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FROM BOSTON TO NY, To See Good Boy in Action

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Saturday morning, 6am.

When the alarm bells went off bright and early in Boston to awaken me for my big day in the Big Apple, I’d already been yanked from my slumber just a few hours prior by a 2am “Amber Alert” that sent my iPhone into a buzzing frenzy. For some reason, I thought it was going off like that because I had some new Twitter followers.

After a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast (protein shake fruit smoothie) I logged onto my computer only to find that my popular KO Digest “friend page” on Facebook was being converted by the powers-that-be into a Facebook “like page”, a virtual disaster for my ability to communicate with my loyal online audience.

As easy as it would have been to let this social media mishap spoil my pilgrimage to the Mecca of Boxing, I did my very best to not let it bother me too much; I began downloading a copy of the old page to my hard-drive and allowing the long process of conversion to begin. During this extended period while that was slowly taking place in cyber space, it was as if the KO Digest page on Facebook was in a strange state of pugilistic purgatory, technically knocked out before the fight even started. Are you serious?

When I arrived at the Amtrak station in Westwood, Mass after a short drive from Boston, I parked my 1997 Ford Taurus SHO (that stands for Super High Output) in the MBTA parking lot and took the short walk to the terminal. As I rounded a corner to have a seat in the lobby, who did I see but fellow Sweet Science boxing writer extraordinaire Springs Toledo. I told Springs about my Facebook situation (Toledo once referred to KO Digest as the “pied piper” of boxing) and he told me about the new boxing book he’s writing, In The Cheap Seats. That’s certainly a very appropriate name for his work in progress considering that Springs was traveling to the same fight card I was traveling to, but with a paid ticket in his pocket for the cheap seats and no press pass to speak of this time around. As my Acela Express train rolled into the station at 8:25am, we said our goodbyes and I took a quick selfie with the well dressed, award-winner from the Boxing Writers Association of America. As it turned out, Springs was taking the next train(8:55am) bound for Penn Station.

Yes, his seat was indeed a little bit cheaper. Holy Toledo, he even rode coach.

On the fly-by four hour train ride to midtown Manhattan, I sat with a young college student from Boston University named Jennifer. She was traveling to New York City for a student conference in the Capital District where she was planning to meet up with her new boyfriend Blake. I asked her if she knew anything about the Gennady Golovkin fight at MSG or if she’d even heard of the popular puncher known in boxing circles as Triple G. “Is he in the UFC?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face. Not surprisingly, Jennifer had no idea who or what I was talking about. Golovkin might very well be on the verge of becoming a crossover star in the larger sporting world, but he’s still an unknown commodity among college freshmen and pretty girls with crushes on pretty boys.

During the second half of the trip, in between checking emails and working on this travel log, I continued to deal with my now suddenly defunct social media outlet in an effort to get the page up and running again for the busy day ahead. By 11am, there was still no KO Digest on Facebook and I was starting to get concerned messages from friends and readers in the boxing community wondering just what the hell was going on with their trusty KO Digest. I tried to explain as best I could but having to do so just reminded me of how frustrated I was with the whole situation. The timing could not have been worse for me but boxing is nothing if not a struggle for all involved.

After a pleasant ride that went by like no time at all, my train rolled into Penn Station right on time at 11:45am. When that first blast of New York City air hit me in the face during the escalator ride up and out of the underground station, I was immediately struck by how cold and windy it was outside. I was expecting brisk weather but not quite early winter conditions. I put on a light jacket and made a loop around the historic venue to have a look around. It was still a little early in the day for the big boxing crowds to start filling in around Penn Station but I did hear a few folks already talking about the middleweight title fight on tap tonight in the big room.

I have to say, no trip to New York City is complete for me without first going down to Ground Zero for a show of respect to all the lives lost and forever destroyed on September 11, 2001. As a disabled American Gulf War era veteran, I’ll never forget 9/11. On that fateful morning fourteen years ago, I was proudly wearing the uniform of my country as a United States Army soldier. Seeing the site now turned into a squeaky clean memorial is meaningful but to also see how it’s become commercialized and capitalized, well, that makes me feel dirty on the inside and even colder on the outside. I’m reminded of Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.

