Hugo Alfredo Santillan Second Boxer This Week To Die From Ring Injuries
By: Sean Crose
It’s been a tragic week for the sport of boxing. First, rising junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev died at the way too young age of of 28 from injuries received in an IBF title eliminator bout against Subriel Matias last Friday night. Then, as if that weren’t tragic enough, super lightweight Hugo Alfredo “Dinamita” Santillan passed away Thursday thanks to injuries he received in a bout fought in Argentina last weekend. Santillan was only 23 years old. After fighting Eduardo Javier Abreu in a bout which would be declared a draw, Santillan reportedly collapsed within the ring while the judge’s cards were being read. The fighter passed away at the Hospital Agudos San Felipe in Buenos Aires.
Santillan was operated on for a clot in his brain, but nonetheless went on to die of a heart attack. ESPN has quoted the Hospital Agudos San Felipe’s Doctor Garciela Olocco saying: “Upon admission to the hospital, he (Santillan) had successive kidney failure and he did not come out of his coma…he had swelling of his brain and he never recovered consciousness. The swelling continued to worsen, and it affected the functioning of the rest of his organs.” It was a completely tragic end to a life which seemed to be just getting started.
Santillan had a professional record of 19-6-2 (8 Kos). His father, Hugo Alfredo Santillan, was also reportedly a professional boxer. Upon news of Santillan’s death, condolences started coming in. “PBC sends its condolences to Hugo Alfredo Santillan’s family and friends as the Argentine boxer passed away today from injuries he sustained on Saturday night,” Premiere Boxing Champions tweeted. “RIP Hugo Santillan,” tweeted the World Boxing Council. “He passed away from injuries suffered during Saturday’s fight which ended in a draw. We join Hugo’s family and friends in grief, support and wish prompt resignation.”
Two deaths in a week would have a huge impact on any sport. This is especially true in the case of boxing, a sport which is -and historically has been – perpetually under criticism, one where many of the participants emerge from poverty, and one where corruption and incompetence have been known to run wild. Yet all the debates on earth can’t take away the tragedies the families of Santillan and Dadashev are enduring at the moment. For those closest to the fighters, the losses will be lifelong struggles. May both men live on in the memories of fans of the sport they dedicated their lives to.
All Time Great Pernell Whitaker Killed in Accident
By: Sean Crose
Pernell Whitaker, one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves, was killed in a motor vehicle accident on Sunday evening. He was 55 years old. Whitaker was reportedly making his way across a bustling road in Virginia City when he was struck by a vehicle. It’s reported the former Olympic and multi-divisional professional titlist was declared dead at the scene by authorities. The driver did not leave the scene, but rather remained and spoke with police. It was an untimely end for the man known as “Sweet Pea,” who is considered to have been the best defensive boxer of his time.
Back in 2017 UFC star Conor McGregor, before his much hyped novelty bout with Floyd Mayweather, dismissed boxing as only being a partial fight. He didn’t realize how right he was until it was too late. The boisterous Irishman might have been well served watching old footage of Whitaker, who consistently showed that boxing was far different than basic fighting. With his ring deftness and ability to avoid hard shots, Whitaker proved over and over again throughout his career that boxing is a highly specialized sport rather than a simple brawl.
As a young man, Whitaker engaged in well over two hundred amateur bouts, winning the vast majority of them. After earning Olympic gold as part of the famed American boxing team in 1984, the fighter moved on to earn a record of forty wins, four losses, one draw and one no contest as a professional. After winning the undisputed lightweight title, Whitaker went on to win the IBF junior welterweight title and the WBC welterweight title. Then, on September 10th, 1993, Whitaker traveled to San Antonio, Texas to face the legendary Julio Caesar Chavez at welterweight in what would be his most famous (and infamous) bout.
After Whitaker clearly got the better of Chavez during the 12 round battle, the fight was inexplicably ruled a draw. Spurring outrage, the bout remains one of the most controversial in all of boxing’s controversial history. Whitaker moved on to face other legendary foes like Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. Whitaker lost to both men, though there remains strong sentiment that he actually bested De La Hoya. It’s also worth noting that Whitaker was well into his thirties when he faced these younger foes. Furthermore, Whitaker picked up the WBA super welterweight title in 1995, after almost ten years of boxing at the professional level.
News of Whitaker’s sudden death was met with shock throughout the fight world. Jolene Mizzone, matchmaker at Main Events, which was Whitaker’s promotional outlet, had the following to say: “I have no words, so sad, not only was he one of the best to ever do it, he was a great friend outside the ring, he was our family at Main Events not just our fighter. Not a week would go by that he didn’t call us at the office. He was the most loyal guy I knew. RIP Pernell.”
“Fight Doctor” Ferdie Pacheco Dead at 89 – Ali’s Personal Physician
By: Ken Hissner
One of the most known corner men as Muhammad Ali’s cut-man Ferdie Pacheco passed away today November 16th in Miami, FL, where he lived passing at the age of 89.
Pacheco worked the corner of Ali from 1962 to 1977 when he got a medical report that Ali was having kidney failure and was not in the corner for Ali’s last four fights of which he lost three of them. When Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002 he met with Pacheco and simply said “you was right!”
Pacheco was married to Luisita and they had three daughters and one son. He was brought up in what was the immigrant community Ybor City in Tampa. He was Spanish-Cuban and his father a pharmacist. Pacheco was bilingual and an artist and author.
Pacheco received his bachelor degree from University of Florida and his medical degree from the University of Miami. In attending boxing matches in Miami he met Chris Dundee the promoter who introduced him to his brother Angelo Dundee the trainer of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali. Angelo offered him free passes to the fights if he would “stitch” up his fighters and Pacheco accepted.
Pacheco was also a TV boxing analyst for NBC and Univision. He became Showtime’s featured boxing analyst in the early 1980’s and continued doing this until his retirement in the early 1990’s.
The “Fight Doctor” Ferdie Pacheco dead at 89 but will be long remembered as Muhammad Ali’s personal physician and cut-man.
Campbell Kept Father’s Death A Secret In Leadup To Linares Fight
By: Sean Crose
“I probably cried once a day. I had to try and shut feelings off.” So lightweight contender Luke Campbell told the BBC after his WBA title loss on Saturday night to Jorge Linares at the Forum in Inglewood, California. “After the fight” the Englishman added, “I had a good cry.” The source of Campbell’s pain was the passing of his father, Bernard, who died of cancer just two short weeks before the Linares fight. Campbell kept the news of Bernard’s passing a secret, so as not to give Linares the impression he wasn’t emotionally ready to present a legitimate challenge.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
“I didn’t want Linares’ camp thinking it was a weakness,” the 17-2 fighter claimed. “I didn’t want them thinking I was hurt.” Campbell was in training camp in the United States when Bernard passed in the British city of Hull. The funeral for the elder Campbell will be held this coming Thursday. Although soldiering on in the midst of a parent’s death was difficult for Campbell to do, the East Yorkshire native felt it was what Bernard would have wanted of him. Indeed, Campbell made it clear that he feels his father would be pleased, even though he lost a nearly controversial decision to Linares on Saturday night.
