Editor’s Pick: Roy Jones – a fighter in a million

Speaking to Thomas Gerbasi, Roy Jones Jr looked back on what made him so special

ROY JONES JNR was at ease before his retirement bout against Scott Sigmon in February 2018. That wasn’t a surprise, considering that a journeyman like Sigmon probably wouldn’t have lasted three rounds with a prime Jones. This wasn’t a prime Jones, who, at 49, was about to take the walk to the ring for the 75th time as a professional. But in his mind, the former pound-for-pound king was as good as he’s ever been. That never got affected by the combinations thrown by Father Time.

Yet even Jones knew that he couldn’t fight forever, and there was no better time than now to walk off into the sunset with his faculties intact and a winning streak that turned from three to four when he scored a clear-cut 10-round decision win over Sigmon in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

“You get to a point where your body starts to fail you and you’re having a hard time,” Jones admitted. “Then it’s time to start saying, ‘Okay, now may be time to give it up.’ When your body starts not really holding up to the whole training camp, it makes you start looking at it a little bit different. Because if your body holds up, then you’re good. When your body starts breaking down, then you ain’t good.”

It was a rare dose of reality from a man who made a career out of doing extraordinary things that appeared to come from a video game and not a boxing gym, even if recent years had seen him far removed from those days. And if Jones couldn’t be Jones, he wasn’t going to try.

“Well, y’all don’t appreciate me, so I don’t see me sticking around if I’m not appreciated,” he deadpanned when asked why this was the right time for retirement. It was a telling statement because he’s right when it comes to his place in the boxing world from 2009 to the present. During those final years in the ring, Jones could only muster brief flashes of his former greatness, giving a younger generation a false read on who he really was as a fighter. But recently, social media and YouTube have shown that generation the “real” Jones, leading to a greater appreciation of the future Hall of Famer.

“I see that all the time,” he said. “It’s like they forget until they look at it, and when they look at it, they’re like, ‘Whoa, who was he?’ And it’s like the song says, ‘Y’all musta forgot.’”

Jones laughs, always promoting. Yet while Y’all Musta Forgot was the music world’s first introduction to the Floridian, it was the song Can’t Be Touched off 2004’s Body Head Bangerz: Volume One album that truly described Jones at his best.

Can’t be touchedCan’t be stoppedCan’t be movedCan’t be rockedCan’t be shook

The lyrics captured the first 15 years of Jones’ pro career perfectly, yet ironically, it was in 2004 that the wheels came off.

He suffered the first two legitimate losses of his career, getting knocked out by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. He would still go on to post a respectable 17-6 slate that included wins over Felix Trinidad, Jeff Lacy, Anthony Hanshaw and Omar Sheika, but for all intents and purposes, Jones’ last big win was in March 2003 against John Ruiz.

And what a win it was.

Already a world champion at middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, the 34-year-old Jones had a Hall of Fame resume that included the names Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Vinny Pazienza, Mike McCallum, Montell Griffin, Virgil Hill and Reggie Johnson. There were names missing from that list, most notably European standouts Dariusz Michalczewski, Nigel Benn and Steve Collins, but Jones was chasing bigger game, literally.

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In 2003, he made a leap only pulled off successfully once before by Bob Fitzsimmons, as he faced off with Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title.

“I knew it was going to be a tough thing and I knew there was a reason nobody had ever did it in over 106 years,” he recalls. “And only one guy had ever done it at all.”

Jones became the second, winning a clear-cut 116-112, 118-110, 117-111 decision over Ruiz. Four divisional titles, a stellar 48-1 record, and a place among the immortals in boxing history.

Jones would never defend his heavyweight title. Instead, he moved back down to 175 pounds just eight months later to face Tarver for the first time.

Jones won that bout via majority decision but he didn’t look the same. In the rematch, Tarver knocked him out. I ask Jones if he thinks that the move to heavyweight took a couple years off his prime years.

“Nah, I don’t think it shaved a couple years off,” he bristled. “I’m cool. I enjoy myself and everything I did I enjoyed, so no I don’t.”

I counter, telling him that I meant him putting on nearly 20 pounds of muscle to fight Ruiz and then shedding it in less than a year to go back to light-heavyweight. His mood lightens.

“I should have taken a two-year break after that,” he said, “That did shave a couple years off because that was very drastic and it’s why nobody ever does that because of the taxing it puts on the body to come back down in weight after you go up there. That’s why it can’t happen. If you think about it, look at Chris Byrd. Chris Byrd went down and fought one fight at light-heavyweight and was knocked out. It shows you how taxing that is. There’s a reason why guys don’t do that. It takes a special kind of guy to be able to do that and maintain his mental stability, keep your body composed and go 12 rounds.”

Jones was a special kind of guy. Even today, his pride in his work and what he accomplished is evident. But for an opinionated man, he is indecisive when asked what fight showed Roy Jones Jnr at his best.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say, very hard to say. Toney, Ruiz, there are a lot of times. Even if you look at the Jeff Lacy fight [2009], I had some pretty damn fast hands in that fight, so I don’t know.”

I offer my opinion that Jones was never better than on the night he obliterated Griffin in less than a round in March 1997. The bout was a rematch of a bout less than five months earlier that saw Jones issued the first loss of his career when he was disqualified for hitting Griffin when he was on a knee.

The defeat ate at Jones, and in Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, he took out all his anger and frustration on his fellow Olympian. This wasn’t Jones boxing, ducking and dipping and putting on a clinic of the sweet science. This was mean RJ, and that was a scary guy.

“That was true, but you only saw one round, so we don’t know what real Roy Jones was like that night,” he laughs. “But you’re right, we did see an RJ that we never had seen before.”

Why didn’t we see more of that version of Jones? “Because I’m not that kind of guy,” he said. “I don’t like to put that kind of guy to work. That kind of guy would be trying to hurt and kill people. And that’s not what I really want to do.”

So what was the goal in the rematch with Griffin? “The goal then was to kill him if necessary.”

It’s a scary prospect, especially when a fighter knows he has that kind of demon inside him that could be unleashed at any time. Jones wasn’t in the sport for such violence; his goals were sportsmanlike to the core.

“Just to outbox the guy,” he said. “All I wanted to do was do what I had to do to outbox people. And you couldn’t beat me if I was on my game. I was too slick, too fast, too smart. I really don’t have to get that serious and mark up a dude to win a fight. It don’t take that much because I love what I do and it’s very easy for me to do it.”

Maybe it was because he made it look so easy that for a long time he didn’t get his just due as one of the all-time greats. That opinion is starting to turn in his direction, though.

“In the long run, when people try to really look at it and see, they’ll understand,” said Jones, who started to get that respect when he was in fights where he was no longer the hammer, but the nail. And as he kept getting up and kept making the walk up those four steps into the ring, we saw something that we never had to see when he was dominating everyone in his path.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

“The thing about it is, when you beat people so bad and you go so far with that, you don’t get credit for your heart because you never see it,” Jones said. “When you’re that good, you’re only half as good as people think you are because they don’t know how you’ll react when you deal with adversity. And that’s what separates the boys from the men because nobody wants a horse they’ve never seen come from behind. They want to see a horse that won the race, but not because he was in front the whole time; they want a horse that they can see is good enough to come from behind. They want to know that if he ever faces adversity, that he’s still good. Those are two different horses.”

In 2011, days before he broke a three-fight losing streak with a win over Max Alexander, I asked Jones why he still continued to fight. In the course of this debate, I mentioned the Hall of Fame and how he could walk away then and be in Canastota with a plaque five years later. He took offence to such a suggestion.

“What does being a first ballot Hall of Famer do for me when I still want to fight?” he said. “You think I’m gonna stop like that because of something five years down the line? I might be dead in five years, who knows. You think I’m gonna save my life for five years down the line? Who knows what the hell might happen to me in five years. I still got it, I still feel good, so am I gonna stop now so I can be safe and careful and hope that I don’t mess up my chances? What if I better my chances of going in the first time? So there are two sides to that coin and I understand that. What if I do go capture the cruiserweight title and have the greatest comeback in history?”

Jones didn’t win the world cruiserweight title (spurious WBU and WBF versions notwithstanding) and he didn’t have the greatest comeback in history. He did end his career where it started 29 years earlier in the Pensacola Civic Center, and he did walk away with a win, his 66th against nine losses. So what about the Hall of Fame in five years?

“You know I ain’t gonna enjoy that,” he laughs. “I don’t want to be in no Hall of Fame. That’s not my thing. I ain’t boxing for no Hall of Fame. I’m good but I ain’t really trippin’ about that. They won’t let Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so what’s that tell you about the Hall of Fame?”I let him know that he’s still getting my vote.

“I appreciate it. I just ain’t really looking forward to it.”

That’s because a Hall of Fame induction means that for five years, Roy Jones Jnr didn’t do what he still loves so much. “The walk to the ring, getting ready to give people what they asked for, which is entertainment,” he said, already knowing what he’ll miss the most. Fighting professionally for nearly 30 years is a long time, though, even for the great ones.

“I didn’t think it would last quite this long, but I also didn’t think I’d ever fight for a heavyweight title,” he laughs, but at least he got to do it his way.

“I love doing it on my own terms,” Jones said of retirement. “That’s the best thing about it. Anytime you can do that, that makes it better for everything and everybody.”

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Posted on 3:32 pm

The life of a boxing photographer


Derek Rowe has had lunch with Muhammad Ali, chauffeured Henry Cooper, drunk tea with Ted Kid Lewis and been thrown out of clubs with Terry Downes. In his own words, the veteran photographer recounts a lifetime in boxing
AS a kid, I boxed in the Schoolboys. I started when I was about eight years old – in the early 1940s. I used to box for a club called the Bradfield Boys’ Club, then I left there and joined the Fisher. I eventually ended up being on the management committee at the Fisher, putting on the shows with Bernard Hart and Tim Riley. Bernard started the Lonsdale brand and Tim was the editor of Boxing News.

At 14 I joined the News Chronicle and The Star in Fleet Street. I did a photographic apprenticeship in the darkrooms. I was doing all the news stories – crime, fashion, a bit of everything. After a while I moved over to sports photography. I specialised in boxing, but I couldn’t just live off that. I did football on a Saturday afternoon, athletics in the summer – all sports.

Fleet Street was where I got to know Tim Riley, which is how I started photographing for Boxing News later on. Tim needed a photographer, so I came on board. I wasn’t staff – I was freelance – but for a time I was the only photographer that Boxing News used. I used to cover all the shows. I covered Muhammad Ali at venues like Madison Square Garden. I went to Las Vegas many times – especially when there was a British boxer involved. When the likes of John H. Stracey, Joe Bugner and John Conteh were fighting over in the States, I’d be out there.

When Boxing News was sold to another publisher, Bernard Hart and I set up a freebie paper called Boxing World, which ran for a few years. Tim Riley was the editor. Bernard and I also used to promote our own shows at Manor Place Baths and Elephant and Castle Leisure Centre, along with Dennie Mancini. And I’d put on monthly dinner shows at the Royal Garden Hotel. I also set up another freebie paper with Bernard called Sport & Showbiz, and I set up my own photography company – Derek Rowe (Photos) Ltd. I used to go round the gyms, photographing all the fighters.

I got to know the boxers well from going to the gyms. I was great mates with John Conteh and Alan Minter. When the likes of Conteh, Minter, Barry McGuigan, Duke McKenzie and Charlie Magri won their world titles, they’d come up to me at the gym and say, ‘Del, you couldn’t do some studio shots of me with the belt could you?’ So I’d take them to the studio and do it properly for them – with nice lighting and a nice background. I never ever charged them. My studio was in Marshalsea Road in Southwark, then I later moved to Pope Street by Tower Bridge.

I’ve got so many great memories. I was very good friends with the Coopers. I photographed Henry’s wedding and George’s wedding, as well as their kids’ Communions. When I was living in New Eltham I was only a five-minute walk from their manager’s house – Jim Wicks. After Henry’s fights, I used to take him straight round to Guy’s Hospital so he could get checked out. He’d always stay in a private wing at Guy’s Hospital after a fight. The next morning, I’d pick Jim up and we’d go to the hospital and fetch Henry.

Muhammad Ali eyes a bloody Henry Cooper (Photo: Derek Rowe)

One of the fighters I liked most was Ted Kid Lewis. After he was long retired, I used to go round his house a lot and have a cup of tea and reminisce with him. He lived by Lords Cricket Ground. If I was ever up that way I’d always pop in and see Ted. He was the nicest guy you could meet.

One of my pictures that I love the most is of Ted. It was at a ceremony where he was being presented with a silver plate by Terry Downes. Now Ted was a very emotional and sentimental guy, so whenever you did something like that for Ted, he’d cry – tears would be rolling down his face. He was a lovely, lovely man. I was good mates with Terry and he was a hard, hard man. We got barred from so many clubs, Terry and I! He was strong and tough – he didn’t give a f**k about anyone. So as Terry was doing the presentation, a tear came down Ted’s face, and there’s Terry, hard as nails, wiping the tear from Ted’s eye. That’s a picture I love.

Terry Downes wipes a tear from Ted Kid Lewis’ eye (Photo: Derek Rowe)

Another picture that brings back special memories is one I took of Ali when he was in London. He was training at White City, so I went down there to take some pictures. I was involved with Lonsdale at the time and we wanted to get some pictures of him wearing the gear. So I took some fresh Lonsdale shorts and got some pictures of Ali wearing them. We got talking and I got friendly with him. As he didn’t really know anybody over here, I offered to take him out for lunch. So we went for something to eat at the top of the GPO Tower – just the two of us. I took a picture of him at the top of the tower, looking out over London.

Muhammad Ali, pictured at the top of the GPO Tower in London (Photo: Derek Rowe)

I retired when I was 60 – I’m 87 now – but I still go along to all the ex-boxers associations and take pictures for them at their meetings, whether it’s Brighton, Hastings, London, Essex or Home Counties. I still enjoy it after all these years.

