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Boxing Movies We Hope to See: Suggested Storylines from 50+ Boxing Notables

Ted Sares

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The Fourth Quarterly TSS Survey: Part One (A-K) — The question for our final survey of 2019 was not an easy one. “If you were to make a boxing movie, what would the subject be? How might you title it (optional)?” There was an excellent collection of inputs from a larger than normal number of respondents, including many former fighters. Hence, we are running this story in two parts. The respondents are listed in alphabetical order.

BONES ADAMS — former world super bantamweight champion, elite trainer: A movie about me and my complex life. How many white guys do you know from Kentucky who went on to become a world champion?

RUSS ANBER — elite trainer, cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: Provided it would be given the budget it deserved, my movie would be called “On God’s Side” as it tells the tale of the parallels of both the Louis vs Schmeling fights and the rise of the Nazi regime and eventually World War II, while the world watched both intently.

I’d follow that with “No Quarrel,” the story of Ali’s stand against the establishment and the Viet Nam war, his subsequent suspension, the social divisiveness, and Ali’s subsequent return vs Joe Frazier in the most politically important fight since Louis vs Schmeling.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI –TSS boxing writer: I’d make a movie about Archie Moore. I’m surprised one has not yet been done. It would be a great story to tell the world of perseverance and determination. I’d title it “The Old Mongoose.”

DAVID AVILA — TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: I’d do a story on a guy named Luis Magana. He passed away 10 years ago in his late 90s. He was a former PR for the Olympic Auditorium and his dad was a PR for the Olympic when it was first built. He had so many stories to share about guys like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Mexican fighters like Baby Arizmendi and Art Aragon. He was also a sort of playboy who knew many Hollywood starlets. Incredible guy.  “.…if you don’t know who Luis Magana is, then you’re not a real boxing writer”: Hector Zapata, Los Angeles Reporter

BOB BENOIT — former professional fighter, current pro referee and judge: It was the 60’s, and New England Pro boxing was roaring with a fight or two every week in New England.  Worcester- Portland – North Adams – Boston – and New Bedford were SOME of the fistic hotbeds. Our fighter, a 20-year-old white male from rural Maine was called on every week. Short on money and long on need, he had amassed 27 fights in 18 months. The last one was a brutal affair with Gene Cyclone Herrick. Following a bad beating and after paying his cornerman, he went home with $40. Then, Sam Silverman, the Promoter, needed to fill in a fight card at the last moment in Boston and called the fighter but received no answer. He had died from a brain injury 2 days after the Herrick fight. “Nobody Answered the Phone.”

JEFF BUMPUS — former fighter and writer: Danny “Little Red” Lopez was of Ute Indian, Mexican, and Irish heritage. He had been moved from one foster home to another, and coming off a Ute Indian Reservation in Utah, to become the WBC featherweight champion. Obvious title: “Little Red.”

TRACY CALLIS — eminent boxing historian: I’d make a movie about James J. Jeffries and use the book, “A Man Among Men,” by Kelly Nicholson, as the guide. Jeffries was a great champion and lost the only fight of his career in a comeback contest after a long five-year layoff.

STEVE CANTON — the face of boxing in South Florida: I’d do a documentary about the difference between Old School boxers and current boxers, the difference between old training methods and new, the difference between old trainers and current trainers and illustrate the demise of the technique of the Sweet Science with a plea to bringing back the old tried and proven methods.

GUY CASALE — former fighter and retired policeman/lawyer: Mine would concern Organized Crime’s continued influence on boxing. My title would be “Owned.”

MONTE COX — former fighter; noted boxing historian: Sam Langford. Since his most well-known nickname, The Boston Tar Baby, might not translate well in today’s world, and his other nicknames such as “The Boston Terror” might have someone thinking of the Boston marathon bombing, I’d just call it “Feared, the Sam Langford Story.” One of the most avoided boxers in history, he was never given the opportunity because he was too black and too good. Even Jack Johnson drew the color line against him once Sam hit the peak of his powers. Langford had 126 knockouts with nearly all the top heavyweights of his era on the victim list.