Campbell, a former Olympic medalist, gave the respected Linares a true run for his money this past weekend. Although clearly the underdog, the taller southpaw got up from a knockdown and proved able to frustrate Linares with effective punching throughout the fight. Campbell wasn’t able to take away Linares’ WBA title, but he certainly earned the respect of the live HBO audience – an impressive takeaway for any fighter. “I think I shut a lot of mouths,” Campbell told the BBC, “and I thought I actually won the fight.”
Linares admitted that the leadup to the bout wasn’t easy for him, with many not giving him much of a chance to beat Linares. Enduring the naysayers while losing his father on the eve of the biggest match of his career proved to be quite the challenge. Campbell, however, rose to the occasion, as he has been known to do since his amateur days. The fighter once told England’s Mirror that boxing saved him from his own less than promising youth. “Boxing teaches you discipline,” he said, “and without that it was only a matter of time before I got myself into trouble with the police.”
Why Jake LaMotta Will Be Remembered
By: Sean Crose
Legendary middleweight champion Jake LaMotta has died, leaving a long and memorable legacy upon exiting this world at 95 years of age. Growing up tough in the Bronx (his father reportedly forced him to fight other children so the family could have extra income) LaMotta grew to become one of the most iconic fighters of an iconic era (the 40s through the 50s). One simply doesn’t beat a 40-Ray Robinson without getting some much deserved credit after all. Yet the man known far and wide as “The Raging Bull” (he was also called “The Bronx Bull”) will be remembered for a variety of reasons as time moves on.
First and foremost, there’s the fact that LaMotta could fight. Really fight. Don’t let that single victory against Robinson sway your opinion. LaMotta fought many of the top fighters of his era aside from Robinson, such as Fritzie Zivic and Marcel Cerdan, who he lifted the middleweight title from (Cerdan was unable to meet LaMotta for a rematch because he tragically died in a plane crash before he could face his victor a second time).
What was most memorable about LaMotta in the ring, however, was the brutal style the man chose for himself. Never a slickster or power puncher, the guy would literally take a ton of punishment in order to pull out the win. Not that LaMotta was just some unpolished bruiser. The fighter had skill, as well, enough to keep some of the assaults he took from his opposition from doing more damage than they actually could have. Ultimately, however, LaMotta was the picture of aggression and sheer determination when he was in the ring. He once credited his style with being borne of frustration, as LaMotta reputedly wouldn’t allow himself to have sex before a fight. Whether this assertion was true or not is ultimately irrelevant, however, in the face of the fighter’s incredible bravado.
Yet LaMotta will also be remembered for having a large degree of shadinesss thrown into to his story – at least during the earlier parts of it. He had spent time in a reform school, after all. He also wasn’t much of a role model as an adult, throwing a fight for the mob, going through six marriages and having a history of spousal abuse. To LaMotta’s credit, though, the fighter grew remorseful with age, admitting he had been “a no-good bastard” in his younger years. Bad behavior, it should be noted, doesn’t always bring about remorse, nor does it often bring about a public admission of guilt.
Which, of course, leads to the famed Martin Scorcese film which was – on the most basic level, at least – based on LaMotta’s own life. Buoyed by Robert DeNiro’s classic performance (in which he literally went from fighting shape to overweight in the course of making the film), “Raging Bull” the movie is an intense study of jealousy, brutality and one man’s slow self awareness. And, as far as public consciousness goes, it elevated it’s subject from a famed boxer to memorable figure in the culture at large…something LaMotta remained until his death in Miami on Tuesday, and will most likely remain for years to come.
OPENING BELL: 10/25/33 “MARTY FELDMAN” CLOSING BELL: 2/14/17
OPENING BELL: 10/25/33 “MARTY FELDMAN” CLOSING BELL: 2/14/17
By: Ken Hissner
Former amateur, professional boxer and trainer Martin “The Hammer of Thor” Feldman, passed away on Valentine’s Day February 14th, 2017 at the age of 83. He was born and fought as an amateur in Paterson, NJ, compiling a 28-1 record and the New Jersey AAU champion in 1952.
Feldman rose to a legendary, and scary, status as a Philadelphia boxer with a professional record of 23-2 (19) though Box Rec has him 20-3 (17). His punch was known as the “Hammer of Thor” to those who fought him in the ring, which included Duke Johnson of red Bank, NJ, who took a right hook that paralyzed his whole side.
After his successful career, Feldman retired in 1961. He used his superior knowledge of the sport to train up future prospects in Broomall, PA, out of whom he molded six world champions in IBF lightweight “Charley “Cho-Cho” Brown (26-16-2), IBF light heavyweight “Prince” Charles Williams (37-7-3), IBF cruiserweight Adolfo Washington, 31-10-2, IBF lightweight Paul “Pittsburgh Kid” Spadafora (49-1-1), WBA super middleweight Chris Tiozzo (33-2) and WBO cruiserweight Tyrone Booze (22-12-2).
Other legends under Feldman’s tutelage include Dave “TNT” Tiberi (22-3-3), Augie Pantellas (28-6), Chad Brisson (22-2) and Jack O’Halloran, whose record plummeted to 15-18 after he left Feldman for another trainer. His record with Feldman was 17-0, once again displaying Feldman’s excellent, vibrant and successful training skills.
In his later years, Feldman kept his solid and stellar enthusiasm for training younger boxers by using the Feldman Fitness Center in Springfield, PA. He also reached aspiring women through his innovative Ladies Tone-Up, because he believed that “a woman can do anything a guy can do.” He also assisted in helping MS patients with severe arthritic problems by using step-by-step training in his wonderful facility, which is still around today. Feldman was inducted into the PA BHOF.
Feldman has two sons, David and Damon. Both have boxed and are currently in the promotional business. David just promoted a show in Wilmington, DE, head lining with Roy Jones, Jr., that had one of the biggest crowds in years. Damon is known for his “Celebrity Boxing.”
IBHOF promoter J Russell Peltz spoke at the Oliver H Bair Funeral Polar in Upper Darby. “Marty Feldman believed a friend is 100% and not 99.9%. When I took Marvin Johnson to fight “Prince” Charles Williams all the rounds were close with Johnson winning. I approached Williams who didn’t have any real guidance. I brought him to Philadelphia and Marty was perfect to train him. He was 12-3-2 fighting out of Mansfield, OH, when I brought him for his first fight in March of 1985 in Atlantic City, NJ. He would go 17-0 under Marty before leaving for another trainer. When my promotional contract ended Marty still trained him and would give me what percentage was agreed on as if I was still his promoter.
Can you imagine someone doing that today? He was sometimes called “the oldest teenager in boxing.” He ran a store for Wrangler jeans,” said Peltz.
