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Boxing Needs More John Scullys

Ted Sares

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“Iceman” John Scully might be complex or he might be uncomplicated, but whatever the case and unlike many in the periphery of boxing who have a disproportionate sense of self-importance, he is real, humble, accessible, well-grounded, direct in a nice way, and a brutally honest person who has done it all; and I mean all.

He was an outstanding amateur boxer, a skilled boxer-puncher with an extraordinary ring IQ, who concluded his amateur career with a Bronze medal winning performance at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. His proudest moment was defeating Darin Allen in 1988 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials. He says, “Darin was a world amateur champion, a national champion and one of the most well respected boxers in the world at the time, and I always knew that a fight with him would be like a Super Bowl type event for me.”

He became a two-time title contender in the professional ranks, finishing with an admirable 38-11 record (though he was not quite able to transfer his amateur success). He was only stopped once and that was by the mysterious Drake Thadzi who had just won a decision over James Toney. Scully’s opposition included names like Littles, Nunn (one of his  best performances in a losing cause), Maske, Thornton, Bridges and Rocchigiani.

After retiring in 2001, he did some excellent TV commentating with Joe Tessitore on ESPN Classic. He was a cerebral, smooth and articulate ringside analyst for that network’s Boxing Series. By all accounts, he should have been picked up by one of the national networks, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, he took what he had learned over the years and put it all together, turning it into a successful training career. At the age of 51, he still spars with his charges.

There were signs along the way of the kind of values John possessed.  When William Papaleo “Willie Pep” passed away on November 23, 2006, sadly only three ex or current boxers attended the funeral. One was John .

In 2009, he was a relatively early inductee into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame. The following is noted on its web site: “Boxing has been in Scully’s blood for nearly his entire life. He was a highly successful amateur. He was a solid professional. Now a trainer, Scully has worked with world champions. Scully twice fought for the world light heavyweight title. The lifelong Windsor resident won a New England middleweight crown and also captured an Eastern Regional national amateur championship…”. John has been the primary boost for getting boxing back into the Hartford area.

He also has been writing, chronicling his days in the ring with the “Iceman’s Diaries,” a work in progress.  Scully is considered an outstanding historian–especially regarding his knowledge of his  idol, Muhammed Ali, whom he tries to emulate by “living out his values, but having fun in the process.”

Very recently he was awarded the prestigious Bert Sugar Trophy by RING 10 in New York City. The award recognizes those “who carry a proficient knowledge of the history of boxing and preserve its memories.”

“I never turn down an interview request now because I find it pretty funny, it’s really a trip that you even care enough what I have to say to ask me,” Iceman says. But the fact is, he is a much sought-after interviewee and always thanks the interviewer for his or her time.

Trainer

I plan on training fighters for as long as I am alive on this earth.–Iceman John Scully

Even while boxing, he began to train other fighters as early as the late 1980’s. However, he became a sought-after trainer much later, guiding several boxers to world championships including: Liz Mueller, WIBF Lightweight Champion; Jose Antonio “El Gallo” Rivera, WBA Junior Middleweight Champion; Mike Oliver, IBO Super Bantamweight Champion; and “Bad” Chad Dawson, WBC Light heavyweight Champion. His highest achievement may have been in May of 2006, when he guided underdog Rivera to the WBA Junior Middleweight Championship, with a dominating points victory over defending champion Alejandro “Terra” Garcia (25-1 coming in) in Worcester, MA.

“Iceman” has also had a hand in the professional training of such notable boxers as heavy-handed Israel “Pito” Cardona, smooth Matt Godfrey, slick “Sucra” Ray Olivera, the super exciting Scott “The Sandman” Pemberton, talented Lawrence Clay-Bey, rugged Matt Remillard, and Puerto Rico born Francisco “The Wizard” Palacios.

John is currently a part of TEAM Artur Beterbiev, led by Marc Ramsey. Beterviev is one of the best in boxing, as attested to by the Chechen’s violent stoppage over previously undefeated Callum Johnson on October 7th in Chicago. And while in the Windy City, he took the time to check on the legendary Wilfred Benítez, who resides there under the care of his sister, Yvonne.

