God bless Joe Joyce

For real.  The man put it all on the line. He lost his belt, but gained respect. 

I was a fan of his from the first. In his ‘fast track’ strategy, fighting difficult competition his entire career, I found a lot to admire.  He recently criticized the titlists (Fury and Usyk) for being too attached to their undefeated record.  Joyce lost his “0” and it looks good on him, like a scar on the face of a soldier.

You may have noticed that I haven’t written anything here for over a year.  It got to the point that all there was to write about was my frustration with the titlists, and the long list of “mandatory” challengers, and how the tapeworm had made the whole thing constipated.  I went on strike.

I had written so much about Fury and his refusal to fight anyone that it got boring, even to me.

I wanted to write about fights of consequence. That’s what Joyce gave us.

Not like Fury’s farce with Chisora, or Anthony Joshua’s snoozapalooza against Germaine Franklin.  Those didn’t inspire, they didn’t matter.  Since Michael Coffie lost to Jonnie Rice twice, he lost to Gurgen Hovhannisyan (say that one out loud.  Go on, I dare you) and then to Fabio Wardley (a meteoric thud if I ever saw one.)  Jonnie Rice got another TKO win over an undefeated opponent.  That one almost got me to write.

I like Jonnie Rice, and I’ll tune in when he’s fighting, but he is not a contender.  It really doesn’t matter.

I first wrote about Zhang in April of 2020.  Joyce I’ve talking about since July of 2019.  I’ve been talking these guys up, predicting good things for them for years.

Joyce talks the talk, and he walks the walk.  He did it against Daniel Dubois, and he did it against Zhang. He lays it all on the line. Now let’s see who will fight him.

This may take a while…


The “loss” to Hrgovic did not hurt Zhang’s chances (as I predicted). He got past the snub of that judgement in a hurry, placing himself among the “mandatory” throng in his very next fight.  I hope to see him fight Fury or Usyk someday, but…(drumroll):

Saudi promoter Amer Abdallah is trying to get Joshua to fight Wilder, and Fury to fight Usyk on the same night.  I am not making this up. I am tempted to think Abdallah might be inhaling nitrous oxide, but I admire his vision. He says, “negotiations are underway”. He is trying to set this up for December, so Christmas may come early.  Ironically it may be an event in the desert that will end the drought in heavyweight championship boxing.

It is said that Fury will fight Andy Ruiz on July 22.  I hope that happens.  I hope Andy knocks him out and retires, no rematch. There is still plenty of time for Fury to chicken out.  Keep your fingers crossed.

You May Have Noticed…

I didn’t write right away about the last Fury “fight.”

Okay, bone spurs suck.  I’ve got some in my wrist, and I can’t have surgery soon enough.  So I sympathize with Fury on that score.  He needs to get elbow surgery, let him have it.   Funny though, remember when Usyk beat Joshua the second time?  He called out Fury, but said he had first to get surgery (as I recall) on his elbows.  And Fury, of course, did the gentlemanly thing and signed a contract to fight Usyk as soon as he was healed up.

Ha ha! I make a funny joke!

No, he railed against Usyk, calling him cowardly, etc., then he mounted the greatest campaign of non-fighting chicanery I have ever seen a champion do. I won’t bore you recounting all his lies and machinations here, you can read about them below.  But he ducked Usyk, Joshua, Joyce and other mandatory challengers in order to fight Chisora; a fight no one wanted to see. (By no one, I mean me.  I have a pretty high opinion of myself.) And the denouement of this sordid tale?  Fury is now doing precisely the same thing that he railed at Usyk for.

They need to take his belt away. Come on, WBC.  Grow a pair.  Put this fallacious gasbag back on the outside, looking in.  Maybe then he’ll want to fight.

Maybe we can get Joyce his long-awaited return bout with Usyk.  That one I will pay to see.

 Fury’s sideshow? No thanks.

He’s Baaaack!

And I am so glad he is.  He did it just the way I hoped he would, with his mythological, fantastic power.  He only landed three punches.  OMG that’s amazing.  He is back.  He is all the way back.

Yes, I believe that like me, everyone on the Wilder team figured this to be a easy night, and like Fury’s fighting Schwartz this was a little seedy, a little cheap.  The difference was Wilder coming off back-to-back knockout losses, Fury was coming off an extended bender.  We wanted, no needed to see if the monster inside Fury had survived  (See That Terrible Miniaturization below).

