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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 5: Kid McPartland

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The black champion walked to his corner at once and began preparations for departure while McPartland was still struggling against fate on the floor. – The New York Evening World, October 14, 1902.

The story of Joe Gans and Kid McPartland goes all the way back to November of 1898 and the time of their first fight, in New York. It was McPartland, then, who was labelled the fighter with perhaps the greatest left-hand in the sport and it was Gans, odd to read, who was a local attraction, a genius according to his Baltimore boosters but unproven to the wider world.

How times had changed.

But in 1898 it was McPartland who held the left, and it was McPartland who began as the favourite.  This was something of a graduation night for Gans and two things fascinate above all others. The first is how well Gans, or perhaps the wily Al Herford, had McPartland scouted, and the second is how beautifully Gans put that scouting to work. The first of these is no small matter; Gans had observed McPartland from ringside but he had not film to study, no long hours of analysis. Still, for the most part, Gans reduced the McPartland’s celebrated left to something of a liability.

Gans boxed McPartland carefully, in a way that a ringsider at the Rufe Turner fight would have recognised. His essential strategy for a fighter that he finds dangerous is to handle them like they are deadly while simultaneously dominating them with accuracy and timing, and the first McPartland fight was such a contest. Gans spent the early rounds “fiddling” in the lexicon of 1898, “feeling his man out” to you and me. By the third what was notable was the ease with which Gans was parrying and blocking the left while having joy with his own. McPartland was sending in grazing left-hands or bodyshots while Gans repeatedly rattled McPartland’s teeth, literally, decades before the advent of the gumshield.

The price for his isolation of the McPartland left was his sucking up the occasional right, but Gans knew enough to know he could hold those punches without issue. When McPartland tried to change the pattern by rushing Gans, Gans was prepared for this too and lifted his man with uppercuts. Once his dominance was established, which was clear some time around the thirteenth round, he began fighting two-handed and with more abandon. It was late in the contest before McPartland was able to score a meaningful left, but he did so in the nineteenth round and for a moment it seemed he might save himself, but it was the Kid, not Gans who visited the canvas, dropped by a left-hand, of course, in the twenty-fourth round. Gans “escaped with little punishment” according to The Brooklyn Eagle, an opinion shared by The New York Sun.

Mid-career Bernard Hopkins is the fighter who comes to mind when reading about 1800s Gans.  Brilliant at turning his opponent’s strength to a weakness and countering what is best in him, he seems first and foremost a general but lacking, perhaps, the vicious streak that would have allowed him to definitively conquer the better men he faced. Keep in mind the terrible battles Elbows McFadden forced upon Gans in the 1800s but that come the 1900s, Elbows could not live with his old foe. Now, McPartland returned to the fore, hoping, perhaps, his own experiences from the 1800s might help him.

That hope, such as it was, lay perhaps in his second fight with Gans, staged in 1899. A short-form fight over six, it reads suspiciously like the first six of their 1898 contest, much careful sparring early giving way to Gans offence at the end of the fifth, but no more was to be learned and the fight is generally reported a draw. A second fight over the shorter distance delivered the same result.  McPartland, then, had information to hand with which to build his own plan.

The earlier incarnation of Gans was fought on even terms and forced to quit against Erne; the championship version destroyed him in one. The earlier incarnation of Gans was stretched to the absolute limit by Elbows McFadden; the championship version destroyed him in three. The earlier incarnation of Gans out-thought McPartland but was forced to traverse the distance against a dangerous fighter. What would the championship version make of him?

The fight was slated for October 6 and McPartland, at the end of September, brimmed with confidence.

“I am leaving nothing to chance,” he told reporters after training. “I have met Gans before…and I always managed to keep him busy. I know the coon’s [sic] style pretty well and I really believe I can do more with him than any other lightweight.”

“McPartland appears extremely confident,” reported The Buffalo Courier. “If confidence, condition, shiftiness and a dangerous punch cut a figure (and they usually do), McPartland will give a good account of himself.”

Certainly, his training camp seemed fit for purpose. McPartland often boxed three men a day, including the big, rough lightweight prospect Warren Zurbrick. “The more the merrier,” McPartland offered. “I shall be ready for all comers.” McPartland’s camp was an open book for fighters, all of whom were welcome to spar with him.

The truth of McPartland’s history shows a spotty attitude to training, “in and out” as the parlance of the day would have it. At the end of September 1902 though, McPartland was in crisp shape. The reason for this was McPartland’s membership in Kid Carter’s camp. Kid Carter was a middleweight contender of the era who had failed two weeks prior in an attempt at Tommy Ryan’s championship.  The camp, described as a “siege” by one paper was a strict one and one that saw not just Carter but McPartland, too, trained to the absolute quill. McPartland rolled out of that camp and into preparation for his own crack at the world championship.

“Boxing with such big fellows as Kid Carter has done me a heap of good,” he said. “I feel stronger than ever and men of my own weight feel weak and light in front of me…I think I am better now than ever before.”

Five-thousand tickets went on sale on noon of the twenty-ninth of September; around this time rumour emerged of Kid McPartland developing a system specifically designed to offset the Gans left, much as Gans did to McPartland in 1898. Whether or not this story was a red herring is unknown, but it is a fascinating wrinkle. McPartland’s condition though seemed, for the moment, beyond reproach, The Buffalo Evening News making a fit McPartland “about the only man in the country today outside of Erne who has a possible chance to beat [Gans].”

It is interesting that the article excludes Jimmy Britt, who was in the picture to be matched with Gans at around this time but for hand-trouble. These injuries were the pugilist’s bane in a time of small gloves with minimal padding and was the reason so many six-round non-title fights were settled more peacefully, “exhibitions” only as was the accordance with law in many states. Fighters could not afford to put themselves forth to the full in every fight, especially not when they were fighting two, four, even more times in one month. Care had to be taken in sparring and fighting alike – training to the point of absolute peak only to break one’s hand in the first round after throwing an ill-advised left-hook was, I imagine, a special kind of misery.

Gans was not immune. On October fourth, the fight was postponed for one week. The announcement was odd. Herford, who was due to arrive with Gans in Buffalo the next day prior to travelling up to Fort Erie in time for the fight two days later, instead wired the International Club with news that Gans had “sprained his hand” and “would not take any chances until it was strong.” Sixty hours from weigh in, this was a blow, not least to McPartland who felt himself ready. The blow was perhaps softened by the $200 forfeit he was able to collect but according to the Buffalo Illustrated Times he “almost cried” when told the fight was off.

Now scheduled for the thirteenth, just one week later, the usual speculation began to circulate regarding Joe’s conduct; had he trained properly? Could he make weight? Was the injury real, or a fabrication? No answers were forthcoming from the Gans camp who were used to such accusations, but it was announced that the champion would now be arriving in Buffalo on the ninth. McPartland sulked, and crossed into Canada to be weighed, a necessity if he wished to collect his money. Sure enough, the challenger hit 134lbs. His face apparently “drawn and pinched,” The Buffalo Enquirer also reported that McPartland “never looked better in his life.” Tight at the weight but clearly ready to fight, he was not in the best of moods.

“Of course I claimed Herford’s forfeit,” he snapped. “I would not give him a penny if I could help it.  He has been telling the same tales of me being afraid of Gans that he did about Frank Erne.  [Training] was hard work and I will have to do the whole thing over again. Then it makes a man nervous. I am not afraid of the result of the battle. Gans knows that I have no fear of him. I never saw the negro I feared.”

Gans maintained his silence. Herford went to the trouble of telephoning The Courier to tell them that he planned to instruct Gans to give McPartland “an extra good beating” for these remarks.

Herford’s loyalty to Gans was mirrored in that of Gans to Herford, and this despite some allegedly shady dealings. Herford’s qualifications for handling a fighter as peerless as Gans were equally shady, his background that of a restaurant manager and gambler, not a boxing man. Showbusiness is showbusiness as the saying goes, however, and the two seemed to come to some sort of accord whereby Gans did all the work and Herford counted the money – and did all the talking.

“I had a hard time getting Gans where he is,” Herford once told assembled Baltimore reporters, overlooking, one might argue, Joe’s own role in his triumph. “I tell you boys it is a pretty tough job getting a colored boxer up to the top of the ladder these days. Of course some may say, look at Tom O’Rourke. Did he not make George Dixon the champion?”

It is unrecorded as to whether or not any of those assembled pointed out to Herford that Dixon, himself, was the man most responsible.

Gans and Herford arrived in Buffalo the day before the fight and seem to have set down in Buffalo for mere minutes before heading straight for Fort Erie and The American Hotel. “[Gans] looked to be in superb condition,” reported The Courier, which apparently caught a glimpse of the champion.  Speaking briefly, Gans reported that his hand was ready and that he was too. He covered a reported twelve miles along the Canadian shore, “finishing as if he had been out for a short walk.”

Charley White was the other big arrival, the perennial championship referee having travelled from New York. Nor was he alone; many New Yorkers had travelled with him having secured tickets for the fight.

McPartland, who had finished his training the day before and tipped the beam at just under 134lbs, took his rest and waited. He weighed in at 3pm on the day of the fight weighing just under 135lbs; Gans followed him to the scales and matched the number but it was noted that he looked the bigger man. This was a problem for McPartland, for his plan to nullify the Gans offence called for him to impose himself upon Gans physically.

“Stretching…the rules to their utmost,” reported the Buffalo Morning Express, “McPartland tried his best to get Gans into a mauling, waltzing match.”

Gans has seen this before however, and from McPartland himself no less. He remained patient and he remained distant where it was possible. He also began to look for the right-hand, a change from his first fight with McPartland where he seemed to favour the left. Meanwhile, when it came to McPartland’s ranged efforts, Gans’ defence was more devastating than ever.

