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Randy Gordon’s Love Of Boxing Shines Through in ‘Glove Affair,’ His Memoir

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As far back as he can remember, Randy Gordon always wanted to be in boxing. To do what, exactly, he had little clue. All that mattered to this peppy Jewish kid from Long Island was gaining, by any means, a toehold into “this crazy and beautiful sport,” in which men he idolized, like the heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, roamed the earth with a hint of the invincible.

As it happens, Gordon never got a chance to brush shoulders with “The Brockton Blockbuster.” In 1969, when Gordon was a college junior, Marciano met his death in a plane crash flying over an Iowa cornfield. He was a day away from his forty-sixth birthday. Ironically, the tragedy would become the very catalyst for Gordon’s entry into the sport which he had hitherto only viewed from afar, mainly through the pages of The Ring, the iconic boxing magazine. Distraught by his hero’s untimely demise, a young Gordon sought out the wisdom of the publication’s founder.

How could ‘The Rock’ be gone? I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to know more about Marciano. How great was he? Where did he fit in among the great heavyweights of the past? I decided I had to speak with Nat Fleischer himself. I decided to call him later that morning. Then, I decided I wouldn’t give a secretary a chance to make up an excuse he was busy. I decided to go to his office and sit there for as long as I had to in order to meet him and talk with him.

So early one morning, Gordon strode into Manhattan via the LIRR and made his way to the seventh floor of 120 West 31st St., the former address of The Ring headquarters, where, by dint of moxie alone, Gordon was able to score a meeting with “the man whose opinion in the sport was heard and worshipped the way Moses heard and worshipped his Lord in front of the burning bush more than 2,000 years ago.” It is safe to say that with this encounter, Gordon had effectively crossed the boxing threshold, shifting from plebian onlooker to soon-to-be tireless participant. Within a decade this giddy neophyte would become the editor-in-chief of the very same magazine, the self-proclaimed Bible of Boxing, working in tandem with the raffish, stogie-chomping Bert Sugar. He would strike up relationships, friendly or otherwise, with some of the most compelling figures in the sport, from Nicaraguan great Alexis Arguello to the irascible and incomparable Mike Tyson. And he would do so in capacities beyond his journalistic beginnings, most notably as the head of the New York State Athletic Commission under the Mario Cuomo regime. Gordon  also fought as an amateur, dabbled briefly as a professional (for all of two fights), and refereed a few bouts. Today he is the host of the SiriusXM boxing radio program, At the Fights, which he helms with Gerry Cooney, the Hardy to his Laurel. The ultimate fanboy, it turns out, got to live the dream.

No surprise, then, that a current of unflagging gratitude courses through Gordon’s new memoir, Glove Affair: My Lifelong Journey in the World of Professional Boxing, a wide-ranging, if hodgepodge, collection of the ex-commissioner’s most memorable moments in the sport. Boxing, from Gordon’s viewpoint, appears less as “The Sweet Science” or “The Cruelest Sport” and more like “The Providential Hobby,” if Gordon’s frequent attestations to his good fortune are anything to go by. He tells the reader, “I am, without question, the luckiest boxing aficionado the good Lord ever created.” Gordon’s indebtedness also extends to his friends and colleagues in the boxing business, as evinced by the long-winded acknowledgments section that includes more names than the entirety of the Pentateuch. (So all-encompassing is the list that an interesting exercise would be to suss out who from the industry isn’t on it. A hint: one absentee is a former Ring magazine editor).

“I’m addicted,” Gordon confesses at one point. “I’m hopelessly in love with the sport. I still read every word about boxing I can find. I read every press release, every article, every column, every website, every result.” Gordon’s zeal is writ large in these pages and, no doubt, the source of the book’s unmistakable charm. For readers of a certain ilk expecting passages of deep philosophical probity and lyrical turns-of-phrases, however, this is the wrong place to look. The prose here is fairly straightforward, relies heavily on cliches and is driven mostly by jaunty dialogue that has the unintended effect of making Gordon’s chronicles appear exaggerated, even cartoonish, at times. Still, it gets the job done.

Given Gordon’s high-ranking positions in the industry and the access that they afforded him, Glove Affair offers plenty of interesting material to engage fellow aficionados. Not many in the sport can say that they were called on by Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs, the managers of a juvenile Mike Tyson, to select sparring partners for the Catskill menace, as was the case for Gordon.

Particularly engrossing is the chapter that hones in on the Billy Collins Jr.-Luis Resto fight, one of the most scandalous debacles of the 1980s. On that night of June 16, 1983, the undefeated Collins dropped a brutal and unexpected decision against journeyman Resto, whose gloves were discovered afterward to have had the padding removed by his trainer, Panama Lewis. (Decades later, Resto would admit that he had also dipped his wraps in plaster prior to the fight).