Among the many in attendance were boxers WBC & WBA heavyweight champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, IBF light heavyweight champion “Prince” Charles Williams, IBF light middleweight champion Rob “Bam Bam” Hines, Dave “TNT” Tiberi and his wife, Augie Pantellas, Travis Thompson, Ron Aurit, Greg Hackett, John Poore, John Farina, boxing writers George Hanson, John Di Santo of Philly Boxing History, Ken Hissner and Jeff Jowett, James Gibbs Pres of World Boxing Foundation and his wife, trainer Rev Thompson who assisted Feldman as trainer, along with Leroy “Poppa Stoppa” Howard, Billy Briscoe, boxing judge Jimmy Condon, promoter Joe Hand, ESPN analyst Nigel Collins, manager Frank Friel and handler Mr. Pomilio.
A Rabi performed the service and the burial.
From Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali: Goodbye to the Greatest
From Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali: Goodbye to the Greatest
By: Eric Lunger
As a New Year begins, I have been thinking a lot about Muhammad Ali, who passed away last June. I was born two years after Cassius Clay (as he was then) defeated Sonny Liston in Miami to become heavyweight champion of the world. I vaguely remember watching Ali’s last fights on TV, but I didn’t become a serious boxing fan until the 1980s and the emergence of “Iron” Mike Tyson.
I recently read David Remnick’s KING OF THE WORLD, originally published in 1998. Remnick does an excellent job conjuring the reader into the world of the Jim Crow South with its crippling segregation.
However, the strength of Remnick’s book, in my view, is the way it shows how the white boxing media (in those days, mainstream media) delineated the identities of Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson. Liston was cast as the villain, the dangerous criminal Black man with shadowy ties to the Mafia, while Patterson was the accommodating, polite, Christian “Negro,” who articulated the slow aspirations of the burgeoning integrationist civil rights movement.
By defeating Liston, converting to Islam and changing his name, and then beating Patterson, Ali exploded both stereotypes. He refused to be a Liston-type villain or a Patterson-type “Uncle Tom,” as Ali later lambasted some of his opponents, notably Joe Frazier. Ali was saying to himself and to America, a Black man can be whoever he wants to be. Ever eloquent, Ali said it best at a press conference: “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” I am free to be what I want – with that phrase, much more than his ability to dance in the ring and his unprecedented skills, Ali the boxer broke the boundaries of what was expected from an African-American athlete, or any athlete for that matter.
If that were all, Ali would be remembered as a great champion and a great human being. But his opposition to the Vietnam War, so principled and so self-negating, catapulted Ali into a different realm. Again, Ali’s words:
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?
Without gratuitous self-aggrandizement, without self-referential praise, Ali articulated the hypocrisy of the war, as he saw it, and the hypocrisy of a segregated Nation. Some fifty years later, it’s easy to underestimate the personal damage that Ali was inflicting on himself. As expected, he was sentenced to prison and fined, stripped of his titles, and barred from boxing. In all, Ali lost more than three years at the peak of his powers, and his reputation was shattered. Eventually vindicated by the Supreme Court, Ali resumed his boxing career in 1970, and the great bouts with Joe Frazier and George Foreman followed. But for many, Ali’s opposition to the draft and his refusal to compromise his principles made him “The Greatest.”
Muhammad Ali died on June 3rd, 2016. He had grown up in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, but when he passed, an African-American was president of the United States. Being a symbol is perhaps too heavy a burden for any human being to carry, and Ali had his faults like all of us. But I still watch Ali’s fights with wonder at his preternatural skill in the ring, and his courage beyond it.
Aaron Pryor: 1955-2016
Aaron Pryor: 1955-2016
By: Sean Crose
Word has come through various media outlets that Aaron Pryor, the junior welterweight legend, has died. This is a big loss for fight fans, as Pyror was truly an all-time great. Known primarily for defeating Alexis Arguello in two epic wars back in the early 80s, the man also bested the iconic Tommy Hearns in the armatures and was often named as a possible opponent for the likes of Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. The fact that such high end (and high profile) professional matches never came to be is a loss for the sport of boxing, but Pryor was able to hone his own legacy, regardless, with a fearless, freewheeling aggressive ring style and a take no prisoners attitude.
He also proved a warrior outside of the ring. After being wild and temperamental in his youth, the man had the strength to kick a serious drug habit in 1993 on his way to becoming a respected former great. Indeed, the guy’s heartfelt sorrow on the passing of his former foe, Arguello, after the Nicaraguan’s untimely passing in 2009 showed just how far Pryor had gone in the right direction since his Augustinian youth. To be sure, he even went on to act as a motivational speaker for such groups as the New York Jets. Still, the Cincinnati native will be primarily remembered for being “The Hawk,” a thoroughly overwhelming and intimidating ring presence.
Watching Pryor’s fights today is a true pleasure. For here was a fighter who was pure action. And heart. He took hell from Arguello, but managed to defeat the hard hitting thin man in the fourteenth round. That victory came with controversy, as there was a widespread belief that Pryor had ingested substance in between rounds that kicked in and helped his performance. Pryor proved just as good in his rematch against Arguello the following year, however, stopping his man in the 10th. To be sure, Pryor had just one loss on his record, which was the result of a comeback fight against Bobby Joe Young in 1987.
The actions of Pryor of that night, however, were nothing short of bizarre, for he engaged in behavior that appeared to be either compulsive (repeatedly crossing himself) or completely senseless (some thought he helped Young up after knocking him down). Either way, the loss proved to be a blip on an otherwise extremely successful career. Just how good was Pryor? Suffice to say he’d be avoided today by so many name opponents, one would think the man’s nickname was GGG.
In the end, perhaps the greatest junior welterweight in history succumbed to heart disease. No doubt he went out fighting.
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini Reflects On Friend And Former Rival, Bobby Chacon
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini Reflects On Friend And Former Rival, Bobby Chacon
By: Sean Crose
Make no mistake about it, boxing lost a legend Wednesday when Bobby Chacon passed away at the way too young age of 64 in his native California. Having suffered from brain damage for some time, the former television star finally succumbed to the results of a fall. Having blasted his way to stardom in the 70s and 80s as a featherweight and junior lightweight champion, as well as a ferocious lightweight contender, Chacon faced some of the biggest names of a red hot era, where boxing was a television staple.
Tragedy, however, was to hold a prominent place in Chacon’s life. Aside from the brain damage that was to plague him in later years, Chacon lived through the brutality of a wife’s suicide and a son’s murder. He was also a reputed alcoholic. Still, each man is a sum of his parts and there were many parts of Chacon to admire. For here was a true warrior who engaged in battle with the likes of Alexis Arguello, Cornelius Boza-Edwards and Rafael “Bazooka” Limon (on four separate occasions, no less); quite a resume for any fighter.
Indeed, one of the more famous opponents Chacon faced was legendary lightweight champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Chacon was stopped by the Youngstown, Ohio native in that January 1984 encounter. Mancini made it clear to Boxing Insider on Wednesday night, however, that he held his former rival in the highest regard. Indeed, the history of the two Hall of Fame fighters extended beyond the ring.
