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Russell Peltz on Passing of Harold Johnson

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Harold Johnson was my boyhood hero. My friends would dream about being Mickey Mantle or Tommy McDonald or Wilt Chamberlain, but for me, Harold Johnson was The Bomb. It got to the point that when I was in high school, I would get my hair cut so short, just like Harold’s, that my head looked like a dirty tennis ball. Friends would yell “there goes Peltz with his Harold Johnson haircut.”

His passing this morning leaves me empty and comes at a time when I am questioning my own future in the sometimes wonderful, sometimes wretched world of professional boxing.

Harold was the light-heavyweight champion of the world when, as he would remind me, there was only one world, not a conglomeration of close to 70 belt holders. Rarely were there more than eight world champions in Harold’s time.

There are so many Harold Johnson stories I could tell that would fill up an entire book. Here’s one of them!

Harold had signed to fight Doug Jones, of New York, for the undisputed world title on May 12, 1962, at The Arena in West Philadelphia. He held the NBA version and Jones was the leading contender. Archie Moore was recognized by New York and Europe, but he no longer could make the 175-pound limit so the powers that be sanctioned the showdown between Harold and Jones for universal recognition. I was 15 at the time and in my sophomore year at Lower Merion High School. That’s right, Kobe Bryant went to my high school, I didn’t go to his.?

The top priced ticket for the fight was $10. Somehow, I came up with the money because mom had put her foot down and didn’t want dad taking me to any more fights. She thought boxing was a bad influence on me. I took the bus downtown one Saturday and went to the Central City Ticket Office, which was the major ticket outlet back then for the big fights. I bought a ticket for a seat in the Ringside Elevation, dead center, about eight rows up.

When I got home, I ran to my sister’s bedroom, jumped on her bed and showed her the ticket with Herman Taylor’s (promoter) signature on it. I was in heaven! She couldn’t believe I had done it.

The week of the fight—it was on a Saturday night—I told mom I was going to a party at a friend’s house. I walked a couple of blocks to the Bala Cynwyd shopping center, got a bus to 54th & City Line near St. Joseph’s College, then hopped another bus to 52d & Market in West Philly. From there I took the Market Street El to the Arena at 46th & Market. I bought a program outside—I still have it—and I was the first person in the Arena that night.

I remember the usher who took me to my seat remarking that $10 was a lot of money for a young kid to be spending.

The man who sat next to me said he had a son who played soccer for Lower Merion. I knew his son because I had played briefly for the junior varsity.

Harold entered the ring from our side of the building and I remember his blue robe with the white lettering. I was so nervous watching the fight that the pen I used for scoring snapped in half in my hand because I was holding it so tight. The ink was all over my palm.

Harold fought one of his best fights that night, winning a unanimous 15-round decision against a man who less than one year later would give a young Cassius Clay fits in Madison Square Garden.

Afterward, the man next to me asked to drive me home and I freaked out because I didn’t want mom to see me getting out of someone’s car. I told him I could take the subway and the bus but he insisted so I told him I lived about a block or two from where I really lived and I got off there and walked home. Mom never knew.

Less than six weeks later, Harold flew to Berlin, Germany, where he earned a 15-round decision over Gustav Scholz to convince the European Boxing Union that he, indeed, was the man at 175 pounds. Scholz had lost just one out of 92 fights going in. There were 40,000 people in that outdoor soccer stadium and the voting referee and both judges were from Europe. Imagine today’s prima donnas doing that!

I’m not going to waste space writing about the despicable decision that cost Harold his title against Willie Pastrano in 1963 in Las Vegas, but I believe it ranks among the 10 worst in boxing history.

Years later, when I was a senior at Temple University, I was also working full-time on the sports staff at The Evening Bulletin. It was 1968 and the first story I ever wrote for The Bulletin was about Harold’s latest comeback and his win over Eddie “Bossman” Jones in Las Vegas.

The next year, when I began promoting fights, I had wanted Harold to headline my first card, but we couldn’t agree on terms and it never happened.

In 1989, when I had a weekly boxing talk show on WIP radio in Philadelphia, he was the guest on my first show. Harold and I became good friends, but he was not doing well financially. He needed money to get his car out of a repair shop so he sold me the championship belt he had received from The Ring magazine along with the blue-and-white robe he wore that night against Doug Jones.