Here is my sincerest hope for the heavyweight division:  That someone beats Fury, and with no stinking rematch clause in their contract.   Let the Big Tosser wait in the wings, floating in cloudless climes and starry skies, ever hoping to get his hands on a title shot that remains just out of reach…  That would be some poetic justice right there.  It also might allow some real compelling fights to take place.

I just wrote about the long list of ‘mandatory challengers’ (see Bottleneck, below)  Add Wilder to that list.  What remains is for the Wanker to sign to fight one of them.  Seriously, if he follows through with his plan to fight Mahmoud Charr, he needs to have his belt taken away.  That way it could go to a man willing to fight for it.

But back to Wilder: The punch that leveled Helenius was very reminiscent of the ‘Phantom Punch’ that felled Liston in 1965. Wilder, like Ali was moving backward, then planted his right foot and delivered a short, chopping blow that removed his man from his senses. 

This is making me reconsider my opinion on Ali / Liston.

At first, many years ago, I saw the film clip at normal speed and without zooming in and I didn’t see the punch either.  This was a great mystery to me. I did not want to think of Ali cheating somehow, so I let it be a mystery.

Then later I saw a slowed down and zoomed-in version in the film When We were Kings.   They also had Ali describing the punch as his “anchor punch” and he quipped that no one saw the punch because they all blinked at the same time.  But that time I could see the punch, and the impact on Liston’s head and how his left foot came off the canvas.  All these things made an actual knockout seem more plausible.

It was the fish-flop that Liston did that looked phony to me.  I eventually heard some wag (it may have been Bert Sugar, I don’t remember) point out the two hard shots that Ali landed at the opening bell.  They happen so fast that I, as did the man calling the TV play-by-play didn’t notice them.  But Liston noticed.  The theory is that he got whacked right out of the gate, followed by two minutes of fruitless lunging and missing, just like the first fight.  The thought is that he got so discouraged that he was looking for a way out when *Bam!* A flash knockdown!  Here was his chance to escape further humiliation, and thus, the fish-flop.  This was Liston’s clumsy and improvised escape.

Now I wonder…  I don’t think Helenius was faking. 

I read that he was paid roughly a million dollars to get his nose flattened.

Which is somewhat gratifying.  I found it very sad indeed that he was only paid $30,000 to fight Kownacki, and $75,000 for the rematch, where he got clocked in the nuts, several times. At least he got a bigger paycheck for this nighty-night performance.  For I expect we’ll not see much of the “Nordic Nightmare” from now on.  After all, Wilder knocked Breazeale into obscurity in just the same way.

Earlier in his career (2010 and 2011) Helenius beat Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter and Derek Chisora.  In more recent times, he lost to Gerald Washington and Dillion Whyte, and some fellow named Johann Duhaupas.  All in all a pretty impressive record.  I hope he can take pride in it and find something else to do now. And I hope the million bucks helps him get it started.

There is a Bottleneck

And no one is complaining except me, it seems.

There have been three recent ‘title eliminators’ but no movement toward an actual title fight.  It seems that the sobriquet “Mandatory Challenger” has as much meaning as their boxing names, like “Towering Inferno” or “Touch of Sleep.”

A long time ago I made a spreadsheet that created boxing names.  The main joke was that bad nick names, like “Dim Bulb”, “Gelding” or “Nicely Coiffed” were included.  Another joke aspect was that all the names were either Latin sounding, or eastern European, like “Igor “the Switch-Hitter” Mayorga” or “Manuel “Two-Sheds” Solzhenitsyn.  I looked but couldn’t find that one.  I did find a generator that I wrote with all Jewish names, to wit:

Your Son’s Birth MonthYour Daughter’s Birth MonthYour Birth Month
1Lester the Hammering Hebrew Schwartz
2Morey you want I should stop hitting you? Lieberman
3Saul The Dybbuk Finkelstein
4Bernie You call that a Jab? Rothschild
5Malcolm the Smiter Abelman
6Abraham the Horn of Joshua Lipschitz
7Hiram the Pillar of Fire Rosenthal
8Cyrus The Desert Wanderer Cohen
9Ruben the Mensch Feinberg
10Chaim Matzeltov Liebowitz
11Benjamin the Plague of Fists Abramowitz
12Rorey Aaron’s Rod Morgenstern

(I got “Ruben “the Smiter” Abramowitz”.)