“McPartland did not land over eight solid blows during the entire time of the bout,” wrote The Buffalo Evening Times. “Gans smothering most of his leads before they were fairly started.”

While he smothered McPartland’s shots, Gans waited and that cost him the occasional left to the body. Some combination of McPartland’s grappling and Joe’s maneuvering caused Gans to slip in the second. In the third, Gans changed up and returned McPartland’s pressure but continued to block what McPartland returned with consummate ease. The fight so far had been defined by the “pretty blocking and shifty footwork” described by The Enquirer but Gans now changed it up.

McPartland “put forward a very fair effort” as The Evening World saw it, “but the effort to make weight had evidently told heavily on his frame…Cool, collected, holding himself in reserve form the first gong [Gans] stealthily pursued [McPartland] from corner to corner, never venturing to dangerous depths and unerringly grasping the occasional opportunities left open for him.”

As he stalked, he lashed McPartland’s body and although McPartland was able to block many of these shots, he left himself wide open for Gans right hand to the jaw which dropped him for an eight count close to the end of the third. McPartland, at least, had not showed fear in the opener but by the third he was on the run, Gans in cautious, tempered, stalking pursuit.

McPartland clinched his way through the fourth and in the fifth was reduced to remaining at distance but trying to time his rushes to get inside the Gans artillery while avoiding or blocking punches. Such strategy is doomed to failure in a four round smoker but against a great champion in his prime it spells the end. Gans literally “went over to McPartland’s corner” at bell and began hitting him. Almost every report of the fight describes the economy of risk with which Gans boxed but you can tell he has smelled the blood in the fifth; his approach seems intemperate for the first time, and McPartland was not so far gone as to miss the chance and “put left on face” [sic] according to The Enquirer’s round-by-round; then Gans rushed.

The end, when it came, was sudden but layered. Gans had spent the fight hitting to the body to open up a pathway for the right hand to the head. Here, he feinted with a right hand to the jaw and “McPartland, falling into the trap, raised his guard to the blow.”

The Courier continues the tale:

“In precisely the same manner that Bob Fitzsimmons won his famous battle from Jim Corbett,” it reported, “Joe Gans, the lightweight champion, knocked out Kid McPartland. The final blow…was a terrific left-handed drive to the solar plexus.”

The final punch is reported in much detail and is worth quoting in full that the reader may clearly understand the technique.

“In delivering the blow Gans shifted his position so as to bring his right leg in front of him, sending home his blow with full force simultaneously with the shift.”

The shift, a pivot, or switch, depending upon the era, was a much-admired technique perfected by Fitzsimmons and then Stanley Ketchel, here executed by Joe Gans. McPartland was immediately floored and “writhed in agony” as Gans coolly returned to his corner and prepared to depart the ring. He did not even look towards the shape snatching wildly for breath in a crumpled heap on the canvas.

“My punch,” McPartland wept, no less, once recovered. “He got there first!”

“He’s improved,” he offered later. “He’s a hard man to reach. He got me with just the same smash I was trying to put on him.”

Gans seemed please. He spoke at length to the press, not something he went out of his way to do, often preferring to speak through Herford.

“McPartland found me a different proposition tonight to what I was when we last fought. He gave me a good go tonight until I finally got him properly gauged. He is a shifty fellow and has a good defense and a wicked blow with that left. I knew I would beat him and figured that he would go out when I landed the first square blow. I thought it would be a jaw punch but he was too foxy, and I had to try the solar plexus on him.”

Joe’s plans were a matter of much interest but here Gans did hand over to Herford, who announced that Gans would travel down to Lancaster in Pennsylvania to face no less a figure that Dave Holly.  Holly was inconsistent, but a serious proposition, especially the day after a title fight. Undefeated in twenty-nine fights he perhaps had plans on making Gans the thirtieth and therefore gaining himself a title shot. Those plans did not come to fruition; Gans dropped him four times as Holly became the latest elite pugilist to turn in a performance laced with fear.

This seems now beyond belief, but The Baltimore Sun was clear: “Holley [sic] made almost no effort to fight, confining his work to running around the ring out of the champion’s reach and clinching.”

“Gentlemen,” Gans addressed the crowd afterwards. “If the management will get a good man to meet me here, I will try and give you a better exhibition.”

“While disappointed in not scoring a knockout,” The Sun continued, “Gans took the fight almost in the nature of a joke.”

Holly would finish his career credited with victories over the like of Rufe Turner, Jack Blackburn and the all-time great Joe Walcott.

“That Gans is the superior of all the lightweights, there is no doubt,” concluded The Times. “He is the exponent of all that is clever, and though his gameness has been often questioned he must be given credit for being about the best the world has ever produced in the lightweight division.”

Before he was finished, Gans would prove himself as game as any pugilist who had ever stepped onto an ill-stretched canvas and scraped his carefully scarred leather soles in resin.

This series was written with the support of boxing historian and Joe Gans expert Sergei Yurchenko. His work can be found here: http://senya13.blogspot.com/

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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