“The day of the press conference in NYC for my fight against Bobby,” Mancini stated, “I invited Bobby to dinner that night. I took him down to Little Italy, Mulberry Street.”
It proved to be a memorable evening for WBA world lightweight champion.
“He was eating,” Mancini recalled, “like he was going to the ‘electric chair.’ He says to me,’ Ray, I gotta put on weight, I can afford to eat.’ I said to him, ‘Ya, Bobby I know, but I don’t want you eatin’ your way up to the next weight class!’”
Mancini also learned that Chacon had a taste for more than just Italian food. He recalled that while training for their bout, Chacon was stationed “up near a brothel in Northern California.” Needless to say, Chacon would kiddingly blame his subsequent loss to Mancini on his surroundings in the lead up to their fight in Reno. Sure enough, Mancini recalled Chacon saying that his close proximity to the brothel caused him to lose his legs for the fight.
“When I used to see Bobby,” Mancini claimed, “he’d say, ‘Ray, there were too many of them, what was I supposed to do?’ I said, ‘Bobby, if I had known that, I would’ve sent more!’ He’d always laugh about it and give me a hug.”
Although he can laugh at the memories, it’s clear Mancini is still impacted by the loss of his former rival. “My heart aches,” Mancini stated. “I truly loved him. As a friend, as a fighter but more so, as the man he was!!!”
Boxers Who Were Still Champs When Their Careers Ended Due to Injury or Death
Pirog, Hernandez, Simon and Valero’s Careers Ended as Champions!
By: Ken Hissner
Sometimes a champion can only be stopped by injury or death. First we will look at Russia’s Demitry “Grandmaster” Pirog, 20-0 (15), who was WBO Middleweight champion. He gave up his title to challenge Gennady “GGG” Golovkin instead of his top contender Hassan N’Dam which cost him his title. In training he suffered a debilitating (ruptured disc) back injury and never fought again. His last fight was on May 1st, 2012 in his third title defense.
Pirog is the only boxer to defeat (by stoppage) current WBA World middleweight champion Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs who was 20-0 at the time and 31-1 (28) now with 11 straight knockout wins since this defeat. Pirog was 16-0 at the time. It was July 31st in 2010 when they fought in Las Vegas, NV, for the vacant WBO title.
In his fourth bout Pirog won the Russian title defeating Sergey Tatevosyon, 25-5, by decision. In his eighth bout he stopped Juan Manuel Alaggio, 16-4-1, of Argentina. In his tenth bout he stopped fellow Russian Alexey Chirkov, 18-2, for the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council title. In his eleventh fight he knocked out another fellow Russian Aslanbek Kodzoev, 20-2-1. In his next and twelfth bout he defeated Serbian Geard Ajetovic, 16-2-1.
In Pirog’s next bout he stopped Kuvanych Toygonbayev, 29-4, of UZB improving to 13-0. In his next fight for the vacant WBC International title he ended the career of Ghana’s Kofi Jantuah, 32-3-1, in his first bout out of Russia in Saarland, Germany. This was followed with his first American opponent stopping Philly’s Eric “Murder” Mitchell, 22-6-1. Next he stopped and took the WBC Baltic title from Estonia’s Sergei Melis, 15-1.
In what would be Pirog’s only US appearance is when he stopped Jacobs in Las Vegas. In his first defense of his WBO title he defeated Javier Francisco Maciel, 18-1, of Argentina. In his final bout he defeated the former interim WBA champion Nobuhiro Ishida, 24-7-2. Ishida in his next bout was stopped by Golovkin being the only one to stop Ishida in his now 40 bouts.
Golovkin and Pirog were to fight August 25th 2012 on HBO. Pirog claims to have had a 200-30 amateur record. He gave up Chess at age 8 for something more physical which would start his boxing career. He has gone into training several times for a proposed comeback but could never get to the level he was when he stopped fighting.
The second Champion was Cuban Yoan Pablo “Iron Man” Hernandez, 29-1 (14), held the interim WBA Cruiserweight title before winning the IBF Cruiserweight title. In September 2005 he lived in Germany where he started his career. In the pro’s he was trained by Ulli Wegner.
In Cuba Hernandez fought from 2001 to 2005 and had quite a career. In 2001 he was a Cuban Jr. Champ. In 2002 he won the World Jr. Champion in Cuba. He lost that year to Cuban heavyweight Odlanier Solis. In 2003 he fought as a light heavyweight in the Pan Am Games going 2-1. He was in the 2004 Olympics getting a bye and losing in the second round. He then defected to Germany. In 2005 he was the Cuban National heavyweight champion. He had knee surgery for a rupture of the Meniscus of the right knee putting his professional career on hold.
Turning pro Hernandez won his first 10 fights knocking out Thomas Hansvoll, 25-3-2, of Norway, who resided in Denmark in the tenth fight. In his fourteenth fight Hernandez won the WBC Latino title knocking out Algerian Mohamed Azzaoui, 22-1-2, of France. In his fifteenth fight he lost for the first and only time in his career to former WBC Cruiserweight champion Wayne “Big Turk” Braithwaite, 22-3, of Guyana and living in the US.
In May of 2009 Hernandez defeated Aaron Williams, 19-1-1, of the US. In his next bout in October of 2009 he defeated Serb Enad Licina, 17-1, residing in Germany for the IBF Inter-Continental title. In February of 2011 he won the interim WBA title knocking out fellow southpaw Steve “Centurian” Herelius, 21-1-1, of France.
In October of 2011 Hernandez possibly had his toughest fight for the IBF title held by Steve “USS” Cunningham, 24-2, of the US. Both were promoted by Sauerland of Germany. Hernandez wasn’t ranked in the IBF due to holding the interim WBA title so why was this fight made by their same promoter? In the first round Hernandez missed with a right hand but followed with a left dropping Cunningham who upon getting up rolled back on his side but beat the count of referee Mickey Van. For some reason due to the referee it took about 10 seconds to resume the bout when the bell sounded.
In the second round and third rounds Cunningham became the aggressor in taking both rounds. With about 30 seconds to go in the round a clash of heads caused Hernandez to suffer a cut. The referee never stopped the action to inspect the cut. In the fifth round Hernandez hit Cunningham behind the head. By the time the referee got to the fighters Hernandez hit Cunningham behind the head again without a warning from the referee. The corner of Hernandez took the full minute then requested the ring physician to check the cut. Hernandez stood up looking to resume the action when the referee comes over to him and stops the fight telling both the decision will go to the scorecards.
When the scorecards were announced the first judge had Cunningham up 57-56. The other two judges had it 58-55 and 59-54 for Hernandez. This writer had Cunningham ahead 58-55 only losing the first round. Cunningham walked around the ring with his hands in the air with his thumbs pointing down. Hernandez was later informed he would have to fight Troy Ross with the winner meeting Cunningham. Hernandez’s camp insisted on a rematch with Cunningham some 4 months later with the winner to fight Ross.
