Insider Stories About Your Favorite Boxers
- March 19th, 2012
Boxing champions are some of the most admirable sporting figures on earth. Their courage, perseverance and talents can captivate and inspire an audience that spans the entire world.
Yet one thing that makes boxing unique in the world of big league sports is the access fans have of their heroes. On the scene at big fight weekends in New York, Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you can always see and even chat with a famous boxing champion. And if you haven’t learned already, 99% of famous boxers are usually very approachable and friendly people.
Boxinginsider.com recently asked some boxing insiders and fans this question: What was a memorable experience or a memorable encounter you had meeting a famous boxer? Some of the answers were very revealing, not only about the nature of professional boxers but also how fans react when they have a brush with fame…
“Buddy McGirt at the time was the Welterweight champ. I stayed out on Long Island and I went to a fight party to watch Hearns vs. Barkley. At that time, not knowing who Buddy McGirt was, I was arguing with him that Hearns was going to knock Iran out. He kept telling me that Iran would knock Tommy out. Well later on, Iran knocked Hearns out and I turned around and said, Who the hell are you?! That’s when the announcement came that two-time Welterweight champion of the world was in the house! I was like, Damn!!!!!” Richard McCormick – Raleigh, North Carolina
“I went to this Russian club in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. I see Vitali Klitschko there. This is before he was champion. And I say to Klitschko, Wow, I’m a big fan of yours, can I have your autograph? He went, Hmmm. Big fan. I do more than autograph. Wait. Then he went into his office and he got a picture and he signed it [smiles]. …Then on the day December 6th 2003, the day of the Vitali Klitschko-Kirk Johnson fight I saw Vitali Klitschko jogging in the snow – by himself in 10 degree weather outside of Madison Square Garden. With the snow falling. And he didn’t give a damn how cold it was. He was jogging outside on Seventh Avenue right in front of the Garden, getting himself ready for the fight that night. He was wearing shorts and a jacket in the middle of a snowstorm. And he was jogging. It was unbelievable.” Gary Marinoff – New York City
“I’m not sure how old I was at the time but Archie
Moore came to visit our small town in Terrace, Northern B.C. Canada. My father
was asked to pick him up at the airport, and I went with him. I
remember my father conversing with Archie, but also remember how
disinterested I was. How I would love to have that chance again. The
one question I do remember my father asking Archie was about his fight
with Cassius Clay. I remember Archie saying there is no feeling so
horrible as being in the ring with someone you know you can’t beat.”
Geoff McKay – British Columbia, Canada
“I remember the time I met Floyd Patterson. He was coming out of the old Felt Forum and I asked him for an autograph. He started to sign a piece of paper for me and then he stopped and said, “Give me your address and I’ll send you an autographed picture.” About a week later, the first autographed photo I ever got from a world champion fighter and fighter period arrived at my house. “To Melvin, your friend, Floyd Patterson.” Melvin “Doc” Stanley – New York City
“When I was 21, when I came to America. I met Roy Jones. I used to be in love with him [smiles]. At the time, I was training with Saoul Mamby at Gleason’s. About seven years ago. He told me, Roy Jones is here. I said, Wait, I love Roy Jones. Can I go see him in the dressing room? So I went to his dressing room. And I say to him, When I become world champion, will you marry me [laughs]? And he said, We’ll talk. So he hugged me and he said, We’ll talk [laughs]. He was so strong. He hugged me so strong and I felt his energy so strong. His arm was so muscular. He came up to me after I finish training, take a shower, change my clothes. I was sitting down, he was on the way to another room for photo shoot. And he came up to me and said, You have a good jab [smiles].” Chika Nakamura – New York City
“The first time I met a professional boxer was Tommy ‘The Hitman’ Hearns. He was doing a sparring match demonstration for charity with Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, a karate expert, at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami. I’ll never forget what a big smile Tommy Hearns had on his face when I saw him afterwards, what an incredible person, how nice and forthcoming he was. Boxers in action can be scary looking people and after he was very sweet and I just remember that big smile. It left a very memorable mark on a young boxing fan. I had to be 12 years old, tops.” Seth Horowitz – New York City
