By: Ken Hissner
As Tim Dement tells the story, I was 12 when his older brother Steve got arrested with a group of other teenagers for fighting in the streets. After going to court my father asked Steve what it was going to take to keep him out of trouble? Steve answered “I just like to fight!” So my father heard about Irish McNeels Sports for Boxing Boy’s Club and brought Steve there to do his fighting in the ring instead of the streets.
I just tagged along with my brother and learned to box just watching others and listening to out Coach teaching the basics about straight punching. Coach J S “Irish” McNeel who we called “Mr. Mac” was something special, an Old School Boxer who never had an amateur fight. He began boxing professional during the depression and literally boxed to put food on the table. Mr. Mac had a positive impact on thousands and his motto was “if I can help one boy become a good man then I have been paid in full my friend!”
I wanted to make Mr. Mac proud of me and become a good boxer. I trained for a full year before I had my first bout at 85 pounds (Paperweight Division) and lost. In 1971 at 16 years of age I was old enough to fight in the Open Division which meant I would be fighting adults. I won the Southern AAU tournament and went to the National’s in New Orleans at 106 and fought four times in three days losing in the finals to Gary Griffin of New Orleans.
About a month later I was invited to participate in the Pan Am Trials at Ft. Bragg, NC. I never understood why I was invited at 16, and then winning in the finals over Griffin was told I had to be 17 to go to the Pan Am Games. However I was allowed to go train with the Pan Am team then go on tour with the USA Boxing Team to compete in Poland, the England and Germany. 1971 was a good year for me. I beat two Polish champions and one being 31 years old. Both of those were televised in Poland and for the time they treated me like a Rock Star.
Our team toured the concentration camp and became shockingly aware of the Cruelty of Mankind and the freedoms we take for granted. The USA Boxing Team then went to London against the British and there I was told I was too young to box and my British opponent was 21. Then we went to Germany but they didn’t have a light flyweight for me to fight. Later that year in 1971 I was invited to box with the USA Team against the Romanian team at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, WI. Mr. Mac got to go with me and I won my fight and I was very happy about my first year in boxing in the Open Division. I was first runner-up at the National AAU, won the Pan Am Trials and won my first three International bouts.
In 1972 I fought two times in the Soviet Union losing both by decision then fought in every tournament I could trying to qualify for the 1972 Olympic Trials. I started out at 106 pounds and 5:10 tall lost to Davey Armstrong at the AAU Nationals in Las Vegas. So I moved up to 119 pounds and lost the Eastern Trials to Michael Johnson. So at this point it was over no way making it to the Olympics except one way, pray. So I continued to train hard and pray believing that all things are possible. I was weighing about 130 pounds two weeks before the Olympic Trials were to begin when I got a call from the US Air Force boxing coach who my brother Steve, Nick Wells and Jesse Valdez were boxing at the same time. He told me if I could make 112 I could fight in the Olympic Trials as an unattached boxer because they had an opening spot in the Flyweight division. I told him I can make 112 pounds. It was obvious there was an opening because of Bobby Lee Hunter. Nobody wanted to fight Bobby Lee Hunter but me. Hunter was a knockout artist which was unusual for a flyweight. I had watched Hunter knockout this guy at the Pan Am Trials before the ringing of the bell of the first round had left the air and a Bronze Medalist at the Pan Am Games. I had sparred Hunter a couple of times during the training camp in 1971. I had the reach on Hunter and stayed away from him the whole time. I knew I could beat him if I boxed the way I was taught.
At the Olympic Trials my first bout was against Bobby Lee Hunter and I was considered the biggest underdog ever at this moment in time. I was told they had a basket at ringside to catch my head, when it got knocked off. Anyway watch it on www.youtube.com with Howard Cosell saying I gave him a boxing lesson. Next fight I beat Greg Lewis (2-time National Golden Gloves Champ) who could beat anybody but Hunter. Then I beat Ricky Dean a tough fighter from the Navy. Beating Bobby Lee Hunter made me famous for a moment because he was famous/infamous for a moment. Being incarcerated for manslaughter brought Bobby much attention. Since it appeared Bobby was the best Flyweight in the USA had that he was headed to Munich. The controversy became national and international was it good for an inmate for manslaughter to be let out of prison to represent our country at the Olympics? They were in the process of making a movie about Bobby Lee Hunter during his quest for the Olympics starting before the Pan Am Games. However with me beating Hunter ended one international conflict. See Sports Illustrated article where swimmer where Mark Spitz sees me at the Olympic Village and tells a reporter that he ought to kiss me for resolving that situation.
