- April 11th, 2008
STATUS: Owner of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, the world’s oldest active gym, circa 1937.
CHILDHOOD HEROES: “Superman I watched quite a bit. My real hero was my father (Edward). He got me started in boxing. Worked with sports all his life. One of the founders of the Police Athletic League. Worked with the United States Olympic Committee. Was manager of several U.S. Olympic teams. And a real fine gentleman. He was a police officer for 25 years.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Gunga Din.”
HOBBIES/INTERESTS: “Played baseball and wrestled in college. I like to fish and travel.”
FAVORITE MEAL: “Spaghetti and meatballs.”
FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR: “Chocolate.”
EARLY BOXING MEMORY: “I’ll show you a picture on my wall where I’m six years old. And I’m with Jersey Joe Walcott. For a PAL picnic in Newark. That’s my first recollection of boxing.”
FUNNY BOXING MEMORY: “Well, there’s always a funny anecdote. I’ve seen two people get knocked down at the same time in here. I’ve seen fighters whose trunks have split or even fallen down. There’s always humor in the gym. One person, many people may raise an eyebrow to, I think Mitch Green has a heckuva personality. He loves the kids that are here. Always playing with the kids. But he’s just so loud and egotistical that half the time I’m telling him to be quiet. But he’s got a heart of gold. When he’s up here, he’s a different person than when he’s on the outside. Talking with all the kids, playing with all the kids, helps everybody. And will constantly talk and talk and talk about himself. He’s a real fine person.”
GREATEST BOXING MOMENT: “Watching Sonny Liston lose to Muhammad Ali the first time. The second time was very questionable. But the first fight in Florida was very dramatic. Ali was the underdog. He was someone that nobody liked, he had a big mouth. He was going in there with Liston, who at the time was the biggest, baddest man around. And he went and did what he said he was going to do. I thought that was very significant.”
MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “Finding out that one of our fighters, Stephan Johnson, was in a coma and subsequently passed away. That was three years ago. Against Paul Vaden of California, who has since been in the gym many times but he has since stopped boxing.”
FAVORITE BOXERS TO WATCH: “Sugar Ray Leonard. I enjoyed his career, nice person, lot of charisma. Hagler, Hearns, Duran, that was a golden era of boxing, as far as I’m concerned. Of the Gleason’s fighters, Carlos Ortiz, Emile Griffith. Loved Roberto Duran. He won his first three titles when he trained at Gleason’s. One thing I remember about Duran training here was his popularity with the Spanish population of New York. When he was in town and training and we had it advertised, you had to get the police to close off the street…there was so many people. Just great. Amazingly crowded, standing room only. The only person to come close to that in popularity at the gym was Gerry Cooney.”
INTERESTING FACTS: “Our first champion was Phil Terranova, then Jake LaMotta. We’ve had 121 pro world champions. Our current champion is Agapito Sanchez.”
FAVORITE FIGHTS: “Ward-Gatti. Most of the early Tyson fights. Many were very brief. One that surprised me was with Spinks who was an unbeaten light heavyweight and heavyweight champion. Tyson was always a gentleman here. He works very hard, doesn’t fool around. When he’s in this type of an environment, he likes everybody that’s up here. There’s a common goal. Most of the people are here for only boxing and to appreciate the talented boxers like Tyson. Or try to train as hard as a person like Tyson. So Tyson only had people here who admired him and were trying to do what he can do very, very well. So he’s always been a gentleman here. I think boxing brings the best out of people. Boxing keeps them out of trouble. It gives them self-esteem. Let’s them feel good about themselves and gives them an opportunity to get ahead in life without getting into trouble.”
PEOPLE MOST ADMIRED: “People that are self-motivated. There are many people that come in here – both men and women now – but particularly the men, that say one thing…that they want to be a champion, that they want to be a professional fighter. But somehow they want it to come through osmosis. They don’t want to do the hard work that it takes to become a champion. So the people I admire are the people that do what they have to do to become a champion. You can tell all the youngsters than come in here that it’s a gym with a good reputation and a history of many good fighters coming out of here. But no one can make a fighter. Only the individual can make himself a fighter. A person that is a gold medalist or a champion is a person that has the dedication that it takes.”
FAVORITE BOXERS TO WATCH: “All boxers. From every boxer, one can take the best from him. Having the best style needs the best styles to learn from.”
GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “Olympic Games as an amateur. The Olympic Games I had a dream to go as a child. Then I have gold medal around my neck. After three days, I got home (to Ukraine). Then I see the interest from the people…the parades for me, attention from TV. And winning the WBO title from Chris Byrd.”
MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “My fight with (Ross) Purrity. I lost to myself (TKO 11 in ’98). I win all rounds. And after round nine, I’m tired. No stamina. I learned not to do too much hard punching. I was too young for that fight, didn’t have enough experience. It was an important and big experience for me.”
FAVORITE MOVIES: “I like action movies…Matrix. The Mummy. Titanic is not so bad. Rocky’s really interesting. Terminator. Running Man.”
MUSICAL TASTES: “Classical, Mozart, Beethoven, jazz, pop, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins.”
FAVORITE ATHLETES TO WATCH: “Difficult question. A part of Ali, a part of Holyfield, a part of Tyson. (Formula 1 racer) Michael Schumacher. Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Marat Safin. Anna Kournikova [smiles].”
FIRST JOB: “I am a school teacher and I teach biology and physical culture. But I have too much work in boxing now.”
PEOPLE MOST ADMIRED: “People who have good character, strong character. A will. And a wish.”
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