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Battle Hymn – Part 7: Sugar On The Sidewalk

Springs Toledo

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Chuck Burroughs’ sixty years in the Peoria, Illinois boxing scene began in the crowded backseat of Jack Beaty’s reo. A Golden Gloves champion who later became a referee, ring announcer, corner man, journalist, author, and local historian, Burroughs kept tabs on his old teammates long after their fighting days ended. When he died, several of his scrapbooks were donated to the Peoria Public Library. I tracked them down, hoping to unearth more about the Little Tiger. Burroughs didn’t disappoint.

He had chronicled Peoria’s Golden Gloves history and devoted a long paragraph to “Peoria’s first Negro Golden Glove Champ” Aaron Wade. There is a curious scrap of information midway through it that says Wade was “chief sparring partner for Sugar Ray when he was welterweight champ.” Robinson, of course, was a Harlemite. I knew Wade had been living in New York since 1945. After the embarrassing loss to Wylie Burns in 1947, Wade had no income and one marketable skill; Burroughs’ detail shines a light on where he wandered off to after that loss.

Robinson was scheduled to face Steve Belloise on December 9, 1948. His workouts were held at the Uptown Gymnasium at 252 W. 116th Street and Wade was a sparring partner. On the morning of the fight, national newspapers announced that the bout was cancelled “due to an injury Robinson is reported to have suffered in training.” The write-ups were heavy on details, but neither the Belloise camp nor the boxing beat was buying it.

Already lauded as perhaps “the greatest boxer in history,” Robinson was also despised by many insiders for what they saw as imperiousness. He had a history of mistreating sparring partners. He ran out on contracts. He postponed bouts. The Belloise bout had already been postponed from its original date and ticket sales were lagging when Robinson’s injury was announced. The event, said the New York Herald-Tribune, cost $40,000 though “less than $15,000 was in the till.” It was suspicious enough to force a public explanation from the champion: “It happened in the last minute of my three-round workout with Tiger Wade here on Monday,” Robinson said. “Wade’s a 170-pounder. He hit me with a right uppercut down here. I felt like he stabbed me with a knife.”

Doctors were marched out to reassure a doubting press that Robinson had indeed suffered a separation between the sixth and seventh ribs. Reporters were invited to feel the egg-sized lump under his heart for further proof. Many did, and the fact of his injury had to be accepted. Given the fact that the sparring partner who did it was a once-feared puncher, Robinson’s explanation of how he was injured was likewise accepted.

But Robinson was lying.

Two years ago, boxing historian J.J. Johnston told me about a rumor he had heard. The rumor said that the Little Tiger had once knocked down Robinson outside of a Boston gym. I spent weeks sifting for more leads only to find that the past had pulled the shade. I filed the rumor away. About a month ago I was flipping through pages of Burroughs’ Peoria scrapbook and my eyes darted to a glittering sentence: “Whipped Sugar Ray in a street fight over some money Sugar owed him.” Now that’s independent corroboration, which makes a rumor more than a rumor. However, it still wasn’t enough to justify publishing it—Robinson’s name is like thunder in the boxing world, even today. I needed confirmation, and found it on microfilm at the Boston Public Library.

The Boston Post folded in 1956. Its circulation was in a free-fall in the forties, though it still had at least one shoe-leather reporter in Gerry Hern. As news of Robinson’s so-called sparring injury and the fight cancellation hit the stands, Hern was turning up primary sources. One of them was unnamed but was almost certainly Little Tiger Wade, and Wade had a tale to tell.

“There was nothing accidental about Robinson’s rib separation,” Hern revealed in an article published Friday, December 10,1948. “It was the result of trying to shave the overhead a little bit, his own personal overhead, for the fight.” Here’s what happened: Robinson and Wade sparred the previous Tuesday at the Uptown Gymnasium. Robinson, feeling the pinch of the lagging ticket sales for his fight Thursday, told Wade that he would have to accept less money than promised. Wade objected at first, then relented. “What can I do about it,” he said. “You’re the boss. I’ve got to take it.”

Wade left the gym, but changed his mind and waited for the champion on the sidewalk. When Robinson came out, Wade confronted him. “I want all the dough or none,” he said. “I’m just a punk in this business but I want my money.” Robinson, said Hern, starting telling “his broken-down sparring partner that he would be lucky to get anything—but he didn’t finish. Wade fired his Sunday punch that knocked Robinson to the sidewalk and then gave him a brisk going-over.”

