Storyville! The Romance and Tragedy of Boxing.

Trail

R.I.P. Joe Rein
May 24, 2013
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when it comes to story telling their is no one better then Brendan Ingle, a few of his stories are true many of them are spiced up, some just made up...But entertaining none the less.

The following is an article from The Irish Times,

The champion maker
Sat, Mar 9, 1996,
TOM HUMPHRIES


IN WINCOBANK, the pathways are still pockmarked with dishwater grey, scabs of ice. The country beyond gives off the soft glare of February snow. The steep roofed houses are stacked right up the hill. A strange place from which to plan world domination.

"Cup of tea?" asks Brendan Ingle, beneath the lintel of his house, here on this hill, in the east end of Sheffield. He is wearing a hunting hat. Duly, he hunts the grumbling family dog out of the living room.

"Or coffee if you prefer."

"Whatever you're having, Brendan."

"Don't drink tea or coffee." He pauses. "Anyway, it's Ramadan."

Don't ask. It'll all come spilling out anyway. This is Brendan's neck of the woods. Wincobank. Where he does his talking and his boys learn their fighting.

"Up there," he says, pointing right, towards his living room wall. "Top of the hill, that's where Naz lives.

Naz, Prince Naseem Hamed to you, isn't in residence at the minute. The world champion has set himself up in a four bedroom spread in what Brendan affectionately dismisses as the posh part of Sheffield. Ingle likes to ask Naz if, with all his tricks and all his dancing, he can manage to sleep in all four bedrooms at once. Young fellas and their money. Easily sundered.

"Don't you talk that man to death," calls Brendan's wife Alma, suddenly. "He'll talk you to death, you know." And Brendan rolls his eyes theatrically. Starts talking, unspooling his life as he sits beneath the crowded bookshelves which carry the testaments of his eclecticism. Potboilers.

Biographies (Thatcher and Michael Collins snuggled next to each other). Travel. All you need to know about Yemen. Religion. Politics. A few boxing books as well. No manuals for the man who has sent forth so many champions from this patch of Sheffield.

"You know what I say to the kids when they come in across the road," says Brendan. "You know what I tell them?"

"No, Brendan." He leans forward and acts out the scene playing himself in a nice understated way. I'm a bit of an expert on sex," he says, startlingly. "What?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm a bit of an expert on sex and I'm a bit of an expert on politics and I'm a bit of an expert on religion and I'm a bit of an expert on economics, too. Not an expert. Just a bit of an expert. Sure I wouldn't have survived any other way. Mickey Duff, Jarvis Astaire, Harry Leveine. Jack Solomons. Millionaires. They controlled boxing when I came here first. Frank Warren broke that monopoly in the end.

"But I had me battles, though. I took me lumps and bumps. In the ring and out. Twenty two stitches here. Ten stitches there. Trained the hard way. Wife did the pads for me during sparring. Had five kids and worked seven days a week. I did all that. I didn't get anywhere, but I'm a bit of an expert on lots of things."

Brendan's voyage. He has been here for going on 40 years now. His accent is hard Dublin, tempered in Sheffield steel. He left a big and close boxing family in Ringsend and sailed to England one winter in the 1950s. His brother Jimmy met him at Victoria Station and fixed him up with some quick tutorials in the school of hard knocks.

"When I come away on the boat at Dun Laoghaire and the boat pulled out I just thought `bloody hell, will I ever see home again'. Got over to Holyhead at one or two. Train to Manchester. Snow on the ground in Sheffield. Had to walk up the city road. All the houses were browns and blacks and greens. `What have I bloody done,' I thought to meself, `what have I bloody done'.

"Peter had been here about a year. He'd came home once when I was 17 and he had a few hundred quid in his pocket. I knew I'd go then. He took me down to the city centre in the snow, set me walking around one spot that I got to know. Left me there till knew me way around. I thought it was terrible. He said this is your starting point. Knock at every door of every firm, tell them you'll do anything. So I went around. Nothing."

He settled into steel work, became accustomed to the grey strangeness of Sheffield, the tight back to back houses with the shared toilets, the feeling of always being an outsider. He put down the years indulging in his twin passions: talking and boxing.

Talking politics, religion, history, trade unionism. Arguing with anyone who would sit still. Fighting with anyone who would step outside. Along with a handful of displaced Ringsend kids, he joined Hillsborough Boys Club and spent his energies there boxing and sparring. Let a day dream grow in his head.

"That was 1959. It was in me head to go to the 1960 Olympics. I'd win the senior and junior championships at home and I'd go to the Olympics. I used train three times a day. I hooked up with Corinthians. Sparred with Steve Collins' uncle, Terry. I was holding me own as a welterweight. Down running every morning at six to tower at Sandymount, then down to Red Lighthouse, back in and training some more. In the heel of the hunt, I over trained. I was knackered when I came to the juniors. No Olympics. Going nowhere. I headed back to Sheffield."

Nothing but the same old story? No, heir could always throw a feint. Duck the stereotype. Irish, Catholic and socialist, he met Alma in a jazz club one night. She was English, Protestant and conservative, the right chemistry for a lifetime of talking. So he married her.

Two years later, his house was broken into one afternoon. The intrusion threw Brendan off kilter and he high tailed it for home, Alma with him. Had to be home. Got home and couldn't stick it. Back to Sheffield again.

BRENDAN INGLE lives in this house now. He got married in the church next door. He built the little five a side football pitch across the road, hewing it out of Sheffield stone with his own hands. He put up the boxing club much the same way, begging for girders to hang punchbags from, herding the youngsters in towards the heat of the Supersers and the whirr of the skipping ropes.

He's a bit of an expert on most things now. He knows how to a map a path through life's minefield. He remembers his second boat trip to England. He still had the money from the sale of his house in Sheffield. Some more, too. £600 in all. Got to gambling. Got down to his last £150. Fairly shaken. Gambled on. Stepped off in England, just £50 down. Vowed never to gamble again.

The expertise is put to good use. So much so that last year the University of Sheffield gave the Irish boxing trainer from Wincobank an honorary degree. All those champions, all those kids, all those hours, all that love and affection. It was due some reward. He has melted into the fabric of this place. He observes Ramadan every year, fasting with his muslim friends and fighters, moves seamlessly into the abstinence of Lent and goes hungry one day a week for the rest of the year just to feel the sharpness.

University? At the very mention of the word he is suddenly up out of the chair and itching to get across to the gym. "This is the university," he says, crossing the road, passing his own Peugeot 306, the livery of which identifies the driver as Brendan Ingle, manager of Prince Naseem Hamed. "This is where kids around here learn about things. They wander in here and they start learning discipline." His thoughts are interrupted by a car horn. The car stops.

"Sal!"

"Brendan!"

An elderly man is excitedly winding down the passenger window. Sal is Naseem Hamed's father. Friendly words fly through the frosted air. Sal delves into his pocket, fishes out a sheet of postage stamps sent to him from home. The faces of Ingle and Naseem beam out from each little perforated square. Seeing Brendan and Naz on the Yemeni national stamp moves Sal more than it moves Brendan. The journey rather than the destination is what enthralls Ingle.

