Connect with us

Featured Articles

Andrade Grabs Vacant WBO Middleweight Belt in Boston

Jeffrey Freeman

Published

on

TD GARDEN​​ — It’s a good thing Eddie Hearn didn’t listen to the people who told him not to promote prizefighting in Boston. With all four major American sports in full swing in the city, Matchroom Boxing absolutely rocked the house as an equitable fan attraction in New England.The media was out in full force and so were the fans. At the final fight week press conference, Hearn introduced ESPN’s Dan Rafael before he even barked for his boxers. “You know it’s a big card when Dan Rafael shows up,” he said of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer award winner for career excellence in journalism. Hearn knows it’s about building hype and that’s what he’s doing.

Sugar Ray Leonard was on the mic for DAZN. Paulie Malignaggi was doing the same for Sky Sports. I saw Micky Ward and Conor McGregor seated at ringside. Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin “The Clones Colossus” McBride was also spotted in the mix throughout the night.

“We did about five thousand in Chicago,” Hearn told me of his first Matchoom USA show October 6 on DAZN. Hearn expected about seven thousand for Boston, hoping for a good walk-up crowd. “I’m pleased with ticket sales. I’m pleased with the venue. If the fans are happy and enjoy a great night at the fights and if they want us back, we’d love to return,” he said.

Hearn’s originally scheduled main event fell apart in September when Billy Joe Saunders controversially failed VADA drug testing for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. “Unfortunately Billy Joe failed a drug test. I don’t think the Massachusetts Commission had any choice in denying him a license,” Hearn told me during the final fight week press conference at Fenway Park.

Saunders was to defend the WBO middleweight title against Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius Andrade. Instead, Saunders was stripped of his strap and unknown African champ Walter ​Kautondokwa stepped in to face Andrade for the vacant WBO 160 pound title. “I’m too old to fight nobodies now,” said the 30 year-old Andrade without a trace of irony. In fact, Andrade’s whole pro career has been carefully built on soft touches and vacant ABC championships.

Hearn’s undercard also suffered a hit when popular local junior welterweight Danny “BHOY” O’Connor pulled out of his bout against Tommy Coyle, citing injury. According to Hearn, “​O’Connor was working very hard in camp but I don’t think it was going particularly well.”

The live crowd in attendance at the Garden was loud and enthusiastic. In a full sized entertainment venue that seats close to twenty thousand fans and with promotional aspirations optimistically set at half that number (official attendance was listed at 6,874), your best chance to have seen these fights for yourself was on the emerging and effective streaming app DAZN.

For Brits stuck back home it was on Sky Sports.  For everybody else, I’m here to ringside report.

In the Main Event for the vacant WBO middleweight championship, Providence, Rhode Island’s Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, 30, 160, 26-0 (16) dominated Namibian import Walter Kautondokwa, 33, 17-1 (16). ​A stablemate of former super lightweight champ Julius Indongo, Kautondokwa drew inspiration from his countryman’s international accomplishments in boxing. Indongo parlayed the WBO African title into an eventual unification showdown with Terence Crawford in Nebraska. “He’s definitely not stopping this train,” promised Andrade at the weigh-in.

He was right.

In the first round, ​Kautondokwa slipped to the canvas and Andrade hit him on the chin while he was on all fours. Referee Steve Willis ruled it a knockdown, rather than reacting to the foul. Kautondokwa pushed the action in the second but Andrade scored with the cleaner punches. In the third, Andrade scored a clean knockdown with a flush left hand to the chin. The challenger rose and answered the bell for the fourth down by two extra points. Kautondokwa went down again twice more in the fourth leaving Andrade with a look like, “What more do I have to do?”

As the rounds wore on and on, Andrade found the answer to be elusive, even if Kautondokwa wasn’t terribly so. His best power punches were either missing or being blocked, and Kautondokwa was proving durable. By the championship rounds, it was clear that Andrade wouldn’t be able to stop the train that was Kautondokwa. The energy in the live crowd suffered accordingly. Michael Buffer announced what was already known, that Andrade won a virtual shutout on the cards.  Scores were 120-104 twice and 119-105.

“I did what I had to do. I could see that he was tough. It was good to get those twelve rounds in because I’ve been inactive,” said Andrade at the post-fight press conference. He also spoke of a fight week injury to his left shoulder that affected his performance and prevented a knockout. To be perfectly honest, it sounded like an excuse for not finishing off a badly hurt fighter.

In her de facto Irish Homecoming, Katie Taylor, 32, Bray, 11-0 (5) successfully defended her WBA/IBF female lightweight titles against the very experienced Cindy Serrano, 36, Brooklyn, 27-6-3 (10), over ten two-minute rounds. Serrano was moving up in weight to challenge Taylor, who’s already made two title defenses this year in London and in Brooklyn. Serrano was never in danger of being hurt or knocked out and Taylor was never in any danger of losing the fight.  Taylor won every round on all three cards 100-90.  “Cindy was just in there to survive,” said a disappointed Taylor.  Some fans jeered the “action” but it didn’t bother Serrano. “Eddie Hearn believes in female fighting. Hopefully he can turn it around and we can get a couple more promoters just like him.”

