Connect with us

Featured Articles

Iran Barkley and Junior Jones: After the Final Bell, the Real Fight Began

Avatar

Published

on

Iran-Barkley-and-Junior-Jones-After-the-Bell-the-Real-Fight-Began

Iran Barkley and Junior Jones: After the Final Bell, the Real Fight Began

A TSS CLASSIC — The stifling heat of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn makes for an unforgiving environment, and it seems to be taking its toll on the grunting heavyweights sparring in the main ring.

A muscular black fighter, who has made fifteen professional outings and considerably outweighs his pale amateur opponent, is dominating the affair. With one minute remaining, the pro unleashes a sustained barrage of heavy hooks to his opponent’s
head. The despondent novice is backed into a corner and absorbs the blows with little resistance as his nose ruptures, turning his white face into a crimson mask.

Most ringsiders holler in approval at the striking power. But one observer is not impressed.

“Hey, hey, that’s not right, shouts Iran Barkley, a physically imposing 220-pound ex- pug that wears the remnants of a 63-fight career on a battle-scarred visage. “Sparring is about learning, not getting beat-up. Nobody gets anything out of a beating.

As the vanquished fighter exits the ring holding a claret-stained towel to his nose, he is approached by Barkley. “Yo, you’re not here to get beat-up, offers the three-time world champion. “Don’t let anyone do that to you. You have to look after yourself.

Barkley’s act of empathy contradicts his reputation as a malevolent slugger who held membership in New York’s violent Black Spades street gang.

After consoling the bloody novice, the 49-year-old Barkley strides with his head-down towards a treadmill to begin an hour-long exercise routine that includes calisthenics, weightlifting and shadowboxing.

Midway through the workout Barkley pauses to wipe the trickles of sweat from his shaven skull. His left eye is barely visible through a thick mass of tissue that overhangs his brow; an everlasting consequence of claiming world titles in three different weight
classes, ranging from middleweight [160 pounds] to light heavyweight [175 pounds].

“I like to work out as much as I can, he says. “I also work a few days a week helping out kids in a neighborhood in the Bronx. It gives me something to do.

*****
A bank worker’s attempts to casually ascend the steps from Manhattan’s Penn Station are stymied when an opposing swarm of rush-hour commuters surge down the stairway. His unassuming demeanor proves no match for the bustling horde and his slim frame quickly becomes lost in a wave of humanity.

There is an added element of chaos to the busy walkway on 34th street as noisy groups of hockey fans make their way towards Madison Square Garden. Big events at the fabled arena create a unique energy in the vicinity; energy this worker has experienced in a deeper sense than most.

A nose curved where it should be straight and flat where it was once curved alludes to Junior Jones’s former profession. He fought at the Garden on six occasions during a 56- bout prizefighting career; an occupation far removed from his current employment
in an administrative role at a New Jersey branch of the UBS financial services firm.

These days his work is conducted during daytime hours, but walking past the Garden rekindles memories of big nights at the fabled arena.

“It was such a rush fighting there in front of my hometown fans, says the Brooklyn-born Jones in a soft tone that belies the brashness of his surroundings. “But sometimes in the Garden I tried so hard to impress everybody that I got carried away.”

Inside the ring, Jones was often guilty of letting his emotions overrule rationale; yearning a spectacular knockout instead of utilizing his polished skills. Such an attitude helped him halt 28 of his opponents inside the distance and merit recognition as one of leading fighters of the mid-1990s. That mind-set also saw him suffer five knockout defeats that mark his 50-6 record.

Yet despite the turbulent nature of his former career, Jones has no ill-feeling towards the outcome of a 13-year pro tenure in which he won major world titles in the bantamweight [118 pounds] and junior featherweight [122 pounds] divisions.

“I don’t miss boxing and I’ve no real regrets, explains Jones matter-of-factly as he takes his seat in a Manhattan restaurant. “I know I did the best I could do and fought my heart out every time. I loved fighting and at times I overextended myself. But people come
to see a fight, not to see me run around the ring with my hands up. People pay good money.”

Smartly attired and perpetually understated, Jones seems to take greatest pleasure in talking about his two children and current job, making it difficult to believe he engaged in some of the last decade’s most exhilarating fights. And while his last professional contest was in 2002, he maintains an athletic build and looks younger than his 39 years.

“I work out at a gym I own in Brooklyn and I know that if I train hard, I still have enough left to beat a lot of the guys out there, he imparts with a wry smile.

Iran Barkley and Junior Jones share many similarities. Both fighters managed to distance themselves from street life in their respective deprived New York neighborhoods to achieve world titles and significant monetary rewards. The formative years were challenging for both men and each points to a sister as the catalyst for a boxing career.

“I was a skinny teenager and there was a big bully called the Bear who would steal kids’ money and sneakers,” recalls Barkley, who grew up in the menacing environs of the South Bronx Patterson housing projects. “I was really afraid of him but one day he ran
into my sister and he never touched us again.”