“The first fight I ever saw was my uncle Danny was an amateur boxer. He was an incredible boxer, 42 fights all wins, 41 knockouts. And he took me to Sargent Field and I saw Willie Pep. I’m eight years old, in Erie, PA. And I just became so mesmerized watching this guy in the ring, Willie Pep. I never knew anything about boxing till I watched the fight. My uncle introduced me to him after the fight. And that’s the first professional fighter that I ever met. It was in Bedford, MA against Paulie Jackson (W 10 in 1947). That got me into boxing. I met him after, that was like, Wow. He was just an incredible boxer, his handspeed, his ability. The thing that stuck in my mind was that Paulie Jackson got him into a corner and, in my mind, it was like Paulie threw like 50, 60 punches. And never hit Pep with one shot. Pep just slid by, moved out and all the sudden put Paulie in the corner. And it just stuck in my mind, and I figured that’s what I want to do. My uncle told me, This is one of the greatest fighters ever. I was a little awestruck. And, incredibly, in one of Pep’s last fights, he fought for me – (KO 3 Willie Little in 1965) in Johnston, RI, which was also a thrill. I always kept in touch with Willie. I know he’s not well now. But we talk a lot.” Don Elbaum – Philadelphia, PA
“Ali. Some friends of mine knew Ali. I asked to go up to the camp in Deer Lake for the Marvin Johnson fight (March 31, 1980). He said I could go and it would be no expense. I went up, trained, hung out and we’ve been friends ever since. We went to camp right after new year’s. He was just there, no fights lined up. When I started boxing him, he had me put on 20 ounce gloves. And I didn’t know it. My arms were tired, my hands were tired by the fourth round. We did four minute rounds with 30 seconds rest. After the eighth round, he’d say – because everybody knew I had on the 20 ounce gloves but me – Let’s box till one of us falls out. He had 16 ounce gloves. I used to hit him to the body a lot. Ali was always a practical joker. We had fun together. (Was that your best performance, against Marvin Johnson TKO 11?) Yeah, because I showed the world how to beat a southpaw. Instead of just going right hand crazy, when he throws the right jab I would dip to my left then throw the first left hook to his body, the second left hook to his head. That would bring him into my right hand.” Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Las Vegas, NV
“For Frazier and Foreman they had a public workout held in Times Square or in Schubert’s Alley. 1976. I got to meet Joe Frazier. And he was great, very gracious. And I went over to Howard Cosell and asked him for an autograph. And he was a prick [smiles]! He said, No time for that now my friend. Then he just like pushed me aside. Joe coudn’t have been nicer. Joe was real cool. And I guess he was the first famous boxer that I met. I was 19. Joe sparred in Schubert Alley. That was a long time ago. After that I went to Ali-Norton fight in September of 1976. I remember riding back in the subway car with Howard Davis. And he was wearing his gold medal around his neck. And we were like packed and it just so happened that me and him were like chest to chest. And he was really cool and a nice guy. He was smiling away, wearing his gold medal. Like probably the only guy that could have ridden on a subway train from Yankee Stadium to Manhattan, going through Harlem in the ’70s. We’re talkin’ about like Fort Apache days – with a gold medal around his neck – and still have it when he gets off the train [smiles].” Wallace Matthews – Long Island, NY
“My father was one of the developers of the PAL. (Showing me photos on his office wall)…this is my dad with Joe Frazier, George Foreman when he won the Olympics. Running the PAL in Trenton, NJ he sponsored trips all the time. And this (photo) is me and that’s Heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott. That’s my first encounter with a boxer. We went on a bus trip to an amusement park. It was a fun day. I got to talk with Jersey Joe Walcott that day and I’ve always been a fan of boxing because of that. Not only that encounter but my dad’s involvement and we always had boxers over the gym.” Bruce Silverglade – Brooklyn NY