To make the first defense of his newly won IBF super featherweight championship, Philly southpaw Tevin “American Idol” Farmer, 27-4-1 (6), stopped Belfast KRONK’s James Tennyson, 22-3 (18) in five. During promotion for the title bout, it looked for all to see that Farmer was overlooking Tennyson with his focus squarely on a big money grudge match with Gervonta Davis. ​“I’m not overlooking James but I want to fight Tank Davis. I have to have that fight and it’s got to happen. Let’s leave the streets on the streets and fight in the ring. We’ve talked enough.”

In the ring, Farmer looked at his opponent and punched right through him. In the fourth frame, Farmer dropped Tennyson with a solid left hook to the body. It got no better for the Belfast native. The next round, Arthur Mercante stopped it when Tennyson fell again from body shots. ​In accepting the fight, Farmer’s promoter Lou DiBella didn’t want to deny his fighter the opportunity to appear on such a high profile card so he willingly worked with Hearn to make it happen.  Time of the TKO was 1:44 of the round 5.

In an IBF featherweight elimination bout scheduled for twelve, Evander Holyfield’s Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, R.I., 25-3 (17), dropped a pedestrian UD to Ingle Gym’s Kid Galahad, Sheffield, 25-0 (15). At the press conference in August to announce the match-up, there was bad blood in the air. “Toka is a bum,” a chippy Galahad told me at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “He didn’t want this fight. He was talking trash so I called him a wanker and it got a little out of hand.”

“I’m gonna beat him,” Galahad promised.

At the final press conference, Galahad was demonstrably more peaceful. During the media face-off with Kahn, he offered his hand to shake but Toka just left it hanging there. “I’ve calmed down,” Kid told me. “Nothing personal, just business.” ​Is Toka a bum?​ “You can’t call him a bum.” ​You did Kid.​ “I might have gone over the top. Any fighter that gets in the ring you gotta have some respect for. Toka is gonna show up and my job is to make sure I do a job on him.”  Job well done, Kid.  Final scores were 118-110 twice and 115-113.

In an entertaining ten round junior welterweight scrap, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle, Hull, Yorkshire, U.K., 25-4 (12), outpointed Ryan Kielczweski, Quincy, Mass, 29-4 (11) over the distance. Unanimous scores were 99-90, 98-91 and 96-93. The “Polish Prince” substituted for Danny O’Connor against Coyle, a fighter TSS’s own Ted Sares expected Ryan to have had his hands full with in a knockout loss; describing Coyle as a “load” in the ring. In the seventh round, Kielczweski was felled by a massive right hand to the body and a vicious follow up left hook to the head. He took a long nine count but got up to then stalk a fading Coyle down the stretch.  “This is the most ready I’ve been for any fight,” Kielczweski told me before the bout. “I fought in September. A week later I got a call for this one so it’s like I’m on a ten week training camp.”

Coyle is a pressure fighter and an interesting character. Kielczweski struggled to keep him at bay but landed with several quality power shots of his own, many coming in the last three rounds—after the knockdown. Calling this his “American Dream” come true, Coyle grew up in England loving ROCKY movies and Irish Micky Ward fights. Tonight, he was almost in one.

In a super featherweight comeback bout, former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Scott Quigg, 30, Bury, U.K., 35-2-2 (26) made a successful return against journeyman Mexican Mario Briones, 29-8-2 (21), stopping him in two rounds with an unanswered three punch combination along the ropes. Trained by Freddie Roach, Quigg was defeated last March by WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez in a bruising non-title bout. Quigg suffered multiple facial laceration and a broken nose in the unanimous decision loss. “I want a rematch with Valdez and with Carl Frampton because I want to avenge my losses. If I’d be happy not fighting them again, I’d be in the wrong game,” a candid Quigg told me. “The work Freddie’s had me doing and the sparring I’m on, I feel like I’m a ten times better fighter now.”

In a junior middleweight rematch, Murphys Boxing U.S. Marine Mark “Bazooka” DeLuca, Whitman, Mass, 22-1 (13) outgunned Walter “2 Guns” Wright 37, Seattle, Washington 17-5 (8) to defeat the only man to have beaten him as a pro, winning 97-93, and 96-94 twice. From ringside I scored it 6-4 in rounds for DeLuca who scored well early with left hooks. Wright did well in the middle rounds on the inside when DeLuca was tiring but it wasn’t enough. Though his promoter Ken Casey questioned the outcome of the first fight last June in N.H., DeLuca told me it was tight. “But he got me,” he admitted. Wright didn’t understand the manufactured controversy. “I won. To come across the country, fight the local guy, and beat him, I should think I’d get my props for winning. My performance should outweigh politics.” On this night, Wright’s good but not good enough performance earned him an appropriately scored unanimous decision loss.