Collins, having sustained a serious injury to the iris, would never box again and roughly a year later, alcoholic and depressed, he spun off the road and crashed to his death. Though Gordon himself did not attend the fight, the event shook him to his boots, as anyone who has read his fiery Ring editorial — “Murder, Plain and Simple” read the headline — can attest.  His subsequent involvement with Collins’ disconsolate father and years later, with the disgraced Resto, offers intimate insight into the darker excesses of the sport. Throughout his tenure at the NYSAC, Gordon repeatedly rejected Resto’s applications to have his boxing license reinstated. More than thirty years later, Gordon remains convinced that he did the right thing, his anger still undiminished. “Luis Resto remains in jail — his basement apartment is his jail cell,” Gordon writes. “Unlike jail, he is allowed to go out into the world. Only, Luis Resto has no place to go, other than to a boxing card with the owner of the gym. Then it’s back to his jail cell. Sleep must be his only solace, but only if he doesn’t dream. For Resto, dreams must all turn into nightmares.”

The bar for moral rectitude may be exceptionally low in a lurid sport like boxing, but Gordon never compromised his integrity, as he so persistently maintains chapter after chapter to the point, indeed, that he risks coming across as priggish. Of the one week when WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman and huckster emeritus Don King both tried — and failed — to bribe him with wads of cash, he says, humblebragging, “I returned home, proud of how I had handled two situations that have put many politicians and executives on the unemployment line or even in jail.” Of the time he was yanked off the air after snubbing the promoter’s pre-approved script during a broadcast, he reflects solemnly, “I didn’t believe I was 75 percent right, or 85 percent, or 99 percent. I believed the choice I made was 100 percent the correct one.”

Such remarks, in the end, however self-aggrandizing, are not what define Glove Affair. Gordon’s ebullience for fighters and for fighting make sure of that.

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The Fight of the Century: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

Arne K. Lang

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In professional boxing, fights can be rank-ordered as generic fights, big fights, bigger fights, mega-fights, and spectacles. The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier wasn’t merely a spectacle, but the grandest spectacle of them all. This coming Monday, March 8, is the 50th anniversary of that iconic event.

Ali-Frazier I was staged at three-year-old Madison Square Garden, the fourth arena in New York to take that name. It drew a capacity crowd: 20,455 (19,500 paid). An estimated 60 percent of all the tickets sold fell into the hands of scalpers.

The fight was closed-circuited to more than 350 locations in the United States and Canada. At some of the larger venues, it established a new record for gate receipts, and this for an attraction that wasn’t produced in-house. In Los Angeles, 15,333 saw the fight at the Forum and 11,575 at the nearby Sports Arena.

Bill Ballenger, the sports editor of the Charlotte (NC) News, saw the fight at the Charlotte Coliseum. He reported that the audio – Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow with Burt Lancaster and Archie Moore serving as color commentators – was loud enough to be heard outside the arena and that many folks, either unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket, loitered outside and followed the action in 30 degrees weather.

An estimated three hundred million people saw the fight worldwide. In England, by some estimates, half the population tuned in, watching either at home on BBC1 or at a theater where one could watch the fight unfold on a movie screen. Now keep in mind that in England the fight didn’t commence until 6:40 in the morning on a Tuesday!

Inside Madison Square Garden, the large flock of celebrities included many folks one wouldn’t expect to find at a prizefight. Marcello Mastroianni, Italy’s most famous movie star, made a special trip from Rome. Salvador Dali was there and Barbra Streisand and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, seated next to her escort, crooner Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was there working as a photographer for Life magazine. Lore has it that Sinatra wangled the assignment after failing to boat one of the coveted ringside seats.

The scene was made brighter by human “peacocks,” the label applied to Harlemites with an outrageous sense of fashion, and the electricity was palpable. When Ali appeared at the back of the arena, making his way from his dressing room to the ring, everyone had goosebumps.

The late, great New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding a big heavyweight title fight and that was never more true than on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.

Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) were both undefeated. Both had a claim to the heavyweight title, Ali because the belt had been controversially stripped away from him for his political beliefs. Opinions as to who would win were pretty evenly divided. In Las Vegas, Joe Frazier was the favorite at odds of 6 to 5. Across the pond in England, bookies were quoting odds of 11 to 8 on Ali.

