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A Prayer For Rickey Womack

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On January 19, 2002, at age 40, undefeated heavyweight Rickey Womack died in a hospital bed with a hole where his eye should have been.

Rickey was not always this way. Once upon a time, Rickey was young and free. He had big dreams and, perhaps more importantly, the talent to make them real. Everything was set. Rickey was going to be a star.

Except that maybe everything wasn’t set. Rickey had secrets. Rickey had doubts. There was darkness inside.

His childhood had been rough. He and his eight brothers and sisters had to be removed from their home and placed into foster care because Daddy wasn’t good at bringing up kids. Momma didn’t help. Daddy would get mean and make things rough. Too rough. It was bad. All too often, it was just plain savage. No one deserved it. It’s just what it was. Rickey learned the law of the world: brutality. It never left him. Never.

But Rickey found a way to use it. He found success inside a boxing ring. As an amateur, he was the best light heavyweight in the world, national champion in 1983. He missed out on the 1984 Olympics by losing a box-off against some tough kid from Atlanta he’d beaten twice before named Evander Holyfield.

Tough break.

Rickey was fierce in the trenches. He had fast hands and real power. More than that, he fought lean and mean. He wasn’t just a machine when the bell rang though. He fought with passion. He was a savage killer in the ring, the kind that makes real money in the sport when the headgear comes off. Despite his Olympic dream washout, he was sure to be a fantastic professional. Everybody knew it.

“Rickey was a light heavyweight, but he had the speed of a lightweight,” said former cornerman Rick Griffith. “He had speed, punching power, the chin…I mean the guy could fight. Rickey Womack was the truth, man. The truth.”

Rickey’s professional career started fast. After suffering a draw in his professional opener, Rickey reeled off ten straight wins as part of Emanuel Steward’s illustrious Kronk boxing team in Detroit. Soon enough, Rickey had everything he needed. He had a mentor in Steward, a promotional deal with Top Rank, a boxing contract with ESPN that was set to pay him a minimum of $100,000 in 1986, and a pristine professional record that was sure to set him on the path to future glory.

“He was just a young guy having fun and boxing,” said Griffith. “He was a joy then. You know how it is, when you’re young and you don’t have a care in the world. He was a great guy back then.”
But Rickey’s life outside the ring was moving even faster. And there was still that darkness.

Rickey always had trouble walking the straight and narrow. Amateur teammates reported multiple thefts by Rickey during his reign as national champion, and the behavior didn’t stop when he hit the professional ranks. Rickey was a rough dude.

By 1985, Rickey had turned to violent crime. Rickey pistol-whipped a female clerk with a 9mm handgun for just a few hundred dollars and a handful of videos. Months later, he attempted another robbery that ended with him panicking and shooting a passerby who happened to walk into the store that night to rent a movie. His victim lived, but Rickey’s career was now on life support.

Rickey was arrested for the shooting on June 9, 1986. Police found Rickey’s car keys and wallet at the scene of the crime. It was an easy trial for the prosecution. At the tender age of 22, Rickey was sentenced to serve 12–25 years in prison.

Years passed, but as Rickey aged, he found things in prison he had never had before. He found a faith in God, and he found friendship in the form of pen pal and visitor Dr. Stuart Kirschenbaum.
Kirschenbaum is a boxing guy. A Detroit-area podiatrist, he’s done just about everything one can do in the sport of boxing. He’s been a fighter, a judge and even Michigan’s state boxing commissioner. Like any good Detroit fight fan, Kirschenbaum had followed Rickey’s amateur exploits as he was coming up ranks, and the two men got to know each other through letters and phone calls during Rickey’s stay at the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit. They kept at it, even when Rickey was moved to other prisons around the state.

Rickey was still troubled, but having a friend like Kirschenbaum helped him.

“Man, Dr. Kirschenbaum has been such a great help to me,” Rickey told The Detroit News back in 2000 as he waited to face the parole board. “Whenever I needed someone to talk to, to chastise me, he accepted my call. I cherish it.”

Kirschenbaum cherished it, too, and the day Rickey was finally released from prison in November of 2000 (paroled almost fifteen years into his sentence), Kirschenbaum was there to pick him up.