There was no protest from Wright with the verdict.

UNDERCARD RESULTS:

In the show opener, super lightweight southpaw Sean McComb from Belfast improved to 4-0 (3), outclassing 37 year-old Peruvian Carlos Galindo, 1-6. Galindo’s only win came against Maine’s Brandon Berry last June in N.H. This was McComb’s first appearance outside the U.K. Galindo took a body beating and the fight was stopped in the third after a pair of knockdowns.

Accompanied to the ring by middleweight corker Spike O’Sullivan, Murphys Boxing’s Gorey, Ireland heavyweight Niall Kennedy 221.6, 12-0-1 (7) took a few to give a few against New Jersey’s Brendan Barrett 238, 7-1-2 (5), including a hip-toss and a headlock. The 6’3” Kennedy used his good left jab and strong right cross to earn a unanimous six round decision, dropping the stocky Barrett in the fifth with a brutal right hand. Official scores: 60-53 twice and 58-55.

Kazakh Olympic Gold medalist welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov improved to 4-0 (2) against Salem, Mass “Mantis” Matt Doherty, 8-6-1 (4). Doherty wore a J.D. Martinez Red Sox jersey to the ring but he was outgunned. The 27 year-old southpaw finished Doherty off with a barrage of unanswered punches in the first round and referee Arthur Mercante waved a halt.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

Featured Articles

Stonewalled by the Coronavirus: Dee-Jay Kriel’s Unhappy Story

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Stonewalled-by-the-Coronavirus-the-Unhappy-Story-if-Dee-Jay-Kriel

They say that good things come to those who wait, but that old bromide gives little solace to a boxer whose career has been frozen by the great pandemic. Some cases evoke more sympathy than others and the case of Dee-Jay Kriel in particular strikes a sympathetic chord.

It’s been 13 months since Kriel last had a fight of any consequence. Opportunities arose but then for one reason or another were pulled off the table. And then finally the logjam was broken, a match with IBF title-holder Felix Alvarado on a big Golden Boy Promotions card later this month on April 25.

The pandemic torpedoed that show and ultimately every other boxing show slated for the month of April and who knows how far beyond? And once again, Dee-Jay Kriel was left in limbo, not knowing when he would fight again.

Chances are you are not familiar with the name Dee-Jay Kriel. Boxers in his weight class, with very few exceptions, toil in anonymity outside the Orient. But Dee-Jay is no club fighter; he actually won a world title, achieving that distinction on Feb. 16, 2019 in Los Angeles when he upset previously undefeated Carlos Licona.

If you missed it, you weren’t alone. The match was left off the televised portion of the show which aired on FOX. In fact, some ringside reporters missed the fight, or at least left it off their post-fight story. It was the walkout fight and they were likely busy interviewing the victorious headliner Leo Santa Cruz  back in his dressing room.

That’s what happens – indifference or downright disdainfulness — when you compete in the smallest weight class. Licona vs. Kriel was contested for the IBF minimum-weight title. And, so it is that when Dee-Jay Kriel looks back at the proudest moment of his pro career, his self-satisfaction is tempered by the realization that few people got to share the moment with him.

“That’s too bad,” he says, “because it was a very exciting fight.”

Indeed it was. Heading into the 12th round, Dee-Jay was ahead by one point on one of the cards but trailed by seven points on the others. It wasn’t sufficient that he go out and hammer Licona from pillar to post in the final stanza; he needed a knockout to win. And he rose to the occasion, scoring three knockdowns before the referee waived it off with less than a minute remaining on the clock.

“It was like a Rocky movie,” says Kriel.

Kriel is from Boxburg, South Africa, a community on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The Licona fight, which he took on short notice, was his U.S. debut. He had come to Las Vegas six months earlier to hone his game under the tutelage of veteran trainer Kenny Adams.

“There just wasn’t enough opportunity in South Africa,” he said. Like many other boxers around the world looking for that one big break, Las Vegas was seen as the promised land.

In Las Vegas, things have not proceeded as quickly as he had hoped, but frequent sparring sessions with Nonito Donaire sharpened his tools and increased his confidence. “I learned a lot from Nonito,” says Dee-Jay.

It’s a long way from Johannesburg to Las Vegas, more than 10,000 miles. You can’t fly there non-stop and you can’t get there in one day. And for a young boxer leaving home for the first time, heading off to a strange land, the trip must seem even longer. Kriel is very close to his extended family and came here without his wife Denica (pictured) who wasn’t able to join him until October of last year.

When he was just starting out, Kriel seemed like the longest of long shots to win a world title. He was 0-3 as an amateur and lost his pro debut. But he stayed the course and would not lose again. He currently sports a 16-1-1 (8 KOs) record, the most recent “W” coming in an un-taxing, stay-busy fight in Tijuana.