The spectacle of a member of Murderers’ Row finally closing the distance on Robinson and punishing him is startling. Is it poetic justice? Robinson later wrote an article for Ebony magazine defending his business acumen. “A broke fighter is a pitiful sight,” he said. “I’ve seen too many of them not to have learned a lesson or two. Great boxing skill is no sure guarantee that a fighter won’t end up hungry and raggedy. Most fighters end up broke.” Then he offered a little advice. “A fighter these days must express himself, must speak up when he thinks he’s being shoved around.”

It could be said that Wade ‘expressed himself’ on behalf of many; on behalf of many on Murderers’ Row.

The pair would have another ill-fated encounter in February 1950. Robinson was scheduled for a main event in Savannah, Georgia, when his scheduled opponent got shot in New Orleans. The local promoter, Buster White, was desperate to find a substitute; a black substitute, to be precise, because southern law prohibited fair fights between the races. Robinson’s manager remembered that Aaron Wade always needed a buck. For all intents and purposes, Wade had been retired for 793 days; he needed a few bucks.

The doors to the Municipal Auditorium opened at 8:30pm on February 15. “Ladies and gentleman, tonight you will see one of the greatest champions of all time,” the program said. “Robinson could easily become a triple champion if given the opportunity to fight for the middleweight and light-heavyweight titles.” Two thousand black and white citizens streamed in by separate entrances. The blacks were seated in the balcony, the whites around the ring. During the main event, they were booing together.

“Ray battered his stocky, keg-like foe savagely,” said the Savannah Morning News. “Mostly he put on a beautiful combination of foot-work and body weaving which left the Tiger shadow boxing.” Robinson’s “favorite stunt” was to grab the rope with his right glove and leave his left free to “tantalize and punish Wade by smearing that hand all over the Tiger’s face and body.” It was an artistic display. It seemed a little too artistic. Wade fell five times in the second round. The first time seemed more like a slip. The second time saw him “dumped on his rear end through the ropes.” The third time Wade went down, “it looked for certain that the glove missed Wade’s face altogether and caught him in the shoulder instead. At any rate, he went down again.”

The crowd was wild between the second and third round, more “at Wade’s taste for canvas than in appreciation for Ray’s aptitude.” Before the bell, Robinson stood up and gestured that he would bring the fiasco to a conclusion. When the third round began, he set out to do so and, reads the article, “Wade seemed willing to cooperate.”

The Savannah Evening Press was also suspicious. “The Tiger—let’s call him Aaron—,” it said, “began hitting the canvas for apparently no reason at all. As Robinson moved within firing range the husky Wade repeatedly fell to the canvas.” Waldo Spence, sports editor for the Press, got right to the point: “Robinson never during the evening hit Wade with a solid punch.”

Years later, Wade privately confirmed what many thought they saw that night. He told his son he had taken a dive. When Alan told me, a shadow crossed my mind. I had to ask “—did Robinson know?” It turns out that he had asked his father that very question. His father shook his head. “Robinson had nothing to do with it.”

“Who approached your father?” I asked Alan. “It was the promoters,” he said. “They told him to go down in three rounds for a few hundred dollars.”

Alan had one other detail he could recall. Wade, he said, had asked the promoters if he could go “five or six rounds.” It was, I suppose, an attempt to salvage whatever scrap of pride he had left. But they turned him down. “Three,” they said.

I found it a little sad.

 

 

 

 

 


“WhyI’m the Bad Boy of Boxing,” by Sugar Ray Robinson (Ebony, November 1950); Savannah Morning News 2/22, 23/50; New York Times 2/23/50; Savannah Evening Press, 2/23/1950; Behind the Moss Curtain by Murray Silver (2002), pp. 238-239.

Special thanks to J.J. Johnston.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com .

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Gerald Sinclair Watches Over the Mayweather Boxing Club, a Las Vegas Landmark

Arne K. Lang

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It isn’t a stretch to say that the Mayweather Boxing Club is a Las Vegas landmark. Regardless of one’s feelings toward Floyd — and he certainly has his detractors – the man transcended his sport like no other boxer of recent vintage. According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, Floyd Mayweather Jr is one of only three athletes to surpass one billion dollars in career earnings, putting him on the same lofty pedestal as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – this despite the fact that Floyd competed in what has been characterized as a dying sport while attracting comparatively little money in commercial endorsements.

