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Ray Arcel: A Boxing Biography–Book Review by Thomas Hauser



Arcel book cover 300 The image of Ray Arcel that exists today is that of a sage old trainer who knew the science of boxing and was a gentleman. He preached patience as the foundation of training and never made himself the center of attention.

Ray Arcel: a Boxing Biography by Donald Dewey (McFarland and Company) explores Arcel’s life in detail. The author has an appreciation of boxing and boxing history. His writing is a bit ponderous at times, but the book is intelligent and insightful.

Arcel was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1899. His family moved to New York when he was young so that his dying mother could be near her parents. Dewey questions the veracity of certain stories that Arcel told about himself that were repeated by others so often that they came to be accepted as true. For example, Arcel told people that he graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York (a school for gifted students). The school records don’t support that claim.

Stephanie “Steve” Arce (Ray’s second wife, who was married to him for thirty-nine years) told Dewey that her husband “wasn’t really much of a family man.” The facts appear to support that statement. Arcel’s daughter attempted suicide at age 23 by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. He didn’t talk much about that or the death of his first wife from cancer. Indeed, Steve was married to him for more than three decades before she learned that Ray’s father had remarried after Ray’s mother died. Even then, he didn’t tell her about a half-sister and step-brother that he had.

One thing that Arcel did talk about, though, was boxing. He often emphasized the following themes:

* “A trainer can only work with the talent that’s there. He can’t give some kid a talent for boxing. What he can give him are the moves and steps that will help him give a good performance in the show when it counts.”

* “Just to train your fighters, to have them hit the bag and skip rope and develop stamina; that doesn’t mean anything. Get it out of your head that this is just some blooming gymnasium.”

* “Every young man that came to me, I made a complete study of his personal habits, his temperament. There are some people you can scold and some people you have to be careful with. No two people are alike. Unless a kid was obviously not cut out for the ring, I always took my time figuring him out.”

* “Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the other guy. See what the other guy has. See what his strengths are. See what his weaknesses are. See how you can overcome anything he has to offer.”

* “The name of the game has always been outsmarting the other fighter, not beating him to a pulp. If you can’t outsmart him, [if you] don’t use your brain, you’re going to be a loser.”

* “One thing you see far too often is a fighter coming back to his corner after a round and immediately being manhandled by everybody there. This one has this to say; that one has that to say. I always kept in my mind that the fighter came back to rest. The last thing he needed was all that screaming at him.”

During the course of Arcel’s career, he trained champions in each of boxing’s eight classic weight divisions. At various times, he worked with Benny Leonard, Jackie “Kid” Berg, Barney Ross, James Braddock, Max Baer, Tony Zale, Kid Gavilan, and Ezzard Charles. There came a time when he was in the corner for a succession of charter members of Joe Louis’s “Bum of the Month Club.” Johnny Paycheck, Al McCoy, Paulino Uzcudun, Nathan Mann, Abe Simon, Buddy Baer, and Lou Nova were all knocked out with Arcel in their corner. Before one of those bouts, when the fighters met in the center of the ring for the referee’s final pre-fight instructions, Louis looked at Arcel and blurted out, “You here again?”

Arcel was most active as a trainer during the years that organized crime was a commanding presence in boxing. Dewey acknowledges that Ray trained fighters who were controlled by mob figures like Owney Madden and Frankie Carbo. In that regard, Arcel once said of Madden, “Any other business he was involved in; that was his business, not mine.” Carbo’s fighters fell under the umbrella of, “When a manager asked me to train a fighter, the first thing I asked was to see his manager’s license. If he had a license, that meant he’d been approved by the licensing commission. If the commission didn’t have a problem with the people behind that manager and his fighter, why should I?”

That said; Arcel was aware of the moral ambiguities of his position. “All I know is the boxing business,” he offered. “There’s nothing else I can do. Nothing else I’d want to do. But sometimes . . .”

Sometime came in the 1950s. On September 14, 1953, Arcel was knocked unconscious on the streets of Boston by a man wielding a lead pipe. He was taken to Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in critical condition and remained there for nineteen days. It was widely assumed that the assault resulted from his involvement on the business end of a Saturday Night Fights series televised by ABC that threatened the TV monopoly established by James Norris and the IBC.