Kenny Adams, who turns 80 this year, has had health problems that have forced him to cut down on his workload. Brandon Woods has assumed the role of chief trainer. Woods is a fixture at Bones Adams gym in Las Vegas, or was until the coronavirus turned the world upside down. Now, instead of working with boxers in a communal setting, Woods trains fighters one-on-one in his home.

“I still work out every day,” Kriel told this reporter by phone. “I run and jump rope and work the mitts with Brandon.”

It can’t be very much fun. Woods is a no-nonsense trainer. In the gym, he runs the show like a drill sergeant. It is the camaraderie that makes it easy to digest; there’s a sense of community there, a family-like atmosphere that can’t be replicated in a one-on-one setting.

Winning a title wasn’t life-changing. The IBF ordered Kriel to defend the belt against Pedro Taduran, but Taduran’s management offered less money than Kriel had made fighting Carlos Licona and they insisted that the fight had to take place in the Philippines. Ergo, Kriel relinquished his belt without defending it, moving up to a higher weight class.

Kriel’s dream fight was a unification bout with long-reigning WBC title-holder Wanheng Menayothin, aka Chayaphon Moonsri, whose record, currently 54-0, gives him a Mayweather-like aura, if only in his native Thailand. (Ironically, Menayothin was also slated to appear on Golden Boy’s April 25 show, but against an opponent who would not have posed as big a threat to him as Dee-Jay Kriel; such are the politics of boxing.)

Dee-Jay could be forgiven for walking away from the sport in frustration, but returning home right now isn’t an option. South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown is among the world’s most stringent. Jogging and dog-walking are prohibited. In Johannesburg, the militia are patrolling the streets.

The Republic of South Africa has produced a few good heavyweights and one great junior lightweight in Brian Mitchell, but for whatever reason an inordinate number of South Africa’s best fighters have toiled in the smallest weight classes. Baby Jake Matlala, who had to stand on his tiptoes to be five feet tall, became a national hero after upsetting Michael Carbajal at Las Vegas in 1997. Zolani Tete, a former two-division champion, began his career at 111 pounds. Moruti Mthalene is the reigning IBF world flyweight champion and former world minimum-weight title-holder Hekkie Budler is currently ranked #1 by the WBC at light flyweight.

As shown by Matlala, and many years earlier by mighty-mite Vic Toweel, South Africans revere their world boxing champions, no matter how big or how small. When Dee-Jay’s sponsors Ryan Erasmus and Kagiso Mokoduo chose to back him, the potential return on investment was obviously a lesser motivation than the chance to be involved in a project that would hopefully uplift the spirits of their countrymen. Erasmus and Mokoduo are the co-founders of a prominent South Africa law firm.

“They are good guys,” says Kriel. “They look after me.”

Does he worry that in these troubled economic times his sponsors may be compelled to pull the plug? “It preys on my mind,” he says, “but so far there has been no indication of that.” Should that transpire, Dee-Jay couldn’t count on financial help from his wife. Denica was a bookkeeper for a financial services firm in South Africa but is in the U.S. on a student visa that prohibits her from entering the work force.

Dee-Jay knows that he has it a lot better than other fighters who can no longer afford to keep their nose to the grindstone. He’s also lucky to live in the Internet age where keeping up with the home folks doesn’t involve the post office. He communicates with his family in South Africa by video every day. His father has a small towing business. “We were never poor,” he says, “but my parents never had a lot of money. I want to help them out. That’s my first goal and then I would like to leave a legacy.”

Dee-Jay bucked big odds when he snatched away Carlos Licona’s title. Licona had 75 amateur fights, was schooled by the renowned trainer Robert Garcia, and was fighting in his backyard. And he will be a substantial underdog again when and if his bout with Nicaragua’s Felix Alvarado comes to fruition. Alvarado is 35-2 with 30 knockouts, has won 17 in a row, and has been in with stiffer competition. His twin brother Rene Alvarado recently won the WBA 130-pound title.

Alvarado seemingly has another factor in his favor. As I write this on April 3, Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega has yet to impose social distancing. One presumes that Alvarado’s regular routine hasn’t been disturbed.

“I believe a fighter needs to fight,” says Kriel, “just as a footballer (i.e, a soccer player) needs to keep playing football.” Expressed more tersely by an old-time fight handicapper of this writer’s acquaintance: rest makes rust.

The Dee-Jay Kriel story isn’t a great tragedy like so many COVID-19 stories, but it’s hard not to feel for him and for all the other boxers who have been marooned, in a manner of speaking, by this surreal situation.

Hang in there, guys.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Avila Perspective, Chap. 91: Los Angeles Boxing Nights 1960s

David A. Avila

Published

on

Avila-Perspective-Chap-91-Los-Angeles-Fight-Nights-1960s

A name popped up recently that shot memories of 1960s boxing nights at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

That name was Sho Saijo, a Japanese featherweight prizefighter.

