Counterpunch: Ali, Tyson, The Brown Bomber, And Other Stories Of The Boxing Ring by Ira Berkow


44565582275a65a.jpg Author Ira Berkow
Isbn 1600789730
File size 1.4 MB
Year 2014
Pages 305
Language English
File format PDF
Category sport


 

Counterpunch Ali, Tyson, The Brown Bomber, & Other Stories of the Boxing Ring Ira Berkow also by ira berkow: Autumns in the Garden Summers at Shea Summers in the Bronx The Corporal Was a Pitcher Full Swing The Minority Quarterback Court Vision To the Hoop The Gospel According to Casey (with Jim Kaplan) How to Talk Jewish (with Jackie Mason) Hank Greenberg: Hall of Fame Slugger (juvenile) Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life (editor) Pitchers Do Get Lonely The Man Who Robbed the Pierre Red: A Biography of Red Smith Carew (with Rod Carew) The DuSable Panthers Maxwell Street Beyond the Dream Rockin’ Steady (with Walt Frazier) Oscar Robertson: The Golden Year COUNTERPUNCH Copyright © 2014 by Ira Berkow No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher, Triumph Books LLC, 814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610. All columns and feature stories prior to 1981 are reissued with permission of Newspaper Enterprise Association. All columns and feature stories after 1981 are reissued with permission of The New York Times Co. “Barney Ross: Up from Maxwell Street” first appeared in Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar (1977). This book is available in quantity at special discounts for your group or organization. For further information, contact: Triumph Books LLC 814 North Franklin Street Chicago, Illinois 60610 (312) 337-0747 www.triumphbooks.com Printed in U.S.A. ISBN: 978-1-60078-973-1 Design by Prologue Publishing Services, LLC Page production by Patricia Frey Cover photo: Joe Louis, in defense of his world heavyweight boxing title, knocking out Tami Mauriello in 2:09 of the first round in Yankee Stadium, September 18, 1946. (AP Images) For Bob Downey, who suggested this book, and Neil Korf, who encouraged it C ONTENTS F OR EWOR D BY J E R E M Y S CH A A P ................................................................xi I N T RODUCT ION ....................................................................................... xv I. M U H A M M A D A LI , T H E O N E A N D O N LY Age Hasn’t Cooled the Fire Inside Ali ...............................................3 The Ali Shuffle Is Not Lost! ............................................................11 “I’m Bigger Now Than I Ever Been” ...............................................14 Ali’s Ringside Seat ...........................................................................17 Stingin’ and Floatin’ Come Harder Now ........................................19 II. S MOK I N ’ J OE F R A ZI ER Joe Frazier, Who “Don’t Know How to Go Easy”..........................25 Frazier-Ali Transcends Sport ...........................................................28 Joe Frazier at Dawn.........................................................................30 Of Mailer, Taylor, and Frazier ........................................................32 III. TH E B ROW N B OM BER Joe Louis: Black King ......................................................................37 Joe Louis Was There Earlier ............................................................40 Joe Louis Stages Valiant Comeback ................................................42 Louis Had Style In and Out of the Ring: An Appreciation .............44 IV. I RON M I K E Tyson Rules the Planet ....................................................................49 The Ring of Fear .............................................................................52 The Second-Baddest Dude...............................................................55 The “Animal” in Mike Tyson..........................................................58 After Three Years in Prison, Tyson Gains His Freedom .................61 Boxing’s Beautiful Black Eye ...........................................................66 Tyson, in Training, Is a Man on an Island ......................................69 V. TH E M A NASSA M AU LER Peachy Caveman..............................................................................75 The Toughest Man in the World .....................................................78 VI. A P OT POU R R I OF H EAV Y W EIGH T C H A M PS Jack Johnson Is a Dandy and Still “Leads” a Full Life ....................83 Ezzard Charles: “A Credit to Boxing” ............................................85 Sonny Liston Draws Some Laughs ..................................................88 Floyd Patterson: No Requiem for This Heavyweight ......................90 “Here Comes George”: That Is, Foreman .......................................92 Buster Douglas on the Comeback Trail ...........................................95 For Holmes, the Bell Tolls ...............................................................98 Hasim Rahman Works His Way Up to Anonymity ......................101 Lennox Lewis Says This Is All for McCall ....................................107 Riddick Bowe Goes Marching Back Home ...................................110 Holyfield in His Palace ..................................................................113 VII. C ON T EN DERS AND P R ET EN DERS A MONG THE L A RGEST L A DS An Old King (Levinsky) of Wepnerdom ........................................121 Cookie Wallace: Up ‘n’ Comer ......................................................124 Carmine Vingo: Rocky Marciano’s Victim ...................................127 Bulletproof Boxer Is Healthy Again ..............................................130 Andrew Golota: Aiming for the Belt .............................................133 French Boxer Won His Biggest Fight in Auschwitz .......................137 VIII. TH E L IGH T-H EAV Y W EIGH TS : A M I X ED BAG Archie Moore: A Very Merry Mongoose ......................................141 Roy Jones Jr. Doesn’t Meet His Match .........................................144 Success Story Is Rewritten in Mystery ..........................................147 IX. I N TH E M I DST OF T H E M I DDLE The LaMotta Nuptials ..................................................................155 Jake LaMotta: Philosopher-Bouncer .............................................158 Rocky Graziano: The Brawler as Artist ........................................161 Leave Your Worry on the Doorstep ..............................................164 Emile Griffith in That “Sinful Business” ......................................167 Justice Delayed Is Bitter Justice for Hurricane Carter ...................170 Hagler KOs Hearns at 2:01 of Round 3 ........................................174 Leonard Beats Hagler for Title on a Split Decision .......................177 No Hoosegow for JoJo ..................................................................179 Sugar Ray Leonard Can’t Stay Away from the Ring .....................182 The End of the Road for Sugar......................................................185 The Greatness that Was Sugar Ray Robinson ...............................188 Gypsy Joe Can Be Champ, If… .....................................................190 Dick Tiger Is Fighting on Two Fronts............................................192 Marcel Cerdan and Edith Piaf: In Memory of a Special Love.......194 X. L IGH T ER B U T S T I LL PACK I NG A P U NCH Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sr.: The Ring and the Cell...................199 Sandy Saddler Stays on Top of the World......................................202 The Riddle of Kid Chocolate.........................................................204 Salvador Sanchez Accepts Award with Gusto ...............................207 Argüello Gets Another Shot ..........................................................210 Tracy Harris’ Debut ......................................................................213 Saoul Mamby: Behind the Old Boxer’s Dark Shades ....................217 American Dream Goes Down for the Count.................................220 Charlie Nash: Toughest Olympian ................................................224 Tommy Hearns Answers Yet Another Bell ....................................227 An Afternoon in Gleason’s Gym ...................................................231 The Twin Temples of Boxing.........................................................234 Barney Ross: Up from Maxwell Street ..........................................237 XI. A FA M I LY A FFA I R Rocky Marciano Jr. and the Son of Kid Gavilan...........................249 Marcel Cerdan Jr. and the Shadow ...............................................252 The Fighting Frazier Clan .............................................................254 XII. B EYON D THE R OPES , W H ER E TR A I N ERS AND P ROMOT ERS R ESI DE Cus D’Amato’s Gym ......................................................................259 Angelo Dundee: Ali’s Muse Takes a Bow ......................................262 Mushky Salow Would Never Call Collect.....................................265 Ray Arcel: “The Meat Wagon” .....................................................268 Al Silvani: The Hollywood Cut Man ............................................271 Performance of a Loquacious (Don) King .....................................274 Arum Is Proven Ringmaster ..........................................................277 King and Arum in Scuffle .............................................................279 Freddie Menna’s Lost Art..............................................................280 A BOU T THE A U T HOR ................................................................283 F OREWORD It is probably only a coincidence that boxing has been in decline since Ira Berkow stopped writing about it—but maybe not. As Berkow demonstrated for decades, nobody covered the fight game with more artistry and insight, with more compassion and humor. When he retired as a columnist at The New York Times in 2007, boxing lost one of its keenest observers. The truth is that by that time boxing didn’t deserve Berkow. But for a long time, boxing was the perfect subject for his gifts. No other sport offers so many characters, so much color, so much drama, so few scruples, so many tragic endings. This is the raw material that Berkow so ingeniously molded into classics. I, for one, still remember the day I read in the pages of The New York Times his brilliant ringside account of the sixth wedding of that great knight of the fights—Jake LaMotta, the kind of man only a newspaper columnist could love. Here is the Raging Bull in all his glory, surrounded by the other great fighters