As an aside, this is what Scully has to say about Beterbiev: “Artur… is a monster. He’s a very powerful guy with unusual strength for a guy his size. As an amateur, he had over 300 fights. Beterbiev actually fought as a heavyweight (201 pounds) as an amateur, winning the European title and handling all the bigger guys….Beterbiev beat former world champion, Sergey Kovalev as an amateur.”

Scully (married with one daughter and three stepsons) also signed on to take part in a 10-year study at the renowned Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, NV. Once a year, he and others undergo six hours of different kinds of testing and then the results are monitored to track  progress or regression over a 10-year span. Happily, his results have been well above average thus far. In fact, Scully’s memory is exceptional.

And so the laurels go on and on and keep pouring in. Indeed, there is not enough space to write about all of them, including his community activism amongst other things. But then this is not as much about his many varied accomplishments (and renaissance-man persona) as it is about his less visible activity of reaching out to help other ex-boxers as they struggle with the transition from boxing. He gives the phrase “reaching out” a more noble meaning.

Reaching Out

A recent reunion in LA

The following from Facebook is representative of just one of the many such things  the “Iceman” does to assist his boxing brothers and sisters: “RJ signed a “Roy Jones 2X World Champ” hat for me in June that I am currently auctioning off, with the highest bidder receiving it ASAP. Proceeds to go to the great, but badly ailing, three-time world champion Wilfred Benítez.”

He is in touch with Gerald McClellan’s loving sister and caregiver, Lisa. In fact, in 2017 he participated in a big event in Harlem that served to bring more awareness to G-Man and his difficult situation. Scully was able to secure a very generous donation for him from the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame committee. Currently, John has some beautiful special-edition boxing posters by Richard Slone that he plans to sell off, with the revenue to go directly to Gerald. Over that last few years, he has sold various pieces of boxing memorabilia, with the proceeds going to different former fighters.

The thing is, Gerald and Wilfred are the ones that everyone knows about; there are others who remain anonymous here, but they are out there and they are in need. As someone once said (it might have been Steve Buffery), boxers rarely leave the sport with more than they brought in. Scully has aligned himself with former middleweight Matt Farrago, President of Ring 10 in New York City and another former middleweight Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos, with The Retired Boxers Foundation in Los Angeles; both of whom have done some amazing things for ex-boxers in need. Getting to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. remains a goal, as the good that Floyd could do for struggling ex boxers is virtually unlimited.

John also organizes fun gatherings (aka reunions) of ex-boxers, and recently had one at Fortune Boxing in Hollywood, California. He has also held them at three different spots in Harlem and New York City, in Las Vegas at Russ Anber’s Rival Boxing store, and at both casinos in Connecticut (Foxwoods and The Mohegan Sun). This past February, he conducted one in conjunction with USA Boxing at the New England Golden Gloves tournament in Lowell, Massachusetts. Guys like Roy Jones, Mike McCallum, Marlon Starling, Lamon Brewster, Montell Griffin, Ronnie Essett, Mickey Bey, Felix Nance and Micky Ward have attended, as have such entertainers as actor Frank Stallone and rappers Flava’ Flav’ and R.A as well.

As Ice puts it, “A lot of former boxers are unfortunately not sailing off into the sunset but, rather, are now being forced to fight much different and much harder types of battles in retirement. Fortunately, there are guys in the game who haven’t forgotten them and are constantly pushing for them to get the help they need. It really is a special thing to see, real boxing people helping real boxing people.” John is one of them. This is where the talk stops and the help begins; where the rubber hits the road.

‘Iceman’ John Scully “… is an uncomplicated man who picks directions, identifies preferences and sticks with what works. It’s always been that way, and it applies to everything in his life.” (Taken from an article titled  Windsor’s ‘Iceman’ John Scully To Be Honored For Boxing Contributions, by Mike Anthony in the Hartford Courant dated September 22, 2018.)

