a love affair with the world: from Japan to the UK, Germany to Australia, Canada to the countries from the former Soviet Union, and everywhere in between. Most of all, boxing is a safe place for me to be without having to worry about how I behave or what I say. Boxing thankfully is not a meeting of the Rotary and it certainly does not shackle me with corporate handcuffs. There is no phoney artifice, no plastic smiles or soft and clammy hand shakes; Boxing is a genuine, if sometimes harsh place. But hell, boxing is my sanctuary and I love it so.

"It is wonderful. It truly is. It is the only thing that is real! It's you against me, it's challenging another guy's manhood. With gloves. Words cannot describe that feeling - of being a man, of being a gladiator, of being a warrior. It's irreplaceable." - Sugar Ray Leonard

"Boxing survives – and always will -- because its values are as old school as black-‘n’-white trunks: character and pain -- as heroic as a man taking care of his family – just not too sexy." Joe Rein

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net

Harry and the Two Charlie Brown's

By Ted Sares

Harry Arroyo has movie star good looks and a personality to match. In plain English, he was and is a hellava guy. He was a power puncher from Youngstown, Ohio, the same city that produced Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and he fought in the same exciting way. Right from the start, he went 22 (17 ko's)-0 before facing popular "Rockin" Robin Blake in Atlantic City on January 14, 1984. Robin was 20-0 at the time. It was a much anticipated fight between two 135 pounders on the move. Harry won a close 10 UD which was seen on national TV and positioned him for an April fight with Charlie 'Choo Choo" Brown, 23-2-1, a tough scrapper out of Philly. When Arroyo beat Blake, he broke into the top twelve IBF Lightweight rankings. Robin Blake retired in 1990 with a 33-8 record. After his loss to Arroyo, his star dimmed as he went 13-8.

The fight with Choo Choo would be for the IBF Lightweight Title at the Sands in Atlantic City. This would be the big one for the likable Youngstown welterweight. Brown had beaten Melvin Paul, 17-2, in January 1984 to take the newly created title by a close 15 round SD and was in defensive mode. Charlie would later recall( in a City Beat article by Benjamin Herold entitled, Fred Jenkins makes sure boxers — both aspiring and accomplished — have a home at his North Philly gym), "[Paul] definitely came to fight. He was a steady comer, he came right at you. So I figured I'll box him," Brown recalls while pantomiming his peek-a-boo style. "Both hands is right there in front of you, but you don't know which is coming first." Brown dropped Paul in round one with a left hook to the body and again in the fourth round with a right to the chest. In the final round, Melvin Paul hit him with such a crushing right that Brown couldn't remember getting hit. But as a true Philly fighter with great heart, he managed to get up and stay up, even landing some solid shots before the final bell. Brown and Fred "Herk" Jenkins hoped to use the championship to catapult Brown, then 23-2-1, higher in the rankings of the better-established WBA and WBC. Their ultimate aim was a unification tournament involving popular WBA champ Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and tough WBC champ Edwin Rosario. But that plan, unfortunately for Charlie, depended on beating Harry Arroyo.

Thus, the stage was set. And Harry did not dissapoint, taking the title with a dramatic 14h round TKO. Brown ran out of gas against the better trained and more determined Arroyo and was halted in round fourteen, though Choo Choo claimed the fight was stopped too soon.

Brown went on to win only three more bouts and eventually lost his last eleven fights retiring in 1993. "Things didn't go to well because of the frame of mind I was in," he says. "It got to the point where I just didn't give a damn. "I've been hurt by the fight game a little bit. I expected something from it. I've been to the top, and I even took the city to the top by my being from here. It didn't last long, but I got there." He finished with a mark of 26-16-2 after a 2nd round ko loss to Sammy Fuentes.

