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Five Years Later – Ring Magazine All-Star Report Card Revisited (Part One)

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photoSorting through one of my old dresser drawers, I found an old Ring Magazine from 2007. Before tossing it in the trash (I try not to be a packrat), I noticed it happened to be the issue from exactly five years about this month, September 2007.

Moreover, I noticed it included the 2007 All Star Report Card, an article intended to grade the very elite of the sport and forecast where their careers might be headed. I thought it’d be interesting to have a look at who those folks were then versus whom they turned out to be. The report card for 2007 was written by Gavin Evans.

He notes the list was “compiled according to talent, achievement, marketability, support system and growth potential” of the boxers. A total of twenty fighters made the list. Notable absences are two historically excellent fighters who were ranked in the magazine’s top ten pound-for-pound list at the time, Marco Antonio Barrera and Winky Wright.

Part one of this TSS special will focus on the first ten fighters listed in piece, starting at the top with the heavyweights and moving on down. Interestingly enough, there were three heavyweights listed in the report (and only one of them was a Klitschko).

Despite being dropped a total of eleven times in his three losses, Wladimir Klitschko is noted as rating “several levels above his rival titleholders.” Evans goes on to note a likely bright future for the then 31-year-old IBF titleholder, calling him a “clean liver” who should “press hard for a unification bout” so that he can consolidate his status as the best heavyweight in the world. Of course, Klitschko did just that and still holds all major title belts in the division, save the WBC belt his elder brother, Vitali, wears around his waist. Overall, the younger Klitschko has established himself as one of the most dominant heavyweight champions of all-time. He’s won sixteen bouts in a row since his 2004 loss to Lamon Brewster, which he avenged, and he has defended some version of the heavyweight crown in his last twelve of them.

Former heavyweight titleholder Sam Peter was apparently at his peak in 2007. Not only is he actually listed in article as an elite, but he’s praised as a “fitter and faster” fighter who had become a “far more rounded boxer” in his rematch win against James Toney. Evans notes Peters brief amateur career being offset by his tremendous power, and that “there could be a good deal more to come, provided he doesn’t revert to the lackadaisical training approach of his past.” The highlight of Peter’s career came soon after the article was published when he defeated Oleg Maskaev in 2008 to win the WBC heavyweight title. Later that year, Vitali Klitschko came back from a four year hiatus to dominate Peter for the belt in just eight rounds. He was never the same fighter after, whether it was from a lackadaisical training regimen or overall talent issue.

Ruslan Chagaev made the cut as well. Evans notes Chagaev as a “hard-hitting, well-schooled box-fighter of considerable potential”. The WBA titleholder at the time, Chagaev was undefeated, his one blemish being a disputed technical draw early in his career to Rob Calloway. Chagaev was struggling to make a name for himself with U.S. fight fans in 2007 and never really seemed to do be successful with it after either. He remained an unknown quantity stateside as his career progressed, but he did secure a heavyweight title unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko in 2009 to re-establish the perhaps-then-more-important Ring Magazine heavyweight champion, which hadn’t been crowned since big brother Vitali had momentarily paused his career in 2004. The bout was streamed online via ESPN during the day and probably should have been a bigger draw than it turned out to be, but Chagaev proved no match for Klitschko anyway. He was knocked out in round number nine in a largely one-sided affair. To his credit, Chagaev is still active and successful, his only other loss coming against undefeated slugger Alexander Povetkin via decision. He is perhaps most notable for his nickname, “The White Tyson” as well as his burly chest hair, a rarity in the sport these modern days.

Light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins was an old fighter then, too. Hopkins was 42 at the time, and readers were warned to not be surprised “if he presses on.” He has, of course, done just that, likely far longer than anyone at Ring Magazine foresaw at the time. In 2007, Hopkins had just moved up to light heavyweight to defeat Antonio Tarver in what was then his most shocking victory to date. Fans were looking forward to his pending showdown with fellow pound-for-pound elite Winky Wright, who Hopkins would go on to defeat later in the year. Evans notes “The Executioner was once a rugged, dirty brawler, but gradually transformed himself into a safety-first, dirty, boxer who paces himself carefully and boxes defensively.” Hopkins used that style, along with his “phenomenal conditioning” to solidify his status as one of the best fighters of the era. He upset Kelly Pavlik, bested rival Roy Jones, Jr. in a long awaited rematch, and in 2011, at age 46, scored an impressive victory over Jean Pascal to earn the distinction of being the oldest boxer to ever win a world title. Amazingly enough, Hopkins is still active and looking for another big fight after his most recent setback, a decision loss to light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.