MICHAEL CULBERT — former super middleweight contender: I’d make a movie about the life and times of Hector Camacho and call it: “Too Macho.”

JOEY “TANK” DAWEJKO — heavyweight contender: It would be about all the bad stuff that goes on in the boxing world! Title: “Corruption.”

DAVID DIAMANTEring announcer, actor, tv host, and sports announcer: Sam Langford. Call it “Fight to the Finish.” Keep it gritty and real, in the vein of “Fat City”.

JILL DIAMOND — WBC International Secretary; “WBC Cares” Chair: One of the greatest and most interesting champions and a hero whose legacy was tarnished by a questionable suicide; Alexis Argüello.

CHARLIE DWYER– former fighter, pro referee, and member of Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: My story would be about Arturo Gatti and would be called “Blood and Guts.”

STEVE FARHOOD – TV commentator, former editor The Ring magazine and 2017 IBHOF inductee: Two movies: One, a biopic of Matthew Saad Muhammad. Two: A boxing parody, making fun of all the things in boxing that deserve to be made fun of (there are so many!).

MATT FARRAGO — former fighter and founder and President of RING 10: “When the Last Blow Lands.” The subject would be whether boxers suffer from CTE like in football or do they just end up Punchy which doesn’t sound so bad? I could pick 20 big name fighters that faded away to nothing and nobody said anything. My last trainer was Emile Griffith and I witnessed his deterioration into oblivion and death. Totally forgotten. The Quarry brothers. Same thing.

RICK FARRISfounder and President, West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame: I’d make a film like the cool one of which I am now a part; namely, a documentary about the Olympic Auditorium. And I am beyond excited about Steve DeBro’s brilliant film, “18th & Grand” which is in post-production and which is the Olympic Auditorium Project. As an aside, I’d never do an Ali-type film or a Rocky fantasy.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — TSS mainstay and lifetime member of the BWAA: Flicks about two Philly fighters—Matthew Saad Muhammad and Bernard Hopkins—with terrific backstories that immediately come to mind. Saad was abandoned on a city street as a toddler by a relative, grew up to be a light heavyweight champion and one of the great action fighters. B-Hop did a prison stretch, lost his pro debut but went on to become the most enduring of champions, in two weight classes. But if push comes to shove, I might go with Craig Bodzianowski who lost his left leg from the knee down in a motorcycle accident, got fitted for a prosthetic leg and returned to the ring and did well enough to earn a shot at a cruiserweight title. See: https://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-boxing-articles-boxing-news-videos-rankings-and-results/17009-later-gator-bodzianwski-1-legs-a-1-big-heart.

JERRY FITCH — Cleveland’s Mr. Boxing; author, historian: I’d make a movie about Jimmy Bivins with the same title as my book “James Louis Bivins….The Man Who Would Be Champion.” Actually in 1999/2000 a couple from New York came to Cleveland several times and interviewed the family, Jimmy Bivins and me, shot a lot of footage, tracked down surviving opponents, etc. They were planning on doing a documentary film on Jimmy. Then, just like that, they disappeared. It would have been interesting as there were many neat side stories. 

SUE TL FOX — former world class female boxer, founder/president of WBAN™ and IWBHF: If I were to make a boxing movie, I would title the movie, “The Fighter Within.” It would be about the life and struggles of the 1970s to 1980s female boxer Lady Tyger Trimiar who struggled not only to be recognized inside the ring—- but outside the ring as she made countless efforts to get women’s boxing to be recognized and to improve the sport for not only herself but others.

JEFFREY FREEMAN — TSS writer: Having your words published, like entering a ring, puts your talent on display. And there’s nowhere to hide. The truth is revealed. And sometimes, the results can be disastrous.” ~ Erik Kernan Jr., Resurrecting The Champ. There needs to be a proper film made about the history of boxing writers. From Liebling to Collins to BFern and beyond, there is a very colorful story to be told about those who have penned boxing’s most colorful stories. The only other time such an endeavor was attempted was in 2007’s Resurrecting The Champ, an honest movie told through the eyes of a young fictional sports writer assigned to cover boxing while also uncovering some of its essential hidden truths.

