Monday, February 12, 2007


It’s the holiday season, and as my humble gift to you, I’d like to share a few of my most fond boxing memories in nearly 30 years of following the fights and being on the road. In no particular order, here are some of the most memorable evenings the sweet science has blessed me with over the years.

Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti I, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Connecticut, May 18, 2002 - My then girlfriend, and now wife, Rebecca, and I attended this fight at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. We drove down from Maine that morning and even though it was May we still had to endure some snow showers and slippery roads in Massachusetts. We ended up sitting in front of a Boston guy that had attended Hagler vs. Hearns in Las Vegas and he was with his father and son. To the left of me were some Micky Ward fans from his hometown of Lowell, Mass. To the right of me were some very inebriated New York City guys and one of them happened to be from Ireland. So, you can guess whom he was rooting for. They were all drunk as skunks and were rooting for Irish Micky Ward - as were we. The fight was a masterpiece and we yelled ourselves hoarse. We were jumping up and down, grabbing the arms of complete strangers and at the end some of were hugging each other. What a fight and what a night!

Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore, June 16, 1983 - I was living in Canada at the time and this fight was actually broadcast live in Canada with the complete undercard – for free. My brother and I were only about 15 years-old at the time and we had just discovered something called beer! We were home alone watching the fights and drinking a few brewskies. Duran caught the old magic and electrified Madison Square Garden with a knockout victory. It was Duran's birthday and after the thrilling, upset victory the sellout crowd at the Garden sang him happy birthday as he stood on the ring apron and cried. I had tears in my eyes too. Roberto Duran became my favorite fighter that night and he remains my favorite to this day. An unforgettable night.

Lennox Lewis vs. Tommy Morrison, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 7, 1995 - My buddy Rob and I drove all night from New Brunswick, Canada to see this fight in Atlantic City. We left at about six at night and got in Atlantic City at six in the morning. On the way down, while in Maine, we came upon an accident where a bull moose charged into a moving SUV. By the time we happened upon the scene, the moose was lying in the middle of the road and the family travelling in the SUV was bloodied and badly shaken up. The moose was barely alive on the road and its eyes were still open. The next night, Tommy Morrison fared about as well against Lennox Lewis as that moose did against the SUV. When we hit Atlantic City the hookers and pimps were just calling it a day and the surfers were unloading their surfboards to catch a wave. In front of Caesars Palace on the day of the fight, Rob and I were propositioned by a hooker who was sitting inside one of the fake horse and carriages in front of Caesars. She was peeking out from the carriage and said, "Psssst….Hey guys!" We didn’t take her up on her offer. Atlantic City was all that I heard it was and then some.

Benjie Marquez vs. Stevie Valdez, The Blake Street Baseball Club, Denver Colorado, June 25, 1997 - I go to a local clubfight card and sit beside my friend from Boxing Illustrated Dave Hartoon at ringside in the press section - as usual. At the fights in Colorado I always sat with Dave who was a true boxing press guy who I still think about all of the time. The Blake Street Baseball Club was an open-air facility about a block from Coors Field in downtown Denver. It's early evening in Colorado in the summertime, which usually means rain. On this night it was hail. Two local pugs in a four-rounder were really going at it when a hailstorm blows in! Hail pelts the crowd, the ring and the fighters! People desert their seats in a mad dash for cover from the pelting hail. Meanwhile, in the ring, in the middle of a hailstorm, the two fighters fight to the final bell in the fourth! The bell rings and the fighters and referee immediately jump out of the ring and dash for cover! After the storm passes they squeegee out the ring and the fights continue! As they say, "The show must go on!" and it did. But it only got better! Two local clubfighters by the names of Benjie Marquez with a record of 23-13-2 and Stevie Valdez with a record of 8-19-2 engage in a tremendous give and take battle that rivals any fight I have ever seen for intensity, drama and heart. I still say it’s one of the best fights I have seen – ever! After 10 rounds of blood and guts, Stevie Valdez got his 9th career win.

Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney, June 11, 1982 - I'm 13 years old and I talk my Dad into spending $20 a ticket to take me to see this fight on closed-circuit in Saint John, New Brunswick. We show up at this arena called the Lord Beaverbrook Rink (which is usually a hockey venue) and on this night the place is packed. Thousands of guys have all shown up to see the fights. It's on a grainy big-screen with lousy sound but the beer is flowing freely and I've never seen so many drunk tough guys congregated all in one place at the same time. Saint John is a port city and is strictly a blue-collar, working class city with piers and mills and guys that work "down on the docks". It's my first live big fight experience and my baptism couldn't have been any more beautiful.