People were wondering what to do with super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe in 2007. The Welshman was “unbeaten but untested at the truly elite level”. Sure, he had thrashed up-and-comer Jeff Lacy, but fight fans and boxing media wanted to see him tangle with the very best. Calzaghe would only fight three more times in his career, but they were just the fights he needed to cap his undefeated career as a true elite. Calzaghe used his cache of “blistering speed, dazzling combination punching, along with superior timing” to best fellow notables Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. Calzaghe retired in 2008 without a blemish on his pristine record and a legitimate claim to being one of the best 168lbers ever.

Fellow European Mikkel Kessler was considered by some at the time to be “the number one boxer in continental Europe” in 2007. In fact, many thought Kessler was on his way to superstardom. After all, he was “strong, hard-hitting with both hands” and possessed “an extremely solid jab.” Kessler was given credit for taking the toughest challenges he could find. He defeated Anthony Mundine, Librado Andrade and Julio Cesar Green, and he was a huge draw in both his home country of Denmark as well as Germany. Evans called for Kessler to “secure a fight with Calzaghe then win it” to unleash his full potential as a boxing mega-draw. Kessler did half that, securing the fight that very same year but losing a unanimous decision. Still, Kessler has only lost to the very best fighters he’s faced thus far (Calzaghe and Andre Ward), and he is still an active and important fighter in the sport. In his last fight, Kessler moved up to light heavyweight (where some believe his future lies) to dominate Allan Green in just four rounds.

The middleweight champion of the world at the time, Jermain Taylor, was identified as “one of those rare fighters whose reputation actually seemed to diminish after winning the world title”. He had defended the title he won by close decision over Bernard Hopkins four times up to that point, but was noted for really needing “an exciting win over Kelly Pavlik to make the leap” to superstardom. He did engage in an exciting bout with Pavlik, but lost by TKO 7 and again by decision in the rematch. Since then, he’s lost to just about every notable fighter he’s faced, including knockout losses to Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch, the exception being a decision win against Jeff Lacy, who’s never quite regained form as a legit threat since his own fall from grace at the hands of Calzaghe. Taylor has suffered severe concussions over the past couple years, but still seems intent on making a career out of it, much to the chagrin of many in the sport.

Perhaps no fighter was on the rise more at the time than middleweight Kelly Pavlik. He was “suddenly” one of the best and brightest stars in boxing. His workmanlike approach and heavy hands made him an almost overnight star in the sport, and he needed only a signature title win to solidify it. Evans notes Pavlik was “reasonably elusive when he wants and has sound boxing skills.” Fight fans were ready to see a fight against champion Jermain Taylor, and they’d get their wish soon. Pavlik won the middleweight crown against Taylor in 2007, defended it in a rematch in 2008 then took a showcase win against Gary Lockett to prepare for his superfight versus Bernard Hopkins. He was the prohibitive favorite in the catchweight bout, but he was soundly outclassed by Hopkins. He went on to defend his middleweight crown twice before falling to Sergio Martinez in 2010 by hard-fought decision. Pavlik has struggled with alcohol addiction since and ended up checking himself into the Betty Ford clinic, not once, but twice. He fired long-time trainer Jack Loew and was in and out of the news for his erratic behavior. He’s rebounded nicely since he reportedly sobered up and now campaigns at 168lbs.

Oscar De La Hoya was a fighter, not a promoter, in 2007. “The Golden Boy” had just come off a shockingly close split decision loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in what was a fabulous effort in hindsight. Even at age 35, Evans notes De La Hoya possessed “one of the best jabs and left hooks in the business” and that Oscar was a figure who “transcends boxing.” De La Hoya had a bounce back win over Steve Forbes before he was brutalized by Manny Pacquiao over eight rounds a year later in what turned out to be his final fight. He was quite the popular fighter while he was active, and he’s done a good job of parlaying his financial success into one of the top promotional units in the sport today. Unfortunately, his beef with one-time promoter Bob Arum has left fight fans yearning for fights that never seem to materialize, the chief among them being Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Still, Oscar has left an indelible mark on the sport, and he continues to do so. No impact is perhaps more interestingly applicable to this TSS special, though, than his purchase and subsequent housecleaning of the beloved Ring Magazine, an issue that divides fight fans and boxing media members to this day.

Finally, welterweight Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is listed as the “world’s number one pound-for-pound” boxer in 2007, a distinction he is still afforded by many. Evans notes Mayweather’s “multi-layered defensive skills, impeccable timing, the ability to fight as well on the inside, at middle range and long range, plus wonderfully accurate counterpunching skills.” Mayweather’s popularity skyrocketed after his 2007 defeat of De La Hoya, and he has remained undefeated ever since, over an impressive group of competitors which includes elite fighters Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto. For some, Mayweather’s legacy remains incomplete unless he faces fellow all-time great Manny Pacquiao before he retires. Both fighters seem reluctant to take the risk, though, and the cold war between Golden Boy and Top Rank isn’t doing anything to help matters. Nonetheless, Mayweather will go down in history as one of the most impressive fighters of his era. Next week, we’ll have a look at the other ten fighters who made the list, including Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manual Marquez.