I was told Bobby Lee Hunter was invited to fight me again in the final box-off at West Point and he refused. I told them not to ask him again, lol. Anyway they got another boxer from Denver that I had fought the year before at the National AAU named Jesse Trujillo. We were the same built, tall and skinny except he was southpaw. We hadn’t spoken to each other since our last fight in the locker room in New Orleans where I approached him after the fight to apologize for the referee stopping our fight because I knew I hadn’t hurt him. I had come out in the first round threw a flurry of fast punches and the referee stopped the fight. I was telling him I was sorry the referee stopped the fight and Jesse wanted to fight me in the dressing room. I walked away from it until now. See the fight on www.youtube.com with Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali commentating. See the smile on my face when God had answered my prayer and I was on my way. It was a miracle to Munich. Before we left the states an eye exam revealed that I had a torn retina in my right eye but allowed to compete because I wasn’t having any visual problems at the time. Jesse Owens and VP Spiro Agnew were the guest speakers at our banquet with all the US Olympians in Washington DC. Jesse Valdez and I were roommates in the Olympic Village and we were friends. It was a great experience to walk among the best athletes in the World. The Olympic spirit was flowing with excitement.
Now I’m 17 years old and my prayer was to participate in the 1972 Olympics. That was the biggest thing I could ask for, so when the bell rang for the first round of my first fight the rest was all gravy. Ali Garbi from Tunisia was my first opponent in Munich (see it on www.youtube.com). He was game but made to order for an easy win. He was real short with real short arms. All I needed to do was relax and let him choose the way I was going to beat him. Relaxed yet focused on distance. Then, allowing your reflexes to respond whenever he was in range to keep him on the end of my jab. Sweet victory, my cup is overflowing.
The next opponent was from Cali Colombia, South America named Calixto Perez. He reminded me of Bobby Lee Hunter but on steroids. With the first punch he landed in the first round was a hard left hook to the right side of my head and when the stars dissipated there remained a dark cloud in the middle of my vision of my right eye. The cloud bounced around like a bouncing ball between me and my opponent. Until now, I had forgotten about being told I had a torn retina. I did not tell my Olympic coach Bobby Lewis when I returned to my corner seeing this dark cloud in my right eye. Round two and three are on www.youtube.com and if you watch it you will see me taking a whipping. However my new prayer was answered when the last bell rang and I was on my feet. I wondered later him being from Cali, Colombia if he chewed cocoa leaves before the fight because I didn’t faze him.
Oh yeah, I wanted to mention after my first bout Howard Cosell with ABC Wild World of Sports asked if I wanted to watch my first fight that I had just won. Yes sir, as we walked out of a side door of the venue and got in the back seat of a long white limo. Howard lit up a cigar and we went to the ABC studio building and walked in the back door. I heard Howard ask someone “play little Timmy’s fight back for him to see. What fun it was.
After losing the second fight I was free to enjoy the games which I went about doing, playing chess, ping pong, arcade games with foreigners inside the Olympic Village. I went to track and field, swimming and gymnastics watching Olga Corbett, etc. I was enjoying eating also. This particular evening I was taken out on the town in Munich by two press guys that wined and dined me until the early morning hours. They dropped me off at the entrance of the Olympic Village. I had drank much of that German beer and not thinking real clear walking in the dark toward my apartment I observed some yellow do not cross Police tape blocking the walkway but I saw nobody else in site. So I went another way to our Boxer’s apartment. I woke Jesse up telling him that something was going on and it wasn’t good. I went to bed not knowing the PLO terrorist had infiltrated the village and busted in the Israel Wrestling Teams apartment and were torturing some athletes while holding them hostage and demanding the release of some terrorist already in jail or they were going to set off a bomb in the village.