“I was an amateur boxer who left the UK at 16 to train in Philly under Joe Frazier and have been around fighters my whole life. Here’s one vivid memory of Smokin’ Joe Frazier…After two days in North Philadelphia, my English accent was noticed by the locals and my new trainer, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, was concerned that I might get ‘jacked’ going to the store or doing my roadwork. After all North Philly is legendary for being a rough ‘hood. It was about two in the afternoon when Smokin’ Joe and I took a brief walk to the corner of Broad and Glenwood. There were about 15 notorious drug dealers and thugs. Joe pulled out his 9mm handgun and explained to them that ‘this whiteboy must not be messed with or you’ll have to deal with me.’ Joe, in typical Clint Eastwood fashion, told them that he’d be their worst nightmare if they did. ‘Yes, Mr. Frazier’ was their general response. It was a scene straight out of a movie. Frazier is respected by all in his community and I never had problems in the ‘hood during my years fighting under him. I used to run at 4-5 a.m. through the streets of North Philly. Nobody ever bothered me thanks to Smokin’ Joe.” Richard T. Slone -Detroit, MI
“When I was still young I got to meet Muhammad Ali, and actually go to his training camp in Deer Lake (age 18). And he started shadow boxing with me [smiles]. That was pretty special [laughs]. And I took it real serious. I got in my stance and started throwing punches at him. (Ali said), Oh, I’m not ready for that, or something like that. He sort of made a joke about it. It was around the time, I believe he was getting ready for the third Ken Norton fight outside at Yankee Stadium.” Teddy Atlas – Staten Island, NY
“I met Mike Tyson at Gleason’s Gym when he was doing the community service. We talked a little, he asked me where I’m from. It was nice. And somebody called on the phone from Israel at the same time. And they were speaking Hebrew – I speak Hebrew. (Owner) Bruce (Silverglade) asked me, they want to talk with Mike Tyson. So I had to kind of be a translator. They said they were some Arabs from West Jerusalem. They were saying, We’re praying for you Mike in Mecca. Arabs speaking Hebrew. Broken English. Tell Mr. Mike that we pray for him and he’s the best Muslim ever! I say, Mike, they pray for you and say you’re the best. He said, Thank you, thank you, thank you [laughs]!” Yuri Foreman – Brooklyn, NY
“The first fight I ever saw was Azumah Nelson-Salvador Sanchez in Madison Square Garden. The first fighter that ever made an impression on me was Nino Benvenuti. Because my grandfathers were Italian immigrants and they’re the ones that turned me on to boxing, when I was four, five or six years old. I used to watch boxing matches with my grandfathers and they were big Benvenuti fans. Benvenuti was the Middleweight champion back then. The first boxer I met and developed a relationship with was Pernell Whitaker, right after I started working with HBO in 1989. The first contract I wrote for HBO was the Pernell Whitaker contract. So Pete and I go back a long time.” Lou DiBella – New York, NY
“I saw David Poison (Kotey, the former Featherweight champion from Ghana). I saw him at Accra at a football stadium. I was young, young, very young, around 11. We would sneak in the fence to get in to see the game. I saw him but I was too small to get close.” Ike Quartey – Accra, Ghana
“A few years ago I was working at the Las Vegas Airport. While I was in line buying some lunch I noticed a guy wearing a Team Hatton shirt and he was looking at hats. I asked him if Team Hatton was Ricky Hatton and he replied, Yes it is. I asked if Ricky was nearby and he said yeah, he’s over at a table in Burger King. I rushed over and found him immediately sitting with all of his entourage. I walked up and shook his hand and told him I was a fan and complimented him on his impressive destruction of Tszyu. He said thanks and we preceded to talk for about a half hour. He was very candid and friendly and said he was moving to L.A in order to get piped in to the mainstream of big fights. Everyone he was with could’nt have been a better bunch of guys. Livingstone Bramble hangs out at a club in the Paris Casino and he too is very friendly which is surprising when you think about how menacing he was back in the day. This is a guy who used to enter the ring with a boa constrictor around his neck and triple x crossbones on his trunks. We all remember how he savagely beat Mancini…twice! He’s a great guy and is just enjoying life these days and seemed honored that I recognized him and knew so much about his time in the ring.” Erik Slavens -Las Vegas, NV
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