“My life, I can’t play it back,” Rickey told the parole board before his release. “I can’t change the past. The only thing I can do from the past is to learn from it.”

Rickey left Jackson state prison with basically nothing. Now 39 years old, the man who once had the world in the palm of his hand was reduced to simple things: a change of clothes, hand wraps and a check for $28.82. But Rickey was free now, and he’d kept himself in good enough shape to look almost as if he’d never been there at all.

Rickey probably thought about a lot of things on the 77 mile ride with Kirschenbaum back to Detroit. He must have been full of wonder, fear and hope. Rickey had told Detroit sports journalists who’d kept in touch with him while he was incarcerated that boxing was the furthest thing from his mind, but that probably changed on his trip back into the city. Boxing is what Rickey knew.

“We’ve talked about Rickey getting a job in real life,” Kirschenbaum told The Detroit News before Rickey’s release. “He can get a job working construction, or anything, just like anyone else. If Rickey wants to go to the gym and work out and maybe have a fight, that’s OK. But it’s going to be his avocation, not his job.”

Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for Rickey to find himself back inside the boxing ring. Just three weeks after his release, Rickey met his new team at Detroit’s Johnson Recreation Center. It consisted of Kirschenbaum, head trainer Bill Miller, assistant coach Rick Griffith and promoter Bill Kozerski. Rickey was right back where he belonged. He was a highly skilled boxer with a topnotch team behind him.

Even at his advanced age, Rickey still had promise. Boxing was what he was born to do, and it was almost immediately apparent to Rickey’s team that he still something left in the tank.

“I was amazed a guy could come back after 14 years and look that good,” Miller told the Detroit Free Press.

“He basically was the same fighter he was before he went to prison,” added Griffith. “His body was basically preserved.”

Rickey had support from his fellow 1983-84 counterparts as well. Griffith said both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, by now multi-millionaire stars of the sport, reached out to Rickey after his release to offer their support. Tyson even supplemented Rickey’s income to help him get back on his feet.

Rickey had it all now. Again.

Griffith said no one on Rickey’s team had delusions of grandeur, but once they witnessed him back inside the boxing gym, optimism was high. Rickey was a beast when he trained. He was the real deal.

“Now, I’m not going to say he would’ve been world champion,” said Griffith. “But with the promoter he had (Kozerski also represented James Toney and Chris Byrd) he would have been put into a position to fight for the title. I know he would’ve at least gotten a shot.”

On Thursday, March 29, 2001, Rickey Womack returned to the boxing ring against a 10-4 heavyweight from New York named Curt Paige. The Yankee was tough. Every one of his wins had been a knockout. But Rickey Womack was the truth. He knocked Paige out halfway through the scheduled 6-rounder. Rickey was back.

Griffith told TSS it wasn’t long before Rickey was living the highlife again. The 39-year-old indulged himself in new clothes and nice a cars, and he married a beautiful lawyer named Angela.
“Rickey was getting $10,000 a bout to fight journeymen,” said Griffith. “He should’ve been happy.”
But Rickey wasn’t happy.

Rickey picked up two more victories after defeating Paige. He defeated Gesses Mesgana by TKO in the fourth round that May and outpointed Kenny Snow just two months later.

Despite his success, people began noticing a change in Rickey.

“There were some days he was a great guy,” said Griffith. “But some days, he’d just shut down.”

Griffith said Rickey suffered from terrible mood swings, and that unbeknownst to those at the gym, his relationship with Angela had turned sour.

“Rickey was so incredibly jealous,” Kirschenbaum related to Frank Fraser. “He used to lock her in the house if he had to go somewhere and she wasn¹t allowed to leave. Rickey had a hard time understanding what a marriage was about. He looked at her as a possession and kept her away from his career. He had a lot of trouble sharing with her his problems. He treated her as if he was the warden and she was the prisoner…”

Griffith said Rickey was also immensely distrustful of people he didn’t know.

“As a person, he was very standoffish. He didn’t really want to be around people. If you weren’t in our clique, you didn’t have much coming with Rickey. Even us, some days he’d just come and say he didn’t want to talk. He’d just work out, get his bag and leave.”

Despite it all, Rickey still looked great in the gym. But it was fight night that mattered most, and Rickey had issues when it counted.