Barkley’s sister Yvonne was one of the pioneering professional female boxers and routinely defended her younger sibling. But a few years later Iran grew into a wild street fighter and became a valuable asset to the local gang. As his involvement with the Spades intensified, Yvonne appealed with Iran to turn his attention to boxing. He eventually heeded her pleas and after tasting amateur success developed a fanatical obsession with the sport.

“I trained non-stop,” Barkley says after completing 50 sit-ups on the floor of Gleason’s. “I worked so hard, obsessed to get my world title. When I look at some of my cousins who were dealing dope, now some of them are in prison for 30, 50 years or more, I feel
blessed I chose boxing and didn’t take that route.”

***
Jones’ sister was also an inspiration, albeit in a rather less benevolent manner. “My sister Renee used to beat the hell out of me, hit me with pots and pans, put me out on the fire escape with no clothes,” he reveals with a bashful smile. “People used to laugh that I couldn’t beat her up.”

Jones’s humiliation came to an end when he joined the Police Athletic League gym in Bushwick and eventually gained the respect his neighbors.

“It was rough where I grew up, but the older guys, hustlers and drug dealers got to know me and knew I was doing well at boxing, so I was protected,” he explains. “But I was never a follower. I was in the gym, I was travelling to competitions somewhere. I didn’t
have idle time.”

Jones had an exceptional ability to generate fierce punching power and earned distinction as a world titlist in 1993, overcoming Jorge Elicer Julio. But two consecutive upset defeats to relatively obscure journeymen severely damaged his standing. Even so, he worked his way back to contention and outscored future Hall of Fame entrant Orlando Canizales before being awarded a title opportunity against one of the era’s great fighters, Marco Antonio Barrera.

While many boxing observers rightly denounced Jones’s chances, the fighter retained the unwavering support of his long-time manager Gary Gittelsohn. In an uncommon attempt to instill confidence in his charge, Gittelsohn vowed to forsake his fee from Jones’s purse regardless of the fight’s outcome.

“I didn’t take the money because I always had confidence in Junior that he would win and go on to become a big star,” said Gittelsohn about his act that refutes the grubby reputation of boxing managers.

Jones ultimately repaid Gittelsohn with a rousing performance that resulted in a fifth- round disqualification victory when members of Barrera’s team entered the ring to rescue their dazed fighter. Jones subsequently proved the triumph was no accident by out-toughing Barrera in a rematch five months later.

That win would be the zenith of his achievements and was followed by inconsistent performances. Gittlesohn urged Jones to retire after a loss to Erik Morales in 1998 and again declined to take a management fee from his fighter’s check; this time without the
expectation of future remunerations. And even though Jones didn’t heed Gittlesohn’s pleas, he remembers with fondness the actions of his manager. “I was lucky to have him, remembers Jones. “He always stuck by me. I put the money I made away and invested it in trusts for the long-term. And now I’m not struggling financially, thank God.”

Back in the searing temperatures of Gleason’s, Barkley has just completed six minutes of shadowboxing and is walking towards a set of weight machines when he encounters the black heavyweight from the earlier sparring session. The young fighter, relaxing on a bench, calls out to Barkley.

“Hey man, I recognize you,” he yells. “I know your face.”

Barkley coldly nods his head at the fighter and keeps walking, perhaps disgruntled that his name is not remembered.

“Fighters these days,” remarks Barkley as he picks up a 20-pound dumbbell. “They’re not as tough today; fighting whoever they like. They have it easy, getting paid more and having easier fights.”

Money is a thorny issue with Barkley. Despite reaping an estimated $5 million during his prizefighting career, he now lives a meager existence in the same housing projects he grew up in. He cites a lack of financial knowledge as the cause of his current
predicament.

Barkley burst onto the global boxing scene in 1988 when he shockingly knocked out the much-vaunted Thomas Hearns for the middleweight title in one of the sport’s great upsets. And like Jones, Barkley vindicated his unexpected triumph by out-pointing
Hearns in a light heavyweight rematch four years later.

In between the battles with Hearns, Barkley suffered competitive defeats to some of the period’s elite fighters, most notably Roberto Duran, Michael Nunn and Nigel Benn. He also captured a super-middleweight world championship by overpowering Darrin Van
Horn.

But in another parallel to Jones’s career, Barkley’s second victory over Hearns proved to be his final significant pugilistic conquest. One year after that rematch, Barkley garnered $1 million for a one-sided loss to the exceptional James Toney. The subsequent six years saw Barkley traverse America and venture to Australia and Europe in search of paychecks on small-time promotions. He lost as many fights as he won and on many occasions weighed 60 pounds greater than the middleweight limit, as the competitive edge that once earned him the moniker “Blade” steadily dulled. In 1999, his final year as an active fighter, Barkley traveled to Finland to lose a 12-round decision in a pitiful spectacle against former WWE wrestler Tony Halme.