Later that morning I met up with this gentleman that had been a German Flying Ace that I had met the year before when the US team had boxed in Germany. While waiting for him to pick me up in the front of the Olympic Village a parade of German Military vehicles with open bed trucks full with German soldiers and soldiers on motorcycles all began driving into and setting up a perimeter around the village. My friend arrived and picked me up. I found out more what was going on as he was translating what we heard on his radio. When I got back to the Olympic Village things were different. Now it was a wait and see thing. The terrorists set demands and gave deadlines. As each deadline would approach we boxers walked out on our balcony looking towards the Israel Wrestling Teams apartment watching for an explosion. I was able to get where I could see the guy with the hat and sunglasses talking with the negotiators on the balcony.
During this Hostage situation inside the Olympic Village the Games continued only to stop one day for a memorial service after the standoff concluded at the airport with all Israeli hostages killed. The Olympic spirit was why the Olympic Games continued. “You stop wars to participate in Olympic Games, not to stop the Olympic Games to go to War!” Boxers Reggie Jones and Jesse Valdez got robbed big time by Communist block judges.
After the 1972 Olympics I returned home to the Grand Opening of the new Irish McNeels Sports for Boys Boxing Club on the fairgrounds in Shreveport, La. It was awesome with a dormitory, kitchen, showers, boxing equipment and 20×20 boxing ring in the center. The gym was built by volunteers and monies raised by my father George Dement and other supporters. I lost in the 1973 National Golden Gloves to Mike Hess.
I had several eye surgeries and stopped boxing. I got married at 17 mid-term my senior year at Bossier High School and worked in the kitchen of the Holiday Inn that my father managed. At 18 I was a car salesman. In 1975 at 20 years of age I got in law enforce. I always had an interest because my grandfather (Steve Norris) was a law enforcement legend in these parts. I again found myself too young. This time it was too young to carry a gun. You had to be 21 to carry a gun as a Bossier City policeman but only 18 to be a Bossier Parrish Deputy. So the Mayor Cathey contacted Sherriff Willie Waggoner and agreed to pay each half my salary. Most of my enforcement was in the Juvenile Division. When I first started I wasn’t much older than these juveniles. I worked with three experienced men who were busy investigating serious child abuse cases and little time to track down runaways. So they handed me this long metal box, stacked full of index cards with a small photo and Personal info, all runaways that they hadn’t cleared up. They said “here, find them”. So I did find them and had a great time. Then I got involved with Child Abuse. Again another wakeup call about the Cruelty of Mankind. I got passionate about my job and made it a career.
Back to boxing, after eye surgery had healed I boxed some more off and on. Then in 1980 I was 25 years old married with two children and decided to make a comeback and hopes of competing in Olympics in Russia. I was fighting at 135 pounds now on my third comeback. My opponent had a “loaded boxing glove” with two finger brass knuckles inside his right hand glove. By the middle of the last round the metal had cut its way through the padding of the glove then he hit me in the face with a right hand that sliced a large cut over my left eye and at the same time split my nose down the middle and knocking my nose off my face. A person at ringside said, it looked like my nose got hit with high voltage electricity.
At the moment the referee stopped the fight and I raised his hand in congratulations before leaving for the hospital…not knowing what had just happened later when they recovered his boxing gloves when he had gone outside the building to remove they found the tares from the inside to the outside. Again I was reminded of the Cruelty of Mankind. That fight was just an amateur bout, not for a championship or money. This dirty fighter did what he did (which could have killed me) just to say he had beat an Olympian.
Well, that put a stop to my boxing and we boycotted those Olympics anyway. I contemplated killing this guy as payback and had several volunteers to assist. However I choose to forgive him after reading in the Bible that I would be forgiven in the same measure as I forgave others. So I cut myself some slack by doing so…so to speak. Later in the early 1980’s I was selected to be what they called to be an Athletes Rep. USA/ABF Olympic committee. It involved going to national and international boxing events sometimes coaching and hanging with the fighters. I was assistant coach on two trips once in Russia and another to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Estimate of amateur bouts 120 and lost 20.
My son Jacob Dement is a coach at Dement Brothers at Old School Boxing in Bossier City (see it on Facebook) and my nephew Steve Dement coaches a gym in Augusta, GA, called Dement Brothers Fighting Systems which is boxing and MMA on Facebook also. I’ve been retired from law enforcement about 12 years and live on our family cattle farm in Desoto Parish, La.
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