- April 17th, 2008
Status: Hall of Fame boxing trainer and HBO ringside analyst.
DOB: July 7, 1944 In: Welch, West Virginia
Childhood Hero: “Floyd Patterson. I’ve never told him but we sat side by side many times. I read everything about him. A classy person. I used to walk like him, talk like him, eat the same foods he ate – pork chops, yams and sweet potatoes! Ray Robinson as well, naturally.”
Hobbies/Interests: “I’m very limited, believe it or not. My favorite hobby is being alone. I like to be alone. I also like dancing, fishing, playing poker sometimes and vegetable gardening – corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, I have a big garden every year.”
Nicknames: “Sonny. Manny – which I don’t like. Don King and Howard Cosell mainly called me that.”
Favorite Movies: “Rocky III – I don’t usually like boxing movies, they’re not realistic. But I liked that one. Days of Wine and Roses with Jack Lemmon. It was just realistic about how one thing leads. Some people fall victim to something bad and then some have the willpower to get out of trouble. Great movie.”
Musical Tastes: “Motown, country and western.”
Favorite TV Shows: “Dukes of Hazzard – Boss Hog had me laughing, naturally funny. Wild Wild West. The Red Skelton Show.”
Childhood Ambition: “When I was a little kid I wanted to be an artist or a painter. But once I got into boxing, all I wanted was to box.”
First Job: “Selling popsicles in Detroit (age 13). I had my cart going up and down the street all day long. I made enough money to buy a car.”
Early Boxing Memory: “I started boxing when I was eight. I enjoyed when I could hit someone and they couldn’t hit me back. It was like a game for me. The feeling of knocking someone out. My first knockout victory was when I was ten. He went down and his nose started to bleed, so they stopped it.”
Favorite Meal: “Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, tomatoes.”
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Fruit ‘n Fibre, Mueslix.”
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Strawberry or vanilla.”
Pre-Fight Feeling: “Very nervous. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s a really tightly detailed day because what happens that day is gonna be something we’re all gonna have to live with for the rest of our lives. This is it. This is history. The state of mind of a fighter is so important. I don’t like to see a fighter stay locked up in a room. Sometimes it works against them. They think and they worry. They dwell, sitting in that dark room. You come back and they’re psyched out. I like to see boxers eat and then walk, mingle with people. You have to have a certain amount of movement. Stay active. If you stay locked up in the room all day, the brain cells actually become dormant, become dead, so to say. They’re the same guys that come out in the first round and can’t even get started, can never wake up. The brain cells are still sleeping. I like to get to know the fighter, like to see where he lives. I went fishing with Julio Cesar Chavez in Mexico. I spend time with Lennox in Canada. He’s a quiet guy. He liked to spend time with his Canadian friends, one day they’d play baseball and tennis, another they’re all going swimming or he was taking his girl down to Jamaica.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “Winning the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in Chicago (1963). That was the greatest. (Who did you beat?) A guy named Frank Glover, who was a big favorite to knock me out. He was like Mike Tyson – knocking everyone out. I was only 18 (bantamweight). I lost the first round then won the last two real big in order to pull it out. That was the biggest win of my life probably. That same Golden Gloves Larry Hazzard was representing New Jersey as a middleweight. That’s how long we’ve known each other.”
Most Painful Moment: “Tommy Hearns losing to Sugar Ray Leonard, the first fight was the most painful moment. I know because I cried. Every damn time they showed that fight I had to leave the room. If I’m at a bar or something, I just leave. I don’t want to see it. It’s a nightmare. (You thought Hearns should have beat him?) Well, it was the conditions how we lost too. And we lost it before the fight. And at the time it was so much emotions going into that fight. Because Ray Leonard was the first hero at The Kronk, I don’t know if people realize that. Ray was an amateur, like ’73, ’74, the whole Kronk gym was decorated with Ray Leonard. We became very close with him, him and Tommy. So it was more like a family type of fight or competition. Then Ray won the Olympics, he trained in Detroit the whole summer of ’76 to make the Olympic team. And when he was training for the fight with Floyd Mayweather, Tommy went instead and they worked out together. And when they had the fight, it was for like bragging rights of our own little world we were in. Then Tommy – we got in arguments for the first time in our life in training. And came in overtrained, and you can’t do that with a fighter like Ray Leonard who’s always one of the best finishers in the game. Ray always could close the show down. And I knew after the end of the 12th round, even though Tommy was back in it, I knew we didn’t have enough calories to make it through the next few rounds. And it was just so painful to see him go down like that. And actually the people came from Detroit the last night before the fight, the betting favorite was Hearns, not Ray Leonard. They came in, so much money was bet, the whole town was emotionally – people got loans on their homes – it was just unbelievable. Cause Ray was like a Detroit favorite, he won the eastern regionals in Detroit and came up and trained there when he fought Lalonde he came up and trained there a few days even then believe it or not. So it was a real emotional thing. We all knew Tommy was running two times a day. We all just wanted him to run once. Came in weighing 145. Everyone was shocked at the weight. And after the 12th, Ray knows how to come on good. One of the best fighters of all time. So we lost a fight I felt we should have won. That was the most painful moment in my career.”
Favorite Boxers To Watch: “I like to watch today – even though he’s supposedly retired again – Felix Trinidad was my favorite to watch. Always so much emotions. He fought with such high spirit. And after him, believe it or not, the junior welterweights. I like all of them. I like Cotto. I like Vivian Harris. I like Gatti and Mayweather. Very talented men. And even Ricky Hatton. He’s a little, exciting, maybe not as good a defense but that’s a division most all the guys I like to watch. But beyond that, the heavyweights – probably mainly because I train him, Wladimir Klitschko right now. Watching him, I like the way he’s learning how to really control a person with just a left jab and his his reach and height now. I like watching that. I’m trying to go back to Pacquiao, is just plain excitement. And seeing Mike Tyson. These are my excitement fighters I like to watch. Still is my favorite to watch. It’s gonna be some drama when Mike fights. I don’t give a damn if it’s the referee is gonna be knocked out or somebody’s gonna be hit after the bell or Mike is gonna be knocked out himself. Mike is still one of my favorites to watch.”
Favorite Fights: “Ali-Frazier I, III. Hearns and Roldan – so dramatic. It was going back and forth, back and forth, the most excitement I ever experienced in my life. Gomez-Pintor. Caveman Lee-John LoCicero, what a fight. And while I’m at it, I’ll go for one more, Foreman-Lyle. And one more, Kenty-Espana – my first world champ.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I think people who have values and stand up for what they believe. And loyalty. That’s one of the most amazing qualities I love. And that’s why I say the people I admire most in my life – loyal people – as opposed to wishy washy, depending on who is the guy that can do the best for me, or get the best favors. And the people who been with you when you weren’t on your feet, you should remember to stay loyal to them.”
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