John needs to keep doing what he is doing for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being that it  just might become contagious.

Floyd Mayweather Junior, are you listening?

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active full power lifters and Strongman competitors. He is a member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

There’s was plenty of quality boxing action available for consumption this weekend in the U.S., particularly on Saturday evening because of the competing cards put forth by the PBC on FOX and Top Rank on ESPN crews that have become chief rivals over the last year.

But what were the biggest HITS and MISSES seen during all the action? That’s what you’re here to find out.

HIT – Jeison Rosario’s Stunning Upset for two 154-pound Titles

Nobody expected Rosario to dethrone unified junior middleweight champion Julian Williams on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, but the massive underdog overcame the situation anyway to vault himself to the top of the junior middleweight division. The thing that saved Rosario was his stunning power. He appeared to be out-boxed by Williams early in the fight, but that changed just as soon as it became apparent Williams was slinging only his fists while Rosario was working with sledgehammers. Now the division has become more crowded than ever at the top with all roads amazingly leading to Rosario, the little known 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic who now owns the WBA and IBF titles.

MISS – Chris Colbert’s Fail to Impress

Junior lightweight prospect Chris Colbert was given a great chance by the PBC to impress fight fans on national television on the undercard of Williams-Rosario, but the talented 23-year-old didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Sure, Colbert was taking a step up in competition by taking on former world titleholder Jezreel Corrales for a vacant interim belt, but Colbert mostly came across as a talented fighter who just doesn’t seem quite capable of putting it all together yet. Colbert won the fight, but it wasn’t interesting or noteworthy in any way. Judging by how the PBC has worked in the past, he’ll get plenty more chances to shine, but I’m not sure anyone but the people who stand to gain monetarily from the fighter’s success will be looking forward to it.

HIT –  Eleider Alvarez’s Epic KO of Michael Seals

Former light heavyweight titleholder Alvarez scored the early leader for knockout of the year against Seals in the main event at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The fight was fairly lackluster until the explosive ending in the seventh round. It was an important victory for Alvarez, who was coming off losing his title to Sergey Kovalev via decision last February. Alvarez is 35, so it was imperative for him to get back to action and remind people he’s still a viable contender in the 175-pound ranks. And there’s no better way to do that in boxing than by thunderous knockout.

MISS – Felix Verdejo’s Fresh Start Starts Stale

Verdejo is still only 26 years old, but after defeating Manuel Rojas in a lightweight bout at Turning Stone, the once highly regarded prospect doesn’t appear to be any closer today than he was yesterday to living up to the tremendous promise he once possessed. To be completely fair to Verdejo, it was only his first fight under new trainer Ismael Salas and the fighter still has time on his side. Still, there appears to be plenty of work to do if Verdejo is ever to become a world champion. In fact, he didn’t look all that materially different from the fighter who was knocked out in 2018.

HIT – Floyd Mayweather Wins Prestigious BWAA Award 

I honestly had some concern that Mayweather wouldn’t win the BWAA’s Fighter of the Decade award before it was announced on Friday via press release. After all, Mayweather lost the previous decade’s top honor to Manny Pacquiao in 2010, and Sports Illustrated had just named Andre Ward its Fighter of the Decade winner the week prior. It’s only one person’s opinion, of course, but I think there would have been something wrong with Mayweather not picking up the honor at least once in the last two decades. After all, he’s quite easily the generation’s best overall fighter and he’s transcended the sport to mainstream celebrity status, too. Congrats to Mayweather for winning the well-deserved honor.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions

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South African Trailblazer Peter Mathebula Dead at Age 67

Arne K. Lang

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Peter Mathebula wasn’t a great fighter. He suffered nine losses during his 45-bout career. He was stopped five times. But Mathebula, who died yesterday (Jan. 18) at age 67, was a historically important fighter. He was the first black South African to win a world title. He was the first South African boxer of any color to win a world title on foreign soil. His predecessors, bantamweights Vic Toweel and Arnold Taylor, won their titles in Johannesburg. Mathebula won his in Los Angeles.