“I take some of the blame for my [current financial] situation, but not all of it,” contends Barkley. “Years ago, I just didn’t know what to do with money when I had it. My family never had much when I was growing up. I didn’t know how to save, how to invest it.”

While Jones had the watching eye of Gittlesohn, Barkley lacked such stable guidance and was under the management of various figures throughout his career. “I had to teach them how the boxing game worked,” Barkley claims.

“I learned that my only real friend is God,” he continues, with his eyes fixed on the grimy gym floor. “Everyone else will let you down in the end.”

Some of his money was invested in apartments and a car wash facility, but the ventures proved loss-making and after tax issues and two divorces his wealth evaporated.

“I don’t know where his money went,” says the owner of Gleason’s Gym, Bruce Silverglade. “But he always helped people out. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He has a heart of gold. Even today he’s always willing to talk at hostels and to kids.”

But such admirable efforts fail to pay the rent.

Barkley now lives in an apartment with his sister and nephew in the Patterson Houses. He lost two of his brothers to cancer and his sister is currently hospitalized after recently developing a long-term respiratory illness.

Earlier this summer Ring 8, a New York-based group that provides assistance to retired boxers, held a benefit dinner for Barkley, but he says the funds generated at the event have already been spent. He claims a return to prizefighting is the only long-term
answer to his financial problems and has informed the sport’s major promoters of his intentions. Thus far his approaches have been firmly dismissed.

“I can’t get a promoter yet,” he reveals. “But someone somewhere will promote me. I’ve no fear of boxing. I got through twenty years without getting hurt.”

At present there is no official financial aid package for retired prizefighters, but Barkley says he has been in touch with a number of politicians in New York with the goal of lobbying for a pension plan. “Look at everything I put into boxing,” he laments. “Ex-
fighters like me should be getting something. I want to have enough to provide for myself and my four daughters.”

Yet Barkley has been presented with multiple opportunities to find a new direction in his life. Post-retirement, he worked brief stints as a car salesman and shop assistant before getting bored with the roles. He also had the opportunity to train fighters, but admits he
found it difficult to relate to pupils that lacked the same tenacity he was renowned for in his prime.

“I want to work for myself and I’m not going to chase fighters around either,” he rasps. “I’m not calling a guy to make sure he comes to the gym. If they don’t have the same determination and commitment that I had then I’m not interested. I want to be able
to find and promote talent, but I have to get a lot of money together before I can do that.”

***

Changing careers can be a difficult endeavor, especially when a man has tasted the adoration that accompanies world championships and million dollar paydays. And as Junior Jones can attest, moving into an alien environment can be intimidating, even for a prizefighter.

“When I retired I’d never worked a day in my life, I was terrified of working,” Jones admits. Sitting in the noisy restaurant, he keenly pulls himself forward on his chair, eager to engage as his widening eyes oppose a subdued voice.

“I’ve got a great job and I like everybody there,” he says. “I really enjoy it. I don’t miss training. I don’t miss anything about fighting at all. I’ve done it at the highest level and I accomplished more than I ever expected to accomplish. What’s better than that?”

Superficially, two years of managing deposit slips and checks at a bank may not seem like the most stimulating time in Jones’ life, but the occupation seems to have provided him with a security that transcends wealth.

“You have to be comfortable who you are,” he says. “I like who I am now.”

Having sprayed a steak sandwich with mustard, Jones prepares to take a bite. But he abruptly becomes uncharacteristically agitated. The subject of aged fighters flouting retirement has just been raised. Jones puts down the sandwich, shakes his head and
exhales in vexation.

“It’s crazy for guys to be fighting past 40,” he says while stabbing his finger at the table. “The fighter knows when it’s over and it’s the fighters that make the sport bad too, not just the promoters. Some fighters like people telling him they’re going to win and get
back to the top.”

Jones retired days before his 32nd birthday after taking a sustained beating from unheralded journeyman Ivan Alvarez. Even though a fighter may leave his profession with faculties intact, the symptoms of punch-induced brain damage can take years to
appear. A variety of observers have expressed concern at the apparent decline in the clarity of Jones’ speech. His voice was never particularly voluble, but in recent years it does take greater effort to discern his sentences.

In contrast to Barkley’s dismissive approach, the physical costs of a boxing career do perturb Jones, whose pensive personality has led him to explore the worst possible scenario. His eyes look downward as he describes the brutal consequences of a
prizefighting vocation.

“You’re getting hit with an eight or ten ounce glove with a pair of [hand] wraps on and gauze and tape,” he says with a sense of reluctance. “Your brain sits on top of your head in fluid and every time you get hit, your brain hits against the skull. It crashes the wrong way.

“I want to stay the way I am now, he declares. “I want to be like this as my kids go to college and remember everything they do.”

While Jones has successfully redefined his life since retirement, no matter how far he distances himself from boxing he knows nothing can reverse the effects of absorbing countless head blows. “I’ve been fighting since I was ten; all that adds up,” he acknowledges. “I’m fine now but will I be the same when I’m 50 years old? The scary truth is it’s not a guarantee.”

***

After leaving the highly-charged atmosphere of Gleason’s and sucking back a bottle of iced tea, Barkley seems rejuvenated as he takes a deep breath of the cool air and heads toward Clark Street subway station.

“It’s good to do a workout,” he says. “I always feel good afterwards.”

Upon entering a crowded subway carriage, Barkley moves to sit down in the last remaining seat but quickly jumps back up when he sees a woman with a crying young boy enter the train.

“These subways can be intimidating if you’re not used to them,” he remarks in reference to the wailing child.

Barkley then spends the short journey making comical faces at the boy, pulling goofy smiles in a successful effort to put the youngster at ease and distract him from the daunting surroundings. The distinctive facial features that were so intimidating in
Gleason’s now act as a soothing source of comfort.

Leaving the train, our conversation turns to Barkley’s past trips to Europe and the sudden death of Tony Halme earlier this year.

“Wow, no way!” Barkley exclaims, evidently surprised at the news. “Wow, I didn’t know he died.” Barkley pauses and looks into the distance. “Halme seemed so big and strong,” he finally remarks. “You never know what’s around the corner. I guess it puts
my problems into perspective.”

Editor’s note: This story by award-winning writer Ronan Keenan first ran on Aug. 17, 2010. The photo is of Gleason’s Gym.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Featured Articles

Usyk vs. Chisora Sets the Table for a Strong Night of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Usyk-vs-Chisora-Sets-the-Table-for-a-Strong-Night-of-Boxing

It’s been largely lost in the ragout, at least on this side of the pond, but Saturday’s busy fight docket includes the return of Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic gold medalist who left the cruiserweight ranks as a legitimate four-belt champion. The 33-year-old Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), opposes tough but erratic Dereck Chisora, a 36-year old Londoner by way of Zimbabwe. Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs), has won five of his last six, the setback occurring in his second encounter with arch-rival Dillian Whyte.

Usyk vs. Chisora, a Matchroom promotion, will play out at Wembley Arena with no fans in attendance. The Ukrainian southpaw is ranked among the top three heavyweight contenders by all four major sanctioning bodies although he has fought only once as a heavyweight, turning away under-trained late sub Chazz Witherspoon who was all in after seven frames. Usyk weighed 215 for that contest and is expected to come in about 230 for Chisora.

Usyk, who has anglicized his first name to Alexander on his English-language twitter feed, is a big favorite, but this is a tricky fight for him. The consensus 2018 Fighter of the Year, Usyk has fought only twice since unifying the cruiserweight title with a lopsided decision over Murat Gassiev in July of that year and 55 weeks have elapsed since his last start. If he needs the early rounds to shake off ring rust, he could find himself clawing out of a hole, and sometimes the hole is too deep as Usyk’s stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko can attest. Moreover, Usyk has yet to face a naturally bigger man who can bang as hard as “Del Boy.”

The Usyk-Chisora card will air in North America on DAZN with the main event ring walks anticipated about 6 pm ET.

The tiff is hitched to an interesting undercard. Once-beaten Welshman Lee Selby, briefly the IBF featherweight champion, tangles with Australia’s undefeated (18-0) George Kambosos Jr. Savannah Marshall, who saddled Claressa Shields with her only amateur loss, meets former Shields opponent Hannah Rankin with a vacant world middleweight title at stake, Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy opposes Belgium’s Bilal Laggoune for a domestic cruiserweight title, and then there’s the heavyweight fight attracting buzz between popular Yorkshireman David Allen and Christopher Lovejoy.

The buzz surrounds the mysterious 36-year-old Lovejoy who is 19-0 as a pro with all but two of those KOs coming in the opening round.

All of Lovejoy’s fights were staged in Tijuana. Only one of his opponents brought a winning record. For a certain stripe of fighter, Tijuana is the equivalent of a feed lot, a place where livestock go to get fattened up before they are sent off to the slaughterhouse. David Allen is limited, but the most likely scenario in this fight is that it ends with Lovejoy sitting on his stool.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this post in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Diego Magdaleno is Locked and Loaded for Saturday’s Fray in San Antonio

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Diego-Magdaleno-is-Locked-and-Loaded-for-Saturday's-fray-in-San-Antonio

Diego Armando Magdaleno, the son of a former semi-pro soccer player, was named for Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona. But Diego’s father Jesus is hardly disappointed that his son devoted his energies to a different sport than soccer as Diego, the oldest of Jesus’s three boys, has carved out a nice career as a boxer. On Saturday, he faces Isaac Cruz at the San Antonio Alamodome and a win could thrust him into a third crack at a world lightweight title. Magdaleno vs. Cruz will be televised as part of a SHOWTIME PPV event anchored by a battle between title-holders Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

The bookies don’t know what to do with the Magdaleno-Cruz matchup. One can find odds on fights of lesser importance, but with the fight only four days away the pricemakers were in quandary. Team Magdaleno, however, is approaching the fight as if they are the “B” side. Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz, who boasts a 19-1-1 record and is undefeated in his last 15 starts, has a fan-friendly style and is only 22 years old. In theory, he has more value to the promoter going forward than Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) who turns 34 this week.

