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Springs Toledo’s “The Ringside Belle,” Part 2

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“Is That a Pistol in Your Pocket?” 

Rubbing shoulders and who knows what else with Mae West at ringside was a rogues gallery of gangsters; many of whom branched out from Brooklyn like she did or left on the lam. There was Mickey Cohen in Los Angeles, Al Capone in Chicago, and Owney Madden. She was closest to Madden, a gangland murderer and bootlegger who became the underworld king of New York in the late 1920s. He was chief proprietor of the Cotton Club in Harlem and had interests in boxing —and Mae West. He bankrolled her career and was, for a time, her lover.

She wasn’t shy about asking for favors. When she heard that a Joe Louis-Maxie Rosenbloom bout was being negotiated for the Hollywood Legion in 1937, she called Madden and persuaded him to get Louis a title shot instead. That June, Louis knocked the crown off the head of Jim Braddock and became the first black heavyweight king since Jack Johnson. West was there, ringside.

She said that the guys who talked out of the sides of their mouths were perfect gentleman, but learned the hard way that they weren’t exactly pals. Three of them, one an ex-member of the Capone gang who used to work for her, held her up while she sat in her limousine in 1933. “Throw out your poke and let’s have the rocks,” she was told, and off into the night went $17,000 in diamonds and cash. She testified at the trial, despite receiving phone calls of the “or else” type. She knew where to turn for protection. Prospective chauffeurs were asked about their ability to bust heads, not brake safely. A parade of professional boxers were hired, among them a future world champion named Albert “Chalky” Wright. Chalky was a frustrated featherweight who needed a weekly paycheck to keep what little he had. West reportedly did better than that; handing him the down payment for a house he wanted to buy for his mother and paying for his divorce. He would drive her to the fights at the Olympic Auditorium on Tuesday and Friday nights in a chocolate-colored Rolls Royce; she would slip him a C-note and away he went.

Chalky, no stranger to vice, preferred bourbon to horses and horses to home life. If the word of a private investigator is to be believed, he preferred Miss West to everything else. “I am not the chauffer,” Chalky supposedly told an acquaintance when asked why he didn’t always wear a uniform, “—I am The Man.” Moreover, he admitted he was in love with her.

She loved him right back. When she heard that his boxing career had stalled out because of mismanagement, she sponsored his comeback and applied pressure behind the scenes to get him a title shot. She even hired his brother to take his place as her driver, to “keep it in the family.” When Lee Wright, a welterweight, got himself arrested for shooting light heavyweight Cannonball Green while Green was in a phone booth on Sunset Boulevard, she pulled strings and he walked. After all, said an eye-rolling reporter, it was “an accident.”

It wasn’t the last time she helped a fighter beat the rap. Filipino bantamweight Speedy Dado followed the Wrights into West’s front seat and was arrested for waving a gun at three motorists in a traffic incident. The hot-headed Dado might have been better off cooling his heels in the clink because he was losing more fights than he won.

Perhaps (pardon me) his legs were weak.

In the early Fifties, Chalky was retired and greasing pans in a bakery for a living. Mae West was, well, back on top in Vegas with a bevy of beefcakes on stage at the Sahara. In 1955, her private life was thrust into public view. Investigators for what she called an “under-the-rock” magazine were making the rounds at boxing arenas in California where, they said, “the name Mae West is as well-known as Spalding.” The name Chalky Wright kept coming up. They tracked him to a bar. Chalky, thinking they were producers interested in making a movie about West, took $200 to talk about his months in her employment. “Mae West’s Open-Door Policy” appeared in the November 1955 edition of Confidential Magazine. It became part of a lawsuit filed by Hollywood against the magazine, though there wasn’t much more than a tickle or two among mundane facts about West’s cleanliness and generosity.

Her lawyer drew up an affidavit denying any hanky-panky and the ex-featherweight champ signed it, or so the lawyer said. In 1957, Chalky was subpoenaed to court, but he never showed up. He died thirteen days before the court date.