Fortunately, by 1:30pm, the sun was starting to warm up the day and my spirits along with it.

If the heart and soul of boxing is the art of talking about boxing, that’s just what I managed to do for a few hours during the afternoon with a fellow named Art from Long Island. Art was enjoying his coffee and doing a little people watching when we struck up a conversation at the 7th Avenue Starbucks location. Before you knew it, others around us had jumped into the fray and we talked about everybody from Muhammad Ali to Hector Camacho to Rocky Marciano (“Rocky is Rocky!”) to Floyd “Money” Mayweather. As the banter heated up, I heard a wiseguy wisely say, “If Mayweather is one of the guys in the ring tonight, you’re not gonna see a fight.” I assured them there would be no shortage of action in the Garden tonight before heading over to TGIF’s for a last minute bite before the fights. Not surprisingly, more great conversations went down around me at the bar while I scarfed back a Pepsi and some overpriced tuna wontons. The bartender overheard our debate about Mike Tyson and piped in that he lives next-door to a guy in Brooklyn who was Big George Foreman’s first professional opponent, Don Waldheim. In boxing, it’s a small world. Everybody knows somebody. Waldheim was knocked out by Foreman in the third round in 1969. The rest is history.

From there, it was over to 31st & 8th to pick up my media credential at 5pm sharp. The line wasn’t very long and it moved pretty quickly. As I was waiting outside to pass the security checkpoint, former heavyweight championship challenger Gerry Cooney emerged from the entrance and I couldn’t help but shout out, “Gentleman Gerry, we loved ya!” Cooney counter-punched quick with, “I love you,” before he asked me how I got so big. Cooney is 6’6. I’m 6’11. I told Gerry that I, like he, ate my spinach. Of course, that didn’t help the big fella when he was poleaxed by “Big George” in 1990.

With my press pass in hand, I headed over to the media room where I was accompanied by Derek Bonnett and Jason Prilbila from the website Second Out. Derek could hardly contain his excitement over getting to cover his “favorite fighter” Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. I was very happy to see “KO JO” Jack Obermayer in the house wearing a Panamanian paper hat and a plaid shirt. I asked Jack how he’s feeling these days. Jack described himself as “weak” but for doing what he’s still doing with what he’s got, cancer, I’d say he’s pretty damn strong. Keep punching Jack.

After a quick pow-wow with my esteemed editor-in-chief, Michael “Call Me Woodsy” Woods, popular referee Steve Willis made an unexpected pass through the media room and I told Willis how glad boxing fans were that he was assigned to cover the main event, Golovkin vs. David Lemieux. Willis is an intense (bug-eyed) third man in the ring. In any fight he works, the action is always written all over his wonderfully expressive face.

I could only envy the unique perspective he’d have of the fisticuffs in just a few short hours.

Unfortunately, my dream of sitting ringside in press row proper at Madison Square Garden for a big time prizefight was dashed when I took a closer look at my red media credential. Section 327, Row #2, Seat 6. That’s “up there” but not a bad view at all in a dedicated media section stationed above the ring in the newly renovated MSG. That would be my point of view for the night ahead but by no means am I complaining. It’s a privilege and an honor to cover professional boxing on its biggest stages and to do so for one of the most well written and well read boxing websites in the world, The Sweet Science. With nothing but gratitude, I made my way up to my seat at 7:30 by taking an escalator all the way to the ninth floor. The arena was not yet half-filled as undefeated Lamont Roach, 9-0, battled Jose “Flash” Bustos, a 7-6 junior lightweight from one of the most dangerous places on Earth, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Bustos lost a wide unanimous decision and nearly got knocked out in the final round but he held up like proud Mexican fighters tend to do.