In September of 1984, Harry was set to defend his newly won crown against another Charlie Brown....this one nicknamed "White Lightening"............in Youngstown, OH This Charlie Brown, 23-0 at the time and from Moline, Illinois, was a true road warrior having fought in Miami, NJ, MSG, Memphis, NY, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Illinois, Iowa, PA, New Mexico,Ohio, CA, Virginia, Denmark, and NC. But this didn't help him much as Arroyo dismantled him by KO in the eighth round. Brown would then go 8-10 losing 6 of his last 8, (though one of his wins was against Saoul Mamby by 6 round UD 1992). He retired in 1995 with a 31-11 mark, his last fight a second round TKO loss to tough Ralph Jones, 30-2. He probably will be remembered more for his nickname and subsequent first round KO loss to Greg Haugen than his willingness to fight anywhere in the US.

From the above, one might accurately conclude that Harry Arroyo provided the big detour in the careers of the aforementioned two Charlie's. Heck, numbers don't lie and their fights with Harry were pivotal in a negative way. But what of Harry? Where did he go from here?

After the win against "White Lightening," he defended his title against rock hard Terrence Alli, 24-3-1, from Brooklyn by way of Guyana.The fight took place at Bally's in Atlantic City in January 1985 and for those who were fortunate enough to be there or to witness it on national TV, it was a memorable one with ebb and flow action and incredibly hard punches landing on the heads of the two combatants. Savage and brutal, each fighter took turns hitting the other with sharp combinations and accurate shots. Harry was hurt by a vicious uppercut in the 7th but somehow hung on. In the 11th, with the fight dead even on the judges scorecards, Arroyo, who had been down once, waged a fierce exchange with Alli finally catching him in a corner. Putting his punches together, albeit slowly, he launched a barrage of unanswered punches that snapped Alli's neck back until Referee Tony Perez had no choice but to call a halt to the onslaught at 1:16 in what was hailed as one of the best fights of the year. Both fighters were ready to go at the end;Harry survived.................................but at what cost? He won the battle, but likely lost the war.

While the loss seemingly had no adverse impact on Alli's career (he would go on to win 29 more bouts though his last nine were winless), it was a different story for Harry. In April 1985, and perhaps too soon after the Alli fight, he defended his title against rugged Jimmy Paul, 21-1, again at Bally's. This time he lost a lopsided decision. Paul put Harry down five times to take the IBF title away from him and to signal that perhaps the Alli fight took far too much from him. Affirming this notion, Arroyo's career then went in the same direction as that of the two Charlie's.......and like "Choo Choo" and "White Lightening," he too fell on hard times. Unlike those two, however, Harry's detour resulted from a hard earned win. He went 14-10 the rest of his career. He did pick up the WBC Continental Americas Light Welterweight title from undeafted Rick Souce in 1988 only to lose it two months later by a brutal first round knockout to Loreto Garza, later WBA Junior Welterweight Champion. After dropping a 10 round UD to undefeated Vinny Letizia in 1993, Harry Arroyo called it quits with a fine record of 40 (30 ko's)-11 and a willingness always to fight the very best opposition out there.

He now lives comfortably off his ring earnings with his wife and four children in Ohio and has become involved with law enforcement and religion. Humble, sincere, friendly, and spiritual, he is one of the nicest people to meet and talk with at the annual International Hall Of Fame induction weekend. Though meeting the same boxing fate he rendered onto the two Charlie's, Harry, like too few others, has made a positive transition from boxing to a life after boxing and remains a true credit to the sport. He now enjoys being out of the limelight and with his family and his religion.......and that's a good thing.
"When I was going through my transition of being famous, I tried to ask God why was I here? What was my purpose? Surely
It wasn't just to win three gold medals. There has to be more to this life than that." Wilma Rudolph

Attention is called to an outstanding interview between fellow writer Jim Amato and Harry Arroyo in the ESB archives.

Ted Sares is a boxing historian and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America he can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"kId" Akeem vs. "Pikin" Quiroga

"Kid" Akeem vs "Pikin" QuirogaBy Ted Sares

This is about "Kid" Akeem Anifowoshe ( 23-W's, 1-L 18 ko's) and Robert "Pikin" Quiroga ((20 -W's 2- L's, 11 ko's ), two fighters who gave their all on June 15, 1991. They battled for 12 ferocious rounds for the IBF Super Flyweight Title in an ebb and flow savagery that not only was named the “Ring Magazine” Fight of the Year for 1991 but was one of the best fights ever in the super flyweight division. The 12 brutal rounds landed both fighters in the hospital, and was as close to the edge as two fighters can get. It brought to mind the Laverne Roach-Georgie Small war in 1950 and the Nigel Benn- Gerald McClellan battle in 1995 (as a telling aside, Roach had been knocked down 7 time in a loss to the great Marcel Cerdan two years earlier). The hard blows were traded on an even basis and snapped heads back in a way that today's fights would be quickly stopped. First one would take control; then the other. Pure back and forth action that marked the give-and-take courage of each fighter. The crowd rose after each round and roared its approval. They sensed they were witnessing something special.