With Naseem, whom as a skinny seven year old schoolboy Brendan spotted brawling from the top of a bus one day, he has travelled furthest. After a string of British, Commonwealth and European champions, Naseem is Brendan's first world champion, the boxer who will make him a rich man at last. There's satisfaction in that, but the work a day brawler who hits the gym once a week is just as absorbing to Brendan.

He hurries across to his gym. World champions are not in his thoughts. The gym, the St Thomas Boys club, is bare walled and pumping with heat, energy and music. The ring is at one end, the punchbags dangle in rows down the length of the hall. Rudimentary tools for hungry boxers.

Ingle isn't very big on the idea that people are born to be victims. Can't be, not having seen his boys fight their way out of trouble, out of poverty, out of discipline troubles. He's had them all through here. Tough nuts, thieves, losers, vandals, hooligans. Boxing gives them a framework. This gym gives them a stable point.

Sometimes it works. He calls over his latest pro, Davey Codwell. Davey has just bought a tuxedo so he can travel to the big time shows with Ingle. A tux is the passport to this brave new world. Codwell has lived in a flat, away from a violent home situation since he was 15, lived on £60 a week which he ekes out with weekend work. Stands on the cusp of a pro career. Doesn't know what would have become of him without boxing.

And sometimes Ingle fails. "If you want loyalty," he likes to say about his failures, "buy a dog." He tells the stories of failure. Like most social workers, the failures haunt him and the successes just grow away from him. Take Chalkie. Ingle brought a kid in here years ago, just nine or 10 years old. Problem kid, with a tough lonely road to walk. Looked after him, taught him, moved him in with Alma and the kids across the road, fed him, clothed him and loved him as one of his own.

One night Chalkie robbed the Ingle house. "You've robbed me Chalkie," said Brendan helplessly. "After all this, you've turned around and robbed me."

He tells all this and the sadness in his voice has turned to weariness. All Chalkie had to do was say he sorry and the fence was mended. Now there's distance and if Brendan wants loyalty he'll buy a dog."

It's part of the process. He talks of Herol Graham. He took Herol in and taught him what he calls his free thinking boxing, his philosophy whereby the science of defence takes precedence over the practice of mere slugging. Hero was good, so good you couldn't hit him with a handful of rice. He fought twice for the world championship, but along the way there were sharp words and had times. Everyone wants part of a winner.

"Here's how it is," says Brendan. "I take 25 per cent from the start. If my sons work with a fighter, they get another 10. That's for my time, for all the experience, all the knocks I took, all the mistakes I made, all the battles I've had. I take the chance with a kid. When he's getting £100 for a fight, he's happy to give me £25. He gets £400, he's happy to give me £100.

"He gets £4,000 and next thing somebody is whispering in his ear. Don't be giving that mad Paddy £1,000. I'll do it for £750 or £600. Come with me Lots of people to get their hands on the finished product."

Graham was the breakthrough fighter for Brendan Ingle. There has been a steady troop of champions through these doors since. Brian Anderson. Johnny Nelson. Slugger O'Toole. Neville Brown. Chris Saunders. Naseem Hamed. On the night when Naseem beat the peerless Robinson to become world champion, Brendan knew he had taught him - almost everything in his head.

"If you saw him switch hitting. Leading either way. Nobody could predict what way - Naz was going to move. That's the boxing I've dreamed of."

It's afternoon and the gym is full now. Brendan's boys are everywhere. Dreamers. Naz is doing a photo session. Neville Brown, who fights Steve Collins in Cork tonight, is punching the heavy bag. "Nev is going to win, says Brendan. "Mark my words. He's a good scientific boxer." Neville nods his head.

March is a busy month for Ingle. After Millstreet tonight, he takes Naseem to Glasgow next weekend. Then he has other irons in the fire. "Here's me heavyweight," he says, apropos one such iron. "This is Pele."

Pele is 23 and very big. He has three knockouts from three starts and Brendan plans for him to be world champion in five years. Even for the man who took Fidel Castro Smith and renamed him Slugger O'Toole, the appropriation of the name of the world's greatest footballer seems a bit cheeky.

"No," says Brendan outraged, "that's his name. The Da is mad for Brazilian football, He has a brother named Santos."

And so time passes. Down the decades, talking and boxing. He's rooted here with these people and these boxers. The National Front tried to get him out for running the first multi racial boxing club in Sheffield. The amateur boxing association tried to get him out when he started cleaning up their titles. Big time boxing folk tried to buy him out or force him out. Yet he rolls on. An independent republic of boxing perched on the side of a hill in Sheffield.

The only Irishman ever to appear on a Yemen national stamp talks about slowing down and then laughs at the very thought.

"I'll drop dead in the middle of a ring after a fight some night and when that happens yiz will all know that Brendan Ingle died happy.

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=19&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJqZrFnLHTAhUJ3YMKHTOqC4w4ChAWCEEwCA&url=http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/the-champion-maker-1.33944&usg=AFQjCNFN48Ase1V7Qr93L8GXehdnxpyg_Q&sig2=1G6KJfaXIqWdBN8bgAgKHA
What a wonderful article. Thank you.
 
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Trail

R.I.P. Joe Rein
May 24, 2013
30,594
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Interesting ever been there? Mind you I lived on the same street as Nobby Nobbs and his Journeyman gym for about a decade, but never once occurred to me to actually go and visit.
I keep promising myself a visit. It's literally half an hour drive.

Mental note to self - try harder.

Go to the link. It'll not let me cut and paste without coming out like this below.