At 9:30, the legendary Roberto Duran appeared on the jumbotron and the now near-capacity Garden gave the Panamanian icon a loud reception while the smiling “Hands of Stone” blew kisses to his adoring fans from ringside. Duran famously defeated New Yorker Davey Moore at this venue in 1983, destroying the young WBA junior middleweight champion with a cruel precision still talked about reverentially to this very day. In town during fight week, “Cholo” was asked about Golovkin and something apparently got lost in translation. Duran thought the reporter was asking him about Andrew Golota, the “Foul Pole” of boxing and scapegoat of the infamous 1996 riot that took place right here in the aftermath of Golota’s foul-filled bout against New Yorker Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe.

When the jumbotron showed American Presidential candidate Donald Trump in the locker room pressing the flesh with Pound-for-Pound candidate Gennady Golovkin, the reaction was mixed to say the least.

By 10:00, the heavyweights were in the ring. While undefeated Cuban Luis Ortiz and Argentine punching bag Matias Ariel Vidondo plodded around the ring like Tony “TNT” Tubbs and Francesco Damiani, I decided to take a quick walk around the upper levels of the building. I’m glad I did. It was there I ran into Chip Mitchell, a Facebook friend (and KO Digest reader) who crossed into my real world tonight with some kind words and an unexpected gift. Without warning, Mitchell gave me a silver necklace with a silver boxing glove on it. “Keep doing what you’re doing sir,” he told me as if he knew I needed to hear it. I thanked him and went back to my work station to watch Ortiz stop Vidondo with a straight left hand in the third round of a clumsy mismatch. To my immediate right, Stefan Oliva, a young deadline writer from an Argentine newspaper, scrambled around as he tried to file the disappointing story of his countryman’s face first defeat.

In the co-main event, World Flyweight Champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria didn’t exactly light the joint on fire but they did put on a very high quality title fight with a definitive result. Viloria was knocked down early in the bout and was getting batted around at will by the smooth punching Nicaraguan. There’s a good reason why Gonzalez, who draws comparisons to his idol Alexis Arguello, is seen as the number one pound for pound boxer in the world today following the recent retirement of Floyd Mayweather. Nobody out there today is as technically perfect in the ring as Gonzalez. To his credit, Viloria did his best to avoid a bad beating but he was catching one whenever Gonzalez let his hands go. In the ninth round, Gonzalez let them go and didn’t stop until referee Benjy Esteves stepped in at 2:53 with Viloria on the ropes taking punches from all angles.

By 11:30, Golovkin and Lemieux were in the ring and the Garden was rocking with spontaneous chants of “Triple G, Triple G” ringing out to start the fight. Golovkin was patient in the first round, using his stiff left jab to spear Lemieux, keeping the Canadian honest and his vaunted left hook home. People talk all day about Golovkin’s offense but his defense was good enough to easily avoid the wild power of Lemieux in the second round by just leaning back away from it. In the third, Golovkin landed a hard left hook to the liver, left hook to the head combo and he finished it up with another flush jab to the face of Lemieux. The pace picked up in the fourth and it looked like Golovkin might lower the boom but Lemieux stood in there like a champion and took the abuse while returning fire. Back on his heels in the fifth from more Golovkin jabs, Lemieux wasn’t landing much and when he did, Golovkin walked through it. After a knockdown of Lemieux by Golovkin in the fifth, Lemieux showed his grit in the sixth as the blood began to pour from his nose and mouth. In the seventh, referee Steve Willis brought the bloody Lemieux to see the ringside physician and the fight resumed after a cursory look by the doctor. In fact, it was referee Willis that was taking the closest looks at Lemieux and as the IBF middleweight champion was getting smashed about the head by Golovkin, the horrified look on Willis’ face told the story of the fight. In the eighth, Willis had seen enough carnage for the night and he jumped in to stop the one-sided fight at 1:32 of the frame.

With the win, Golovkin improved his record to 34-0 with 31 KOs. Golovkin now has 15 successful defenses of his WBA middleweight title, 21 consecutive stoppages in the ring, and of course, sole possession of the IBF 160 pound title that he won tonight from David Lemieux.