The night Saijo fought Jose Pimentel for the first time at the Olympic Auditorium on February 15, 1967 was my first time watching a prize fight live. All my previous experience was amateur boxing or watching pros fight on television.

Just walking down the slanted aisles toward our seats at the Olympic Auditorium was an experience. The gray smoke drifted around the boxing ring and the smell of cigars and popcorn permeated the air. Vendors were hawking beer and other stuff and people seemed generally excited to be there.

My father was a former prizefighter and we had strong ties to Pimentel, who was a close friend of my cousin. Also, the trainer and manager of Pimentel was Harry Kabakoff, my dad’s former trainer and manager when he began fighting as a pro in the early 1950s.

We arrived a little late from our home in East L.A., so the only fight we saw that night was the main event that featured Japan’s Saijo against Mexico’s Pimentel. It was special.

Both fighters showed tremendous technique and surprising durability. They whacked each other with shocking impact with concussive sounds that left an impression on me. It was an exhibition of power that made me understand the difference between professional and amateur boxing.

It seemed every time one guy connected solidly with a booming shot the other guy returned fire with an equally impressive blow. This went on for 10 rounds and the crowd shouted each and every frame.

The Japanese fighter had four losses when he walked in against the undefeated Pimentel, but that night in Los Angeles, he convinced fans that he was equal or better than Pimentel who was the younger brother of contender Jesus Pimentel.

Finally, the featherweight clash ended and fans cheered both fighters for their electrifying performance. Two judges favored Pimentel but one judge saw Saijo as the victor. It was a split decision win for the hometown fighter, but Saijo’s performance endeared him to the knowledgeable L.A. boxing crowd. Aileen Eaton, the promoter, would bring them back again to the same venue in a month. In the rematch, Saijo was determined the victor by decision.

A year and a half later Pimentel would travel to Japan to face Saijo a third time but for the WBA featherweight world title. It ended in a knockout win for the Japanese fighter who defeated a slew of Los Angeles-based fighters along the way. Among those he defeated were Tony Alvarado, Pedro Rodriguez, Marcello Cid, Felipe Torres, Frankie Crawford, and Raul Rojas, who he defeated to win the WBA featherweight title in September 1968 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

But the night Pimentel defeated Saijo, we met the boxer after the fights at a local late night spot on Figueroa Avenue. It was across the street from the Pantry at some place named the Limelight or Candlelighter or something. The actual name is a foggy memory.

We waited along with my cousin for Pimentel at the downstairs restaurant and he arrived with his trainer and manager Kabakoff.  When the husky manager saw my father they hugged and chatted a bit. The trainer had talked with my father about training me and asked me my weight. At the time I was about 135 pounds at six feet. But I declined. I had stopped boxing regularly and was concentrating on baseball fulltime. He said my size would give me a big advantage. But after watching pros like Saijo and Pimentel whack each other for 10 rounds, I was certain I made the correct decision.

Later, a few fighters like Ruben Navarro and Mando Ramos stopped by to say hello. It was a pretty exciting moment for me to meet all these boxing stars face to face. Watching them perform on television was one thing, but watching them actually trade blows and hear the impact was extremely impressive. It also made me have the utmost respect for all prizefighters, not just the winners and champions.

Those were different times.

Boxing Life

When I first met the late Bennie Georgino, famed manager and trainer, he would invite me to breakfast to talk boxing. He loved to talk about prizefighting in the 1950s and 1960s. He called that era a very exciting time, but claimed it was even better in the 1930s when boxing was really the king of sports in Los Angeles.

He had a point.

During the 1960s he ran a sandwich spot that he strategically located across the street from the long defunct Herald-Examiner newspaper and also walking distance to the Olympic Auditorium.

“Lots of the reporters like Bud Furillo and Mel Durslag would stop by for a sandwich,” said Georgino to me in an interview in 2000. “It was a heck of a time for boxing. We’ll never see that again.”

Georgino grew up in Lincoln Heights, a section of East Los Angeles that was primarily an Italian neighborhood back in the 1930s. He and his brother were boxers and, according to Georgino, there were boxing shows every day of the week if you include amateurs. He also claimed that amateurs got paid a small sum.

As a youth he boxed amateurs and as an adult he became involved as a trainer and manager of prizefighters. He was a close friend of Art “The Golden Boy” Aragon who was a massive gate attraction during the 1950s. Both would later own bail bonds businesses located next to each other in Los Angeles.

“Art was quite a character,” said Georgino. “You never knew if he was kidding or serious.”

Georgino later moved to Riverside, California. He was still promoting boxing shows in the state of Washington into his 90s.