http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204

Inside Sheffield’s fight factory: an insight into the Ingle boxing gym Lee Duncan, Brendan Ingle and Amer Khan BOB WESTERDALE 17:38 4 HAVE YOUR SAY Almost a decade ago, Amer Khan quit professional boxing at the relatively young age of 25 after a promising career which saw him record 13 straight wins and land a light heavyweight title. But Khan never quite kicked the habit of going to the Ingle gym, where he’d been training since he was 13. Today, he gives a Q&A insight into the culture and traditions of the talent factory at Wincobank, and gives his views on Kell Brook, Kid Galahad and the next crop of title-hunters. Your earliest memories? I’ve been with Brendan for 23 years and was there when Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes, Junior Witter, Esham Pickering, Buster Keeton, Neville Brown, Clifton Mitchell were there, to name a few. The gym was buzzing as we watched Brendan on the pads with Naz, it was just mesmerising. Brendan gave me (then a skinny 13 year old) the same training time as Naz and that was the beauty of Brendan; he was overly generous with his time to all the kids - even more than the professionals. He also got me back into school after I was ‘kindly’ asked to leave on a few occasions. He taught me to be a better person which he also use to say will also make you a better boxer. Brendan has done a tremendous amount for us in the gym and the community and boxing globally, I don’t think anyone is a patch on him. He’s 76, is still very active and is in the gym daily and a very instrumental part of what goes on. And your decision to retire? After 13 fights and picking up the area title I sparred with James Degale (IBF world super middleweight champion) and afterwards I had pains in my shoulder. An MRI scan revealed I needed surgery on a labral shoulder tear. I underwent two operations; the whole process took 18 months. As a kid I’d visited Elm Lane fire station on a school visit and remember thinking this is what I’m going to do after I finish boxing. Amer Khan and Kell Brook I used the time while I was injured to study and research the fire service after several attempts I was successful with Derbyshire fire service. It was the next best thing to boxing and the transition from prize fighter to firefighter was brilliant. Working with some fantastic people and keeping the community safe is very rewarding. The shift pattern as a fire fighter gives me the time for the gym. I was disappointed that I didn’t fulfil my ambition to win a major title as a boxer but knew I had to have a backup plan and a career in the fire service was better long term and decided to focus on that. It has been well documented that boxers suffer from depression when they finish boxing, I believe after you finish you need to use the skills you have learnt and utilise them like Johnny Nelson. He used his world title to get the best job in the world as a Sky Sports presenter. I believe there are many other opportunities. Amer Khan and Jerone Blake Tell me about your training of the next crop of Ingle youngsters? Brendan and Carl Luckock, the gym manger, asked me if I could help out with the amateurs as I still train there and keep myself fit. I now coach the amateurs alongside Junior Witter, we have a couple of good lads coming through: Issac Burgin, Jay Bunclark, Jerome Blake and Basit Khan for example. As a coach, I’m lucky as I’m getting mentored by Brendan and watching Dominic with Kell Brook and Barry Awad (Kid Galahad.) Within the city I also think Dalton Smith ticks all the boxes and hope he stays amateur and qualifies for the Olympics, before turning pro. Your views on Kell Brook’s defeat by Gennady Golovkin? Dominic Ingle (trainer) showed absolute class when pulling Kell out against Golovkin, saving him against further damage. Looking back if he didn’t get injured it could have been different as Kell was wining on the scorecards. I don’t believe the lost to GGG has had any detrimental effect on Kell’s career, if anything it puts him further on the map as one of the world’s best boxers currently around and he is even more determined to be the best. I remember looking at GGG after walking back to the changing rooms and, if there was a speech bubble on the top of his head, it would have said: “Thank God that is over.” Will Brook v Khan ever be made? I really hope the Amir Khan fight happens as there’s only room for one AK and I’m the real “Amer Khan!” Joking aside, let’s give the British public what they want to see. So Amir: ‘Stop ducking Kell.’ It’s all down to Amir...as Kell will box anyone. If that fight doesn’t happen then Kell will have to fight his mandatory however I’ve got a sneaky feeling it will happen though as there’s big money involved for both boxers. And the other professionals at Wincobank? 2017 will be a big year for our pros: Atif Shafiq, Leigh Wood, Kyle Yousaf, Jordan Gill all spring to mind. Kid Galahad is dynamite. He’s had three fights since his return and signed up with Frank Warren who, historically, we have a good relationship with. I just can’t see anyone beating him for me he’s a dead cert world champ. The world champions will avoid him like the plague. If you could have a New Year wish for the gym and its boxers, what would it be? Be fit be ready take your chances! There’s going to be a lot of opportunities in 2017, God willing. Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204 Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204 Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204 Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/sport/boxing/inside-sheffield-s-fight-factory-an-insight-into-the-ingle-boxing-gym-1-8316204
 
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Given the recent events here is a bizarre story from the past argument over a mysterous woman called "Jenny From Jacksonville" between Trevor Berbick and Larry Holmes which led to a street fight between the two and all of it caught on Camera by a TV crew.




Here is Steve Bunce.

Remembering one crazy night when 'Jenny from Jacksonville' made Larry Holmes fly


INSIDE BOXING: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Steve Bunce tells the story of two former world heavyweight champions fighting out on the street

The Independent Sport

Former heavyweight champion of the world Larry Holmes Getty Images
There was a woman called Jenny from Jacksonville, a fighter who would shoot dead his manager, another who would be bludgeoned to death by his nephew and one of the greatest-ever heavyweights acting like Superman.

In April 1991 Larry Holmes ended a short exile with a one-round win over the infamous Tim Doc Anderson at the Diplomat Resort and Country Club in Hollywood, Florida. Anderson, a serial loser, played his role beautifully and was willing to quit once Holmes flashed something slightly more lethal than a smile.

After the fight, as Holmes was talking to the press, somebody noticed the former world heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick, who was down on his uppers at the time, at the back of the room. Holmes was asked would he fight Berbick and dismissed the question with a smile. “No, that is not going to happen. I beat him once, won every round and I don’t like his attitude,” said Holmes before retiring to his suite. He had defended his world title against Berbick over 15 rounds in 1981.

Berbick, trying to look smart in a suit and tie, started talking once Holmes had left. He told a story about a woman called “Jenny from Jacksonville”, where Holmes had a vacation home, and her part in the breakdown of his marriage. “I can prove it,” Berbick ranted. “She is his sweetheart, nothing more than a street whore. I got the tapes. She ruined it all for me [his marriage] and that was because of him.”


READ MORE
David Haye tops billing in chaotic heavyweight division

The previous year Berbick and his wife had split, he had been charged with the alleged rape of the family babysitter and then arrested for kidnapping his daughter. At the back of the post-fight conference that night he was blaming it all on Holmes, whose wife happened to hear it on the way to the elevator to return to their suite.

She told Larry what Berbick was saying, he left the room and went to find Berbick, and a scuffle followed, in the hotel’s lobby, which was broken up by two policemen. Nobody was arrested, no guns were drawn.

A few minutes later Berbick, who by now was looking rattled and dishevelled, was outside the hotel with a burly policeman either side of him. “You all saw Holmes hit me, he attacked me. Everybody saw that,” Berbick was shouting, as news crews filmed the fighter and jostled to get closer. This was a good news story – two former world champions, one in trouble with the police, fighting on the street.

And then there is one of those truly unforgettable moments, a single second or two where time does slow to allow every glorious, tiny, delicious detail to be enjoyed. As Berbick is appealing for witnesses the cameras follow a distant buzz, they swing away from Berbick, point high and capture the moment Holmes comes into view running at full speed on the roof of a black stretch limousine.


Trevor Berbick rants in the street before Larry Holmes jumps off the top of a car on to Berbick
At the far end of the limo there is Berbick, bewildered and still babbling incoherently; old Trev is unaware that coming at him from five feet off the ground is 17 stone of a flying Holmes in fury.

Holmes reaches the back of the limo, he’s still running hard and then he takes off in a heavy jump that instantly starts a losing struggle with gravity. Holmes lands heavily on Berbick, the police and a journalist or two, and they are skittled, rolling in a mess of punches, curses and howls of outrage. Big Larry is still throwing punches, make no mistake. What an end to a fight night – Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder last Saturday was a peace offering.

The postscript: Holmes never did fight Berbick again, but he did fight for, and lose, the world heavyweight title twice more, finally quitting in 2002 after beating a freak called Butterbean, who weighed about 25 stone. Incidentally, an hour after the limo madness Holmes was singing with his band, Marmalade, at the other post-fight party, applauded by the police he knocked over.

Anderson had five more fights, winning a couple that he was meant to lose and that led to conflict with his manager, Rick “Elvis” Parker, a foul-mouthed south Florida chancer. He was a big man in cowboy boots with crazy dreams, a wondrous ginger pompadour, always in shades and at the centre of deals for crooked fights.

They were inseparable, desperate and doomed: in 1995 Anderson killed Parker, firing so many bullets that he had to reload his pistol. Parker never got a chance to draw his Glock, which was attached to his fat leg, and now Anderson is in prison for life without the possibility for parole.