The Ring belt had been wasting away in a shoe box in his closet and several of the chain links had been broken. I had it restored and framed and it is the crown jewel in my collection. His robe hangs in my closet. I recently was able to purchase a poster from the Doug Jones fight, something I had been wanting for years.

?When Harold was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993, I drove him to Canastota, NY, and back. He was so shy he didn’t want to sign autographs so he put a fake cast on his right hand to dissuade people from asking. It was no use. He gave in and was one of the most popular figures that weekend.

Over the years I would call him, disguising my voice and telling him it was Willie Pastrano on the phone, and how easy it was beating him that night in Las Vegas. He’d say something like “ok, yeah, sure, get over here where I catch you.”

That was about as nasty as Harold could get. I never heard him curse, never heard him use a four-letter word. I remember one time he was talking about a guy who had a great body and the best Harold could say was that the guy was built like a brick outhouse. He couldn’t use the other description. He had class!

I went with his son Chuck to see him last year at the Veterans Administration Home in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. It was not a pretty picture. He didn’t recognize me and was virtually incapable of putting sentences together. This was sad, coming from a man who was once so virile, so strapping, such a physical specimen.

Teddy Brenner, the legendary matchmaker from Madison Square Garden, once remarked that Harold Johnson was as close to being the perfect fighter as one could be but that there was no room in boxing for perfection.

Harold won 76 out of 87 fights against some of the baddest light-heavyweights and heavyweights who ever strapped on the cup and he did it at a time when boxing really meant something on the sports landscape. I will miss him and I will miss those wonderful days.

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Three Punch Combo: What’s in the Cards for Spence, Kell Brook, and Cotto?

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 THREE PUNCH COMBO: Errol Spence Jr. scored an impressive knockout victory against Kell Brook on Saturday to take Brook’s IBF welterweight title. Both fighters now face interesting possibilities as they move forward in their respective careers.

Spence, who entered the fight with a lot of questions, not only showcased his tremendous skills but proved he has a very good chin as well as the willingness to dig deep when needed. He is without a doubt a future superstar in this sport. With momentum strong right now, he would be wise to be as active as possible even if not landing one of the big names his next time out.

I sense that Spence’s advisor, Al Haymon, will in fact get him back in the ring this summer. One name I would speculate as an opponent is Adrian Granados. Coming off a debatable loss to Adrien Broner, Granados has earned another shot at a top fighter. Granados is not a big puncher, but will put forth a good effort. The translation here is that he is someone that can be sold to the public as an opponent for Spence while bigger names are lined up, and also someone against whom Spence can in all likelihood look impressive once again.

After a summer tilt, I would expect to see Spence back in action towards the end of the year in a more substantial fight. Keith Thurman will still be on the mend at this point, recovering from elbow surgery, so that fight is out until next year. But Haymon has plenty of other welterweights and one that I suspect he steers toward Spence will be Lamont Peterson. Peterson is a name and has a belt. He also has a stated desire to want one of the big names next along with the payday that it would command. With Thurman out, this would seem the likely immediate path for Spence as such a fight would draw plenty of attention and be easy to sell.

As for Brook, he is going to need an extensive rest before restarting his career. He suffered a beating as well as an eye injury in September against Gennady Golovkin and then suffered another beating as well as injuring his other eye against Spence. After a rest, expect to see a tune- up bout followed by a massive fight in the UK against Amir Khan. The Khan fight has always been big and one of the reasons it has not been made is that it could frankly be made anytime with it still being a very significant event. Considering where both fighters are presently in their respective careers, the timing seems right for it to happen sooner rather than later. They both get a big payday and the winner gets well positioned for another big payday in what is a loaded territory at welterweight and junior middleweight.

Errol Spence Jr. and Kell Brook gave us a great fight on Saturday. While their career paths will head in different directions, expect to see both involved in big events once again down the road.

 Miguel Cotto’s Future

 Miguel Cotto announced this week that he would be returning to the ring on August 26th to face Japanese brawler Yoshihiro Kamegai for the vacant WBO junior middleweight championship. Cotto, who split from his promoter Roc Nation last week, will work with Golden Boy Promotions for this fight which will be televised by HBO.