Boxing in 1960s Los Angeles was a much different era.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Remembering Hedgemon Lewis (1946-2020); Welterweight Champ, Hollywood Pet

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Remembering-Hedgemon-Lewis-1946-2020-Welterweight-Champ-Hollywood-Pet

Hedgemon Lewis, who came up short in three stabs at the world welterweight title but won the New York version of this diadem, died on Sunday, March 30, at an assisted living facility in Detroit. Lewis, who was 74, had health issues in recent years that made him vulnerable to COVID-19, and that vulnerability was compounded by residing in Detroit which has become one of the epicenters of the scourge. The evil pathogen sought him out and in his debilitated condition it wasn’t a fair fight.

Lewis was 72-6 as an amateur and won a National Golden Gloves title as a lightweight and AAU and National Golden Gloves titles at welterweight. He was 53-7-2 (26 KOs) as a pro. But those numbers barely tell the story of a fighter who led an interesting life and was admired by his peers for what he accomplished outside the ring.

Hedgemon Lewis turned pro in 1966 under the guidance of Luther Burgess who would be best remembered as one of Emanuel Steward’s chief lieutenant’s at Detroit’s fabled Kronk Gym. Burgess, a fine featherweight in his fighting days, had been trained and managed by Eddie Futch.

Lewis was eight fights into his pro career and not quite 21 years old when Burgess brought him to Los Angeles where Futch was then plying his trade. Futch loved what he saw and Burgess left his young fighter in the care of his former mentor who was better able to “move” Lewis as the Southern California fight scene was then percolating.

Undoubtedly it wasn’t merely Hedgemon’s potential that excited Eddie Futch. The two had much in common. Both had been born in small towns in the Jim Crow South and had spent their formative years in Detroit. Moreover, a Futch Fighter was a fighter who conducted himself like a gentleman outside the ring and Hedgemon Lewis fit that mold. Futch had no tolerance for loudmouths.

Hedgemon became a staple at the Olympic Auditorium where he had 15 pro fights. When paired against a top-shelf opponent with a Mexican bloodline, these bouts drew big crowds. An estimated 4,000 were turned away when he fought Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez on July 18, 1968. The teak tough Lopez, then ranked #2 in the world, saddled Hedgemon with his first defeat, winning by TKO 9. The bout was so exciting that Lopez’s manager and chief cornerman Howie Steindler fainted during the battle and would be taken to a hospital for observation.

By then, Hedgemon had wealthy backers that allowed him to give boxing his full attention, or we should say his full attention when he wasn’t studying for his real estate license or taking classes in speech and drama at Los Angeles City College.

When Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier turned pro, they both had syndicate backing. The syndicates were comprised of wealthy businessmen in Louisville and Philadelphia, respectively. A California man named Dell Jackson put together a syndicate to back the next world heavyweight champion but with no good heavyweights available, the consortium settled on Hedgemon Lewis.

Jackson had friends in show business. The actor Ryan O’Neal, the comedian Bill Cosby, and the Broadway star and recording artist Robert Goulet hopped on board. The Hoover Street Gym, where Lewis trained and where his backers were constantly popping in to check on their investment, became a hot spot for the paparazzi. Lewis always looked good in the gym because he was a stylish fighter (which curried no sway with the legendary LA Times columnist Jim Murray who was partial to boxers of the blood-and-guts stripe; Murray did Hedgemon Lewis no favors when he described Hedgemon’s style as “mostly ballet.”)

Lewis won six straight after his setback to Indian Red, advancing his record to 28-1. The sixth was a rematch with Lopez wherein he avenged his lone defeat, winning a close but unanimous decision, but Indian Red won the rubber match, stopping Hedgemon in the 10th at the LA Sports Arena.

The top gun of the welterweight division in those days was Jose Napoles, a fighter of consummate skill who left Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power and settled in Mexico City. Napoles held both of the meaningful welterweight belts when Hedgemon caught up with him on Dec. 14, 1971 at the Inglewood Forum. Napoles prevailed in one of his toughest fights. Had he not won the final round, the bout would have been scored a draw.

They would fight again 32 months later in Mexico City and this would be a much easier fight for Napoles who scored a ninth round TKO. Between these two world title fights, Hedgemon had two 15-round affairs with Billy Backus on Backus’s turf in Syracuse, New York. Lewis won both by unanimous decision, winning the second fight by a more lopsided margin than the first.

Backus, the nephew of the great Carmen Basilio, had dethroned Napoles in December of 1970 in a fight stopped on cuts, some say prematurely. It was The Ring magazine Upset of the Year. In a better measure of their respective skills, Napoles dominated the rematch. Backus was a bloody mess when the bout was stopped in the eighth round.

The New York State Athletic Commission, in their infinite wisdom, demanded a rubber match. When Napoles refused, the NYSAC stripped him of his title. Both of Hedgemon Lewis’s bouts with Billy Backus were billed for the New York version of the world welterweight title, which was something of a joke although in an earlier day the New York version of a title had considerable cachet.

Lewis’s third stab at the world welterweight title came in what would what be his final bout. He walked away from the sport after suffering a 10th round stoppage at the hands of John H. Stracey in London.