Magdaleno relishes the underdog role. He was the “B” side in his most recent fight when he opposed Austin Dulay in Dulay’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and he carved out a clear-cut 10-round decision. Dulay, the younger man by nine years and less experienced at the pro level, was in over his head. Their fight was nationally televised on FOX.

Diego Magdaleno was born in Beverly Hills, California, but unlike many folks born there wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “We were more like the Beverly Hillbillies,” says Diego, a reference to the popular sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971.

For many years, Diego’s father, an immigrant from Sahuayo in the Mexican state of Michoacan, worked at the flagship West LA branch of an iconic Greater Los Angeles hamburger chain. Diego’s parents now manage a 7-11 in Las Vegas.

When Magdaleno first laced on the gloves it was at the Brooklyn Avenue boxing gym in the gritty Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, the same gym where Oscar De La Hoya trained for the Olympic Trials. He continued with the sport after his family – he has three older sisters – moved to Las Vegas.

Diego influenced both of his younger brothers to become boxers. Jessie Magdaleno surpassed him in name recognition when he upset Nonito Nonaire in November of 2016, earning him the WBO world super bantamweight title. Jessie lost the belt in his second defense, succumbing to Isaac Dogboe, but has won three straight since that mishap, advancing his record to 28-1. The youngest Magdaleno brother, Marco, was 4-0 as a pro when he abandoned the sport, having secured a job with good pay and benefits in the construction field.

Diego has applied some of his ring earnings toward a real estate investment in Scipio, Utah, where he owns a parcel of land adjacent to a pioneer home. Scipio is a four-hour drive from Las Vegas and figuratively a million miles away. What does one do for fun in Scipio, pop. 288? The first thing that popped up in our internet search was to go grab a sandwich at the Burger Barn.

There’s a back story there. The pioneer home, built in 1886, was recently purchased by Diego’s fiancée Shannon Torres, a descendent of one of Scipio’s founding families. She and Diego are restoring it. Diego professes to be amazed at the craftsmanship. “When we pulled up the carpets,” he said, “the original hardwood floors were still in great condition.”

Shannon Torres has a boxing background, having fought as an amateur and having sparred with the likes of Mia St. John. She is also a nutritionist. Diego confesses to having a sweet tooth, being fond of cheesecake and anything with peanut butter. “She knows how to make those things for me so they are not as unhealthy,” he says.

Magdaleno’s first loss came in April of 2013 when he lost a split decision to Ramon Martinez in Macao. Diego thought he won the fight, but only one of the judges concurred. At stake was Martinez’s WBO 130-pound world title. His second world title opportunity came against WBO lightweight champ Terry Flanagan on Flanagan’s turf in Manchester, England. That didn’t go well.

“When I got in the ring, it felt like there was sand under my shoes,” said Diego. “My right foot was sliding underneath me. I overcompensated and that caused me trouble.” Magdaleno loaded up on his punches, a fatal mistake, and was knocked out in the second round.

Top Rank dropped Magdaleno after that fight but would eventually bring him back to fight their rising star Teofimo Lopez. His fight with Austin Dulay was his first fight back after his loss to Lopez (TKO by 7) and his first with new trainer Bones Adams (pictured on the left) in his corner.

Mag

Isaac Cruz poses a different threat than Dulay partly because Cruz, who stands only 5’4 ½”, is a lot shorter. But Magdaleno is confident the result will be the same.

“His style is attack, attack, attack; it’s one-dimensional,” says Diego. “I have been in there and done things that this kid has never seen. I am a big step up for him.”

Unlike many prizefighters, Diego Magdaleno knows where he is heading after his career is finished; he is already a licensed real estate salesman with one listing to his credit. He’s bi-lingual despite having spent only three months living in Mexico, that as a first-grader, and his linguistic versatility will come in handy in his second career. “I know just enough Spanish to get by,” he says, but having heard him speak in his parents’ native tongue we can attest that he’s being much too modest.

For the time being, however, Diego isn’t looking past Saturday night. Magdaleno vs. Cruz is expected to go first on the four-fight PPV portion of the card which kicks off at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.

Magdaleno/Dulay photo credit: Stephanie Trapp

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Will Leo Santa Cruz’s High Volume Punching Stymie Big Hitter ‘Tank’ Davis?

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

Will-Leo-Santa-Cruz's-High-Volume-Punching-Stymie-Big-Hitter-Tank-Davis?