You can email Kelsey McCarson at theboxingstop@yahoo.com, or follow him on twitter @TheRealKelseyMc.

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Thomas Hauser and Others Remember Dave Wolf at 75

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Dave Wolf

This week marks a bittersweet milestone. Dave Wolf would have been 75 years old on August 24.

Dave died ten years ago, on December 23, 2008. As I wrote at the time, he was passive-aggressive, anti-social, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He also did as good a job of managing Ray Mancini as any manager ever did for a fighter and performed managerial magic on other occasions for the likes of Donny Lalonde, Duane Bobick, Lonnie Bradley, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and Donnie Poole.

The legendary Jimmy Cannon once wrote, “The fight manager wouldn’t defend his mother. He has been a coward in all the important matters of his life. He has cheated many people but he describes himself as a legitimate guy at every opportunity.”

Dave was the antithesis of that. His first question was always “What’s best for the fighter?” rather than “What’s best for me?”

He had as full an appreciation of boxing and its traditions as any person I’ve known. Beneath his gruff exterior, there was a warmth about him that led to his being embraced by those who knew him best. And he’s assured a slice of immortality because of his accomplishments in the sweet science and as the author of Foul: The Connie Hawkins Story, one of the best books ever written about basketball.

Recently, I asked some people who knew him what comes to mind when they think about him today.

Jon Wolf was Dave’s brother.

Gina Andriolo met Dave in the 1970s while she was working for a small newspaper in Brooklyn. Later, she represented Dave as his attorney. Eight years after they met, they were married. They separated after four years of marriage.

Toby Falk and Dave were high school sweethearts. Decades later, they reunited and lived together in Dave’s apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan from 1989 until his death in 2008.

Teddy Atlas trained two of Dave’s fighters, Donny Lalonde and Donnie Poole.

Ray Mancini was Dave’s signature fighter.

Ray Leonard fought Donny Lalonde, another of Dave’s fighters.

Seth Abraham and Lou DiBella knew Dave in their capacity as executives at HBO.

Bruce Trampler was a matchmaker for Bob Arum during Ray Mancini’s glory years with the promoter.

Promoters Russell Peltz and Artie Pelullo worked with Dave on several fights.

Ron Katz and Don Majeski have been matchmakers, advisers, and jacks-of-all trades in boxing for decades.

Al Bernstein, Larry Merchant and Jerry Izenberg knew Dave through their roles in the media.

Harold Lederman (HBO’s “unofficial ringside judge”) was judging fights officially when Dave was in his prime as a manager.

Randy Gordon was editor of The Ring when Ray Mancini was at his peak as a fighter.

Mark Kriegel wrote what is widely regarded as the definitive biography of Ray Mancini.

Craig Hamilton managed several fighters and is the foremost boxing memorabilia dealer in the United States. He dealt extensively with Dave in the latter capacity and helped Dave’s family liquidate his memorabilia collection after Dave’s death.

Some of their memories follow:

Jon Wolf: “My father had severe back problems that limited his mobility. Dave was six years older than I was, so when I was a boy, he played the role of father in teaching me to do things like riding a bike and playing baseball. He took me to the NFL championship game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at Yankee Stadium when I was twelve years old. It was freezing cold, and Dave kept missing parts of the game to get up from our seats and go get hot chocolate for me to keep me warm. I played basketball in high school. Dave was in journalism school at Columbia by then and came to all my games. He’d sit in the stands and shout instructions. There were times when it was like he was coaching the game.”

Gina Andriolo: “I was young when I met Dave, and I was very impressed. Right away, I could see he was one of the smartest people I’d ever known. He was very intense in his interaction with people. He could be brusque and combative. He always let people know where they stood with him. He liked being alone. And he loved sports; all sports, not just boxing. Dave could watch curling on TV and be happy.”

Toby Falk: “Dave was creative, intellectually curious, very intense, stubborn, determined. He was a private person, not at all social. He had no interest in talking with most people. Every now and then, he’d go to an opening at the Museum of Modern Art with me because he loved me, but it was a chore for him. If he bonded with you, he really liked you. But there weren’t many people who fit into that category. He’d stay up into the wee small hours of the morning watching old fights on television. But it wasn’t just boxing. It was all sports. His idea of a beautiful summer Sunday was to sit inside and watch a baseball game on television.”

Jerry Izenberg: “He was a very good writer. That’s what stands out in my mind. People remember that he wrote Foul, which was a very good book. But he also wrote some very good magazine articles.”