“In the gym, he looked like a million dollars, but when we used to go the fight and the lights came on, he was always worried about what people thought.”

Griffith said Rickey was obsessed with the past. He’d constantly ask Griffith if he thought people were laughing at him.

“You think they think I don’t look as good as I did in the 80s?” he’d ask.

Rickey’s last fight was November 23, 2001 against Willie Chapman at The Palace at Auburn Hills. Rickey won a unanimous decision in front of 10,000 raucous Motor City fight fans but appeared sluggish and disinterested throughout the bout. The boo-birds let him hear it, too, and Rickey did not take it well.

“He was just so worried about what the audience was thinking that he wouldn’t pull the trigger,” said Griffith.

Griffith said Rickey was so obsessed with the crowd that he even began talking about it between rounds. Spotting legendary champion Thomas Hearns at ringside seemed to make things worse. As “The Motor City Cobra” was milling around with friends and fans during the fight, Hearns cracked a smile and laughed.

“Is Tommy laughing at me?” Rickey angrily asked Griffith.

“What?” Griffith replied. “Well, he’s laughing, but I don’t know if he’s laughing at you. Should we even be thinking about this right now?”

Rickey was dead within two months.

It’s hard to say what Rickey could’ve accomplished as a professional had he never turned to crime. There are plenty of amateur standouts that never pan out in the pros, but something about Rickey strikes a chord with people. Evander Holyfield dedicates a portion of his autobiography to telling Rickey’s story, and goes so far as to say the hardest part of his Olympic journey was getting past him.

“No fighter I’d go up against during the Games was as good a fighter as Rickey Womack,” Holyfield wrote.

For his part, Griffith believes Rickey could’ve been just as good a professional as Holyfield, a surefire all-time great, turned out to be–maybe even better.

“Had he never gone to prison, all the accolades Evander Holyfield got would’ve been Rickey Womack’s. All the guys Evander beat, Rickey would’ve beaten. Now, Rickey would’ve had problems with Riddick Bowe the way Evander did…but Rickey would’ve beaten all the guys Holyfield did, including Mike Tyson.”

It was not meant to be.

“That armed robbery: it was dumb. And honestly, he got what he deserved. But after he served his time, after he paid his debt, he should’ve been able to live his life and move on. And Rickey just couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t do it.”

Rickey didn’t tell anyone he was going to kill himself. Maybe he thought he’d already done that. Years before, Rickey had sent Kirschenbaum a letter from prison. Rickey was especially distraught that day. He felt the walls of life closing in on him, and he was losing hope he’d ever be free.

Doc,

Hello to my one true friend in life whom I have adopted as a father figure. It’s sad but true, I don’t like getting sad news and yet this is a sad goodbye. As I write this letter I’m trying to fight back the tears of my inner pain.

As I once told you, my dear friend, there are doors that are open, and that no man can close them, and there are those that are closed that no man can open.

Doc, in this life it has been bittersweet and untastefully sad. To the Creator, at the sad end of my life, I was a bit mad. I used to fear death until I understood death. When I muster up enough courage I will take this physical life of my own through the death of hanging. Tell not my twin brother of this, but let him know that he was and always will be the shadow of life in my every thought.

Love,
Ric

Or maybe Rickey thought he’d said enough to Kirschenbaum on his way back home after his last fight inside the boxing ring where he took the win over Chapman.

“Don’t worry about me anymore, doc,” he said.

“Don’t do anything you’ll regret,” Kirschenbaum replied, but Rickey didn’t answer.

Maybe Rickey Womack died in prison after all.

“I remember one day we were in the ring doing hand work,” Griffith said. “He just stopped and said Rick, man, I’m still in prison.”

“I said what are you talking about? You’re out here, you’re making good money, you have a beautiful wife, and you’re in the thick of things as far as making money as a fighter. I mean, he was making good money for those little 4-5 round fights he was having. I was like man, you’re out, you’re doing your thing, and he says: nah, man I’m still in prison in my mind.”

Griffith paused a bit, as if he was hearing it for the first time.

“And when he made that statement, that’s when I knew that this was going to be rough. Because he still felt he was in prison. Not in a physical prison, but in the prison of his mind. And the prison of his mind was his past.”