Berbick was given a police escort home after that night of mayhem at the Diplomat, but that cosy relationship abruptly ended when he did eventually serve 15 months for the sexual assault.

He continued to fight when he was released and preached minor miracles at tiny chapels in a late effort to save lost souls. He finally quit in 2000 after winning the Canadian heavyweight title and allegedly failing a brain scan. He was 45 then, and 52 when he was beaten to death with an iron pipe by his nephew, Harold Berbick.

Meanwhile, Jenny from Jacksonville remains at large.

http://www.independent.co.uk/syndication/reuse-permision-form?url=http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/boxing/remembering-one-crazy-night-when-jenny-from-jacksonville-made-larry-holmes-fly-a6825956.html
 
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The fighting preacher: Trevor Berbick
by Garnette Cadogan | Issue 84 (March/April 2007)



Trevor Berbick. Photograph by the Gleaner Company Limited



Berbick’s reputation suffers because he was a relative outsider, an erratic whose eccentricities prompted people to question his sanity. Boxing records show his age as 52 when he died, but sources variously list it as 49, 51, or 56. His response to the discrepancy — “I’m a spirit. I have no age” — may well have been subversive humour, but many took it as evidence of something else.

Consider what Don King told the New York Times about his encounter with Berbick in the summer of 1985:

“Every morning at 6.30 a.m. there’d be a knock on my hotel door,” King said, “and here would come Trevor Berbick, carrying a Bible and a cross.

‘While everybody may be your enemy, the Lord is on your side,’ he’d tell me. I’d be sleepy and half groggy while he’d preach. Two, three weeks in a row, he’d be there first thing in the morning, reading the 91st psalm.”

Gerry Cooney’s manager, Dennis Rappaport, told the Times about his negotiations with Berbick over a fight with Cooney. Berbick, he said, began their conversation by demanding a huge advance:

“I need money, a $100,000 deposit.”

“What?”

“I got a message from God. He said to ask you, and you’d give it to me.”

“When did you talk to God?”

“About 20 minutes ago.”

“Trevor, He changed his mind. He spoke to me about five minutes ago and said not to give you $20.”

Berbick’s self-designation as the Fighting Preacher bemused people; his occasional non sequiturs bewildered them.

Full article below.

Read the original article here: The fighting preacher: Trevor Berbick - Caribbean Beat Magazine - Caribbean Beat Magazine http://caribbean-beat.com/issue-84/fighting-preacher-trevor-berbick#ixzz4pUGthrWe
 
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Beau Jack: Still Fighting Old Wars



https://www.si.com/vault/issue/702661/186/2
THEY TOLD me he had guts as nobody since has had guts. They said you had to fight him or jump out of the ring or curl up in a ball and get killed.

They told me that the bell would ring and he would be throwing punches as soon as he stepped out of his corner, before he even got near the center of the ring. They said they saw him break his knee, crumple, stagger up onto his other leg and hop after his opponent, wincing horribly, still throwing punches.

They told me it was wartime then, and the only light during Friday-night air-raid blackouts in New York was the orange glow from the vacuum-tube radios that people huddled around, listening to his fights. They said he sold out Madison Square Garden more times than any man in history—attracted the largest live boxing gate ever, $35 million, and ended up without a penny, on his knees, shining men's shoes.

They told me these things in a way that made me think he was dead. People like that don't ever seem to be alive.

One day not long ago, I walked up a stairway into the Fifth Street Gym in Miami Beach. Four decades of fighters had spilled their body fluids there. It was hot and close in the room, and you could smell every drop of those juices. In the ring, something strange was happening. Three large men were taking turns beating up a fourth.

"Throw punches! Throw punches! You don't throw punches, you gonna get hit! Throw punches! Oh my god, have mercy, throw punches! Next! Your turn! Throw punches! Stop huggin' that man like he's your wife, goddam! Throw the left hook! Now! Oh, maaaaaan. Oh my god! Throw punches! Get out! Next! Throw punches!" The words poured from a small, coffee-colored man standing on the apron of the ring.

Read Whole Article: https://www.si.com/vault/1988/02/15/117125/still-fighting-old-wars-former-lightweight-champ-beau-jack-lives-out-his-legend


 
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Champ’s promise drowns in alcohol
‘Superbad’ was most talented Kronk boxer


By Fred Girard / The Detroit News

How bad was Bernard “Superbad” Mays, the tragically flawed sensation who may have been the greatest prizefighter in the rich history of the Kronk Boxing Club?

So bad that he won 200 fights and lost only one as an amateur; so bad that he won 40 straight bouts and lost only one as a pro; so bad that Thomas Hearns, who went on to six world titles, nearly quit boxing rather than face the prospect of sparring with him every day at Kronk.

“Bernard Mays was the king,” Hearns recalled. “I almost gave up boxing because I dreaded going to the gym every day. I knew I’d have to get in the ring with Bernard, and it was going to be a brawl.”

With all of that talent, Arthur Bernard Mays died an alcoholic pauper in 1994 at the age of 33, his brilliant talents withered.

More than any other former star from the fabled, 80-champion Kronk gym, Mays represents the tragic waste of lives and talent that have dogged many Kronk fighters.

Mays was born in 1960, the son of Victoria Mays and Prince Milton. He hated the name Arthur, and used only his middle name. When he was barely 11, an older cousin, a journeyman heavyweight fighter named Charlie “Big Tuna” Jordan, brought him to Emanuel Steward, the young trainer everyone was talking about at the Kronk gym. Within weeks, the quiet, angelic-looking lad was known only by the nickname he carried the rest of his too-short life — “Superbad.”

Best of all

“He was the most talented Kronk boxer of all,” Steward said. “He was like a legend, really.”

Kronk boxers says Steward is not exaggerating.

“It gives me chills just to talk about him,” said Robert Tyus of Detroit, one of the original Kronk team, winner of two amateur national titles. “Superbad Mays was like Sugar Ray Robinson — he had it all.”

“Superbad Mays was the awesomest fighter I ever saw — he could devour you,” said John Johnson of Detroit, who won a national amateur title under Steward. “Speed is power — it’s the punch you can’t see that knocks you out — and Bernard had a wicked left hook that would just take the breath from your body.”

Tournament winner at 14

When he was 14, Mays swept to victory in the 106-pound class of the national Junior Olympic tournament. Two years later, he repeated in the 139-pound division. He fought more than 200 times as an amateur, losing only once, and at every fight, Steward said, the first two or three rows would be packed with managers and trainers who had brought their boxers to see Superbad Mays.

But, “Bernard started disappearing on me,” Steward said. “He’d always been quiet, but he got moody, stopped showing up at the gym regular.”

Sixteen-year-old Superbad Mays had become addicted to Colt .45 malt liquor.

“Bernard and I had been drinking and smoking since we were 14,” acknowledged Eric Williams. That was also about the time, family members say, Prince Milton left and stopped being any influence on his young son’s life.

Former world lightweight champion Jimmy Paul said that at the 1977 Ohio State Fair national tournament “I’d be in bed sound asleep the night before every fight, and Bernard would be out drinking beer with the ladies all night, then come in and absolutely destroy everybody else in the tournament.”

