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Words In, Words Out: This Fight Scribe’s Reading Guide

Jeffrey Freeman

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Words In, Words Out: This Fight Scribe’s Reading Guide

Happy New Year 2020 to the TSS community!

It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived at this point in the future. So many of yesterday’s top boxing writers and boxing media outlets are gone but not forgotten.

Wordsmiths like Pat Putnam and Joe Rein are no longer with us. The glory days of Max Boxing and other internet start-ups have passed. Newspaper writers like Boston’s own Ron Borges are harder and harder to access as print media recedes from view. It’s a new decade and my sights are set on the best of today.

As evidenced by their yearly haul of BWAA Bernie Awards, your choice to read and frequent The Sweet Science is smartly based on both quality AND quantity. This is a space where professional boxing journalism is still being done by real pros.

Thank you for being here.

My sincere thanks also to fellow writers Arne Lang, David Avila, Ted Sares, Kelsey McCarson—and the two Matts. You fellas have set a good example and you’ve set a standard for others like myself to follow.

Special congratulations to TSS colleagues Bernard Fernandez and Thomas Hauser for their recent, well-earned election to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota. To any true fistic journalist, BFern and Hauser (as they’re called) are the best examples of what to do and how to do it.

“There are two elements required to produce a quality boxing story,” explains Fernandez. “One is the writing. The other is the depth and accuracy of the reporting, the detail stuff. Thomas Hauser not only writes elegantly, demonstrating a mastery of the language, but he digs as deep as anyone to ensure that his copy includes every pertinent and verifiable bit of information.”

A very well-spoken boxer recently thanked me for the diligence I put into telling his story on TSS. I didn’t watch him train in the gym or spend any time with him in his dressing room before a big fight. But I did do my homework. I owe every fighter that much. It is the high bar set by new Hall of Famers Hauser and Fernandez that challenges me to write and report at their level.

There is a well-read soft-cover copy of Mr. Hauser’s famous book Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times in my bathroom in Maine. My favorite scene in Rocky Balboa is when Fernandez (playing himself) tells the panel on ESPN, including Bert Randolph Sugar, that Mason Dixon “never had to dig down to rally back” and that he doesn’t have a big enough shovel anyway.

Apparently, Fernandez wrote his own line of dialogue about that shovel and ad-libbed it into the 2006 film. The director liked it. “I facetiously asked if that would get me a screenwriting credit.”

THE WRITE STUFF

In 2018, only Boxing News and ESPN (led by investigative reporter Mark Kreigel) outdid The Sweet Science in the annual BWAA writing contest participated in by its members. The popular Boxing Scene tied TSS for third place.

No lightweight in the industry, Boxing Scene publishes respected writers such as Cliff Rold and Lyle Fitzsimmons but the hyper-busy website actively flips the notion of quality over quantity. Other news outlets finishing in the top ten included The Sporting News, RingTV (the online face of The Ring magazine), The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, and Sports Illustrated.

If I’m not writing about boxing, I am reading about it. Or watching it. For every single word I write, a hundred or more must be read. Words in, words out, see? But where exactly do I find fighting words worth reading in 2020? Here are a few of my sources, laid bare for your examination.

The list is by no means exhaustive but it is an honest accounting of who I read where. These are the sites and writers I turn to when there’s nothing fresh to consume and digest on TSS.

Springs Toledo: This North End Bostonian is the best boxing writer in the world, word-for-word. I read Toledo wherever I can find him. His old-fashioned books are meticulously researched and flow like poetry. His columns and features are recognized with Bernie Awards year after year. An exceptional contributor at TSS and elsewhere, Toledo’s real baby is his boxing ratings program, the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board. I enjoy the site’s feedback page more than its top tens. It is here that Toledo answers his critics and tries to make sense of his decisions.

The Fight City: Appropriately based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, The Fight City online offers its readers a “literary edge that embraces this brutal, cruel, glorious, heartbreaking sport in all its facets.” Featuring bylines from Lee Wylie and Ralph E. Semein, the site updates frequently enough to keep me coming back looking for another insightful column or new quality feature. While I wait, I gladly take in their many Top Twelve lists and fleshed out historical flashbacks.