They fought to a bloody standstill with Quiroga getting what some ring side observers called a "hometown" decision. Indeed, some say he really did not beat Akeem, a much taller and more skilled fighter, but Quiroga imposed his will on the Kid using a straight-ahead style and vicious left hooks to counter the Kid's slick boxing skills, superior height and mind numbing leads. Both had great chins and, therefore, both took an enormous amount of punishment. While extremely close, I thought the undefeated Kid had won by a hair, but a draw would have been more than fair. I also thought he had paid too much of a price. Unfortunately, I was later proven to be right.

But this was far more than simply a great fight. Kid Akeem collapsed in the ring shortly after the end of the fight with a Severe blood clot that developed in his brain during the fight. As they carried him out of the arena on a stretcher, his wife Sharon following, a number of Quiroga fans, reflecting the much darker side of the sport, chanted: "D.O.A... D.O.A",.......Dead On Arrival. They almost got their wish, but the Kid survived and was even visited in the hospital by the very decent "Pikin" who brought a vase of flowers. The Kid checked out of Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio and returned to his home in Las Vegas, but he left against the advice of his doctor and appeared tired and had to be helped from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. His surgeon, Dr. Gerardo Zavala, was upset over his "premature" departure. "I wanted him to stay at least until they found a doctor in Las Vegas," he said. The doctor felt Anifowoshe still had some brain swelling and needed more tests in the next two weeks "to allow us to tell how the brain is working or if there is some tissue scarring that could cause problems in the future."

Unfortunately, this epic battle did end Kid Akeem’s title dreams........and his promising career as a super flyweight just as he was reaching the peak of his potential....................one that recalled memories of Nigerian warriors Hogan Bassey and Dick Tiger. One can only speculate as to how great "Kid" Akeem Anfowoshe would have turned out. He never fought again, was later deported to Nigeria apparently for drug offences and died just three and a half years later in his home country after collapsing in a shower. There are conflicting reports as to the exact cause of his death though complications from injuries suffered in the Quiroga fight seem likely to have contributed to it. There are other, darker rumors surrounding his death, but since I could not corroborate them, I would just as soon not mention them. They might diminish the memory I had of watching this proud black warrior from the Lagos ghetto of Mushin, Nigeria, Africa present an almost majestic, royal presence in the ring; I was fortunate enough to see him fight on more than one occasion in Las Vegas.

"Pikin"(which means little hot pepper) Quiroga, of San Antonio, Texas began his professional career in 1987 at the age of 17, and would go undefeated in his first 20 bouts. He captured the world title on April 21, 1990 by beating Juan Polo-Perez by decision in England, and went on to successfully defend it five times before losing it Julio Cesar Borboa in 1993. After losing his title, he sat out for almost two years before returning and dropping an eight round decision to Ancee Gedeon, but he will always be remembered for his fight against Kid Akeem Anifowoshe in 1991 at HemisFair Arena. He also was one of the few who knew when to walk away and at that point decided enough was enough. He retired at age 25, an age when most fighters are just reaching their peak, and remarkably kept his word and never fought again. But he clearly was never the same after the Anifowoshe fight.
He found satisfaction in his post-fight career first by counseling troubled youths, bringing an authenticity to the job because of his own early brushes with the law, albeit for minor offenses. "He was great," said Dr. Antonio Ramirez, Quiroga's supervisor for two of the 10 years Quiroga worked for the Center for Health Care Services. "Everybody talks about the boxing, but he did a great job with the kids from his neighborhood." Amazingly, Ramirez said Quiroga was so humble that it took months working together before he found out Quiroga had been a World boxing champion. "I was so impressed because he could have been bragging," Because of the low pay in the public health field and with a 2-year-old daughter to go along with an 18-year-old from a previous marriage, Quiroga took advantage of an offer to sell cars for auto baron B.J. "Red" McCombs. He excelled there as well, becoming a top seller with his infectious personality that allowed him to befriend everybody from doctors and lawyers, to insurance agents and bikers as friends," said Felix Medrano. "Blue collar, white collar, upper class or lower class, it didn't matter to him."