Al Bernstein: “Dave wrote one of my favorite books and one of the best sports books ever written. It was about Connie Hawkins, who’d been banned from playing in the NBA, and it broke new ground for what a sports book should be. Beyond that, Dave did what managers are supposed to do. He worked hard and maximized every opportunity for his fighters. I liked him a lot.”

Bruce Trampler: “I’ve never dealt with anyone who did his homework the way Dave did. He was one of the most conscientious, dedicated, well-prepared managers ever. I spent hours on the phone with him going through every detail of every fight again and again. Every conversation turned into a cross-examination. He was always asking questions and taking notes. He was painstaking in his preparation at every level. I give him the highest marks in every category that has anything to do with managing a fighter. He could be an annoying bastard and he was a complete pain-in-the-ass to deal with. But he was doing his job as he saw it, and he was one of the greatest managers ever.”

Ray Mancini: “Nobody – I mean, nobody – paid more attention to details than Dave. When I fought Alexis Arguello, Dave got Top Rank to agree that I’m going to leave the dressing room after the national anthem ends. If Arguello isn’t in the ring and the fight doesn’t start seven minutes after I’m in the ring, I’m leaving and Arguello has to wait for me to come back. That’s fine with me because, as a fighter, I don’t want to stand in the ring and get cold waiting for the fight to start. And everyone knew that Dave was crazy enough to take me out of the ring if Arguello was late. I loved it. I fought Ernesto Espana outdoors in a football stadium in Warren, Ohio. The day before the fight, Dave went to the stadium and stood in the ring at the same time of day the fight would start. Then he said, “Okay, this will be Ray’s corner and this will be Espana’s corner.’ He was making sure I had as much shade in my corner as possible and Espana was facing the sun. As a fighter, you love stuff like that.”

Lou DiBella: “He was a stand-up guy. For a guy without much charm, he was colorful in his own way. He was a guy who knew how to sit back and watch and figure out what was going on. He understood the strengths and weaknesses of his fighters. And unlike too many managers in this miserable business, he recognized that he had a fiduciary duty to his fighters and acted like it. There were never any side deals that the fighter didn’t know about.”

Mark Kriegel: “Dave was trained as a journalist. He was a story-teller, and that’s part of what a great manager does. He understood why Ray Mancini mattered, and he was able to tell the story in a way that people understood. He went from being a journalist to a producer, and he was great at it. I never met him, but I can’t think of another manager I would have liked to have met more.”

Randy Gordon: “Dave would come up to my offce at The Ring to look at old Ring magazines. This was before the Internet and Ebay, so it wasn’t easy to find them. He’d sit there and read, and then we’d talk about what he’d read. I learned a lot of my boxing history from those conversations. Some people thought Dave was on the weird side, different, strange, whatever word you want to use. But I enjoyed him as a fight guy, and I knew how much he cared about his fighters. He poured his heart into them.”

Don Majeski: “It’s easy to move a great fighter. Some fighters are so great that you don’t really have to manage. You just point them in the right direction and ask for more money. A great manager gets the most out of the least. Dave got people to treat .200 hitters like they were .300 hitters and .300 hitters like they hit .350. He made Ray Mancini, who was good but not great, into an iconic fighter. Bob [Arum] gave Ray the exposure, but it was Dave who gave Bob the product. He made millions of dollars for Donny Lalonde, who was an okay fighter. He got Ed “Too Tall” Jones onto CBS. He always looked after his guys. He never wanted one of his fighters to be an opponent. He was one hundred percent for his fighters. He was a great boxing guy.”

Craig Hamilton: “Ray Mancini was a likable white Italian-American fighter with a crowd-pleasing style. Any competent manager could have made good money with Ray, although probably not as much as Dave did. But look at the job Dave did for Lonnie Bradley. Lonnie was a black kid out of Harlem who was a competent fighter with a quiet personality. Dave maneuvered him to a winnable title fight [for the WBO middleweight belt against 13-and-6 David Mendez] and then got him a half-dozen title defenses against guys who weren’t very good.”

Teddy Atlas: “There were some things Dave did that I took issue with in terms of our relationship. But I recognized his gifts and his ability to move a fighter. He was a smart guy. He knew how to play the game with the sanctioning organizations and was willing to play it. He loved playing the game. I think he enjoyed the maneuvering and getting to the kill more than the success of it. And he made money for his fighters. A fighter can be successful in the ring and not make a lot of money. Dave made good money for the fighters he managed. His talent was to take a fighter who was okay and make it appear to the world that the fighter was better than he was, maybe even great. He knew how to build a fighter and capitalize on it when the fighter won. He was a master at developing a storyline for his fighters and having it resonate with the press. He was difficult; some would say crazy. But he did the job for his fighters.”