The word landmark conveys the thought of an edifice that is architecturally impressive. The Mayweather Boxing Club certainly isn’t that. It sits in a one-story complex of small businesses that take up a full block in an older section of Chinatown which in Las Vegas isn’t a residential neighborhood but an ever-sprawling stretch of Spring Mountain Road that runs west of the Strip for roughly a mile, a string of Asian-owned businesses, predominantly restaurants and massage parlors. The Mayweather gym sits in the back of the complex facing away from the street.

It’s easy to miss it if one is heading there for the first time (it’s helpful to have a car equipped with a GPS locator) but yet tourists often find their way there and that is another defining feature of a landmark.

When entering the gym, it’s likely the first person that one will see is Gerald Sinclair. He co-manages the gym along with his brother John and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, the former world super featherweight champion who engaged in some of the most exciting fights of the 1980s.

sinclair

Gerald Sinclair

The Mayweather Boxing Club opened in 2007. Sinclair, 56, was there from the beginning when the facility was roughly half its current size. He grew up in Hudson, New York, a city named for the river that borders the town on the east. Before moving to Las Vegas, he worked as a fork lift driver in a warehouse.

Sinclair was induced to come to Las Vegas by his sister. She is Floyd Mayweather’s mother. Floyd is Gerald’s nephew. It’s all about family at the Mayweather Gym. Floyd’s father of the same name and his uncle Jeff are fixtures there, as was their brother, the late Roger Mayweather, the best of the three fighting Mayweather brothers.

This reporter has never been in a boxing gym that didn’t have colorful posters of old fights tacked to the wall. The Mayweather gym is no exception but all of the oversized posters, all 15 of them, are of Mayweather’s fights. (Needless to say, he won them all.) His face appears on other insignia, including a large banner above a row of folding chairs. There are two regulation-size boxing rings, 11 punching bags of various descriptions clustered in a nook and some of the standard exercise equipment, all indicative of the fact that this is a place to work up a sweat, but the Mayweather Boxing Club is also a little museum of sorts, a paean to the splurgy proprietor who once sported the nickname “Pretty Boy.”

Some boxing gyms – Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear comes quickly to mind – are off-limits to outsiders. The Mayweather Boxing Club is welcoming (which isn’t to say that a busload of fans would be welcome; it wouldn’t).

“When we opened the place,” says Gerald Sinclair, “Floyd came to us and said if fans want to come in and look around, go ahead and let them.”

While we were there the other day, an older man with a Spanish accent appeared in the doorway and sheepishly inquired if he and the people in his party could come inside and give it a quick look-see. “Be my guest,” said Sinclair, whereupon the visitor left and returned with his wife and another couple that he had left waiting in the car.

Sinclair says if the man hadn’t happened to mention that there were other people in his party, that he would have likely brought it up. “We have had guys who came by and left their wife and kids outside in the car and I told them to please invite them in. I know this place is a slice of history. We don’t exclude anyone.”

A tourist giving the gym a gander invariably takes a few selfies and then comes the million-dollar question: “Is he here?” A selfie with Floyd would be a prized souvenir.

No, he’s never there, or almost never there. On the rare occasions when he does pop in during normal business hours, he arrives unannounced, usually with a bodyguard. Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is known to hop in one of his private jets and fly halfway around the world on a whim, lives in a different universe than the denizens of the gym that bears his family name.

Although also rare, a visitor has a better shot of bumping into a celebrity. Eddie Murphy, Christine Aguilera, Maria Carey and P Daddy have walked in the door, as have many prominent athletes including Mike Tyson.

When Tyson appears, it’s old home week for Gerald Sinclair and his brother. During his amateur days and in his early days as a pro, Iron Mike resided in Catskill, living with his trainer Cus D’Amato in the large Victorian home that D’Amato shared with the sister of a sister-in-law. Catskill and Hudson are separated by only 12 miles. Sinclair remembers young Tyson turning up at some of his softball games. Mike made a big hit with the folks running the snack bar, covering the tab of kids hovering around him at the refreshment stand.