Thereafter, Arcel took a job in the purchasing department of Meehanite Metal (a company that blended alloys for foundry use). He returned to boxing in 1972 to work with Roberto Duran, who challenged Ken Buchanan at Madison Square Garden for the lightweight crown.

Arcel stayed with Duran through some glorious highs and one particularly heartbreaking low. The worst moment in the trainer’s career came in New Orleans on November 25, 1980, when Duran pled “no mas” is his rematch against Sugar Ray Leonard.

Dewey writes, “For all his insistence that every fighter had to be handled differently and no two boxers were the same, all [of Arcel’s] perceptions answered to very fixed laws. The first of these laws, inscribed more deeply the longer his career stretched, was that he simply didn’t want to be surprised by anything that happened. Whatever he had assured himself of with Duran over years of professional collaboration, ‘no mas’ had never been an ingredient of it.”

Longtime friend Jerry Izenberg accompanied Arcel back to his hotel after the fight and described him as “looking like a heart attack.” Later that evening, Arcel broke down in his room and cried. “The whole situation was more than I could take,” he admitted later. “It took a long time for me to get over it, if I ever did.”

Yet Arcel never asked Duran why he quit, “I didn’t think it was my business,” he said.

Nineteen months later, at age 83, Arcel notched his last victory in a fighter’s corner when Larry Holmes knocked out Gerry Cooney at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Dewey’s book is filled with anecdotes. One of my favorites involves the time that Arcel was training Charlie Phil Rosenberg, who was struggling to make the 118-pound limit for a bantamweight title fight against Eddie Martin in 1925.

Arcel had some strange ideas, including the belief that a person shouldn’t drink water or anything else during meals. For a fighter struggling to make weight, water was rationed in particularly sparse quantity.

“I always had to sleep with one eye open,” Arcel said of the nights leading up to Rosenberg’s fight against Martin. “Charlie would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and I would stand there with the door open. He kept cussing me. ‘I just want to gargle,’ he’d say. And I’d tell him, ‘I’m watching your Adam’s apple, Charlie. Don’t swallow that water.’”

“After this fight is over,” Rosenberg told Arcel, “I’m going to kill you.”

Rosenberg beat Martin on a fifteen-round decision.

Arcel lived another sixty-nine years.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at His next book (And the New: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) will be published later this summer by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Fast Results From Belfast: Fury UD 10; Frampton TKO’s Jackson



Carl Frampton dreamed about displaying his wares in historic Windsor Park, the home of Northern Ireland’s national soccer team, and when the day finally came he was upstaged by a big galoot from across the Irish Sea in Manchester. The locals may have been more interested in seeing Frampton and his Belfast buddy Paddy Barnes, but globally the fulcrum of the show was Tyson Fury who appeared in a supporting bout against former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta.

At the weigh-in, Fury, who turned 30 this week, tipped the scale at 258 pounds, 18 pounds lighter than 10 weeks ago when he launched his comeback. Pianeta, four inches shorter than Fury at 6’5”, weighed a career high 254 ½, quite a departure from Fury’s first comeback opponent, Sefir Sefiri, a pipsqueak by comparison.

Fury vs. Pianeta went the full 10 and although Fury won every round, the self-styled Gypsy King did nothing to temper the opinion of those that don’t fancy his chances against Deontay Wilder. Pianeta seldom let his hands go in what was an uneventful and rather boring fight, and Fury’s punches carried little steam.

After the fight, Fury said that his performance was calculated to get in rounds and shed more ring rust. After the fight, both Wilder and Frank Warren, Fury’s promoter, said that Wilder vs. Fury was a done deal and that the date and venue would be firmed up in the coming week. Insiders expect the bout to transpire in November in Las Vegas.


The rains came and came hard midway through the Fury-Pianeta fight and continued into the evening but that didn’t dim the enthusiasm of Carl Frampton’s supporters who welcomed him into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Frampton, a former two-weight world champion, didn’t disappoint in his bout with the Aussie Luke Jackson, a scheduled 12-rounder for an interim WBC belt.