Ray Mancini: “Dave was a control freak. That was his thing. He was doing it for me, but he wanted total control and we had our battles. Sometimes I had to tell him, ‘You work for me. I’m the fighter.’ Then he’d get hurt and sulk and say things like, ‘I guess you don’t need me anymore.’ If he got a bug up his ass about something, he wouldn’t talk to me for a while and he wouldn’t return phone calls. He was a complicated guy.”

“Gina Andriolo: Dave approached boxing like a three-dimensional chess game. Regardless of the immediate issue he was dealing with, he was always looking three moves down the road. He had an amazing capacity for detail and kept meticulous records on everything. Every detail mattered. Most fight managers go to their fighters’ weigh-ins. Dave would find out when the scales were being calibrated and send me to make sure they were calibrated right.”

Harold Lederman: “Dave knew boxing; no question about it. He was a great boxing guy. But he was a tough guy to deal with when it came to officials. He was always arguing he didn’t want this referee or that judge to work his fighter’s fight. He never argued that he didn’t want me, but there were a lot of guys he didn’t want. And he argued long enough and hard enough that he was usually able to get rid of the guys he didn’t want. That’s one of the things that made him a great manager.”

Jon Wolf: “Before one of Ray Mancini’s fights in Las Vegas, Dave told everyone in the entourage, ‘No one is to gamble until the fight is over.’ He didn’t want anyone leaving whatever good luck we might have on the casino floor or bringing any kind of bad luck in. That same trip, Dave sent me downstairs to buy copies of all the newspapers they had so he could read what was being written about the fight. I had four nickels left over after I bought the papers. So I put a nickel in a slot machine, and five dollars worth of nickels came out. I played a few more nickels with similar results and went back upstairs with the newspapers and a bucket full of nickels. Dave took one look and asked, ‘What the f*** is that?’ I explained, and he told me, ‘Get rid of them.’ So I took the nickels downstairs, found an old lady who was playing the nickel slots, and said to her, “Excuse me, ma’am. I just won these and God told me to give them away.'”

Artie Pelullo: “Dave was a strange quirky guy, very opinionated. A lot of people thought he was a pain-in-the-ass to deal with, but I never had a problem with him. He came to me with Lonnie Bradley, and we did a couple of fights together. He wasn’t the kind of guy you went to a bar with for a couple of drinks and light conversation. But you could make a deal with him and his word was good. I liked him.”

Seth Abraham: “Dave didn’t care much about pleasantries and what I would call conventional business practices. Several times, he came to meetings at HBO wearing shorts. It wasn’t important but it was unconventional and it sticks in my mind. He was very perceptive and very bright. He always presented his case well. And as best I could tell, he was always honest with me. If you’re in boxing, you have to learn who the honest people are and who are the dishonest people. As a TV executive, I did business with both. And I can honestly say, I never had any integrity issues with Dave.”

Russell Peltz: “I didn’t know Dave well, but I don’t think he liked me very much. I say that because, one time, I wanted to make a match with one of his fighters and Dave told the fighter he didn’t trust me. What had happened was, a few years earlier, Dave was managing Duane Bobick and wanted a comeback fight for Bobick after he’d been knocked out by John Tate. I offered him George Chaplin as an opponent and told Dave that Chaplin couldn’t fight, which I believed was true. So Bobick and Chaplin fought in Atlantic City, Chaplin knocked him out, and Dave never trusted me again.”

Gina Andriolo: “He loved his fighters. He believed in his fighters. And he looked after his fighters in every way. His philosophy was, a fighter should get in and out of boxing as quickly as possible with as little damage as possible and as much money as possible. God, he fought for his fighters. I remember, one time, Dave got particularly angry when a promoter who shall remain nameless sent him a contract he didn’t like. It wasn’t what Dave thought they’d agreed to. I was doing Dave’s legal work at the time. He was shouting at me, ‘Call that m*********** up and tell him no f***ing way. He can take his contract and shove it.’ So I called the promoter up and – I was being tactful – I said, ‘Dave has a slight problem with paragraph 4(B). Is there any way we can change it?’ And Dave started screaming at me, ‘That’s not what I said. I said tell him he’s a m*********** and he can shove his contract up his ass.’”

Ray Mancini: “There were times when I said to myself, ‘This guy is out of his mind.’ Some of the things he asked for from promoters bordered on the ridiculous. Dave could take years off a promoter’s life. Lots of managers threaten to call a fight off. When Dave threatened to call a fight off, the promoter knew he might.”

Ray Leonard: “My best memories of Dave Wolf are from when I fought Donny Lalonde. He truly believed in Donny and the other fighters he worked with. We were cool with each other. What stands out most with me is that there was always respect between the two of us.”