Then I found one that I created that riffed off of the stereotype of Italian organized crime figures, but imagining that they were both boxers, and also office workers:

Your birth monthYour Wife’s Birth MonthYour Son’s Birth Month
1Jimmy The Copier Rutigliano
2Tommy The Kuerig Giordano
3Joey The Shredder Esposito
4Pauly The Dumpster Romano
5Rocco The Stapler Bianchi
6Sally the Copier Mancini
7Tony “Three-Hole-Punch” De Luca
8Bruno the Rolodex Napolitano
9Sammy I.T. Moretti
10Guido The Server Marchesi
11Pete The Gopher Lucchese
12Alfredo The Remote Connection Angelini

(I got “Pete “the Dumpster” Moretti”.)

You see there was a time when the boxing world was full of Irish men.  Angelo Dundee wasn’t Irish, and his name wasn’t really Dundee, but he wanted his name to sound like an Irish name.  He wanted his name to make it look like he belonged in the sport.  The later Italian men seemed to dominate the sport, men like Marciano, Graziano or LaMotta.   Then black men had a dynasty.  More recently the Latin men and eastern Europeans.  Burt Sugar wrote about this phenomenon and linked it to immigration, etc.  Don’t know if he touched all the bases, but it was interesting.

There was Jewish heavyweight champ once.  Max Baer was Jewish.

Then things got really weird.  This last one was for architects that also were somehow prizefighters:

The month of your AnniversaryYour daughter’s Birth MonthYour Son’s Birth Month
1Michael Notes of Earth Johnson-Smythe
2Criss Whisper of Toffee Wallingford
3Thad Peat Smoke Patterson
4Douglas the Vision Moody
5Rory Dark Sweetness Evans-Childers
6Alexander Learning Pathways Witherspoon
7Troy Innovation Propeller Samuelson
8Bruce Limitless Potential Montigue
9Lemuel Delicious Accent Buttifoucco
10Samson Postmodern Renaissance Simpson-Prague
11Aldo Juicy Peach Whistler
12Chad Noble Purpose Dorchester

(I got “Michael “the Vision” Buttifoucco”)

Architects… really weird people.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.

I refer to Filip Hrgovic, who won a title eliminator against Zhang Zhilie, and is next in line to challenge Usyk for one of his belts, or so they say.  Andy Ruiz also won an eliminator against Luis Ortiz, and he is also next in line to fight Usyk for a belt, and Joe Joyce knocked out Joseph “No Name” Parker and he too, is next in line.  I understand that Daniel Dubois is somebody’s ‘Mandatory’ for some reason too.

Wait, is one of these guys supposed to fight Fury, (who is retired)?  Because if you haven’t heard he’s planning to fight Mahmoud “Diamond Boy” Charr (No, I’m not making fun of him, that’s his name.)  If you don’t know, Charr, whose career has not earned him a title shot, has been shot 4 times in the abdomen, has had both hips replaced, and is 37 years old.

Here’s a picture of him in training.

Inspiring, Tyson.  Real nice.

Being a “Mandatory Challenger” seems to be analogous to being in the “friend zone” with a member of the opposite sex.  There doesn’t seem to be any way out, and you never get the ‘closure’ you desire.

So we have a phalanx of men, qualified men, men who have been tested and have passed, men pounding at the door, and the sanctioning bodies act like referees in  a wrestling match. (“What chair? I didn’t see a chair!”).  Heavyweight boxing is constipated and the only way to get things moving is for the sanctioning bodies (AKA the Tapeworm) to start actually stripping titles from their “champions” that refuse to fight.

Fury should have his title taken away and be forced to wear a tutu for his next match.

I shall retire to Bedlam.

Fury’s Biscuit

Tyson Fury has made it official, he’s a horse’s ass.

As I predicted, he has withdrawn his offer to fight Joshua, and is looking to fight Manuel Charr instead.  This is as cynical a move as his fight against Tom Schwartz was a couple years ago.  Blech.

It’s cruelty masquerading as sport.