Unlike so many fighters, he knew when it was time to say goodbye. “It’s such a strange thing when that happens to you,” Hedgemon told LA Times sportswriter John Hall, reflecting on his match with Stracey. “I trained well. I felt good. But once the fight began, it all went in an instant. Nothing worked. My legs, my hands. Suddenly I was a stranger in my own body.”

In retirement, Lewis became an assistant trainer under Eddie Futch, dabbled in fight promotions, and looked after his real estate investments. And he remained great friends with Ryan O’Neal who stayed with Lewis until the very end as other members of the syndicate dropped out.

Hedgemon Lewis was the oldest child and only boy of his mother’s five children. She raised her children alone after her husband walked out one day, never to be seen again. Lewis was very close to his mother and his sisters and when his mom took ill, circa 2002, he returned to Detroit to live out his days. Mrs. Lewis died in 2017.

This reporter first met Hedgemon Lewis in the late 1980s when Team Futch – Eddie Futch, Thell Torrence, Hedgemon, and the tyro, Freddie Roach, were training Virgil Hill at the long-gone Golden Gloves Gym in Las Vegas. In hindsight, I have come to believe that this quartet was the greatest team of trainers ever assembled. If not, it was undoubtedly the team with the best chemistry. “Everything we did was formulated around Eddie’s knowledge and techniques,” said Torrence.

The news of Lewis’s death prompted a call to Torrence. Eighty-three years young and still in-demand as a boxing coach, he had just gotten off the phone with Ryan O’Neal, informing him of the sad news. And he was kicking himself for not following through on the recent promise that he had made to himself to go visit his friend and former associate in Detroit. “And now it’s too late,” he rued.

Thell Torrence believes that Hedgemon left the sport in better shape financially than any boxer in his weight class who had a similar career. He credits O’Neal with making this possible, although when Lewis invested in a parcel of real estate, he had done his homework.

Lewis allowed himself a few luxuries. “He drove the first Mercedes I had ever seen,” said Torrence, and when he started to make good money, he moved into a fancy apartment in fancy Malibu. But he could have had many more luxuries if he had not felt an obligation to help out his family. He purchased a home for his mother in Detroit and, according to Torrence, put several of his sisters through college.

Hedgemon Lewis was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 and into the Alabama Boxing Hall of Fame — he was born in Greensboro – last year. Health problems prevented him from attending the induction ceremony in Tuscaloosa. Two of his sisters accepted the honor for him.

To reiterate, Hedgemon Lewis was 72-6 as an amateur and 53-7-2 as a pro. And that barely touches the surface of a very good fighter who was a credit to his sport.

R.I.P. Champ.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
The-Remarkable-Career-of-Ferocious-Fernando-Vargas
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Remarkable Career of “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas

R.I.P.-ex-Boxer-Fight-Manager-and-Author-Ron Ross-a-Covid-19-Victim
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

R.I.P ex-Boxer, Fight Manager and Author Ron Ross, a Covid-19 Victim

No-Foul-Play-Suspected-in-the-Death-of-Floyd-Mayweather's-Ex-Josie-Harris
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

No Foul Play Suspected in the Death of Floyd Mayweather’s Ex, Josie Harris

Corrie-Sanders'-Upset-of-Wladimir-Klitschko-Always-Overshadowed-by-Ali-Frazier
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Corrie Sanders’ Upset of Wladimir Klitschko Always Overshadowed by Ali-Frazier

Has-the-U.S.-Lost-its-Presence-in-Boxing?-Part-One-of-a-New-Survey
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Has the U.S. Lost its Presence in Boxing? Part One of a New Survey

A-Shocker-in-Brooklyn-as-Adam-Kownacki-Suffers-a-Nordic-Nightmare
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

A Shocker in Brooklyn as Adam Kownacki Suffers a Nordic Nightmare

Barney-Eastwood-was-Mr-Boxing-in-Belfast
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Barney Eastwood was Mr. Boxing in Belfast

The-Hauser-Report-From-9/11-to-COVID-19
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

The Hauser Report: From 9/11 to COVID-19

Canelo-vs-BJ-Saunders-is-a-Done-Deal-Says-Everyone-but-the-Promoter
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Canelo vs. B.J. Saunders is a Done Deal Says Everyone but the Promoter

The-Hauser-Report-Kownacki-Helenius-That's-Why-They-Fight-The-Fights
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Hauser Report…Kownacki-Helenius: That’s Why They Fight the Fights

The-Top-Ten-Super-Middleweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Top Ten Super-Middleweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Avila-Prespective-Chap-88-Chocolatito-Marcos-Caballero-and-Mikey
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 88: Chocolatito, Marcos Caballero and Mikey

Saul-Neno-Rodriguez-Returns-to-RGBA-to-Reload
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Saul “Neno” Rodriguez Returns to RGBA to Reload