One Friday night, after a heated argument with his wife, after holding her hostage, after threatening to kill her and almost everyone else in the world who still loved or cared for him, including Kirschenbaum, Miller, Griffith and Kozerski, the undefeated Rickey Womack decided to remain that way forever. He pulled out a pistol he’d borrowed from his nephew, loaded it, placed the unforgiving barrel up against his head and squeezed the trigger.

“The day Rickey killed himself, I was so hurt, and this really shocked me: his wife explained he had said he was about to go to the gym and kill all of us. He named all of us. I don’t know where that came from. We were nothing but supportive to Rickey…”

Almost a decade later, there is still hurt in Griffith’s voice.

“I felt as close to him as I could have with the short time we were working together.”

It had to be even more painful for Kirschenbaum, who dedicated well over a decade of his life to the friendship.

“Rickey wouldn’t share his problems with people…he distrusted people too much,” Kirschenbaum lamented to the Oakland Press after Rickey’s passing. “He was still incarcerated in his own mind. I’m distraught over the whole thing.”

Some things are just plain lousy. Rickey Womack died at St. John Oakland Hospital under a two police guard with a bloody bandage over his eye. There was no happy ending for Rickey in this world. Instead, there was only hurt and only pain.

I asked Griffith if he’s a praying man. Griffith said he believes in God, but isn’t sure what to call Him: Jesus, Allah or Buddha. I ask what his prayer for Rickey Womack is today.
It does not take long for Griffith to answer.

“To the Creator, wherever Rickey is now, I pray he has peace that he couldn’t get on earth. Wherever Rickey is, to whoever is in charge, I hope they show mercy to his soul. And that he’s at peace now.

“He was not at peace here.”

+++
Author’s note: Heaven—I choose to believe in such things for many reasons. There’s not much time for it here, but Faith and Reason are hallmarks of my personal belief system, Catholicism.

But I do not believe in heaven just for my own sake. I do not believe in it just for my wife, my mom and dad, my sister, my pets, best of friends, etc. I do not believe in it just for the Saints, the Mother Theresa’s and the Mahatma Ghandi’s of the world. I do not believe in it just for the people I know, the smiling, happy people who are nice to one another, or the admirable people I read about in books or see in movies.

Sure, I believe in heaven because of these people and things, but mostly, I think, I believe in heaven because of people like Rickey Womack. I believe in heaven because there has to be more to life than love overcome by hate, more to it than joy snuffed out by misery, more than just the imprisoning of a heart and a bullet to the brain, more than bloody bandages over a hole where an eye should be.

There just has to be a heaven for people like Rickey Womack, because they certainly do not find it here.

My past is history. My future is a blessed mystery. Thank the Lord.– Rickey Womack, 2001

 

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Johnny Bey and the Glory Days of Boxing at the Great Western Forum

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Veteran boxing publicist John Beyrooty was inducted into the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame last week. This particular hall of fame is the third boxing hall of fame devoted primarily to boxers and boxing personalities who energized the Los Angeles boxing scene. Its antecedents were the California Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

With this latest honor, John Beyrooty (Johnny Bey to his friends and co-workers) hit the trifecta. He’s been recognized by all three. For good measure, Beyrooty received the 2016 Good Guy Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Beyrooty’s induction called to mind the days when the Great Western Forum (now back to being called the plain old Forum) was a beehive of boxing. Wealthy real estate investor Dr. Jerry Buss then owned the joint as well as the arena’s signature tenant, the Los Angeles Lakers. During the Buss years (1982-1999), there were 302 GWF shows, most of which were held on a Monday. They aired on Prime Ticket, a regional cable network in which Buss had an ownership stake.

Beginning in 1989, Johnny Bey was Jerry Buss’s PR guy for the fights.

JOHN BEYROOTY, NEWSPAPERMAN

A little background. For folks of a certain vintage, John Beyrooty will always be associated with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. At one time the largest circulation afternoon paper in America, the paper, which could trace its roots to 1903, went belly-up 29 years ago. The last issue rolled off the press on Nov. 2, 1989.

The Herald-Examiner had a great sports section. The rival LA Times could boast of Jim Murray, a wonderful wordsmith, and several other notables, but no one bought the Times just for the sports section. Three Herald-Examiner sportswriters – columnists Allan Malamud and Melvin Durslag and Bob Mieszerski, the horse racing guy, were snatched away by the Times during the end days of the Herald-Examiner.