Pikin simply had a wonderful and charismatic personality and was a great fan favorite, particulalrly in San Antonio (he was that boxing crazy city's first World Champion). Not unkike many other fearless fighters, he was so very gentle, friendly and humble and would always have time for each and every fan. In the ring, however, he was the quintessential Mexican warrior and there is no greater boxing accolade than that. Sadly, his legacy also would be marred.
On August 17 2004 , Robert "Pikin" Quiroga was ambushed and stabbed multiple times in his hometown. After police responded to the scene, Quiroga passed away on the way to the hospital. He was 34. A passer-by on terstate 10 had flagged down an officer who found Quiroga lying next to his car. A short time later, Ricky "Scarface" Merla, a former member of the Bandido's motorcycle club, was arrested by police in connection with Quiroga's death. Then, in August 2005 and after a quick round of negotiations, it was agreed that Merla woulkd serve a prison sentence of 40 years. Parole would be possible after 20 years, when Merla would be nearly 60.

So there you have it. The tale of two brave men who had a combined total of just 46 bouts. On a hot summer night in 1991, they both went close to the edge in a fight that defined their respective careers and that is the legacy I attribute to them. Two warriors who chose to do it their way. They let it all hang out. One made it; the other did not. Tragedy would later take them both, but hopefully they are together again.

"Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost." Joyce Carol Oates

The Night The Tiger Roared

By Ted Sares

I suppose a good title for this piece might be, "The Greatest Fighter Nobody Ever Heard About," but that's not the angle I am going to persue. I'd rather concentrate on a fight and a fighter in an attempt to extract some measure of excitement from what I witnessed on television from the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas on December 11, 1976. They almost pulled a Heidi at the end, but thankfully I was able to see this bout to its amazing conclusion. Now I just got through watching the video again, but I can't really believe what I saw...................and I thought I had seen just about everything. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Roy "Tiger" Williams was a classic Philadelphia fighter except for one thing. Most of his wars were fought in the gym and Roy was known thoughout the boxing world as the toughest gym fighter around and someone you might want to spare with to prepare for a rough fight. In Zaire, for example, Ali sparred with big Roy and told the media that Williams was bigger, stronger, tougher, and hit harder than Foreman. Probably hype, but maybe not. Roy was both big (6'5) and scary looking. He also had great hand speed, threw punches in combinations, and had a short and deadly left hook that he launched with incredible speed. To make scarry matters even scarier, he made a loud grunting sound everytime he threw a punch.

Williams was always known as a very moody, temperamental person and much of this may have had to do with treatment he received from Ali, for it was rumored that Ali abused him physically in sparring and verbally in camp. Williams also thought Ali owed him money and that he and Ali sparred 10 rounds two days in a row, both trying to hurt the other and at the end. Ali paid the Tiger what the he wanted. At any rate, Roy was feared or avoided by most of the fighters of his era. Perhaps with better handling and management he could have been a top contender or beyond. Though he haunted the gyms, he did have a stamina problem that probably could be traced to poor conditioning.

The following quote from Ernie Shavers book, "Facing Ali," attests to Roy's reputation: "Ali had a sparring partner named Roy "Tiger" Williams. He said, 'If you beat Tiger Williams, I'll give you a shot.' I knew Tiger Williams. He was a tough, tough guy. So I made my mind up I would knock this guy out........." And that brings us to December 11, 1976 at the Aladdin.

The bell rang and Ernie started strong and hit Roy with some of his patented bombs but the Tiger was going nowhere. He had never been stopped but he had never faced a fighter with Shaver's one punch power. As the fight progressed, a ever-so-subtle change occurred around the 8th round as Ernie began to tire and the Tiger began to snap his punches off with more authority all the time grunting with each punch................uhuu, uhuu, uhuu. (Ernie had built up his upper body with weights and commentator Jerry Quarry suggested such a technique could tighten up Ernie's muscles and tire him out.)