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Posted on 8:15 am

Desert Island Fights: ทศวรรษที่ 1990


จนถึงขณะนี้ผู้อ่าน BN โหวตให้ Frazier-Ali I เป็นนักต่อสู้ที่พวกเขาชื่นชอบจากยุค 70 และ Hagler-Hearns จากยุค 80 ทางเลือกสำหรับ Desert Island Fights of the 90s จะเป็นอย่างไร? หลักการของ Desert Island Fights นั้นง่ายมากคุณจะต้องติดอยู่บนเกาะร้างในไม่ช้า เพื่อลดความเบื่อหน่ายคุณสามารถใช้เวลาเพียงหนึ่งเดียวในการต่อสู้จากแต่ละช่วงห้าทศวรรษที่ผ่านมา (1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s และ 2010s) เพื่อดูในขณะที่คุณอยู่ที่นั่น คุณต่อสู้ห้าอะไร? สำหรับแฟน ๆ หลายคนยุค 90 เป็นยุคทองสุดท้ายที่แท้จริง ทศวรรษเริ่มต้นเมื่อไมค์ไทสันยังคงเป็นคนที่อยู่ยงคงกระพันและจบลงด้วยการแสดงพลังของเขา การสืบเชื้อสายที่เป็นหลุมเป็นบ่ออย่างมากนี้ทำให้นักสู้อย่าง Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe และ Lennox Lewis แซง Tyson ขึ้นมาได้ มันเป็นยุคที่ทำให้เราได้สิ่งที่ดีที่สุดของ James Toney และ Roy Jones Jnr มันหล่อหลอมความยิ่งใหญ่ของ Julio Cesar Chavez, Arturo Gatti วางรากฐานสำหรับชื่อเสียงของเขาในฐานะผู้แสวงหาความตื่นเต้นในขณะที่ Michael Carbajal และ Humberto Gonzalez ผู้โหดเหี้ยมได้สร้างขึ้น ล้านของพวกเขาเอง การแข่งขันดอลลาร์ ในสหราชอาณาจักร Nigel Benn และ Chris Eubank สร้างความประทับใจให้คนทั้งประเทศด้วยการปะทะกันในฐานะ“ เจ้าชาย” Naseem Hamed ซึ่งเป็นผู้ที่ปลอดภัยที่สุด – ถูกคุกคามที่จะยึดครองโลก… 5. CHRIS EUBANK w rsf 9 NIGEL BENN (1990) เรื่องที่เป็นมิตรซึ่งเมื่อนับคะแนนทั้งหมดของเราได้ผลักดันให้ Ike Ibeabuchi คว้าชัยชนะเหนือ David Tua ในห้าอันดับแรก มีอะไรอีกที่จะพูดเกี่ยวกับการเผชิญหน้าที่สังเกตได้ชั่วนิรันดร์ที่ยังไม่ได้พูดถึงนี้? เป็นการแข่งขันที่หลอมรวมนักชกทั้งสองเข้าสู่ประวัติศาสตร์การชกมวยของอังกฤษในขณะเดียวกันก็แนะนำ Eubank ผู้ลึกลับซึ่งเป็นนักแสดงที่มีลูกเหล็กไปทั่วโลก ในทางกลับกัน Benn ได้เรียนรู้บทเรียนของเขาจากการสูญเสียไปสู่การฟื้นตัวอย่างมีสไตล์ คำเตือน: ความเกลียดชังและความดุร้ายบนใบหน้าของ Benn ระหว่างคำแนะนำของผู้ตัดสิน แทบจะไม่สามารถควบคุมตัวเองได้ Benn พุ่งเข้าใส่อย่างเห็นได้ชัดขณะที่ผู้ตัดสิน Richard Steele เชิญให้พวกเขาแตะถุงมือ Eubank – ผู้วาง 1,000 ปอนด์ให้กับตัวเองเพื่อชนะในรอบแรก – จากนั้นตอบสนองต่อระฆังแรกโดยหันไปทางด้านข้างของเขาและเลื่อนกลับไปที่ Benn ทุกอย่างเป็นเรื่องที่น่าสนใจตลกขบขันและเป็นเส้นเขตแดน คุณรู้หรือไม่: สองสัปดาห์หลังจากการต่อสู้ซิงเกิ้ลแรก (และเดียว) ของ Nigel Benn, Stand and Fight ได้รับการเผยแพร่ รสชาติ: “ฉันคือนักรบมันทำให้คุณเศร้านักพิฆาตฉันจะเบื่อคุณราตรีสวัสดิ์เพื่อนของฉันและเอเมนบอกพวกเขาว่าคุณเพิ่งได้พบกับเบ็นน์ตัวร้าย” สูงสุดที่อันดับ 61 ในชาร์ตของสหราชอาณาจักร เป็นเรื่องล้อเลียนเมื่อคุณคิดว่า Ice Ice Baby จาก Vanilla Ice เป็นอันดับหนึ่งในเวลานั้น 4. NASEEM HAMED w rsf 4 KEVIN KELLEY (1997) การปะทะกันของ MESMERIZING ซึ่งเป็นโฆษณาที่น่าตื่นเต้นสำหรับการกระทำที่บ้าระห่ำอันเป็นเอกลักษณ์ของ Naseem Hamed มีการเดินทางสู่สังเวียนที่น่าจดจำเมื่อซูเปอร์สตาร์เชฟฟิลด์เต้นรำและเลื่อนผ่านลูกปาออกเดินทางเพื่อแสดงตัวตนของเธอในนิวยอร์กซิตี้ จากนั้นก็มาดำเนินการบนเชือกกับเควินเคลลีย์ที่ประสบความสำเร็จและมีพรสวรรค์ บางครั้ง Hamed นั้นยอดเยี่ยมมาก แต่เหนือสิ่งอื่นใดเขาเป็นคนไร้กังวลใจร้อนเกินไปและการล้มลง – เทศกาลเป็นเรื่องที่สนุกสนานมากขึ้น ความสนใจ: ช่วงเวลาที่นรกทั้งหมดแตกสลาย ในช่วงสองนาทีแรกของรอบแรก Hamed มีระเบียบวินัยและมีประสิทธิภาพในขณะที่เขา – มักใช้งานน้อย – กระทุ้งตวัดลงอย่างน่าประทับใจ จากนั้น Hamed ก็เข้ามายิงชนสะพานเป็นครั้งแรกจากหกครั้งแรกในการแข่งขันและการควบคุมทั้งหมดออกมาทางหน้าต่าง คุณรู้หรือไม่: การต่อสู้ซึ่ง Kelley เป็นผู้นำในสองในสามแผนที่ในช่วงทดเวลาหยุดนั้นเกินความคาดหมายทั้งหมด ในสหรัฐอเมริกาเพียงแห่งเดียวผู้ชม 2.5 ล้านคนดู HBO (ซึ่งจ่ายเงิน 1 ล้านเหรียญสหรัฐสำหรับแคมเปญการตลาดเพื่อเผยแพร่ชื่อของ Hamed) เพื่อชมการกระทำซึ่งเป็นเรื่องผิดปกติสำหรับการแข่งขันรุ่นเฟเธอร์เวทในเวลานั้น Al Bello / Allsport 3. NIGEL BENN w rsf 10 GERALD McCLELLAN (1995) การต่อสู้ที่ยากลำบากที่ต้องเฝ้าระวังซ้ำแล้วซ้ำเล่า แต่กระนั้นการเผชิญหน้าที่โหดร้ายครั้งนี้ก็เป็นที่ประจักษ์ในการโหวต ทุกคนรู้ว่าเกิดอะไรขึ้นกับ McClellan ในภายหลัง แต่ชะตากรรมของเขาไม่ควรทำให้ความพยายามที่เหนือมนุษย์ของ Benn ต้องเสียไปเพื่อเอาชนะการต่อสู้ ดูเหมือนจะตกรอบแรกในขณะที่ McClellan ขับไล่เขาจากสังเวียนและล้มลงอีกครั้งในรอบที่แปด Benn รวบรวมความกล้าหาญและสัญชาตญาณนักรบทั้งหมดของเขาเพื่อเอาชนะเกมนี้ในรอบที่ 10 ผู้บรรยายในตำนาน Reg Gutteridge เช่นเดียวกับผู้สังเกตการณ์หลายคนเชื่อว่า McClellan ลาออกแล้ว เขามักจะเสียใจ ความสนใจ: การกลับตัวในรอบแรกซึ่งยังคงทำให้เกิดการถกเถียง หลังจากผ่านไป 35 วินาทีเบ็นน์ – หลังจากถูกจับได้ในขณะที่ทำการโยนและทอเชือกตามปกติ – หลุดออกจากวงแหวนและลงบนผ้ากันเปื้อน เขาเอาชนะการนับกรรมการและกลับมาอย่างรวดเร็ว แต่มุมของชาวอเมริกันตะโกนว่าเบ็นน์เป็นผู้ได้รับประโยชน์จากการนับระยะยาว คุณรู้หรือไม่: สองสัปดาห์ต่อมา Gutteridge จะมุ่งหน้าไปที่ Buckingham Palace เพื่อรับ OBE ที่สมควรได้รับ ขณะที่ราชินีตรึงเหรียญไว้ที่หน้าอกเธอบอกกับเขา – โดยอ้างอิงถึงอาการบาดเจ็บที่เปลี่ยนแปลงชีวิตของ McClellan และการเรียกร้องใหม่ให้ห้ามชกมวย – “เกมของคุณมีปัญหาเล็กน้อย John Gichigi / ALLSPORT 2. RIDDICK BOWE w pts 12 EVANDER HOLYFIELD (1992) A Heavy SLUGFEST OF AGE. นักสู้ทั้งสองมีสิ่งที่ต้องพิสูจน์ในแนวทางนี้: Holyfield – หลังจากเล่นไป 12 รอบกับคู่หูจอร์จโฟร์แมนและแลร์รี่โฮล์มส์ที่อายุมากและต่อสู้กับการเปลี่ยนตัวคนสุดท้ายเบิร์ตคูเปอร์ – ควรจะตรงเวลาในฐานะแชมป์โลก ในขณะเดียวกัน Bowe ก็เป็นชายหนุ่มที่มาพร้อมกับคำถามที่ยังไม่มีคำตอบเกี่ยวกับความตั้งใจของเขา ในท้ายที่สุดทั้งสองก็แสดงให้เห็นว่าพวกเขากำลังพูดถึงอะไรกันแน่ Holyfield มอบทุกสิ่งให้กับพวกเขาการชุมนุมด้วยความทนทานที่น่าทึ่งในขณะที่ Bowe ซึ่งหัวใจของพวกเขาถูกตั้งคำถามตั้งแต่แพ้ Lennox Lewis ในฐานะมือสมัครเล่นสร้างผลงานที่ดีที่สุดตลอดอาชีพของเขา ความสนใจ: มีอะไรอีกนอกจากรอบที่ 10 นี้ซึ่งถือเป็นหนึ่งในสามนาทีที่น่าตื่นเต้นที่สุดในประวัติศาสตร์รุ่นเฮฟวี่เวท Holyfield ดูเหมือนว่าเขาได้รับบาดเจ็บสาหัสจากการอัพเปอร์คัตด้านขวา แต่เมื่อ Bowe ใช้แรงกดดันมากขึ้นแชมเปี้ยนก็คำราม ในตอนท้ายของเซสชั่น Holyfield กำลังยิงเร็วที่สุด คุณรู้หรือไม่: หลังการต่อสู้มีงานเลี้ยงฉลองชัยชนะของ Bowe แต่แชมป์ใหม่ก็ทุกข์ เขาตัดสินใจที่จะสวมชุดวอร์มแทนที่จะเป็นอะไรที่ดูฉูดฉาดและเขาก็ปรากฏตัวในห้องบอลรูมลาสเวกัสโดยถือถุงน้ำแข็งที่เขาจะตบหน้าบวม Bowe มีเวลาเหลืออีกไม่กี่นาทีก่อนที่จะมุ่งหน้าไปที่ห้องผู้จัดการของเขา Rock Newman เพื่อดูเทปการต่อสู้ 1. JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ w rsf 12 MELDRICK TAYLOR (1990) ยังคงมีการเผชิญหน้าอีกครั้งนอกเหนือจากความโหดร้ายที่ครอบงำ Bowe-Holyfield ในฐานะ Desert Island Fight ในยุค 90 นี่จะเป็นครั้งสุดท้ายที่เราจะได้เห็น Meldrick Taylor ที่ดีกว่าของเขา หล่อ, ฉูดฉาดและเต็มไปด้วยฟิลาเดลเฟียหยิกเทย์เลอร์ต่อสู้กับชาเวซที่พ่ายแพ้ ชาวเม็กซิกันตัวสูงแม้จะถูกส่งไป แต่ก็ใช้ค้อนทุบซี่โครงแขนและใบหน้าของคู่แข่งอย่างช่ำชองเมื่อใดก็ตามที่เขาเข้าใกล้มากพอที่จะทำได้ ในรอบสุดท้ายเทย์เลอร์เป็นผู้นำอย่างถูกต้อง แต่ร่างกายของเขาเป็นซาก ชาเวซสร้างความก้าวหน้าในช่วงเวลาที่กำลังจะตายทิ้งเทย์เลอร์ก่อนที่ผู้ตัดสินริชาร์ดสตีลจะเรียกร้องให้ยุติการต่อสู้โดยเหลือเวลาอีกสองวินาที คำเตือน: การตัดสินใจของ Steele นี้สามารถดูได้ซ้ำแล้วซ้ำเล่าและทุกครั้งที่คุณได้ข้อสรุปที่แตกต่างกัน การหยุดบอลของกรรมการได้รับการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างกว้างขวางในเวลานั้น แต่หากการล้มลงเกิดขึ้นที่จุดอื่นในการแข่งขันก็จะไม่ถือว่าเป็นการโต้เถียง ด้วยเหตุนี้จึงสามารถกล่าวได้ว่าทางการตัดสินใจเลือกที่ถูกต้อง คุณรู้หรือไม่: ในการแถลงข่าวช่วงบ่ายหลังการต่อสู้เทย์เลอร์ผู้ซึ่งเสียเลือดไปสองลิตรยืนยันว่าเขาสามารถทำต่อไปได้ แต่ยอมรับว่าความสนใจของเขาถูกดึงดูดโดยการปรากฏตัวของ Lou Duva ในขณะที่เขาบุกขึ้นเวที เทย์เลอร์บอกว่าเขาไม่ได้ยินผู้ตัดสินถามเขาว่าเขาโอเคไหมในความวุ่นวายทั้งหมด Ken Levine / Allsport ปิด แต่ไม่มีซิการ์การต่อสู้อื่น ๆ ที่ได้รับคะแนนโหวต Ike Ibeabuchi w pts 12 David Tua; Arturo Gatti กับ rsf 5 Gabriel Ruelas; จอห์นนี่ทาเปีย 12 แต้มแดนนี่โรเมโร่; เลนน็อกซ์ลูอิสกับอีแวนเดอร์โฮลีฟิลด์ 12 คน; เจมส์ “บัสเตอร์” ดักลาสกับ 10 ไมค์ไทสัน; Ivan Robinson ด้วย 10 คะแนน Arturo Gatti (I และ II); อีแวนเดอร์โฮลีฟิลด์ w rsf 11 ไมค์ไทสัน; Oscar De La Hoya กับ 12 Ike Quartey; มิชาเอลคาร์บาฆัล w ko 7 ฮัมเบอร์โต้กอนซาเลซ; ทอมมี่มอร์ริสันกับ 9 โจฮิปโป; เลนน็อกซ์ลูอิสกับ 5 แชนนอนบริกส์; สมานสรจาตุรงค์ w rsf 7 ฮัมเบอร์โต้กอนซาเลซ; ไนเจลเบนน์ d pts 12 คริสยูแบงค์; James Toney d pts 12 Mike McCallum EDITOR’S CHOICE Personal Top 5 for the 90s: 5) Jeff Harding w pts 12 Dennis Andries 4) Kevin Kelley w pts 12 Troy Dorsey3) Naseem Hamed w rsf 4 Kevin Kelley2) Chris Eubank w rsf 9 Nigel Benn1) MICHAEL MOORER w rsf 5 BERT COOPERMy การต่อสู้ที่ชื่นชอบของตัวเองที่ไม่เคยล้มเหลวที่จะทำให้ฉันเพลิดเพลินไม่ว่าจะดูกี่ครั้งก็ตาม มีตัวอย่างของทักษะที่ดีกว่าและการเปิดรับกระสุนหนักที่ยาวนานขึ้น แต่มีบางอย่างเกี่ยวกับการต่อสู้ครั้งนี้ – ตั้งแต่วินาทีที่มัวร์เย็นชาในสองสามวินาทีแรก – มันสัมผัสฉันทุกครั้ง ทางเลือกของสะโพกคุณรู้จักผู้ชาย พวกเขารู้เรื่องการชกมวยมากกว่าคุณ… JOICHIRO TATUYOSHI w rsf 7 SIRIMONGKOL IAMTHUAMTHUAMIamthuam หรือที่รู้จักกันในชื่อ Singwancha – ชกมวยเป็นอย่างดีในช่วงแรกก่อนที่ทาทูโยชิจะเปลี่ยนเป็นการชกสุนัขในช่วงที่ 4 โมเมนตัมเปลี่ยนไประหว่างวันที่ห้าและหกก่อนที่ร่างที่กระดกของทาทุโยชิจะทิ้งชายของเขาในอันดับที่เจ็ด การจู่โจมติดตามทำให้การจบเกมเป็นหนังระทึกขวัญที่ชื่อรุ่นแบนตัมเวทของ WBC เปลี่ยนมือ

