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Hopkins Looking Ahead, Not at 20-Year Reunion of 1st World Championship




You might think that the 20th anniversary of the winning of his first world championship would be a cause of celebration for Bernard Hopkins, or at least a reason for fond remembrance.

Such an assumption would be incorrect. For all his accomplishments, Hopkins, 50, is more of a forward-thinker than a looking-past type. He might or might not have one more fight to squeeze out of his career as an active fighter, but in either case he’s prepared for the next phase of a most interesting life, which the reformed ex-con envisions as a color commentator for televised boxing, a celebrity endorser, a more fully involved executive with Golden Boy Promotions or, who knows, maybe the host of a network news/entertainment show.

“I’ve been knowing Michael Strahan for, like, five years,” Hopkins, when contacted for this story, said of his friendship with the two-time-Super Bowl-winning defensive end for the New York Giants who now co-hosts “Michael and Kelly” with Kelly Ripa weekday mornings on ABC-TV. “Michael said, `Bernard, you’re a charming guy. You have personality. We have two things in common: We both like to talk, and we got that gap between our teeth.”

During an hour-long discussion of what was, what is and what is yet to be, the oldest fighter ever to win a widely recognized world title made it clear that his final bout, whether it is against an undetermined opponent sometime this year or his unanimous-decision loss to Sergey Kovalev in their light heavyweight unification showdown last Nov. 8 in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, is not the end of Bernard Hopkins. It only marks a new beginning.

“I’m always going to have fighting in me,” Hopkins said. “Physically, this year is important to me. I’m 50. There’s a movement out there that I represent, and that’s the 50-and-up club. If I do take another fight, it has to be meaningful. But, really, how many good fighters would want to run the risk of getting beat up by a 50-year-old man? There aren’t a lot of Sergey Kovalevs out there. I give him a lot of respect for agreeing to fight me. Adonis Stevenson (the WBC light heavyweight champ), he ain’t kicking down no doors to get to me or to Sergey.”

And if no credible opponent signs up for B-Hop’s farewell to the ring wars, after 27 years in the pro ranks?

“Then that’ll be that,” he said. “I’m not going to embarrass myself by begging or pleading to fight anybody.”

For many champions, retirement means taking it easy, maybe eating some of the fattening food that they had to deny themselves to remain in fighting trim, and to become fixtures at card shows and other gatherings where nostalgic fans can gaze upon them and recall just how proficient they once were in the toughest, most demanding sport of all.

Hopkins doesn’t intend to settle into the comfortable if somewhat dissatisfying existence of an official relic. After being a guest presenter at the 90th annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards Dinner in New York on April 24, and then taking in the Wladimir Klitschko-Bryant Jennings heavyweight title bout in Madison Square Garden the following night, he jetted to Las Vegas the next day to serve as an expert commentator for ESPN’s week-long coverage of the Mayweather-Pacquiao megafight, which comes on the heels of what he hopes was the first of many similar gigs with HBO Sports, having been a part of the broadcast team for the March 14 Kovalev-Jean Pascal fight in Montreal along with Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman. And while he is still learning a few tricks of that trade, like shortening his trademark 10-minute soliloquies, as entertaining as they might be, to more easily digestible 10-second sound bites.

“It takes some getting used to,” Hopkins, Philadelphia’s most notable fighter since the heyday of the late, great Smokin’ Joe Frazier, said of his introduction to vocal brevity. “I can’t dominate the conversation. I admit, I got a problem with that sometimes. But I’m learning you can use a few words to make a point instead of a lot of words. Jim Lampley has been working with me on that, like a mentor. He tells me to get in and get out. Just like in boxing.”

As an interviewee instead of as an interviewer, B-Hop can still go the distance, rattling off lengthy responses to questions about, well, just about anything. For the purposes of this story, the subject was his first world championship victory, in his third shot at a title, when he won the vacant IBF middleweight belt on a seventh-round stoppage of Ecuador’s Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, in Landover, Md. But, somewhat oddly, Hopkins’ recollections of that fateful, life-altering encounter were not on the tip of his always-wagging tongue.

“You know, I really haven’t thought about that fight in a long time,” he said. “Not even for one second.”

Perhaps, if you’re the veteran of 28 world title bouts, including 21 during his 10-year reign as a middleweight champion, it’s easy to tuck one such fight into the dustier recesses of memory. Or it just might be that Hopkins has sharper, more vivid recollections of his first two title scrums, which came up short. It nagged him that he had to wait 17 years to get a rematch with Roy Jones Jr., who won a unanimous decision for the vacant IBF middleweight crown on May 22, 1993. That festering wound was finally cleansed when Hopkins outpointed Jones on all the judges’ scorecards in a non-title, light heavyweight matchup on April 3, 2010.

And it is the first scrap with Mercado, a descendant of African slaves, that Hopkins is forever apt to recall, and none too fondly. Again fighting for the vacant IBF middleweight championship, Jones having moved up to super middleweight, Hopkins seemingly was being dealt from a stacked deck, although he was ranked No. 1 by the IBF to No. 2 for Mercado. Not only was he going up against an Ecuadorean in his home country, but the lead promoter for the fight was Don King, who had Mercado, a Quito resident who presumably was accustomed to that city’s thin air at an elevation of 9,252 feet. Hopkins, on the other hand, was brought in just two days before the bout (as he remembers it today) or four days before (the time line described by the Showtime broadcast crew). In either case, that was hardly enough time for Hopkins’ body to adjust to the stark change in altitude.