This is an interesting development in the career of Cotto. Reportedly HBO had not been interested in televising the proposed Kamegai fight unless it received assurances from Cotto that it would lead to a bigger fight to be televised by the network. Also, Golden Boy’s involvement in the promotion signals that they could be involved in Cotto’s future. Obviously, this would mean the opponent for a big fight for Cotto would come from under the Golden Boy banner.

The obvious choice for Cotto’s big fight opponent is David Lemieux. Lemieux has been chasing a fight with Canelo Alvarez. However, with Alvarez deciding to go after Gennady Golovkin, Lemieux gets left on the outside looking in. In need of a big fight for Lemieux, Golden Boy saw an opportunity with Cotto having been previously negotiating the Kamegai fight with Roc Nation. A fight between Cotto and Lemieux makes sense for both as Cotto wants a name who isn’t a slick boxer and Lemieux wants a big fight with the payday it commands as well as the opportunity to put a signature win on his resume to bolster his future ambitions.

But I also think Golden Boy has another potential plan for Cotto. Golden Boy’s main cash cow, Canelo Alvarez, is in a high risk, high reward fight with Golovkin in September. There is no rematch clause if Alvarez wins and, of course, a win by Alvarez cements him as a mega star in the sport. He will be eyeing a return in May 2018 during Cinco de Mayo weekend. With momentum behind him, Alvarez would be wise to seek a name opponent to further boost the event. A rematch with Cotto would not only do huge business but keep the momentum going. For Cotto, it would be a chance to avenge the loss from 2015 to Alvarez and give him one massive payday as his career nears a conclusion.

Miguel Cotto is determined to close his career out with something big and it appears likely he will get his wish.

Kudos to Golden Boy

 When Golden Boy announced its new series on ESPN this winter, I was cautiously optimistic in the fights they would produce. I must say that the matchmaking thus far on this series has been superb and is getting even better with some recently announced cards. These are the types of televised shows the sport needs to generate some badly needed positive buzz.

On June 17th, Pablo Cesar Cano takes on Fidel Maldonado in a junior welterweight contest. This fight is not only very evenly matched but can’t be anything except a slugfest given the styles of the two fighters. Cano is a high pressure fighter who is willing to exchange to get his own punches home. Maldonado has the ability to box, but often gets drawn willingly into wars. In 2015, he had a back and forth shootout with Amir Iman in a fight that got some talk in fight of the year chatter. As a matter of fact, round three was probably round of the year that year. Maldonado has a tendency to fire back when he gets hit and with Cano’s style Maldonado is going to get hit a lot. This one is guaranteed action and a perfect fight for television.

About two weeks later, Golden Boy returns with another ESPN card featuring a high stakes junior featherweight contest between Randy Caballero and Oscar Negrete. Caballero is an undefeated former bantamweight belt holder and is a very skilled boxer puncher. Negrete, also undefeated, has shown much improvement inside the ring in his last few contests. The styles of these two should mix well to provide an entertaining fight. It is also evenly matched, and with so much at stake we should see the best of both men inside the ring.

One point I harp on a lot is the importance of good matchmaking, especially in televised fights. Golden Boy is doing an excellent job so far with their new ESPN series providing high quality, well-matched fights. The boxing public is taking notice and Golden Boy deserves much praise in delivering excellent events for the fans.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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George Foreman Youth Center in Houston Hosts Amateur Event

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George Foreman Youth Center

George Foreman Youth Center –  -Starting with the ring of the bell on October 22nd, local area boxers will be fighting for a spot to represent the Gulf Coast Region at the USA Boxing National Championships & in International Travel.

Weight categories will include: Pee Wee 8-9, Bantam 10-11, Intermediate 12-13, Juniors 14-15, Youth 15-16, & Elite 18-40 in both Open and Novice divisions. Winners will represent the Gulf area at the 2016 USA Boxing Elite, Youth and Junior National Championships to be held in Kansas City Missouri December 4-10, 2016. This tournament is a sanctioned event through USA Boxing the National Governing Body of Amateur Boxing and is a feeder to National and Olympic recognition.

The George Foreman Youth and Community Center was founded 32 years ago in 1984 by Olympic Gold Medalist and 2-time heavy weight champion George Foreman. The GFYCC is dedicated to providing a safe and secure location for youth to participate in sports and after school activities.