CLARENCE GEORGE — writer and historian: Many years ago, there was talk of a movie on “Two Ton” Tony Galento, with Burt Young in the title role. It never came to pass, unfortunately, but I think it should. After all, Tony’s easily among boxing’s most colorful characters. As Young’s rapidly approaching 80, however, it would have to star somebody else. Not sure who, but I’m open to suggestions.

BUDDY GIBBS — author and historian: My movie would be on the great trainer Harry Wiley from the streets of Harlem; he fought as an amateur boxer until he became a trainer. Harry worked as a water boy for Jack Dempsey, worked in the camp of Harry Wills, and gawked at Sam Langford during his fighting days. As a trainer, Wiley molded Ray Robinson into arguably the greatest fighter that ever lived. Harry was also the reason why the Mob did not have their foot on Robinson’s throat during his career. He worked with Ambers, Armstrong, Baby Joe Gans, Ali, and many others. In 1932, he became the first African-American to train a U.S. Olympic boxing team; unfortunately, due to racial discrimination, he was replaced before the start of the event. He battled against prejudice as a matchmaker and promoter and even tried to help arrange bouts for Ali during his exile. He stood up against racial injustice in boxing, stood his ground against the Mob, helped mold some of the greatest fighters of all-time, and remained humble through it all.

HENRY HASCUP — boxing historian and President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: There are so many so I just can’t pick just one. Sam Langford, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker and Archie Moore would be the ones I would like to see. They all grew up in hard times and overcame problems that no fighter today would even think of. When we go over the best fighters of all-time, most young people don’t even know who these fighters are, so we should educate them by putting their stories up on the BIG screen!

CHUCK HASSON — historian, author. “HE FIGHTS FOR A LIVING.” A story about a club fighting journeyman who travels the country (and world) fighting everywhere he can get a fight. The experiences he encounters, both good and bad, and his chances of winning a close verdict are slim and none.

JACK HIRSCH — former President and now lifetime member of the BWAA: It’s amazing that a movie has never been made about one of the most flamboyant fighters in history, Sugar Ray Robinson. I’d make one and call it “SUGAR RAY.”

CRAIG HOUK — Founder/CEO Indiana Boxing Hall of Fame; fought 110 pro bouts: I’d do one called “Legacies,” and it would be about the price of fame if you really chase greatness.

BRUCE KIELTY — booking agent; boxing historian: For me, the obvious choice is a biopic of Stanley Ketchel

1) man who lived every minute like it was his last.

2) A man who had cojones as large as bowling balls.

3) A man who had a good heart for his family

4) A man who brought massive excitement every time that he entered a ring.

5) A man who reportedly was a ladies man of the first order.

6) A man who departed this world at only 24 (violently) yet is still remembered today.

7) A title has to sell a film to the public, so I’d title it “CRAZY STANLEY.”

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM — Boxing Commissioner Emeritus, State of Michigan: “ROXY”…the story of John Roxborough…a leading gambling racket boss, helped operate a policy and numbers business in Detroit. His $10 million annual business was at the center of a scandal that led to the indictment, prosecution and prison sentences of street hustlers, police officers as well as former Mayor Richard Reading of Detroit…all served prison time. “Roxy” co-managed world heavyweight champion Joe Louis whom he met in 1931 when the “Brown Bomber” was a teenager learning to box at Brewster Recreation Center

MARK KRAM JR — multi-award-winning feature writer and author: My aim is to arrange for the development of a limited series based on my book, “Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier.” From his childhood in the Jim Crow South to his wars in and out of the ring with Muhammad Ali, Joe lived an extraordinarily eventful life, one that was populated by an array of colorful characters such as Gypsy Joe Harris, Yank Durham, Eddie Futch and so on. Far more complex that even his fans understood him to be, his story is far larger in scope than a single biopic could comfortably accommodate. Given his signature style of never backing up, I’d call it “RELENTLESS.”

Editor’s Note: The photo is of Kirk Douglas from the 1949 RKO movie “Champion.” Douglas turns 103 on Dec. 9.

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8 and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame and a lifetime member of Ring 10 which in 2019 honored him with the first annual Harold Lederman Award for Historian. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He still competes as a power lifter in the Master Class.