Mays was named the tournament’s outstanding boxer. Later that year, he traveled to England and knocked out the European amateur champion.

Turned pro in 1978

When he turned professional in 1978, Mays parted company with Steward, who had hounded him about his drinking. His next manager, Chuck Davis, tried just as hard, and had just as little success.

Mays hired noted Oakland County attorney Elbert Hatchett to break his contract with Davis. After he did so, Hatchett, who fought as a kid and followed the game all his life, decided to manage and promote Mays himself.

“We lost a ton of money,” Hatchett said. “Bernard fought like Joe Louis. He was a middleweight, a classic boxer, just classic. He was the first guy (who) I saw knock somebody out hitting him in the side. But he would drink beer all the time.”

Roland Scott, Mays’ last trainer, said. “That beer just tore him up. He would get absolutely smashed.”

Won 40 straight

At the age of 31, Mays had fought 40 times as a pro and won them all, when everything caught up with him in a bout in California. An opponent hit Mays hard and staggered him badly, costing Mays the fight. The next day Hatchett had him in a hospital.

Mays’ alcohol-damaged pancreas was dangerously inflamed.

The doctor told Hatchett, “Look, this condition has progressed to such a point that he takes his life in his own hands if he decides to fight,”the doctor told Hatchett.

Superbad Mays would fight no more.

He stayed with his mother for a time, and after she died, a broke Mays entered the New Light Nursing Home in Detroit.

“He walked in here under his own power,” said administrator George Talley, and stayed for nearly a year.

In the final weeks his condition deteriorated rapidly. “When I saw him there at the end, his stomach was so swollen it looked like he was pregnant,” trainer Scott said.

On March 1, 1994, at 9:55 p.m., Superbad Mays’ heart stopped, unable to fight any longer against the crushing load of diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and chronic malabsorption syndrome.

He is buried in an unmarked grave — Section 4, Row 18, grave No. 36 — in Mt. Hazel, a small cemetery on Detroit’s far west side that has been closed for years.

Mays’ sister, Esther Farley of Ypsilanti, signed the death certificate.

“It was a painful thing to visit Bernard” in the nursing home, she said. “He was always a real charmer, a sweetheart — who knows where his life might have led?

“But alcoholism is a terrible disease.”


http://www.detnews.com/specialreports/2001/kronk/sunsuperbad/a011bernardmays14a.jpg

Bernard Mays, at age 14, under the watchful eye of trainer Emanuel Steward, won the 106-pound class of the national Junior Olympic tournament
 
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TWO CHAMPIONS AND ENEMIES


Jack Johnson was facing an angry mob. During the turbulent years when he was the first black man to hold the heavyweight boxing championship, Johnson routinely fought surrounded by menacing white crowds. But on that June night in 1936, Johnson wasn't champion, and the mob wasn't white. Hours earlier, Joe Louis had been beaten by Germany's Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in New York City, sending many black Americans into shock. As Harlem erupted in frustration and rage, Johnson roamed the neighborhood flaunting the money he had won betting against Louis. Now people wanted Jack Johnson's blood.

"That Joe has a lot to learn," Johnson had said. Louis, he claimed, was a "mechanical fighter" who didn't know how to think in the ring, a "clumsy greenhorn" with an "off-balance stance." And Johnson had continually pointed out the flaw that had proved to be Louis's undoing. "Louis holds his left too low," Johnson had warned before the Schmeling fight, "and the first fellow who makes him step back and then throws a right at his chin will knock him out."

Read the rest; https://www.si.com/vault/1990/05/14/106781476/two-champions-and-enemies
 
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Mean Streets, Hard Time

Dwight Braxton's palm is lost in the grasp of Pat Giambrone, whose fingers are as thick as the Italian sausages he makes in his market on the corner of South Fifth and Division in Camden, N.J. A few years ago Giambrone trusted Braxton with the day's receipts when nobody would trust him with a secondhand mouthpiece. "A guy from the bank called and told me a 'fugitive from justice' just walked in with my money," Giambrone recalls. "Can you imagine that?"
Can you imagine this? On Aug. 7, Braxton will defend his WBC light heavyweight title against Matthew Saad Muhammad at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and will make anywhere from $400,000 (his guarantee) to $700,000 (the maximum, counting his share of the gate). Braxton expects to make $2 million from a title unification fight with WBA champ Michael Spinks. Such a payday for a light heavyweight may seem like a dream, but for Braxton—who 4½ years ago seemed on the verge of a lifetime in prison—dreams die hard.

He had no formal early boxing training and no amateur career, he was old for a boxer (25) when he started serious training, and, most of all, at 5'6½", he was considered too small to be great. "His arms too short to box with Saad," was what the smart guys said before he knocked him out in the 10th round to win the title in Atlantic City last Dec. 19. "I'm an inch taller than Dwight," says his brother Tony, a 28-year-old junior middleweight. "But don't tell him I told you. He'd kill me." Tony is the fifth youngest of Dwight's nine living brothers. An older brother, Charles, died this year.

Read the rest: https://www.si.com/vault/1982/08/02/628388/mean-streets-hard-time


 
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Mean Streets, Hard Time

Dwight Braxton's palm is lost in the grasp of Pat Giambrone, whose fingers are as thick as the Italian sausages he makes in his market on the corner of South Fifth and Division in Camden, N.J. A few years ago Giambrone trusted Braxton with the day's receipts when nobody would trust him with a secondhand mouthpiece. "A guy from the bank called and told me a 'fugitive from justice' just walked in with my money," Giambrone recalls. "Can you imagine that?"
Can you imagine this? On Aug. 7, Braxton will defend his WBC light heavyweight title against Matthew Saad Muhammad at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and will make anywhere from $400,000 (his guarantee) to $700,000 (the maximum, counting his share of the gate). Braxton expects to make $2 million from a title unification fight with WBA champ Michael Spinks. Such a payday for a light heavyweight may seem like a dream, but for Braxton—who 4½ years ago seemed on the verge of a lifetime in prison—dreams die hard.

He had no formal early boxing training and no amateur career, he was old for a boxer (25) when he started serious training, and, most of all, at 5'6½", he was considered too small to be great. "His arms too short to box with Saad," was what the smart guys said before he knocked him out in the 10th round to win the title in Atlantic City last Dec. 19. "I'm an inch taller than Dwight," says his brother Tony, a 28-year-old junior middleweight. "But don't tell him I told you. He'd kill me." Tony is the fifth youngest of Dwight's nine living brothers. An older brother, Charles, died this year.

Read the rest: https://www.si.com/vault/1982/08/02/628388/mean-streets-hard-time



Dwight Muhammad Qawi, is a personal favourite thanks for sharing.

Another whose career could be made into a movie, Personally I think if a Movie production company decided to focus on making movies based on Boxers they would never run out of storylines.
 
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A where are they now story great piece of investigative journalism by Dan Greene.. To locate the "worst Boxer ever".


The Worst Boxer Ever.




Whatever happened to ‘The Worst Boxer in the History of the World’?