Jackson, who was 16-0 coming in, was game to the very end, but he was systematically broken down by Frampton who was the stronger man with heavier hands. In round eight, Frampton knocked Jackson to his knees with a harsh left hook to the rib cage and one could sense that the outclassed Aussie wasn’t likely to last the distance. The end came in the next round when Frampton landed another hard body shot followed by a looping left hand that snapped Jackson’s head back. At virtually that same moment, a towel came flying into the ring from Jackson’s corner. The official time was 1:21 of round nine.

Frampton improved to 26-1 with his 16th stoppage. He is expected to challenge IBF featherweight title holder Josh Warrington in December.

Paddy Barnes

A wicked body shot also factored into Paddy Barnes’ fight with defending WBC world flyweight champion Cristofer Rosales, but this punch left the crowd crestfallen.

Rosales (26-3, 19 KOs) ended matters in the fourth round with a wicked body punch that left Barnes on the canvas, writhing in pain, unable to beat the count.

Barnes, who had only five pro fights under his belt but a sterling amateur pedigree, bit off more than he could chew. The bookies weren’t fooled as Nicaragua’s Rosales, eight years the younger man at age twenty-three, opened a 5/2 favorite.

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Cancio and Zenunaj In Slugfest at Fantasy Springs; Kamegai Loses



INDIO, CALIF-Desert fighter Andrew Cancio won the battle between super featherweight strong boys in a withering back and forth battle against hard nose Dardan Zenunaj and it was possibly the end of an era for a Japanese warrior on Friday.

Cancio (19-4-2, 14 KOs) usually runs over those who dare stand in front of him, but Zenunaj (14-5, 11 KOs) survived a rocky first two rounds to give the Blythe prizefighter all he could withstand at Fantasy Springs Casino.

Neither fighter emerged unscathed.

After Cancio blasted Zenunaj’s head during the first two rounds with uppercuts and four-punch combinations, the former Albanian native merely shook his head and invited Cancio to continue and the two unloaded.

Cancio was the more accurate fighter in the first half of the 10-round affair, but Zenunaj began gathering momentum in the second half. Each was able to land but Zenunaj’s seemed to have more power behind them. Cancio was more accurate and busier with the output while sliding left and right.

The best round was the ninth with Zenunaj gaining momentum Cancio planted his feet and the two unloaded massive shots. Neither fighter let up. Even when the bell rang both were still flailing away with blows. Each had welts and cuts from the brutal exchanges and both hugged each other in admiration.

After 10 blistering rounds the crowd eagerly applauded the action-packed performance.

Two judges scored the fight 99-91 and the other 97-93 for Cancio. The large crowd for Cancio was delirious when the decision was rendered but the loser was upset.

“The decision was horrible, the fight was a draw. 99-91 was an atrocious score,” said Zenunaj. “We did great. I take nothing away from Andrew Cancio, he was a warrior.”

Cancio was pleased with the fight and the crowd

“I’m very pleased with the victory, we worked very hard for this. It was a very hard 10 rounds. No matter how hard we train and spar you have to dig deep and fight hard in a fight like this,” said Cancio. “I’m going to sit down with my manager to see what’s next. We want a world title.”

Kamegai Considers Retirement

Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-5-2, 24 KOs) was mistreated badly by New England’s Greg Vendetti (20-2-1, 12 KOs) who used his head and body to bull his way through and simply tired out the Japanese warrior.

Early in the fight Vendetti lowered his head and then used short quick punches to connect through much of the fight. Neither fighter was ever seriously hurt but Vendetti always seemed the fresher fighter.

Kamegai had his moments midway through the fight but could not sustain the energy to match Vendetti who kept boring in with his head down and punches flowing. After 10 rounds two judges scored it 98-92 and the other 97-93 for Vendetti.

After the loss, the warrior from Tokyo announced he is considering retirement. He’s had an illustrious career that saw him fight among the best in the world.

“My best fight was the first fight with (Jesus) Soto Karass,” said Kamegai, 35, after the fight. “This time I didn’t think he (Vendetti) was very good, but I didn’t do what I wanted. That’s why I’m thinking of retirement.”