A number of boxers from overseas have worked out at the gym while visiting Las Vegas. For some novice boxers, a trip to the Mayweather Boxing Club is a rite of passage. (A stranger in town for a convention or trade show can also use the facility if it isn’t too crowded. There is a day rate for these situations, and the visitor must sign a waiver absolving the club of any liability should he get hurt.)

The Mayweather Boxing Club is now back at full steam after being closed to the general public for several months because of Covid-19. For a time, it was effectively the private gym of Gervonta “Tank” Davis and his team. Everyone who was there while Tank was preparing for his Oct. 31, 2020 date with Leo Santa Cruz, was required to get tested twice a week. There were no hiccups.

“As a boss, Floyd has been very generous to me,” says Sinclair. Thanks to Floyd, he got to see a part of the world that he never would have gotten to see. Floyd invited him along when he flew to Tokyo for his exhibition with Tenshin Nasukawa. Prior to this, Sinclair’s lone trip outside the United States was a trip to Tijuana.

Sinclair has picked up a new skill since leaving New York. He’s frequently the go-to guy when a boxer at the gym needs his hands wrapped. It’s not as simple as it looks, there’s an art to it, and Gerald learned at the feet of the master, Rafael Garcia Sr, who encouraged his interest. Garcia passed away in November of 2017 at age 88, leaving a hole in the hearts of the extended Mayweather family that burned wider when his fellow traveler Roger Mayweather joined him in the afterlife.

The United States has housed several iconic boxing gyms over the years. A short list would include Stillman’s Gym in mid-Manhattan, the Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles, the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, and the Kronk Gym in Detroit. The Mayweather Boxing Club is destined to eventually join that hallowed roster.

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

Do not confuse skill with athleticism.

Fans and many journalists often erroneously label a fighter with lightning speed, power, and a good jab as a skilled fighter when they are really, simply physically gifted athletes.

A truly skilled fighter can fight nose to nose with another and you can’t touch him, but he can clobber you. That is skill. They don’t need to run around the boxing ring at full flight mode. They can fight you straight-up.

One fighter Demetrius Andrade seems to finally be proving his skill-level after years of relying on mere athletic prowess.

Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs) defends the WBO middleweight title against Great Britain’s Liam Williams (23-2-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday April 17, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

The undefeated southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island makes his fourth defense of the title he won in 2018. He formerly held the WBO super welterweight title too.

“You’re going to see the same you always see from me – a solid game plan, dominance, landing big shots, an all-around great performance and giving people what they have been missing, the sweet science,” said Andrade whose nickname is “Boo Boo.”

Because of his past reliance on athleticism, many possible foes simply avoided confrontations with Andrade in the prize ring. Who wants to step into a boxing ring and watch another fighter touch you with a jab and zip around the boxing ring? Fans don’t want to see it either. They want to see a fight, not a dance.

In his last defense Andrade was seen exhibiting inside fighting skills when he dispatched Luke Keeler by technical knockout in the ninth round in Miami. It was a display of straight-up fighting not often seen when the Rhode Island boxer performs.

Is this the new Andrade at age 33?

Williams, who hails from Wales, is nicknamed “the Machine” but lost twice to Liam Smith in two very close bouts. Those are his only defeats.

“I’m super confident and I don’t think there’s any way that he beats me. I think I can knock him out,” said Williams.

Andrade laughs at Williams’ comments.

“They call him ‘The Machine’, but when I am done with him, he’ll be ‘The Rust Bucket,” claims Andrade.

Williams feels its time to expose Andrade.

“I don’t think he has the same intensity as me,’ said Williams. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can punch harder than him. I have a better engine than him. I’m going to bring it all on the night and I don’t think he has the answers.”

Andrade expects the same results.

“Liam is not going to stop my train,” said Andrade. “I expect him to bring the fight because this is his opportunity, but at the end of the day he’ll be able to say, ‘I lost to Demetrius Andrade’.”

Gongora

IBO super middleweight titlist Carlos Gongora (19-0, 14 KOs) makes his first defense of his fringe world title against American Christopher Pearson (17-2, 12 KOs) in a battle between southpaws in the semi-main event at Seminole Hard Rock.