Those that favored Ali were of the opinion that ‘Smokin’ Joe was too one-dimensional. That much was true. Joe was as subtle as a steam locomotive on a downhill grade. He ate Ali’s hardest punches, said Boston Globe reporter Bud Collins, as if they were movie house popcorn and he eventually wore Ali down. There was little doubt as to how the judges would see it after Joe knocked Ali down in the 15th round with a frightful left hook. When Ali arose, it appeared that he had been afflicted with a sudden case of the mumps. The decision was unanimous: 11-4, 9-6, 8-6-1.

This wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was a fight that more than lived up to the hype. And, as several people have noted, the event took on a life of its own without the benefit of modern technology to push it along. The buzz was fueled in a large part by newspapers, the “antiquated” sort of newspapers that a fellow fished from his driveway or purchased at a newsstand on the way to or from work. If twitter and facebook had been around during Muhammad Ali’s prime, Ali would have blown the doors off the internet.

A cultural touchstone is an event that remains sealed in our memory. As we slide into old age, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we may not remember what we had for breakfast in the morning, but some long-ago events are as vivid as if they had happened just yesterday.

Boxing historian Frank Lotierzo has written poignantly about how overjoyed he was when he was surprised with the news that his father would be taking him to the fight. “To this day it remains the biggest thrill of my life!” wrote Lotierzo, who was then in the seventh grade. “And it’s not even close!”

I didn’t see the fight, but I can recall the faces of people that I overheard talking about it, people whose interest in the fight struck me as odd as I knew they had little interest in the world of sports. So, when the fight is replayed in its entirety on Sunday – it airs on ABC at 2 p.m ET and again at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN – I will be watching it for the first time. And it will be bittersweet as I will be reminded that I am in the twilight of my life and my thoughts will inevitably drift to my friends and loved ones that have left this mortal world in the years since that grand night in 1971 when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked horns in the Fight of the Century.

I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Arne K. Lang

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Ring City USA, a new promotional entity, debuted on Nov. 19, 2020 with a show staged in the parking lot of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. Ring City stayed outdoors for their first offering of 2021, but the company was a long ways from California. Tonight’s card was staged on a roundabout near a municipal gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

The headline attraction was an attractive match between junior middleweights Serhii Bohachuk and Brandon Adams. The bout was originally set for Dec. 3, but had to be pushed back when Bohachuk tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bohachuk, a 25-year-old California-based Ukrainian, had stopped all 18 of his previous opponents. He had never gone past six rounds. Brandon Adams, a former world title challenger, represented a step up in class.

Bohachuk was well on his way to winning a unanimous decision when the tide turned dramatically in round eight. Fighting on a slick canvas, Adams suddenly found a new gear, unloading a series of punches climaxed by a thunderous left hook as Bohachuk retreated. The Ukrainian beat the count, but was teetering on unsteady legs and the referee properly called a halt.

Adams was without his regular trainer, 80-year-old Dub Huntley, who remained back in LA as a health precaution. In winning, he elevated his records to 23-3 (15). It was his best performance since defeating Shane Mosley Jr in the finals of Season 5 of the “Contender” series.

In the co-feature, an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Chevalier improved to 15-1-1 (12) with a third-round stoppage of Peru’s Carlos Zambrano (26-2). Chevalier scored two knockdowns, the first a sweeping left hook that appeared to land behind Zambrano’s head, and the second a punch to the liver that left Zambrano in severe distress. The referee waived the fight off in mid-count.

The official time was 2:21. Chevalier, a tall featherweight (5’11”) made a very impressive showing; he bears watching. This was Zambrano’s first fight since April of 2017 when he was knocked out in the opening round by Claudio Marrero in a bout for the WBA interim featherweight title.

The TV opener was an entertaining fight between contrasting styles that produced a weird conclusion when Danielito Zorrilla was awarded a technical decision over Ruslan Madiyev. The bout was stopped at the 1:16 mark of round eight after Zorrilla sank to his knees after absorbing a punch to the back of the head. The ringside physician examined him for evidence of a concussion, but ultimately it was Zorrilla’s choice as to whether the bout would continue. He declined and was reportedly taken to a hospital for observation.

Madiyev, a California-based Kazahk, was the aggressor. He fought the fight in Zorilla’s grill, often bullying him against the ropes. In round five, he had a point deducted for hitting behind the head, squandering what was arguably his best round.

The fight went to the scorecards with Zorrilla winning a split decision (77-74, 77-75, 73-76), thereby remaining undefeated: 15-0 (12). Ironically, Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs), suffered his previous loss in a similar fashion.

Madiyev’s new trainer Joel Diaz reportedly discouraged his charge from taking this fight for fear that he wouldn’t get a fair shake in Puerto Rico. Diaz’s apprehensions were well-founded.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Ring City USA

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