Connect with us

Articles of 2005

Two Fighters Meet After 34 Years



My index finger slides down the page of the New York City phone book. It stops on Herbert Goings. There’s only one on 215 Madison Avenue. Is this my Herb Goings?  I doubt it.

Thirty-four years ago my Herb Goings was a tough, black thug from Harlem knocking out opponents in the 1971 NYC Golden Gloves. He had a god-given killer instinct. Then we fought. I knocked him down three times and copped a three-round decision. I’m now 51 and he’s 57. How would he react when he heard my name? Would he even remember me?

I pick up the phone and dial.  It’s a long shot. My Herb Goings, a former pug, living on Madison Avenue?

“Hello?” answers a gruff voice.

“Herb Goings?”

‘Who is this?”

“Is this Herb Goings? The former fighter?”

“Who’s this?” repeats the voice.

Already we are sparring. “Did you fight in the 1971 Golden Gloves?”

“Where’d you get this number?” he counters.

“Are you Herb Going?” I repeat.

“Who’re you?”

“Pete Wood.”

“Pete Wood?” I hear him gasp. “How the hell are ya?”

Eventually he lets his guard down and we reminisce our fight. Herb was destroying every opponent that year in the 160-pound novice division. No one wanted to face him. Especially me. Just looking at his muscular shoulders and rippling biceps made me nauseous. But since we were both 5’8”and 163 pounds we were matched. That night, in a 20-by-20 foot ring, I knocked him down three times and advanced to the quarterfinals in The Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden.

“Man, you threw a wicked left hook!” he chuckles. “You knocked me down in the first. Only time I ever be dropped!”

“You scared the hell outta me!” I say, evening it out. I’m tempted to correct his ‘only time,’ but don’t.

We’re embracing each other, this time, with laughter. There’s not a mean bone in his voice. We are no longer angry kids punching people. I learn Herb is now a New York City bus driver, a vegetarian, swims laps every day and has attained a 5th degree black belt in karate. He’s engaged to a woman from Tanzania and is learning Swahili. His son attends Fordham Prep. As I listen to Herb’s voice on the phone, I can almost smell his onion breath, as we stood toe-to-toe during the ref’s instructions before our fight.

I tell him I’m now teaching English at White Plains High School. I’m happily married and have one beautiful nine-year-old daughter who’s learning tennis. My wife is from Guangzhou, China, and even though I am not learning the language I know a few words and phrases: watermelon; thank you; I love you. Herb and I seem to have cleansed ourselves of our aggression, anger and hate.

Cleansed of anger and hate? Was The New York City Golden Gloves the cathartic experience it claimed to be? Was The Golden Gloves a form of hospital? Or sanatorium?  s encouraging a kid to spew out three rounds of aggression, anger and hate onto someone’s face therapy? Isn’t boxing, in truth, a sickness called sport?  Isn’t boxing tidy violence? Yes. But boxing is also artistic violence. Violent art. It allowed me, with left hooks and right crosses, to be an inspired Jackson Pollack swinging and spewing punches above a different canvas. I hope Herb Goings is no longer punching the world. Whatever his problem was then, I hope boxing has helped him punch it out. Is boxing healing? Are boxers physicians to each other?

Herb was born in Hell’s Kitchen and raised in Harlem. After leaving the ring at 28, he adopted the Hebrew faith. “The first Jews were black,” he claims. “I’m not a Negro, a pickaninny, a black or an African American; I’m Hebrew. Judaism isn’t a race. Moses, Abraham and Noah were black. My two sons, Solomon and Joshua, are Hebrew. Too many black boys lack role models. Michael Jordan and Jesse Jackson aren’t role models; they’re figureheads. Black kids need homegrown male figures in their lives.”

“Elephants is an analogy,” he states. “In Africa there was once a large herd where all of the mature elephants were captured or killed. When the younger bulls took over they be killing each other. The herd was in danger of extinction until older bulls were adopted from The Serengeti and India. It worked. The older elephants calmed the younger ones down.”

I’m an English teacher, not a psychologist, but I sense a connection with Herb’s elephants, adopted religion and boxing; his search for stability and meaning.

After boxing, my quest for stability and meaning led me, at 32, to write “To Swallow A Toad.” Writing about emotional upheaval in one’s life, research suggests, increases physical and psychological health. Writing, indeed, grounded me. Jabbing out words and punching out paragraphs helped scrub out the residual sadness and anger boxing had missed. In my novel, my Herb Goings is Jamal Green, a violent street thug, a loud-mouthed Black Muslim who vows to “kill my white ass.” A raging bull.