Mathebula took the WBA flyweight title on a split decision from Korea’s Tae-Shik Kim on Dec. 12, 1980 at LA’s Olympic Auditorium. The fight was originally headed to Seoul but Mathebula was denied a visa.

In those days, South Korea barred tourists from South Africa as a protest against that country’s policy of apartheid. Mathebula was a victim of apartheid, but that made no difference as the ban was a blanket ban, covering all South Africans, regardless of color.

Olympic Auditorium matchmaker Don Fraser acquired the orphanded fight. Southern California had a large Korean population and Fraser thought the fight would go over big with this demographic.

The fabled Olympic Auditorium was noted for raucous SRO crowds. But not on this particular night. The crowd was overwhelmingly Korean-American, but there weren’t more than 3,000 in attendance. Kim vs. Mathebula didn’t resonate with the Olympic Auditorium regulars.

The fight was very close but most thought the decision was fair. The Korean started fast, wrote LA Times ringside reporter Mark Heisler, but Mathebula fought his way back into the fight in the middle rounds and won the 14th and 15th stanzas on his card, sufficient he thought to secure the win.

The victory made Mathebula a big star in South Africa. His purse for the fight with Tae-Shik Kim was only $7,500 (approximately $23,500 in today’s dollars) but he made up for it in endorsements. He appeared in ads for automobiles, Old Buck Gin, Bostonian shoes and a line of splashy clothes according to Joseph Lelyveld, the New York Times man on the scene.

Mathebula’s celebrityhood crossed racial lines. Newspapers that took little cognizance of goings-on in the black community showered Mathebula with a copious amount of ink. When he defended his title against Argentina’s Santos Laciar, it was front page news in white and black newspapers.

Mathebula opposed Laciar a mere 13 weeks after winning his title in Los Angeles. The match was held in Soweto’s Orlando Stadium, a facility built to house the Pirates, Soweto’s all-black soccer team. Three years earlier, South Africa had legalized interracial sporting events but few whites dared venture into Soweto which was ground zero for anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Despite the great esteem in which Mathebula was held, the fight wasn’t a sellout. A local black nationalist organization launched a campaign to boycott the fight on the grounds that the government, which paid to set up Mathebula in a fancy hotel and paid for his motorcades, was using international mixed-race sporting events as a propaganda tool, an early illustration of what has come to be called “sportswashing.”

Peter Mathebula couldn’t catch a break and that may have impacted his performance against the Argentine. It was woeful. Laciar knocked him down in the fifth and then bull-rushed him out of the ring (the ref called it a push) and the bout was stopped in the eighth with Mathebula complaining that his vision was compromised.

Before the year was out, Mathebula lost twice more. Fighting on hostile turf in Venezuela, he was stopped twice by Betulio Gonzalez, first in the 10th and then in the sixth. A three-time world title-holder, Gonzalez had a great career but he was approaching his 32nd birthday, old for a flyweight, and his best days were behind him.

In the span of less than 10 full months, Peter Mathebula went from the penthouse to the proverbial outhouse, but with the passage of time his people remembered his historic achievement in Los Angeles and pretty much forgot the slew of disappointments that quickly followed. The word “legend” suffuses reports of his death in South African papers.

Mathebula reportedly had multiple health issues and spent the last three weeks of his life in Leratong Hospital in the province of Gauteng, not far from the all-black township where he was born. May he rest in rest in peace.

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Ringside in Verona: Alvarez Capsizes Seals Plus Undercard Results

Matt Andrzejewski

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VERONA, NY — The main event of an ESPN televised card at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY between light heavyweight contenders Eleider Alvarez (25-1, 13 KO’s) and Michael Seals (24-3, 18 KO’s) started with a whimper but ended with a bang. After six-plus rounds of lackadaisical action, Alvarez scored a stunning sensational one punch knockout just before the end of the seventh round of their scheduled ten round fight.

The first three rounds saw more clinches than punches landed. Seals seemed to be looking to land one perfect punch and in doing so barely unleashed any punches. Alvarez, for his part, was not very active in these rounds but certainly moved his hands more and landed more than Seals.