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Three Punch Combo: Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Thoughts and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo — For hardcore fans, one of the most attractive fights of the year takes place on Friday when undefeated light heavyweight champions Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s) battle in a title unification bout. This contest will headline an ESPN televised card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. Here are a few subtle things that could play a factor in how this fight plays out.

A Tactical Fight?

Twenty years ago, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in a welterweight title unification fight. It was a super fight between two explosive punchers. Everyone expected fireworks, but as we all know, it turned into an all-out chess match for twelve rounds.

When two big punchers meet, sometimes we get fireworks and sometimes each fighter respects the other’s power so much that they both become somewhat tentative inside the ring.

Keep in mind we have seen in several Gvozdyk fights a somewhat cautious approach. He will take what is given and nothing more. As for Beterbiev, he has typically been a very aggressive fighter (more on that later) but has had his moments where caution has entered his mindset. Just take a look back at his 2017 fight with Enrico Koelling.

I know it is the unpopular opinion but we could certainly see a very tactical chess match between these two on Friday.

Beterbiev’s Defense and Chin

Beterbiev, as noted, is a very aggressive fighter. But with that aggression comes an almost complete lack of focus on the defensive side of the game.

So far, Beterbiev’s offense has been his best defense as many times his opponents have simply been too fearful of opening up. But at times the cracks have shown. Callum Johnson, for example, wasn’t afraid to throw in spots and when he did, his punches landed.

In that fight, we saw Beterbiev get hurt and dropped. Beterbiev showed a ton of heart to come back from that moment and later stop Johnson, but his chin is certainly a question mark. And Gvozdyk, aside from carrying one-punch power, is a very sharp and accurate puncher who has shown excellent finishing skills thus far in his career.

Gvozdyk’s Mindset

A little more than ten months ago, Gvozdyk wrested away the title from Adonis Stevenson. But on what was supposed to be the night where Gvozdyk’s dream came true, things almost turned tragic as Stevenson suffered a brain bleed that nearly took his life.

Gvozdyk has had one fight since against journeyman Doudou Ngumbu. Though Gvozdyk won easily, there was something about his performance that just didn’t feel right. Gvozdyk had a fighter in front of him who offered little resistance but seemingly didn’t want to fully step on the gas.

In order to compete with Beterbiev, we have to see the same Gvozdyk that we saw against Stevenson. But has Gvozdyk’s mindset permanently been altered by the events of that evening?

Under The Radar Fight

A pivotal crossroads bout in the welterweight division between Luis Collazo (39-7, 20 KO’s) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO’s) is also on Friday’s ESPN broadcast. The winner will be in prime position for a title shot in 2020.

Collazo, a world welterweight titlist back in 2005, is in the midst of yet another career resurrection. After getting stopped by defending WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman in 2015, Collazo has won three straight. And these wins were not against subpar opposition. Two were against up-and-coming young fighters in Sammy Vasquez and Bryant Perrella; the other against fringe contender Samuel Vargas.

At age 38, Collazo has proven he still has plenty in the tank and has clawed back up the rankings in the welterweight division. But to get one more shot at a title, Collazo must find a way to get past another young up-and-comer in Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov.

Abdukakhorov, 26, is coming off the biggest win of his pro career this past March when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former 140-pound title challenger Keita Obara. That win boosted Abdukakhorov into the number one position in the IBF at welterweight and in line to one day be the mandatory challenger for current belt-holder Errol Spence Jr.

Stylistically, I love this matchup. Abdukakhorov is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He will look to press the attack and won’t be afraid to lead looking to land his best punch which is the overhand right. Collazo is a southpaw who is a natural counterpuncher. He will look to make Abdukakhorov’s aggression work against him and should find plenty of opportunities to do so.

I think we are going to get an action-packed, competitive fight. This should serve as an excellent appetizer to Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.

What’s Next For Dmitry Bivol?

This past Saturday, Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a wide unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KO’s). Though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, the win keeps Bivol in line for bigger opportunities down the road. So, what’s next for him?