“I’m in your book?” he murmurs. “What’s the title?”

“To Swallow A Toad.”

‘How do you spell Swallow?” he asks, writing it down.

Hey, I have spelling problems, too. Spelling grammar, attendance and schedule is always a dilemma – and I’m the English teacher.

We agree to eat lunch in White Plains. We’ll meet on Mamaroneck Avenue in front of the YMCA. He knows a good Japanese restaurant in the area.  efore I hang up, I tell him I’ll bring along something extra special; a videotape of our bout. “No way!” he shouts. Once again, he’s floored. After 34 years, Herb will relive a precious morsel of his youth: our three-round fight. Unfortunately, he’ll rediscover he was down three times.

What did I get myself into? Herb is standing in front of the YMCA at 12:00 sharp. Is he scowling or smiling? He’s wearing a black leather jacket, black shirt, black pants and black shoes. In his hand is my book. Is he angry at the perceived slight at being named Jamal Green? Is he still a raging bull harboring a grudge? Is he thinking rematch?

I walk closer and am pleased to spot a smile in his eyes. We embrace. We’re Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. We’re Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry.

Once inside the restaurant, he plants his elbows on the table and orders miso soup and steamed vegetables. He has a bullet bald head and his nose is slightly bent to the right. On his left forearm is a tattoo: Born To Raise Hell. On his right forearm is a nasty 12-inch scar.

“I’m sorry if I was rude over the phone,” he grins. “I thought you was a bill collector.” He looks me over and adds, “How much you weigh?”

“One-seventy-eight. You?” I counter.


“I thought you’d be a construction worker or something,” he says. “Not a teacher! Hey, it’s great to see you doing good. Not all of us are.”

Our life stories gush out.  We’re two small men – an inner-city bus driver and a suburban schoolteacher – two little success stories – spilling our guts. During our meal, I sense we are both gentle souls yearning to discover commonalities and be at peace with each other.  I sense our minds, for years, have been saturated and pickled by years of tabloid headlines and scandalous news. I sense we long to transcend a racially charged society and find harmony, a shared sense of humanity. Hence, we tiptoe around difficult areas, like politics and race. We bob and weave around the Iraqi War and the upcoming mayoral election. Is this timid shadowboxing typical of all first meetings?

He tells me about his morning bus route, the BMX 18 Express, connecting Riverdale with Wall Street. He’s been driving it for years. “I always keep my passengers positive. I’m always talking to them. If they come in frowning, I leave them smiling. If it’s raining, I always tell them “don’t let a little water ruin your day.”

He sips soup and asks, “So, what’s To Swallow A Toad mean?”

“Toads is an analogy,” I state. “If early in the morning a kid is told to swallow a toad for breakfast, just do it, and the rest of his day, by comparison, will be better. It’s just like in childhood. If something bad happens to you, get over it, and the rest of your life, by comparison, will be better. In my book, a kid swallows a toad.”

Herb smiles. “We’re so much alike.” He must have read page 25 in my book: “There was more emotional and physical violence in our house than in one block in Harlem. Family dysfunction, heroin and alcohol addiction, violence.”

At the end of lunch, I need to ask Herb a personal question. Till now, we’ve kept it neutral. But I need to know something. Perhaps this is the reason why I called him in the first place. It’s not my place to ask indelicate questions, or force Herb to express painful feelings, but I personally think a kid needs to be hurt into boxing: “Herb, why did you box?”

He reaches with his chopsticks, deftly tweezes a head of broccoli, pops it into his mouth and chews.  ‘Because I was good at it,” he grins. Then he adds, “Plus, I didn’t want to end up like everyone else, robbing, dealing, or pimping.”

I’m in my 4th period English class reading Macbeth. I tell my students: “Plays purify the morals.” This might be true, but boxing does something better: it disinfects the soul. After a fight, I always felt strangely cleansed and pure. I felt no anger or hate. After fighting, I felt an inner glow, something, perhaps, like a Catholic feels after confession. Or Herb feels after making a passenger smile on the BMX 18 Express.

Herb and I are small men. Neither of us became a champion, but we became something much more important – healthy and happy. Herb gets them smiling on the BMX 18 Express and I teach Macbeth at White Plains High School. We are old bulls who have swallowed our toads.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More



A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at

Continue Reading

Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

Continue Reading

Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06



Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

Continue Reading