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Posted on 3:58 pm

Editor’s Pick: ‘Mike Tyson แพ้ Buster Douglas ไม่ใช่ความผิดของฉัน’

โค้ชแอรอนสโนเวลของ Mike Tyson มองย้อนกลับไปในคืนที่หายนะสำหรับทีมไทสันทุกคน “อยากได้ Don King หนึ่งในผู้ชายที่ฉลาดที่สุดในวงการมวยเท่าที่เคยเห็นมาทำให้ฉันอยู่ในมุมของแบรนด์ที่มีค่าที่สุดที่ชกมวยไม่ใช่แค่กีฬา แต่ความบันเทิงมีให้ถ้าฉันไม่รู้ว่ากำลังทำอะไรอยู่? เขาจะทำไหม มีน้ำเสียงที่เชื่อถือได้ในคำรามของแอรอนสโนเวลล์ขณะที่เขาพยายามโน้มน้าวให้ฉันรู้ถึงคุณสมบัติของเขาในการจัดการความรับผิดชอบในการฝึกอบรมที่พิถีพิถันของยอดไมค์ไทสัน การตอบโต้เชิงป้องกันของเขาดูเหมือนจะค่อนข้างซ้ำซากบางทีอาจเป็นเพราะเป็นการโต้แย้งที่เขาไล่ออกไปหลายครั้งก่อนหน้านี้อาจจะถึงตัวเขาเองตั้งแต่วันที่ 11 กุมภาพันธ์ 1990 และเช้าวันหนึ่งในญี่ปุ่นที่เปลี่ยนไปมากจนมีชีวิตอยู่ตลอดไป การฝึกชกมวยของ Snowell ได้รับการปฏิบัติโดยการสังเกต “ผู้ยิ่งใหญ่ที่สุด” Snowell เกิดที่เชิงเขา Pocono ในรัฐเพนซิลเวเนียสโนว์เวลเติบโตขึ้นมาใกล้ค่ายฝึกของมูฮัมหมัดอาลีหลายแห่งและที่นี่เองที่ความหลงใหลในกีฬาชกมวยของเขาเติบโตขึ้น นักศึกษาผู้หลงใหลในเทรนเนอร์ชื่อดัง “สลิม” จิมโรบินสันสโนเวลล์ได้ซึมซับความเชี่ยวชาญของคอร์เนอร์แมนผู้คร่ำหวอดและกลายมาเป็นผู้ช่วย การเลื่อนตำแหน่งที่คาดหวังมาพร้อมกับนักสู้อย่างจูเลียนแจ็กสันที่ระเบิดได้และทิมวิเธอร์สปูนรุ่นเฮฟวี่เวทที่ด้อยค่าภายใต้การปกครองของเขาสโนเวลล์ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างรวดเร็วไม่เพียง แต่ได้รับเกียรติในฐานะโค้ชเท่านั้น แต่ยังรวมถึงความสัมพันธ์ที่เฟื่องฟูกับผู้มีอำนาจและผู้บัญชาการคิง การยึดเกาะที่ไม่ยอมใครของผู้ก่อการนอกรีตในแผนกเฮฟวี่เวทมีหลายยุค แต่บางทีอาจจะถึงจุดสูงสุดเมื่อไทสันขึ้นไปถึงจุดสูงสุดของบันไดที่เขาปีนขึ้นไปอย่างโหดเหี้ยม ด้วยการเงินของ HBO บัญชีรายชื่อของแชมป์เปี้ยนและผู้เข้าแข่งขันและเสน่ห์ที่น่าดึงดูดใจ King อ้างสิทธิ์ Tyson และมอบรางวัลอันรุ่งโรจน์และเงินที่ไม่เคยมีมาก่อนในเวลาไม่นาน Snowell ซึ่งเป็นพันธมิตรที่รู้จักกันมายาวนานของเขาได้รับการติดตั้งอย่างรวดเร็วในฐานะผู้ฝึกสอนในเดือนมกราคม 1989 และผลลัพธ์แรกเป็นไปในเชิงบวก อย่างไรก็ตามรูปแบบชุดนี้มาถึงการตัดทอนที่แสนสบายวันหนึ่ง Snowell จำได้ด้วยความแม่นยำทางทหาร จอห์นแอล. ซัลลิแวนพูดอะไรเกี่ยวกับผู้หญิงและเครื่องดื่มที่ติดกับเขา? Snowell คิดวาทศิลป์ “ นั่นคือสิ่งที่เกิดขึ้นกับไมค์ในวันที่เขาต่อสู้กับบัสเตอร์ดักลาส น้ำหนักของไมค์อยู่ที่ประมาณ 300 ปอนด์เมื่อเขาออกจากค่ายเขามีอะไรเกี่ยวข้องมากมาย [his ex-wife, actress] โรบิน [Givens] และในอดีตก็มีการทดลองของผู้คนมากมายเช่นกัน คนเหล่านี้เช่นอดีตผู้จัดการและอดีตผู้ฝึกสอนเป็นอดีตผู้จัดการและอดีตผู้ฝึกสอนด้วยเหตุผลบอกทุกคนที่วางไมโครโฟนไว้ข้างหน้าว่าพวกเขารักไมค์และพวกเขาก็ห่วงใยไมค์ แต่ในขณะเดียวกัน หลายครั้งที่พวกเขาฟ้องเขาและพยายามฟ้องเขาในทุกสิ่งที่เขาให้ชีวิต ทุกคนที่สนิทกับไมค์หรือเคยใกล้ชิดกับไมค์ต่างก็ทำร้ายเขาและที่นี่เขาอยู่ในต่างประเทศเพื่อเตรียมพร้อมที่จะปกป้องตำแหน่งโลกของเขากับผู้ชายที่จนถึงทุกวันนี้ก็ยังไม่ได้รับเครดิตที่เขาสมควรได้รับสำหรับสิ่งที่เขา ได้ทำ ก่อนการต่อสู้ครั้งนี้ จากความพยายามของสโนเวลล์ในการวาดภาพดักลาสว่าเป็นภัยคุกคามก่อนการต่อสู้จึงเป็นเรื่องง่ายที่จะสมมติว่าโค้ชรู้ว่าลายมือของการเปลี่ยนแปลงที่มีชื่อเสียงที่สุดในประวัติศาสตร์นั้นอยู่บนกำแพงมานานแล้วก่อนที่เขาจะก้าวขึ้นสู่สังเวียน “แน่นอนว่าไม่ใช่ไมค์ไทสันและเชื่อฉันเมื่อฉันบอกคุณว่าเขาฝึกฝนอย่างหนักสำหรับการต่อสู้ครั้งนี้เพราะไม่มีทางที่เขาจะได้รับความเสียหายที่เขาใช้ไป 10 รอบถ้าเขาไม่อยู่ในสภาพที่ดี” สโนเวลล์สาบาน “ มีหลายอย่างที่จะตามมาหลังจากการต่อสู้การต่อสู้ครั้งใหญ่กับอีแวนเดอร์โฮลีฟิลด์กำลังเกิดขึ้นและการเผชิญหน้ากับโฮลีฟิลด์เราต้องทำผลงานให้ดีกับดักลาส ไมค์กับฉันมีประสบการณ์เกินกว่าจะหักมุมในการฝึกซ้อมและเขาก็ทำงานหนักมาก แต่หัวของเขาผิดและคุณจะเห็นได้จากการชุมนุมครั้งแรก เมื่อผ่านไปแต่ละครั้งความโดดเด่นของดักลาสก็เพิ่มขึ้นต่อหน้าฝูงชนที่เงียบงันซึ่งแสดงอารมณ์เพียงเล็กน้อยแม้จะมีละครเรื่องใหญ่ปรากฏต่อหน้าต่อตาพวกเขาก็ตาม บัสเตอร์ต่อยเหมือนชีวิตของเขาขึ้นอยู่กับมัน – ไม่ทางใดก็ทางหนึ่ง – และการกระหน่ำแต่ละครั้งก็ลอกชั้นของการป้องกันที่สลายตัวของไทสัน สโนเวลล์ไม่มีใครขัดขวางพูดอย่างเงียบ ๆ ในมุมกลับและยืนยันว่าเขาไม่เคยอยากจะร้องไห้ใส่เธอแม้ว่ามันจะดูเหมือนเป็นแนวทางที่มั่นคงก็ตาม “ มันไม่ใช่สไตล์การกรีดร้องของฉัน” เขาอธิบาย “ ฉันรู้ว่าไมค์เป็นคนชกในการต่อสู้และความคิดของฉันคือบอกเขาว่าต้องทำอย่างไรเพื่อเข้าใกล้และลงจอดด้วยตัวเอง นี่เป็นปัญหาในตอนแรกเพราะไมค์ไม่สามารถเข้าใกล้ผู้ชายคนนั้นได้ดังนั้นแทนที่จะตะโกนใส่เขาและอาจจะเพิ่มสถานการณ์ที่เลวร้ายฉันต้องการให้เขาผ่อนคลายเพื่อที่เขาจะได้ทำตามคำสั่งของฉันและทำในสิ่งที่ ฉันขอให้เขาทำ เขาต้องทำและนั่นคือการเข้าใกล้คู่ต่อสู้มากขึ้นและปล่อยภาพดีๆออกไป การป้องกันของสโนเวลล์ด้วยวิธีการที่มีมารยาทดีของเขาถูกเสนอด้วยความหลงใหล มีความอหังการในน้ำเสียงของเขามีความมั่นใจในความเชื่อของเขาแม้ผลลัพธ์จะไม่ไปในทิศทางของเขาก็ตาม แต่เราไม่ควรเพิกเฉยต่อความผิดพลาดที่น่าอับอายโดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งที่ทำให้โอกาสในการฟื้นตัวของ Tyson แทบจะเป็นไปไม่ได้เลย ด้วยอาการบวมอย่างประหลาดที่มองเห็นได้บนตาซ้ายของเขาจึงจำเป็นต้องมีตัวอุดบวมเพื่อลดความเสียหาย เครื่องมือที่จำเป็นสำหรับทุกมุมเครื่องมือนี้ถูกมองข้ามไปอย่างลึกลับและตัวแทนที่น่าสมเพชมองเห็นน้ำแข็งกระแทกเข้าไปในถุงมือยางเพื่อกดลงบนดวงตาที่ปวดร้าวของ Tyson สโนว์เวลต้องคิดอย่างรวดเร็ว แต่วันนี้เขาเร็วพอที่จะยอมรับว่าเขาต้องรับผิดชอบต่อข้อผิดพลาดที่เกิดขึ้น “ ฉันเป็นคอร์เนอร์แมนและทุกสิ่งที่ผิดพลาดในพื้นที่นั้นเป็นของฉันและฉันยอมรับความรับผิดชอบอย่างเต็มที่สำหรับความผิดพลาดครั้งใหญ่ในส่วนของฉัน” เขาคร่ำครวญ “ มันไม่ใช่ว่าเราไม่เคารพบัสเตอร์หรือคิดว่าเขาไม่สามารถสร้างความวุ่นวายบนหน้าไมค์ได้มันเป็นเพียงความผิดพลาดและเราก็ประมาท นี่เป็นครั้งแรกและครั้งสุดท้ายที่สิ่งนี้เกิดขึ้นกับฉันในฐานะผู้ฝึกสอน แต่คำแนะนำที่เราไม่คิดว่าเราต้องการมันเป็นคำพูดที่บ้าคลั่งจากคนขี้อิจฉา ในตอนนั้นมีหลายอย่างจากคนในวงการผู้ชายที่น่าจะรู้จักดีกว่านี้มาก แต่ความจริงที่ว่าฉันเป็นเทรนเนอร์ของไทสันทำให้หลายคนอิจฉาและอิจฉาเพราะพวกเขาต้องการคอนเสิร์ต ในตอนนั้นฉันเป็นผู้ชายที่เหมาะสมที่สุดในการเป็นโค้ชไมค์และเมื่อเขาชนะมันก็เป็นเพราะไมค์และครั้งเดียวที่เขาแพ้ก็เพราะฉัน นี่คือสิ่งที่ฉันต้องทนกับมัน Snowell สามารถพูดคุย การหยุดยาวตามแต่ละประโยคเป็นรูปแบบการสนทนาที่ไม่บอกว่าเขาต้องการพูดอะไรเสร็จหรือยัง เมื่อมีการพูดถึงหัวข้อสั้น ๆ เกี่ยวกับความสำเร็จในเซสชันที่แปดของไทสันในโตเกียวซึ่งเห็นว่าเขาทำประตูได้อย่างน่าพิศวงมันกระตุ้นความโกรธจากสโนเวลล์ “ นับเป็นเวลานาน” เขากล่าวถึงจำนวนของ Octavio Meyran “ มันเป็นการตัดสินที่แย่มาก แต่คำพูดของผู้ตัดสินถือเป็นที่สิ้นสุดและเราต้องยอมรับมัน การชกมวยเป็นกีฬาที่กรรมการพูดเสมอและใครก็ตามที่ยกแขนขึ้นในตอนท้ายคือผู้ชายที่เป็นผู้ชนะไม่ว่าจะเกิดอะไรขึ้นก็ตาม เมื่อไมค์ตีเขาด้วยระเบิดนั้นฉันก็เหมือนว่า ‘มันจบแล้ว แม้ว่าเสียงระฆังจะจบลงในรอบนั้นฉันคิดว่ามันเป็นเพียงเรื่องของเวลาเพราะไมค์เป็นหนึ่งในนักชกมวยที่ดีที่สุดเท่าที่เคยมีมาและทุกคนที่เขาเคยต่อสู้มาก่อนดักลาสเคยทำสำเร็จเมื่อพวกเขาบาดเจ็บ ความพยายามอย่างมากในการค้นหาทั้งหมดในคราวเดียวและเห็นได้ชัดว่าไมค์เหลืออยู่ไม่มากแล้ว แม้ว่าฉันจะดูการต่อสู้คุณก็สามารถเห็นความทะเยอทะยานทั้งหมดที่ไหลออกมาจากเขาเมื่อดักลาสลุกขึ้น มันเป็นช่วงเวลาที่ยอดเยี่ยม จุดจบของไทสันเกิดขึ้นในรอบ 10 เมื่อการโจมตีจากดักลาสบังคับให้คู่ต่อสู้ที่ทารุณของเขาล้มลงกับพื้น ไทสันต่อสู้เพื่อดึงโล่เหงือกที่ร่วงหล่นของเขาราวกับว่ามันเป็นเพชรในดิน แต่มันก็ไม่มีประโยชน์อะไรเมื่อเขาถูกนับเลข สโนเวลล์เข้าสู่สังเวียนและแจ้งให้อดีตแชมป์ในตอนนี้ทราบว่าเขาเพิ่งพ่ายแพ้เนื่องจากส่วนผสมของการประท้วงของกษัตริย์และการเฉลิมฉลองจากดักลาสและทีมของเขาครองแหวนที่แออัด ไม่กี่นาทีต่อมาที่มุมห้องล็อกเกอร์โตเกียวโดมของไทสันสโนว์เวลพบว่าตัวเองอยู่คนเดียวกับอดีตผู้ปกครองด้วยน้ำตา “ ฉันบอกเขาว่าคืนนั้นนักสู้ผู้ยิ่งใหญ่ทุกคนต้องมีเมื่อพวกเขาล้มเหลว” สโนเวลล์เล่า “ มันสำคัญสำหรับฉันที่เราก้าวต่อไปและไมค์ก็แสดงให้โลกเห็นว่าเขาเป็นคนที่ยอดเยี่ยมและเขาสามารถยอมรับความพ่ายแพ้และเรียนรู้จากมันได้ ฉันบอกให้เขาไปแสดงความยินดีกับดักลาสผ่านสื่อจากนั้นกลับไปอเมริกาและพยายามแข่งขันใหม่ หากการแข่งขันครั้งนี้เกิดขึ้นในอีกไม่กี่เดือนต่อมาฉันเชื่อว่าเราจะได้ผลลัพธ์ที่แตกต่างออกไปและขนาดของความน่ารำคาญในการพบกันครั้งแรกก็ไม่ได้ใหญ่ขนาดนั้น [But] ดักลาสแย่งชิงจากโฮลีฟิลด์เมื่อไมค์ต้องดู Snowell และ Tyson ยังคงทำงานร่วมกันก่อนที่การจำคุกของนักสู้จะส่งผลให้เขาถูกปล่อยตัวออกจากคุกพร้อมกับทีมใหม่ที่ไม่มีตำแหน่งสำหรับชายที่ชี้นำให้เขาได้รับชัยชนะเหนือ Frank Bruno, Carl Williams และ Donovan “Razor” Ruddock (สองครั้ง) . Snowell ซึ่งตอนนี้สนุกกับงานให้คำปรึกษาด้านกีฬาจะยังคงประสบความสำเร็จร่วมกับ Tim Austin, Michael Nunn และ Frankie Randall เขาทำงานอุจจาระในช่วงหลังเมื่อเขาเป็นฝ่ายแพ้ 35-1 ต่อ Julio Cesar Chavez ที่พ่ายแพ้ในปี 1994 Randall รวบรวมคำตัดสินที่สมควรได้รับกับตำนานชาวเม็กซิกันที่ประสบความสูญเสียครั้งแรกในการต่อสู้ 91 ครั้งที่น่าอัศจรรย์ แต่สโนเวลล์ไม่ค่อยถูกถามเกี่ยวกับกลียุคนี้