Saturday’s title defense marked Bivol’s second consecutive appearance on the streaming service DAZN. DAZN needs future opponents for its two biggest stars in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Clearly part of the reason for DAZN showing interest in Bivol is geared toward him potentially getting one or the other down the road.

Though Alvarez is fighting at light heavyweight in November, this appears to be a one-time appearance for the Mexican superstar in that division. He is likely headed back to middleweight or the 168-pound weight class. As for Golovkin, he has fought his entire 13-year career at middleweight. A move at some point soon to 168 would not be a surprise.

Bivol and his team have made it very clear that he can get down to 168. With DAZN’s two biggest stars hovering around that division, a move down to 168 seems likely.

The WBA champion at 168 is Callum Smith who is slated for a title defense in November against UK countryman John Ryder. Assuming Smith prevails, he would make a logical opponent for Bivol in the spring of 2020.

Smith-Bivol would be a big fight between two young undefeated fighters and the winner would then be in position for a mega fight later in 2020 against either Alvarez or Golovkin.

But what if Smith goes a different direction following the Ryder fight? If that is the case, Bivol may instead just look to dip his toes in the water at 168 with someone like Rocky Fielding.

Fielding is a tough, gritty competitor who is popular in the UK and has name recognition in the US based on his fight last December with Canelo. But as we saw in that fight, Fielding is very limited.

Fielding is just the type of opponent who could bring out the best in Bivol. A spectacular knockout would help erase some of Bivol’s recent lackluster performances. And this would, of course, make Bivol much more marketable for a future date with Alvarez or Golovkin.

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The First Coming of George Foreman: A Retrospective

Rick Assad

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This coming Oct. 30 is the 45th anniversary of the Ali-Foreman fight. Boxing has had its fair share of memorable fights across the decades, but few have been more talked about than “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

The 60,000 fans in attendance watching at the 20th of May Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire and the record–setting one billion viewers taking it in around the globe, including 50 million who watched via pay-per-view on closed circuit television, will never forget what happened inside the ring.

Foreman, who was recognized as the world heavyweight champion by the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council, the only sanctioning bodies that mattered, entered with a 40-0 record and 37 knockouts. Ali owned a 44-2 mark with 31 knockouts, but wasn’t the same fighter after being stripped of his titles and missing three-and-a-half years between 1967 and 1970 after refusing induction into the military based on his religious convictions.

Both stood 6-feet-3. Foreman weighed 220 pounds and Ali 216, but the latter was giving away seven years in age, 32 to 25.

The fight commenced with Ali on the offensive, but Foreman, a 4-to-1 betting favorite, rallied to close the gap by the end of the opening frame.

In the second round, Ali allowed “Big George” to bang away at his arms and body, using what he later described as the “rope-a-dope,” which helped tire Foreman out.

As the fight continued, Foreman’s once fierce arsenal was reduced to half its potency and in the eighth round Ali eventually found his range.

Ali now threw punches at will, and when Ali buzzed Foreman with a quick right and knocked him to the canvas, Zack Clayton, the referee, had seen enough.

Having lost for the first time as a professional, Foreman was bitter and even claimed that his trainer and manager, Dick Sadler, put something in his water just minutes before the opening bell.

“It’s not like the water beat me,” Foreman said in writer Jonathan Eig’s biography, “Ali.” “Muhammad beat me. With a straight right hand. Fastest right hand I’d ever been hit with in my life. That’s what beat me. But they put drugs in my water.”

In time, though, Foreman would mellow, saying, “Before that, I had nothing but revenge and hate on my mind, but from then on, it was clear. I’ll never be able to win that match, so I had to let it go. It just wasn’t my night.”

The Road to Zaire

Foreman’s sweet and outgoing personality wasn’t on display when he began his pro career shortly after winning a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

To the contrary, Foreman was a mean and angry young man after spending his childhood in Houston’s tough Fifth Ward.

Growing up with six siblings and without much on the table to eat will create a crusty exterior.

Everyone needs an escape. Football was that for Foreman, who idolized Jim Brown, arguably the NFL’s greatest running back.

But it was boxing that saved him and helped turn his hardscrabble life around.

At 15, Foreman grew tired of high school and dropped out, joining the Job Corps.

This is where he was introduced to boxing and through hard work and dedication went on to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, going on to win a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games.

This was a turbulent year. It was the year in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a Presidential hopeful, were assassinated. Blacks were rioting in many American cities over grievances including police harassment, the Viet Nam War was raging half a world away and college students were protesting our involvement in that very unpopular war.

This was the ugly backdrop against which the 1968 Olympic Games were being contested.

Two black American track stars, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were front and center in Mexico City after placing first and third respectively in the 200-meter dash. At the medal stand, Smith and Carlos raised their clenched fists wrapped in black gloves skyward while the National Anthem played, which triggered a chorus of boos from those inside the stadium.

Foreman waltzed through each round of the heavyweight tournament and took the gold medal by stopping Lithuania’s Jonas Cepulis, representing the Soviet Union, in the second round.

Foreman then pulled out a small American flag and walked around the ring, bowing to the crowd.

Many Americans fell in love with Foreman because of that simple gesture of waving the flag.

“I had a lot of flak,” said Foreman years later of the flag-waving incident. “In those days, nobody was applauded for being patriotic. The whole world was protesting something. But if I had to do it all again, I’d have waved two flags.”

Foreman’s professional career began in grand fashion in June 1969 at New York’s Madison Square Garden when he scored a third-round TKO over Don Waldhelm.

The next six fights concluded by knockout or TKO before Foreman triumphed over Peruvian trial horse Roberto Davila by unanimous decision at the Garden in October 1969.

Three more victories followed by knockout or TKO before Foreman registered a unanimous decision over journeyman Levi Forte in Miami Beach in December 1969.

With three more wins coming by knockout or TKO, Foreman was now 15-0.

In his next fight, Argentine veteran Gregorio Peralta extended him the 10-round distance, after which Foreman won 24 in a row inside the distance, including a 10th round TKO of Peralta in a rematch in May 1971 at the Oakland County Coliseum Arena where he grabbed his first championship belt, the North American Boxing Federation strap.

Ten victories followed including a second round TKO over undefeated Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica, in January 1973, where he took away Frazier’s WBA and WBC world title belts.

Foreman then knocked out Jose Roman in the first round in Tokyo, Japan in September 1973 and followed that up with a second round TKO of Ken Norton in Caracas, Venezuela in March 1974. Then it was off to Zaire to meet Ali with the unified title at stake.

Post-Ali

In January 1976 Foreman returned to the ring after a 16-month absence and knocked out Ron Lyle in the fifth round at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in The Ring magazine Fight of the Year. Four more wins by TKO would follow before losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Jimmy Young in March 1977 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the dressing room after the fight, Foreman, suffering from heatstroke and exhaustion, said he had a near-death experience in which he claimed to have been in a hellish place of nothingness and despair. Foreman pleaded with God to save him.

Foreman said God told him to change his ways and at that moment he became a born-again Christian, dedicating his life to his Lord.

Foreman stopped fighting and became a streetcorner evangelist before opening his own church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston.

Foreman focused his attention on his family and congregation and opened a youth center in his name

He was only 28 years old when he turned his back on boxing and a decade would pass before he would re-enter the sport.

Second Coming

In November of 1994, twenty years after he lost to Ali, Foreman, now 45 years old, upset Michael Moorer with a 10th round knockout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and became the oldest fighter ever to win a championship.

Regaining the title was a byproduct of Foreman’s desire to raise money for his congregation.

Today, Foreman is a bigger-than-life personality who draws people to him.

Young and old, black and white and everything in-between gravitate to the 70-year-old, two-time heavyweight champion like a magnet.

Boxing did indeed rescue George Foreman who concluded his Hall of Fame career with 76 wins, five losses and 68 knockouts.

old george

“If I hadn’t found boxing, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill half of my dreams,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t know how to dream until I found boxing.”

Very few fighters rise through the ranks and claim a world championship title. To replicate this achievement after being off for a decade is truly incredible.