Beyrooty, who grew up in the LA suburb of Downey (Herald-Examiner sports editor Bud Furillo was a neighbor) joined the paper as a copy boy. After five years in this capacity he became a writer, assigned to the boxing beat. “They gave me boxing because no one else wanted it,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with former Herald-Examiner colleague Doug Krikorian.

The first boxing show Beyrooty covered, on March 15, 1979, at the fabled Olympic Auditorium, was also the first boxing show he ever saw. Alberto “Superfly” Sandoval opposed Eddie Logan in the main event.

During his days as a copy boy Beyrooty moonlighted as a parking lot attendant at the old LA Sports Arena, a job he kept for a time after becoming a boxing writer. One night he worked a double shift, so to speak. In the fashion of Superman changing his costume, he ripped off the colorful shirt that parking lot attendants were required to wear and dashed into the arena to take his assigned seat in the section reserved for the ringside press.

FORUM BOXING, SNAPSHOTS

Twelve fighters promoted by Forum Boxing have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. For some, the Great Western Forum was their nursery. Juan Manuel Marquez had his first 33 fights here. Oscar De La Hoya made his pro debut at the Great Western Forum. John Beyrooty is credited with giving Oscar his nickname, “Golden Boy.”

At the Great Western Forum, good things came in small packages. The great flyweight Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson had most of his early fights in and around his native Washington DC, but came to the fore at the Great Western Forum where he made 14 appearances. Ask John Bayrooty and he would tell you that Mark Johnson in his prime was pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world. An even smaller man, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, made the GWF turnstiles hum. “Chiquita” was responsible for five of the 10 largest crowds.

In 1993 and again in 1995, Humberto Gonzalez was involved in the Fight of the Year. His opponents were Michael Carbajal and Saman Sorjaturong.

The first of these fights, co-promoted with Top Rank, was actually held in Las Vegas. Forum Boxing occasionally took its act on the road. This practice became more common when Forum Boxing president John Jackson took a second job as an assistant football coach at UNLV under his longtime friend and mentor John Robinson.

A bizarre moment in the shoddy history of UNLV football – engendering some outrage but mostly horse laughs — occurred on Nov. 2, 2002, when Coach Jackson disappeared with three minutes remaining in a game that was hanging in the balance. Marco Antonio Barrera, who was then the ace of the dwindling Forum Boxing stable, was fighting Johnny Tapia up the road at the MGM Grand. Jackson didn’t want to miss the fight. (UNLV prevailed without him, upending Wyoming 49-48 in overtime).

The Gonzalez-Sorjaturong fight was one of many great wars staged at the Great Western Forum during the Buss years. Among the others, two in particular stand out. The June 27, 1987, match between neighborhood rivals Frankie Duarte and Alberto Davila, won by Duarte (TKO 10), was a savage bloodbath. Two years later, in the first of their three meetings, Paul Banke and Daniel Zaragoza, went hammer and tongs for all 12 rounds. Zaragoza retained his WBA 122-pound title on a split decision.

The April 26, 1993, bout between defending WBA 130-pound champion Genero “Chicanito” Hernandez and Raul Perez warrants a citation as the most disappointing. The highly-anticipated match was over in 28 seconds. A wicked cut wrought by an accidental head butt forced the stoppage.

No arena is going to host that many fights without some rancid decisions. The worst of the worst was the May 20, 1991 match between Victor Rabanales and Greg Richardson. The crowd went berserk when the decision went to Richardson. All three judges were appointed by the WBC. Richardson was promoted by Don King. ‘Nuff said.

JOHN BEYROOTY, FIGHT PUBLICIST

Jerry Buss reportedly lost money with his boxing venture but he wasn’t the sort to pinch pennies. The program that Beyrooty assembled for each show – “Fight Night at the Forum” – was produced on thick, glossy paper stock at considerable cost. Inside the publication, at its core, Beyrooty analyzed the main event, breaking down the principals in terms of their fighting styles and other variables. In most issues, Beyrooty reprised his old Herald-Examiner weekly notes column, a wide-ranging potpourri of fight news and rumors. At his heart, John Beyrooty was still a newspaperman.