Had Kamegai won, it was mentioned that he was a possible foe for WBC super welterweight titlist Jaime Munguia.

But it wasn’t to be.

Other Bouts

A battle of counter-punchers saw Luis Feliciano (8-0, 5 KOs) stand his ground and floor Dominican Republic’s Jonathan Fortuna (8-2, 5 KOs) with body shots to win by knockout. A left hook by Puerto Rico’s Feliciano to the body sent Fortuna down in the fifth round. He beat the count and was subsequently dropped with a thudding right to the body again for a knockout win at 2:38 of the fifth round.

Anthony Reyes (3-0, 2 KOs) connected with the first cross he fired on Tijuana’s Luis Montellano (0-3-1) and it was downhill for Montellano from there in the four round super bantamweight fight. Reyes, 19, fights out of Coachella but was unable to score his third successive knockout. Montellano proved too strong though he ate combination after combination in the fight. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Reyes.

Shakhram Giyasov (4-0, 3 KOs) stormed through Ghana’s veteran Albert Mensah (31-7-1, 15 KOs) like a southwestern monsoon in winning by knockout in the welterweight clash. Uzbekistan’s Giyasov connected with left hook after left hook with impunity against Mensah. After two dominant rounds Giyasov opened the third round by sliding through the ropes like a baseball player during one exchange. After laughing it off he then fired a left hook and a chopping right that floored Mensah for the count at 1:56 of round three. It was Giyasov’s third knockout win in four fights.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / GBP

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Saunders vs. Andrade Spearheads Eddie Hearn’s British Invasion of Boston



Boston has a strong boxing history. Marvin Hagler defended the world middleweight title here twice; his long road to the championship running through the old Garden where he went 9-0 with 9 KOs. Brockton’s Rocky Marciano won two of his historic 49 fights in this city. British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is well aware of all this nostalgia.

He hopes to tap into some of it this fall.

Hearn is also well aware of how stagnant the fight scene has become in Boston since the long past glory days of promoter “Rip” Valenti—of champions Sandy Saddler, Paul Pender, and Tony DeMarco. Today, world title bouts and world championship boxers rarely get made in Boston. Hearn now sees an opportunity to grow his own legacy as a world renowned boxing promoter.

The 39-year-old Hearn is the new barker for New England’s top dog: 25-0 (16) middleweight Demetrius Cesar Andrade. Trained by father Paul, Andrade sat mired in stagnation during key periods of his now ten year career. Andrade, 30, briefly held two junior middleweight titles under the promotional guidance of Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing; failing to gain any meaningful career momentum before moving up in weight and signing with Hearn. In his biggest win to date, Andrade got off the canvas in 2013 to earn a split decision over Vanes Martirosyan in Texas.

In Chicago to announce his October 6 ‘Worlds Collide’ show, Hearn revealed to ​AB Boxing News that his October 20 plans for “Boo Boo” in Boston involve outspoken Billy Joe Saunders—rival promoter Frank Warren’s Hatfield U.K. Traveller. With victories over Chris Eubank Jr., David Lemieux, Spike O’Sullivan and Andy Lee, Saunders 26-0 (12) has an obvious advantage in quality of competition over his mandatory challenger. He’s also two years younger.

According to Hearn, Saunders, 28, will defend the WBO title against Andrade, Providence, Rhode Island’s 2008 U.S.A. Olympian, in what Andrade’s ambitious U.K. promoter describes as an “elite 50/50 fight” and one of the best available matchups at middleweight. It happens a mere five weeks after the biggest money matchup in the division, the over-marinated Golovkin-Canelo rematch in Las Vegas on September 15 for the unified world middleweight championship.

Theoretically, a path now exists for Andrade to follow in the footsteps of Hagler and become undisputed world middleweight champ. A victory over Saunders in Boston for the WBO strap could lead to a future showdown with Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight champion most likely to covet the last remaining middleweight title belt and target the holder of it for a unification fight.