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Posted on 2:51 pm

James ‘Buster’ Douglas: I would have beaten Mike Tyson even better in a rematch

Buster Douglas tells James Slater what came before, during, and after his fight with Mike Tyson

COLUMBUS, Ohio’s James “Buster” Douglas will always be remembered for one incredible fight/upset: the one that occurred the day he challenged the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson on February 11th 1990 in Tokyo, Japan.

Douglas simply shocked the entire world with his tenth-round KO win and his name will forever live in the history books as a result. But Douglas, who exited with a 38-6-1(25) record in 1999, had a number of other interesting fights, not all of them wins, and here he recalls his career for Boxing News:
Q: I’ll come to the Tyson fight a bit later if that’s okay, James! As talented and as gifted as you were, how did you lose to David Bey (TKO by 2) and get held to a draw by Steffen Tangstad, both in your early days as a pro?

James Douglas: “Well, the Bey fight, that was my first shot at the big time, my first fight on a big card. He was a strong guy. I guess I was just overwhelmed, but that was a learning experience for me and I did learn from it. Tangstad, that was a good fight. I hit him with what I thought was a good punch but they said I hit him on the break and took a point from me. That made the fight a draw. But all those fights, they were just learning experiences, or growing pains as I called them at the time. I had left the amateurs at age 15 and come back [as a pro] at age 21 and I had to learn the game and adjust.”
Q: And the 1987 fight with Tony Tucker, for the IBF title, you were winning that but got stopped in the tenth-round. What happened? I know the critics gave you a tough time after that loss.
J.D: “The Tucker fight, it was pretty tough, that whole experience. In the camp and during the lead-up to that fight, I wasn’t mentally focused as I should have been. You know, you’ve gotta be right in all aspects when going into a big fight. I wasn’t and I fell short. Again, all I can say is, growing pains. Tucker was a good fighter and once again I made sure I learned from that experience. I learned from all my setbacks on the way up.”
Q: Despite the Tucker loss, you still believed you’d become world heavyweight champion one day?
J.D: “Oh yeah! The lessons that I’ve talked about, they made me even more determined. I knew I could compete with the best – those losses told me that – and I knew I had a lot to offer the game.”
Q: Another often unmentioned fight of yours is the one you had with the tough Randall “Tex” Cobb, who you beat on points. How tough was he?
J.D: “He was a good fighter, too. In fact, he was an awesome fighter. He just came with so much pressure. He actually reminded me of my father (former middleweight, Billy “Dynamite“ Douglas), who I sparred with a lot as a teenager. The pressure was just crazy, whatever you hit him [Cobb] with, he just came right at you. My jab was underestimated and a lot of fighters, when I hit them with a stiff, firm jab, they were not sure if it was a jab or a right hand. But he [Cobb] just kept pushing through. I had to make sure that pressure never psyched me out. Yeah, I faced some good fighters in the lead up to the Tyson fight. I was experienced at that time and I had earned my stripes.”
Q: So much has been written about the Tyson fight and you must have been asked just about everything about that incredible fight. But I’ll give it a shot: how badly hurt were you in that eighth-round when he knocked you down?
J.D: “I wasn’t hurt at all. I was more off balance, he hit me while I was squared up. The force of the punch knocked me down as I was trying to stop myself from going down. But I was totally into the fight and I was totally aware of everything. I saw in his [Tyson’s] eyes that he was all woken up and ready to get the win and I knew I had to get right back at him.”
Q: You got up at “nine” as I recall. Have you ever thought about what might have been if the referee had given you a quick count and waved the fight off?
J.D: “I could’ve gotten up quicker, earlier. But I took the eight-count and gave myself a body check, to make sure I was on point. But I was able to get up at any time. If he’d have counter faster, I’d have gotten up faster than I did.”
Q: Going into the fight, did you always think you’d stop or KO Tyson, or did you think that with your skills you’d out-point him?
J.D: “All I knew was that I’d give it my best and fight hard. I knew I was in great shape.”
Q: Does it seem as long ago to you as it actually was?
J.D: “Yeah, it’s the anniversary coming up. It’s pretty exciting.”
Q: After what you’d achieved by beating Tyson, in a fight that no-one will ever forget, was it almost impossible to get as “up” physically and mentally for your next fight, which came against Holyfield?
J.D: “I went through a lot, with all the B.S that came – we had to go to court (as Tyson and Don King protested the fight, citing the so called “long count”), and it was like I never stopped fighting after I won the fight and the title. By the time I go t to camp, it was tough. It was my fault, in that I shouldn’t have allowed all that to effect me like it did, but I wasn’t properly prepared. There was so much pressure. What had been a wonderful childhood dream come true became a nightmare. I’m still mad at all that today. But I know I had a great career. I achieved what I set out to achieve, and became heavyweight champion of the world. I know I achieved far more than a lot of people felt I would achieve.”
Q: People still talk about what would have happened had you and Tyson fought a rematch. Have you given that much thought?
J.D: “Of course. I would’ve beaten him even better in a rematch!”
Q: Are you a promoter now, James?
J.D: “No, I’m working with amateurs. I have a nice group of kids, aged from eight up to 21 and above.”
Q: One other fighter you might have met in 1990 or 1991 if you were still champion was George Foreman. How do you think you’d have done against the old exp-champ if you’d fought him instead of Holyfield?
J.D: “Well, my plan was to beat Holyfield, then defend against Foreman, and then give Tyson a rematch before calling it a day. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. But I’m happy and I’m content with what I did achieve and today I have no regrets.”

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Posted on 1:42 pm

When Kelly Pavlik became king


Thirteen years ago, Pavlik climbed off
the canvas to dethrone Jermain Taylor in one of the most exciting middleweight title fights ever. By
ON September 29, 2007, Kelly Pavlik challenged Jermain Taylor at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the middleweight championship of the world.

Pavlik was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1982. His father, Mike, was a steelworker who left the mills to take a job as an insurance agent. His mother, Debbie, was a cook at Hardee’s, an American fast-food restaurant chain.

Kelly compiled an amateur record of 89 wins against 9 losses. He worked odd jobs to get the money to go to tournaments. More often than he cares to remember, he was removing dirty dishes from tables in a Youngstown restaurant when his high school classmates came in for something to eat after a school dance.

Pavlik turned pro in 2000. He had a thin muscular body and knew one way to fight: a crowd-pleasing style of go forward, punching. But a fighter’s career moves slowly and Kelly was hampered by problems with a tendon in his right hand. To supplement his income, he washed dishes and took other jobs. Until early 2007, he did occasional landscape work for ten dollars an hour to help make ends meet.

On May 19, 2007, Pavlik’s life changed. He knocked out highly-touted Edison Miranda in seven rounds. That performance silenced a lot of doubters. Suddenly, Kelly was no longer a protected white kid. He was a 31-and-0 fighter with 28 knockouts and the mandatory challenger for middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.

Taylor had won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics and turned pro under the aegis of promoter Lou DiBella. Pat Burns, a former Miami cop with an extensive amateur coaching background, was brought in to train him. Under Burns’s tutelage, Jermain won his first 23 pro fights. Then, on July 16, 2005, he eked out a narrow split decision over Bernard Hopkins to claim the undisputed middleweight championship of the world.

There was a parade in Taylor’s hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, to celebrate his triumph. Thousands of fans attended a rally at the end of the route. “That was the best feeling I ever had,” Jermain said afterward. “It was amazing that all those people came out just for me.” Then came a trip to New York for a meeting with fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton. “Anywhere I go,” Jermain said, “restaurants, clubs, wherever; they don’t charge me. Of course, when I was broke and needed it, no one gave me anything for free.”

On December 3, 2005, Taylor decisioned Hopkins in a rematch. He seemed poised for superstardom. But a corrosive factor was at work. Taylor had grown up without a father. And a Little Rock resident named Ozell Nelson had filled the void, playing a pivotal role in Jermain’s early life. He’d even taught him the rudiments of boxing. Now Nelson and Pat Burns weren’t getting along.

After Taylor won his rematch against Hopkins, there was sniping that Burns had a “white slave-master mentality” and wasn’t a top-notch trainer despite his having overseen Jermain’s transformation from a raw amateur to middleweight champion of the world. There was a lot of money to be made off Taylor now that he was a champion, particularly if Burns’ salary were to become available for redistribution. Taylor owed much of his success as a fighter to Burns. But in his mind, Nelson had saved his life. After the second Taylor-Hopkins fight, Burns was replaced by Emanuel Steward.

Chris Farina/Top Rank

Steward was a legendary trainer and deservedly so. One doesn’t have to debate the issue of whether he was a better trainer than Burns. It’s enough to say that Burns was a better trainer for Taylor.

Steward brought Taylor to the Kronk Gym in Detroit to train and introduced him to a lifestyle that wasn’t a good fit. Nelson was given an expanded role in training camp. Jermain’s next three performances reflected Burns’ absence. He fought without his usual fire against Winky Wright and salvaged a draw. Lackluster victories over Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks followed. As he readied to face Pavlik, his record stood at 27-0-1 with 17 knockouts. But he was a vulnerable champion.

A logical case could be made for victory by either fighter. Taylor was undefeated in seven fights against present or former world champions. He would have an edge in hand-speed over Pavlik. Also, Kelly didn’t move his head enough and had a tendency to bring his left hand back low after throwing his jab. Against Miranda, Kelly had showed he could take a punch. But could he take jab after jab and combinations?