The programs – a complete set would be a cool collector’s item — were also chock full of eye candy. The late Dr. Buss had a fine eye for the ladies and that’s putting it mildly as he was in Hugh Hefner’s league as a playboy. The Great Western Forum was continually running tournaments for ring card girls (fans got to choose their favorite from each pod) and full pages were devoted to the lineup.

After the end of his run with Forum Boxing, Beyrooty joined Brener-Zwikel & Associates, a sports public relations firm. He did considerable traveling while handling the SHOWTIME BOXING account, including a trip to China for a fight that was cancelled at the 11th hour. Nowadays, Johnny Bey has been scarce around the office as he deals with a myriad of nagging little health issues. Hopefully this is only a hiccup and he will be back to full speed very soon.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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The Avila Perspective Chap. 18: Timekeepers, Pension and Coming Fights

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Mike North works in the underbelly of the boxing world in a state that sees more fight business in a month than other states see in an entire year.

If this was the military, he might be a radar technician or man the sonar in a nuclear-powered submarine.

But this is prizefighting, and in his role, North tirelessly works with a stopwatch as the official timekeeper. It’s a role that he’s performed for hundreds of fights through two decades in the state of California.

North will be inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame for his many years spent as an official timekeeper for the California State Athletic Commission. The ceremony takes place on Saturday Oct. 20, at the Sportsman’s Lodge in the Studio City area of Los Angeles.

Others being inducted are Michael Carbajal, Chango Carmona, Frankie Liles, Guty Espadas Sr. and Guty Espadas Jr., Jose Celaya and others.

As a youngster in Kansas City, Missouri who loved boxing, North began as an amateur boxer and frequented the nearby gym to learn the fistic art.

“The people training me said you’re not very good, why don’t you be a writer or photographer. So, I became one in 1990,” said North, adding that he moved to California and began working first as a photographer and then as a writer for various sports publications, including a magazine called Ring Sports.

Through his work as a journalist, he began meeting ring officials and was persuaded to apply for a position as a boxing official for the state of California.

“I got to meet a lot of officials, and Dick Young was a Missouri boy like me. He recommended to me to be an official in 1998,” said North who, because of an abundance of referees and judges, opted for the role as a timekeeper.

He’s been working the fights as a CSAC timekeeper ever since.

“One of my first shows on TV was for Julio Cesar Chavez at Staples Center. That was one of my first shows. I was happy to do that show. The boxing legend and his son made his pro debut but he (senior) got beat up and later retired. So, I got to time his second to last fight,” said North of the fight that took place in May 2005.

Along the way, North has worked many of the biggest prize fights in Southern California, including the Oscar De La Hoya and Steve Forbes fight at the StubHub Center in May 2008. That fight drew more than 30,000 fans into the stadium where the LA Galaxy and LA Chargers now play.

Another memorable moment for North occurred with one of his favorite fighters, Bernard Hopkins in 2016. That title contest turned out to be the Philadelphia fighter’s final prize fight.

“I was timekeeper when Bernard Hopkins got knocked out of the ring,” said North, who is married and works about 30 fight cards a year. “That night during a championship fight, he gets knocked out of the ring. He’s got 20 seconds to get back into the ring. I start counting. One or two of the inspectors helped him out. Once they touched Hopkins the fight was over and I finished counting.”

That fight emphasizes just one of the many duties of a timekeeper. Once any fight card begins, a timekeeper has to manage the clock, bell and whistle for the ring announcers, referees, and television when it’s involved.

It’s a tedious adventure and not meant for everyone.

“The difficulties come in doing it when I’m tired. Talk about the fundamentals, the hardest thing is having to stay focused during the entire fight from beginning to end. In a big 12 round fight, it’s 50 minutes just timekeeping and focusing, maintaining discipline of timing the rounds and rests and counting the knockdowns. Those are the biggest demands for a timekeeper,” said North, who works as an aerospace engineer during the day.

“It’s not as easy as people think. Especially if you are doing live TV like HBO, there are all kinds of distractions. Sometimes when you are on live TV it adds a little bit of pressure to you.”

Experiencing that pressure and dealing with it over the last two decades has prompted California State Athletic Commission executives to appoint North as an advisor for new recruits joining the ranks of timekeepers.