When we were in school whenever a fight broke out, the kids would circle round and watch, shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight!” with enthusiasm.  What were hoping to see?  Pain? Injury? Humiliation?

Maybe we were hungry to establish a pecking order, who was boss of the playground?  Who will be our king?

I really don’t know, if you have any ideas, leave them in the comments section. 

But there might be something to that pecking order theory.  I was challenged to a fight on two separate occasions too see who was the toughest.  I was the biggest, that’s why I was selected for the honor of fighting for the Russel Erwine Elementary School Championship.  The fellow I was supposed to fight was a friend of mine.  I remember his first name was Don, and he was athletic.  He wore his hair in a flat top. That’s all I remember.  Here is the house he lived in.  Still looks the same.

Don’s house on East 250th

It wasn’t him that wanted the fight, it was other kids instigating this, setting a time and place, etc.  I talked to Don and said that I didn’t want to fight him, that we were friends, and it would be stupid to fight just because these other kids wanted us to.  He agreed, and we walked home.  Some time later, my neighbor Joe (who was also in the same grade) said he heard I had “chickened out” of the fight.  “Who told you that?” I demanded.

“Don did”, he said.

I ran the 200 yards to Don’s house, knocked hard on that side door you can see above and Don answered.  “Come on out”, I said.  “Why?” He wanted to know, and while I can’t quote what I said then exactly, I figure you can guess the gist.  I was angry and probably loud because before I could get my pound of flesh, his mom came to the door and acted like a parent.  I pointed and accused, she made him apologize.  We shook hands.

We continued being friends after that too.

Our house was painted white back then.

In that case the “King of the Playground” was really the prize and other kids wanted us to fight for it.  Not sure if this explains kids general fascination with all things pugilistic, but it’s something.

My point is that they didn’t ask me to fight this other Don, who was hydrocephalic, Or Dino, who was chubby and six inches shorter. No they wanted me to fight a kid who was strong and athletic (and between you and me, could well have won), someone they figure was a match for me.

But fighting the weaker and less able is what Fury, the Tosser King, is doing.  He’s going to beat up a smaller man for money. 

It’s one thing to do that when you are starting out, or if you are a side-show attraction like Hanford Willis (see ‘the Twister”, below). But when you are the Champ…

Ali fought Alfredo Evangelista.   I remember.  But the press, or at least Howard Cosell didn’t give him a pass for it.  They skewered him, called him out.  Called him lazy, a coward.

And of course we know Ali did take on better competition and paid the price for it too.  I don’t want that for the big Wanker, but he could be providing the public a thrilling spectacle, earing millions doing so, and maybe establishing himself as a great one.

But no, to paraphrase Darryl Philbin, he’s: “Sitting on his biscuit, doesn’t want to risk it.”

Juggernaut Indeed

To no one’s surprise, Joe Joyce pummeled Joseph “no nickname” Parker to the canvas.  Well, I guess maybe Parker and his crew were surprised, they said they were supremely confident going into this fight.  I don’t know why.  I’ve watched all of Joyce’s fights and have detected a pattern:  Joyce hits his opponents enough times that they quit.

It’s like Buster Douglas said “You just keep chopping, and eventually they’re gonna go”.

Joyce’s style is pressure and aggression.  He never lets up, he’s always moving forward and always swinging.  Not wild swinging, not so he punches himself out. It took him ten rounds to knock out Dubois, and eleven to flatten Parker.  No, he is disciplined in his assault.

My guess is that it’s hard to mount any offense against him because he never lets you pause in defending yourself.

What was a surprise was how durable he is.  We’ve seen hints of it before.  Takam hit him with three good rights in their fight to no effect.  Dubois got in a couple good ones too.  But I lost count of the clean shots that Parker hit him with.  That has to be demoralizing in the extreme when you hit a man with your best shot and he just keeps coming  – without pause, without reaction except to punch you back – hard.

Joyce once compared himself to George Foreman, and at first I scoffed at the notion.  But now I see what he meant. Aggression, power, granite chin.  Check, check and check.

They say he’s next in line for a shot at Usyk, and he wants that one too, having an amateur score to settle with him.  Usyk has said he only wants to fight the Tosser King (Fury) and if he can’t get that fight he’ll retire.  Fury agreed in principal to fighting Usyk, but then started inventing ways to weasel out “Oh you need surgery?  Too bad, I wanted to fight yet this year.  Oh, and I want half a billion pounds too.  You have one week”.  Like Jerrell Miller, he hit the trifecta in excuses not to fight.

Now Fury is doing his little pantywaist two-step teasing us (the flirt!) with the idea of fighting Joshua instead.   

Anyway, my point is I doubt that any of the tall ones want anything to do with Joyce.  It remains to be seen if Usyk can be talked into the rematch.  (I looked and that amateur bout was ten years ago.)

We have Wilder / Helenius coming up:

Sorry – I dozed off there for a moment.  (I expect a decisive win for Wilder.)

I sure hope my drowsiness is warranted.  I am not ready to say goodbye to the Bronze Bomber. I hope he stops the bearded Fin in his inimitable fashion: Stalking, stalking, stalking and *BOOM!* Goodnight sweet prince.  I’d like to see him fight Ruiz too, or Zhang, or Hrgovic, or Joshua or Whyte.  If Helenius pulls off the upset… well I’ll be upset.

Speaking of Zhang, remember how I said his “loss” to Hrgovic would not hurt his placement in the ratings? Indeed I was right. He actually moved up to number ten in Ring magazine’s poll (Hrgovic is number eight.)

And in their wisdom (I may have to take back the unflattering things I’ve said about them.  Well, some of them.) they do not have the big Wanker on their list. The man said he was retired, and until he signs a contract to fight, he’s still retired in my estimation.  I wish the WCB would take his belt too.

They currently show:

  1.  Usyk
  2.  Joshua
  3.  Wilder
  4.  Parker
  5.  Ruiz
  6.  Whyte
  7.  Joyce
  8.  Ortiz
  9.  Hrgovic
  10. Sanchez
  11. Zhang

Of course the Parker and Joyce positions will change shortly, but other than that I think this list is solid.

The IBO “computerized” (supposedly objective) list has:

  1. Usyk
  2. Fury
  3. Joshua
  4. Joyce
  5. Parker
  6. Ruiz
  7. Whyte
  8. Sanchez
  9. Chisora
  10. Pulev
  11. Ortiz

I question Pulev being on there.  He has newer impressed me.

Lastly, the Transnational (Teddy Atlas’ baby) has:

  1. Usyk
  2. Joshua
  3. Wilder
  4. Ruiz
  5. Parker
  6. Joyce
  7. Whyte
  8. Wallin
  9.  Ortiz
  10. Michael Hunter
  11. Martin Bakole

I know, right?  I’ve heard Michael Hunter but not Bakole.  I looked and he beat Maruisz Wach and Tony Yoka and lost to Michael Hunter.  The rest of his resume is no-names.  Hunter, on his part, lost to Usyk, and had a draw with Povetkin.  His most recent fight was a draw against Jerry Forrest.  Not very inspiring. He needs to get those bums out of there (and Otto Wallin too) and put Zhang, Hrgovic and Sanchez on the list.

So many good fighters, and it takes so long to make a good match. I continue to hope that Joyce and Zhang get their chance before they age out.

The Twister

(The following is entirely a work of fiction):

They called me “the Twister” because when I’d hit a man with a right cross or a left hand he’d kind of spin as he fell.  That’s because of the fat thing. 

I suppose if I was to train hard and eat the right diet and all that I’d weigh something like 260. I’m a big man, so there is muscle under all the flab, but I am fat.  Right now I’m about 330 pounds, and I’m six foot five.  I tell you all that not because it’s interesting (it ain’t) but because it is part and parcel to this story.

See I’m tall enough that I can try to keep a fellow off of me with a jab (if you don’t know what a jab is, I think maybe you’re reading the wrong story). While I’m doing that I’m watching for a chance to hit him on the head with an overhand right, or an uppercut or sometimes just a straight one. That generally will make him wobble, then I can throw “the Twister”.

The fat thing comes in at this time.  I have only fought guys that are shorter than me, so they need get close to me to hit me.  Or if I hit them first, they try to hug me.  When they get inside and their head is right about where you’d be holding a basketball before making a free throw, right there is where I got my power. 

Other fighters throw long looping punches and can put some Chinese mustard on them too.  I ain’t that fast or athletic.  But put that head on a tee right in front of me and I can turn, sort of pivot, and put my weight into it.  This is why they would sometimes spin as they fall.  People enjoyed watching me do this and I made an embarrassing amount of money doing it.