The-Shocker-in-Brooklyn-Leads-Off-This-Week's-Edition-of-Hits-and-Misses
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Shocker in Brooklyn Leads Off This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Close-Encounters-of-the-Trump-Kind-Reviewing-Scoop-Malinowski's-Latest-Book
Book Review2 weeks ago

Close Encounters of the Trump Kind: Reviewing ‘Scoop’ Malinowski’s Latest Book

Odds-and-Ends-Studio-Fights-Mayweather-Gym-Notes-Adrien-Broner-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Odds and Ends: Studio Fights, Mayweather Gym notes, Adrien Broner and More

A-Chain-of-Fistic-Violence-in-Southern-California-in-the-'70s
Featured Articles1 week ago

A Chain of Fistic Violence in Southern California in the ‘70s

Fast-Results-from-the-UK-Jono-Carroll-Routs-Quigg-Fury-TKOs-Sour
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Fast Results from the UK: Jono Carroll Routs Quigg; Fury TKOs Sour

Avila-Perspective-Chap-89-Shakur-Still-Fights-but-California-Goes-Dark
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 89: Shakur Still Fights but California Goes Dark

Remembering-the-Late-Roger-Mayweather-a-Two-Division-World-Champion
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Remembering the Late Roger Mayweather, a Two-Division World Champion

Stonewalled-by-the-Coronavirus-the-Unhappy-Story-if-Dee-Jay-Kriel
Featured Articles23 hours ago

Stonewalled by the Coronavirus: Dee-Jay Kriel’s Unhappy Story

Avila-Perspective-Chap-91-Los-Angeles-Fight-Nights-1960s
Featured Articles2 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 91: Los Angeles Boxing Nights 1960s

Remembering-Hedgemon-Lewis-1946-2020-Welterweight-Champ-Hollywood-Pet
Featured Articles3 days ago

Remembering Hedgemon Lewis (1946-2020); Welterweight Champ, Hollywood Pet

Don-Dunphy-Simply-the-Best
Featured Articles5 days ago

Don Dunphy:  Simply the Best

Noted-Boxing-Buffs-Name-Their-Favorite-Boxing-Book
Featured Articles6 days ago

Noted Boxing Buffs Name Their Favorite Boxing Book

The-Art-of-Boxing-Series-Sergio-The-Latin-Snake-Mora-of-East-LA
Featured Articles1 week ago

Art of Boxing Series: Sergio ‘The Latin Snake’ Mora of East L.A.

Re-Visiting-the-Walker-Law-of-1920-Which-Transformed-Boxing
Featured Articles1 week ago

Re-visiting the Walker Law of 1920 which Transformed Boxing

Thin-you-know-boxing?-Then-Man-Up-and-Take-Our-New Trivia-Test
Featured Articles1 week ago

Think you know boxing? Then Man Up and Take Our New Trivia Test

A-Chain-of-Fistic-Violence-in-Southern-California-in-the-'70s
Featured Articles1 week ago

A Chain of Fistic Violence in Southern California in the ‘70s

R.I.P.-ex-Boxer-Fight-Manager-and-Author-Ron Ross-a-Covid-19-Victim
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

R.I.P ex-Boxer, Fight Manager and Author Ron Ross, a Covid-19 Victim

McGovern-vs-Palmer-The-First-Big-International-Prizefight-on-American-Soil
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

McGovern vs. Palmer: The First Big International Prizefight on American Soil

The-Remarkable-Career-of-Ferocious-Fernando-Vargas
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Remarkable Career of “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas

Close-Encounters-of-the-Trump-Kind-Reviewing-Scoop-Malinowski's-Latest-Book
Book Review2 weeks ago

Close Encounters of the Trump Kind: Reviewing ‘Scoop’ Malinowski’s Latest Book

Has-the-US-Lost-its-Presence-in-Boxing?-Part-Two-of-Our-Latest-Survey
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Has the U.S. Lost its Presence in Boxing? Part Two of Our Latest Survey

Has-the-U.S.-Lost-its-Presence-in-Boxing?-Part-One-of-a-New-Survey
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Has the U.S. Lost its Presence in Boxing? Part One of a New Survey

Avila-Perspective-Chap-90-Travels-With-Henry-Ramirez-Roger-and-More
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 90: Travels with Henry Ramirez, Roger and More

Remembering-the-Late-Roger-Mayweather-a-Two-Division-World-Champion
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Remembering the Late Roger Mayweather, a Two-Division World Champion

Dubois-vs-Joyce-Postponed-Until-July-11-Other-Important-UK-Fights-in-Limbo
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Dubois vs. Joyce Postponed Until July 11; Other Important UK Fights in Limbo

Odds-and-Ends-Studio-Fights-Mayweather-Gym-Notes-Adrien-Broner-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Odds and Ends: Studio Fights, Mayweather Gym notes, Adrien Broner and More

The-Hauser-Report-From-9/11-to-COVID-19
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

The Hauser Report: From 9/11 to COVID-19

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement