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Proposals for Boxing Movies: Part Two (L-W) of Our Latest TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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The question for our final quarterly survey of 2019 was this: “If you were to make a boxing movie, what would the subject be? How might you title it (optional)?” This question touched a nerve with many of our respondents as it generated our best response ever; nearly 60 people made suggestions, some very detailed. The turnout dictated that we publish the results of the survey in two parts. If you missed Part One, check it out here.

JIM LAMPLEY– linchpin of the HBO announcing team for 31 years; 2015 IBHOF inductee: The heavyweight nineties, from Tyson-Spinks in ‘88 to Lewis-Tyson in ‘02, with all the characters and the crazy ups and downs that subject entails.

ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: The great sportswriter John Lardner authored two magazine pieces that are among the most anthologized stories in all of sports. His story about the Dempsey-Gibbons debacle in Shelby, Montana, ran in the The New Yorker in 1948. Lardner’s profile of Stanley Ketchel, the Michigan Assassin, appeared in True magazine in 1954. Both have the makings of excellent movies. If forced to choose, I might go with “Shelby.” This would be the perfect vehicle for George Roy Hill who directed “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, Mr. Hill is deceased.

JIMMY LANGE — former fighter and promoter: I’d do a movie about a professional “opponent”…. someone who is a legit pro who knows he is brought in to lose. Not a fixed fight but a fight to help a prospect along. There are many interesting journeymen like Emanuel Augustus, Gerald Reed, Bruce “The Mouse” Straus, Reggie Strickland and hundreds more. This also would provide insight into the business of boxing.

RON LIPTON — member of NJ Boxing Hall of Fame, former fighter, retired police officer; pro referee: The movie I want to be made is one that WILL be made on my book still in progress, which is private and copyrighted intellectual property. Part of my book embraces the visceral behind-the-scenes accounts of my career as a referee in professional boxing, what I have witnessed as to what influences the assignment making process in big fights, the politics involved and how it has influenced the outcome of the big fights, along with in-the-ring experiences. There is also an interest in a separate high-profile documentary as to the actual boxing backgrounds of the people involved, how they arrived in that position and how they personally handled it. All on invulnerable legal ground buttressed with actual film footage.

PAUL MAGNO — author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: There are lots of movies to be made, lots of interesting characters and stories. I’ve always imagined, though, a great movie coming from the life and times of “The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus. What a character, what a career! I’d want the movie to touch on everything—fixes, robberies, triumphs, and the real-life battles of a fighter who never had the “right” connections and who kept getting pulled to the side of the road on his ride to the top.

DON MAJESKI — matchmaker, historian and affiliated with RING 8 and the NYSBHOF: I’d do a movie about Joe Gans. He was considered, by many, as greatest lightweight of the first half of the 20th Century and on par with Duran, Benny Leonard and the undefeated Packey McFarland as the greatest lightweight of all time. His bout with Battling Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada was one of the most historically significant in boxing. It was a $40,000 promotion where film rights were essential to the gate and it ushered in the career of Tex Rickard. He was victimized by racism, was involved in a notorious alleged “fix” against Terry McGovern, was the highest paid athlete in America at one point and died at the age of 37 – one of the most revered boxers of all time.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEU.K. barrister, author and contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing: I’d make a movie on Frankie DePaula, the Jersey City-born pugilist who was murdered in 1970. It would be a stunning, true-life drama of hubris, corruption, betrayal, and murder set against the backdrop of the sport of boxing and the world of the Mafia. DePaula was the archetypal juvenile delinquent; a kid from “Dead End” who is good-looking and charismatic. A street fighter cum pro-boxer who numbers Sinatra among his admirers. Frankie Valli and Joe Namath are close friends. But he’s a tortured soul and prone to trouble. Add in the mix a cast of characters such as the Humphrey Bogart-look-a-like priest who seeks to reform the adolescent wastrel, the physically irresistible ‘Mafia Princess’ who effortlessly lures him to his doom, ‘Jimmy Nap’, the gambling kingpin who is a force in the boxing world in the 1960s, and FBI agents who probe his involvement in a fixed world title bout and we have a dramatic rendition of the ‘American Dream’ gone wrong. Based on the book “JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula,” a movie would bear the raw components of “Rocky” meets “Raging Bull” on the “Mean Street(s)” of Jersey City.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI — boxing writer and author, Mr. “Biofile”: “Andrew Golota: The Uncrowned Champion.” A Don King quote after the Ruiz and Byrd robberies. A fascinating, intriguing character in and out of the ring. Maybe the understatement of the decade.

LARRY MERCHANT– HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’d want a feature-length documentary on Tyson Fury. His life as an Irish Traveler (gypsy), raised in a clan of fighters. His professional career, climaxed by fights vs. W. Klitschko and D. Wilder (including rematch to come). His problems after Klitschko: addiction, weight. His difficulty adapting to social norms of Britain after gaining fame. His big, colorful personality. His comeback.

ROBERT MLADINICH — writer, author, former fighter. I have two choices. One would be called “Hard Luck,” about the travels and travails of the fighting Quarry family. The second would be “Misdemeanor Homicide,” about the circumstances surrounding heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson shooting to death his manager, Rick “Elvis” Parker.

ERNEST MORALES (aka Geno Febus) — former fighter, writer: The events and controversy leading up to the one of boxing’s most famous and scariest knockouts of our time. Marquez vs Manny 4 and aftermath!! First a review of the rivalry, the three close/controversial endings, including the national pride and opinions of both countries and heritages before the fight. Then the AFTERMATH in the ring and dressing rooms, the scenes of the fighter, fans and Mexicans celebrating and the teams, fans and country in mourning after the final, forever-remembered fight.

HARRY OTTY – boxing historian; his newest book is “The Tragedy of the Hogue Twins”: I would have to go with Charley Burley – uncrowned welterweight and middleweight champion of the
world who campaigned from 1936 to 1950.

The life of Burley – who campaigned from 1936 to 1950 – is a great story. As a star amateur, he was
invited to box-off for a berth at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, he declined to take part due to the
racial and religious persecution taking part in Nazi Germany at the time. He attended an alternate event in Barcelona and ended up being one of the first Americans to be in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

Originally fighting out of Pittsburgh, Burley beat local favorites Fritzie Zivic (twice) and Billy Soose and fought many of the top black fighters of the day, including Archie Moore – dropping Archie three times en-route to a comfortable 10 round win in Hollywood in 1944.

Burley was avoided by many top-flight fighters as he was deemed a high-risk for a low reward. He eventually had to take on a job with the city and worked as a garbage man for many years. Burley was the
inspiration for Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson’s main character (Troy Maxon) in the play ‘Fences’  – recently made into a movie with Denzel Washington in the lead role.

CARLOS PALOMINO– former World Welterweight Champion and 2004 IBHOF inductee: I have a deal with a production Company to do my life story. The title is “Palomino.”

GENE PANTALONE — historian, writer and author of “Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero” Lew Jenkins: Lew Jenkins. Hall of Fame writer W.C. Heinz, who died in 2006, kept trying to get someone to do it, he thought Clint Eastwood would be best. Heinz was in touch with Jenkins’ family until the end. John Huston wanted to do it in the 60s. Also, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Garner met with Jenkins to discuss a movie, but it never happened.

DENNIS RAPPAPORT — former co-manager of Gerry Cooney, among others; elite promoter: These are just a few from the top of my head. The Hitman’s Son, the story of former heavyweight Jack O’Halloran, boxer, actor and son of Albert Anastasia. The Pearl of the Ghetto, the life and times of Benny Leonard. The Fighting Hobo, the Jack Dempsey Story, the Fighting Socialite, the Gene Tunney Story. The Collector, The Life and Death of Sonny Liston. Sweet as Sugar, The Ray Robinson Story. And from Hell And Back-The Orphan; The World Champion; The Scintillating Drama and The Return to Heartache, Heartbreak and Agony; that was The Living Nightmare—the Story of Saad Muhammad.

JOHN RASPANTI– lead writer/editor for MaxBoxing; author: A movie about the colorful and talented Billy Conn would be fantastic. Billy not only came close to beating Joe Louis, but fell in love at first sight, and also got into a fist fight with his future father-in-law! (among other things). Most people have forgotten that Billy was light heavyweight champion of the world. He beat Melio Bettina, Gus Lesnevich, Bob Pastor, Lee Savold and Tony Zale. His love affair with future and forever wife Mary was extraordinary. They were completely devoted to each other. His friendship with Louis endured till Louis passed away. His life had many ups and downs, but Conn fought till the end. ​​Carmine Vingo, who fought Rocky Marciano in 1949, and almost died, is also someone who’s a movie in the making. I’m likely going to write about him.

FRED ROMANO — boxing historian, author and former HBO Boxing consultant: A biography of Sugar Ray Robinson is long overdue. Perhaps the greatest boxer ever, he had a dynamic personality, and was also a WW 2 vet and a fair entertainer to boot. It defies logic as to why his story has not made it to the big screen. Although a couple of Louis films have been made, it has been a remarkable 65 years since the last. Like Robbie, his story is begging to be told by the modern filmmaker. Title would be “Pound for Pound.”

LEE SAMUELS — legendary Top Rank publicist; 2019 IBHOF inductee: A movie about Caesars Palace the Home of Champions – with mega fights held for years in a 24,000 outdoor arena headlined by Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hitman Hearns with Hagler vs Hearns arguably the best, most heated brutal action fight of our time. Title would be “Hail Caesar!”

TED SARES — TSS writer: Tony Veranis often sparred with Joe “The Baron” Barboza, Eddie “Bulldog” Connors, Jimmy Connors (Eddie’s brother), Rocco “Rocky” DiSiglio, George Holden, and Americo “Rico” Sacramone. Southie’s Tommy Sullivan also found his way into this mix. The thing about these guys was that in addition to being well known Boston area boxers, each was brutally murdered between 1966 and 1976. Tony was an extremely active fighter but also brash. He mouthed off once too often and was blown away by James Martorano-aka “The Basin Street Butcher.” The twists and turns in this one match those of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” Title: “The Friends of Tony Veranis.”

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY — all things in boxing: I’d like to see a movie about Alexis Arguello and his involvement in fighting against the powers in Nicaragua. Title: “The Humble Warrior”

PETER SILKOV — writer and keeper of “The Boxing Glove”: There are many untold stories in boxing and I think the film industry tends to go for the more mundane stories.  If I had to choose just one fighter for a biopic/film, it would be Matthew Saad Muhammad, and I’d call it something like ‘Saad: The Story of Boxing’s Miracle Fighter”…  close second would be Bobby Chacon “The School Boy”..

MIKE SILVER — author, historian: There is a great movie (documentary) to be made of my book, “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”–but I’d re-title it for the movies as, “What the Hell Happened to Boxing!”

ALAN SWYER — filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: I’d depict the life of a great boxer who was forced by politics to relocate to another country and reinvent himself from Cuban to Mexican, all the while demonstrating how and why boxing is called “The Sweet Science.” The man? Jose Napoles. The title? “Mantequilla.”

DON TRELLA — boxing Judge, member of CT Boxing Hall of Fame: I’d say Arturo Gatti. He was a fan favorite because of his lion sized heart in the ring. The ending of course would continue to leave us in suspense as to what really happened to end his life. Hard to believe that a fighter such as Gatti who never had any “quit” in him would take his own life. Maybe the title should be “Never Say Die – the Arturo Gatti Story”

HAROLD WESTON — former fighter and two-time world title challenger: Two people that a movie should be told: My “big brother” Emile Griffith and me, Harold Weston. Two great stories are there waiting to be filmed.

PETER WOODauthor, writer and former fighter: The film’s title: Broken Boxers. Two eight-year-old boys—innocent Raoul, (growing up in Tehran, Iran), and happy-go-lucky Jack, (growing up in Topeka, Kansas)—meet 15 years later in a boxing ring. Neither boy is still innocent or happy-go-lucky–or emotionally healthy. Why? Raoul is the victim of an American drone attack in Tehran, and Jack is the casualty of a heinous terrorist attack in Topeka.  Raoul is now missing half his left arm, and Jack is missing his right leg. Despite their grim handicaps, both boys were drawn to boxing in order to learn how to fight and, to purge the poison of anger, hate, fear and sadness within themselves. Two nations—and the entire world—watch as these two damaged, yet gallant men, advance to the finals of a bloody boxing match. The bell rings! At the end of the fight, these two broken boxers embrace each other, and become an inspiration to the world. Their fight, somehow, goes a long way to purge the political poison of anger, hate, fear in the world.

Observations: No particular fighter or story stood out although Mathew Saad Muhammad, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sam Langford, Alexis Arguello, and Arturo Gatti were mentioned more than once.

The seedy side of boxing (and the business of boxing) got its “due.” Bob Benoit’s response captured this dimension perfectly.

Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, a member of Ring 8, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). In 2019, he received Ring 10’s Harold Lederman Award for Historian. 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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