QUICKLY
  • One Tuesday night in 1993, Brian Sutherland stepped into a ring and lasted just 56 seconds. But his short-lived bout lives on in infamy on the Internet.
By Dan Greene
August 01, 2016
The midday sun shines hard on Kings Mountain, a pickup truck town between the highways that cut through North Carolina’s southwestern hills. I ring the front doorbell twice, then the one on the side door under the overhang garage. There is no response but a small dog’s yapping on the inside. Minutes pass slowly outside the brick-and-vinyl split-level. I sweat a bit. I wonder if I’m in the right place.

I came here because of a YouTube video. When anyone asked why I was heading to Kings Mountain, I would show them the clip. Soon they understood.

That video, entitled The Man From Shelby and posted in 2008, has more than 90,000 views. There’s another version called THE WORST DEBUT IN BOXING HISTORY that has more than 330,000. Worst Boxer ever. Tidy Mullet has more than 60,000. The most popular version is called Worst Boxer in the History of the World ...epic mullet!!! and features Quebecois announcers, jump-cuts to a shocked Beyonce and to a cat fighting a chicken, as well as “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background. In nearly six years online it has been viewed more than three million times.

It was The Man From Shelby that I came across one idle afternoon, while stumbling down an Internet rabbit hole of listicles about the worst boxers of all time. Even within that genre, so much of the video struck me: The man from Shelby’s mustache and, yes, his tidy and epic mullet above an everyman build and a patch of chest hair. The claim that he was making his professional debut. His flailing kangaroo punches. The open derision from the television commentators. The inevitable conclusion after 56 seconds, when he got tagged with a left hook and then nailed by an overhand right that spun him straight up like a Looney Tunes character. The way his assailant shrugged as he collapsed to the mat. The slight smile after he climbed back to his feet. That all of this was broadcast on national TV as part of the USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights.

How could this have happened? What sort of process could produce such a mismatch on such a stage? And whatever became of “the world’s worst boxer,” whose real name was Brian Sutherland? I took to Google. I found blog posts from a few years ago yukking it up over the video, an ironic following on boxing message boards, comparisons to another mulleted Shelby native, the fictional Kenny Powers of HBO’s Eastbound & Down. I pulled up the entry for Sutherland on BoxRec, the sport’s online encyclopedia. He had no fights after this knockout in 1993, but there had been one 10 days before, another first-round KO loss, this one to a heavyweight with a career record of 17–102–2. There were no local newspaper stories on either fight from then or now. The only social media accounts I found belonged to other Brian Sutherlands or were obvious fakes made by jokesters taken with the YouTube clips. I couldn’t find a real trace of the man himself.

Over the next few weeks, my curiosity stayed piqued. Here was a man whose life briefly and bizarrely caught the light, who got knocked out, receded into anonymity, and was unwittingly thrust back into the public eye to be laughed at two decades on. The more I watched the clip, the more I wanted to find out: What was the story of the man from Shelby?

Read the rest of the article here.... https://www.si.com/boxing/brian-sutherland-worst-boxer-ever-youtube-video
 
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Blood Relations
Sportswriter Sam Kellerman might have gone even further than his older brother, HBO analyst Max Kellerman, if his generosity to an old boxing friend hadn't led to murder

By Gary Smith



AT 9:45 P.M. on a Sunday in the autumn of 2004, Detective Elizabeth Estupinian of the Los Angeles Police Department entered a small apartment just off Sunset Boulevard. On the floor lay a sportswriter beneath a blanket. On his skull were the wounds from 32 blows by a blunt instrument. Against the wall leaned a blood-spattered hammer. The sportswriter's car was missing, and so was his houseguest: a professional boxer with bipolar disorder whose nickname was the Hammer.

It seemed, perhaps, the simplest murder case in Detective Estupinian's 11 years on the job. Unless she happened to be the sort of sleuth who wouldn't rest until she scraped the very bottom of why.

Here was something odd: The victim, just weeks earlier, had written a story about his suspected murderer. Odder yet: a story about his murderer's struggle to control his violent impulses. The detective had only to Google the names of the 29-year-old sportswriter, Sam Kellerman, and of the 31-year-old light heavyweight boxer, James Butler, and up would pop Sam's column for foxsports.com.

Read the rest: https://www.si.com/vault/2006/04/17/8374976/blood-relations
 
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Dynamito the Bernard Mays story is one that has been sadly played out before and since,alcoholism and boxing have crossed paths many a time from the bare knuckle fighters like Tom Sayers,Tom Molyneaux to name two of many of the day,John L.Sullivan etc.Let alone the modern fighters.

Young Griffo the Australian fighter,who was talented his alcoholism cost him a fortune in modern money 10 k dollars in lined up fights 1900,amazing money for a fighter of his weight.

http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/casey/MC_YoungGriffo2.htm
 
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Dynamito the Bernard Mays story is one that has been sadly played out before and since,alcoholism and boxing have crossed paths many a time from the bare knuckle fighters like Tom Sayers,Tom Molyneaux to name two of many of the day,John L.Sullivan etc.Let alone the modern fighters.

Young Griffo the Australian fighter,who was talented his alcoholism cost him a fortune in modern money 10 k dollars in lined up fights 1900,amazing money for a fighter of his weight.

http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/casey/MC_YoungGriffo2.htm
Yeah tragedies have been played out too many times, Alcohol, drugs, depression, bad management, bad choice in marriage, bad friends, bad streets, bad investments, bad crimes, bad tax agents from the IRS.

I did think of doing a series of posts on boxers who lived happily ever after, but that would be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Then again thats why I put the word "romance" first in the title tragedy usually follows. ... Or you could argue the story usually begins in tragedy then there's the brief romance a Cinderella story of rags to riches and then we usually go full circle with a tragic ending.

Mind you the "Worst Boxer ever" in the article above probably has had a happier life after his brief dalliance with Boxing then many legends of the sport.
 
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Yeah tragedies have been played out too many times, Alcohol, drugs, depression, bad management, bad choice in marriage, bad friends, bad streets, bad investments, bad crimes, bad tax agents from the IRS.

I did think of doing a series of posts on boxers who lived happily ever after, but that would be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Then again thats why I put the word "romance" first in the title tragedy usually follows. ... Or you could argue the story usually begins in tragedy then there's the brief romance a Cinderella story of rags to riches and then we usually go full circle with a tragic ending.

Mind you the "Worst Boxer ever" above probably has had a happier life after his brief dalliance with Boxing then many legends of the sport.

Spot on Dynamito,we are on the same page.Think you have an interest in the bare knuckle days IIRC two men that did very well for themselves.You will be familiar with both names,many won't.

Historically guys like the man in my avatar Tom Cribb bucked the trend died at 66 financially set up,royal connections and a National hero.As crazy at it seems now 66 was a fine age to live to,was years beyond the average lifespan of those days,he died in 1848.

Think Jack Broughton leaving 7,000 pounds in his will when passing in 1789 in modern money a fortune and lived well into his 80's depending on reference 84 or 85,would be comparable to a man living well into his century :good.
 
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Spot on Dynamito,we are on the same page.Think you have an interest in the bare knuckle days IIRC two men that did very well for themselves.You will be familiar with both names,many won't.

Historically guys like the man in my avatar Tom Cribb bucked the trend died at 66 financially set up,royal connections and a National hero.As crazy at it seems now 66 was a fine age to live to,was years beyond the average lifespan of those days,he died in 1848.