It was an odd death. Recently separated from his second wife, he had moved in with his mother on South Main Street in Los Angeles. On August 12, she returned home from shopping and heard water running in the bathroom. She called Chalky’s name and when he didn’t answer she unlocked the door to find his body slumped in the bathtub. His head was under the water and the tap was running. At first, police suspected foul play —a towel rack had been torn from the wall, which suggested a struggle, and they thought they saw a contusion on Chalky’s head.

Whatever the cause, the caseagainst Confidential Magazine went forward and Chalky’s ex-wife’s subpoena was in the mail practically before the mourners had left Lincoln Memorial Park. It was still on her kitchen table when the phone rang. “You’d better clam up,” she was warned, “if you know what’s good for you.” She made it clear to the Baltimore Afro-American that the caller did not represent the magazine. She said “[t]hose people have too much money and too much power” but would not say who “those people” were and that invites speculation that West’s underworld friends were behind it. On the other hand, another witness was told to slant testimony in favor of the magazine, and a third, scheduled to testify against the magazine, died from a drug overdose that was no less suspicious than Chalky’s death.

Chalky was no stranger to vice lords. Word on the street was that gangster Frankie Carbo owned him during the latter days of his career, and no one doubted that he had a story to tell. It turns out that he told it, three years before his death, to a young black pulp writer by the name of Jay Thomas Caldwell. Me an’ You was published by Lion Books in 1954 and was dedicated to “Chalky, the gentle Hedonist.” Names were changed to protect the not-so innocent: “Turkey Jones,” the main character, is Chalky. “One Gun Laws” is “One Shot” Wirt Ross, Chalky’s manager early in his career, and “Al Smith” is Eddie Mead, his last manager.

The story unloads like a death-bed confession. Laws/Wirt, said the Chalky Wright character, routinely “invented fiction for the newspapers,” including one that said the fighter was born in Mexico. Chalky had a good laugh at that one: “Ain’t that a pip?” his character says.

There are more serious revelations that, if true, cast a shadow on his career. For example, the record tells us Eddie Shea knocked out Chalky Wright in the first round in 1933. In the book, a fight manager (who happens to share a first name with notorious West Coast gangster Mickey Cohen) meets Turkey Jones at the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles and hands him $300 to take a dive against “Bobby Shay” in the first round. “That bum didn’t knock me out,” Chalky’s character says afterward. “I dumped.” It wasn’t the only time he did.

The character of “Tommy White,” a short, God-fearing whirlwind from St. Louis who became a double champion, is Henry Armstrong. Chalky’s character is offered a fight against the Armstrong character to set up the book’s most startling mea culpa. It’s found in a scene on page 55:

Only one thing,” his manager told him. “We gotta do a little business.”

“Whatever’s best,” the fighter replied.

“Okay. They want a good guy, somebody with a reputation and you’re the only one who fills the bill. But they know they can’t take any chances with you. You might beat him.”

The record tells us Chalky Wright was knocked out by Henry Armstrong in three rounds in 1938. It is no longer certain that he did. Armstrong’s manager, Eddie Mead, is fingered in the book as the man behind the fix. Three pages later we read that the manager was satisfied enough with the performance to invite the main character to New York. It’s a matter of record that Eddie Mead became Chalky’s manager after Armstrong-Wright and that Wright’s next fight was his first at Madison Square Garden, where the spotlight was brighter and the purses were bigger.

It’s also a matter of record that Mead was all tangled up with gangsters on both coasts. One afternoon in 1942, he dropped dead in front of the Park Central Hotel. According to gangster Mickey Cohen, Meade was fencing diamonds back east and they were stashed in his coat. Cohen couldn’t believe it. He died “with all the f*ckin’ stuff on him!” (The police report left that out.) “Boxing and the racket world were almost one and the same,” opined Cohen as if we didn’t know. “Most boxers were owned by racket people and at one time, six of the boxing titles belonged to guys in the so-called racket world.”

Chalky’s affinity for white women is also dramatized in the pages of Me an’ You, including his marriages to two of them, but it stops there. His affair with Mae West is conspicuously absent. There is only a hint, at once suggestive and poignant, that appears near the end of the book as the main character walks toward the ring at Yankee Stadium: “He smelled a woman’s perfume from among ringsiders. It was a white woman’s perfume and no matter what he ever did he would never know what to do about it.”

In the end, Chalky’s death mirrored his affair with West. Despite the controversy swirling around it, his death was natural as his love. His autopsy report, dated September 3, 1957 ends the mystery. The Los Angeles County Coroner examined the body and found nothing that would make a mob hit likely. “No evidences of bony injury, either old or recent are demonstrated,” it reads. “The scalp is free of any evidences of injury.” Nor was he drowned. Tests conducted on his lungs, liver, and heart could not support that diagnosis. The coroner’s conclusion was as anticlimactic as a marriage: “aortic stenosis due to old rheumatic valvulitis, inactive.” It was heart failure that did Chalky in.

Mae West was present at his funeral.

According to at least one family member, she paid for it as well.

THEY SAY MAE WEST HAD A SOFT SPOT FOR GORILLA JONES —THEY DON’T KNOW THE HALF OF IT. DON’T MISS THE VALENTINE-WORTHY CONCLUSION TO “THE RINGSIDE BELLE” ….

TELL YOUR SWEETHEART! READ IT BEFORE BED!


Springs Toledo is the author of The Gods of War: Boxing Essays (Tora, 2014, $25).He can be reached at scalinatella@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 288: Jake Paul and Amanda

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No Texas this time.

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano take their show to Florida with a new interesting cast of fighters after heavyweight legend Mike Tyson was forced to withdraw.

Paul (9-1, 6 KOs) faces bare knuckle champion Mike “King of Violence” Perry (6-0, 3 KOs) in a cruiserweight match on Saturday July 20, at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Most Valuable Promotions event will be shown on PPV.COM and also on DAZN pay-per-view.

“I love to take risks. He’s a dangerous man,” Paul said. “Really this came about because he has a crazy fan base.”

Also, in a dangerous match, Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) faces potent knockout puncher Stevie Morgan (14-1, 13 KOs) in the super lightweight class.

Both Paul and Serrano are taking risks.

It’s another interesting match devised by Paul who has a knack for piquing the interest of fight fans one way or another. This time he chose bare knuckle titlist Perry who also has loads of experience in MMA including more than a dozen UFC fights.

Perry is the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship titlist and no stranger to boxing, jujitsu or MMA. He’s known for knockout power in both hands, little defense, but a very strong chin.

“I’m doing it for me, for the fans, for BKFC, for MMA but mainly for me. I believe in myself,” said Perry at the press conference. “I’m a brawling boxing mug.”

Paul chose Perry mainly because he feels MMA or bare knuckle fighters cannot defeat him.

“You’re going to see what I do to their best fighter. This guy has no skills,” said Paul about BKFC or UFC fighters.  “You saw what I did to Nate Diaz.”

In the female fight, Serrano chose Morgan who has a large fan base in Tampa. The hometown fighter believes this is a perfect match for them both.

“I’m not being disrespectful. I’m just stating facts. Amanda has a fighting style that best suits me,” said Morgan who is slightly taller.

Serrano was dead-eyed serious about the fight and Morgan’s comments.

“I don’t pay attention to that. That doesn’t pay my bills. You’ll see Saturday night,” said Serrano. “I don’t look past any opponent.”

Several other interesting bouts are on tap including another boxer versus MMA as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. faces Uriah Hall in a cruiserweight bout. Undefeated lightweights Ashton Sylve and Lucas Bahdi are set for 10 rounds. And female super middleweight contender Shadasia Green meets Natasha Spence in an eight-round fight.

According to Most Valuable Promotions the previously scheduled fights between Paul and Tyson and Serrano versus Katie Taylor will take place in November.

Prelims begin at 4 p.m.

Golden Boy at Fantasy Springs

Hard-hitting welterweights Alexis Rocha (24-2, 16 KOs) and Santiago Dominguez (27-0, 20 KOs) head the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. on Friday, July 19. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

Santa Ana’s Rocha has faced the better-quality opposition, but Mexico’s Dominguez remains undefeated despite almost stumbling in his first fight in California last March.

Will Rocha’s experience be too much for Dominguez who won a split decision in his last fight?

Also on the card will be a number of undefeated prospects including Bryan Lua, Jorge Chavez and Grant Flores.

Nakatani

Three-division world champion Junto Nakatani (27-0, 20 KOs) defends the WBC bantamweight title against Vincent Astrolabio (19-4, 24 KOs) on Saturday, July 20, at Tokyo, Japan. ESPN+ will stream the Teiken Promotions card.

Nakatani, 26, is considered by many to be the next best Japanese fighter to Naoya Inoue. Many also consider Nakatani among the best dozen pound for pound fighters in the world.

The southpaw slugger is familiar to Southern California boxing. He trains with noted trainer Rudy Hernandez who has developed him into one of the best and most feared fighters below featherweight.

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 6 p.m. Alexis Rocha (24-2) vs Santiago Dominguez (27-0)

Sat. ESPN+ 2 a.m. Junto Nakatani (27-0) vs Vincent Astrolabio (19-4).

Sat. PPV.COM and DAZN ppv 6 p.m. Jake Paul (9-1) vs Mike Perry (6-0); Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Stevie Morgan (14-1).

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The Mirage Goes Dark and Another Storied Venue for Boxing Bites the Dust

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Life comes at you fast. It seems like only yesterday that I stood in a crowd of rubberneckers gawking at the artificial volcano that fronted the spanking new Mirage Hotel and Casino. After sundown, it erupted every 15 minutes, sending fireballs into the sky accompanied by a soundtrack of actual eruptions as the air was perfumed with the scent of a pina colada. In those days, late November of 1989 and beyond, the artificial volcano was Southern Nevada’s #1 tourist attraction, supplanting Hoover Dam. (The “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the south end of the Strip hadn’t yet become a magnet for hordes of camera-toting tourists.)

I didn’t come to the 3,044-room Polynesian-themed resort to see the volcano. I came there to see the centerpiece of the grand opening festivities, a prizefight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, the third meeting between the two gladiators. The Mirage had actually opened for business two weeks earlier, but it was a soft opening, as they say in the trade. The boxing event on Thursday, Dec. 7, 1989, was the cherry on the cake, a spectacle in every sense of the word. Celebrities were chaperoned to their ringside seats on a red carpet, mirroring the Oscars, and a mesmerizing fireworks display, better than New Years Eve, lit up the sky in the interlude between the last preliminary bout and the main event.

Leonard-Duran III was the first of 13 boxing shows at the Mirage, the last of which was staged in 1995. Thirteen isn’t many, but they included some of the biggest fights of the era, five of which – the first five – were staged under the stars in makeshift arenas built specifically for boxing. And now, with the closure of the Mirage today (July 17), another place that housed historic prizefights has dissipated into the dustbin of history.

The accoutrements were more memorable than the fight. Roberto Duran had turned back the clock in his most recent bout, unseating middleweight title-holder Iran Barkley at the Atlantic City Convention Center, but against Sugar Ray he looked older than his 38 years. Leonard was content to out-box Duran and won nearly every round. The final chapter of the Four Kings round-robin (Leonard, Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Tommy Hearns) was a dud.

Two months after the Leonard-Duran rubber match, fringe contender James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world with a 10th-round stoppage of Mike Tyson.

Tyson-Douglas was in faraway Tokyo, but the Mirage became a sidebar to the story of the fight when mischievous Jimmy Vaccaro, who ran the Mirage Race and Sports Book, just for the fun of it posted odds on the match. That gave the Mirage a monopoly as it would be the only property in the bookmaking universe to take bets on the outcome of the fight.

The betting line bounced around a little bit and at one point the odds favoring Mike Tyson stood at 42/1. This price would come to be etched in stone. “42 to 1” became the title of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary.

It wasn’t lost on Mirage founder and chairman Steve Wynn that Buster Douglas would be the perfect poster boy for a gambling establishment. After all, Buster was the Joe Blow that knocked out Superman and won the big jackpot. Wynn’s attorneys succeeded in extricating Douglas from the clutches of Don King and he was matched against Evander Holyfield, a former cruiserweight champion who was 24-0 with the last six wins coming as a heavyweight.

Worldwide, Douglas vs. Holyfield was a much bigger attraction than Leonard-Duran III. The Mirage reportedly credentialed 1,200 members of the media, many from overseas.

In the days leading up to the fight, there were rumors that Buster Douglas had been lax in his training. Those rumors were confirmed when Douglas weighed-in at 246 pounds, 14 ½ pounds more than he had carried for Mike Tyson.

Counting the intermissions between rounds, the fight lasted a shade over nine minutes. In the third frame, Buster missed with an uppercut and Holyfield countered with an overhand right that landed on the temple. Buster fell to the canvas and made no attempt to rise as referee Mills Lane tolled the 10-count. As he lay there, picking at his nose, the scene was reminiscent of the famous photo of Jack Johnson lying on his back with his right arm shading his eyes from the sun at the conclusion of his 1915 fight with Jess Willard, a match that would always beg the question of whether Johnson was faking it.

Steve Wynn, who could be charming but was a perfectionist with a volatile temper, was livid. On the streets of Las Vegas, there was talk that Wynn had Douglas and his crew evicted from their hotel rooms even before the arena was locked down. If it were true that Buster Douglas was given the bum’s rush like some deadbeat inhabitant of a fleabag hotel, he would have been the first millionaire to experience this indignity. His purse was reportedly $24 million with $19.9 million guaranteed (roughly $40 million in today’s dollars).

Wynn partnered with promoter Bob Arum for the Leonard-Duran fight. For Douglas-Holyfield, he decided to go it alone, eliminating the middleman. By his reckoning, he had people on staff who were quite capable of getting all the moving parts to mesh into a coherent whole. But manufacturing a megafight is a complicated undertaking and Wynn would discover that he had over-reached. Plus, he had soured on boxing after two stinkers.

History would show that Steve Wynn would never again commit a large amount of money to host a prizefight. But this didn’t mark the end of boxing at the Mirage as Wynn owed Don King some dates as part of the out-of-court settlement that freed Buster Douglas from King’s grasp and a handful of promoters with lesser clout (e.g., Kathy Duva, Cedric Kushner, Dan Goossen) would anchor an occasional show there in a four-wall arrangement.

Don King’s first two Mirage promotions pit Mike Tyson against Razor Ruddock. Tyson stopped Ruddock in the seventh round on March 18, 1991. The stoppage by referee Richard Steele, which struck many as premature, sparked a wild melee in the ring between the opposing handlers. The sequel in June went the distance. Tyson copped the decision. Take away the three points that Ruddock was docked for low blows and Tyson still would have won.

King also promoted the last of the outdoor shows at the Mirage, a September 14, 1991 card topped by Julio Cesar Chavez’s super lightweight title defense against Lonnie Smith. In hindsight, this event was historically important.

Although Chavez was a massive favorite and the weather was oppressively hot, the Mexican Independence Day weekend fight attracted a larger-than-expected turnout of mostly Mexican tourists with deep pockets. In future years, many big fights in Las Vegas would be noosed to a Mexican holiday weekend. Chavez vs Smith was the ice-breaker.

In addition to Leonard, Duran, Holyfield, Tyson, and Chavez, future Hall of Famers Riddick Bowe, Jeff Fenech, Azumah Nelson, Buddy McGirt, and Michael Carbajal appeared at the Mirage. “Big Daddy” Bowe never headlined a show at the Mirage but had three fights here preceding his memorable trilogy with Evander Holyfield.

Steve Wynn divested his interest in the Mirage in 2000 and the property became part of the MGM consortium. In December of 2021, the property was purchased by the Hard Rock organization whose parent company, as it were, is the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida. The transition from the Mirage to the Hard Rock is expected to take almost three years. When the renovation is finished, the property will have a new hotel tower shaped like a giant guitar. The guitar, the symbol of the Hard Rock brand, couldn’t hold the volcano’s jockstrap, but it is what it is in the city that constantly reinvents itself.

Back when the Mirage opened, the charismatic Steve Wynn was the most admired man in town. An innovator and a true visionary, Wynn melded the sensibilities of Walt Disney and Bugsy Siegel and changed the face of the Las Vegas Strip. Wynn still has a large footprint in Las Vegas reflected in two look-alike five star hotel-casinos, the Wynn and the Encore, but, incredibly, he is now persona non grata in the city that once worshiped him. His fall from grace is not a proper subject for this website. Suffice it to say that Wynn, now 82, was quite the philanderer in his younger days and his recklessness caught up with him.

Yes, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that magical night almost 35 years ago when Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran formally christened the newest and brightest jewel on the Las Vegas landscape. Those were the days, my friend, and for some of us it seemed like only yesterday.

A recognized authority on the history of prizefighting and the history of American sports gambling, TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang is the author of five books including “Prizefighting: An American History,” released by McFarland in 2008 and re-released in a paperback edition in 2020.

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A Conversation with Legendary Phoenix Boxing Writer Norm Frauenheim

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It seems all along that Norm Frauenheim was destined to become a boxing writer.

Two critical elements were at play that led the 75-year-old scribe to that profession.

“I was always interested in boxing, even as a kid,” said Frauenheim who spent 31 years with the Arizona Republic beginning in 1977. “I’m an Army brat. I was born in January 1949 on a base, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, a city I didn’t really see until I hit the NBA road covering the [Phoenix] Suns for more than a decade starting in 1979-80.”

Frauenheim, a longtime correspondent for The Ring magazine who writes for various boxing sites such as boxingscene.com and 15rounds.com, added more background: “One of the many places I lived was Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu from 1962 to 1966,” he continued. “I delivered The Stars & Stripes to troops with the 25th Infantry Division, which was headed to Vietnam, along with my dad.

“Anyway, boxing and Schofield have long been linked, mostly because of a novel and film, ‘From Here to Eternity’ (the James Jones novel starring Frank Sinatra on the big screen). The troops were still boxing, outdoors, at the barracks along my newspaper route. I was 13 to 17 years old. I’d stop, watch and get interested. I’ve been interested ever since.”

Frauenheim added: “From there, my father and family shipped to Fort Sheridan, then a base north of Chicago where I spent one year and graduated from high school “Then my dad went back to Vietnam and I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville (1967 through 1971) and graduated with a major in history. I was also a competitive swimmer, pre-Title IX.

“Competitive swimming is also at the roots of my sportswriting career. I was frustrated that Vanderbilt’s student newspaper didn’t cover us. I offered to do it. The newspaper agreed. I don’t swim as well as I used to. I look at a surfboard and look at the waves I used to take on and wondered what in the hell I was doing. It’s a lot safer to be at ringside.”

After a more than five-decade stint covering boxing, Frauenheim is glad that the manly sport is still around but with more outside competition.

“It’s surely not the [Muhammad] Ali era. It’s not the Golden 80s, either. It’s a fractured business in a world with more and more options for sports fans. MMA is just one example,” he said. “Boxing is not dying. It has been declared dead, ad nauseam. I read the inevitable obits and think of an old line: Boxing has climbed out of more coffins than Count Dracula.

“Still, the sport has been pushed to the fringe of public interest. But it’s been there before. Resiliency is one of its strongest qualities. It’ll be around, always reinventing itself.”

In some respects, boxing, like the other sports, has always been dependent on rivalries like the NBA’s Celtics versus Lakers, which drives the public’s interest and storylines.

“[Larry] Bird-Magic [Johnson] was basketball’s Ali-[Joe] Frazier,” Frauenheim says. “It transformed the league, setting the stage for Michael Jordan. It can happen again, in boxing or any other sport.”

Boxing is still the same but with tweaks here and there.

“When I started, championship bouts were 15 rounds instead of 12,” said Frauenheim who began his journalism career in 1970 at the Tallahassee Democrat and worked at the Jacksonville Journal before being lured in Phoenix. “There were morning weigh-ins instead of the day-before promotional show. There was also a lot more media. A big fight in Vegas meant all of the big media people were there. The last time that happened was Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, a fight that failed to meet expectations and I think eroded much of the big media’s appetite for more,” continued Frauenheim whose byline has appeared in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

Mexican legend Saul Alvarez is still a major draw, but there are others on the horizon who are ready to step in and take over like the undefeated super middleweight David Benavidez.

“The clock is ticking on Canelo’s career, and I think he knows it. At this point, it’s about risk-reward. The 27-year-old Benavidez is too big a risk. Canelo, I think, looks at Benavidez and thinks he’ll beat him. I don’t think he would,” Frauenheim noted. “Benavidez is too big, has a mean streak and possesses a rare extra gear. He gets stronger in the late rounds.

“Even if Canelo wins, there’s a pretty good chance that Benavidez hurts him. There’s still a chance Canelo-Benavidez happens. But I think it’ll take some Saudi [Arabian] money.”

Boxers stand alone in the ring, literally and figuratively, but have a small supporting crew.

This makes them unique compared to baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

“Boxers are different from any other athlete I’ve ever covered. It’s why, I guess, boxing has been called a writer’s sport. There are plenty of NFL and NBA players who have grown up on the so-called mean streets,” Frauenheim said. “But they have teammates. They don’t make that long, lonely walk from the dressing room to the ring.”

Stripped naked, boxers are an open book, according to Frauenheim.

“They can be hard to deal with while training and cutting weight. But after a fight, no athlete in my experience is more forthcoming,” he said. “Win or lose, they just walked through harm’s way in front of people. In my experience, that’s when they want to talk.”

Selecting a career highlight or highlights isn’t easy for Frauenheim, but he tried.

“There are so many. I was there for the great Sugar Ray Leonard victory over Thomas Hearns [1981], a welterweight classic,” he recalled. “A personal favorite was Michael Carbajal’s comeback from two knockdowns for a KO of Humberto Gonzalez in 1993, perhaps the best fight in the history of the lightest weight class. I was also there for the crazy, including Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield’s “Bite Fight” and the “Fan Man” landing in the ring like the 82nd Airborne Division midway through a Riddick Bowe-Holyfield fight behind Vegas’ Caesars Palace.”

Three boxers set the tone and backdrop for Frauenheim’s illustrious tenure as a writer.

“Roberto Duran is the greatest lightweight ever. His lifestyle sometimes got the best of him. That was evident in his infamous ‘No Mas’ welterweight loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans,” he said of that November 1980 bout. “He told me that he took the rematch, on short notice, because of the money. “Women-women-women, eating-eating-eating, drinking-drinking-drinking,” he told me in an interview of what he had been doing before Leonard’s people approached him for an immediate rematch of his Montreal victory. But take a look at Duran’s victory in Montreal [June 1980]. Watch it again. On that night, there’s never been a better fighter than Duran.”

Frauenheim added another titan to that short list: “Leonard, who is the last real Sugar,” he said, and ended with the only eight-weight division king. “Manny Pacquiao, an amazing story about a starving kid off impoverished Filipino streets. He was a terrific fighter, blessed with speed, power and instinct. Add to that a shy personality unchanged by all the money and celebrity. He is an example of what can still happen in boxing. He’s the face of the game’s resiliency.”

That’s quite a trio, and they’re the best of the best that Frauenheim’s seen and covered from ringside.

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