WBA “super” 130-pound champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis, short (5’5½”), short-armed (a 67½-inch reach) and powerful, has been described by some as a miniature Mike Tyson, which seems reasonable for an undefeated fighter who has won all but one of his 23 professional bouts inside the distance, more than a few of those knockouts of the spectacular variety. And if Davis’ comparisons to “Iron Mike” weren’t enough to stamp him as an emerging superstar, there is also the fact that he is a protégé of Floyd Mayweather Jr., the vainglorious owner of a 50-0 record and distinction as the richest prizefighter ever to lace up a pair of padded gloves. “Money” bills himself as TBE, “The Best Ever,” and he goes so far as to suggest that the big-hitting southpaw from Baltimore for whom he has such high hopes might someday approach his status as a cash-cow and true icon of the ring.

“The ultimate goal is to get him to surpass me,” the 43-year-old and ostensibly retired Mayweather said of the financial and fistic potential of Davis, who turns 26 on Nov. 7 and arguably is in the early stages of his prime. “I’ve been his age. Where he’s trying to go to, and what he’s trying to accomplish, I’ve already accomplished.”

Although Davis has appeared on the undercard of two Pay-Per-View shows headlined by his famous and fabulously wealthy mentor, both he and Mayweather consider his watershed Halloween night confrontation with WBA “super” featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs), in San Antonio’s Alamodome, as Tank’s real coming-out party. It is, after all, Davis’ first time atop his own Showtime PPV event, perhaps the first of several such marquee appearances if the level of public interest in him continues to spike. Ascending to PPV status is a rite of passage both men consider to be a significant key to all the boxing kingdom has to offer, an exclusive club to which many aspire but only a chosen few are allowed to join. The tariff to boxing fans is a $74.95 subscription fee.

“I said, `Tank, you under Mayweather Promotions. So, it’s May-Per-View,” Mayweather told the kid who would be he during the first episode of Showtime’s “All-Access,” the infomercial whose purpose is to help convince pandemic-strapped fight fans to open their wallets.

“I’m grateful for what Floyd did for me, as far as opening doors,” said Davis, who signed with Mayweather Promotions in 2015. “If it wasn’t for Floyd, I wouldn’t have been a champion at 22. He gave me a chance to fight on his Pay-Per-View card. Now I’m here, on my own Pay-Per-View.”

To hear Mayweather and Davis tell it, it is Tank’s singular, reputation-boosting turn in the spotlight, with Santa Cruz more or less along for the ride. The Vegas sports books seemingly are complicit in that perception, with Tank anywhere from a -$350 to a whopping -$710 favorite, odds which could fluctuate throughout the rest of the week as more and larger wagers are placed. Despite his being a four-division world champion, Santa Cruz, the 32-year-old, Mexican-born resident of Rosemead, Calif., whose current title is that of WBA “super” super feather ruler, also considers this particular bout to be historic as it is also his first PPV appearance. And, no, he isn’t bothered by the long odds against him (which range from +260 to +475) or Davis’ reputation as a compact instrument of pugilistic destruction.

“Nobody believes in me,” he said, almost reveling in his rare role as an underdog. “They think I’m this other guy. But I asked for this fight for a reason ’cause I want to prove myself. I’m going to compete and give my all. I’m not scared.

“Gervonta Davis is a great fighter with great skills, great power. I think he’s the most dangerous fighter in the division. Why not go after him? To prove to the people that I’m not scared of nobody.”

Santa Cruz might not pack as much power as Davis, but his forte is high-volume punching. When he defeated Vusi Malinga via 12-round unanimous decision for the vacant IBF bantamweight strap on June 2, 2012, in Carson, Calif., CompuBox statistics revealed he had unfurled a remarkable 1,350 punches, an average of just under 113 per round. Nor were those numbers an aberration for the human perpetual motion machine; in his two confrontations with Abner Mares, both of which were won on points by Santa Cruz, the read-out showed Leo connecting on a combined 730 of 2,115. Many opponents scarcely have time to think, much less react, when Santa Cruz is firing shots with machine-gun rapidity. No wonder he dares to believe Davis will be similarly flustered.

“I think so,” Santa Cruz said when asked if the quantity of his fusillade will more than offset Davis’ superior quality in terms of power. “When you have a fighter on top of you, throwing punches, he’s not letting you think; he’s frustrating you. He’s not letting you do nothing.

“If I do that, it could be dangerous ’cause he’ll be waiting to counterpunch me, to land those big shots, the uppercuts and hooks. So, I got to do a very smart fight, a perfect fight, to beat him.”

For TV purposes, the storyline outside the ropes sometimes is nearly as important in selling the product as what takes place inside them. In that regard Davis and Santa Cruz, so seemingly different in some regards, are strikingly similar in that they were children of poverty, hardly unusual for a sport where years of deprivation can stoke a burning desire to succeed. Santa Cruz’s motivation might even be hiked a bit higher because of the ongoing medical circumstances of his trainer-father, Jose Santa Cruz Sr.