“Oh, man, that whole trip was something else,” Hopkins said. “There was a war or something going on between Ecuador and Peru. Everywhere you went, there were a lot of soldiers carrying submachine guns.

“After we arrived, I ran into (future WBA super middleweight champion) Frankie Liles and he said, `You just coming in?’ This was Thursday, two days before my fight with Mercado. I said yeah. He told me he and some of the other fighters from America had been there for, like, two weeks, to get adjusted to the altitude.

“I didn’t have nearly enough time to make that adjustment. Let me tell you, it does make a difference. The next day, I went out to run and got lightheaded. I could hardly breathe. Then I went to the gym that had been assigned for me and there was dog and chicken s— all over the place. I turned around and said, `Man, they want me to work out here? You have got to be kidding.’

“Butch Lewis (Hopkins’ promoter at the time) found some local guy, a tour guide or something, and gave him a few dollars to find us a better place. He sent us to a gym even further up the mountain! We’re being driven up there on these winding roads, with no guard rails. I’m looking out the window and you can see over the cliff. Make a bad turn, you drop all the way down and it’d have been all over. I got to the gym alive, shook out a few things, and that was it. I wasn’t about to go back up there again.”

So why did Hopkins arrive in Quito with so little time for get acclimated? He said he has “documentation” that Lewis, from whom he later split, had been given $100,000 by King to delay his departure for Ecuador and thus further enhance Mercado’s chances to become the first professional boxer from his country to win a world championship.

“I keep stuff,” Hopkins said. “They call me a hoarder, but you never know when you might need something.”

What a gasping Hopkins, who was floored in the fifth and seventh rounds, needed was a second wind. Somehow he found it, dominating the closing rounds as it was Mercado who appeared to tire more down the stretch. When it was all over, the IBF title remained vacant, Hopkins coming out ahead, 114-111, on Al DeVito’s card while Colombia’s Francisco Hernandez had Mercado winning by 116-114. That left matters up to the swing judge, Paul Gibbs, who submitted a scorecard all even at 113-113.

The IBF-mandated rematch took place just 133 days later, at sea level and on American soil. The atmospheric change and a supportive audience must have energized Hopkins, who brutalized Mercado from the opening bell until referee Rudy Battle stepped in to wave a halt to the one-sided proceedings with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining in the seventh round.

“If he couldn’t beat me in Ecuador, he damn sure wasn’t about to beat me in the States,” Hopkins said. “I think Don King knew that. It was my fight to lose at that point, and I wasn’t about to let that happen.”

As for Mercado, the thrashing he received in Landover – Hopkins still was “The Executioner” then, 20 of his 27 victories coming inside the distance, including 12 in the first round – ruined him. He was 1-7-1 thereafter until his retirement in 2003, with six of the losses by knockout.

I asked Hopkins what might have happened had Mercado gotten the nod in their first fight, or if he had fought a Mexican for a WBC belt in Mexico or Las Vegas instead of an Ecuadorean for an IBF belt in Ecuador. Boxing politics being what they are, it is not unreasonable to presume that he would have had to wait longer, perhaps even a great deal longer, to get another shot at a world championship. Maybe he would never have gotten that opportunity to become what he became.

“That makes a lot of sense, based on history,” he said. “It’s happened before, plenty of times. It does give you something to think about. It probably would have put me on a different path. But there’s no sense in wondering about what might have happened. My thing is to look ahead more than to look back, whether I ever throw another punch or not.”

As champion, Hopkins reinvented himself. With an eye toward the longevity he was to achieve, he honed the hit-and-don’t-get-hit style that has enabled him to remain at or near the top longer than any elite fighter, and that includes Archie Moore and George Foreman. He makes no apologies for the makeover that some have labeled as exciting as watching paint dry.

“Yeah, I heard how I was boring, how I was a technician,” Hopkins said. “Some of it hurt. Fighters believe that the only way to be a superstar is to be `TV-friendly’ or `fan-friendly.’ If you’re hitting and not getting hit back much, you’re perceived as not being marketable. But I came to realize I had great defense and great reflexes. I could make a guy miss and make him pay. The thing is, you can do all that and still look pretty good doing it, and against real fighters.

“Why should you take punches to prove you can take a punch? That’s ridiculous. It’s worse than ridiculous. It’s stupid.”

So the onetime “Executioner,” more recently re-labeled as “The Alien,” is morphing into “The Elocutioner.” His diction might not be velvety smooth or his grammar always perfect, but he doesn’t slur his words or demonstrate any signs of a damaged brain. Those are the foremost prerequisites for someone who is eager to continue making a good living by talking. Hopkins’ late mother, Shirley, once thought her son’s chattiness might lead him to become a preacher or a politician, and B-Hop said his first dream was to become a disc jockey on the radio.

He found boxing instead.

“I’m in a good place,” Hopkins continued. “My money’s fine, my family’s fine. People say,`Why don’t you just rest? Take it easy?’ I can’t. I won’t. To me, everything is a competition. It shouldn’t be, but it is. That’s just the way I am.”


Feature Articles

Thomas Hauser and Others Remember Dave Wolf at 75



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 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

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




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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Feature Articles

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




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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