Think Jack Broughton leaving 7,000 pounds in his will when passing in 1789 in modern money a fortune and lived well into his 80's depending on reference 84 or 85,would be comparable to a man living well into his century :good.
I am not too clued up on the bare knuckle days, but thats remarkable considering the short life expectancy for the time.

The best "Happy" story in Boxing of recent years would have to be the life and career of the legendary Angelo Dundee was happily married to an equally remarkable woman Helen Bolton for 58 years she passed away 2 years before he did. Had 2 wonderful children ...generally lived a charmed life.

Read his original biography written in the 1980's called " I only Talk winning". fascinating story one of my favourite characters of the sport, there was talk of a movie being made of his life starring Robert De Niro, dont know what happened there.
 
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Julio César Chávez Jr. Lost So Much More Than A Fight
5/11/17 1:29pm

Art by Jim Cooke/GMG; photos via Getty/AP
Before this past Saturday’s fight, in which his son was thoroughly dominated by Saúl “Canelo” Alvarez, Julio Chávez Sr. assured anyone who would listen that his son had changed. Chávez Jr., he insisted, no longer was the apathetic boxer who woke up for an early evening bowl of cereal while wearing pink underwearinstead of getting in some early morning road work. And though many will claim in the face of such an underwhelming performance that what happened was exactly what they expected, there was reason to believe Chávez Jr. had, in fact, changed.

In February, he hired the great Nacho Beristáin—who was also Chávez Jr.’s most important and vocal critic—to train him. Under strength and conditioning coach Memo Heredia, an admitted steroid dealer who produces results, Chávez Jr. lost over 50 pounds in 9 months and got into the best shape of his life. Attempting to avoid distractions, Chávez Jr. even sequestered himself atop the Temoayan mountains in the state of Mexico, living a spartan lifestyle completely focused on training.

None of it mattered.

Read the rest: https://deadspin.com/julio-cesar-chavez-jr-lost-so-much-more-than-a-fight-1795028415
 
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Dr Freddie Pacheco passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 89, he was a charismatic Doctor who had a medical practice in the notorious Overtown Ghettoe of Miami , he was plucked from obscurity by Muhammad Ali who hired him as his physician and he like most of Ali's entourage became a celebrity in his own right, was a popular painter and worked as a commentator for many years. Here is his story. (Scroll down past Freddies art work)


Fight Doctor's last round
































By Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer
Published: November 30, 2013
Updated: February 11, 2014 at 07:57 PM
MIAMI

In his studio, Ferdie Pacheco stares at the canvas and picks up his brush. Another friend from his youth has passed away. Time to summon a memory.

Ferdie dips the brush, applies a dab of paint to old No. 35. It seems impossible to him that Rick Casares is gone. Casares, the pride of Ferdie's old neighborhood in Ybor City and the legendary Chicago Bears running back, was young and powerful and immortal. And then suddenly — it seems like it happened suddenly to Ferdie — his boyhood pal was an old man, chronically ill, with no chance of getting better.

Once Ferdie could sprint across Seventh Avenue weighed down by school books and float like a butterfly onto a passing Ybor City street car. As a middle-aged man he could slip through boxing ring ropes as smoothly as the most graceful dancer. Now he walks with difficulty.

Ferdie, which is what everybody calls him, grew up precocious and wild in Tampa but ended up in Miami, where he became a doctor and writer and painter and a notorious ladies' man. Of course he can tell you stories about his most famous patient. He was Muhammad Ali's boxing doctor and friend.

Stories? He's got a million.

"Here's just a little one,'' he says from his couch in the beautiful home he shares with his third wife, Luisita.

A charming lie. Ferdie has never told a short story in his life. They are long, humorous and risque. More often these days they are tinged with sadness.

As he paints his famous portraits, as he tells his colorful stories, he weeps for friends who have died and abandoned him. His own three strokes have left him wondering about his own mortality.

He is 85 now and shuffling into the ring for what sometimes seems to him his final round.

• • •

In his mind, of course, he is still the smartest kid in Ybor, the adored son of Consuela and J.D. Pacheco. It's the Depression, though his parents are doing okay. And so, for that matter, is Ybor, the Hillsborough County city founded in the late 19th century by Spanish, Italian and Cuban immigrants. Factory workers still make cigars by hand. The fish mongers sell red snapper for Christmas Eve suppers. The smell of roasting coffee wafts on the breeze.

His grandfather, Gustavo Jimenez, is still alive. He is elegant, artistic, a former consul. An indifferent father to his own children, he has tried to make up for it by instilling greatness in his grandson. He makes the boy listen to opera on the radio on Saturday. Grandfather takes the boy to the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, sits him before a painting and asks "What do you see?'' The boy, who likes to draw, sees a pretty picture. Not good enough! What else? Well, the boy's eye is drawn to a circle of off-center light. Yes! Grandfather is pleased. It's all about the light, Ferdie.

He eats candy. Plays baseball. Goes to school. Teases girls. Gets into the usual kid-stuff trouble. Helps his dad, a pharmacist, at his drugstore. Gets a job waiting tables at the famous Columbia. Sometimes the streetcar stops outside so the conductor can rush in and gulp coffee — from a saucer.

Why don't they drink from a cup?

"Because the coffee cools quickly in a saucer,'' the headwaiter explains. "The conductor doesn't want to burn his tongue.''

• • •

Ferdie's hair is white now. Sometimes he can't get up from the couch without help. Yet whenever Luisita serves him a cup of coffee and he notices the saucer he is transported back in time.

It's 1944.

Ferdie is remembering about how he lost his virginity after spilling hot Spanish bean soup onto a mobster's lap.

The mobster was Santo Trafficante Jr., the mafia boss who was a regular at the Columbia in Ybor. Trafficante had killed people for lesser offensives than spilled soup. But he liked Ferdie because he respected Ferdie's dad, who owned the pharmacy La Economica and provided medicine without charge for the poor. Ferdie's dad also was known as "the philosopher'' for reasons that included his success at mediating disputes between violent criminals.

"Hey, kid. What are you up to?'' Trafficante asked the boy one day.

Ferdie, about 16, shared his ambitions for the coming evening. He had a hot date lined up. Maybe he would get lucky.

"Kid,'' Trafficante whispered, "why don't you borrow my car?''

It was as if the emperor had offered to loan the royal chariot to a young plebeian. On date night the shiny Buick with leather seats turned out to be more seductive than a boudoir with silken sheets and a dozen raw oysters.

The next day Trafficante happened to mention the car loan to Ferdie's dad. Figured that dad might be amused. Dad turned pale, though not because his beloved boy had lost his innocence.

"Please, never loan my son your car again,'' he said to the famous criminal. "I don't want him to get shot.''

The mobster, a marked man with many enemies, got the point. The kid could get knocked off by accident.

• • •

"Ferdie, enough stories about old girlfriends,'' Luisita calls from the kitchen.

They have been married 41 years. She was a flamenco dancer. Girlish at 71, she still likes to strut her dance floor stuff if given the opportunity. He broke an engagement to marry her. "I only dated beautiful women,'' Ferdie always says. "Why would you want a Ford when you can have a Cadillac? She was the Cadillac, the most beautiful woman I ever saw. The love of my life.''