The rematch was entirely different. Hernandez had Cunningham down twice in the fourth round and coasted to a decision win. After this fight he defended against Ross winning by decision. It was 14 months later before he fought again in 2013 when he knocked out Alexander Alekseev, 24-2, of UZB, residing in Germany in the tenth round. In August of 2014 he won a split decision over Firat Aslan, 34-7-2, of Germany. The fans were not happy with the decision. Both fighters complimented each other afterwards.
In late 2015 Hernandez was to have surgery for his knee and for loose cartilage in his elbow. He was to fight Ola Afolabi in April of 2015 but had to cancel due to his injury. He’s talked about a comeback but it’s never developed
The third world champion is Harry “The Terminator” Simon, 29-0 (21), of Walvis Bay, Nambia. He claimed to be 271-2 in the amateurs. One loss was in the 1992 Olympics. He was trained by Brian Mitchell and managed by Ellison Hijarunguru.
On November 21, 2002, in trying to pass two cars Simon hit a car head on killing a couple and their baby. Simon had two broken legs and a broken arm. In March of 2007 he returned after serving two years in prison.
Simon turned pro in 1994 in South Africa and after winning his first five fights stopped Enuel Marshile, 11-1. In 1995 he defeated Danny Chavez, 25-4-1. In 1998 he won a majority decision over Ronald “Winky” Wright, 38-1, for the WBO Super welterweight title. In 1999 to 2001 he fought out of the UK making a pair of defenses. In his third defense he traveled to Canada winning a majority decision over Rodney Jones, 24-2. In February 2001 he defeated Wayne Alexander, 15-0, who took the fight on 24 hour notice replacing Robert Allen.
In July Simon moved up to middleweight beating Hacine Cherifi, 32-5-1, of France in Puerto Rico, winning the interim WBO title. In April of 2002 he defeated Sweden’s Arman Krajnc, 26-0, in Denmark. He would return in March of 2007 in Nambia as a light heavyweight winning over Stephen Nzuemba, 7-0, but didn’t fight again for a year winning two fights and appearing at 200 pounds in June of 2012 stopping Ruben Groenewald, 23-9, some 18 months later. He returned to light heavyweight a year later winning a pair of fights with the last one a 12 round decision over Serbian Geard Ajetovic, 23-8-1, for the vacant IBF International light heavyweight title.
Simon would not fight again after September of 2013 a month before his 39th birthday. He had never been the same after coming back in 2007 after being off for five years but still never lost a fight.
The fourth champion is Edwin “Dinamita” Valero, 27-0 (27), of Merida, VZ, who was found dead after hanging himself in a prison cell on April 19th of 2009. He admitted killing his wife the day before. In March of 2010 he had cracked his wives ribs and punctured her lung. Upon visiting her at the hospital he made a commotion and was arrested.
Valero’s amateur record was 86-6 (45). On Feb 5th 2001 he had a motor cycle accident and fractured his skull. This could be the reason he eventually went bad. He would hold the WBA Super featherweight title defending it four times. He won the WBC Lightweight title and defended it twice. Both Golden Boy and Top Rank promoted him.
Valero turned professional on July 9th 2002 and won his first 18 fights all in the first round. In his 18th fight he stopped Whyber Garcia, 17-3, of Panama in an elimination fight for the WBA Super featherweight title. He also won the WBA Fedelatin title in February 2006.
Valero knowing he wouldn’t get the title fight for six months he took another fight one month later in Japan stopping Mexican Genaro Trazancos, 21-7, in the second round. In August of 2006 he won the WBA Super featherweight title stopping Panama’s Vicente Mosquera, 24-1-1, in the 11th round. He had Mosquera down twice in the first round and was down himself in the third round.
Valero made three defenses in 2007 with the first two in Japan and the third in Mexico. In April of 2009 he won the WBC Lightweight title stopping Colombian Antonio Pitalua, 47-3, out of Mexico knocking him down three times in the second round in Austin, TX. It was his only title bout in the US. In December of 2009 he made his first defense winning over Hector Velazquez who didn’t come out for the seventh round. In February of 2010 he had his last fight stopping Mexican Antonio De Marco, 23-1-1, who didn’t come out for the tenth round. In the second round an accidental elbow from De Marco opened up a large gash on Valero’s hair line which seemed to make him fight even harder with blood covering the right side of his face.
Plans for Valero meeting Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquaio were in the making later in the year. In January of 2004 Golden Boy took him to New York where a small blood clot was showing in his brain. He was suspended and would be off for 17 months.
This was one “wild man” who was in 8 world title bouts. He fought in VZ 12 times, Japan 5 times, US 4 times, Mexico and Panama twice each and Argentina and France once each. He was one of the few champions to end his career undefeated.
New Filipino Senator Manny Pacquiao Wants Some Criminals To Hang – Literally
New Filipino Senator Manny Pacquiao Wants Some Criminals To Hang – Literally
By: Sean Crose
New Filipino Senator Manny Pacquiao wants the death penalty to be employed in his homeland. Oh, and he wants the method of execution to be hanging. And you thought Pacquiao was menacing in the ring. Sure enough, the boxing legend turned politician is making waves at his new job by desiring to bring law and order to his nation through a very, shall we say, unique method – at least by modern standards. Isaac Parker, the famous hanging judge of the Old West, would clearly be pleased. “Death penalty,” Pacquiao is quoted as saying, “to me, is a just retribution for a crime committed by a certain person.” http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/572440/news/nation/manny-pacquiao-to-push-for-death-penalty-by-hanging
So, just who would Pacquiao execute? Some of those involved in the illegal narcotics business, to be sure. The same goes for many rapists. Some kidnappers would be sent to the hangman, as well. Make no mistake about it – Pacquiao’s approved method of law enforcement may seem harsh here in the modern United States, but the people being targeted by the PacMan aren’t the nicest bunch, either. For the record, the Filipino death penalty was abolished around a decade ago.
Why hanging, though? Isn’t that particularly harsh? The famous brawler doesn’t seem to think so. To the contrary, actually.
“Pacquiao,” GMA reports, “believed that hanging is more ‘humane’ not only for the death convict but also for the medical personnel who have to assist in carrying out the death sentence despite their personal beliefs and convictions.” With all this in mind the news organization also made it clear that no specific form of execution is presented in a bill Pacquiao “will file.”
Of course, the new senator has more than just crime fighting on his mind. He’s also said to be in support of creating fitness centers for the public, military training for eleventh and twelfth graders, and, of course, a national boxing commission (no surprise there, really). All things considered, it’s clear the politician has a lot on his plate at the moment.
Still, there are those who feel he will return to the ring, perhaps sooner than later. Talk recently has been of a potential match between himself and perennial loudmouth Adrien Broner…unquestionably an entertaining, if not a top level, pairing. Sure enough, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum is said to have held a date in October in Vegas (at the Mandalay Bay) just in case the iconic multi-division champ decides to come back after a typically short boxer’s retirement.
It’s hard to imagine how the man will be able to focus on politics as well as prize fighting, however. Perhaps Pacquiao will simply decide that he can’t engage in both activities anymore. After all, he’s quite occupied as it is. For instance, on top of his other responsibilities, Pacquiao is also planning on memorizing his country’s constitution.
Next we’ll find out Michael Buffer will be reciting the Gettysburg Address on pay per view.
Muhammad Ali and the Courage that Defined Him
Muhammad Ali and the Courage that Defined Him
By: Kirk Jackson
The self-proclaimed “The Greatest” shocked the world many times over throughout the course of his life.
Muhammad Ali stunned us all with his passing last week and the world mourned his loss ever since.
Since his passing, there is an outpouring of sadness and tributes from various media outlets, networks, publications, celebrities, family, friends, admirers and so on.
Words cannot accurately describe Ali’s impact or the pain of losing him. Despite his ailments and continual physical deterioration, I was at a loss for words when it set in he was actually gone.
I, along with many others selfishly mourn the loss of Muhammad Ali, as he is easily recognized as one of the world’s most popular icons.
It is difficult to find the superlatives to describe his impact on the world and on me personally.
Those of us impacted by his courage, passion, brilliance, can attempt to carry on his legacy; as that may be the best way to pay tribute and honor him.
The best way I know to honor his memory is to adhere to that and do my best to carry on his legacy and to disclose his impact on me.
Ali’s professional career ended long before I was born or even thought of, but he was someone my mom fondly talked about constantly.
My mother would always speak of Ali like an older relative and we would watch his fights on ESPN’s Classic Fights; marveling at his performances against Joe Frazier and George Foreman as she would tell me he was the greatest of all time.
I would always ask why? Why is Muhammad Ali the greatest of all time?
I always wondered why he was so confident and talked so much trash. I pondered was he really that great?
As a young kid, I thought his confidence derived from his fighting skills. The way he would dance around the ring, flicker his beautiful left jab, dodge incoming attacks and sting his opponents with combinations. I thought that was pretty cool and I was a fan of the “Ali Shuffle.”
Of course I was too young to truly comprehend the wide array of skills from Ali; the intricate foot work and dexterity, his cat like reflexes and ability to predict the moves of his opponent, his head movement, his ability to execute complex moves such as a pull-counter, his ring savvy and overall intelligence, his various movements others would emulate years to come.
My mother never provided a definitive explanation as to why he was so great or simply the greatest, but she informed me he stood up for us.
As in “Us” she meant black people. As I grew up and gained more worldly experience and learned more about the Civil Rights Movement, I discovered some of things that made Ali so great.
Ali instilled a sense in pride for black people. He made me proud of what I am, without apology for it. Many instances we’re taught and told to act a certain way and with Ali, he carried himself in such a way, it was truly polarizing.
My mother made me read about The Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. She felt it was important for me to gain perspective and understanding about some of the significant people playing a huge part during the Civil Rights Movement.
There is a huge misconception about the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X, as they are inaccurately portrayed as hateful individuals, when in reality, they just wanted equality.
What is cool though is as I’m reading about Malcolm X and watching documentaries and such, I see Muhammad Ali.
Ali, the Heavyweight Champion of the world is hanging out with Malcolm X and speaking about the injustices black people are facing in America. How cool is that?
We have one of the world’s most popular athletes taking a socially conscious, political stand; firmly planting his seeds in the subconscious of American matters.
Taking a stand like Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jackie Robinson and countless others.
That’s unheard of in today’s era. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, because there isn’t a need to tear down another person to prop up another, but that is the climate of our current era of social consciousness among athletes and celebrities in general.
Ali is different. Urban legend has it; this is the man who tossed his Olympic Gold Medal in the Ohio River out of frustration due to a racist encounter.
He stood up to the United States Government and resisted entering the military draft for the Vietnam War. In the midst of his physical prime, he was stripped of his World Heavyweight Title and essentially his occupation and means of earning money to provide for his family.
He was condemned by the media and his named dragged through the mud.
He faced scrutiny for being a prideful, outspoken Black American. He endured criticism for openly embracing and representing The Nation of Islam and Muslim faith.
And yet, he remained diligent and persevered.
It’s not just a black pride thing, because Ali embraced people of all color and nationalities as his impact was felt by everyone.
Ali is and was such a polarizing figure; his charm, charisma and energy transcended various platforms. It’s hard not to be drawn in and captivated by his way of words. It’s difficult not to respect and admire his convictions.
As I learned more and more about Ali, I discovered his courage did not derive from his fighting abilities.
His courage comes from his faith in God and he had self-belief:
“Allah’s the Arabic term for God. Stand up for God, fight for God, work for God and do the right thing, and go the right way, things will end up in your corner.”- Muhammad Ali.
He also was confident from within and that confidence allowed him to overcome any and every obstacle.
“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.” – Muhammad Ali.
Out of all of the remarkable traits about Ali, the most telling trait to me is his courage.
He is known and regarded as one of the best boxers of all time. In my opinion, his most significant fights did not take place inside the ring.
Yes Ali is celebrated for his trilogy with the legendary Joe Frazier, capped off with their epic third bout, “The Thrilla in Manila.”
There was the amazing fight where Ali showcased the “Rope-a-dope” strategy against George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
And of course he had transcending fights against Sonny Liston, a grand trilogy with Ken Norton Sr., fights against Floyd Patterson, Ernie Terrell and others.
These were prime examples of Ali’s courageous exploits inside the ring. Battles that require physical and mental fortitude, battles that take a huge toll from a physical standpoint.
There were also intense, comical and entertaining verbal battles with the legendary Howard Cosell as well.
But one of Ali’s biggest battles was against the United States Government on behalf of his civil rights and on behalf of his religious beliefs.
Another big battle for Ali was against Parkinson’s disease. Ali battled this disease for more than 30 years.
Although we mourn the loss of Ali and his death may be related to the issues dealt from Parkinson’s disease, his life is an example of how strong the human spirit is and that we can fight this illness.
Ali was stripped of his speech but was not stripped of the ability to communicate and was not stripped of the ability to connect and touch people in a positive manner.
Carrying and lighting the torch at the Olympic Games, making appearances at different charities and fundraisers, still interacting with people despite his debilitating status; that is the epitome of courage and a prime example of fighting on despite strenuous circumstances.
The courage to continue on is what best describes Muhammad Ali and what he stood for.
Of course Ali was known for the gift of gab and referred to as one of the greatest trash talkers of all-time; as he was equipped with a razor sharp tongue. He was the “Louisville Lip” for good reason.
One of my personal favorite quotes from Ali in that regard is:
“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”- Muhammad Ali.
Of course we couldn’t talk about famous Ali quotes without mentioning his quintessential quote about butterflies and bees:
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”- Muhammad Ali.
Ali truly exemplifies both the butterfly and the bee inside and outside the ring. The parallel for his inside-the-ring mastery in relation to bees and butterflies is easy to identify.
He was nimble on his feet as he floated around the ring, dancing around punches, graceful and majestic like a butterfly. He also packed a punch and had enough stings in his shots to wear opponents down and knock them out. George Foreman can attest to that.
Outside the ring, his harsh words used to insult opponents, left a stinging and agonizing imprint.
He entered the world as Cassius Clay and left as Muhammad Ali.
His transformation from brash and bold Olympic Champion, to eventual World Heavy Champion, to consensus People’s Champion, displays not only his physical growth, but also his spiritual metamorphosis.
Clearly signifying the metamorphosis, dignity and grace associated with the butterfly.
But I believe his most famous sayings and quotes are centered on the themes of courage and self-belief.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”- Muhammad Ali.
These words of wisdom are what I carry as they aid me along my journey of life. These words guided me through awkward teenage years, turbulent times throughout high school, post high school and beyond.
There is a poster of Ali that hangs on bedroom wall, along with a series of his quotes. I wore socks of his image, as I participated in and won the Collegiate National Boxing Championship tournament earlier this year.
If you’re reading so far I’m certain you can tell, this is a man I idolized. My younger brother would even joke that I would check on Ali’s status as part of my daily routine.
So when he was admitted to the hospital as it would turn out for a final time, accepting his loss was not easy to digest.
Part of the recovery process is writing this tribute; an assortment of thoughts about Muhammad Ali. Here’s how I will remember him, granted this is how he would like the world to remember him.
In a statement released from Ali, from his 2013 autobiography, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey:
“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”- Muhammad Ali.
I will abide by that going forward. I would also like to send prayers out to his family, close friends and everyone mourning his loss.
Thank you for all your contributions champ. As it turns out, you said it and it turned out to be true. My mother, among countless others echoed the same sentiments.
He was the Heavyweight Champion the World, Olympic Gold Medalist, activist, poet, humanitarian, bringer of peace, comedian, actor, self-promoter, but before that, he was a kid from the inner city of Louisville, Kentucky.
This brash young kid, developed into a magnificent man. A gentle, warm soul who touched billions of lives. His exploits inside the ring, battles and victories over racial divide, prejudice and injustice is not what makes Ali the greatest.
It’s everything that encompasses Muhammad Ali, which makes him the greatest. His triumphs, his failures, his moments of strength, his moments of vulnerability, his beauty, his uniqueness and again his courage.
You truly are the Greatest of All-time.
In the true essence of Muhammad Ali, Rumble young man rumble!!! Your spirit shall live on, God Bless.
How Parkinson’s Could Take Ali – But Never Break Him
How Parkinson’s Could Take Ali – But Never Break Him
By: Sean Crose
Muhammad Ali was a controversial figure, make no mistake about. Indeed, there is probably something he did or said over the course of his public lifetime that most people would find good reason to be offended by. In other words, he was just like the rest of us in a lot of ways. Some people end up being admired for their better natures, however, and Ali was certainly one of those individuals.
Here was a true warrior – as great a ring tactician and general as the world has seen. Yet it was the man’s battle with Parkinson’s disease which really made this author, and no doubt countless others, nod in true appreciation of his inner fight. Like many – far, far too many – I’m close to someone who suffers from the disease which plagued Ali. Indeed, I’m close to several people afflicted with Parkinson’s. It’s a bitch of an illness, one that can really break a person emotionally before it does physically.
Ali, though, was not a man to be emotionally broken. He proved it against Frazier, he proved it against Foreman, and he most certainly proved it against the illness he couldn’t defeat. Here was a man who simply would – not -quit…not even in the end, when a report emerged that, sick and frail, he was trying his hand at learning the piano.
Most victims of Parkinson’s are diagnosed after the age of 50. Ali was diagnosed at 42, after a career spent fighting a murderer’s row of legends that are still talked about on their own merits to this day. The diagnosis had to have been devastating news – or at least it would have been to most people, and understandably so. Ali was a fighter both in and out of the ring, though. His own daughter made it clear in public that he simply didn’t feel sorry for himself.
And so, even after Parkinson’s symptoms began to truly take their toll – the tremors, the loss of mobility, the loss of speech, the loss of facial expressions – Ali was still, well, Ali. He even kidded around with Bryant Gumbel during an interview back in the early 90s, when his speech had already become severely impacted.
Ali made it clear in that interview that he wasn’t crazy about appearing with Gumbel and answering his questions. Why? Because of his pride. But, as with so many other opponents, pride couldn’t stop the man, who went on to credit his faith with giving him strength. Indeed, Ali saw his disease as a trial from God – who he chose to call “Allah.” Gumbel inquired what it was Ali could do to pass the trial.
“I’m doing it right now,” Ali responded, “coming on your show, facing you.”
“It scares me,” Ali added, “to think I’m too proud to do your show because of my condition.”
The man had many great battles, but to me, Ali fought an even greater battle in retirement. Here’s to his showing people how to fight against formidable opposition outside of the ring, where there’s no referee to pull off your foe, and no bell to end the action.
Ali Through the Eyes of My Father
Ali Through the Eyes of My Father
By: Brandon Bernica
Never is it any different. Every time my dad and I watch dusty old tapes of Muhammed Ali’s greatest fights together, he’s always at a loss for words. With each graceful combination Ali throws, my dad can barely muster a “look at that” or a short-lived “whoooaaaa!”. One glance in his direction and you’ll find him as engaged as if he was ringside. After certain fights, he chokes back tears, gripped by the talent, flare, and heart that encapsulated “The Greatest”.
If you know my father, you know that he’s never star-struck. He’s swapped stories with Joe Torre, chatted hoops with Carmelo Anthony, and attended fundraisers with Pete Carroll. Whether you’re a global superstar or the woman working multiple jobs to support her family, my dad meets you with the same warm handshake. But with Ali, he cracks. Admiration radiates from his being every time he reminisces about the man Muhammed was.
I always wondered at what kind of person this fighter must be to leave such an impression upon my father. We all are familiar with the ungodly footwork, the blazing hand speed, and the signature moments inside the ring. We recite his famous quotes like scripture. Everyone grasps his legacy, but I wanted to know why Ali touched my father so personally. After all, there remain many athletes with that talent and charisma mixture – albeit not at the level of Ali. Why this boxer?
My father spent much of his childhood in South Africa during the height of Apartheid. South Africa was divided between the native African population and the collection of white settlers that moved into the region known as Afrikaners. Being a white kid in this unsettling environment must have been a huge challenge for my father. Remnants of that racial unrest are chilling. My dad tells me stories of African boys being bullied at bus stops for the color of their skin. A small silver bell hangs above my parents’ mantle, a bell my dad found in South Africa that was used to call black servants of Afrikaner households. It’s a stark reminder of that country’s prejudicial past.
When Ali came to Africa in the ‘70’s to fight George Foreman, he was already an established celebrity. My father and grandfather would even drive hours to search for one bar that screened Ali’s fights on television. It was clear: a continent oppressed by social injustice for decades found a countercultural figurehead. Miles and seas away, Muhammed Ali loudly attacked the segregated institutions of America that mirrored those dominating South Africa. Chants of “Ali Bomaye” – “Ali, kill him” became the rallying cry for the downtrodden worldwide, centered around one boisterous young man unafraid to speak his mind.