Gina Andriolo: “There were always enormous piles of old newspapers and boxing magazines all over the apartment. Sometimes, that was a source of conflict between us. I’m not talking about a reasonable number of papers. I’d ask, ‘Why do we have to have ten-year-old newspapers stacked in the kitchen cabinets?’ But Dave needed them there to be happy. And he knew where every piece of paper was. God forbid I should move a piece of paper and he couldn’t find it.”

Jon Wolf: “Dave and I shared a bedroom when we were young. One time – I was three or four years old – my parents came home and Dave had built a wall in the bedroom out of chairs and whatever other furniture he could move so I’d stay on my side of the room and leave his toys alone and not knock his blocks over or mess up whatever game he was playing.”

Toby Falk: “There were piles of newspapers and magazines all over the apartment; thousands of magazines going back for years. In what I suspect was a major concession, he’d let Gina put flowery wallpaper in the kitchen when they were married. But he covered it over with fight posters as soon as she moved out.”

Craig Hamilton: “Dave’s main thing as a collector was fight programs, which a lot of people aren’t interested in because they don’t display that well. He had a solid fight program collection; Johnson-Jeffries and some other good ones. He wasn’t much of an autograph guy. He had a few good on-site posters, including one from Ali-Frazier III in Manila, and a lot of Ray Mancini stuff that had some value because Ray has a following, particularly in Ohio. But for someone who was obsessed with collecting, Dave’s collection wasn’t that good. Most of the rest was garbage. Dave had thousands of magazines that were virtually worthless. I’m not talking about old Ring magazines from the 1920s and 30s that are worth something. I’m talking about magazines from the 1970s and later that you can’t give away. Maybe a hospital will take them. They were stacked all over his apartment – in piles on the floor, on shelves, in closets, every place imaginable. There were piles and piles of magazines – three, four feet high – blocking access to bureau drawers and file cabinets. And they hadn’t been dusted in years. You could see that from the cobwebs. Obviously, they had meaning to Dave. They were very personal for him.  But it wasn’t the place you’d bring a woman on a first date if you were trying to impress her. God bless Toby; I don’t know how she put up with it.”

Larry Merchant: “In a game that rewards individual initiative, Dave was a guy who jumped in, did his thing, and did it well. He was one of the more interesting characters in a business full of characters.”

Toby Falk: “Both of us had been married and divorced twice, so we didn’t feel the need to get married again. But we lived together for almost twenty years. He wasn’t well for much of our time together. There were complications from diabetes and some other problems. When he was fifty-five, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He didn’t fear death. He just didn’t want to be incapacitated or linger. He was cremated, so I can’t say he’s turning over in his grave over what’s happening now in America. But Dave was anti-authoritarian and very politically aware. And he hated injustice. Wherever he is now, I’m sure he’s very upset by Donald Trump.”

Ray Mancini: “Dave showed how the job should be done. He battled for everything for me. There were things other managers let happen to their fighters that Dave would never have let happen to me. What he did for my career, I can never thank him enough. I loved him. I loved him dearly.”

And a note in closing . . .

Dave and I became friends in his later years. I don’t use the term “friends” lightly. We had lunch together on a regular basis and talked often about people and events that had shaped us. As I wrote when he died, “Much of Dave’s anger stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t learned to read in a meaningful way until the age of twelve and thus had been labeled ‘dumb.’”

When Dave was young, dyslexia and other reading disabilities weren’t understood. The fact that he was able to surmount them to write Foul was remarkable in itself.

It was extraordinarily painful for a young boy with a high IQ who was sensitive in many ways to be labeled “dumb.” One way Dave dealt with the pain was to construct a hard exterior that served as a protective shell. Explaining that to me over lunch one day, Dave told me a story.

Once, when Dave was in grade school and the teacher briefly left the classroom, one of the boys started teasing him in front of the other children, saying that Dave couldn’t read.

“I can read,” Dave said.

“Prove it,” the boy countered. Then he went to the blackboard and wrote something in chalk. “Prove you can read. Read this.”

So very laboriously, Dave read aloud: “Dave . . . Wolf . . . is . . . stupid.”

More than a half-century later, Dave remembered that moment very clearly. And it still scarred him.

Photo: Dave Wolf with Donny Lalonde and Teddy Atlas. Photo undated but circa 1986.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing
journalism.

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Philly Guys Jennings and Hart Take Different Paths to TKOs in Atlantic City

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Hart

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—Heavyweight Bryant Jennings and super middleweight Jesse Hart are from the same hardscrabble North Philadelphia neighborhood, but their methods of attaining the desired result can hardly be described as similar. The more cerebral Jennings, a vegan who years ago swore off red meat, prefers the strategic approach, patiently taking his time to execute a fight plan and waiting to capitalize on openings in an opponent’s defense that don’t always come early or often. Hart, son of 1970s Philly knockout artist Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, has much of his dad’s trademark eagerness to take care of business as quickly and emphatically as possible. He fights with the impatience of a man whose hair is on fire, or with the realization he is double-parked outside the arena and the meter maid is just down the street.