At the post-fight press conference, middleweight Tureano Johnson (unanimous decision winner over Eamonn O’Kane on the undercard) said he’s the one to beat Golovkin in the future. “He can hit me with all he’s got. I can knock him out, too, ” the Bahamas-bred boxer claimed. “I have a cast iron chin,” he told the press.

When the black and blue Lemieux hit the stage, he gave credit to Golovkin but the ex-champ did say he thought the stoppage was a little premature. Golovkin, smiling with four belts spread out before him, wrapped up his experience in the ring against Lemieux: “It was not an easy night but it was a good night.”

At 2:05 am on Sunday morning, I filed this write-up with The Sweet Science and made my way back down to Penn Station for the long train ride back to Boston. In the end, Golovkin was right of course, it wasn’t an easy night but it was a damn good night.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Canelo-GGG III and a Gary Russell Sr Tribute

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It’s official. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will bypass a rematch with Dmitry Bivol in favor of a third meeting with Gennadiy “Triple-G” Golovkin. They will renew acquaintances on Saturday, Sept. 17, Mexican Independence Day weekend, at a site to be determined, most likely the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the site of their first two battles, or AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (Jerry’s World) where Canelo drew 51,420 for his 2016 match with Liam Smith and 73,126 for his 2021 match with Billy Joe Saunders, the latter a North American record for a boxing card at an indoor venue. At stake will be Canelo’s undisputed (four-belt) super middleweight title. A career-long middleweight with one exception — his June 2019 fight with Steve Rolls was contested at the catchweight of 164 pounds — GGG will be making his first start at 168.

Canelo and Triple-G first fought on Sept. 16, 2017 and rematched a year later. The first meeting ended in a draw and Canelo won the second by a majority decision. Both outcomes were controversial.

Since then, Canelo is 7-1, adding world titles at 168 and 175. GGG, who left trainer Abel Sanchez after his second meeting with Canelo, replacing him with Emanuel Steward disciple Johnathan Banks, is 4-0, advancing his record to 42-1-1 (37). He was dominant against two soft opponents and against capable Ryota Murata, but had a very hard test with Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Of greater import from a handicapping standpoint, he turned 40, reaching that milestone on April 8. Canelo Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) is the younger man by eight years.

Pundits have criticized the powers that be for letting the trilogy fight languish until both men, but especially Golovkin, were theoretically past their prime. However, the first two encounters between these gladiators, both surefire first-ballot Hall of Famers, provided 24 rounds of white-knuckle entertainment and the third installment, a DAZN pay-per-view, is a guaranteed blockbuster.

R.I.P. Gary Russell Sr

Gary Russell Sr, the patriarch of a boxing dynasty, passed away Monday, May 23, at age 63 from complications of diabetes. Russell had been in and out of the hospital these last few months. He had his left foot amputated in December and was confined to a wheelchair.

Russell, who was raised in the crime-ridden Trinidad neighborhood of Washington DC, boxed as an amateur and passed his love of the sport on to his sons, all of whom, in the fashion of George Foreman, he named Gary. Under his tutelage, four of his sons were national amateur champions, two made the U.S. Olympic team, and three – Gary Russell Jr, Gary Antonio Russell, and Gary Antuanne Russell — are currently active professionals with a combined record of 65-2.

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A featherweight, Gary Russell Jr, 33, is 31-2 (18). Both of his losses were by majority decision, the first to Vasyl Lomachenko and the second to Mark Magsayo in January of this year in the sixth defense of his WBC belt. He injured his shoulder during the Magsayo fight and was reduced to a one-armed boxer for most of the bout.

Gary Antonio Russell, 29, a bantamweight, last fought in November, out-pointing Alexandro Santiago to advance his record to 19-0 (12).

Gary Antuanne Russell, 25, a super lightweight, left the amateur ranks after losing a controversial decision to his Uzbekistani opponent in the 2016 Rio Olympics. As a pro he’s undefeated, winning all 15 of his fights inside the distance. It is rumored that his next fight will come against former two-division world title-holder Rances Barthelemy.