In any event, the Tiger was beginning to roar. The ninth round saw a big change both ways. The Tiger started strong and landed a number of solid shots He seemed in charge but then tired midway though the round and Ernie came on, bombing away and Roy had to hold on and regroup. With about a minute to go, it happened. Roy snapped off one of the hardest left hooks I have ever seen and staggered Ernie who was now in big trouble. After some follow-up shots, Shavers looked ready to go as Tiger mixed short left hooks with two or three short right leads on top of Shaver's shaven head. Ernie had no answer and likely was saved by the bell. He staggered back to his corner a very tired boxer. The crowd, which included Joe Louis, was up and roaring; they were anticipating the kill. Clearly, this was the Tiger's time.

The last round began and Shavers came out visibly exhausted while Williams appeared confident and ready to end matters and finally emerge as a serious heavyweight contender. He quickly moved Ernie into a corner and applied brutal, non- stop punishment until the Referee called a standing 8 count. Tiger thought the fight had been stopped, turned around and raised his hands in victory but when he turned back to see a determined Shavers still standing, his spirit visibly sagged. Still, he came on and hit Shavers with blows that would surely have knocked out anybody else. Then, all of a sudden, Ernie started to connect with some medium hard blows to Roy's body which slowed him down. Then Ernie connected with one of his deadly uppercuts with Tiger on the ropes and it straightened him up. He was now hurt and Ernie sensed it. He moved the Tiger into a corner and began throwing his own bombs. Roy Tiger William could not withstand the ferocious onslaught and the Referee now gave him a standing eight, incredibly the second in the round! Ernie stood poised, albeit exhausted, and ready to go. As the referee ordered Roy to begin fighting he took a step forward, hesitated, and then collapsed in the corner a beaten man. Ernie sagged over the ropes too tired to celebrate. The fight was over. Ernie had won, but the Tiger had indeed roared.

As Shavers would later say, "......I trained hard. The first eight rounds, I was ahead on points. He came back in the ninth and the beginning of the tenth, and damned near destroyed me. But I knew I had to win for the Ali fight. They gave me a standing eight count, asked me questions, asked my name, where I was fighting, who I was fighting? I said Las Vegas, Ernie Shavers, Roy Williams. So I knew then, I had to go on the chin and stop him. He came forward toward me and I stepped in and hit him on the chin and I hurt him. And that's when God gave me the strength, and I stopped him."

Roy would close out his career with seven straight wins, 6 by ko. His final record was a decent 30 wins (22 by ko's ) and 6 Losses. Among his opponents were the capable Harold Carter, Larry Holmes, Jimmy Young, Jeff Merritt, Bob Stallings, and Henry Clark. I believe he nows lives in Las Vegas. Shavers, of course, got his fight with Ali...............and God knows he earned it. He would finish with a marvelous record of 74 wins (an astounding 68 by ko), 14 losses and one draw.

Arguably, Ernie Shavers might have been the best heavyweight who never won a title. On the other hand, Roy Tiger Williams might well have been one of the best fighters nobody ever heard of.

"I wouldn't drive through Philadelphia because I didn't want to take a chance on running into Williams." Ernie Shavers

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Bad Night in Vegas

By Ted Sares

His name was Javier Ayala and he was from Los Angeles by way of Tijuana. He had once gone ten rounds with the great Roberto Duran in 1973 in Los Angeles and also went the distance with Leroy Haley. But on this night at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas, his main event opponent was Bruce Finch whose claim to fame would be that after his 3rd round TKO loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in1982 in Reno, Leonard would have surgery to repair a detached retina.

Coming into the Finch fight, Javier had lost six straight including ones to the very capable Jerry "Schoolboy" Cheatham and Dujuan Johnson as well as to rugged Lou Bizzarro. Arguably, he had become a gate through which prospects must get through before going to the next level.

