Indelible Boxing Memories: Part Two
By Ted Sares
This series started on another site and will return there for Part Three. In the first piece, I mentioned names like Moore and Durelle, Chacon, Tyson-Douglas, Shavers-Williams, and how they contributed to memories that have been impossible to erase. The series continues below.
1) Once, while visiting the Hall of Fame, Johnny Tapia was busy signing autographs in the Museum when his publicist said, "Come on, Johhny, we'll be late for the plane." Johnny apologized to the other people who were waiting and then started to leave. All of a sudden, he spotted this young fellow in a wheel chair who wanted his photo taken with him. When Johhny went over to accommodate him, his publicist got shrill and said "dammit, we will miss our plane." Johhny's reply was "beep the plane. First things first." I'll never forget the look on that young fellow's face. For that moment in time, he was the most important person alive. Wow!
2) I remember listening to commentator Max Kellerman calling for referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to halt the fight between George Khalid Jones and Beethaven Scottland on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York on June 26, 2001. As early as the fourth round, he said Scottland was taking "a brutal beating." During the fifth round Scottland absorbed more than twenty consecutive punches to his head while trapped in a corner. "That's it!" Kellerman shouted. "This is how guys get seriously hurt." Then, during the seventh round, Kellerman told the ESPN television audience, "I don't like the way he is getting hit.... Those are the cumulative punches that lead to things that you don't want to hear about after the fight." After that round, Kellerman said, "If you're in Scottland's corner you have to ask yourself, 'Is it worth it, for the damage he is sustaining? Is it worth it for the kid's life to stay in these final rounds?' I would say no." After Scottland finally collapsed with forty-five seconds remaining in the fight, Max Kellerman told the television audience, "I feel nauseated. I feel sick. Why does this ever have to happen?"
To watch this unravel in plain sight was nothing short of horrific. I remember at the time that I was up and screaming at the television set, "stop it, stop it for Christ Sakes!" There was nothing I could do; I was helpless. It was awful because I knew what was happening in there as much as Max did. What happened to Kid Paret happened with lightening speed and was almost mesmerizing. This was different; this was slow.
3) My wife and I were at the Hall during the weekend of one of the Gatti-Ward fights and since the Turning Stone Hotel in Verona did not have cable, we checked into another, albeit sleezy motel in Oneida so we could view the fight. Hell, I was more that willing to pay for both rooms for the same night. But what really stayed with me was how all the boxing luminaries were also scrambling to watch the fight. The hell with the banquet; this was far more compelling. On that night they were all fight junkies just like the rest of us....Michael Spinks, Camacho, Hopkins, Frazier.....they all wanted to see these two guys go to war. No egos in play here...just plain interest. Some of these guys were asking me if they could come over to the motel room to watch the fight. It was fascinating.....and unforgettable.
4) In February 2001, I watched a televised fight from Columbus, Ohio between Julio Gonzalez and the late Julian Letterlough that featured five knockdowns and incredible be band flow. What I witnessed has stayed with me to this day. The artillery went off twenty-seconds into the first round when Gonzalez (26-0, 16 KO's) dropped Letterlough (15-1-1, 15 KO's) with two jabs and a right hand flush to the jaw. Then, at the 2:20 mark of the 3rd, Letterlough caught Gonzalez with a clean counter right hand also flush on the chin. It decked him. Both fighters continued to trade bombs in the fourth round and then at 2:48 of the 5th, Letterlough drilled Julio with a brutal left hook to the head. Gonzalez hit the canvas for the second time...this time he fell face forward. They would trade back and forth for the next several rounds taking turns rocking each other with hooks, uppercuts, straight shots and engaging in furious flurry's.. Gonzalez smothered Julian in the tenth scoring heavily to the body. However, with 57-seconds remaining in that round, he got caught with another perfect right hand flush on the jaw. He went down like he had been shot with an elephant gun. His head slammed against the floor and bounced dangerously off the canvas. With his eyes rolling back into his head, I would have bet my home that he was done. But somehow, someway, he got up himself upright using the ropes to climb back up. He barely made it, but he found the strength to survive the round. Then, incredibly, at 1:24 of the 11th, Gonzalez caught Letterlough coming in with a crisp combination. Letterlough, off balance, went down for the second time. The fans were up and roaring and in total disbelief. At the end of this savage war, Gonzalez had done just enough over the course of twelve back and forth rounds to garner one of the hardest earned victories one could imagine. Whew! My jaw aches just writing about it!
Proving he was the real McCoy, Gonzalez would go on to upset Dariusz Michalczewski in 2003 to win the WBO Light Heavyweight Title.....which he would later lose to Clinton Woods in 2005. His current record is 40-3 and he is still very much in the mix.
5) I will never, ever forget the look on Dave Tiberi's face when the decision was announced that he had lost to James Toney in their fight for the IBF Middleweight Title in Atlantic City on February 8, 1992. The scoring went like this:Judge Frank Brunette: 117-111, Judge William Lerch: 112-115, Judge Frank Garza: 112-115. A point was deducted from Tiberi for a low blow in round 6. Judge Brunette was the only one in the house not asleep that night. Tiberi smothered Toney against the ropes and kicked his butt throughout the fight. The utter disbelief which swept through the Taj Mahal that evening reverberated throughout the boxing world. The decision prompted an investigation into unjust decisions in boxing. Ultimately, this investigation, aided by Tiberi, led to the Boxing Safety Act in 1997. Because of the values, dignity and principals of Dave Tiberi, boxing is a much better sport today. Indeed, he retired after that fight in total disgust.
There is far more to this story and it warrants separate and in-depth treatment to even begin to give it its due. Suffice it to say the look of disgust and the look of astonishment on Dave and James' faces, respectively, said it all. Plain and simple, it broke the spirit of a decent man of faith who had worked hard his entire adult life to achieve the pinnacle of his profession. I'll never forget it as one one of the most shameful moments in boxing history.
As an aside, if a national boxing commission is ever established, the very articulate and intelligent Dave Tiberi deserves to be a member