Gary Russell Sr emphasized the cerebral component of boxing. “My father told me what creates a war is two fighters that didn’t have a Plan B…That’s what makes the difference between a good fighter and a great fighter, the level of intellect,” said Gary Russell Jr. The elder Russell also encouraged his sons to invest their ring earnings in real estate.

The proudest moment for the Russell family came on May 20, 2017, the elder Russell’s 58th birthday, when all three of his fighting sons appeared on the same card at the new MGM Inner Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, roughly 15 minutes from the family home in Capitol Heights where the brothers first donned the mitts in a basement gym. Gary Russell Jr, Gary Antonio, and Gary Antuanne won their matches by stoppage. It was Gary Antuanne’s pro debut.

As noted by award-winning writer Ronan Keenan, the event was a woolly affair marred by several brawls in the audience, but the Russell brothers brought honor to the family by their deportment, avoiding any hint of arrogance or bombast in their pre-fight and post-fight pronouncements.

Gary Russell Sr was no stranger to heartbreak. A son by a previous marriage, named Devaun, was murdered in 2004. Another of his sons, Gary Boosa Russell, died from cardiac arrest two months before Christmas in 2020.

We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Harvey Araton Reflects on the Odd Coupling of Ali-Liston II and Lewiston, Maine

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Harvey Araton Reflects on the Odd Coupling of Ali-Liston II and Lewiston, Maine

It’s rarely the case, but in a few instances a heavyweight championship fight has been staged in a small town like Shelby, Montana, or Lewiston, Maine.

The latter was the case 57 years ago this week — May 25 to be exact — when Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston for the second time in 15 months.

In the initial meeting, Ali, then Cassius Clay, stunned the world by stopping and taking away the Big Bear’s title with a sixth-round technical knockout in Miami Beach.

In the rematch, Ali’s short right hand proved to be the knockout punch, but many called it the “Phantom Punch,” because few in the throng of 2,434 inside Lewiston’s St. Dominic’s Arena actually saw the blow land.

Looking back, just how did a town of around 40,000 inhabitants and 142 miles north of Boston, actually host the second meeting?

Longtime New York City sportswriter Harvey Araton penned a feature that ran on May, 19, 2015 in the New York Times on just how that unlikely hamlet of Lewiston, at least for one night, became the boxing capital of the world.

“For the old timers in Lewiston, that fight is the equivalent of hosting an Olympics, an event that for decades has defined its identity, even more so after the city fell into disrepair following the decline of its textile industry and the closing of its mills,” said Araton, who worked at the Staten Island Advance, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News preceding a 25-year stint at the New York Times including a decade and a half writing the “Sports of the Times” column.

“The filmmaker I met who talked about what Ali yelled at Liston as he lay on his back – “Get up and fight!” – and how it enhanced the fight’s legacy in Lewiston as it struggled to revive itself was just perfect for my story. I’d like to think it has also come to reflect the rise of the Somali immigrant community, what it has had to go through in order to find a home and to overcome the standard fear and loathing of immigrants to share its restorative efforts in the city.”

When Araton visited Lewiston on the fight’s 50th anniversary, the townsfolk were proud.

“There certainly was a nostalgic quality to the city of Lewiston with the retention of its old, industrial feel, but especially in the arena where the fight took place. Beyond the facelift it was given several years ago, more to its facade than anything else, it still resembles what I described in the story as a cross between an old barn and an airplane hangar,” he said. “And while I wouldn’t say time is frozen inside, you didn’t have to stretch your imagination too far to feel what fight night must have been like, all of it enhanced by the folks I found who actually attended. And who, 50 years after the fact, were surprisingly vivid in their recall.”

While Ali was famous before this matchup, he became even more recognizable after it.