Ringside Seat: Boasting a murderers’ row of “old guard” fight writers including Nigel Collins, Steve Farhood, Ivan Goldman, Carlo Rotella, Don Stradley and Eric Raskin, Ringside Seat is an e-mag designed to “provide boxing fans with a product unlike any other currently available.” For six bucks you can download the latest issue or any one of their exquisitely designed eight back issues; all of which feature thoughtful cover art and the typical trappings of a magazine.

Hannibal Boxing: Joseph Santoliquito (current BWAA President) recently joined a packed staff of contributors that’s already loaded with heavy hitters like Carlos Acevedo, Tris Dixon, and Frank Lotierzo. Hannibal Boxing regulars Sean Nam and Jimmy Tobin are also excellent writers. Boston based Hamilcar Publications, the book publishing division of Hannibal Boxing, offers a line of boxing titles in print (a few of them were reviewed here) with several more forthcoming in 2020.

NYFights: This relatively new website of former TSS editor-in-chief Michael Woods placed fourth in the latest BWAA writing contest. I go there for the TalkBox podcasts with Woodsy & Guests but end up staying for the Commissioner’s Corner columns by New York State boxing icon Randy Gordon. Stick around a bit longer and you might develop a taste for their man on the streets John Gatling.

 

groves

Honorable Mentions: The RingTV website ain’t what it used to be but I still enjoy the Travelin’ Man reports penned by one of the friendliest people in boxing, Lee Groves (pictured above). If friendly fun is all you’re really looking for, check out the reimagined Ring Magazine under creative editor-in-chief Douglas Fischer the next time you’re stuck at an airport or sitting in a Barnes & Noble. The retro covers and the cool content reflect his true love of the fight game. And with HBO Boxing gone but not forgotten, I don’t read as much Kieren Mulvaney as in years past, but what a writer.

Photo: 2020 IBHOF inductees Thomas Hauser and Bernard Fernandez flank BWAA president Joseph Santoliquito. Photo compliments of Joseph Santoliquito.

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.

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Don Dunphy:  Simply the Best

Ted Sares

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Don Dunphy once said, “When two or more people do blow by blow….they overtalk and emphasize too much.” He was responding in 1996 to the issue of modern television’s insistence on multiple announcers at ringside.

Don was unique. He a clear, no-nonsense delivery, “pungent phrasing,” and just the right sense of drama (without faking it). His voice was crystal-clear with a noirish tang of his New York City roots.

Dunphy’s distinct and informative style was not limited to boxing, but boxing was his thing – his signature sport, marked by his election to ten halls of fame (Don was 90 when he passed away in 1998).

Dunphy called the blow-by-blow for more than 2000 fights, 200 or so for titles and 50, or thereabouts, for the heavyweight championship. It was his nasal-voiced staccato style that gave him unique status among announcers back in the day. (I dearly liked Jimmy Powers but I loved Don as his clear voice made following a fight an easy and enjoyable experience on the radio. Win Elliott filled in nicely between rounds.)

Don Dunphy was boxing” – Marv Albert

Don was the master of brevity. He would allow long periods of time to pass without saying anything, interjecting just enough to add to the drama and not interrupt it. He was indeed the golden voice of boxing. His announcing style was like a well-timed left hook, short and crisp.

More importantly, Don never let himself become the focus. It was never about him.

His first blow-by-blow broadcasts came in 1939, but his fame came two years later when the Gillette Razor Company began its marvelous Friday night tradition.

Here’s what Don’s son, Bob, had to say during a telephone conversation: “My father had tremendous respect for the fighters and he always knew what his role was in relation to the event. On radio broadcast that was to give a total blow by blow description of what was happening in the ring. On TV he felt it was unnecessary to repeat what the viewer could see for himself and looked to call attention to what was not so obvious. Simply put, nobody did it better.

Don was Boxing’s answer to Baseball’s Mel Allen.

Along with ring announcer Johnny Addie who never used fake or manufactured enthusiasm, timekeeper Fred Abbatiello, and judge Artie Aidala, the fans were treated to the very best. As much as Dunphy knew about boxing, he never came across as if he knew more than his audience. He made us feel that we were all enjoying the fights together.