Ecuador’s Gongora was a last-minute replacement and upset Kazakhstan’s heavily favored Ali Akhmedov by knockout in the last round of their title fight last December. He also became his country’s first world title-holder.

Pearson enters the boxing ring after a similar feat. He was a late replacement when he met the favored Yamaguchi Falcao two years ago at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. He out-fought the Brazilian with a gutsy performance that convinced Golden Boy Promotions to sign him.

Gongora and Pearson both have much to prove.

Sunday

Thompson Boxing Promotions returns with one of its star prospects Ruben Torres (14-0, 10 KOs) who faces Diego Contreras (11-3, 5 KOs) in a super lightweight main event at Omega Products International in Corona, California. The fight card will be streamed on www.ThompsonBoxing.com and on its Facebook and YouTube.com pages.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. ESPN+ Miguel Vazquez (42-10) vs Isai Hernandez (10-1-1).

Sat. 11 a.m. ESPN+ Danny Dignum (13-0) vs Andrey Sirotkin (19-1).

Sat. 12 p.m. DAZN Demetrius Andrade (29-0) vs Liam Williams (23-2-1).

Sat. 5 p.m. FOX Tony Harrison (28-3) vs Bryant Perrella (17-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. TrillerFightClub.com (ppv) Regis Prograis (25-1) vs Ivan Redkach (23-5-1).

Sun. 2 p.m. ThompsonBoxing.com (free) Ruben Torres (14-0) vs Diego Contreras (11-3).

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions today unveiled a loaded five-month boxing schedule of nine high-stakes world championship events beginning Saturday, May 15, live on SHOWTIME. The schedule delivers two events per month through August. Thirteen matchups have been announced thus far with no less than seven world title fights, and 12 fighters defending undefeated records. The lineup features many of boxing’s best young fighters taking on career-defining challenges in their primes. All fights on the schedule will take place before a live audience, keeping with applicable local COVID-19 safety protocols.

The sizzling summer run features the dynamic Charlo twins as undefeated electrifying champion Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight world title against Juan Macias Montiel in a special Juneteenth homecoming in Houston on Saturday, June 19, live on SHOWTIME.

The following Saturday, June 26, unbeaten Mayweather Promotions star Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up two weight classes for a chance to become a three-division world champion when he takes on fellow undefeated champion Mario Barrios for his super lightweight world title in what will be Davis’ second pay-per-view showdown.

The next month, WBC, WBA and IBF 154-pound charismatic world champion Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he takes on WBO junior middleweight world champion Brian Castaño in a mega-fight to crown the first four-belt 154-pound world champion.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule features eight editions of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and one premier SHOWTIME PPV event, all presented by Premier Boxing Champions:

  • MAY 15 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Luis Nery vs. Brandon Figueroa, WBC Super Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Danny Roman vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco, Super Bantamweight Fight
    • Xavier Martinez vs. Abraham Montoya, WBA Super Featherweight Fight
    • MAY 29 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
      • Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire, WBC Bantamweight World Title Fight
      • Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev, IBF Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
  • JUNE 19 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel, WBC Middleweight World Title Fight
  • JUNE 26 – SHOWTIME PPV
    • Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios, WBA Super Lightweight World Title Fight
    • Erickson Lubin vs. Jeison Rosario, WBC Junior Middleweight Title Eliminator
    • JULY 3 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Chris Colbert vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title Fight
  • JULY 17 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castaño, Undisputed IBF, WBA, WBC & WBO Junior Middleweight World Title Unification Fight
  • AUGUST 14 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

                  Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. John Riel Casimero, WBO Bantamweight World Title Fight

         AUGUST 28 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

    • David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui, WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • SEPTEMBER 11 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
  • Stephen Fulton, Jr. vs. winner of Nery-Figueroa, Super Bantamweight World Title Unification Fight

“High-impact, meaningful fights amongst many of the biggest names and brightest stars in combat sports. That is what SHOWTIME promises and that is what we are delivering,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, SHOWTIME Sports. “With an opportunity to crown an undisputed world champion at 154 pounds, a highly anticipated super bantamweight title unification, a stacked pay-per-view showdown and more than a dozen fights between 118-168 pounds, SHOWTIME is presenting boxing’s best young fighters, all daring to be great by putting their world titles and undefeated records on the line.

Editor’s Note: This press release has been edited for brevity.

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