Jose Sr. could be the star of his own medical reality series, the most recent episode being his near-death brush with COVID-19. But the patriarch of a boxing family (brothers Jose Jr., Antonio and Roberto are also involved in Leo’s career) had previously survived a bout with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection, and, in 2016, the diagnosis of Stage 3 myeloma, a blood cancer, that invaded his bones. The father had to undergo weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and although he pulled through Leo cited concerns for his dad’s health as a contributing factor in his sole pro defeat, in which he relinquished his WBA super featherweight title, by 12-round majority decision, to England’s Carl Frampton on July 30, 2016. Santa Cruz avenged that setback, also by majority decision, six months later.

Jose Sr. continues to serve as Leo’s trainer, but so many medical crises have been met and overcome by the father that the son has learned, as best he can, to cope.

And the COVID-19 which again could have brought Jose Sr. the eternal 10-count?

“When he went (into the hospital), they gave us little hope,” Leo said of his dad’s most recent downward plunge on an emotional roller-coaster on which the entire family has been obliged to have seats. “They said he was going to pass away, that he wasn’t going to last the night. We were all depressed and crying. His lungs were failing, his heart was failing. He coded two times; he died and they brought him back to life.

“I had memories of when he used to go on the bus with me, pushing me in the gym, telling me what to do. All those memories were playing in my mind. I really didn’t think he was going to make it. I thought they were going to call us and say, `Hey, your dad passed away.’ But we prayed, we had hope. Thank God, the next day we were told our dad was still in critical condition, but he was doing a little bit better. Day by day he improved. God listened. He made a miracle. My dad survived. Even the doctors were saying that they didn’t know how that happened.”

As was the case with Santa Cruz, who recalls the occasions when the family’s electricity was shut off because of unpaid bills, Davis’ childhood also was hardly a real-life version of Leave It To Beaver. In 1999, while his father was in prison and his mom was battling drug addition, he was placed into child protective services at the age of five. For the next several years he shuttled between foster homes and shelters. But then, at seven, he found his way into the boxing gym run by Calvin Grove, who knew the pitfalls of life on the streets (he had served 10 years behind bars on drug offenses) as well as the need throw-away children such as Gervonta Davis had to finding someone and something to believe in. Ford, now 56, is so much more than Tank’s trainer now; he also is his father-figure and inspiration not to become another faceless, nameless crime statistic.

“Boxing, I would say, saved my life,” Davis said. “All the guys I came up with that were older than me, they got killed. If you got one foot in the street and one foot in the gym, it’s not going to work. You got to be all the way committed with something.

“When I came to the gym, I felt the love that I needed as a child. Calvin basically raised me. What I been through and what I seen coming up, I knew I don’t want to go backwards in life. I know what that brings.”

In addition to Davis-Santa Cruz, the PPV portion of the undercard features the return, after a layoff of 13 months, of former WBA and WBC Diamond super lightweight champion Regis “Rougaroo” Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs), in a 10-rounder against Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10 KOs); the WBA junior welterweight title matchup of San Antonio’s Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) vs. Ryan Karl (18-2, 12 KOs), and a lightweight scrap pitting Diego Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) against Isaac Cruz Gonzalez (19-1-1, 14 KOs).

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Mayweather Promotions

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
In-Defense-of-Julie-Lederman
Featured Articles1 week ago

In Defense of Julie Lederman

-C'mon
Featured Articles1 week ago

“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

RIP-Ricardo-Jimenez-One-of-Boxing's-Most-Beloved
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

RIP Ricardo Jimenez: One of Boxing’s Most Beloved

loma
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Official TSS Lomachenko-Lopez Prediction Page

Will-The_Pandemic-Hurt-Boxing-in-the-Long-Term-A-Blockbuster-TSS-Survey
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Will The Pandemic Hurt Boxing in the Long Term?: A Blockbuster TSS Survey

Jose-Zepeda-Wins-Knockdown-Battle-with-Ivan-Baranchyk-at-the-MGM-Bubble
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Jose Zepeda Wins Knockdown Battle with Ivan Baranchyk at the MGM Bubble

Avila-Perspective-Chap-107-El-Flaco-the-Charlo-Twins-and-More
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Avila Perspective. Chap. 107: El Flaco, the Charlo twins and More

Johnny-Bos-Large-in-Life-A-Cult-Figure-in-Death-A-TSS-Classic-by-Randy-Gordon
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Johnny Bos: Large in Life, A Cult Figure in Death (A TSS Classic by Randy Gordon)

Teofimo-Takes-Over-Upsets-Lomachenko
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

 Teofimo Takes Over: Upsets Lomachenko

Conor-McGregor-vs-Pac-Man-The-Circus-is-Back-in-Town
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Conor McGregor vs. Pac-Man: The Circus is Back in Town

Does-Lomachenko-Still-Have-Enough-Blue-Book-Value-to-Motor-Past-Lopez?
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Does Lomachenko Still Have Enough Blue-Book Value to Motor Past Lopez?

