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Battle Hymn – Part 8: Shadow and Light

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Part-8 be370When Aaron Wade left San Francisco in 1945, he left behind a son and a pregnant wife. “He didn’t want to be a family man,” Jenny said. “He didn’t want nothing.” Right around the time he took a dive against Sugar Ray Robinson in February 1950, Alan Roy Wade turned four and had yet to meet him. By then, Jenny had given up and filed for divorce. It was finalized that year.

Wade moved in with a girlfriend in Jersey City and got a job at the Department of Sanitation. There were half-hearted attempts to reach out to his sons and every so often an envelope with a $20 money order inside would arrive at his ex-wife’s address in San Francisco. It was made out in his girlfriend’s handwriting, which speaks well of her character. In the mid-fifties, she died in a car accident and Wade went into a tailspin; he reached for the bottle with both hands and drowned his sorrows, or watched them swim.

In 1960, he made his way to Peoria to meet Alan for the first time. His mother Willie Mae and Jenny seem to have arranged the family reunion and Wade did his part; he stuck a cork in the bottle and put on a suit to make a good first impression. “He greeted me like a father,” Alan recalled, “and he looked younger than his years.” Wade tried to maintain contact by telephone—he tried to be a better father—but could not sustain it. The binging was getting worse.

He was bottoming out. Somewhere in his drunken haze the ghost of Kid Farmer was coming on, and hell followed with him.

When Kid Farmer was born over a saloon in 1884, Peoria was still called “Still City” and produced more whiskey than any other city in the nation. The saloon was only a few doors down from where the Wades would live in 1922/1923. Like Wade, Farmer became a professional fighter who never quite abstained from booze. Like Wade, he excelled in the sport anyway. Farmer was the kind of local legend carried from the ring on the shoulders of cheering fans—he reportedly had over 600 fights and 283 knockouts before he took a running leap into a bottomless vat.

It was said that Farmer was avoided by name-fighters and drank out of discouragement. It was also said Farmer never got a title shot because he was a drunk. Either way or both, he would fight half-cocked just like Wade did. “Staggering is strength,” he’d quip. “The weak fall down.” Eventually, his career became as erratic as his field of vision; he’d be in a main event one night and a curtain-raiser the next. When his career finally collapsed, he did too. Anyone looking for him was bound to find him face-down in a gutter beside an empty bottle or in a flop on skid row. One night in 1945, he got the bum’s rush out of a saloon and stumbled into the street where he was killed by a car just yards from where he was born. He’s buried in an unmarked grave in St. Mary’s cemetery, according to local historian Chuck Burroughs, “surrounded by hundreds of bodies of decent folk, who, if they knew Farmer was in their midst, would get up and walk away.”

Wade was teetering on the edge of Kid Farmer’s vat.

In May 1962, Wade was laid out on the third floor of a condemned house in Jersey City. “Paralyzed drunk,” is how he described it. He heard someone’s voice above him. “C’mon get yourself up,” it said. Wade could not. “Not a muscle in my body would move,” he said. So he murmured a prayer: “Please, Lord, let me stand on my feet.”

“The good Lord heard me,” he said. “I was able to stand, wobbly a bit, but steady enough to walk.” He made a promise then and there to stop drinking, but had another attack on the way home and was taken to the hospital. “There they told me what I always knew,” Wade said. “I was an alcoholic.”

He was likely suffering from alcoholic myopathy, the symptoms of which include sudden weakness and collapse after a drinking bout. It is invited by long-term alcohol use, as is delirium tremens (DTs), neuropathy, liver disease, and death.

—Wade had nowhere to go except up.

“I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Saviour,” he told anyone who would listen. “Ever since that day, He has blessed me.” Wade began examining a conscience dulled for decades. What he saw were numerous tragedies that were the direct results of his “waywardness.” He had a son with a teenage sweetheart in Peoria and left them both behind when he moved west, he got mixed up with shady characters in San Francisco, got shot, almost got indicted, abandoned his wife and children when he moved east, blew a title shot after a drunken tantrum at the New York State Athletic Commission, trashed his last comeback, and became a Bowery bum shunned by his family. Wade had many regrets, though he found comfort in the sublime feeling that he was forgiven. Moved with gratitude, he began studying for the Christian ministry.

Early in 1968, Deacon Wade returned to San Francisco after a twenty-three-year absence. “I guess it was the good Lord that told me to come back to San Francisco,” he said, “where I might be able to carry on His work among people who might have remembered me when I was fighting.” He also drew nearer to his sons, now young men. “We saw him every week,” Alan told me. “Every week.”

“What was he like?” I asked Alan. “He was even-tempered, a happy man, always smiling and laughing,” he said. When either he or his brother talked back to his mother, though, the smile fell off. “He’d straighten us up,” Alan said with a chuckle, and left it at that.

He saw his father praying often and at different times during the day—head bowed, eyes closed, lips moving.

In March, the long-retired fighter stopped by the offices of the San Francisco Examiner and found the boxing writer who covered so many of his West Coast wars.