I was visiting my brother at the time (I had been on assignment in nearby Phoenix and flew in for some R and R), but on this particular July night in 1980 I was alone. After several hours of Black Jack at Bally's and dinner at Kathy's Southern Cooking restaurant, I pursued my real interest of the evening which was to watch a young lightweight prospect out of Youngstown, Ohio by the name of Ray "Boom Boom" Manicini. He had won ten in a row and was on the undercard in a eight-rounder against one Leon Smith whom he blew away in the first round with several unanswered body shots to Smith's liver that you could hear throughout the hall............I was on the aisle near ringside and they sounded like muffled bombs. I was most impressed and anything else on this particular boxing night would simply be icing on the cake.

Chris Schwenke fought his first por fight and won a four-round UD over Bill Fallow. He would then go on a 14 fight win streak. There was an uneventful 6-rounder before the Finch-Ayala bout between Danny Sanders and Irish Pat Coffey which Danny won by TKO in the last round. At that point, there was a brief intermission and I remember this young boy of about 9 or 10 years old who then appeared and was standing just to the rear of my seat. I asked him his name and he said he was Javier Ayala's son. He was very shy and humble. We had a nice exchange and I said I hoped his father would do well. As the fighters walked to the ring, I noticed Javier reach over to pat his son on the shoulder and give him a smile and wink. The fighters were then introduced amidst the usual fanfare and the crowd readied for the main event.

Finch, from Milwaukee, had lost only three fights coming in and these were to the very capable Tommy Hearns, Larry Bonds, and Pete Ranzany. He had won 21 and was touted as having lot's of pop in his punches. The much younger Finch looked to be in excellent welterweight shape, while Ayala, at age 37, looked just a bit shop worn.

As I torched up my Cuesto Rey..........thankfully, there was no political correctness back in 1980, particularly in a gambling casino..........the fighters received their instructions touched gloves, the bell rang and the fight began. The first two rounds were mostly cat and mouse with both fighters feeling each other out and getting in a few decent shots. Finch threw some neat combinations and seemed to have taken control by the end of round two. In the third round is when it happened. Both fighters were coming out of a clinch and as they set themselves, Ayala moved forward to throw a telegraphed looping right. Finch got there first unleashing a short and vicious right uppercut which hit Ayala at the point of his chin. You could hear the blow back in the gambling area. Ayala hit the canvas as if he had been hit with a ten gauge shotgun........and that's when what started out to be a pleasant evening of manly fun became something else. As he landed on his back, his body hit before his head which then whip sawed onto the canvas. He stayed down as his only handler hovered over him and as ringside officials and the referee quickly went to revive him. He was unconscious and stayed that way for between 15 and 20 minutes without so much as moving a limb. A stretcher was being readied, the crowd was hushed, and a genuine sense of concern permeated. Everyone feared the worse. Finch, while elated with his one punch victory, was visibly concerned. While this was all going on, I glanced over at his son standing in the rear area and I'll never forget the look on his face or the tears in his eyes. I went over to him, put my arm around him and said "don't worry, your father will be fine." He was shaking all over and it was all I could do to keep myself composed.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Javier Ayala arose to scattered applause, but their was palpable relief as well. He left the ring under his own power, albeit unsteadily, and seemed okay. As he was heading for the dressing room, he stopped and took his son's hand in his own and they both disappeared from sight as they went into the room. The word that best descibes what I witnessed at that moment was pathos........my overwhelming emotion was one of sympathy and pity. I never found out exactly what happened to Ayala but I do know that was his last fight. He would finish with a record of 21 wins, 24 losses, and 1 draw. Where he is today or where his son might be remain mysteries that I just as soon not solve. My connection with Javier Ayala has remained deliberately unresolved.

As for Bruce Finch, he would go on to win eleven in a row before being stopped by Sugar Ray in 1982. He would then lose six of his next seven fights before retiring in 1985.

To this day, when I get giddy over some fight or engage in a heated argument over boxing in general and need a reality check, I always think back to that bad night in Vegas.........one that would leave me with indelible memories.

"In no other sport is the connection between performer and observer so intimate, so frequently painful, so unresolved." - Joyce Carol Oates

Ted Sares is a syndicated writer who can be reached at