“This year for the first time in Houston boxing history, we are developing an elite international youth boxing team,” said George Foreman, IV. “The team will be selected for the sole purpose of training and traveling to other countries to gain experience on an international platform and promote cultural diplomacy! Utilizing grant and donor funding this team will be representing the George Foreman Youth and Community Center and will be announced Saturday October 22, at the Gulf Region’s Boxing Championship. The team will be reviewed by my father, 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2-Time Heavyweight Champion, George Foreman Sr. The first international trip for this new Houston team is scheduled for Jan. 2017.”

Doors open for the Gulf Gloves Championships on Saturday October 22nd at 11:00 am with announcements and the presentation of the colors by the United States Army Houston Recruiting Command Baytown Beaumont Company at 12:45 pm. The national anthem will be performed by the internationally acclaimed Houston Brass Quintet! Boxing will begin at 1:00 pm. Championship finals will begin at 1:00 pm on Sunday October 23rd.

Media open workouts for Houston amateur standout boxers will be held Wednesday October 19th at the George Foreman Youth and Community Center at 2202 Lone Oak Road Houston, Texas 77093 at 4:00 pm.

Confirmed attendees for interviews will be:

George Edward Foreman IV: Son of 2 Time Heavy Weight Champion, President of Foreman Public Relations

Marlen Esparza: 2012 Olympic Games Bronze Medalist, 2014 Amateur World Champion, 2006 & 2016 Amateur World Championships Bronze Medalist, Nine-Time USA Boxing National Champion.

Rocky Juarez: 2000 Olympic Games Silver Medalist, 1999 Amateur World Champion, WBC Silver Featherweight World Champion.

Raul Marquez: 1988 Amateur World Championships Bronze Medalist, 1992 Olympic Games Quarter-finalist, IBF Light Middleweight World Champion.

Frank Tate: 1984 Olympic Games Gold Medalist, IBF Middleweight World Champion, NABF Light Heavyweight Champion.

Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz: WBA Lightweight World Champion, WBO Lightweight World Champion, WBA Super-Lightweight World Champion, IBF Lightweight World Champion.

“Sweet” Reggie Johnson: WBA Middleweight World Champion, IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion.

In addition to many Houston area professional boxers and Gulf Boxing Association alumni. Event is sanctioned by USA Boxing – Gulf LBC: 16-25-14268

George Foreman Youth Center / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.

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Michelle Corrales-Lewis Named New CEO of NV Boxing Hall of Fame

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Michelle Corrales-Lewis

LAS VEGAS, NV (October 5, 2016) – The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame (NVBHOF) a non-profit charitable organization which donates to boxing-related causes, is happy to announce Michelle Corrales-Lewis as its new CEO/President. Respected boxing announcer, Rich Marotta, who founded the NVBHOF in 2012, steps down after devoting years of his life to get the organization off the ground.

With a number of boxing greats already inducted, which include world champion fighters, judges, coaches and promoters, the NVBHOF has rapidly established itself as prestigious group not only here in Las Vegas, but around the world. The NVBHOF has multiple fundraising events throughout the year, helping local boxing organizations fulfill their goals to keep boxing alive within the community.

“I took this organization as far as I could and I’m very comfortable where it is at today,” said Rich Marotta. “Michelle is on the scene in Las Vegas, has a myriad of contacts, both in business and with the boxing community, especially the fighters, and is more than ready to completely run the company. She is incredibly capable and has been an indefatigable agent for growth of the NVBHOF the past three years, taking on additional responsibilities each and every year. It brings me great pleasure to announce her as the new CEO of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.”

After serving as the NVBHOF Chief Operating Officer for many years, Michelle Corrales-Lewis, is thrilled at her new position within the organization.

“It’s an honor to be chosen as the new CEO of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame,” said Michelle Corrales-Lewis, widow of former multiple world champion and 2013 NVBHOF inductee, Diego Corrales. “Rich Marotta did a fantastic job building the organization from ground up. His immense work ethic is a great example of how I plan to continue the vision he set forth. My goal is to find a home for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, one where fans from all around the world can visit on regular basis. The boxing community is filled with wonderful people that we will honor as inductees each year. I’m truly grateful for the wonderful opportunity that has been presented to me by my dear friend Rich Marotta.”

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