Compared with Don Dunphy, the screamers of today are sometimes like a bunch of guys in the front row standing up on every occasion and blocking the view. Unlike these shrill announcers (some of whom have been very fine like Jim Lampley who is one of the most intelligent, humble, and accessible boxing announcers you will ever meet), Dunphy gave viewers only the information they needed. He was a host first and, as the fights unfolded, his calls punctuated the drama.

I grew up listening to Dunphy. He was very much a part of my childhood. His voice, the Gillette jingle, Johnny Addie and peripheral figures like trainer Whitey Bimstein will always be among the highlights and fond memories of my life.

Don Dunphy was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Noted Boxing Buffs Name Their Favorite Boxing Book

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 If you happen to have a lot of time on your hands (and, unfortunately, many of us do) this might be a good time to cuddle up with a good book. If you are like us, you promised yourself that you would get acquainted with a particular author, but somehow never found the time. Well, now just may be the right time to fulfill that promise.

And it just so happens that we have a ready-made list of recommendations.

In August of 2017, TSS writer Ted Sares reached out to more than two dozen noted boxing buffs and asked them to name their favorite boxing book. Many felt compelled to name more than one, which was fine with us. We thought this would be a good time to re-visit Ted’s survey.

Yes, we know that bookstores and libraries are closed right now throughout most of the English-speaking world, but almost every title can be found on Amazon and some of the classics – even books prized by collectors – can be acquired very cheaply from independent online booksellers who specialize in used books. Their ranks have mushroomed in recent years.

We listed Ted’s correspondents alphabetically by their last name. Here are their picks:

JIM AMATO (writer, historian): A.J. Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.”

RUSS ANBER (elite trainer, corner man, and TV personality): “Joe Louis -Black Hero in White America” by Chris Mead. I remember reading this from cover to cover, unable to put it down. Others: “The Greatest Fight of Our Generation” by Lewis A. Erenberg, “The Sixteenth Round” by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, “Beyond Glory” by David Margolick.

JOE BRUNO (former New York Tribune sportswriter; author of more than 45 crime-related books, including true crime, novels and screenplays): AJ Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.”

TRACY CALLIS (eminent boxing historian, writer, and journalist): Seven come quickly to mind. I love to read about boxing so I like almost any book about the game.

“A Man among Men” by Kelly Richard Nicholson

“Chicago’s Greatest Sportsman” by Mark T. Dunn

“Hitters, Dancers and Ring Magicians” by Kelly Richard Nicholson

“In the Ring with Bob Fitzsimmons” by Adam Pollack

“In the Ring with James J. Jeffries” by Adam Pollack

“The Choynski Chronicles” by Chris LaForce

“Ultimate Tough Guy” by Jim Carney Jr.

STEVE CANTON (A member of the International Boxing Research Organization, Steve has been involved in every aspect of boxing for more than 52 years): There are so many excellent boxing books. “Only The Ring Was Square” by Teddy Brenner with Barney Nagler was outstanding. “Bummy Davis vs. Murder Inc.” by Ron Ross, “Boxing Babylon” by Nigel Collins, just to name a few.

WILLIAM DETLOFF (former amateur boxer, author, editor of Ringside Seat magazine): I’ll go with Liebling’s “The Sweet Science.” Wiley’s anthology is certainly up there. It’s underrated.

JILL DIAMOND (boxing writer, official, and matchmaker): BOX: “The Face of Boxing” by Holgar Keifel because I love a good photography book. “Four Kings” by George Kimball. In fiction, “The Harder They Fall” by Budd Schulberg. There are so many others.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ (boxing writer and lifetime member of the BWAA): It’s a tough call. There are a lot of good ones floating around, but I’ll go with John Schulian’s “Writers’ Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists.” But then I’m kind of biased as John, a colleague of mine for a time at the Philadelphia Daily News, is a friend.

IVAN GOLDMAN (ex-Washington Post and LA Times newspaperman, boxing writer, novelist): I humbly submit my novel “The Barfighter” for consideration.

Dr. MARGARET GOODMAN (President of VADA, former Nevada boxing official, neurologist, author): Actually my novel “Death in Vegas” is my favorite book as it tells the truth about the sport via thinly-veiled fiction. Writing it was very cathartic.

LEE GROVES (boxing writer, author): If I had to pick one, it would be “McIlvanney on Boxing” by Hugh McIlvanney. Anytime I want to get a booster shot of excellent, muscular prose, that’s what I read. The two A.J. Liebling books “The Sweet Science” and “The Neutral Corner” also provide inspiration.

KEVIN IOLE (Yahoo combat sports writer): I loved “The Fight” by Norman Mailer, which I found to be a well-reported, gripping tale of one of the seminal events of my youth. I also loved “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times” by Thomas Hauser and “Fight of the Century” by Michael Arkush.

MIGUEL ITURRATE (TSS writer and Senior Archivist at The Boxing Channel): I really enjoy the history books, especially biographies. Battling Nelson’s autobiography is a good one. I also really enjoyed “Muldoon: The Solid Man of Sport” by Edward Van Every.

Dr. STUART KIRSCHENBAUM (former amateur boxer; co-founder National Association of Boxing Commissioners): “Empire of Deceit” by Dean Allison. It’s a fascinating true story of the Wells Fargo Bank embezzlement by boxing promoter Harold Smith. I had dealings with him while I was the head of the boxing commission in Michigan. He promoted several Kronk championship fights. Cast of characters include Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hearns, and a who’s who of that era. Only in America and only in boxing… crime does pay.

HAROLD LEDERMAN (famous boxing judge, member of HBO team, and 2016 IBHOF inductee): “All Time Greats Of Boxing” by Peter Arnold is my favorite boxing book because it’s a great book.

FRANK LOTIERZO: (TSS writer emeritus): I can’t pick a favorite….so I’ll give you a few of my favorites that I’ve read this summer. “In This Corner” by Peter Heller which I read for the third time; “Sugar Ray Robinson” with Dave Anderson, “Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope” by Richard Bak, “Hard Luck: The Triumph and Tragedy of Jerry Quarry” by Steve Springer and Blake Chavez

ARNE LANG (historian, author, editor-in-chief of The Sweet Science): Many years ago I stumbled on a book called “Bella of Blackfriars” in a used book store in Carlsbad, California. Bella was Bella Burge, the widow of Dick Burge, an English middleweight champion who went to prison for eight years in a massive bank fraud. From her husband’s death in 1918 until 1940, Bella ran “The Ring,” a boxing house in a circular building on Blackfriars Road in London that was originally an Anglican chapel. I would liken “The Ring” to the Olympic Auditorium in LA. It didn’t get the biggest fights but housed many important fights and attracted a loyal clientele that included some salty characters. I found the book a great window into the world of boxing in London. By the way, The Ring had fallen on hard times when it was reduced to rubble by the German Luftwaffe in 1940. I never tire of reading A.J. Liebling, whether he’s writing about boxing or Louisiana politics or whatever. I read Liebling for pleasure and also in hopes that some of his skill as a wordsmith will rub off on me but it never has.

RON LIPTON (world class referee): I enjoyed “Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula” and “Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal,” both by Adeyinka Makinde, and the Rocky Graziano biography “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Also, anything by Ted Sares, Springs Toledo, Mike Silver, and William Detloff.

GORDON MARINO (philosophy professor, Wall Street Journal boxing writer, trainer): I guess I would go with Carlo Rotella’s “Cut Time” and Roger Kahn’s “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20’s.”

ROBERT MLADINICH (former NYPD police detective, author, boxing writer): “Writers, Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists” by John Schulian. It is a collection of his columns from the Chicago Sun-Times and there is not a weak story in the batch. He is a master storyteller and my favorite boxing writer. I also immensely enjoyed “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink” by David Margolick for its historical and social significance and the underrated but exceptional “Weigh-In: The Selling of a Middleweight” by title challenger Fraser Scott.

TED SARES (TSS writer) Ralph Wiley’s “Serenity: A Boxing Memoir.” I also enjoyed Mike Silver’s “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” for the primary reason that it stirred up a lot of much needed debate between Old School and New School.

JOHN SCULLY (elite trainer, former world title challenger): My favorite boxing book is one that I believe to be one of the greatest books ever written on the inside of boxing called “The Black Lights” by Thomas Hauser. It was actually sent to me by Mike Jones back in 1988 when he was trying to sign me to a professional contract. He sent me the book I assumed as a way to show me how he deals in the boxing game as it is centered around his fighter, Billy Costello. It is a truly great book.

MIKE SILVER (boxing historian; author): I could easily name at least a dozen truly outstanding boxing books that are my favorites, but if asked to name just one I would place David Margolick’s “Beyond Glory Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink” in the top spot. Another all-time favorite is the great Nat Fleischer’s “50 Years at Ringside.”

CARYN A. TATE (boxing writer) While it encompasses more than boxing, Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” is probably my favorite book on combat. The book is filled with priceless instruction that is relevant and insightful. Lee was a great admirer of many Western boxers and incorporated some of their techniques into the martial art he founded. More than just an instruction manual, the book fuses technique with philosophy and real world psychology. The book shows that Lee was on the same page with great minds in boxing like Emanuel Steward and Cus D’Amato.

BRUCE TRAMPLER (Top Rank matchmaker; a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame): Off the top of my head, “The Professional” by W.C. Heinz, “Fat City” by Leonard Gardner, “A Boxing Companion” by Richard O’Brien, “Only The Ring Was Square,” and “James Norris and the Decline of Boxing” by Barney Nagler.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS: (boxing writer, blogger and “Master of the Beltway”): I have two. Jack Newfield’s “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King” is one of the great investigative books of all time. It was riveting. Also, Brad Berkwitt’s “Boxing Interviews of a Lifetime.” I love the range of people — in and out of the sport — that he interviews in the book.

PETER WOOD: (former boxer, author): My favorite iconic boxing books are “The Sweet Science” by A.J. Liebling and “The Harder They Fall” by Budd Schulberg. My favorite non-fiction boxing books are “Weigh-In” by Fraser Scott; “In This Corner” by Peter Heller, “Atlas” by Teddy Atlas, and “The Raging Bull” by Joseph Carter and Peter Savage. My favorite fictional boxing books are “My Father’s Fighter” by Ronald K. Fried and “The Professional” by W.C. Heinz.

Special Mention goes to “Flash Gordon’s 1970 East Coast Boxing Yearbook” with Johnny Bos and Bruce Trampler. My all-time favorite boxing autobiography is “Confessions of a Fighter” by Peter W. Wood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Several interesting books have been published since Ted Sares conducted this survey. A new publishing house in Boston, Hamilcar Publications, released several boxing books, both hardcover and paperback, with more on the way. One of Hamilcar’s initial offerings was a reprint of Donald McRae’s 1997 opus “Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing,” which many consider one of the best boxing books of all time. The Hamilcar edition, with a new chapter by the author, clocks in at 552 pages.

Each year during the holiday season, Hall of Fame boxing writer Thomas Hauser publishes a list of what he considers the best books on boxing. It’s a long list. Here’s a recent compilation.

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

David A. Avila

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

Not all prizefighters are built or fight the same. This is a series devoted to those who mastered the art of boxing.

Meet Sergio Mora the “Latin Snake”.

Thumping neighborhood boys in an East Los Angeles backyard led to eventually winning a reality television tournament called The Contender, to winning a world championship and now sitting as an expert analyst for DAZN’s boxing series.

It’s been an extraordinary journey for Mora, the boxer from East L.A. who traded punches against neighbors and relatives as a teen for fun.

“We called it barbecue boxing,” said Mora of his inauspicious discovery of his talent. “We used to box each other when I was a kid in junior high. We made videos of the fights. You can look it up. I was knocking out older guys.”

A few boxing experts advised that he should look deeper into the sport and he did. After a few hits and misses looking for a gym, he found a perfect location at a Montebello gym. He hooked up with a trainer named Dean Campos and advisor in John Montelongo and they made history together.

“I owe it all to Dean and John,” said Mora now 39.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Mora’s natural abilities included quickness, agility and the ability to absorb punishment. He also relished competition and proving others wrong.

But the East L.A. youngster finally put all of his traits together artistically when he followed the advice of the young trainer Campos whose radical boxing ideas fit perfectly.

“Nobody believed in his unorthodox ideas but they worked for me,” said Mora.

For several years Mora and Campos and Montelongo befuddled the amateur competition, first in Southern California and then nationally. He made the semi-finals of the 2000 Olympic Trials and fought to a draw with Darnell Wilson. Somebody decided to determine the winner by who threw the most punches. Wilson threw more punches and moved forward.

It was a severe disappointment for Mora.

The Contender

After three years of dwelling in the amateur boxing world Mora and his team entered the non-structured prizefighting universe not knowing what to expect.

Though Campos taught an unorthodox style of fighting to Mora, the youngster didn’t feel confident in using its assets to full capacity in the beginning.

“It wasn’t until I fought a guy named Charles Blake that I used everything that Dino (Campos) taught me,” said Mora who fought the undefeated Blake at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim in 2001. “I did everything he told me and I won pretty easily.”

It was also the first time I spotted Mora and quickly determined he would be difficult to beat especially with that fighting style that utilized his speed and agility. I had never seen or heard of Mora before but he stood out.

Two months later he fought again at the Pond and then in June 2001 he fought a hard-charging opponent named Warren “War Dog” Kronberger. It was a middleweight fight set for six rounds but War Dog kept running into Mora’s punches and was stopped in three.

After the fight I met the team and discovered Mora was from East L.A. near my family’s home. I don’t know if he remembers, but I told him he was going to be a world champion someday. It was the first time I ever said that to a fighter though I had been a boxing reporter since 1985.

For the next several years Mora kept knocking off opposition with his crouching tiger style and soon a television production company came calling. Actually, it was a radio announcement during a morning Hip Hop show calling for all boxers interested in making $1 million dollars in a television tournament.

“I was driving in the morning listening to Big Boy when he made the announcement,” said Dean Campos who trains Mora. “I couldn’t believe what I heard and I told Sergio and John about it. They didn’t believe me at first until we went to San Diego to spar somebody and they asked if we were going to try out.”

A reality television show called the Contender pit young talented fighters against each other and housed them together in a studio-made home. Week by week the NBC network telecast the show to millions of living rooms across the country.

After months of auditions and tryouts Mora was among those selected.

Filming was done in Pasadena and those prizefighters who participated were Peter Manfredo Jr., Ishe Smith, Alfonso Gomez, Jesse Brinkley and several others including Mora.

The fights were taped and later shown to the public in edited form. But few outside of the production crew knew who the winners were for many weeks. The finals of the first season took place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The winner would take home $1 million dollars and a free truck among other things including a promotion deal.

Fans of boxing did not like watching edited fights but despite the many criticisms from hardcore fans, when the finals took place on May 24, 2005, thousands of fans showed up in Las Vegas to watch Manfredo battle Mora in the championship fight.

Manfredo’s fans arrived in droves and shouted “Pi-Ta!” “Pi-Ta” which confused many who were not familiar with the New England accent. Manfredo fans were shouting the first name Peter but it comes out as Pi-Ta. Southern California fans arrived but were muted in comparison to the East Coast fans.

It was a surprise to see Manfredo in the semi-final because he had lost earlier to Alfonso Gomez. But he returned as a wild card participant and vanquished his way to the finals against Mora who had defeated Najai Turpin, Ishe Smith, and Jesse Brinkley to get to the finals.

In the finals the boisterous crowd saw Mora defuse Manfredo’s attacks and win the seven-round middleweight The Contender championship fight by unanimous decision. Mora went from unknown boxer to a nationally and internationally recognized prizefighter in not just the boxing world, but households everywhere.

The East L.A. youngster who was 24 years old at the time, suddenly morphed from impoverished boxer to bankable fighter. His team also benefited from the massive exposure. It also remained the same three members from start to finish with Dean Campos serving a trainer and manager, John Montelongo as assistant trainer and benefactor and Mora the fighter.

“Rolando Arrellano who worked as a manager and promoter said he couldn’t believe we had been together that long with no changes,” said Campos, who managed Mora’s fighting career without a written contract. “Nobody else does that, but we never wrote anything down.”

Montelongo, a motorcycle police officer, always took care of the team’s needs especially in terms of equipment and facilities. In the beginning Mora would train at the Montebello Police headquarters small gym.

Forrest, Mosley and More

For several years Mora continued fighting under the Contender promotions banner and always sought better competition. After a 10-round draw against Elvin Ayala in Carson, the East L.A. native decided to accept any world title match.

“I didn’t want to slip up so I figured let’s just go for a big fight,” said Mora. “That’s when we got the offer for Vernon Forrest, may he rest in peace.”