Eddie Muller glanced up from his desk as a little man with enormous shoulders pulled up a chair. Wade wore glasses by then, but Muller remembered him. “Aaron Wade was a prize fighter. A good one too,” he would write after their reunion. “Good enough to whip Archie Moore right here in San Francisco.” Wade told Muller what he had been through since his glory days, he spoke of shadows and light and how he’d “been telling others at church missions and meetings that the good Lord can do for them what He did for me.” Muller was impressed when Wade didn’t ask for a hand-out. He was even more impressed when Wade told him he received no compensation besides the “good feeling” he got helping the less fortunate.

“Even if you only help one you’ve really accomplished something,” he said.

Muller decided to help one too. He decided to help Wade. “Wade didn’t ask for this help. I am,” Muller told the Examiner’s100,000 subscribers. “The fellow can use a job.”

It was an irony that Wade probably welcomed as a test of faith when the Gallo Wine Company, then located on the south side of San Francisco, offered him a job at its warehouse. Wade accepted it and worked there for the rest of his life. Every Friday, employees would be handed a couple bottles of wine with their paychecks, but by then Wade and Kid Farmer’s ghost had gone separate ways. He gave the bottles away.

He still liked to eat. Alan fondly recalled going with him to the North Beach section of San Francisco. Wade, looking sharp in a suit, would walk into an Italian club and hobnob with guys who knew the slam-bang fighter he once was. He and his sons, who sat cowed by his warning not to say “mafia,” ate porchetta, Prosciutto di Parma, and Pork Chop Milanese free of charge. It was a sign of respect.

On March 5, 1971, Wade, now 54, was married for the second time to a short, heavyset nurse’s aide named Sallie Cousar —and life was good.

 

 

 

 

 


Photo by Kurt Bank found in Shaping San Francisco (digital archive).

Kid Farmer’s story found in Come Out Fighting: True Fight Tales for Fight Fans by Chuck Burroughs (1977), pp. 51-68; San Francisco Examiner 3/1/68 and 4/20/74 (Eddie Muller).

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

 

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

Big money prizefighting returns to the Los Angeles area with back-to-back shows. First, Serhii Bohachuk heads a 360 Promotions card on Friday and then Alexis Rocha is featured on Saturday in a Golden Boy Promotions production. And on the same day Riverside’s Saul Rodriguez fights in his hometown.

Bohachuk, Rocha, and Rodriguez are aggressive big hitters.

Ukraine’s Bohachuk seeks to regain footing in the super welterweight division. He was rapidly climbing up the ratings ladder when first he was defeated by Brandon Adams two years ago. And then the invasion of his home country Ukraine stalled him even more.

On Friday Jan. 27, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Bohachuk (21-1, 21 KOs) meets Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Few fighters are as well-liked outside of the prize ring as Bohachuk. Always amiable, he’s one of the handful of fighters that always smiles. Inside the ring, he’s a killer. No one leaves without someone getting knocked out.

Gallimore, 34, is no slouch. He has a knockout win over former world titlist Jeison Rosario and has battled almost all of the top super welterweights. He is a veteran and very crafty.

The Quiet Cannon venue is not very large, but it does have a patio and good food and drink. Most of the crowd ventures from all over Southern California to attend the fights at that venue. It gets packed.

Golden Boy in Inglewood

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha headlines the Golden Boy Promotions card on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the brand new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the fight card.

Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs) faces George Ashie (33-5-1) in the main event set for 12 rounds. Finally, there is an opponent for the left-handed fighter from Santa Ana. It didn’t look like he was going to fight after opponent after opponent fell out for one reason or another.

“You have to be ready for anybody they put in front of you. If it’s you or George Ashie, I have to prepare for it. I have to focus on what I can do,” said Rocha.

Others on the card include super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev (10-1) vs Ulises Sierra (17-2-2) set for 10 rounds. Also, good looking lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Alberto Mercado (17-4-1).

Schofield fights out of Austin, Texas and looks like someone to watch.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

Neno Returns in San Bernardino        

Garcia Promotions stages a boxing card on Saturday Jan. 28, at the Club Event Center in San Bernardino. Garcia Promotions is associated with trainer Robert Garcia and family whose training compound is located in nearby Riverside.

A primarily local fight card featuring all fighters from Garcia’s gym will be performing.

Headlining is Saul “Neno” Rodriguez out of Riverside, California.

It’s been nearly three years since Rodriguez (24-1-1, 18 KOs) last fought and he faces Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo (6-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

At one time Rodriguez was a big fan favorite because of his fast work and knockout ability. Once he got to the top plateau he ran into another knockout puncher in Miguel Angel Gonzalez and lost by stoppage.

Prizefighting is a tricky road. One loss can mean difficulty in finding a big-time promoter or it can mean discovering what you need to do to re-establish your skills. A fighter can go the road of Kermit “The Killer” Cintron and find out other ways to win without a kill-or be-killed style. Or they can travel the road of Marco Antonio Barrera who was knocked out by Junior Jones but adapted a more boxer-puncher style that allowed him to defeat Erik Morales twice and Prince Naseem Hamed.

Rodriguez, 29, still has time to make a good run for a title bid. It all starts on Saturday.

Others on the Garcia Promotions card are fighters who are part of trainer Garcia’s stable including Gabriel Muratalla, Leonardo Ruiz, Jose Rodriguez and others.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with amateurs opening the boxing program.

Fights to Watch

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 11:30 a.m. Artur Beterbiev (18-0) vs Anthony Yarde (23-2).

Sat. DAZN  5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (21-1) vs George Ashie (33-5-1).

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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