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Articles of 2004

Boxing Loses One of Its Finest – Al Gavin

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“C'mon, wake up!” said Bob Jackson. “We've got work to do!”

Jackson said those words to his longtime best friend and partner, Al Gavin. However, Jackson said those words with a heavy heart and a quivering voice. He knew Al wasn't getting up. Gavin, 69, lay in a coma, put that way by a stroke deep in his brain a little over a week earlier. Together, as two of the most lovable and respected trainers in boxing, they had seen so many fighters launch incredible comebacks, defying the overwhelming odds against them. But, Jackson knew this was not going to be one of those incredible comebacks. On Thursday, July 8, 2004, at a few minutes past 4:00 p.m., Al Gavin died peacefully at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York.

I had paid a visit to Al less than three hours earlier. His wife, Joyce, his mother, Barbara, and his son, Tony, were also there.

As Joyce held his left hand, Barbara told me, “We're taking dad off life support. Tests have shown no brain activity. This is the way he would want it.”

I took Al's lifeless right hand–a hand that once held an ice pack on a mouse under my left eye–and kissed it. Barbara told me the family would keep me posted. About three hours later, Barbara's husband, boxing judge Bob Gilson, called with the bad news.

The reaction around the boxing world is no surprise.

“Al was simply the best,” said Ron Scott Stevens, Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission.

“Al was a total professional,” said Marc Ratner, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Top boxing broadcaster and manager, Arnie “Tokyo” Rosenthal, was shocked when he heard the news of Gavin's death.

“I was just at a show with Al down in Bermuda,” said Rosenthal. “I can't believe it!” Then, he took a deep breath and continued.

“Al was more than the best cutman. He was a scribe, a sage. He spanned generations in the business, from the golden days right up until today. I was fortunate to have been able to spend a lot of time with him. I used to love to sit around and listen to him tell stories. He was such a great teacher, a fantastic storyteller and a great friend.”

Perhaps the last athlete Gavin trained was Ryan Kelly, a college-bound Long Islander. Kelly, 18, is the son of top New York referee Wayne Kelly. Last week, Gavin had put Ryan through a rigorous training session. The following morning, upon hearing the news that Gavin had suffered a massive stroke, young Kelly wept openly and unashamedly. That's the impact Gavin had on people's lives. That's how much he was loved.

“There was nobody like him,” said Bob Duffy, the former Chief Inspector and later Director of Boxing Operations of the New York State Athletic Commission. “He always had a kind word to say about everybody. He was always ready to lend a helping hand to anybody who needed it.”

The accolades are endless. From the college-bound to the title-bound, everybody loved Al Gavin.

I'm sure former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, for whom Gavin served for years as a cutman, was hit harder by the news of Gavin's death than any punch he ever took in the ring. The same goes for Vitali Klitschko, Micky Ward, Brian Adams, Junior Jones, Tony Danza, and every man or woman who ever laced on gloves and had the great fortune to be taught by Gavin. To all of us, his death is a cruel, hard blow.

When I met Gavin, I was a 25-year-old reporter for World Boxing Magazine. Gavin, who was 39 at the time, treated me as if I was a nationally-syndicated superstar columnist. He dished out respect in huge amounts.

He worked with the best (Lennox Lewis), the gutsiest (Micky Ward) and the worst (yours truly, in 1976). To him, we were all the same.

When I became Editor-in-Chief of The Ring, that respect never changed. Nor did it change when I became an announcer for ESPN, the USA Network and the MSG Network. I got nothing but respect from the man.

That all changed the day I become head of the New York State Athletic Commission in 1988. On that first day up at 270 Broadway in New York City, I received a call from Al.

“Congratulations on your appointment and first day on the job, Commissioner,” he said. “I look forward to being a licensee under you, Commissioner.”

I thanked him for his kind words, then reminded him I had known him 14 years, that he was my friend and that my name is “Randy,” not “Commissioner.”

“You're the Commissioner now, and that's how I address men with titles,” he told me. That meant a lot to me. After I left the commission, many fair-weather friends jumped ship. I had expected that to happen. People love you when you're on top and forget you when you're not. There were even a few surprise “ship-jumpers” upon my departure. Al Gavin was not one of them.

Not a day went by when he failed to call me “Commissioner” or “Mr. Commissioner” or “Commissioner Gordon.”

“You earned the title, now keep it,” he always said. “Once a champ, always a champ. Once a commissioner, always a commissioner.”

Yet, it wasn't how well he treated me that I was always impressed with. It was how well he treated others. He treated champions the way champions like to be treated, and he treated the biggest losers in the gym like champions.

Al Gavin loved the sport of boxing and he loved everybody in it. That's why, in return, everybody loved him.

Along with Joyce, his wife of 51 years, and daughter Barbara, Al is survived by another daughter, Maureen, and a son, Alan, along with son-in-law Bob Gilson.

In losing Al Gavin, boxing lost one of its truly great champions.

He hasn't yet been admitted to Boxing's Hall of Fame. Let's clear an area. The Hall awaits him.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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