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Life After DOOMSDAY: Assessing the Career of “Superman” Stevenson

Jeffrey Freeman

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On December 1, 2018, the five-year reign of Adonis “Superman” Stevenson came to a violent end in the eleventh round of a WBC light heavyweight title fight in Quebec City, Canada. The 41-year-old defending champion was battling to make the tenth defense of the world championship he’d won in 2013 with a shocking first round knockout of “Bad” Chad Dawson in Montreal.

Hammered into defeat so severely by new champion Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk, Stevenson was hospitalized where he spent six weeks in an induced coma to save his life.

To his haters on Twitter and beyond, this was welcomed as overdue karma—poetic justice. To everyone else, it was seen as a great fight up for grabs before Gvozdyk grabbed the victory.

Support from within the global boxing community for the wounded pugilist has been positive and encouraging. That same dynamic is happening again on social media for Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr., the welterweight champion injured in a car wreck last Thursday in Dallas, Texas.

Now in long-term recovery while healing from a boxing-related brain injury, the boxing life of Adonis “Superman” Stevenson is officially over. His career is a closed book. Let’s review it.

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1977, Stevenson immigrated to Canada with his family in 1984. Writing last year for The Fight City online, author Ralph M. Semien illustrates what followed:

“By 14 he was out of control, spending time on the streets, and soon enough he was part of a violent gang and headed for disaster. Eventually he became involved in an organized sex-for-hire service in Montreal. Stevenson was arrested, tried, convicted and he served his jail time. When released from prison in 2001, he made a pact with himself to turn his back on the street gang lifestyle and everyone associated with it, that he would never again break the law.”

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Five years later in 2006 after a successful campaign in the amateurs where he boxed at middleweight for Canada and won a pair of national titles for his new country, Stevenson turned professional at super middleweight under the promotional guidance of Yvon Michel. His was your typical boxing story of overcoming a troubled past to carve out a brighter, better future.

He ran his record to 13-0 against gradually increasing competition before a 2010 setback TKO against so-called journeyman Darnell Boone. Buzzed late in the opening frame by a sneaky right uppercut and a hard left hook, Stevenson was easy pickins for Boone early in the second round.

A year later, Stevenson returned to the ring; winning six fights and a few minor super middleweight title belts. Most importantly during this transitional period in his career, Stevenson avenged his upset loss to Boone, punishing “Deezol” before knocking him out cold in the sixth.

“He definitely got better and earned his spot,” concedes Boone.

When an opportunity came to fight for the WBC light heavyweight title in 2013, Stevenson took full advantage, putting Chad Dawson down and out with a single, lethal left hook to the chin. The reign of Superman was up, up and away and boxing seemed to welcome its new action hero.

But not so fast, speeding bullet.

American fans and media never let Stevenson forget about his checkered past as a convicted street hustler. And if all that wasn’t enough, soon they were labeling him a “ducker” and a “cherry picker” for his apparent refusal to fight Sergey Kovalev and/or Eleider Alvarez.

Despite the constant negative press painting him as the bad guy, he was actually a very likeable man with a huge smile. Stevenson was also wildly popular in Canada and his title fights were entertaining events where more often than not, he left opponents twitching in a mangled heap.

Unsatisfied with Stevenson’s choice of title challengers, Oscar De La Hoya’s The Ring magazine in 2015 officially withdrew (stripped) its recognition of Stevenson as the “real” World Light Heavyweight Champion. To the Bible of Boxing, Stevenson was an unrepentant sinner.

By that point, Stevenson had made six defenses of his WBC light heavyweight title with wins against Tavoris Cloud, Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara, Dmitry Sukhotskiy, Sakio Bika and Tommy Karpency. That super-fight with “Krusher” Kovalev never happened and it never will.

Who’d have won?

Does it even matter anymore?

I’ll give common opponent Darnell Boone the last word on it. “Kovalev. Because he’s the more sound boxer. Adonis did the same thing in every fight. Paw with the jab, paw with the jab, left.”

“He never really mixed it up,” insists Boone. “Kovalev is throwing combinations. He’s moving, punching off the angles. He knows exactly how to use his height and leverage with his punches. Kovalev keeps you on the outside, away from getting on the inside on him. He fights tall.”