Matchroom-Fight-Results-Buatsi-TKOs-Calic-Chantelle-Cameron-Wins-a-World-Title
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Matchroom Fight Results: Buatsi TKOs Calic; Chantelle Cameron Wins a World Title

A-Fistful-of-Murder-The-Fights0and-Crimes-of-Carlos-Monzon
Featured Articles3 days ago

A Fistful of Murder: The Fights and Crimes of Carlos Monzon

The-Top-Ten-Super-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

The Top Ten Superflyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

The-Top-Ten-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Top Ten Flyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Las-Vegas-Trainer-Bones-Adams-Talks-About-Life-on-the-Bubble-Circuit
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Las Vegas Trainer Bones Adams Talks About Life on the Bubble Circuit

Navarette-Powers-Way-to-WBO-Featherweight-Title
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Navarrete Powers Way to WBO Featherweight Title

Kelsey-McCarson's-Hits-and-Misses-Takeover-Edition
Featured Articles1 week ago

Kelsey McCarson’s HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

Avila-Perspective,-Chap.-109:-Teofimo-vs.-Loma-and-More.jpg
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 109: Lopez vs. Loma and More

The-WBCs-Franchise-Sticker-and-More-Judges-Add-to-Boxing's-Numbers-Glut
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The WBC’s ‘Franchise’ Sticker and More Judges Add to Boxing’s Numbers Glut

Usyk-vs-Chisora-Sets-the-Table-for-a-Strong-Night-of-Boxing
Featured Articles6 hours ago

Usyk vs. Chisora Sets the Table for a Strong Night of Boxing

Diego-Magdaleno-is-Locked-and-Loaded-for-Saturday's-fray-in-San-Antonio
Featured Articles1 day ago

Diego Magdaleno is Locked and Loaded for Saturday’s Fray in San Antonio

Will-Leo-Santa-Cruz's-High-Volume-Punching-Stymie-Big-Hitter-Tank-Davis?
Featured Articles2 days ago

Will Leo Santa Cruz’s High Volume Punching Stymie Big Hitter ‘Tank’ Davis?

HITS-and-MISSES-from-Another-Weekend-on-the-Boxing-Beat
Featured Articles2 days ago

HITS and MISSES from Another Weekend on the Boxing Beat

A-Fistful-of-Murder-The-Fights0and-Crimes-of-Carlos-Monzon
Featured Articles3 days ago

A Fistful of Murder: The Fights and Crimes of Carlos Monzon

Lipinets-and-Clayton-Battle-to-a0Draw-at-the-Mohegan-Sun
Featured Articles4 days ago

Lipinets and Clayton Battle to a Draw at the Mohegan Sun

Juan-Francisco-Estrada-KOs-Carlos-Cuadras-Chocolatito-Wins-Too
Featured Articles5 days ago

Juan Francisco Estrada KOs Carlos Cuadras; Chocolatito Wins Too

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Fury's-Next-Opponent-Lomachencko-Redux-and-More
Featured Articles5 days ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury’s Next Opponent, Lomachenko Redux and More

Avila-Perspective-Chap-110-Chocolatito,Lipinets and More
Featured Articles6 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 110: Chocolatito, Lipinets and More

The-Top-Ten-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Top Ten Flyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

In-Defense-of-Julie-Lederman
Featured Articles1 week ago

In Defense of Julie Lederman

-C'mon
Featured Articles1 week ago

“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

Kelsey-McCarson's-Hits-and-Misses-Takeover-Edition
Featured Articles1 week ago

Kelsey McCarson’s HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

Teofimo-Takes-Over-Upsets-Lomachenko
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

 Teofimo Takes Over: Upsets Lomachenko

Lewis-Ritson-Nips-Hard-Luck-Miguel-Vazquez-Plus-Undercard-Results
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Lewis Ritson Nips Hard-Luck Miguel Vazquez Plus Undercard Results

Avila-Perspective,-Chap.-109:-Teofimo-vs.-Loma-and-More.jpg
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 109: Lopez vs. Loma and More

loma
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Official TSS Lomachenko-Lopez Prediction Page

Does-Lomachenko-Still-Have-Enough-Blue-Book-Value-to-Motor-Past-Lopez?
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Does Lomachenko Still Have Enough Blue-Book Value to Motor Past Lopez?

RIP-Ricardo-Jimenez-One-of-Boxing's-Most-Beloved
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

RIP Ricardo Jimenez: One of Boxing’s Most Beloved

The-WBCs-Franchise-Sticker-and-More-Judges-Add-to-Boxing's-Numbers-Glut
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The WBC’s ‘Franchise’ Sticker and More Judges Add to Boxing’s Numbers Glut

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement