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The Hauser Report: Filmmaker Eric Drath and More

Thomas Hauser

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Eric Drath is a very good filmmaker. The release of Macho: The Hector Camacho Story on Showtime this month demonstrates that yet again.

Drath (pictured) was born and raised in New York and interned at ABC News while attending college at Columbia. He moved to Atlanta after graduation to work for CNN. Next came a stint at a start-up network called Fox News Channel. The irony of that pairing is not lost on him. Then the sweet science entered his life.

“I wasn’t a big boxing fan,” Drath says. “But in the late-nineties, a friend invited me to go with him to some fights at Yonkers Raceway in the Bronx. We got there. There was a boxing ring and, around it, a world I’d never known. I said to myself, ‘This is so cool. I want to know more about this.'”

The promoter that night was Joe DeGuardia. In due course, Drath left Fox News to do publicity work for DeGuardia’s promotional company.

“That,” Eric recalls, “was when I learned that doing PR for a boxing promoter was, ‘Go get the van, pick up some fighters at the airport, take them to the athletic commission to get licensed, make sure they have their physicals, and send out a press release.”

Eventually, Drath started a company called RingLink which got video clips from promoters and charged the promoters a fee to transmit the clips by satellite to TV stations. Then he got a manager’s license and represented a few fringe fighters. After that, he founded a company called Live Star Entertainment that created satellite media tours for the music industry and produced TV fights for various promoters. Most notably, Live Star produced close to fifty Broadway Boxing shows for DiBella Entertainment between 2008 and 2016.

Meanwhile, Drath had begun the process of carving out a niche for himself as a documentary filmmaker. Over the years, he has worked on subjects as diverse as Theodore Bikel and Pete Rose. But it began with boxing.

In 2006, Drath met Luis Resto at the Morris Park Boxing Gym in the Bronx. Resto (a former journeyman fighter) had been a key player in one of boxing’s ugliest scandals. On June 16, 1983, he fought Billy Collins (an undefeated 21-year-old prospect) at Madison Square Garden. Before the bout, Panama Lewis (Resto’s trainer) removed some of the padding from his fighter’s gloves. Collins suffered permanent eye damage during the bout, was unable to fight again, and died in a car crash nine months later. Resto and Lewis were imprisoned for their wrongdoing. Lewis was widely seen as the more culpable of the two.

“I liked Resto’s story,” Drath recounts. “Nobody else thought it was a good idea. But I scraped together some money, put together a rough cut, and gave it to a friend who gave it to a friend while they were standing together on the sideline during their daughters’ high school lacrosse game.”

The second parent standing on the sideline was Rick Bernstein (then the executive producer for HBO Sports).

“After that, I got a phone call,” Drath remembers. “HBO made its own sports documentaries back then. But they liked it; they bought it; and they made some changes.”

Assault in the Ring aired on HBO in 2008 and won an Emmy for Outstanding Sports Documentary. Drath was credited as its co-writer, director, and narrator. Then he pitched a documentary about Renee Richards to the network. But HBO passed on the project so he sold it to ESPN which televised the documentary after it premiered at the Tribecca Film Festival in 2011. Once again, Drath was the co-writer, director, and narrator.

Two more boxing projects for ESPN followed: No Mas (2013), which focused on the second fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, and Robbed (2014), which told the tale of Ali-Norton III against the backdrop of violence occasioned by a New York City police job action.

That brings us to Macho: The Hector Camacho Story.

Macho

Initially, Drath conceived of Macho as an investigative report about Camacho’s murder in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Hector, who was involved with cocaine for most of his life, was shot four times on November 20, 2012, and removed from life support four days later. He was fifty years old when he died.

Then Macho evolved into a more complete biographical documentary with an emphasis on Camacho’s ring career. The film would have been stronger with more exposition of what it meant – and still means – to be part of the underclass in Spanish Harlem where Camacho was raised and remains an icon. But it’s put together well and has the advantage of a charismatic main character who lights up the screen when he’s on camera.

Eric directed and narrated Macho. The film’s most compelling moments deal with its subject’s post-boxing life and include poignant footage of an unrecognizably fat Camacho as he neared age fifty.

Drath is one of the few directors who has made documentaries for HBO, Showtime, and ESPN. That leads to the question of how the experiences compared with one another.

“HBO was a tight organization that didn’t want outside interference,” Drath recalls. “They bought the film and in essense said, ‘Okay, kid; you can stand outside the edit room while we finish it, and we’ll show you what we’re doing from time to time.’ Showtime is the antithesis of that. They gave me notes but they also gave me the latitude to make the film I wanted to make. I loved the process. ESPN was somewhere in between. But it was an honor to work with all three of them.”

And which of his documentaries does Drath like the most?

“I don’t have a favorite,” he answers, “I love the human element in documentaries. Each one I’ve been fortunate to make so far marks a different period of my life. And each one has that human element.”

*     *     *

Adam Pollack is an Iowa attorney who has written biographies of the early gloved heavyweight champions from John L. Sullivan through Jack Johnson. Now he has chosen to skip Jess Willard and go straight to Jack Dempsey with Part One of a projected two-volume work published by Win by KO Publications.

Jack Dempsey: The Making of a Champion follows the familiar Pollack formula of relying heavily on contemporaneous newspaper accounts and other primary sources. It’s 559 pages long and chronicles Dempsey’s life through his 1919 conquest of Jess Willard to claim the heavyweight throne. In terms of content, it’s the most detailed of the Dempsey biographies to date.

Today’s interconnected digital world enables research to be conducted more thoroughly and more quickly than ever before. That’s particularly important for Pollack who relies heavily on documents that are a century old in reconstructing the lives of his subjects. He also benefits from a community of boxing historians and fans who forward information to him.

“Writing these books is a passion for me,” Adam says. “I spend some time on them every day. Right now, I’m having a lot of fun working on Part Two of Dempsey. Once he became champion, things really took off – for Dempsey and for boxing. There’s Dempsey-Firpo, Dempsey-Carpentier, the Dempsey-Tunney fights. But my real job is as a criminal defense attorney. That’s how I pay the bills.”

That leaves open the question of whether Pollack will ever go back and forge the missing link in his chain of books by writing a biography of Willard.

“I can’t say never,” Pollack answers. “But at this point, I don’t see myself doing Willard. These books take an enormous amount of time and effort, and I have to balance that against my personal interest in the fighter. Willard had two fights of historic importance – when he beat Jack Johnson and when he lost to Dempsey. I’ve written about these fights in depth in my Johnson and Dempsey books. And Arly Allen did a pretty good job in his biography of Willard. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind. But right now, I’m at peace with not writing a Willard book.”

*     *     *

A lot of players are losing a lot of money in boxing these days. FITE is one company that’s turning a profit.

FITE is a video-streaming and ordering platform with 2.6 million registered users. It has streamed more than 3,500 events during the past five years and was a key player in the financial success of the November 28 exhibition featuring Mike Tyson and Roy Jones. When FOX Pay-Per-View began having technological issues with the December 5 fight between Errol Spence and Danny Garcia, the promotion decided that sharing a larger pie would be preferable to keeping a small pie all for itself and turned to FITE.

FITE will work with any content provider as long as the content meets its standards. It knows who the fight fans are and how to reach them. It’s user friendly and has avoided many of the technological problems that plague similar services.

Many fans (including this one) look askance at an economic model that puts boxing’s biggest fights on pay-per-view. But where it’s available, FITE is a reliable way to order events – large and small – for those who want to.

*     *     *

WBC-IBF 147-pound champion Errol Spence raised his record to 27-0 (21 KOs) with a dominant 12-round performance against Danny Garcia on Saturday night. There were questions before the fight as to whether Spence had fully recovered from injuries sustained in an October 10, 2019, automobile accident. But one had to assume that a less formidable comeback opponent would have been chosen had there been doubts in Errol’s camp about his health or what a punch from Garcia might do to the bone and tissue structure beneath his face.

Garcia (now 36-3, 21 KOs) is a tough out. But at the highest levels of competition, he’s an out. Spence gave Danny next to nothing to work with and had enough hurt on his punches to keep Garcia from challenging his narrative for the flow of the fight. Errol’s jab was effective as an offensive weapon and defensive shield. Danny’s left hook – normally the most potent punch in his arsenal – seemed to have been packed in mothballs for the night.

The judges favored Spence by a 117-111, 116-112, 116-112 margin (which was kind to Garcia, who is now 0-and-3 in fights against Spence, Keith Thurman, and Shawn Porter).

If there’s a criticism of Spence’s performance on Saturday night, it’s that (as was the case when he fought Mikey Garcia twenty months ago) he never put the pedal to the metal in an effort to finish with a knockout.

There are two prospective fights for Spence that matter now. The first would be a 147-pound title unification bout against WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. The second would be a move up to 154 pounds to challenge Jermell Charlo for supremacy in the junior-middleweight ranks. Ray Leonard sought out challenges like that.

Photo credit: Zoom / Doug Doyle

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year in Boxing– was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Avila Perspective, Chap 130: Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, Super Fly and More

David A. Avila

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A stacked weekend of marquee fights is led by top American welterweight prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis tasked with meeting the challenge of Russia’s Sergey Lipinets in Connecticut.

The undefeated Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) faces former super lightweight world titlist Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday April 10, at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville. Showtime will televise the loaded PBC card.

Philadelphia’s Ennis walks into the boxing ring with all of the physical advantages including height, reach, speed and even more pro fights. But Lipinets does indeed know what it’s like to fight against a world champion.

“I think the opposition that I’ve faced is definitely better than what Ennis has faced. I went 12 rounds with Mikey Garcia and I faced a two-time champion in Lamont Peterson,” said Lipinets. “Those guys have pushed me to the edge before. Ennis has more pro fights than I do, he just hasn’t been pushed in the same way in his fights.”

This will be an opportunity for the athletically gifted Ennis to discover if he cracks the elite level.

“I’ve been trying to get these types of guys in the ring for about two-and-a-half years. I’ve been trying to get former world champions and top ten guys. It just didn’t happen. I finally got my chance and you guys are going to see a whole different animal. A whole different beast. It’s time for me to do my thing,” said Ennis, 23.

Lipinets, 32, realizes that time is running out and needs a win against an avoided prospect like Ennis to re-introduce himself to the fickle boxing world.

“Ennis is a young and up-and-coming fighter. All we want is a shot at the title and everything that comes with it. A win in this fight will give us all of that. I want to get my crack at the big dogs in the division,” said Lipinets who trains in Southern California.

Both fighters are explosive types with extreme confidence in their abilities.

Superfly

Also on the same fight card, long-reigning IBF super flyweight world titlist Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22 KOs) yearns to be part of the super flyweight wars that have emerged with fighters Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

The super flyweight division has become one of the hottest in boxing.

“I want to fight whoever is left after the four-man tournament between Rungvisai, Chocolatito, Estrada and (Carlos) Cuadras. I’m always calling the name of any titleholder in my division, so I would fight Ioka too,” said Ancajas, a Filipino southpaw who has held the IBF super fly title since September 2016. “I want a signature fight because I’m tired of people criticizing me for not fighting anybody.”

Ancajas, 29, meets Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (22-1, 16 KOs) another one of those little-known Mexican sluggers that can upset any fighter looking too far ahead.

“Ancajas is a great champion, but he’s never faced someone like me. I’m going to put the pressure on him from the very beginning Saturday night and show him that he has a great Mexican fighter standing in his way,” said Rodriguez.

Early Fights

A welterweight battle between Conor Benn (17-0) and Samuel Vargas (31-6-2) takes place on Saturday April 10, from London. The Matchroom Boxing card will be streamed on DAZN at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

British-born Benn is the son of the great Nigel Benn and was slated for a showdown with another British prospect Josh Kelly. But that fighter was upended by David Avanesyan this past February who knocked out Kelly. Matchroom Boxing had to re-arrange somethings and now it’s Benn versus Vargas.

Vargas is tough.

The last time we saw Vargas he was getting clobbered by knockout artist Vergil Ortiz Jr. but never touched the floor. Whoever fights Vargas learns quickly that he’s a dangerous fighter with a head made of steel.

Does Benn have enough boxing skills to switch to plan B when a knockout win isn’t possible?

We shall see.

On the same card two female world title fights take place with the vacant WBA bantamweight title up for grabs between England’s Shannon Courtenay and Australia’s Ebanie Bridges. Also, WBO middleweight titlist Savannah Marshall defends against Maria Lindberg.

Light Heavyweight Title

A fight for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title will try and take place again when Joe Smith Jr. (26-3, 21 KOs) the hard-hitting blue-collar worker from Long Island takes his hammer fists to Tulsa, Oklahoma to face Max Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) on Saturday April 10. ESPN will show the Top Rank fight card.

They tried fighting each other before but the coronavirus epidemic knocked the first attempt out of the water. Here they go again.

Smith, 31, has tried before and been defeated before. But every time someone thinks its all over for the construction worker, he knocks somebody out to regain a footing. He knocked out former champion Eleider Alvarez and defeated Jesse Hart to get to this spot.

Vlasov, 34, has been around for many years and displays an aptitude for doing what’s necessary to survive. Can he find that same ingredient to fend off Smith?

It should be a worthy world title fight.

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Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis Advancing to Heights Beyond What His Brothers Achieved

Bernard Fernandez

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Is fast-rising welterweight contender Jaron “Boots” Ennis the Next Big Thing in boxing’s deepest and arguably best division? To hear veteran Showtime analyst Steve Farhood tell it, the 23-year-old Philadelphian just might be, with his already blue-chip stock apt to increase in value should he take care of business Saturday night against Sergey Lipinets in the Showtime Championship Boxing main event at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

“I think so much of him, I believe he will not only win his stiffest test, but win impressively,” Farhood said of the youngest and best of the three Ennis brothers to box professionally. “And when he does, that’ll show he belongs with the very best of the welterweights.”

Asked what the immediate future might hold for Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) should the young knockout artist do unto the 32-year-old Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 KOs) what he did to 16 of his 17 most recent opponents, which is to win inside the distance, Farhood opined that the door to indisputably elite status could swing open sooner rather than later.

“Now that fighters are fighting again (as COVID-19 concerns begin to lift), I would say within a year,” Farhood predicted. “After Lipinets, is there really a point in moving backward? I think Boots and Danny Garcia obviously would be a very special fight in Philadelphia. A Garcia, a Shawn Porter or a Keith Thurman, fighters on that level, are all within reach over the next 12 months, if he looks dominant against Lipinets, which I believe he will.”

Should Boots meet or exceed Farhood’s most optimistic projections, a vision shared by his father-trainer, Derrick “Bozy” Ennis, a down-the-road showdown with either or both of the 147-pound weight division’s superstars, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., could await. But the family patriarch expects some of the bigger names to be unavailable to his son, for one reason or another.

“Danny don’t want to fight my son,” Bozy said. “Danny wouldn’t even spar with my son. And Shawn Porter already said, `I ain’t fighting Boots Ennis. I know his father, I know his brothers. The only way I’d take that fight is if he keeps calling me out. But otherwise I’m not fighting that young killer if I don’t have to. He’s too fast, too slick.’

“Some of the top guys are talking about moving up (to junior middleweight), so we’d still have a shot at one of those titles if they open up. Spence is talking about going to 154 if he doesn’t get certain fights. Now, he did say he might fight Boots down the line. I’ll give him credit for that. Crawford? He’s not interested in fighting Boots. His people already said that. All I can say is that some of these guys, they either got to s— or get off the pot and move on. If need be, we’ll go after (Yordenis) Ugas and Jamal James. They’re top guys.”

Big talk, of course, is cheap and means nothing if not backed up by in the ring. The suggestions Bozy Ennis is tossing around like confetti that some of the premier welterweights are avoiding Boots as if he were a communicable disease might or might not be accurate. One thing, though, is certain: the highest aspirations that members of the Ennis family are now reserving for its brightly shining baby boy were also once held for Boots’ older brothers Derek “Pooh” Ennis and Farah Ennis, both of whom made it part of the way up the ladder to the big time before their careers stalled.

Pooh, the eldest brother whose last pro bout was in 2014, compiled a 24-5-1 record with 13 KO victories competing in the super welterweight and middleweight classifications, along the way holding the Pennsylvania and USBA 154-pound championships. Farah, who briefly was the NABF 168-pound titlist, was 22-2 with 12 KOs and hasn’t fought since 2015.