Moreover, Jermain had fought through adversity. He’d suffered a bad scalp wound in his first fight against Hopkins. His left eye had been shut by Winky Wright. Each time, he’d emerged with the crown. His will was strong. He’d gone twelve rounds seven times. By contrast, Pavlik had gone nine rounds once. Kelly had never heard the ring announcer say “round ten . . . round eleven . . . round twelve.”

But the case for a Pavlik victory was equally strong. Kelly had a solid chin and power in both hands. He was expected to hit Taylor harder than Jermain had ever been hit.

Meanwhile, Pavlik’s hometown of Youngstown was squarely behind him. Once, Youngstown had been at the center of steel production in the United States. But the local economy had soured in the 1970s. Steel mills closed; factories shut down. The city had never recovered.

Now Youngstown had a hero to root for, a reason to feel good about itself. And the entire state of Ohio embraced Kelly. One day before Taylor-Pavlik, the boardwalk in Atlantic City was a sea of scarlet, grey, and white (the uniform colors for Ohio State, one of the nation’s top college football teams). Interest in the fight was so intense that General Motors planned to shut down the late shift at its plant in Lordstown (near Youngstown) on Saturday night because so many of its workers planned to stay home and watch the fight.

Pavlik entered his dressing room in Boardwalk Hall on fight night at 8:34 PM. He was wearing a gray warm-up suit with a scarlet stripe down each leg and white piping. Mike Pavlik, trainer Jack Loew, manager Cameron Duncan, Michael Cox (a Youngstown policeman), Jack’s son (John), and Kelly’s oldest brother (Mike Jnr) were with him. Cutman Miguel Diaz, who had worked Kelly’s corner since his first pro fight, was already there.

Loew was the only trainer that Pavlik had ever had. When Kelly was nine, he began learning the rudiments of boxing under Jack’s tutelage at the Southside Boxing Club – a converted pizza joint in Youngstown. Loew was also the owner and sole employee of a company called The Driveway Kings. He sealed asphalt driveways for a living. One week before Taylor-Pavlik, he was sealing driveways in the morning before going to the gym.As Pavlik settled in the dressing room, the preliminary fights were underway. In the first bout of the evening, Ray Smith (one of Taylor’s sparring partners from Little Rock) had been knocked out by Richard Pierson (a Pavlik sparring partner). Then heavyweight Terry Smith (also from Little Rock) lost a six-round decision to Robert Hawkins.

“I got good news for you,” Diaz told Kelly. “Both of Jermain’s Taylor’s guys lost.”

The dressing room had seen better days. The industrial carpet was worn and the vinyl-topped rubdown table was scarred with discolored tape covering multiple gashes.

Referee Steve Smoger entered and gave Pavlik his final pre-fight instructions. Dr. Sherry Wulkan of the New Jersey Board of Athletic Control administered a final pre-fight physical. When they were done, Kelly yawned. Then he began text-messaging friends.

“Oklahoma [one of the top college football teams in the nation] got beat pretty good today,” Jack Loew said.

“Texas too,” Mike Pavlik added.

Mike pointed toward a television monitor by the door. “Too bad we can’t get Ohio State on that thing.”

Kelly stopped text-messaging long enough to pull up some college football scores. “Ohio State is losing to Minnesota,” he said.

“What?” his father uttered in disbelief.

Kelly smiled. “Just kidding. The Buckeyes are up 14-0; 7:22 left in the second quarter.”

He put down his cell phone and stretched out his legs on a folding chair in front of him.

Larry Merchant of HBO came in for a brief pre-fight interview. “I’ve waited for this for seven years,” Pavlik told him. “I just want to get in there and let my hands go. He’ll have to keep up with me.”

At 9:41, Kelly lay down on the carpet and began a series of stretching exercises. Ten minutes later, he stood up. “Time to put my soldier gear on,” he said. Shoes first. Then his trunks; grey with red, white, and blue trim.

When a fighter gets to the championship level, his dressing room reflects his preferences. Pavlik preferred low-key and quiet. The conversation around the room was casual, what one might expect to hear in the gym before a sparring session.

Loew began wrapping Kelly’s hands. Throughout training, the muscles in the fighter’s back had been tighter than he would have liked. Now, as Loew wrapped, Mike Pavlik massaged his son’s back and shoulders.

Mike had been a constant presence in Atlantic City. Broad-shouldered with a shaved head, he looked as though he could bench-press the Rock of Gibralter. He was enjoying the journey and, at the same time, looking after his son.

The odds had been virtually even in the days leading up to the fight with the “smart” money on Taylor and the Youngstown money on Pavlik. In the past twenty-four hours, the professional money had come in, making Jermain an 8-to-5 favorite.

At 10:17, the taping was done. “How are we doing?” Mike Pavlik asked.

“I’m very very confident,” Loew told him. “Nothing to do for this boy anymore but let him fight.”

Kelly gloved up and began hitting the pads with his trainer. “Stay behind the jab,” Loew instructed. “Jab, right, jab, right.”Each time, the follow right was a bit off target.

“Stay behind the jab and relax . . . There. That’s it. Double jab. Now let it go.”

The punches began landing with explosive power. When the pad-work was done, Kelly alternated between pacing back and forth and shadow-boxing.

Miguel Diaz put Vaseline on Kelly’s face.

The fighter hit the pads with Loew one last time.

“That’s it . . . Wow . . . Nice and easy . . . Push him back with that big long jab. Double it up . . . There you go. Back him up and you win.”

An HBO production coordinator came into the room. “Two minutes and you walk.”

Kelly stood up and moved toward the door. There had been no music, no one shouting “You da man!” Just quiet confidence and calm. Michael Cox checked his cell phone one last time. “The [Ohio State] Buckeyes won 30 to 7,” he announced. Mike Pavlik put an arm on Kelly’s shoulder. “All that work, all those years; it comes together now,” he told his son. “You were born to be here tonight.”

Youngstown was in the house. That was clear as the fighters made their way to the ring. The crowd made it sound as though the bout was being fought in Ohio. There was a thunderous roar for Pavlik and loud boos for Taylor.

Taylor came out aggressively in round one, going right after Pavlik. He was quicker than the challenger and his hands were faster. All three judges gave him the round. When the stanza was over, Jack Loew told Kelly, “Control the pace. Be patient. Stay behind the jab. It’s a basic fight.”

Round two began with more of the same. “I was surprised,” Pavlik said later. “I thought he’d try to box me more, but he came to fight. He has hand-speed and he can punch.”

Definitely, he can punch. Midway through round two, Taylor timed a right hand over a sloppy Pavlik jab. The blow landed high on the challenger’s head. Pavlik staggered backward, and the champion followed with a 15-punch barrage that put Kelly down.

“I was scared to death,” Mike Pavlik admitted later. “That’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I wouldn’t have cared if the referee had stopped it. To be honest; I was hoping it was over.”

“The first thing that went through my mind,” Kelly said in his dressing room after the fight, “was, ‘Oh, shit.’ But I heard the count. I was aware at all times. I told myself, ‘Get up; get through this.’”

Pavlik rose at the count of two, but there were 88 seconds left in the round. “I was shaky,” he admitted. “That right hand hurt. I’ve been knocked down before but there was never a buzz. It had always been a balance thing. This time, there was a tingle and my legs weren’t so good. I did what I could to survive. He hit me with some more hard shots, but I got through the round. Some guys quit when they get knocked down, and some get back up.”

There comes a time when a fighter has to dig deep within himself by himself. In the corner after round two, Kelly managed a weak smile. “I’m okay,” he told Loew. But he was bleeding from the nose and mouth.

“Stay on that double f***ing jab,” Loew ordered. “There’s a lot of time left. You have 10 more rounds to do your job.” Then, incredibly, Pavlik won round three. The punches that Taylor had thrown in the second round seemed to have taken more out of the champion than the challenger. Jermain paced himself in the stanza rather than following up on his advantage. Pavlik threw 99 punches over the three-minute period, earning the nod on each judge’s scorecard.

The die was cast. Taylor was faster. He was ahead on points throughout the bout. But inexorably, Pavlik was walking him down with non-stop aggression behind a strong double jab. More and more often, the champion found himself having to punch his way out of a corner. When the fight moved inside and one of the challenger’s hands was tied up, Kelly fought with the other rather than clinch. He made Jermain fight every second of every round.

“Jermain has a chin,” Pavlik acknowledged afterward. “I hit him with some punches, flush, right on the button early, and he didn’t budge. But then he started to wear down. In the fifth round, I thought I hurt him a bit against the ropes. But he came back with a right hand that came close to putting me in trouble again, so I reminded myself to be careful. In the seventh round, I hit him with another good right hand and his reaction was different. I saw his shoulders sag. There was that little buckle in his knees and I knew I had him.”

When the right hand that Pavlik was referring to landed, Taylor backed into a corner again. Kelly followed with a barrage of punches. “Jermain went limp,” referee Steve Smoger said later. “He was totally gone, helpless.”

Al Bello/Getty Images

Smoger stepped between the fighters. Two minutes and fourteen seconds into round seven, Kelly Pavlik was the new middleweight champion of the world. Taylor was ahead at the time of the stoppage 59-54, 58-55, 58-55 on the judges’ scorecards.

When Pavlik returned to Youngstown after the victory, a caravan of police cars and fire trucks met his SUV at the Ohio border to escort him home. And the perks kept coming. He was even the subject of a resolution passed by the United States House of Representatives praising him for his commitment and continuing loyalty to the Youngstown community.

But all good things come to an end. And in boxing, they tend to end sooner rather than later. Pavlik won a clear-cut decision in a rematch against Taylor. Then, after a successful title defense against Gary Lockett, he went up in weight and was outpointed by Bernard Hopkins. He returned to 160 pounds with knockout victories over Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Angel Espino. But on April 17, 2010, he lost his crown by decision to Sergio Martinez. Problems with alcohol and several stints in rehab followed. He retired from the ring in 2012 with a 40-2 (34 KOs) ledger.

“The main thing,” Kelly said later, looking back on it all, “is I won the world title. That’s something nobody can ever take from me.”

Thomas Hauser’s latest book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – is published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honoured Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. He will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020.

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Posted on 9:35 pm

Editor’s Pick: Winky Wright – the fighter they all tried to avoid

Winky Wright told Chris Walker about the illustrious career that took him all over the globe

“THERE’S a part of me that has to say a big thank you to Shane Mosley, because he was true to his word and he gave me a massive opportunity.”

It’s spring 2004, and Ronald “Winky” Wright has finally arrived, a masterful schooling of “Sugar” Shane forming his coronation at 154lbs. Four years previously, this had been the division to which wealthy welterweights ascended to fatten their finances, their journey to riches bypassing Wright’s neglected, forbidding territory. Winky, instead, dissected a roster of basic mandatory challengers on American soil, having spent the best part of a decade winning on the road in either breathtaking or boring fashion. Wright’s style was an effective one, but it wasn’t for everyone.

Being unfashionably late to the party did not prevent Wright from enjoying himself among high-profile fellow guests. That said, for extended portions of his early career, Winky belonged to boxing’s notorious ‘Who Needs Them Club’, and it was 14 years after he had made his debut before a showdown with the outstanding Mosley served as the platform he had craved.

“All those years on the road, fighting in those different places, I never once gave up,” Wright insists. “I always knew I was going to come back to America and fight on the big networks and beat the biggest names.”

Ignored by television and leading promoters during the infancy of his career, Wright, from Washington, D.C, but residing in Florida, set out across the Atlantic to bolster his ledger on European shows. Preferring scissors to a chainsaw, Wright was a patient southpaw with a mountainous guard, which parted on occasion when his missile jab was thrown. Fights in a variety of locations, such as France, Luxembourg and Britain, ensured Wright remained active, but dollars and distinction both eluded him.

“It could be a chore at times, but the decision to go overseas was carefully thought out and in hindsight I suppose we got the right deal,” Wright reflects. “There were some good times on the road though, great nights in London and Manchester fighting on massive UK cards. Was I aware of what people thought of my style? Yes, of course, but was I really going to go all out and risk everything in fights that could’ve spelt the end for me? Hell no.

“That safety-first style had those handling Fernando Vargas’ career thinking that I couldn’t fight, and they thought Vargas was going to be too strong and powerful for me. That fight was a massive deal on American TV, because Vargas was the pretty Olympian that everyone wanted to get behind. But this was also the fight where I was going to show everyone that I could fight, as well as do my thing.”

Wright’s battle with Vargas, a tight points defeat, occurred at the back end of 1999 and would serve as another opportunity for boxing’s outcast to obtain world title glory. An unsuccessful attempt five years earlier, partly due to a footwear mishap that saw Wright repeatedly hit the floor against Argentine veteran Julio Cesar Vasquez, was a sore point, but that failure was redeemed in 1996. A split decision win over countryman Bronko McCart brought WBO honours at 154lbs, and the belt enjoyed a dominant lap of Britain as Ensley Bingham, Steve Foster and Adrian Dodson were brutally beaten by a fighter who seemed to be enjoying himself. A loss to the excellent Harry Simon in South Africa relieved Wright of his world belt, but he would soon get another shot courtesy of Vargas, who many insiders were tipping to be a superstar. That failed to wholly materialise, and it was against Wright that the first doubts emerged.

“Looking back now, that’s still one of the lowest points of my career, because there was no way I lost that fight,” laments Wright on the majority points loss to Vargas in a superb contest during which both fighters enjoyed spells of success.

The term ‘robbery’ is often one of boxing’s most vile exaggerations, and I remind Wright that the fight was close, but he’s not to be persuaded. “Everything from the moment Vargas was in the [1996] Olympics up until the day he fought me was designed to make him be a star, and there was no way they were going to let someone like me come in and take that away from him,” Wright rails, building up a head of steam. “So much had been invested into Vargas and he was ready to take that next step, and I was chosen for him because I seemed a safe choice and because I was a defensive fighter who’d been risk-free a lot of the time. This was the fight that I’d been crying out for, for such a long time, and it was like my plan was falling into place. TV was interested in Vargas, promoters were mad about him and he had a big audience too, and all of them people were going to see me get the win over him. The result wasn’t given to me, but I knew I was the better man.”

Despite the disillusionment it caused, the Vargas setback proved to be a catalyst for the exposure and opportunities Wright yearned to receive without summarily reaching for his suitcase and passport. A seven-year winning streak encompassing an IBF title victory confirmed Wright as one of the sport’s leading fighters, and the attention that had been consistently bestowed upon his divisional peers was now directed at the road warrior whose resounding win over Mosley spat Wright out of hardcore fight circles and into the more lucrative mainstream boxing landscape.

“He [Mosley] is a true fighter, and before he fought [Oscar] De La Hoya [for the second time] in 2003, he told the world that he would face me in a unification if he was successful. [After Mosley won a controversial and unpopular decision], he was true to his word and I’m forever grateful for that. De La Hoya would not have given me that shot. He was the fight I wanted so much because he brought plenty to the table in terms of casinos and money and TV. You look at fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, both of them are extremely wealthy, but compare that to what they were making before they fought Oscar. The way to real money in this game for a long time came through De La Hoya. He was the one fighter I’m absolutely sick that I never fought. He had no interest in me whatsoever, and he even told me that himself. I was saying things to him like, ‘The defeats on your record are by guys who I’ve schooled and put beatings on, so if you beat me then there’s so much satisfaction for you because you beat the guy who beat the guys who beat you.’ He looked me straight in the eye and he said, ‘I have no idea where to even start on trying to beat you.’ Once I heard that then I knew my dream of fighting Oscar was over.”

Despite the omission of boxing’s “Golden Boy” on his ledger, Wright made do with another Mosley victory – albeit in a closer affair than the original meeting – and a wide shutout over Puerto Rican sensation Felix Trinidad. Trinidad began the fight as the favourite, but what went down was a punch-perfect clinic that had purists salivating.

“For me, Trinidad was just a hooker,” Wright opines. “A very good hooker, but you knew what punch you had to watch with him. If that’s all he’s bringing against me then you know he’s going to be in trouble. It was a fight that I knew I’d win, but I had no idea it would be so easy. The first round, I came back to my corner and I said to [trainer] Dan Birmingham, ‘This guy is trying to set me up and pull me into a false sense of security,’ because it was so easy and I expected so much better. At the end of round two, where you pick up a little bit more, I went back to the corner and told my trainer that the fight was over and it was going to be easy. He took some big shots off me that night and he did well to hear the final bell, but that was a special performance and it’s the one I get the most pleasure from.”

Wright’s raging fire burned brightest at this point, and a meeting with Jermain Taylor, fresh off ending Bernard Hopkins’ legendary middleweight reign, was next. A tense battle which frequently threatened to explode without ever actually doing so was scored a draw by the judges. It was a decision that halted Wright’s impressive streak and also a verdict which draws similar venom which was spewed following the Vargas result.

“There I was as the undisputed super-welterweight champion of the world and two years later I get to do the same against Taylor for the middleweight titles,” he recalls bitterly. “They stole that dream from me that night and I’m getting angry even thinking about it. Taylor was in his prime that night and let me tell you that I was past mine, but I still came with enough to get the decision. It annoyed me that I had to be past my prime to fight these guys, because if these chances would’ve come around ‘97-98, then there’s no way a fighter like Taylor could’ve lived with me.”

A win over a severely faded Ike Quartey later that year was the final victory of Wright’s career. A messy loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2007 prompted sustained periods of inactivity, which were only broken to accommodate half-hearted performances against Paul Williams and Peter Quillin, both of which ended in wide points defeats. A depressing ending to a story filled with courage and hope is not the fitting finale to a stay in boxing that eventually brought universal respect, and despite Wright being financially secure, his relationship with the sport that allowed him this fortune is a fractured pact that one senses will never be repaired.

“I can’t be around the sport,” he admits. “There are offers for commentary gigs, but I can’t sit there and keep quiet knowing full well a kid has just been robbed, because I know how much that hurts. I won’t be training anyone for the same reason. I’m not going to watch honest kids get taken for fools by judges. There are so many happy moments, but I should’ve finished my career unbeaten with a lot more belts and a lot more money.

“They want to criticise my style, but look at Mayweather. I remember they gave tickets away for his fights because he was so defensive and they couldn’t promote him. All of a sudden HBO bring out 24/7 and we get the bling character and he’s found his spot. He was given a chance and he ran with it and that’s all I believed I ever deserved: a chance. I’m proud of everything I walked out the sport with because I know it’s all down to me why I’ve got it.”

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Posted on 8:30 pm

Eddie Hearn: ‘Total global domination – I won’t be happy until I’ve achieved that’


In a wide-ranging in depth interview Eddie Hearn lays out his plan to conquer the boxing world to Matt Christie
THE first time Boxing News met Eddie Hearn he told us that Audley Harrison was going to win the world heavyweight title. Eleven years after that infamous prophecy, the promoter wants to discuss his latest venture: Hearn – older, wiser and even more confident – is preparing to take over the world of boxing.

It’s another audacious plan and this one, it must be said, is worth listening to. Since he hauled Harrison out of the wilderness and into a three-round drubbing at the fists of David Haye, Hearn has seen his stock rise to astronomic levels. “I am never doing this again,” Eddie muttered to himself as he was booed out of the Manchester Arena in the winter of 2010 following Haye’s victory. But getting the floundering Harrison into position just to challenge for a title would be the catalyst for Hearn’s own rebirth.

Today, Eddie Hearn is not only one of the most influential boxing promoters on the planet, he’s a worldwide brand. He can boast millions of social media followers, a best-selling book, a chart-topping podcast and memes from the No Context Hearn twitter handle go viral in seconds. Consequently, Hearn is arguably as recognisable as any of the fighters he represents, Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez included.

“It feels weird,” Hearn tells Boxing News when asked about his celebrity status. “I can’t say it wasn’t intentional. But I never set out to be a meme, I never set out to be a social media star or a brand ambassador or a podcast presenter or an author. But I kind of just roll with things. I wanted to create my own identity because I feel that in any major global sport, particularly fight sports, you have that central figure, the orchestrator, the conductor that sits at the top and plans and strategises and creates this world and this global schedule.

“Intentionally, I will step back at times because I want the fighters to have the limelight. I will get criticised because I’m in the limelight more than my fighters, and I don’t like that but, sometimes, that’s how things progress. I have to use what I have to the benefit of my fighters – if I’ve got a million followers on Instagram and a million followers on Twitter and I’ve got a fighter who has 5,000 then I have to use my own platform.”

That platform, he says, will be the key to world domination. This year has seen the launch of Matchroom Media that will allow the organisation to ramp up the exposure for Hearn, his boxers and the sport. If successful, it gives the brand what every brand desires: Independence. And in a boxing world with so many moving parts, independence represents a huge advantage over any of his promotional rivals.

Hearn isn’t looking to wipe out those rivals but, with a straight face, he insists he could do exactly that.  

“We could go out tomorrow and acquire all the other companies in boxing, we could raise the finances to buy everybody – but that’s boring,” Hearn says. “I would like to see a natural progression; it’s not about putting people out of business, it’s just about taking over and taking over globally. If we limit ourselves to just the UK and the USA, which are key markets admittedly, we’re missing a trick. Australia is a sleeping giant, Germany used to have terrestrial broadcasts and get millions of viewers, Scandanavia – sleeping giant, Mexico, which is the home of boxing as far as I’m concerned. Canada. Poland. Kazakhstan.

“Realistically, I could create offices in so many different places. I could open an office in Australia and sign 12 fighters today. Normally you go into these territories with a broadcaster and we’re in a position now with DAZN to do that. It’s a fantastic product. You look at the territories, you can see where the subscribers are coming from. Then you react to those new acquisitions. The key to success is not just to be reactive, but super-reactive.”

James Chance/Getty Images

Reactive to the needs of his fighters, too. Hearn stresses that he will do whatever it takes to keep his stars happy, make the fights they want and the sport needs, even if that means sharing them with rival promoters and networks in the short-term.

“I don’t feel like we necessarily need to sign fighters and lock them into long deals. We can have floating fighters, like Canelo Alvarez [who in January signed a two-fight deal with Matchroom]. He comes in and fights Callum Smith, Avni Yildirim and Billy Joe Saunders. Then he wants Caleb Plant. But Caleb Plant is with PBC so if we can’t make that fight on our platforms we will go collectively with Canelo and make the fight on Fox. You can’t let your ego get out of control and stop fighters from going here or there. This is the platform and this is what we’ve got to do.”

In June, Matchroom Boxing’s current five-year deal with Sky Sports expires and could, if Hearn decides not to renew, end a lengthy exclusive contract with the broadcaster. The Matchroom Boxing empire is growing internationally and in every territory bar the UK the promoter works with DAZN. It’s a conflict of interests that Hearn, while still at the negotiating table with his current employer, is acutely aware of.

“It’s a very difficult decision that’s incoming,” Hearn says. “We’ve got six months to go on our contract with Sky. We’re in deep discussions about extending that. We are also having conversations with DAZN. And we go back to, ‘You are not just aligning with some British boxing, you are aligning with a stable, with Matchroom, with Eddie Hearn and the huge noise and cavalry that comes with it.’ It’s a very tough decision for us because Sky, as they have been in many of our sports, have been a huge part of our success. Without Sky, we wouldn’t be where we are. But I need a partner that sees my vision and I need a partner that is prepared to invest in that vision. That vision isn’t just being limited to ‘six shows here and four shows there’. It is the launch of Matchroom Media; we want to do the production, we want to create 24/7 [documentaries] for every show, we want to create our own talk show once a week, we want to create all of our own social media content. When you create a narrative, it has to be a ‘cradle to grave’ mindset. We create the event, the narrative and see the whole journey through.

“Sky’s production is excellent. It’s not like we want to take over the production because we don’t think Sky is excellent but we need to control that narrative. That’s not because we only want certain people to contribute and they have to say certain things, not at all, it’s just that I need to create that whole process from start to finish. I want more investment in content. I want to bring back Ringside. I want to spend almost as much money on content and shoulder programming and telling the whole story. I’m not saying Sky don’t want to do that, but it’s a different kind of deal. This deal is not just about the money, it’s about the vision that I have for the sport. We all know that Sky have the best platform for pay-per-view, we all know they have an incredible brand, they have great cross promotion across other sports, we couldn’t be happier with them and that’s the truth. Now we have to see what’s right for the business, for our fighters and it has to align and match up.

“But it’s true, that one boxing platform would be a lot easier if we were on that one platform globally. At the moment we’re saying, ‘Watch Sky Sports in the UK’ and people will message me and ask if they can watch it on DAZN. All I will say is we’ve got a very difficult decision on our hands but we are very happy where we are.”

Perhaps Hearn’s greatest success has been his ability to draw the masses to the sport with the biggest fights and the Sky Sports machine has been a huge driver in that. But Hearn insists that lesser fights – even trade fights with the right story – can be crossover successes if marketed differently.

“We need to align content with different platforms,” Hearn explains. “So if DAZN are growing their subscription base in a certain territory, that content has to sit on different platforms in that territory. That’s difficult with Sky Sports because they will want that content to sit [exclusively] on Sky Sports, and there is an argument for that. But I would like to see certain content – say for Josh Kelly-Conor Benn if we get that far – sitting on the BBC. So, for example, the BBC or ITV or Netflix show the 24/7-style programmes. Then the tentacles reach out and grow, draw in new audiences. If you just show the promotional shows on Sky or DAZN, okay you might get 100,000 viewers but those viewers are already ‘in’. What you have to do is use the content on other platforms to attract people who are not already subscribed and would already watch the fight regardless. It won’t just help the growth of the fight, it will help the growth of the sport.”  

It’s the Monday morning before Hearn will promote the first British boxing show of the year on Sky. The snow is falling outside the stable-converted offices which sit alongside the sprawling Matchroom HQ in Brentwood and the weather is threatening to play havoc with the undercard of Josh Warrington’s first bout since 2019. Flights that will transport opponents to London are being cancelled and Hearn’s phone, which is never far from his fingertips, lights up with alerts and calls countless times during our conversation.

Hearn insists he reads “everything”, whether that’s messages, tweets or articles, and he takes the good with the bad. During the last decade, Eddie has seen his reputation among the hardcore soar and then plummet after a series of pay-per-view events left plenty of fans feeling like they were being exploited alongside concerns expressed on these pages that the model marginalises the sport. Hearn understands the criticism more than one might expect.

“How do we get to a level where those fights that attract 250-300,000 pay-per-view buys are not pay-per-view fights? That’s always the argument. Is Usyk-Chisora or Whyte-Povetkin really worthy of pay-per-view? The answer is it does 300,000 buys, so yeah. But how big would the sport be if those fights were not on pay-per-view? The only way that’s possible is to have bigger rights fees from the broadcasters and that’s very difficult in the world we live in today. It’s not a great time to go to a broadcaster and say, ‘We want an increase on our rights fees so we can do less pay-per-views.’ But really, a pay-per-view should be a fight that attracts 5 or 600,000 buys, minimum.

“In America, it’s gone backwards. Now, they sell 100 or 200,000 pay-per-views and it’s deemed a success. But how can you build a fighter by doing just 100,000 buys? Pay-per-view used to be for fights that did a lot more than that but because boxing has got so expensive, broadcasters have no choice but to do pay-per-view.

“We all know that big fights do big numbers. But it’s not like any old boxing does great numbers. A broadcaster won’t look at the numbers and then agree to double their rights fees because what they’re paying, for the audience value, is about right.

“It’s a really difficult mix. In an ideal world, we would give you more big fights as part of your subscription. I don’t want an argument with fight fans every single time I do a pay-per-view or always have to justify it to you when you write about it. But that’s where we get to. Yet every time we do a pay-per-view, the numbers suggest I was right – but I am well aware how much bigger those numbers would be if it wasn’t on pay-per-view.”    

Pay-per-view, or at least the widespread use of it, is just one thorn in the sport’s side. There are others, like the policies of the sanctioning bodies. The World Boxing Association continue to recognise multiple champions per division and, last month, staged a bout containing Trevor Bryan and Bermane Stiverne as a world heavyweight title fight. The WBC are giving away titles. The IBF are ordering ludicrous mandatories. It’s a preposterous situation that anyone with designs on ‘taking over’ the sport must address.

“That’s where you create something that is bigger than the sanctioning bodies,” Hearn responds. “I’m the only person capable of doing that. There is no one else. I am the only one that has the balls, the energy, the vision to do it. No disrespect to the others but Bob Arum ain’t gonna f**king go and take over the world. Frank Warren ain’t gonna go and take over the world. Al Haymon ain’t gonna go and take over the world. This is the chance, now.”

So what is the magic solution?

“That’s a good question. One of the best moments I had was the other week when Josh Warrington vacated the IBF featherweight title. All Josh wants to do is fight a big fight. When we relinquished, there were no more legal letters, no more purse bids. Now he can do what he wants. He has no mandatory, it means he can fight the fighters he wants to fight.

“But the hard thing is that the fighters care, they want to win a world title. There’s never going to be a Matchroom belt, I have no interest in that. So you either work with one [sanctioning body] or you work with a fair attitude; you understand the rules and if you need to give up a title, you do. There has to be less focus on the belts moving forward, I’ve been guilty of not doing that. I’ve promoted WBA regular titles as real world titles when they’re not real world titles. But we’re not at a point – yet – where we can just say, ‘let’s get rid of the belts.’ But we might be if we can’t make the fights that we need to make for the good of the sport.”

Plenty will scoff at Hearn’s plan. Yet there is renewed desire inside the 41-year-old to succeed, a desire that wasn’t there when Boxing News sat down with Hearn in New York, just days before Andy Ruiz Jnr upset Anthony Joshua 20 months ago. Instead, there was a weariness about Eddie Hearn as he went from plane to plane, country to country, meeting to meeting. He struggled to come to terms with Joshua’s loss and, seven days later, still in New York and preparing for Gennady Golovkin vs Steve Rolls, he started to ask himself some serious questions.

“Ruiz-Joshua was so high level in terms of stress,” Hearn explains. “[The next] Saturday was my 40th birthday. My missus had left me a card from the kids, they’d drawn in it, ‘Happy Birthday Daddy’. I looked at it and I just thought, ‘What the f**king hell am I doing?’ It was a ‘What’s it all about?’ moment. We always say, family first, business a close second. But it’s really close. Because our business is our family. My dad created this in a snooker hall in Romford.

“But I look back at that time and I look back on photos of myself and I looked f**ked, totally f**ked.”  

Last year, his dad Barry Hearn survived a second heart attack. Eddie’s grandfather and great-grandfather died from cardiac arrests while in their forties.

“You try and stay healthy,” Hearn answers when asked about his concerns about his own heart. “You use your success, and I mean the money, to make sure you get the necessary help. Once a year I get a heart scan, MRI, have all the arteries checked. I am destined for a heart attack, destined. But hopefully you catch it before it comes. My dad had his [first] heart attack in his early fifties. His dad had his heart attack at 44 and died, his dad had his heart attack at 43 and died. They were all smoking about 40-a-day by the way, and so did my dad when he was younger. I don’t smoke but I am a big lump and I do have unbelievable stress. But this year has been really good for me. I’ve had a year off! Now I’m so alive and dying to do it. No one else can do this.”

Hearn’s phone flashes again. The opponent he managed to find for Hopey Price in the middle of the night is on his way. Hearn smiles.  

“Why am I making six-round fights on the undercard? I know why. I’m a sycophant. I love it. And I can’t let that go because I love it. Hopey Price’s opponent dropped out and I make it my job for the day to find a new opponent. In the middle of the night I found some geezer in Mexico who is now on a plane and he’ll be here tomorrow.

“But that’s good news for fight fans. I’m not some corporate guy who’s said, ‘Do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to get involved in boxing.’ Sometimes the fight fans forget that – I’ve been going to live boxing for 32, 33 years. I’ve been at every major fight, virtually, in that period. I’ve been in the changing rooms, I’ve been in the hospitals, I’ve been at people’s homes, I’ve stayed in camps. So I am boxing through and through but sometimes they [the fans] don’t see that. And I’m not looking for appreciation but it’s good news for them.

“People might read this and say, ‘What a knob’ or ‘He’s deluded’ but it’s good news for them. Because if I get this right, then boxing is in a good place. I don’t care what people say about me but the truth is, if it wasn’t for me, boxing wouldn’t be in this position now. I’m not saying it’s all down to me but we wouldn’t, as a sport, be where we are in this country if I didn’t put the time and effort in. And we won’t get to where we need to be if I’m out, because if I’m out, the others [promoters] don’t really try. They’re all desperate to beat me.”

It’s true, Hearn’s unflinching self-assuredness will wind many people up. Big egos do that in every walk of life. The promoter is also aware that he has to keep that ego in check and thanks his family – “My dad tells me twice a week not to be Billy Big B*****ks” – for doing just that.

“My wife is secretly a huge supporter but she might as well be a Twitter troll,” Hearn chuckles. “She’ll watch these No Context Hearn clips and look at them in disgust. My kids are so unimpressed. Your feet get planted back on the ground very quickly.

“But I’m my own biggest critic. I don’t know why that is, maybe it’s my subconscious playing a trick with me so I don’t get complacent. I don’t have people around me patting me on the back and fluffing my pillow telling me I’m unbelievable, telling me I’m the king of boxing.

“I feel like I’m at four or five out of 10 in terms of what I can do and where I need to be. That should put everyone on notice about my ambition and my mindset and what I’ve still got to achieve. So if I’m at four, what is the other six? The answer is total global domination. I won’t be happy until I have achieved that.”

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Posted on 10:46 am

Editor’s Pick: Mike Tyson – what might have been

Steve Lott – a crucial member of Team Tyson in the early days – revealsed some extraordinary insight on why he might just have been the greatest underachiever in boxing history

STEVE LOTT lived with a young Mike Tyson for three years and has known him for 35. A crucial member of the team – alongside the likes of Cus D’Amato, Jim Jacobs and Kevin Rooney – who turned Tyson from angry young man into one of the most fearsome fighters in history, Lott claims to know the workings of Tyson’s mind better than anyone.

Has the Tyson story worked out the way you thought it would?

It’s changed, of course. It started out great in ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88 but it changed dramatically with the introduction of Robin Givens and Don King. And people think that Mike just self-destructed. It wasn’t like that. In the same meticulous way that Cus D’Amato, Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs looked at every single facet and made every single decision for Mike that resulted in him becoming the world’s most popular athlete, on the opposite side of the coin King and Givens made decisions that were in their best interests that resulted in the destruction of Mike Tyson. There was two completely separate objectives.

What if Mike had stayed with Kevin Rooney?

Well, it didn’t look like Mike was getting any worse, that’s for sure. If you look at the Tucker fight and the knockouts over Biggs and then Holmes, and then Tubbs, then Spinks and being voted the world’s most popular athlete, even when Mike broke up with Robin Givens and came back to the office to apologise to Bill in that summer of ’88, Bill told him the fights he had lined up, with [Francesco] Damiani in Italy in an outdoor stadium, with [Adilson] Rodrigues in South America in a huge stadium, with [Frank] Bruno in England, Lennox Lewis, then Evander [Holyfield]. Mike was thrilled and the big fights that would have taken place that would have been the monster fights would have been Tyson and Tommy Morrison and the fight of all fights would have been Tyson and George Foreman. Those are the fights that would have happened if he’d stayed with Kevin and Bill. But missing out on those fights wasn’t as bad as what happened to him outside the ring, losing his hero status, from going in 1987 and being voted the world’s most popular athlete to two years later the New York Daily News, the biggest newspaper in the world at the time, voted Mike the most unpopular celebrity. 

How long do you think he would have reigned for if he had stayed with Bill and Kevin?

That would have depended upon the competition, of course. But unless there
was a distraction I would have thought that Mike would have found a way to beat
the likes of Lewis, Holyfield, Moorer and Foreman. The guys that we are talking
about were fine fighters but they all got hit, and whenever Mike fought a guy
who was not elusive, it was a rather easy fight for Mike.

Where does he stand on the list of all-time great heavyweight based on his
accomplishments?

Now there are two parts to that and I always try in my own way to
distinguish it and I think there’s a difference between great and best.
Greatness involves a lot of stuff. It involves not only the ability of a
fighter, what his accomplishments were in the ring, his notoriety, his hero
status, his longevity… A lot of stuff goes in that package. Best means you put
two fighters in the ring, who will win? Greatest? You have the Greatest Of All
Time, Ali, of course. Number two, probably Joe Louis. Number three, maybe Rocky
Marciano. Maybe Evander at four. That’s putting all that stuff together. The
best, Ali and Tyson. Now I don’t know who would win that. I would give Ali the
edge in the first fight, if they fought more than once. Mike would have been
very nervous. After the first fight, and when Mike realises Ali was easy to hit
and not a great puncher, the second fight I would bet on Mike. The greatest?
Mike would be down the list because of the unpleasant things he’s done outside
the ring, with the rape, the ear biting, his demeanour. Everyone will vote him
down the list on greatness, but best? That’s different.

Was Mike a wasted talent or did he fulfil his potential by becoming
heavyweight champion of the world?

That’s a very interesting question. Usually, when a fighter trains they
train at 50 per cent, 60 per cent or 80 per cent, and when they fight they
fight at 100 per cent of whatever they got. Mike was the opposite in that there
were some sparring sessions when Mike was spectacular, bobbing, weaving and
coming up and he never fought like that. Maybe, after the Spinks fight, had he
become more relaxed, some of that would have come out and I’m telling you he
could not have fought any worse than he did against Biggs, Tubbs and Holmes and
Spinks. He never fought 10 per cent of what was in him, yet he still beat those
guys. Even without the stuff he was doing in training, he blew out everyone. So
potential, I don’t know if he ever fought up to 50, 60 or 70 per cent.

Will anyone break his record of being world heavyweight champion at 20?

It is possible but the thing that makes it difficult is mathematics. There
are less gyms around today than there were back then. If there are less gyms,
there are less fighters. If there are less fighters there is a lesser pool of
talent from which a fighter can rise, especially at heavyweight. There’s a
difference between the United States and the UK. In the UK, there’s really no
baseball [US] football or basketball. So any big kid who has athletic ability
would probably try boxing, like Klitschko, or Joshua, Lennox… They are not
sophisticated fighters but they are so f***** big, it gives them the edge. If
you’re in the United States, it’s completely different. If you’re 12, 13, 14
and you’re 6ft 2in and 215 [lbs] and someone’s father says let’s try baseball,
and the kid sees the beautiful fields, the beautiful girls, then the dad says,
let’s try football. And he sees beautiful fields, beautiful girls… Let’s try
basketball, and he sees the beautiful arena, the beautiful girls… Then he says,
‘Son, if you become heavyweight champion you can make more money in one fight
than your whole career in another sport.’ They drive 20 miles to a gym, a spit
bucket of a dump. ‘No way, Dad. No way.’ So I don’t think there’s a chance of
an American fighter ever becoming a great world heavyweight champion again.
It’s just not possible.

Also, Mike was having 10 fights a year at the start, that’s not often done
these days.

That’s because the managers are either stupid or they don’t want to spend
their own money to do what is in the best interest of a fighter. If a manager
had a heavyweight kid, 18 years old, turning pro, and wanted to do what is best
for the fighter, if he wanted the kid in New York to fight on a show in Chicago
the Chicago promoter would say, ‘Really? Your guy is not a draw. We don’t need
him.’ Then the manager would say, ‘I will pay for my fighter. I will pay for
the opponent. You just put the fight on.’ Then the promoter would say, ‘You got
it.’ And they would do that two weeks later somewhere else, then two weeks
after that somewhere else. And that’s what Jim and Bill were doing with Mike.
Mike was getting no purses whatsoever. They were paying for everything. Why?
Because Mike needed that experience. Jim and Bill were spending $1,000 a week
on sparring when Mike was still an amateur. That will never happen again.

What do you think Cus, Jim and Bill would have made of what has happened
to Mike?

They would be very sad. Jim and Bill, Bill especially because Mike sued
Bill and it is very emotional when someone you love and someone you put a lot
of time, effort, money and energy into sues you. It would have hurt Jim if he
was alive at the time and it definitely would have hurt Cus D’Amato. Don’t
forget, Cus made Jim and Bill the managers. Cus was very smart and no one cared
for Mike more than Cus and he made every decision for Mike based on what’s best
for Mike. Cus put Mike in the hands of people he trusted and that would have
hurt Cus.

What do you think people will remember Mike for?

I believe that most likely only boxing people will remember Mike as a boxer of incredible ability. Outside of the world of boxing they will remember Mike and think, ‘Yeah, he was a champion. And that tattoo. And The Hangover. And the One Man Show.’ All that stuff. The boxing people will remember the boxing, the rape and the ear biting. The non-boxing people will just remember him as a celebrity. Just a celebrity.

Read the Descent of Mike Tyson here

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Posted on 7:03 am

Editor’s Pick: The Disappearance of the Billionaire Heavyweight – Whatever Happened to Roman Greenberg?

Roman Greenberg was tipped to become boxing’s first billionaire heavyweight before he suffered his first loss and disappeared. Elliot Worsell investigated

“SOMEBODY wins and somebody loses,” wrote W.C. Heinz in The Professional. “There’s as much of a story in a fighter losing as in a fighter winning, maybe more.’

This is the story of Roman Greenberg and it begins
with a futile Facebook search: R-O-M-A-N. G-R-E-E-N-B-E-R-G.

Cedric Boswell, an old acquaintance, tried spelling
the name myriad ways, had a root around Instagram for good measure, but could
find no trace of Greenberg’s existence. Resigned to failure, the American
heavyweight then began thinking how unusual it was for a man in his thirties to
eschew any form of social media presence and replaced initial curiosity with a
greater concern for his wellbeing. He hoped he was doing okay.

“I always wondered what happened to him,” Boswell told
Boxing News. “Couldn’t help it.”

The last time Boswell saw Greenberg it was August 2008 and he was slumped against the ropes of an Atlanta boxing ring having received a series of unanswered punches to the face. They were thrown by Boswell, thrown without a modicum of concern for Greenberg’s wellbeing, and designed to get him out of there. Out of his way. Out of the ring. Out of the heavyweight rankings. They were designed to erase him.

Before that moment, Roman Greenberg was undefeated in
27 pro fights and seemingly on course to crack America and cash in on his
Jewish heritage and no shortage of skill. Jews believed he was destined to
become their first world heavyweight champion [Max Baer held the belt in 1934
but historians claim Baer was only a quarter Jewish], excitable promoters
tipped him to become boxing’s first “billionaire heavyweight”, and Angelo
Dundee, upon watching him train, was reported to have labelled him the fastest
heavyweight he’d seen since Muhammad Ali.

Greenberg was in on it as well. Fifteen years ago,
fuelled by this fervour, he was sitting ringside at York Hall, Bethnal Green in
a long, black Matrix-like leather jacket regaling me with his plans to become
European heavyweight champion in 2004 and then “go on to world titles”. He was
just 21. “I think there is a good possibility that will happen,” he added,
confidently, “and that is what we are all working towards.”

When he said “we” it was meant in the team sense. He ensured every member of this team – his “we” – was correctly jotted down in my notepad, an indelible memory from that night in the East End, and emphasised their importance. There was Robert Waterman, his promoter, and Jim Evans, David Porat and Steve Bernath, his trainers, all of whom took care of Roman when he’d arrive in Maidenhead five or six weeks before a scheduled fight. “My career has gone brilliantly so far,” Roman said. “I couldn’t be happier. Those guys are all doing their job, and I just have to do mine.”

For Greenberg, a man whose family left the former
Soviet Union for Vienna, Austria when he was six, only to then move to Israel
four years later, a boxing ring was always a symbol of consistency, while trips
to England offered the chance to spread his wings and escape a country that
made his family wait two years for citizenship. “Without citizenship, you have
no rights, nothing,” he said.

Born in Moldova, Greenberg, encouraged by his father,
took up boxing at 11, won silver medals for Israel at the European and World
junior championships, but saw a 2004 Olympic dream dashed on account of the
Israeli sports authorities’ refusal to provide enough financial support.
Waterman, the promoter who befriended a 16-year-old Greenberg in Tel-Aviv in
1998, tried to help fund the fighter’s journey to Athens, but, in the end, the
greater infrastructure was lacking to make it feasible.

Instead, Greenberg, with the Star of David on his
shorts, decided to turn pro in 2001. “I am a Jewish fighter who represents all
Jews,” he announced. “It is important for people to see there are Jewish
boxers. If I succeed, all Jews succeed.”

In six years, Greenberg won 27 consecutive pro fights.
He was heavily showcased on the BBC, he boxed in Monte Carlo, Hollywood, Las
Vegas and New York, and he regularly sparred the likes of David Haye and
Michael Sprott, often holding his own. Yet there were suspicions even back
then, even with momentum in full flow, that the hype outweighed the substance.

“Roman Greenberg is a neat, tidy boxer, but I’ve been
hearing rumours Mike Holden has put him down in sparring, and it doesn’t look
good,” Mark Potter, a former British heavyweight title contender, told me in
2004. “He’s been kept away on dinner shows and stuff, and it’s hard to keep an
eye on him.”

Similar testimonies were available elsewhere, as will
always be the case whenever a young fighter is powered by hype, but there were
no such concerns among the inner circle. At least none made public.

“The first time he boxed in New York we went to a
press conference and all the seats had a bit of paper on them,” said Jim Evans,
Greenberg’s coach. “On the paper it said, ‘Roman Greenberg is expected to be
the first billionaire boxer.’ I had a row with Robert Waterman. I said, ‘Who
put that on the bloody chairs?’ He said, ‘Well, because he’s a Jew, some people
think he is so marketable he could be the first billionaire in boxing.’ I said,
‘Robert, what are we doing putting all this pressure on this young kid?’”

“I don’t think that bothered him,” is Waterman’s take
on the weight of expectation. “I think what bothered him were personal issues.
I think he was incredibly homesick to a level we didn’t appreciate. He came
from a very difficult family background and there were always issues that
needed his attention and were tough to deal with from afar.

“I don’t think the pressure was a problem, but I do
think he was made to feel a bit of star. Being young and inexperienced, he
didn’t live the life as a result of that. Though incredibly nervous, he
believed his natural ability and skill would see him through. If he didn’t
train hard enough, he’d be saved on the day.”

Ten years ago, in what would prove to be his final
fight, Greenberg, stunned in round two, was saved not by his own talent but by
Bill Clancy, a referee. The only person who’d seen it coming was Cedric
Boswell, the one responsible for it.

“I’d never heard of him,” said Boswell, now 49. “When
I saw the people he’d fought, I realised he hadn’t fought anybody. Also, where
I’m from, I’d seen his style a million times before. My own style is similar to
that. I knew he couldn’t show me something I’d never seen before. There was
nothing to worry about. He didn’t have any power and I knew I was faster than
him. If you’re fighting a heavyweight with no power, what’s there to be afraid
of?”

In effect, Boswell skim-read the fawning press
releases and promptly discarded them. He then heard people speak glowingly on
Greenberg’s behalf and deemed it not an indication of a support network but,
rather, a sign of weakness.

“We did a little press conference before the fight and
then went to a radio station and were sitting next to each other and talking,”
Boswell continued. “He talked a little, but his manager was talking about how
he was going to beat me and all this stuff. So, I told him, ‘You’re not going
to be able to fight for him. Roman’s got to get in the ring and do it himself.’

“I looked at Roman and said, ‘Listen, brother, I’ve
seen a whole lot of things you’ve done, and you haven’t shown me nothing. When
we get in that ring, I’m going to beat your ass.’ I saw his eyes drop and knew
right then I had him. He didn’t believe in himself.”

With the benefit of hindsight, and a knockout win,
Boswell now questions the pace at which Greenberg was moved, condemning a
record littered with too many “tomato cans” and too many distance fights. He
wonders whether Greenberg ever had to dig deep and show his mettle.

“I saw in the first round he wasn’t really there to
impose his will,” remembered Boswell, who “thanked God” every night for landing
the fight. “I was trying to pick up the pace and he was boxing with a sparring
partner’s mentality. He wanted to hold on and then break and be friends. I knew
he wasn’t ready, mentally, for a fight.

“I think he had potential, though. I think he had a
lot of potential to do well in the heavyweight division if they had moved him
correctly. But they didn’t move him right.”

That’s the surface-level reading of Roman Greenberg’s
demise. It’s one that deals in records and facts and footage of him being
overwhelmed against the ropes, and it’s one with which we are familiar. Delve a
little deeper, however, go beneath the hype and its subsequent implosion, get
to know the human being behind the persona, and you might discover the root of
the problem.

In the case of Greenberg, the human being had human
problems, chief of which was his mother’s cancer diagnosis in the weeks
preceding his bout against Boswell. Described as being in a “terrible state”,
and constantly crying in the gym, Greenberg was sent home by Evans, told to get
his head straight, and return to Maidenhead in five days. Evans said if he
didn’t see him in five days, the fight was off.

Greenberg returned in the allotted time. Better for
the break, better for having seen his mother, he was then informed by his coach
he’d be picked up at seven-thirty the next morning for his first run back. “I
went around his flat and he walked out looking like Quasimodo,” recalled Evans,
who learned Greenberg had somehow twisted his back and sent him for a 10-day
course of physiotherapy.

“This was a predominant feature of the problem,”
Waterman confirmed. “He’d be in fairly decent shape when he left but come back
out of shape. We’d then be playing catch-up in training and he would generally
get a niggling injury because of this.

“In retrospect, none of us should have let him go
through with that fight. It was he who wanted it. Possibly I wasn’t the best
promoter or manager at the time. I take some responsibility for it.”

“I cancelled the fight in America and they were going
mad at me,” Evans said. “They were telling me to keep it on. But I knew he was
in a terrible state. I said, ‘Look, Roman, everybody can see you’re injured. I
don’t want you to fight.’ He said, ‘No, I want the fight. I want the money for
my mum.’”

Realising the importance of the payday, Evans issued Greenberg an ultimatum. He told him to come back the following day, do eight rounds of sparring with Michael Sprott, the other heavyweight in the Evans gym, and win every round. “To be perfectly honest, he didn’t win the eight rounds,” said Evans. “He certainly lost the first three.”

Even so, the coach had asked Sprott to “put him under
the cosh”, trade vernacular for knock him out, and the ease with which
Greenberg coped with the pressure, and navigated the eight rounds, convinced
everyone watching he deserved a chance. The next day, Greenberg coasted through
12 rounds and lost not one.

The eventual fight, though, was another matter.
Looking back, Waterman concedes it was the wrong “crossroads fight” to take and
classifies Boswell as a “contender in the Who Needs Him Club”. But he also
rightly points out that many heavyweights have experienced losses like the one
Greenberg suffered against ‘The Boz’ and gone on to great success. “Wladimir
Klitschko springs to mind,” he said.

At first, it was just a defeat. A surprising one, no
doubt, but a defeat all the same. It was the 26-year-old’s Ross Purrity moment,
to stick with the Klitschko theme, and only its blowback, its gravity, could be
understood, perhaps even forecast, by those acquainted with the human being.

“Jim said to me, ‘He’s never going to box again,’”
recalled Waterman. “I said, ‘Give him six to eight weeks and he’ll be going mad
wanting to.

“But I totally misread it. I actually think we all
misread Roman, Jim included. We all thought Roman was incredibly cool and calm
and, if anything, too laid-back. But I think it’s a bit like the ducks swimming
across the lake. Everything is serene and calm above the water but beneath the
water those feet are going like crazy.

“I think Roman was like that. He was incredibly nervous. His social background, what he’d been through, and being the Russian man, meant you had to be strong and not bothered visibly. But I would say, as a result of that loss, he had a bit of a breakdown.”

John Gichigi/Getty Images

A distraught Greenberg returned to England the day
after the Boswell fight and then left for Israel on the Tuesday. Jim Evans, the
man from whom he rented a flat, the coach he considered part of his team and
therefore part of his extended family, would never hear from him again.

“I couldn’t tell you where he is or what he’s doing,”
said Evans, whose late wife, Georgina, was “absolutely heartbroken” when it
became clear Greenberg, the young boxer she loved like a son, wasn’t likely to
return. “Over 10 years now and I haven’t heard a word from him. That was the
end of Roman Greenberg. He just vanished off the face of the Earth. It’s
absolutely crazy.”

Evans admits he’s partly to blame for the
communication breakdown. Old-school in his approach, he has long held the
belief that a fighter should contact the coach if they want to maintain a
relationship and argues it’s not the job of the coach to pester the fighter,
active or otherwise.

“The trouble is, I never chase anybody,” Evans said,
almost apologetically. “You could be the best boxer in the world living next
door to me and I wouldn’t go after you. You have to come and see me.

“My boxers, I don’t even ring them. If they don’t turn
up to the gym, that’s their problem. I tell my other trainers, ‘Don’t you ring
those blinking boxers up. If they can’t ring you and tell you they’re going to
the gym, don’t worry about them. They’re grown men.’”

“Jim doesn’t know how to reach him,” said Robert
Waterman. “I have – a few times. I’ve even visited him a few times.”

Two years ago, Waterman and Greenberg convened in
Haifa and over dinner the former fighter revealed boxing professionally, the
whole process, had been one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He told
Waterman his major regret was that he never took it seriously, and then, to his
old promoter’s surprise, hit him with the kicker. “He said I made his life too
easy,” Waterman explained. “That was something I had to think about.”

Dennis Hobson, Waterman’s co-promoter at Fight Academy, had often wanted to warn the team behind Greenberg – the men once scribbled down in my notepad – about the perils of pampering but never felt he had the license to do so.

“I saw the potential,” he said, “but the difference
was they were in love with him. They were blinded by love, especially Robert.
He was in love with him because he’s Jewish himself. He thought he had the
golden goose on his hands.

“But it didn’t really do Roman any good because he was
there wiping his backside at every whim. Sometimes you have to say to them, ‘Hold
on, you’re taking the p**s now. You have to go and do that for yourself.’
You’ve got to take them out of their comfort zone, so they’re not fazed when
the going gets tough.

“It’s like having a beautiful girlfriend and not being
able to see past the good looks. I thought he had absolutely everything –
marketability and ability – but when he stepped up, when he got hit on the chin
or isn’t having a good day, could he hang in there? Ultimately, that’s what
found him out. I don’t think he had the tenacity and the desperate hunger to
achieve.”

Having had a decade to reflect, Waterman doesn’t
dispute this.

“People used to say I was too nice,” he said.
“Everyone was looking after Roman like he was a member of their family. If he
needed to get somewhere, he had a car. If he needed to go somewhere, he had a
ticket. If he needed to stay somewhere, he had a bedroom. He never had any
issues. He never lived the life.”

Waterman estimates he has met Greenberg on “probably
five or six” occasions since Boswell spoiled the fairy tale, and says that
Greenberg, racked with guilt, once told him he had been meaning to call Jim
Evans, but that the passing of time made it increasingly difficult. He said he
only had himself to blame, yearned to turn back the clock, and had even
explored the possibility of a comeback. Waterman, in response, assured him it
wasn’t too late.

“The problem was he now had commitments with family
and couldn’t fund the process,” he said. “My colleagues and I were happy to
help, but we weren’t happy to fund the whole process. He wanted to have enough
of a salary to be able to look after his family, which we all agreed on. I took
my hat off to him for that. It showed he was taking care of his
responsibilities. The sums just didn’t add up in the end.”

In the intervening years, Greenberg, a 36-year-old
father of three, has worked security of the anti-terrorism variety – “I don’t
mean dealing with drunken brawls,” Waterman clarified – and has now given up
any hope of returning, much to Waterman’s relief.

“My gut told me if we had got it restarted we’d have
found out he wasn’t a changed man in respect to his discipline,” he said.

“On one occasion in Israel he picked me up from the
airport and took me to a hotel. I said I’d be leaving in a few days’ time and
he said, ‘Let me take you to the airport.’ I told him it was going to be early
in the morning and that it was no problem. I knew he wasn’t great in the
morning. But he said, ‘No, I insist.’

“Anyway, he never showed up and wasn’t available on
the phone. A few days later, he reappeared on the phone apologising.”

Jim Evans, despite 10 years of silence, holds no ill
feeling. “Such a nice bloke,” is how he describes the absent fighter, before
saying he possessed the best “heavyweight boxing brain” he’d ever known.
Waterman, meanwhile, reckons the man who speaks fluent Russian, Hebrew and
English, with a cockney accent, as well as German and Spanish, might have been
“too smart” for boxing.

“I know this will sound a bit pathetic, but I think I
grieved,” Waterman admitted. “I didn’t grieve the loss of a boxing career, I
grieved the loss of relative. To me, Roman was like a member of my family.
Everyone loved him. He came to my family for Passover and my parents’ house for
Friday night dinner, which is quite a big thing among Jewish people. In fact,
his first car was given to him by my father.

“From my family’s perspective, nobody has a bad word
to say about him. It was upset, not anger. Commercially, people may have felt
let down by him, but, in retrospect, he had to make the decisions. As long as
he made them for the right reasons – health and happiness – I don’t really have
a problem with what’s happened.”

Certainly, commercially speaking, Greenberg lost out.
Though never destined to become boxing’s first billionaire, there was once a
three million dollar offer to fight Mike Tyson, just before Tyson was shocked
by Danny Williams in 2004, as well as a three hundred and fifty thousand dollar
offer to face Vitali Klitschko in 2007. “You can take this as gospel,” said
Evans, “because I’m telling you.”

More recently, five or six years ago, a Greenberg link
from the good old days contacted Evans with a different kind of proposition.
The voice on the phone belonged to Israeli David Porat, the heavyweight’s
one-time technical coach, who said: “I’ve got a couple of twin brothers in
Haifa and I want you to sign them.” Evans could only laugh. “Not for me, mate,”
he replied. “I’ve had enough of these foreign boxers.”

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Posted on 10:22 am