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Battle Hymn – Part 9: Gone to Glory

Springs Toledo

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Part-9 2bc9fLive not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

—Gwendolyn Brooks

Anyone looking for Aaron Wade in the early 1970s could find him at the Anchor Rescue Mission, a storefront church located at 1253 McAllister Street. It was in the Fillmore district, only a few blocks from the flat he rented thirty years before.

Much had changed. Between 1940 and 1970, the black population in San Francisco shot up from 4,846 to 96,078. In 1956, a federally-funded urban renewal project began in the Fillmore that saw large sections of Fillmore Street and McAllister Street declared blighted areas and razed. Thousands of black renters were evicted (they called it the “Negro Removal Project”). Among the leaving were Japanese Americans who had returned to their homes after World War II only to be forced out again. More than a decade later, whole blocks of the Fillmore remained flat and vacant. There were fewer jobs, more displaced people, more crime, and more desperation.

Little Tiger Wade had changed too. The ex-fighter was now known as the Reverend Aaron Wade and instead of knocking guys over, he was lifting them up out of the gutter.

The area was overrun with street people by then—ex-cons, runaways, dead-eyed addicts, winos lying in their own waste—and they needed a lift. Wade didn’t see their disease or sin, he saw himself in their eyes. He saw someone else too. The 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel was ringing in his ears: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. For,” Christ told him, “whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.”

“We feed, clothe and bathe unfortunates,” Reverend Wade said. “No questions are asked. All we want is that they listen to what the Lord has to say in guiding them into a better, more peaceful life.”

Wade was a pastor at the Anchor Rescue Mission.

The mission operated out of two adjacent storefronts. One served as a chapel, complete with pulpit, piano, and about seventy fold-out chairs. A curtain separated the chapel from a spacious kitchen. The other stored donations of food and clothing and had showering facilities. The mission had no official status as a church and was unaffiliated with any denomination or agency. This allowed its ministers to serve the community without interference. Its acronym, “A.R.M” was meant to signify its purpose as the “arm” of the church.

The ministry was held together by two Baptist ladies. Sister Josephine Drayton often led the service and Sister Evoyne Crook played the grand piano. Volunteers trickled in during the afternoon to help prepare dinner. Brother Daniel Thomas, a Roman Catholic, was among them. He fondly recalled how elaborate and nutritious those dinners were and how they were, on occasion, “miraculously provided at the last minute.” There were times that the good sisters would inform the volunteers that they would have to “go to prayer” because there was not enough food for dinner. There was a small room near the kitchen and they would troop in there and kneel down with their arms resting on the cushions of sofas. “Often,” he said, “Sr. Crook or Sr. Drayton would just shout out, ‘It’s done! Praise God! He’s answered our prayer.’” At that moment, Brother Daniel said, “the phone would ring and they would find out that some company that supplied catered meals for special occasions had some left over ‘chicken cordon blue’ and could we have a use for it!”

Before dinner was the evening service, which began at 6:30 and included hymns, testimony, a sermon, and the “Altar call,” which was an invitation for anyone to come forward and accept Christ or ask for prayers. It was a strict operation. Anyone who wanted to eat had to be inside before the sermon began because the door was locked right on queue. This caused grumbling among the cranks, but what they got was worth a few Alleluias. On some nights a straggler locked outside would kick the door and curse a blue streak. The staff inside would pray aloud at that: “Just touch that one, O Lord!” “Heal him of the cursing demon!” The sisters were just as strict with the volunteer preachers. The sermon, they told them, could not be less than a half-hour in length. Brother Daniel recalled Sister Crook’s warning, “—if you stop short of 30 minutes I fill in for you.”

The Anchor Rescue Mission was a special place. After the sisters were notified that Brother Daniel was in a coma after a small airplane he was in crashed in Wisconsin, they immediately gathered everyone together in Jesus’s name and then wrote a letter letting him know that they had prayed for him. “Their letter was dated four days after the plane crash,” Brother Daniel told me, “and that was exactly the day I came out of the coma!”

Reverend Wade walked to the mission every evening for years. He led the Sunday night service, ran prayer meetings on weekday evenings, and held Bible classes four times a week. He sang those very hymns he ignored years earlier when passing beneath church windows on his way to a good time. I bet he sang them louder than anyone. When there was a problem (and “unruly or dangerous guests were always a problem” recalled one volunteer), I bet Wade kept the peace. When he was finished, he took a bus back to his apartment.

His day-to-day work with the poor over the last decade of his life will never be known—it was done as the best good deeds are always done, quietly and without fanfare. What is known is that he was the happiest man on skid row. “I’m not what I’m supposed to be as a Christian and not even what I’d like to be, but thank God,” he said, “I’m not what I used to be.”

Early in 1985, Wade complained of pain in his arm. His wife Sallie was concerned enough to call Alan and Harvey and they drove over to his apartment to take him to the hospital, but Wade shrugged it off. His spirits were up. He was on the brink of retiring from his day-job at the Gallo Wine warehouse.

On February 15, he punched out for the last time and went to his locker. His co-workers waited outside to take him to the big send-off they had planned. When the wait became too long, they went back inside to check on him.

Wade was unconscious on the floor. An ambulance was called and he was transported to Kaiser Hospital where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

Tributes poured in. “He was one of the best action fighters in the city’s long boxing history,” said a retired referee who knew him. “He really could punch. He was capable of putting an opponent away with one blow.” But it was his secret work with the poor that stood out, and his words echoed in the hearts of his many friends. “Helping others gives me a good feeling,” he would always say.

Funeral services were held at the Bay View Bible Church on Mandel Street before his body was shipped to his mother in Peoria, Illinois. There, in the city where the Little Tiger’s battle hymn began, another service was held, and he was laid to rest at Springdale Cemetery.

…..

Willie Mae Wade, 88, wasn’t alone as she walked to her son’s grave on that frosty morning in 1985. She held a memorial in her hand and remembered another walk, decades before, to the train station in Tennessee. She was young then, young and determined to go north to the Promised Land. She thought of things past and things passing. She thought of her children—how they crowded her mind then and now. This one, named for a grandfather born a slave, was special. He touched her soul.

She gazed at the coffin and dabbed her eyes.

The sun blinked behind the trees in shadow and light, like hope striving.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Photo: “Late Sunrise” (http://www.notefromlapland.com/2010/11/late-sunrise.html)

San Francisco’s Fillmore District by Robert F. Oaks (2005), pp. 89, 113; Chris Carllson in “The Fillmore, Black SF: Unfinished History” at FoundSF.org; Thanks to Brother Daniel Thomas, O.P. for sharing his memories of the Anchor Rescue Mission. San Francisco Examiner, 4/20/74, 2/18, 19/85; Peoria Journal Star, 2/23/85. See also David Hoyt’s reminisces in “Back in the City—San Francisco” in The Jesus Revolution.

Special thanks to Alan Roy Wade of San Francisco.

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

 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 105: Angry Welterweights and More

David A. Avila

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Avila-Perspective-Chap-105-Angry-Welterweights-and-More.jpg

Those welterweights don’t play.

One welterweight just got out of jail and wants to take out his angry frustrations in the boxing ring.

“One of us is getting knocked out. If it gets to where I’m behind on points, I’m just going to come forward and try to take him out, even if I end up getting knocked out,” said Juan Carlos Abreu. ““If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want.”

Standing in front of Abreu (23-5-1) will be one of the top welterweights in America, Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs). This is could be Ennis’ first true test against an experienced foe on Saturday Sept. 19, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Ennis, 23, has been breezing easily since first jumping in the prize ring in April 2016. So far, the competition has been unable to cope with the athleticism he possesses. Will Abreu be the first to pose a problem?

“Whatever he brings, we are going to be ready. I’m going to go out there, do my thing, be smart, have my fun, and get that stoppage at the end of the night,” said Ennis, whose last opponent Bakhtiyar Eyubov was eliminated in four rounds in January. “You can’t just go in there and go for the knockout. That’s how you get tired and lose your cool or even get hit with punches that you shouldn’t be getting hit with.”

Abreu hopes he loses his cool.

“If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want. I really want one of us to get knocked out,” says Abreu of the Dominican Republic who was purportedly jailed for street fighting.

This welterweight matchup is the precursor to the WBC super welterweight eliminator between Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) and Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs).

Gausha and Lubin both have lost once in their pro careers and need a win to get another crack at a world title.

Gausha lost a decision to Erislandy Lara three years ago. Lubin was stopped in one round by Jermell Charlo three years ago. Both realize the nature of the beast.

“I think Gausha has some problems with southpaws, but I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on my game plan and coming out victorious Saturday night,” said Lubin, 24, a southpaw called “the Hammer” for a reason.

Gausha is originally from Cleveland, Ohio but trains in Southern California and has fought four elite southpaws in his career. He believes one more is not a problem.

“This will be my fourth southpaw in a row. So, I’m more comfortable and familiar this time around,” said Gausha, 33, a former US Olympian who trains with Manny Robles Jr. “The guys before me, they all fought each other. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran. They all fought each other. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And you can see that the fights I take, even after a long layoff, they are tough fights.”

Top Rank

Also, on Saturday Sept. 19, heavyweights and super lightweights lead a Top Rank card featuring some interesting bouts that will be shown on ESPN+.

Newly acquired Efe Ajagba (13-0,11 KOs) meets Jonnie Rice (13-5-1) in a 10-round heavyweight clash. It’s Nigeria’s Ajagba’s second fight this year. Though still a little raw he shows immense potential and great natural strength.

Rice fights out of Bones Adams’ Gym in Las Vegas and has some power. He built up his record on heavyweights in Tijuana boxing rings but has some pop. He’s a sizeable heavyweight and good measuring stick for Ajagba.

The main event is a doozy.

Puerto Rico’s Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) meets Southern California’s Javier Molina (22-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas.

This should be good.

Pedraza, 31, is a former WBO lightweight world titlist who lost in his first defense to Vasyl Lomachenko. Nothing bad about that. He defeated Mexico’s Raymundo Beltran for the belt and has shown a penchant for showing up big when you least expect it.

Molina, 30, is a 2008 US Olympian and a member of the fighting Molina family. His brother Oscar was a member of Mexico’s 2012 Olympic team. His other brother Carlos fought for the world title against Amir Khan. Though Javier Molina has never shown great power, he can truly fight.  His last win came against Amir Imam this past February.

Pending Lightweight Clash

Speaking of the lightweight division, is anyone else as excited as me about the looming showdown between the remarkable Vasyl Lomachenko and impressive Teofimo Lopez coming in less than a month?

Lomachenko, 32, the Ukrainian stylist known as “Hi Tech,” has that incredible footwork and ability to control distance. He’s a master of frustrating opponents and imposing his style of darting in and out of danger. But as good as he is, he can’t sell tickets. Only hardcore fans appreciate his peerless boxing skills.

Lopez, 23, hails from Brooklyn and has that ex-factor you can’t teach. He’s pizzazz and panache with a punch. That combination of flair and power excites fans and seemingly makes him a natural gate attraction. But in spite of his electric abilities, he’s facing a master boxer. Is he ready?

Top Rank is known for having a team of matchmakers headed by boxing wizard Bruce Trampler. It makes me wonder why they are pitting these two against each other?

The probable answer: neither sells out an arena alone. May the best man win.

A friend of mine from East L.A., who formerly boxed and comes from a boxing family, shared his knowledge and opinion on the matchup. He has an interesting take.

“His footwork is incredible,” said George Rodriguez about Lomachenko. “Don’t get me wrong, Teofimo is an incredible talent, but Lomachenko has that footwork.”

Any way you look at it, the winner of this clash clearly bumps up his own image.

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) versus Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on October 17. Mark down that date. It will be televised on ESPN.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Sept. 26 Horn of Plenty and Other Notes

Arne K. Lang

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Considering the constraints, the month of September has been a pretty good month for professional boxing. And the month will close with a flourish. Eight world title-holders will be in action on the 26th, the last Saturday of the month.

Five of the belt-holders will appear on the SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader featuring the Charlo twins. The most intriguing fight on that card finds Jermall Charlo risking his belt and his undefeated record against rugged Sergiy Deveryanchenko. At last glance, Jermall was a consensus 17/10 (minus-170) favorite. In baseball, a 17/10 favorite is a heavy favorite. In boxing, not so. A serious handicapper who wouldn’t think of laying 17/10 in a baseball game would have no hesitation about laying these odds in a boxing match.

When Deveryanchenko steps into the ring, 51 weeks will have elapsed since his last fight, his bruising tiff with Gennadiy Golovkin. Jermall Charlo hasn’t been on the shelf for quite that long, having last fought in December.

A more interesting match on this particular Saturday, at least in the eyes of this reporter, will unfold earlier that day in Munich when the curtain finally comes down on Season 2 of the long-drawn-out World Boxing Super Series. Two titles will be on the line when Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) meets Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs).

Briedis’ lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk in a very competitive fight. Briedis won five rounds on two of the cards and won six rounds on the other. Dorticos’ lone defeat came on enemy turf in Sochi, Russia when he was stopped with eight seconds remaining in a doozy of a fight with Murat Gassiev.

Forget the titles; titles are a dime a dozen. These two guys are plainly the two best cruiserweights on the planet.

“The tickets are flying out the door and we expect to sell out within hours, if not days,” said co-promoter Kalle Sauerland at a pre-fight press conference.

That assertion was made way back on January 22 when the fight, originally targeted for late December of last year, was headed to Riga, Latvia, on March 21. That date didn’t work, nor did the re-scheduled date of May 16, and ultimately Riga didn’t work either.

Whatever tickets were sold, had to be refunded. There will be no fans in attendance when Briedis and Dorticos finally lock horns on Sept. 26 at a TV studio in Munich. The fight will air on DAZN in the U.S.

“Rest makes rust” was an often-heard caution when big gamblers of yesteryear dissected a boxing match. The late, great pricemaker Herb Lambeck reflexively shied away from boxers that had been inactive for a considerable period of time. For him, the Briedis-Dorticos match would likely be a head-scratcher. Both combatants have been inactive since June 15 of last year when they appeared in separate bouts on the same card in Riga, Briedis’s hometown. And they aren’t getting any younger. Briedis is 34 and Dorticos is 35.

The odds got nicked down somewhat when the site shifted from Riga with fans to Munich without, predictably so as Briedis, the first fighter from Latvia to win a world title, has an avid local following.

Briedis, the superior boxer, is a consensus 9/5 favorite. That seems a shade high as he won’t be able to feed off the crowd – there won’t be a crowd – and Dorticos, the Cuban KO Doctor, has a better chance of ending the fight with one punch. It wouldn’t be shocking if the fight followed a similar tack as the recent fight between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.

In case you missed it, Whyte was dominating his Russian adversary when things changed in a flash in the fifth round. Out of nowhere, Povetkin, the underdog, unleashed a picture-perfect uppercut that left Whyte flat on his back, unconscious before he hit the canvas. There have been other smashing one-punch knockouts this year – Ryan Garcia’s demolition of Francisco Fonseca comes quickly to mind – and there may be a few more, but it’s hard to visualize anyone topping Povetkin in the voting for Knockout of the Year.

By the way, if he wins it, Povetkin, 41, would be the second-oldest boxer to score the Knockout of the Year. George Foreman was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994. The source is The Ring magazine which has been issuing this award since 1989.

And if you happen to know the youngest fighter to score The Ring Knockout of the Year, then you’re pretty sharp. No, it’s not baby-faced Naoya Inoue, who is older (27) than he looks. The honor goes to the long-forgotten African-American/Filipino southpaw Morris East who was 19 when he knocked out defending WBA 140-pound champion Akinobu Hironaka in 1992.

In a rarity, it didn’t take long for Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte to agree on a rematch. They will meet again on Nov. 21. The venue is undecided, but Eddie Hearn is hopeful that he can pot the fight somewhere outside his backyard “fight camp” with fans in attendance. The first lines on the fight show Whyte the favorite in the vicinity of 13/5. Povetkin-Whyte II will be a nice appetizer for the Errol Spence vs. Danny Garcia match that goes off later that day.

In an unrelated development, Fury-Wilder III is purportedly going to Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, in late December. Bob Arum anticipates a crowd of 10,000-15,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

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Meekins vs. Kawoya: File It Under Bizarre

Ted Sares

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 It was August 8, 1988. The location was Resorts International in Atlantic City. The main event featured New Yorker John Wesley Meekins (18-1-2) vs another New Yorker (via Uganda and Denmark) Mohammed Kawoya (11-3).

The rangy and skilled Meekins with a stellar amateur career was a clear favorite over the lesser known Kawoya who had fought only once in the US, losing to Jorge Maysonet on cuts at the Felt Forum. Meekins was expected to move on to a world title fight after dispatching Kawoya.

Meekins enjoyed a successful career between 1984 and 1994, fighting the likes of Davey Montana, Mike Mungin, Harold Brazier, Saoul Mamby, Santos Cardona, Darrin Morris (who won his last 16 fights in a row), and Terence Alli. He would lose to a prime Meldrick Taylor (20-0-1) in 1989 with the IBF World Super Lightweight title at stake.

On June 15, 1990, Meekins beat Santos Cardona over 12 rounds to win the NABF light-welterweight championship, but would lose it to Terence Alli some seven months later. It was downhill after that and he retired in November 1994 with a record of 24-5-2 after being stopped by so-so Darryl Lattimore.

Back to Meekins vs. Kawoya

 This one did not go as expected. After being decked in round 2, Kawoya dropped Meekins in the opening seconds of round 3. An exciting fight with multiple knockdowns and furious exchanges was in progress and the fans loved it.

An aroused Meekins then went after the Ugandan with a vengeance and set up one of the most bizarre endings that few boxing fans have ever heard about, much less witnessed, as he again dropped Kawoya this time with a fast left hook. He then went for the kill. Referee Paul Venti sensed it and moved in—perhaps prematurely– as Meekins unleashed what he hoped would be a fight-ending volley of hard shots.

 As soon as Venti stepped in to stop the fight, Kawoya landed a right that dropped Meekins and had him crawling on the canvas and holding on to the ropes devoid of his senses for at least ten seconds. The punch was thrown at the exact moment that Venti ended matters and Venti didn’t realize what had occurred.

 While Kawoya thought he has scored a clean KO and celebrated wildly, the fact was that Venti had ended the fight a fraction of a second before and his decision would stand.

The fans not only enjoyed a great fight, they witnessed something truly memorable—something that had to be seen to be believed; namely, a winner struggling to get up and a loser celebrating what he thought was a knockout.

Kawoya pulled out of the rematch because of a throat infection and Saoul Mamby took his place as a late sub. The Ugandan never fought again, while Meekins never got the title shot that a more impressive effort might have gotten him.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com or on Facebook and welcomes comments.

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Daniel Dubois Mows Down Another Sacrificial Lamb

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