“To a degree, yes, this fight, more than the first one with Liston, arguably made the new champ more of a household name, for several reasons (though I would go easy on the global aspect of it, given the technological disconnectedness of the time). First and foremost, the chaotic and controversial nature of the fight was unavoidable,” said Araton, the author, co-author or editor of nine books including “When The Garden Was Eden: Clyde, The Captain, Dollar Bill And the Glory Days Of The New York Knicks” and “Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry And Baseball’s Greatest Gift.”

“Two, with the name “Muhammad Ali” stitched onto his white robe, that was unquestionably more of an attention-grabber than Clay (even if much of the media refused to call him Ali). Finally, for those (including my dad Gilbert) who were turned off by Ali’s brashness and preferred to think of the Miami bout as a fluke or even a setup to have Liston put him to sleep in the rematch, the quick work Ali made of Liston essentially suggested to fans everywhere (of what was then a far more popular sport than today) that they might want to get used to this mouthy showman. He was going to be around for a while.”

Araton, who received the prestigious Curt Gowdy Award in 2017 (given annually to print/digital and broadcasting members of the media), said he had to talk his editors into letting him write the piece.

“This one was self-generated all the way. I even had to do a bit of a sales pitch for my editors, who weren’t in love with retrospective pieces. By 2015, I knew I wasn’t going to be a full-time sports journalist for much longer. I had tired of the traveling, the late-nights at live events, the calls for a deadline column that uprooted a dinner plan or a day with my family,” he said. “There
wasn’t for me a great sense of unfinished business, events I hadn’t had the good fortune of covering. But I had always wondered about that fight – how the hell did it wind up in Lewiston, of all places? I mean, there were obvious details about the Boston situation, but I wanted to know the full story. More than that, I was dying to find out if I could interview anyone who actually attended the fight. I really thought I’d be lucky to locate one or two. But lo and behold, there were several – including the former Bates students – who were either at the fight or connected to it, one way or another. And, of course, the story ultimately evolved to being about Lewiston as much as it was about the fight. That’s what I always loved about journalism: the idea is what merely gets you moving in the pursuit of a story.”

Like so many at that time, Araton listened to the fight on the radio. “I mentioned my father earlier – he wasn’t much of a sports fan but he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, had a cousin who was a boxer and loved a good boxing match. And as I also mentioned, he didn’t care much for Ali, while I, like so many other kids, found him compelling, especially compared to the dour, menacing Liston,” he noted. “So that night, he set up the radio on the kitchen table in our Staten Island housing projects apartment, as he typically did for a big fight that wasn’t on TV. I had just turned 13, apparently old enough to be teased: “Liston’s gonna give it to him good.

“Just as the start of the fight approached, I had to hit the bathroom, and after taking care of business in there, I emerged to see him pulling the plug from the socket and returning the radio to the shelf where he kept it. “Go to bed, it’s over,” he said. I was confused – “whaddaya mean, it’s over?” He huffed, “Clay knocked him out.” I went off to my room happily.”

The fight lasted one round and some thought it was fixed. Jimmy Cannon, the legendary sportswriter sitting ringside said of the knockout punch: “It couldn’t have squashed a grape.”

“I asked that question to all I interviewed who’d attended the fight. Most told me they managed to miss the moment of the punch – looked away, or sipped a beer, or whatever,” said Araton, “But one guy, a former IRS agent named Bob Pacios, insisted he’d had a clear and elevated line of vision from behind Ali and saw Liston step into the blow to the side of his face. He even diagrammed what he saw on a napkin. So, I’ll go with what he testified, while also factoring in that Liston did get up and the fight sort of continued as the ref, Jersey Joe Walcott, went over to consult the timekeeper. Which, I suppose, could obfuscate the hardcore belief that he took a dive. Also, while Ali was no knockout artist, he certainly was a very large man with lightning-fast hands. In other words, the one-punch takeout was plausible.”

Araton never covered any of Ali’s fights, but he did see him up close on one occasion.