As she wanders out of earshot the old Ferdie morphs into the young playboy Ferdie. Oh, the stories!

In Tampa, in college in Alabama, at the University of Florida, where he finishes pharmacy school, he dates breathtaking women. Don't even ask about the girls he dates while in the Army. He gets married. Divorces. Marries a nutty showgirl. Graduates from medical school at the University of Miami and divorces the nutty showgirl.

An eligible young doctor is on the loose among all those Miami beauties and Eastern Air Lines stewardesses!

"Ferdie!'' Luisita yells from the kitchen.

"I'm an old man whose life is slipping away and she's interrupting,'' he jokes.

Okay. Better to tell some G-rated history.

After medical school, he starts his practice in the city's poorest neighborhood, Overtown, where he charges patients $5 a visit or "pay me next time.'' Delivers babies for free, treats those babies for free until they're 2. "If you do the right thing, you'll make money" is his credo. It doesn't hurt his bottom line when Medicaid arrives in 1965 and he's getting paid for his services. He buys his first Cadillac and buys a home in Miami's most exclusive neighborhood, Bay Point.

Of course he loves sports, especially boxing, and every Tuesday night he attends the prize fights Chris Dundee promotes on Miami Beach. Ferdie sits behind Dundee's brother, the trainer, Angelo Dundee, who asks: "You a doctor? Tell you what. I'll give you free passes if you'll stitch up my fighters.''

• • •

In 1960, a young gold-winning Olympic boxer from Louisville, Ky., showed up at Miami Beach's Fifth Street Gym to train with Angelo Dundee. Cassius Marcellus Clay was the greatest fighter and the most audaciously charming man Ferdie had ever met.

He could even charm Ferdie's utterly uncharmable nurse, Miss Mabel Norwood. The handsome young boxer sometimes leaned over the table, pants down, waiting nervously for Miss Mabel to administer an injection. When she showed up with the needle he'd sprint away, pants around his ankles. She couldn't help but laugh.

Black-skinned men were not allowed to eat in certain areas of white Miami. So Clay shared meals and conversation with Ferdie. "He's not an intelligent man,'' Ferdie confided to friends. "Not in a conventional sense. He's totally instinctive. He just does the right thing.''

Fifth Street Gym, Clay's habitat on South Miami Beach, is gone now. It's where Ferdie watched Clay clown for the photographers, brag about being the greatest, recite poetry, predict the round he'd knock out his next victim.

In 1964, with a 19-0 record, Clay earned his shot against the fearsome heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston, who was expected to take out the kid in the opening seconds. At the weigh-in, Clay called Liston "a big ugly bear" and Liston's eyes burned with hate.

We all know what happened. The young fighter floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Tired and discouraged, Liston remained on his stool in the seventh round. Cassius Clay was the new champ.

Within days, he announced that he was a black Muslim and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Black Power went over badly with certain parts of the American public. With Ferdie, too. He thought Ali was naive about becoming a political pawn. What's more, Ali's new bosses in the Nation of Islam wanted to fire Dundee and Ferdie and bring in their own people. Ali refused. Dundee and Ferdie remained in the Ali solar system and met everybody who came knocking, whether it was Malcolm X, the Beatles, Elvis or a galaxy of hangers-on.

Ferdie can still conjure the gym smells of sweat and blood and astringent. He can still see the cigarette smoke hanging over Madison Square Garden and hear Howard Cosell's grating voice. "Cosell,'' he tells people even now, "was a tall man stooped over from carrying the weight of his importance on his shoulders.''

Ferdie got famous because of Ali, too. He became "The Fight Doctor'' who signed autographs in Miami and New York and Tokyo. At Joe's Stone Crab he always got seated right away. He got a television broadcasting gig because of his years with Ali and even won an Emmy.

"What was it like to be Ali's fight doctor?'' someone asked Ferdie during a University of South Florida St. Petersburg speech about a decade ago. The auditorium was packed with students and professors, many of whom didn't know about Ferdie's earthy humor.

"What was it like to be Ali's fight doctor?'' he said. "It was like being Queen Victoria's gynecologist. The title didn't mean much, but the view was spectacular.''

• • •

Ferdie doesn't like to think about the Thrilla in Manila when Ali fought Frazier in 1975. They hated each other. In the boxing ring in the Philippines they came close to beating each other to death. Frazier's trainer stopped the fight after the 14th round. Ali, the winner, could barely stand. "I almost died,'' he confided to Ferdie.

And that was it. The beginning of the end. In fights that followed, Ferdie noticed symptoms of brain damage. In a championship bout in 1977, Ernie Shavers beat Ali senseless. "You have to quit, Champ,'' Ferdie said afterwards.

Ali wouldn't quit boxing so Ferdie quit Ali.

They last saw each other in 2002. They embraced as Ali trembled with Parkinson's. Ferdie heard Ali's slurred voice say, "You was right.''

So here we are now.

Ferdie goes to lunch every Tuesday with old Miami friends. They eat ham sandwiches, pea soup, potato salad. They talk about old times and the people they knew who are gone, the boxers, the writers, the intellectuals, the politicians, the criminals.

At night Ferdie reads. Luisita says their library includes 20,000 books. Ferdie usually has two books going at once, often histories. Lincoln and FDR are his favorite presidents.

In the afternoon he writes his own books. His 14 books include Ybor City Chronicles, a memoir in which he brings family and friends and the old neighborhood alive. He's also writing three different novels, including a Civil War thriller. Like Ferdie's spoken stories, the novels are long, about 900 pages each so far, with no end in sight. Ferdie writes in longhand and Luisita types.

In the morning, Ferdie paints. He's what you might call a "memory painter.'' His work immortalizes the life he remembers in old Ybor and his days at the Fifth Street Gym when Ali was the Greatest and spoke without slurring his words. Although his style is his own, Ferdie as an artist has been profoundly influenced by Norman Rockwell, but mostly Mexico's Diego Rivera in the way he uses vivid color. As he paints, he listens to the long gone jazz greats Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Luisita brings coffee, offers encouragement, wipes his lips.

Paintings hang everywhere in the house. In the alcove, a huge one of Luisita as a breathtakingly beautiful young dancer gazes down seductively. In other places Ali, in his prime, dares you to take a swing.

He dabs brown paint on the canvas that celebrates Rick Casares. He's in his Bears uniform, holds his helmet, stares ahead, a gladiator. He was perhaps the greatest athlete who ever lived in Ybor and later a fearsome fullback for the world champions. He passed away on Sept. 13. Ferdie doesn't travel well anymore and had to miss the funeral in Tampa.

"He was the last of the giants,'' Ferdie says, choking down a sob. "I know I'm getting close to my time to leave this earth.''

Luisita rubs his neck.

He believes in an afterlife.

"Yes,'' he says. "I believe it's a continuum of the essence of some form of life experience. What it is we are not privileged to know.''

With his eyes closed Ferdie can guess. Heaven is his mother's gentle smile. It's the feeling of a new Buick's leather seats against his naked backside and the smell of a pretty girl's perfume. The soundtrack is not provided by angels on harps but the clang of an Ybor City streetcar bell.
 
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