But circumstances have a way of rewriting a prepared script on the fly, which is why Jennings, on the wrong end of a flash fourth-round flooring by the very large Alexander Dimitrenko, fought with a heightened sense of urgency in registering a ninth-round technical knockout in the main event of Saturday night’s Top Rank on ESPN card in Ovation Hall at the Ocean Resort Casino, formerly known as the Revel. He dropped the 6-foot-7, 257-pound Dimitrenko twice in the eighth round, and finished off the 20-1 underdog with a ripping right uppercut that sent him crashing to the canvas again in the climactic ninth. Although Dimitrenko beat the count, referee Al Huggins stepped in and waved the bout to a conclusion after an elapsed time of one minute, 56 seconds, to the displeasure of many of the 2,543 spectators in attendance as well as Dimitrenko, who vainly argued that he was fighting back and the stoppage was premature.

“I was in the fight,” complained Dimitrenko, 36, who held advantages of four inches in height and 32 pounds over the 33-year-old, more-sculpted Jennings. “I wanted to continue. I don’t know why the referee stopped it.”

All signs, however, pointed to the ending being the same had Huggins delayed a bit before stepping in. After Dimitrenko sent a surprised Jennings onto one knee with an overhand right in the fourth round, it was if a message had been sent and received by the Philadelphian and his trainer, John David Jackson, that it might be time to ratchet up the pressure to thwart any possibility of an upset being sprung.

“I was prepared for a tough 12 rounds,” Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) allowed. “I did what I had to do. I was in great shape. He’s a big dude, and he’s not as slow as I thought. I made adjustments and got the job done.”

The long odds against Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs) might have owed in part to the fact that the card was loaded with Philly-area fighters, all of whom seemed to bring their own cheering sections of fans who no doubt laid down some wagers in the casino’s newly opened sports book. In addition to Jennings and Hart (25-1, 21 KOs), who dismissed Mike Gavronski (24-3-1, 15 KOs) in three one-sided rounds, other winners included Philly bantamweight Christian Carto (16-0, 11 KOs), Camden, N.J., lightweight Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15 KOs), Allentown, Pa., lightweight Joseph Adorno (9-0, 9 KOs) and Atlantic City super welterweight homeboy Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (26-2-1, 9 KOs). In the top non-televised undercard bout, but one that was available via the ESPN+ app, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs), from Newark, N.J., played it safe in pitching a dull eight-round shutout at Mexico’s Carlos Ruiz (16-5-2, 6 KOs).

Top Rank has down-the-road hopes for Jennings, who came away not only with Dimitrenko’s IBF International championship but also the vacant NABO title. But those fringe belts are worth little except maybe to hold Jennings’ pants up. What Jennings seeks is another shot at a widely recognized world title, his only previous bid for such coming on a unanimous-decision loss to IBF/WBA/WBO champ Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015. Some would say he had a second crack at the big prize, losing to Luis Ortiz on a seventh-round TKO eight months after his points loss to Klitschko, but that was for an “interim” world title from the shameless WBA, which dispenses bejeweled belts as if they were gumballs from a convenience-store machine.

To hear Jackson tell it, Jennings might need another  three or four “learning-experience” bouts against an increasingly higher caliber of opposition before he is fully primed to test himself against the division’s best of the best, the current kings of the heavyweight ring IBF/WBA/WBO champ Anthony Joshua and WBC ruler Deontay Wilder. Jackson had said that he hoped Jennings would display a more effective inside game against Dimitrenko, and that exclamation-point uppercut – a weapon best utilized at close quarters – suggests another passing mark.

Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox, never the most accurate gauge of what transpires inside the ropes, were conclusive enough as Jennings found the target on 122 of 284, an impressive 43 percent, with Dimitrenko landing just 47 of 256, or 18.4 percent.

“In the fifth and sixth I had to grab the momentum back,” Jennings said. “I sensed him tiring. I didn’t get a chance to counter the way I wanted to, but I think tonight I (would have) beat Ortiz.”

Hart would not appear to require any more learning experiences to get what he most seeks, which is a rematch with the only man to defeat him, WBO 168-pound champ Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs), who won a close unanimous decision on Sept. 22, 2017. Since both Hart and Ramirez are promoted by Top Rank, and Hart is already ranked No. 1 by the WBO, a do-over would seem to be in order, but Hart claims the champion is intentionally dragging his feet.

“That’s who I want,” Hart said when asked if he is targeting Ramirez. “Give me a chance to redeem myself. He’s talking about moving up to 175. Why? I’m right here! Come on, man. Stop with the excuses. I’m right here in front of you.”