In a 2018 interview, Bozy said the gap separating Boots and his brothers mostly owes to little brother taking care not to make some of the mistakes his siblings made.

“Derek and Farah talk to Jaron all the time, which helps,” Bozy said then. “They say, `Don’t do what I did when I was younger, when I had a chance to be better than I was.’ My older boys had talent, but they weren’t always as focused as they should have been. They let the women get to them. Hey, it happens.”

Familial genetics, however, is not always a true indicator of outcome. Henry and Tommie Aaron hold Major League Baseball’s record for combined home runs by brothers with 768, but Hammerin’ Hank had 755 of them to Tommie’s 13. Jose and Ozzie are identical twins, but Jose blasted 462 homers over 17 MLB seasons while Ozzie, two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, failed to go deep even once in his three seasons in The Show. Focus and dedication are factors in any athlete’s success, sure, but talent is not always evenly distributed among blood relatives.

“The two older brothers both got beat on ShoBox, interestingly,” recalled Farhood. “I think the difference between Boots and them is just natural talent.

“You often see in basketball that the son of a coach is a point guard. Kids like that have a comfort level and feel for the game. I get that same impression with Boots. Growing up around Bozy, being around in the gym literally from the time he was a baby, his upbringing shows. But it’s not only that. He has a lot of natural ability to go with that lifetime of familiarity with boxing. You put all that together and you get what looks like the perfect package.”

Predictions of future stardom were made early on for Boots Ennis, who was widely considered to be the best young fighter to come out of Philly since Meldrick Taylor was a 17-year-old gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics and went on to win world titles at both junior welterweight and welterweight. Some prodigies can sag under such heavy expectations, but to date Boots seems to have embraced his role as the emerging face of Philadelphia boxing.

“Being in the main event on Showtime brings more attention, but I like it,” he said in the lead-up to his important 12-round matchup with the capable Lipinets, which some knowledgeable insiders view as an almost pick ’em fight. “I like being in the spotlight. I like to shine, so it’s nothing new. Now it’s fight time. I am locked in and ready to rock and roll.”

Boots Ennis comes in either on a 16-fight knockout streak, or not. In his most recent ring appearance, against veteran South African southpaw Chris van Heerden, a clash of heads in the first round caused a severe cut to van Heerden’s forehead and the bout being declared a no-contest. Whether that NC ended the impressive run of early endings or not is a matter of opinion, not that it matters to Boots in any case.

“Some people might look at a knockout on April 10 as the 17th consecutive knockout. Some might view it as the start of a new knockout streak,” he said. “For me, I don’t really care as long as I come out victorious. That’s all that matters to me. I’m not looking for a knockout, but I’m going to take it if it comes.”

Despite his burgeoning reputation as a power puncher, Boots believes his best days as a lights-out finisher are still ahead.

“I don’t feel I have my man strength yet,” he offered. “I feel it will be one or two more years until I fully have my man strength. The crazy part is, I feel like in a fight, I still haven’t thrown a real power shot and really sat down on a punch yet. Everything I’ve been knocking guys out with has been all-natural strength.”

Again, Saturday night’s outcome is hardly a fait accompli. Although Boots is ranked No. 7 by the WBO, No. 9 by the IBF and No. 12 by the WBC, the Kazakhstan-born, California-based Lipinets matches or exceeds those ratings, currently as the IBF’s No. 3 contender, and No. 9 by both the WBO and The Ring magazine. But, with advantages of three inches in height and a whopping seven inches in reach for Boots, the fight could be a virtual replay of the taller, longer-armed Jamel Herring’s almost casual dismissal of Carl Frampton last week.

“He’s very confident, sure, but that’s all right if he can back it up,” Farhood said of Ennis. “To me, the ultimate test of a really hot prospect is when he moves up in class. Does he just win, or does he win more impressively than what a lot of people anticipated? So far, for each step along the way, for Boots the answer has been yes. I think it will be again Saturday night.”

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

A New Orleans native, Bernard Fernandez retired in 2012 after a 43-year career as a newspaper sports writer, the last 28 years with the Philadelphia Daily News. A former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Fernandez won the BWAA’s Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 1998 and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service in 2015. In December of 2019, Fernandez was accorded the highest honor for a boxing writer when he was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020. Last year, Fernandez’s anthology, “Championship Rounds,” was released by RKMA Publishing.

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Jesse James Leija vs. Micky Ward: A Dry-gulch in San Antonio

Ted Sares

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Late in his career, Jesse James Leija was involved in two fights that ended in controversy under eerily similar circumstances. The first came in July of 2001 when Leija, a former world title-holder, was paired against Hector Camacho Jr at Brooklyn’s new minor league baseball stadium. Camacho Jr was 32-0 at the time; Leija 42-5-2.

In the fifth round, a cut was opened across Camacho’s right eyelid. At the end of the round, ringside physician Dr. Robert Polofsky examined the cut, which did not appear to be all that bad to television or ringside viewers.

Camacho could be heard (at least by this listener) saying ‘I can’t see.” Polofsky agreed with him, as he ordered the fight stopped, and under the rules it went to the scorecards. After much confusion, arguing, consultation, and stalling, the cards were read and unbelievably all three favored Camacho. He was ahead 49-46 on two of the cards and 48-47 on the third. The technical decision was roundly booed by an announced crowd of 6,012, even though Camacho, from Spanish Harlem, was effectively fighting in his hometown.

The doctor, referee Steve Smoger, and the judges did not to talk to the media. Whether they were ordered to stay silent by the New York State Athletic Commission is open to debate.

Hector Camacho Jr. remained unbeaten, but his tainted victory tarnished his image as the WBA’s number-one-ranked super lightweight. Leija and his manager, Lester Bedford, called Camacho a quitter, an accurate description to most of the viewers. Leija had badly hurt Camacho in the fight, and it was clear that junior wanted no more of what the veteran brought to the table.

Thankfully, the decision was later ruled a no-contest. The commission ruled that the bell should not have rung to begin the sixth round. Since the bell rang incorrectly, the official cards should not have been consulted under a New York boxing rule, and there could not be a decision, the panel said.

But this fight has haunted “Machito” ever since, and his legacy as a warrior was impacted by it. The backlash was vicious.

Leija-Ward

Less than seven months later, Leija met “Irish” Micky Ward at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. Akin to Leija-Camacho Jr, the bout aired on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series. And the very same thing that happened to Leija in Brooklyn happened to Ward in Leija’s hometown.

The Lowell, Massachusetts warrior opened a cut over Leija’s right eye with what replays clearly showed to be a short left hook, but referee Laurence Cole inexplicably called it a butt. When the referee went to Leija’s corner, Leija, despite his legitimate warrior reputation, said he couldn’t see, and the fight was stopped. Ward’s corner was shocked and pleaded with Leija to continue. They appealed to his reputation.

They might have appealed to the Texas Commission but the head of it was the colorful and beloved Dickie Cole, Laurence’s father, so they passed.

The outcome was fortunate for Leija. Ward, often a slow starter, was rapidly getting into his rhythm and beginning to land his signature body shots. It would only be a matter of time before he caught up with the fading Leija. But Ward would be ambushed, dry-gulched in San Antonio.

For some strange reason, this one escaped notoriety and has remained under the radar, but it was every bit as bad as the Camacho fiasco, maybe worse, particularly since Leija was a guy who came to fight. At the very least, it should have been called a no-contest. Ward, for his part, never blamed Leija for what happened.

Camacho received a brutal backlash; Leija received virtually none, even though this was terribly wrong. Oddly, Leija would retire in his corner once again in his very next fight when his corner pulled him out with a busted eardrum after six rounds against Kostya Tszyu.

Sometimes things happen for the best. Ward went on to fight and beat Arturo Gatti at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut instead of engaging in a rematch with Jesse James Leija. The rest is rich history.

After losing to the great Tszyu, Leija won four in a row before losing his final fight to, of all people, Arturo Gatti. Leija was knocked down twice and stopped in the fifth round of their bout at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He announced his retirement a week after this fight but would remain in boxing as a trainer.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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