“I met him once at the baggage claim at one of the New York-area airports, can’t remember which one, or the year, but it was well after he’d been afflicted by Parkinson’s,” he said. “I was waiting for my bag, minding my business, when I noticed him standing with his wife, Lonnie, at the carousel right next door – of course with people gawking all around him. I just had to go over and say something, anything. I introduced myself as a New York Times sports columnist, and a fan, and mentioned one of my mentors in the newspaper business – Vic Ziegel, who’d covered prime Ali for the New York Post. He smiled, made a fist and said something to the extent of, ‘You tell him I’m looking for him!’”

Araton said he did see the three-time heavyweight champion from a distance.

“Having covered the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, I was also in the stadium when he appeared with the torch, in what had to be the greatest ceremonial sports moment of our times,” he said. “It takes no special insight to call Ali a great historical figure, incredibly courageous, transcendent of his sport, all sports and pretty much everything else. But also a man with some troubling contradictions – tough to stomach, for instance, how he demeaned Joe Frazier, even when rationalized for the purpose of selling the fights. And shame on the press for laughing along, or even portraying Frazier as a tool of the white establishment.”

Araton went on: “When Ali died, I was wrapping up my 25 years at the Times (as I’d anticipated before doing the Lewiston piece the previous year) and was covering the NBA finals in the California Bay Area. My older son, Alex, was quite upset by the news. He was, after all, the son of a sports columnist who happened to be fascinated with the Ali legend. He kept texting me, encouraging me to write something, while I reminded him that the Times tributes had all been prepared well in advance of Ali’s death, as almost all are for the truly great ones. But when he insisted, I finally relented, and stayed up into the wee hours to finish a piece that I posted on a blog site I had created but seldom used.

“Strangely enough, once posted to the blog site, it appeared on my Twitter feed and a media critic for Sports Illustrated included it on a list of Ali tributes he liked. That provided it with far more readers than I’d imagined it would get. Which gets back to my earlier point of how Ali as a phenomenon was much easier to propagate globally by 2016 than he was in 1965.”

Harvey Araton’s blog piece bore the title “Ali, Connector of Generations.” Here’s a link to it.
http://www.harveyaraton.com/the-araton-blog/ali-connector-of-generations

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R.I.P. Les Bonano (1943-2022), Linchpin of Boxing in New Orleans

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Les Bonano, a fixture on the New Orleans area boxing scene for 50 years, passed away on Saturday night, May 21, at his home in Slidell, Louisiana, surrounded by his wife of 60 years, Mary, his four children and his eight grandchildren. Bonano, who had been in and out of the hospital in recent months with kidney problems, was 79 years old.

Bonano joined the New Orleans Police Department in 1965 and patrolled the French Quarter, one of America’s most harrowing beats. In 1974, while working for the New Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department, he was charged with starting an intramural sports program to relieve tensions at the parish prison. He began with basketball and then added boxing. Somewhat later, he opened a gym and took to training, managing, and promoting fighters. He retired from law enforcement in 1981 to give boxing his full attention.

Bonano was poised to seize the moment when neighboring Mississippi legalized gambling in 1990. He carved out arrangements with Gulf Coast casino resorts in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis to keep his fighters’ busy. Many of the shows that he facilitated were mid-week shows that aired on the old USA cable network.

Bonano never had the satisfaction of managing a world champion, but he came awful close with Melvin Paul who lost a controversial decision to Charlie “Cho Choo” Brown in the inaugural IBF lightweight title fight. Others in Bonano’s stable who went on to compete for world titles include Jerry Celestine, Anthony Stephens, and John Duplessis. Celestine, a light heavyweight who fought Michael Spinks, was an alumnus of Bonano’s prison program.

More recently, Bonano promoted Jonathan Guidry, the Dulac, LA heavyweight who made a surprisingly strong showing against WBA (secondary) title-holder Trevor Bryan on a Don King promotion in Warren, Ohio.

In July of last year, Les Bonano was formally inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame with the class of 2021. “He is perhaps the final ruler of what remains of a fraying and depleted boxing kingdom in the formerly great fight city of New Orleans,” wrote Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a New Orleans native, in a tribute that ran on these pages.

We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to the Bonano family. May he rest in peace.

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