While Hearn appreciates praise for bringing the sport back to forgotten American cities like Boston and Chicago, any well informed fan would have to wonder how marketable a “fight” between Andrade and Saunders will actually be given the defensive proclivities of both speedy southpaws. Saunders often wheels around like he’s on a ten speed bike and the emotionally reclusive Andrade has never been a terribly popular or engaging action fighter. In plain terms, the bout could be dull in the ring with socially awkward promotional encounters outside of it.

Hearn has his work cut out for him.

He’s brought in some reinforcements for his growing Matchroom USA promotional outfit. Retired fighter Kevin Rooney Jr. has been hired as media event manager—a role the son of Mike Tyson’s ex-trainer worked in previously for American promoters Joe DeGuardia and Lou DiBella. Photographer Ed Mullholland and matchmaker Eric Bottjer have also joined Matchroom.

“I’m very excited to get into another city that hasn’t had the big fight nights as regularly as it should,” says Hearn. “It’s going to be a big card in Boston,” he told the boxing media in Chicago.

Hearn didn’t necessarily agree with all he spied here in 2015 when he and Londoner James DeGale took home the vacant IBF super middleweight title, besting Al Haymon’s Andre Dirrell at Boston’s Agganis Arena. “Fighters want to win world titles, that’s what they dream about,” Hearn insisted at the time in opposition to the fact that Haymon’s PBC encouraged de facto TV censorship of the major world title belts. Hearn has since ripped down the PBC banner and planted his own promotional flag here in Boston with DAZN.

This time, he’s doing things his way.

Expect “character defining” boxer ring walk music.

Hearn is confirmed to be working with Ken Casey’s Boston based Murphy Boxing. Promoter Casey is also the lead singer of a fighting Irish band called the Dropkick Murphys. The Dropkicks perform in concert at his boxing shows and already have a pair of popular boxing songs for Hearn to make requests from should this night at the fights also feature live music.

Fortunately for people interested in these sorts of things, Hearn also understands the value of a stacked undercard (and of ethnonational rivalries) in generating real world ticket sales to build his live gate. This boxing promoter credibly promises value for every dollar spent on his product.

What will be required to fill even half of the nearly twenty thousand seats at the TD Garden (and to establish a lasting promotional presence in Boston) is a deep lineup of quality bouts featuring the best regional talent available in New England—pitted competitively against Old England.

Evander Holyfield’s Rhode Island featherweight Toka Kahn Clary was rumored to be in consideration for the co-main event while a cursory look at BoxRec shows Irish female sensation Katie Taylor to be listed on the undercard opposed by Cindy Serrano with British lightweight Tommy Coyle versus TBA. Despite his obvious limitations as a boxer, Framingham, Mass native Danny “BHOY” O’Connor could add value as a potential opponent for the 24-4 (12) Coyle.

O’Connor won big at the Garden in 2013. I talked to Danny at ringside after he defeated Derek Silveira by decision. ​“I’ve been dreaming about this since even before I started boxing. In any sport you compete in, you dream about doing it at the Garden if you’re from around here.”

Murphy’s 34 year-old Irish heavyweight Niall “Boom Boom” Kennedy is 11-0-1 (7) with a Gorey story to tell. Kennedy beat tough Lawrence, Mass prospect Alexis Santos last year at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, moving his hands and his fair share of tickets. Stoneham, Mass super welterweight Greg “The Villain” Vendetti 19-2-1 (12) is another popular Murphy fighter who could spice up Hearn’s Boston undercard with his determination and huge heart.

U.S Marine Mark DeLuca is one more local name in the mix. The Whitman, Mass “Bazooka” lost for the first time as a pro last June in New Hampshire, dropping a split decision to Seattle slickster Walter Wright. DeLuca, 30, is now 21-1 (13) but still one of Murphy’s top draws.

The British are indeed coming.

Get ready Boston.

Saunders vs. Andrade will live stream on October 20, 2018 from the TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics, on DAZN, an emerging alternative sports platform with influential economic backing. Saunders hopes to make his fourth defense of the WBO title won from Andy Lee in 2015. In his most recent outing last December, Saunders travelled to Canada where he schooled crude bomber David Lemieux in a virtual shutout on HBO. Andrade is coming off a pair of nondescript wins and looks to quickly jump start his career with Hearn.

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