When the fight was announced only two boxing writers picked Mora to win. Those two were the only journalists familiar with the boxing abilities of the stance switching fighter. It was not seen as a competitive fight by other writers or announcers.

“Vernon Forrest really under-estimated me,” said Mora who had sparred Forrest once at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood years earlier. “It was my one of my most satisfying wins because I proved I was good enough to beat one of the best.”

Mora utilized his crouching style to perfection and basically stymied most of Forrest’s attacks. Though it appeared the East L.A. boxer won clearly, one judge saw it a draw but two saw Mora out-performing the champion.

After capturing the WBC super welterweight title Mora went on a celebration binge according to his own words. Three months later they fought again.

“We had a rematch clause and I partied too much,” said Mora. “I was in no way ready for Vernon Forrest in the second fight. He beat me good in the rematch.”

Two years later Mora accepted a fight against Sugar Shane Mosley at the Staples Center on September 2010. It remains the biggest disappointment in Mora’s career.

Mosley and Mora battled 12 rounds in a slow-moving battle in which both engaged in counter-punching. There was a weight problem Mora suffered that resulted in him weighing 157 pounds instead of the 154 contracted weight.

“There was something wrong with the scale in the hotel for the B side of the fight card,” said Mora. “Almost everyone on the B-side missed their weight.”

Regardless of losing weight before the fight, Mora felt he was far enough ahead in the fight to win handily against Mosley.

“I should have listened to my corner,” said Mora. “Dino told me that I needed to throw more punches, that it could be a close fight. But I thought I was comfortably ahead. It was a huge mistake on my part. I lost a lot of money because of it.”

Sergio measures Shane

Sergio measures Shane

After 12 rounds the fight was scored a split-decision draw. The HBO commentators eviscerated Mora and not Mosley.

Mora remained a viable contender for the remainder of his career and on August 2015 he was offered a shot at the WBA middleweight title against Daniel Jacobs at Brooklyn, New York. He eagerly accepted the fight.

“He really underestimated me and thought he would run over me,” said Mora of their clash at Barclays Center. “He knocked me down with a punch. I’ve never been hit that hard before. But then I knocked him down when he ran into my punch. It was a perfectly placed left hook.”

The fight proceeded but in the second round the two middleweights got entangled and Mora went down to the floor writhing in pain from a severe ankle injury. He could not go on.

“Jacobs leaned on me with his full body and it just tore my ligament,” said Mora.

The fight was ruled a knockout win for Jacobs and though they would meet again Mora’s leg had seen better days. He lost in the rematch badly a year later by technical knockout in the seventh round.

“I had no legs anymore,” said Mora regarding the rematch held a year later. “It was my worst training camp. I don’t think I ever looked good even in sparring. But Jacobs was the better man and was definitely the hardest puncher I ever faced.”

Mora fought once more against his old pal Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo. They had sparred many times over the years especially when they both trained at the same gyms in South El Monte and in Montebello.

“I love Angulo but it was a fight,” said Mora. “I won the first half of the fight and he won the second half of the fight. But fans will tell you it was one of the most entertaining fights I’ve ever been in.”

Mora won the fight that night on April 2018 and it was the final time Mora entered the prize ring.

DAZN

One day Mora received an unlisted phone call and answering it led to another change in his boxing life.

“I never answer unknown numbers but for some reason I answered it. I’m glad I did,” said Mora.

That phone call was from John Learing of Perform Group who wanted him as an analyst for the DAZN boxing series. They put Mora on a live broadcast for a prize fight and ever since that night he has been a regular analyst on DAZN’s boxing shows.

“It’s been one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had,” said Mora. “Not only do I get to stay in boxing, I love what I do and I love the challenges. It’s hard work and I’m learning every day.”

Mora has steadily established himself as an acute analyst whose own ring intelligence plays out with his new work as a boxing journalist. He’s always been a quick study especially when it pertains to the sweet science.

“Now I’m learning the other side of boxing,” said Mora who had 36 pro bouts in an 18-year career as a prizefighter. “I really love it.”

Few would have predicted that the East L.A. kid who didn’t pack a big punch would last in this business. Instead, Mora mastered the art of boxing that allowed him to match blows against some of the best that ever fought. And he won.

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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