The first advice he gives is purchasing a reliable stopwatch, whistle, bell and black and white striped shirt.

“I recommend they buy a stopwatch that has a certificate of calibration from a manufacturer and costs over $25. You need to have two to four stopwatches in case one goes out,” says North, who has more than one of everything.

“Once, I had a whistle with a corked ball inside of it. I was doing a fight at the Playboy Mansion and the corked ball blew out the gap of the whistle. It didn’t impact the fight. But a malfunction can impact the fight if you are not prepared.”

North is always prepared.

“It is difficult to find people that want to do timekeeping, stay with it and like to do it,” said Andy Foster, Executive Director for CSAC. “We don’t have that many. It’s a real skill to picking up that count, to working with the referee and having the focus and instincts. There is a real skill to it.”

After 20 years of working along the boxing rings throughout Southern California, the veteran timekeeper realizes a need for more official clock watchers has arrived. But his time is not over as he works with new recruits.

“It has a lot of rewards that go with it. We have the best seats in the world for boxing events,” said North, who also keeps time for MMA bouts. “It’s very rewarding because you get to meet a lot of great people.”

Many of those people will be at the Sportsman’s Lodge when North receives his entry into the California Boxing Hall of Fame.

Time really does go fast when you are having fun.

 

California Pension for boxers

“A pension fund established for retired boxers has reached a total of more than $5 million dollars,” said Andy Foster, Executive Director for CSAC.

Any retired boxer over the age of 50 who fought more than 75 rounds with no more than a three-year break, or 10 rounds a year for at least four years without a three-year break is eligible for money due.

The pension fund was established in 1982 to help retired prizefighters in their older years.

A list will be provided soon and a future story on this will also be available.

Downtown L.A. and Indio on Thursday night

In the old business district of downtown Los Angeles, a boxing show takes place at the Exchange LA, located at 618 S. Spring Street, L.A. 90014. PR Sports is putting on the show that features Gloferson Ortizo, Adan Ochoa, and Damien Lopez among others. A couple of years ago it’s where current budding prospect Ryan “The Flash” Garcia made his first American debut as a professional.

It’s a solid fight card.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information call (310) 315-0525.

It can be seen on the CBS Sports website.

About 120 miles east another boxing card takes place.

Fantasy Springs Casino hosts a Golden Boy Promotions fight card showcasing Ireland’s Jason Quigley (14-0) against Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez (34-9) in a middleweight clash set for 10 rounds.

Quigley defends the NABF title he won in March 2017. During that fight against Glen Tapia he broke his hand and was out of action for a year. He returned this past March and won by knockout on a Massachusetts card.

Hernandez, 39, is a veteran originally from Mexico City who fights out of L.A. His best victory came against Alfredo Angulo two years ago. He’s crafty and doesn’t take chances.

ESPN2 will televise the Golden Boy card.

Friday in Ontario

Thompson Boxing Promotions rolls out another boxing card at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

For 18 years this Southern California promotion group has been uncovering hidden jewels. Its latest is WBA super bantamweight champion Danny Roman, who is expected to be present at the fight card this Friday, Oct. 19.

Roman will be introduced to the crowd. Last week, the Los Angeles-based prizefighter knocked out England’s Gavin McDonnell in the 10th round in Chicago. It was his third successful defense of the title he grabbed in Japan a year ago.

A primary reason I’ve covered these fight cards has been Thompson Boxing’s ability to discover talent like Roman and many others.

Saturday in Las Vegas

WBA middleweight titlists Ryoto Murata (14-1, 11 KOs) defends the title against Rob Brant (23-1, 16 KOs) in a 12 round clash on Saturday Oct. 20, at the Park Theater MGM in Las Vegas. The Top Rank card will be televised by ESPN.

Murata, 32, doesn’t have time to waste at his age. He needs to go after the big guns, whoever they are. As the holder of the minor version of the title, he’s got to keep his place in line. And like most Japanese fighters, he’s not shy about taking chances.

Brant, 28, will be fighting an upper tier opponent for the second time. His only loss was to former WBA and WBO world light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer in first round action in the World Boxing Super Series 168-pound tournament.

With Canelo now holding the WBC title and fighting for the WBA super middleweight title in December after defeating Gennady Golovkin by decision, the middleweight division is wide open.

In the semi-main event, a super lightweight match set for 10 rounds, Russia’s Maxim Dadashev (11-0,10 KOs) meets the ultimate gatekeeper in Mexico’s Antonio DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KOs).

Dadashev, 28, has knocked out almost all of his opponents, so the brain trust at Top Rank wants to see if he can truly fight someone who does not go down easily.

DeMarco, 32, is a rangy former world titlist from Tijuana who has warred against the best punchers in the business, including wins over Jorge Linares, John Molina and Mickey Roman. He doesn’t quit. He didn’t quit against one of the best punchers of all time, Edwin Valero, in that fighter’s last pro fight.

It’s a perfect test for Dadashev. It’s also a good fight for DeMarco to prove that he deserves another world title shot.

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Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions Announce Fight Deal With DAZN at MSG

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At a press conference today at Madison Square Garden, professional boxing’s biggest star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions announced they signed a massive deal, reportedly a more than $365 million dollar contract, with the streaming company DAZN.

“I’ve always said when one door closes, another one opens,” said Alvarez in front of a crowd at the Garden and also to those watching it streamed live.

That door was blasted wide open with the announcement that Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotion fighters will be included on future DAZN streamed boxing cards in a five-year deal.

“Obviously for us it’s a major day. Live sports are undergoing a major change,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy. “We’ve made a deal with the sports leaders in the sport of boxing DAZN.”

Gomez added that Canelo will perform 11 fights with DAZN exclusively.

“He will now have the richest sports contract in sports history,” said Gomez, adding that 10 future DAZN events will feature other Golden Boy fighters too.

It’s been a topsy-turvy month, especially after HBO announced two weeks ago that they were moving out of the boxing business after 40 years. Boxing had brought that television network its success and now it is bailing out.

Streaming has become the new source for watching live boxing, but it still needed a major star to bring viewers. What bigger name than Canelo.

“Canelo was the answer,” said DAZN.

“Canelo has sold 3.6 million buys for three quarters of a billion dollars. His next 11 fights will be exclusively on DAZN,” said John Skipper, chairman of DAZN adding that Alvarez’s next fight will be free. “Today represents a major shift in providing the top major sports content.”

Super middleweight title fight

Alvarez, who recently defeated long reigning middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to win the WBC and WBA middleweight titles, will now face WBA super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15. It will be streamed free to entice fans to subscribe to DAZN which also streams MMA and other sports events.

Fielding, who fights out of Liverpool, England, looked like a basketball player standing next to the redhead Alvarez on the stage.

“I’ve worked all my life to get to the world stage. Now I’m fighting the biggest star in boxing. It’s every fighter’s dream to fight in Madison Square Garden,” said Fields. “I’ve watched him over the years. I’m going to give everything.”

Eddie Hearn, whose promotion company Matchroom Boxing represents Fielding and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, is also a partner with DAZN.

“We had a mission to make sure that the DAZN platform worked and is a success. We launched that platform with Anthony Joshua and now with Golden Boy they bring Canelo Alvarez to the landscape,” said Hearn. “Now with Joshua and Canelo on DAZN the whole game is about to change. This is just the beginning for the DAZN platform believe me.”

No more pay-per-view

Golden Boy Promotions announced that the deal to showcase its other fighters begins in early 2019 and will feature 10 high caliber fight cards. No longer will its fight be on pay-per-view. Instead the low monthly cost of about $5 dollars a month will be the only charge for all of the fights on DAZN that will be streamed in not only the U.S., but also the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and Japan.

Other sports promotions include Matchroom Boxing cards and MMA by Bellator and Combate Americas.

“It’s been many years that I wanted to fight here. I’m here and I want to give a great fight to the fans in New York,” said Alvarez at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. “The most important thing is the fans can enjoy this fight at a very low price.”

Golden Boy will also co-produce the televised events and social media presentations. The deal will also include 7,000 hours of Oscar De La Hoya’s library.

De La Hoya was elated by the new partnership.

“This is easily one of the best days in the growing history of Golden Boy Promotions,” said De La Hoya, the CEO and chairman of Golden Boy Promotions.

A new page is turned for the sport of boxing and a redhead named Canelo Alvarez is leading the way.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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