of his era, all of them chiming in with the kind of bon mots that make those of us who cover sports in this duller age envious. “Jake’s ugly as mortal sin,” Billy Conn tells Berkow. “He’s a nice guy, though.” LaMotta and Carmen Basilio then argue about which of them is uglier. In the world of sports today, we don’t get characters like these guys— and boxing was once the place where we found them in droves. As Berkow reminds us in this astonishing collection, fighters like Ray Robinson and Dick Tiger and Archie Moore weren’t programmable automatons, like so many of today’s athletes. They had things to say and the courage to say them. xi xii | Counterpunch Part of the special beauty of Counterpunch is that it functions not only as anthology but as an anecdotal history of the sport of boxing in the 20th century. Berkow was writing when Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis and Barney Ross were all still alive, still cogent, and they told him things we are lucky to have had recorded for posterity. In Berkow’s company, in a New York City taxicab, Louis shuts up a young major league outfielder who’s being rude to the driver, with one strong declarative sentence. You remember then that this is the man who said of an opponent, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” and who enlisted in the U.S. Army, saying, “Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain’t going to fix them.” Time after time, Berkow is at his best at the precise moment when history is being made. In the hours after Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks 91 seconds into their 1988 title fight, Berkow talked to Muhammad Ali. “Terrible,” Ali says, “terrible.” With hindsight, we know exactly what he meant. This is the essence of Berkow. He takes his readers to that place they would never otherwise see and makes connections they wouldn’t necessarily make for themselves. Who better to sum up the carnage that night in Atlantic City than Ali? What other columnist would leave us that night with such a sense of foreboding? Like a bird of prey, Berkow has eyes and ears that are calibrated to hone in on his quarry: the quote and scene that bring us to the heart of the matter. After George Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier for the second time, in 1976, Berkow, as usual, was in the right place at the right time. He heard Foreman tell Marvis Frazier, “Your daddy is a courageous man. You should be proud.” Berkow used his feet, too. For half a century, he went everywhere, wherever the stories took him. There he is in Miami Beach, with King Levinsky, a heavyweight contender in the 1920s, who’s reminiscing about the power of Max Baer’s right hand. (Between Levinsky and Baer, incidentally you’ve got at least 1¼ memorable Jewish pugilists.) Foreword | xiii There he is in the Catskills, at the Concord Hotel, with Marcel Cerdan Jr., who is still haunted by his father’s death in a plane crash 21 years earlier, trying and failing to equal his father as a fighter. There he is in Las Vegas, covering the epic, and controversial, HaglerLeonard bout, talking to his old friend Richard Steele, who happened to be the referee. “It was a great fight,” Steele tells Berkow, “the greatest fight I’ve ever seen.” The writing, the reporting, the quality of the insights… this is what has made Berkow an Ali, a Louis, a Robinson, of his game. Reading this book made me doubly nostalgic. First, for the heyday of boxing, because at its best no other sport is nearly as compelling. Second, for all those years, most of my life, in fact, when I could open up my local paper three days a week to read something brilliant written by Ira Berkow. In Counterpunch, we get the best of both those lost worlds. —Jeremy Schaap I NTRODUCTION Seated on an airplane just before takeoff with Muhammad Ali and his trainer Angelo Dundee, I saw the airline hostess approach the once and always Champ. “Mr. Ali,” she said, “you have to fasten your seat belt.” “Superman don’t need no seat belt,” he said, with a smile. She smiled back. “Superman don’t need no airplane, either,” she said. The airline hostess indeed won that round. The next sound heard was “Click.” There may not have been a more entertaining, endearing, sometimes antagonizing, mesmerizing athlete in any sport, at any time, than Muhammad Ali, in that brutal yet often captivating sport of boxing. Some of the greatest sports heroes worldwide have been boxers. It is documented that Ali’s photograph, for example, has been hung in rooms from Boston to Beijing as well as huts in Mozambique and, one might imagine, caves in Afghanistan. His patter, his military stance, his proclivity to ring theatrics and periodic dominance stirred the imagination of many. There was a legendary story about the hopes and dreams that iconic fighters like “The Brown Bomber” might inspire. A young black man about to be executed in a gas chamber in Alabama called out in tears, “Save me, Joe Louis, save me!” And Louis’ bouts against Max Schmeling from Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s were billed, with a certain hyperbole but also heart, as “Fascism versus Democracy.” Inspiration could come in the form of art, as well. The paintings of boxers by the internationally acclaimed American George Bellows is a prime example. His “Dempsey and Firpo,” in which he depicts “The xv xvi | Counterpunch Manassa Mauler” being himself mauled and knocked through the ropes by the large Argentine Luis Firpo, called “The Bull of the Pampas,” in their heavyweight title fight before 80,000 fans in the old Polo Grounds, in 1923, is one of the treasures of the Whitney Museum in New York City. (Undaunted, defending champ Dempsey crawled back from ringside after that blow in the first round and knocked out Firpo in the second round.) Few fighters have ever captured the imagination, the admiration, and the disgust as had Mike Tyson. A punching phenomenon, he became the youngest to ever win the world heavyweight boxing championship, at 20 years and four months and 22 days, in 1986, on a TKO of Trevor Berbick in the second round. As a sports columnist for The New York Times, I covered several of Tyson’s fights, but none was more striking than when he knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds of the first round. I was in my seat at ringside when Spinks, clad in white robe and white shoes, climbed through the ropes. Some seated nearby would later say that they saw dread in Spinks’ eyes. Tyson, built as powerfully as a tank but shorter than one might have conjured, entered the ring in his routinely fearsome manner: no robe, black shorts, black shoes without socks, black gloves. He had come to administer a whipping. Immediately after the fight, Ali was seen making his way to Tyson’s locker room, where I was headed. “Devastating, wasn’t it?” I said to Ali. “Terrible,” he said, shaking his head as though he had just witnessed a car crash. “Terrible.” And yet Tyson would get himself into a multiplicity of problems, from inside the ring—as when he chewed off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear— to outside the ring, the worst being his conviction for rape, and a threeyear prison sentence that followed. I was there, too, at dawn one crisp morning in March of 1995 when he was finally released from the Indiana correction facility and whisked away in a black sedan that had been waiting for him at curbside. • • • I began covering boxing, among all other sports, when I first arrived in New York City, in September of 1967, hired by a newspaper feature Introduction | xvii syndicate, Newspaper Enterprise Association. Since it was a national syndicate, I was expected to write primarily, though not entirely, about national sports figures. While writing about Willie Mays or Joe Namath or Arnold Palmer or Wilt Chamberlain were in many ways dream assignments for a young sportswriter, I was drawn to the fight game. I am sometimes asked which sport I liked covering, or writing about, the most. My answer is: boxing. Nothing is more dramatic, more engrossing, than writing, and reading, about life and death. The best plays and novels, from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, from Homer to Dostoyevsky to Hemingway, are at their apex about life and death. Boxing is a mirror of this element: it is conceivable that every time two men step into the ring, one of them may be carried out on a stretcher, his life hanging by the proverbial thread. It may not even be a conscious perception—generally it’s not—but it is there invariably hunkered in the subconscious. Some have said that boxing should be outlawed, and sometimes it has been, but there seems some primeval force working inside human beings that is fascinated by, if not even craving, the sight of two men (or even women in recent years) going at each other, though, in the most civilized sense, they are athletes who have trained, who use what are sometimes called strategies, thus giving the appellation, “The Sweet Science,” to what otherwise may be construed by some as a form of mayhem. At its most enthralling, of course, it’s a mano-a-mano chess match. And, often for me, as the two boxers meet in the center ring as the bell sounds for the first round, a palpable tension hangs in the air. And I found in boxing characters like I found in virtually no other sport—at least on a routine, or general, basis. Not just the fighters, but the trainers, the promoters, the hangers-on, all in a kind of demimonde, a world at once sleazy, poignant, comical, courageous, striving, ugly, beautiful—in a word, wondrous, in the sense of extraordinary (well, two words, then). One such person was the trainer and cut man for a long list of champions, Whitey Bimstein. He neatly if not idiosyncratically summed up the attraction of the fight game for many fighters. At one time, from 1910 to 1940, for example, there were 27 Jewish fighters who were world champions, from lightweight Benny Leonard to welterweight Barney Ross (profiled in this book) to light-heavyweight Maxie Rosenbloom. In every xviii | Counterpunch one but one of those 30 years there was at least one Jewish world boxing champion, and in 1933 eight of the prominent weight divisions had four Jewish world champs. From 1940 on there were very few Jewish fighters, champs or otherwise. They had emerged from the Jewish ghettos in America and opportunities, from the time of World War II, grew as discrimination in colleges and businesses declined. “When the kids didn’t have what to eat, they were glad to fight,” Bimstein reflected on the loss of Jewish pugilists. “Now that any kid can get a job, they got no ambition.” And, to be sure, there were other lessons for me to learn from boxing. One evening I found myself in a small armory in Totowa, New Jersey, covering matches by young fighters with dreams, if not skills. In one of those bouts, the names of the battlers now lost in the midst of time, I remember red trunks mercilessly pounding his opponent in blue trunks. People in the close-by seats (the only ones in the arena) were shouting to the referee, “Stop the fight! Stop the fight!” I felt the same way, a sense of dread beginning to overtake me. I felt like shouting out as well. It was inexplicable to me why the referee would not halt the onslaught. The bell rang ending the round, and blue trunks staggered back to his corner, to be worked on by his trainer/cut man. The bell rang heralding the next round. Blue trunks, obviously revived, met red trunks at center ring and, amazingly, began to administer a thorough whipping, knocking him down, and down again. This time, the referee stopped the action, looked at red trunks, spoke to him, and then waved his hands that the fight was over. The referee was Richard Steele, who later refereed numerous championship bouts and became the Commissioner of Boxing for the state of New Jersey. But that night, when that fight was over, I approached Steele, who I had never seen before, and asked him why he hadn’t stopped the fight when blue trunks was getting pummeled. “I looked in his eyes,” said Steele, “and they were clear. I believed that he could defend himself, and should be given a chance to continue.” And red trunks, when he halted the bout? “His eyes weren’t clear, and when I spoke to him he seemed not to know where he was. I didn’t want any further damage to him. No fight is worth a man’s life.” A tutorial in not just looking, but seeing. And understanding. Introduction • • | xix • I have never known a sportswriter who happened to have covered the first Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier fight, on May 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden, who did not say it was the single most exciting sports event he has ever covered. Include me in that category. It was the clash of two undefeated heavyweight champions of the world (Frazier held the title, Ali had had his stripped three years earlier by boxing commissions when he refused induction into the U.S. military, but now had returned to his profession). Two different styles of boxing, as well as personality. Ali was fast and flashy, Frazier dogged and as straightforward as a bulldozer, a right hand as crushing as a wrecking ball. Yet, like many, I watched, from my ringside seat, Ali bound onto the canvas with white robe, white shoes and red tassels, all showmanship. Frazier in green robe climbed quietly through the ropes. Like many, my eyes were riveted on the dancing Ali. And that continued. After five rounds I turned to a longtime boxer writer and said, “Well, I have Ali four rounds to one for Frazier. What about you?” He said, “Frazier four rounds to one for Ali.” I was amazed, and realized he may be right. I had apparently only been watching one half of the fight. I soon trained my eyes on both combatants. (Frazier, of course, beat Ali—twice nearly knocking him out—on a unanimous decision in 15 rounds, retaining the title. He then lost the next two fights to Ali, by a decision in 1974 and a KO in 14 the following year, the “Thrilla in Manila.”) As a writer, and to try to hone one’s craft, the observation of detail is significant. Winston Churchill once noted that before he began painting in his sixties, he had never noticed the shadows on buildings. For me, in sports, particularly boxing, such recognition came, perhaps more slowly than rapidly, and described so aptly by Ernest Hemingway from his experiences: I was trying to learn in Chicago in around 1920 and was searching for the unnoticed things that made emotion, such as the way an outfielder tossed his glove without looking back to where it fell, the squeak of resin on canvas under a fighter’s flat-soled gym shoes, the gray color of [boxing trainer] Jack Blackburn’s skin when he had just come out of stir and other things I noted as

Author Ira Berkow Isbn 1600789730 File size 1.4 MB Year 2014 Pages 305 Language English File format PDF Category Sport Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Spanning the period between 1967 and 2005, this compilation includes 84 of Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ira Berkow’s columns on boxing. Readers will meet some of the greatest names in the sport’s history in the pages of this book, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis, and Mike Tyson. Among the unforgettable stories gathered in this collection are the heated rivalry between Ali and “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, Tyson’s infamous “Bite Fight” in 1997, and the will-he-or-won’t-he retirement saga of Sugar Ray Leonard. Written in Berkow’s gripping prose, the columns included in Counterpunch chronicle the most important moments in boxing over the last four decades.     Download (1.4 MB) Heavyweight Boxing In The 1970s: The Great Fighters And Rivalries Box Like the Pros The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring The Hockey Coaching Bible From Jack Johnson to LeBron James: Sports, Media, and the Color Line Load more posts

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