That’s all true but was there more to Stevenson’s game than just predictable one-punch power with the left hand? Trained by Javon “Sugar” Hill, Stevenson was a KRONK fighter. He improved as he got older and deeper into his profession. His southpaw offense was almost always good enough to be his defense. Trading with him was suicidal. And as a body puncher, he was underrated.

In 2016, he knocked out Thomas Williams Jr. with a viciously quick left hook. In 2017, he rematched Fonfara and blew him away in two rounds. In 2018, before the Doomsday loss to Gvozdyk, there was a grueling, disputed draw with super middleweight Badou Jack.

I had Stevenson up by a point in a war that should’ve garnered more consideration for Fight of the Year honors. Unfortunately, the anti-climactic draw took some of the shine off a classic.

If only the Al Haymon-handled fighter had been more willing to mix it up with the big names, critics would probably be more kind to him today, especially if he’d beaten Kovalev, something that doesn’t exactly look like an impossibility when looking back at the proposed match-up.

Against Ward and Alvarez, Kovalev showed susceptibility to a determined attack, particularly to the body. In his penultimate fight against “The Ripper” Jack, Stevenson put the kind of hurt on Badou’s body late in the fight that may have been very difficult for Kovalev to overcome.

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

How should Stevenson be viewed in the light of light heavyweight history? Keep in mind that not everybody was so thrilled to get in the ring with him. Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez spoke for years of facing him “in the future” but in the end it was all just talk. After Rodriquez was knocked out by Williams Jr. in 2016, Williams Jr. was knocked out by Stevenson three months later.

Though he’ll never be rated as one of the all-time greats in the weight class, Stevenson should be recognized for what he actually was. Not just a champion, Stevenson was THE champion.

He beat the man who beat Bernard Hopkins. He was a one-punch power puncher, an action fighter, a defending world champion until he could defend that world championship no more.

Along the way, Stevenson picked up a Fighter of the Year award in 2013 while many of his knockouts were considered Knockout of the Year candidates. He was the WBC light heavyweight champion for sixty-six months, an unusually long time in today’s watered-down era of weight jumping and belt dumping. He retained his world title nine times, with only Bika, Fonfara, and Jack going the distance. Stevenson’s final record is 29-2-1 with 24 KO’s.

DOOMSDAY CLOCKED

And so with the Teddy Atlas trained Gvozdyk beating him senseless in the corner last December, boxing’s ultimate kryptonite (time) finally caught up to Superman Stevenson but not before the Haitian sensation made his improbable impact on the modern boxing landscape.

Stevenson Gvozdyk Wescott 770x513

Stevenson’s desire to become a boxing champion probably saved his life while his desire to remain a boxing champion nearly cost him his life. We don’t yet know the final butcher’s bill.

What we do know is that Stevenson has had to relearn how to walk and talk. That’s how unpredictable and ironic this sport is: a PBC fighter supposedly protected by Al Haymon was nearly killed by an undefeated Ukrainian clearly up to the challenge of fighting (and beating) him.

Last week Stevenson uploaded a video on Instagram. He’s seen in the gym, moving on his feet, wearing a pair of pink boxing gloves while lightly working over a heavy bag as fiance Simone God and their new daughter Adonia look on. “I love you,” posted God to her miraculous man.

To review: Stevenson Adonis escaped his dying homeland before it imploded. He then crash-landed in Canada where he was adopted by the Canadian people. He did the crime(s) then he did the time; paying whatever debt he owed to society for his transgressions. He won and lost his battles by the power of his own fists. As a human being, he is truly transformed.

“Superman” Stevenson is dead.

Long live Adonis Stevenson…

EDITOR’S NOTE: After receiving this story, yet another boxer suffered a serious head injury. Patrick Day, a 27-year-old junior middleweight from Freeport, New York, was knocked out by Charles Conwell in the tenth-round last night on the Usyk-Witherspoon undercard and is now fighting for his life in a Chicago area hospital where he has been placed in a medically induced coma. On behalf of the entire editorial staff at The Sweet Science, I’d like to offer our thoughts and prayers for Day’s full recovery.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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