In round four, Seals came out much more aggressive and had his best round of the fight. But in the fifth, Seals went back to looking for that one punch and Alvarez took back control of the action. Toward the end of the round, Alvarez staggered Seals with a right hand.

Alvarez continued to be in control of the fight in rounds six and seven by simply moving his hands more. And then towards the end of round seven, Alvarez connected with a picture perfect overhand right that sent Seals crashing to the canvas. Referee Danny Schiavone did not reach a full 10-count before waiving the fight off.

For Alvarez, this was a big bounce-back win after his loss to Sergey Kovalev in their light heavyweight title rematch last February. With the light heavyweight division flush with talent, it seems Alvarez is in prime position to get a big opportunity his next time out.

In the co-feature, lightweight contender Felix Verdejo (26-1, 16 KO’s) put on a workmanlike effort in winning a wide ten round unanimous decision against Manuel Rey Rojas (18-4, 5 KO’s). While Verdejo was in complete control of the contest from the opening bell, the performance certainly lacked sizzle and may raise even more questions on the potential of the once can’t-miss prospect.

Verdejo utilized a very patient approach throughout the night working behind the left jab. While the jab was effective, Verdejo only occasionally looked to unleash power punches behind that jab. Reyes, for his part, played mostly defense keeping a very tight guard and looking to selectively counter Verdejo’s jab.

Verdejo’s defense, which had been criticized in the past, looked better but still showed some leaks. In the fifth round, Reyes landed a sharp right hand flush on the jaw of Verdejo that seemed to momentarily get Verdejo’s attention. And in the ninth, Reyes landed a hard right that snapped Verdejo’s head back. If Reyes could punch harder, either of those two rights may have altered the course of the fight.

But aside from those brief moments from Reyes, Verdejo dictated all the action. He easily out-worked and out-landed the mostly defensive minded Reyes. In the end it is a win for Verdejo and he can proceed forward towards what he hopes will be an eventual title shot in the lightweight division.

In a bizarre heavyweight fight between two former 2004 Olympians, Devin Vargas (22-6, 9 KO’s) was awarded a disqualification victory in the eighth and final round against Victor Bisbal (23-5, 17 KO’s). Bisbal scored a knockdown in round two with a left hook but was deducted two points in round four for various infractions.  Aside from the knockdown round, Vargas seemed to out-hustle and out-land Bisbal. Ahead on all three scorecards (67-63 twice and 66 -64) entering the final round, Vargas absorbed a low blow from Bisbal. At this point, referee Michael Ortega decided to disqualify Bisbal.

Abraham Nova (18-0, 14 KO’s) scored a one-sided fourth-round TKO of tough veteran Pedro Navarette (30-25-3, 19 KO’s) in a lightweight contest that was scheduled for eight rounds. Nova scored knockdowns in rounds two, three and four before the fight was waived off.

Knockout out artist Jonathan Guzman (24-1, 23 KO’s) rose from the canvas to score a fourth-round knockout of Rodolfo Hernandez (30-10-1, 28 KO’s) in a 122-pound slugfest. The heavily favored Guzman scored two knockdowns with body shots in the opening stanza and appeared on his way to an easy win. But Hernandez flipped the script in round three with a hard right hand just before the bell sounded that put Guzman on the canvas and nearly out. The two went toe to toe in the fourth when a vicious left hook to the body from Guzman put Hernandez down and this time out for good.

In a battle of former world title challengers, Freddie Roach trained Christopher Diaz (25-2, 16 KO’s) scored a wide eight round unanimous against Adeilson Dos Santos (19-8, 15 KO’s) in a featherweight contest. Diaz dominated the fight from the opening bell and hurt Dos Santos on a few occasions but ultimately had to settle for the decision victory.

The opening fight of the night saw heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson (3-0, 3 KO’s) easily dispatch Andrew Satterfield (5-4, 3 KO’s) in the first round of their scheduled four round fight. Anderson scored two knockdowns in what was a dominant performance.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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