Also in front of Hart, but not for long, was Gavronski, a 32-year-old from Tacoma, Wash., whose impressive record looks better on paper than it did in the ring. After Hart wobbled Gavronski with an overhand right in the opening round of the scheduled 10-rounder, the outcome was not so much a matter of “if” as “when.”

“When I looked at his eyes after the first knockdowns (of two, both coming in the third round), he got real scared,” Hart assessed. “He started holding, grabbing. He was fighting for survival.

“After that first round, when I hurt him, he wasn’t committing to any of his punches. That’s why I was walking straight to him. I was, like, `C’mon, fight!’ When I hit a guy, his whole reaction changes.”

Arguably the most entertaining bouts, in terms of two-way action, were Carto’s eight-round unanimous decision over 35-year-old Mexican Javier Gallo (25-16-1, 13 KOs), who took everything the more talented winner threw at him and tossed some right back at him. In the walkout bout, Sosa got nearly as good as he got from uppercut-tossing Puerto Rican Reynaldo Blanco (14-5, 8 KOs), but the two knockdowns Sosa registered in the eighth and final round eliminated whatever suspense might have been on the scorecards through seven.

In other bouts, Toronto, Canada-based Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Teslenko (14-0, 11 KOs) floored Avery Gibson (9-9-4, 3 KOs) in the first round en route to a clinch-filled six-round unanimous decision; Adorno needed only 99 seconds to blast out Agustine Mauras (6-5-3, 3 KOs) in the first round, and LaManna notched an eight-round UD over the willing Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs), of Marion, S.C.

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L.A. Fight Results: Akhmedov Keeps WBA Inter-Continental Title

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Akhmedov

LOS ANGELES-Russia’s Batyr Akhmedov survived a knockdown and mounted a furious rally to retain the WBA Inter-Continental super lightweight title by knockout of Ismael Barroso in a battle between southpaws on Saturday evening.

It was Akhmedov’s first defense of the title.

Despite only five total pro fights Akhmedov (5-0, 4 KOs) kept a hold on the title with a ninth round knockout of Venezuela’s Barroso (20-3-2, 19 KOs) at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. It was not televised.

Trained by Joel Diaz in Indio, the Russian boxer was floored by Barroso with a counter left cross in the third round during a savage exchange of blows. He managed to survive by relying on his amateur style of running side to side. But that amateur style is what got him in trouble in the first place. During the exchange he went straight back and was caught with a long left counter.

Diaz warned him of moving straight back and loudly told him to stay in a low crouch. The tactics worked.

Akhmedov, 27, began attacking more aggressively and staying in the pocket longer. Slowly but surely he began mounting points round by round with quick combinations and effective lead left crosses. He gained confidence in every round.

Barroso, 35, was always dangerous in the title fight and though Akhmedov was winning every round after being dropped, each round saw both show dangerous speed and power in their blows.

In the ninth round Barroso looked to turn things around but was met with a strong left to the body and down he went for the count at 1:06 into the round. Akhmedov won by knockout and retains a hold on the WBA title.

Other Bouts

Pomona’s Israel Mercado (5-0) knocked out Thomas Herrera (9-20-1) at 19 seconds into the fourth round in a lightweight match. Four consecutive overhand rights floored the rugged Herrera and down he went.

Philippine’s John Lee Dato (6-0-1) ended the four round fight against Michael Gaxiola (4-16) with a rapid-fire eight punch combination that forced referee Sharon Sands to stop the featherweight contest at 1:47 of the fourth round.

Bakersfield’s Giovanni Noriega (2-2-1) knocked out debuting Joel Bermudez (0-1) at 2:11 of the first round. A counter right floored East L.A.’s Bermudez early in the round and he beat the count. But another right cross and two more blows staggered Bermudez again and referee Lou Moret stopped the fight giving Noriega the win by knockout.

Debuting heavyweights were evenly matched and proved it as Siala Siliga (0-0-1) and Mark Bradford (0-0-1) both knocked each other down in a four round fight. Bradford scored the first knockdown in the first round with a counter right cross. Then, Siliga scored a knockdown with a left hook in the third round. All three judges scored it 37-37 for a draw.

A super welterweight match saw Bertin Ngnibogha (2-0) defeat Bakersfield’s Derrick Clayton (1-2) by decision after four action packed rounds. Clayton showed a good chin in absorbing numerous overhand rights. Though Clayton has a strong left jab he took too many blows from Ngnibogha who was able to use his legs to move in and out of trouble.

Escondido’s Jonathan Espino (2-2) floored L.A.’s Arthur Saakyan (3-1) in the first round with a counter left hook during an exchange of blows. Saakyan beat the count. In the second round Saakyan tried to mount a rally and was met with a counter right cross and his legs wobbled badly. Referee Lou Moret stopped at the fight at 1:27 of the second round.

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