Turning Stone Casino, Verona, New York, June 12, 1999 - My buddy Rob and I are in town for the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. We're strolling around the Turning Stone Casino wasting some time when we go into a small bar/nightclub around noontime. Who's up on stage rehearsing his singing act? None other than Smokin' Joe Frazier. The place is totally empty except us, Joe and his bodyguard. We watch Joe practice his singing, dancing and lounge act. We were awestruck! Here we are watching Joe Frazier (the first time we had ever seen him) do a private singing session. Joe hits all the high notes and I must say he still had some moves.

Roberto Duran at Sportsworld, Boston, Mass., November 22, 1998 - I heard Duran was going to be in town signing autographs at a little sports card shop for a couple of hours on a chilly Sunday morning. I show up an hour before Duran is supposed to be there and I'm sitting outside the place when after a while I see Duran and a few of his people walking down the street. Duran had just been knocked out by William Joppy a few months earlier and has already put on about 40 pounds in that short time. I meet him inside the sports card shop and he's still as intimidating as I imagined he would be when he was a spitfire of a lightweight. He has coal black hair and eyes and he's got thick shoulders and arms. Looking into his eyes and shaking his hand like that sent a little shudder through me. I only imagined what must have been going through the minds of his opponents when they met him at center ring and looked into those same eyes. Duran was happy-go lucky and jovial on this Sunday morning as he was making $35 per autograph and a lot of old friends showed up to see him. Then he was gone, but I got to meet a true legend.

Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward II, Atlantic City, New Jersey, November 23, 2002 - My then girlfriend, and now wife, Rebecca, and I leave a bar at Caesars Palace and are walking around the casino. It's about an hour before the fights begin over at the Boardwalk Hall and I see Micky Ward and his then girlfriend Charlene standing next to a set of escalators. I walk over, introduce myself and wish Micky good luck. I get to shake his hand and talk to him just an hour or so before he got into the ring with Gatti to fight another fight of the year. Ward was the epitome of cool and collected and he looked about as fit as I have ever seen any fighter look. Micky Ward was one of a kind. When they made Mick and that left hand shot to the body – they broke the mold.

George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer, November 5, 1994 - My friend Rob and I again. We're up in Fredericton, New Brunswick Canada watching Foreman vs. Moorer on pay-per view. Like everybody else we think the fight is lost for George when out of nowhere comes that unbelievable right hand shot. We're in my apartment when that shot lands and after Moorer doesn't get up we're both jumping up and down and hooting and hollering like a couple of kids! The must heave heard us screaming in Vegas. It was just total, unrestrained, uncharacteristic emotion and celebration! Rob and I looked at one another when that shot landed and then we saw Moorer sprawled out on the canvas - we were shocked and I'll never forget it. I’ll never forget Jim Lampley’s call of that knockout as long as I live, "It happened! It happened!"

Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward III, Atlantic City, New Jersey, June 6, 2003 - My then girlfriend Rebecca and I have been together for four years at this point. I've convinced her to come to Atlantic City with me to see the Final Chapter of Gatti vs. Ward. She was with me for the first two fights as well. It's the night before the fight and she doesn't know that my real motivation was to get her down to the beach on the Boardwalk so I can propose to her. We go for a walk along the beach the night before the big fight. I plant the engagement ring in the sand and call her over. I say, "What is that in the sand?" She picks up the ring, gets sort of a confused look on her face and then she figures out what's going on. She made me get down on one knee and all of that - but she said "Yes!" We head for the Irish Pub to celebrate and run into Micky Ward's publicist Bob Trieger and his friend Ed Kelley. Bob keeps the drinks and the stories coming and we all have a great night of cheer and fun! Little did we know, the next night would be just as thrilling as Gatti and Ward did it again!

St. Dominic's Arena, Lewiston, Maine, September 22, 1995 - They're holding a big celebration to commemorate Muhammad Ali's second fight against Sonny Liston that took place here 30 years ago. Floyd Patterson is also here to help with the festivities. Shannon Briggs, who was then trained by Teddy Atlas is the main event of a fight card that is happening later on in the same arena where Ali hit Liston with the "Phantom Punch". Ali is the special guest of honor, but there is a snag. Ali hasn't been paid his $25,000 fee for appearing and the hotel ballroom full of people is getting restless because of Ali's absence. Finally, a briefcase full of cash appears and a few minutes later - so does Ali to the chant of "ALI! ALI! ALI ALI" At this point, Ali' Parkinson's is pretty well advanced and he shakes uncontrollably and can barely walk without assistance. But, ever the entertainer, Ali breaks the crowd up when the mayor of Lewiston presents him with a key to the city. Ali whispers into the microphone, "I come all the way to Maine...and this is all I get?" He can still work a room like no fighter before or since.

Michael Dokes vs. Louis Monaco, Azteca Theater, Denver, Colorado, April 5, 1997 - I'm there in Denver with my friend Tim Stanovich from Chicago at this old, run-down theater similar to the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. Michael Dokes is fighting later in the night and I see him sitting in the crowd watching the prelims. I go over and talk to him and he's a bit bizarre to say the least. He barely speaks above a whisper and he is dressed like a pimp. I hear he's getting $2,500 for the fight against hometown boy and clubfighter Louis Monaco. Dokes goes down in the first round from a huge shot that probably broke his nose and he goes on to lose to Monaco in a ten round decision. Afterwards I just wonder to myself - How does a guy go from heavyweight champion of the world earning millions of dollars - to this?

Graziano's Bar, Canastota, New York, June 12, 1999 – We’re there having a rip-roaring time and I am drunk out of my mind. Who is buying me drinks and whose cigarettes am I smoking? Alexis Arguello's! Amazing! And who is sitting with us in the same booth drinking like a fish as well? None other than Ruben Olivares. Arguello and Olivares want to have me help them pick up some chicks! For me and my buddy Rob this whole scene is just nuts! I must say that Alexis Arguello is one of the funniest guys I've ever shared some drinks with. I'm not sure I've ever laughed that hard for that long!

Ricky Hatton vs. Luis Collazo, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Mass., May 13, 2006 - It's a dreary night in Boston and it hasn't stopped raining for what seems like days. The trip from the hotel to the arena in a taxi was death defying. It's cold and it's wet so Ricky Hatton must feel right at home in this cold and half empty arena. It definitely English weather. Whatever the case, about a thousand Hatton fans from England show up to cheer on "Our boy, Ricky!" and they are exchanging insults and taunts with quite a few Luis Collazo supporters from Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Things get real tense and then the boys in blue from the Boston Police Department show up. They make the cops in Boston big and they appear as though they don't have much of a sense of humor. A few guys are led out with their hands behind their back and a couple Englishmen made an awfully long trip to miss the fight and spend a night in the slammer. Hatton goes on to narrowly defeat Collazo and he takes his lumps along the way. I thought the fight could have gone either way but I give it to Hatton by a point. On the taxi ride back to the hotel after the fight the cabby tells us that he had Hatton in his cab earlier in the week. Said Ricky was a real nice boy - and a big tipper!

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Diego Corrales, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, January 19, 2001 - The fighters are weighing in and Corrales misses making the 130-pound mark his first time. He comes back about an hour later and strips down to nothing. I'm standing beside HBO fight judge Harold Lederman, and he says, "I haven't weighed 130 since my Bar Mitzvah!" Corrales looks like a prisoner of war he is so skinny. 6'0" tall and 130 pounds. His skin is gray and dry and he looks like he's close to death with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes. He looks like one of those starving African kids you see on those UNICEF commercials as his head looks too big for his emaciated body. Only a few of us are there. Jose Sulaiman, Marc Ratner and a handful of others. If Corrales doesn't make the weight there is no fight...He steps on the scales and everybody takes a deep breath....130 it is! Miguel Diaz his trainer erupts in celebration. The fight will go on!

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Ricardo Mayorga, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 6, 2006 - I'm sitting in the press section with Jack Hirsch and Sean Sullivan, the man behind Boxing Digest. The main event is about to begin and the crowd in the MGM Grand Garden is getting restless. The night before, over at Mandalay Bay, I was presented with a Barney Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America, so for me it has been a great weekend already. Michael Buffer is going through the motions and introducing the celebrities who are all seated in various spots around ringside. "Georrrggge Lopezzzz!!! Vince Vaaaauuuggghhhnnnn!!!" But then something crazy happens. Buffer announces that Sylvester Stallone is in the crowd. Stallone stands up to take bow and wave and then everyone in the MGM Grand Garden begins chanting, "ROCKY! ROCKY! ROCKY! ROCKY! I feel like I'm in the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1976, and at any moment Apollo Creed is going to be coming down the aisle on a float dressed like Uncle Sam!

So there you have it, some of my best memories of being on the road and following what the great fight writer John Schulian called, "The Crooked Nose Crew". I'd like to hear your memories and stories as well.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

December 2006

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