Watching that Ali-Foreman fight, it’s hard for me not to draw parallels with that era’s social current. Foreman had his moments working Ali’s body like a brand new heavy bag, as Ali countered on the ropes. Round by round, however, the undefeated Foreman looked more and more weary. Ali grabbed the opportunity, knocked Foreman out, and raised his hands to the jubilation of a massive Zaire crowd. One could only imagine the hope that each Ali combination brought to Africa. He just took down “the man” in spite of the doubts and fears he faced before the fight, some even coming from family members. It was courage that prevailed in that ring, and it would be courage that would draw the continent out of its discriminatory practices.
My father had every reason to hate Ali. Growing up white in a racially-charged society, rooting for someone that defied white privilege was likely an outsider opinion in my dad’s African community. Perhaps some might have even considered him a traitor for cheering on a black man. When Ali sacrificed 3 years of his prime to dodge the army draft, my dad must have been conflicted once more. My grandfather served in the Marines, sacrificing two university degrees to serve his compulsory mandate. Having a war veteran as your own father could understandably sway you from respecting Ali’s perspective. Yet regardless of whether or not my dad agreed with his stance (I’ve never asked), I know he respected his bravery in taking a stand for something he believed in.
When I look deeper into whom “The Greatest” really was, he was a trailblazer. He shattered the fickle boundaries of culture instead of hiding behind the excuse of fame. What other confidence-overdosed fighter would spend his downtime showing children magic tricks? How daring must it have been for a man to stand up for religious freedom in the public eye, knowing the possible outcry from being so open on the topic?
The mystique of Ali really was that he held no mystique. He unified so many people because he embodied a plethora of their characteristics. Working-class citizens appreciated his will and work ethic. Elitists respected his hustle. Boxing purists praised his athleticism and God-given abilities. Everyone connected with his range of emotions – confidence, anger, joy – though it always felt like he personified these feelings with added gusto.
Whether he realizes it or not, the sources of my father’s passion for Ali reside in the commonalities between the two men. My dad was the one boy that would stand up for those scorned students at the South African bus stops. He’s playful and entertaining. He stands boldly in his beliefs, but he also listens and cares for the people he encounters. Every cop-out was presented to him to despise Ali, and yet he only drew closer to him. Reflecting on the man my father is gives me insight into who Ali truly was, and vice versa. Neither was (is) perfect; both are nonetheless inspiring.
I wish my father would have met the prime Muhammed Ali as a child. They would have laughed, argued, and maybe even tried a few punches out on each other. I’m sure many around the world share the same sentiment, and I know
Ali would have met each and every one of them if it was possible. But as this historic icon passes from this life, I know my father is still content. Coming from the world they shared at one small point in time, they understand one thing: the legacy left behind is greater than the tragedy in this moment.
Muhammad Ali: A Prizefighter Who Changed History
Muhammad Ali: A Prizefighter Who Changed History
By Ivan G. Goldman
Moving with a special grace that any lightweight would envy, Muhammad Ali was probably the greatest heavyweight who ever put on the gloves, but it’s always a judgment call when you try to rate fighters from different eras.
What can’t be argued is this: he was one of the great figures of the 20th century. Ali not only changed our understanding of history, he changed history. By the time he died he was known as a wise and beloved hero around the world.
When he won the title in 1964 under his birth name of Cassius Clay and immediately proclaimed both his new name and loyalty to the black separatist Nation of Islam, he was considered hostile and dangerous by much of white America. Over the years he changed that perception not by compromising, but by persevering and staying true to his principles. He learned along the way, and we learned with him. He became our teacher.
Ali traveled a long, tough road after reaching the summit of boxing at age 22. He suffered years of rejection from the sport he’d mastered and many more years of physical impairment from Parkinson’s disease, not to mention crushing blows from Sonny Liston and Ken Norton, hellish body shots from George Foreman, and shattering hooks from the great Joe Frazier.
Ali wasn’t just a celebrity. The man could fight. The Greatest was a force of nature who defied the rules of physics and human anatomy.
Like all of us, Ali was imperfect and sometimes confused, but step by step he transformed himself into a deserving icon. There were many reasons to love him. In addition to charisma, tremendous talent, and quick wit, he had a genuine liking for people – all kinds of people, and the kindness in his spirit shined through and remained a part of him even in those last years, when his infirmity made everyday life a struggle.
When Ali refused the draft in 1967 and was quickly convicted and sentenced to five years in federal prison, he didn’t get much help from his mentor Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad encouraged him to stay out of the military but didn’t tell him how he could earn a living during the three and ½ years he was appealing his sentence and banned from the sport, separated from his title not by another prizefighter but by the stroke of a pen and a press release.
Stripped of his passport, he was locked inside the borders of a country that wouldn’t let him fight. Among the few sticking up for him was ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell, another man who broke boundaries.
Among Ali’s enemies were plenty of other fighters, particularly Frazier, who couldn’t understand why Ali was so crudely insulting to him even after Frazier had given him financial support during Ali’s forced layoff from the sport.
Frazier had a point. Back in the days of closed circuit TV, fighters signed for a specific sum. Ali had no need to build the gate but did so anyway by belittling and mocking Frazier. Liston, Foreman, and others got the same treatment, but it didn’t get under their skin the way it did Frazier’s.
Young Ali, after capturing the light heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics, decided he liked the way wrestlers marketed themselves as personalities. As he climbed the pro heavyweight ladder he did the same, but did it better, eventually adding serious political and social commentary. This was taboo in the world of sport. The world didn’t know what to make of him.
He’d been emotionally wounded growing up in Jim Crow Louisville, where African-Americans were segregated in almost every way and had limited opportunities. When he gained a forum for his opinions, he made them known.
Originally classified 1Y and ineligible for immediate conscription, Ali was reclassified 1A as the Johnson Administration began running out of flesh to sacrifice to its mistakes in Vietnam.
Had he served, it’s possible he’d have been steered into non-combat status giving boxing exhibitions for the troops, as Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis did during World War II. Ali, however, refused to make a deal. Famously saying he had no quarrel with the Viet Cong, he did object to his country making him a second-class citizen because of the color of his skin.
There were still plenty of World War II and Korean War veterans around and lots of families – including black families — that had lost loved ones in those wars and in Vietnam. Most of them failed to see things Ali’s way.
Ali’s long layoff took place during what would have been his prime. Few fans got to see the best of him. In a more perfect world he’d have competed during those years and shaved years off the long end of his career when punches did more damage to his aging brain and he was less capable of avoiding them.
It was a terrible irony that this man so physically gifted was brought so low by infirmities that he couldn’t eat his meals without assistance and that the Parkinson’s was undoubtedly caused by the sport he loved – a sport that didn’t always love him back.
After Ali was readmitted to prizefighting and became a positive national figure, he was a prized guest on late-night talk shows. This lasted until the disease became apparent. The hosts sympathized with him, but he was bad TV, making audiences uncomfortable.
Now he rests the final rest, Muhammad Ali, American original.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.