I had a crisis of conscience early on, felt bad about it.  I’ve been a boxing fan my whole life, but understand that I was not a sportsman engaged in competition on a level playing field.  No, I was hurting men for money, and that seemed a little sordid.  That is, until I realized that the guy cheering for me in April was standing in the ring with me in May, and the guy I knocked out in April was now in the crowd hollering for me to lower the boom, to apply “the twister” to his buddy.

“C’mon let’s twist again, like we did last summer

Let’s twist again, like we did last year

Do you remember when things were really humming?

Yeah let’s twist again, twisting time is here…”

It all started as a dare.  It was Louie the bartender. I know that sounds like a cliché, like a made-up name; “Louie the bartender at the Boxing club” but that’s his name.  If it wasn’t I would tell you different. They got other bartenders there, but it was Louie that night.

They generally had a fight night once a month or so, maybe six weeks.  Once a year they would have an amateur night, a “tough man contest”.  This is a chance for a bunch of regular guys to blow off steam. They get drunk, they issue a challenge, they pay an entry fee and they fight. The club hires referees, and a doctor, a ring announcer and they even bring in some ring-card girls. To keep it safe, these fights are real short, like three one minute rounds.  Even at that distance, maybe half don’t go the full three minutes.  Everybody drinks a lot of beer and shouts a lot.

There is no round-robin, no prize money.  The winner of each bout just gets bragging rights.  Most fights are two buddies that want to fight each other.

It was an off-night (no fights) and the place was near empty so Louie and me are just having a conversation.  The annual tough-man contest was coming up in a couple weeks, and he starts in suggesting, at first, but eventually ramping up to full-on nagging that I sign up to fight.  He said there was a heavyweight that had signed up but didn’t have an opponent.

Basically I said yes to shut him up.  It made me nervous though. I started doing sit-ups and running in place every day so I wouldn’t be quite so soft as I had become.  My only experience boxing was a class I had taken at the Y when I was 12.  I was 38 years old when I entered the tough man contest.

The fellow I fought was about my age and about my shape (pudgy).  He was both shorter and smaller than me, at six foot two and 280 pounds.  I dropped him twice in the first minute.  The first time was a right to the head, the second time an uppercut to the breadbox.

That earned me an invitation to fight at the next event as a “professional”. Stan Martel was the fellow’s name.  He was the promoter, the guy that arranged and managed the actual boxing at this club.  Somebody else ran the foodservice and booze, Stan ran the boxing.  He offered me $200 to fight “another stiff”. That’s how he put it.

I told him I was no boxer, I just did the tough man contest as a lark. He said I had some natural talent and he thought we could have fun and maybe make some money. I laughed and thanked him but said no.

You see, back in those days the heavyweight fighters were smaller, the champ was just six foot nothing and two twenty.  I was a freak of nature.  I think Stan wanted me as a side-show attraction: “Come see King Kong squash some dude” or “David vs. Goliath” or some-such.

The typical fight card back then would feature mostly local guys, young kids just starting out, and a half-dozen real fighters, from out of town; men hoping to make a living at it.  The main event would be two of these guys, both with a winning, if not spotless record, hoping to win and move up one notch to something less skeevy. Stan, I believed, wanted to present me as a novelty on the undercard in an effort to sell more tickets.

Of course I was right.

I changed my mind.

A couple days go by and I can’t get it out of my mind.  Winning that fight, I don’t know, just felt good.  I was like a kid again having just won a little league game.  I had a smile in me that started at my spine and kind of radiated from there all over. I wanted to see if I could do that again.  Maybe a couple of times.

So I went to the gym that Stan runs and told him if the offer was still good I was in.

I started training a little then too.  That was tough.  The other boxers there looked down on me, like I was a joke.  They called me “Pops” and other, worse things at first.  That went away in time when they saw that I was going to stick with it.

I sparred a little bit and hit the heavy bag, but mostly I wanted to work so I could have more stamina.  I didn’t want to get beat because I got winded.

My first pro fight was a lot like the tough man fight.  This fellow was about the same size as the guy I fought that night, but where the first guy had a long hair and a beard this one was bald-headed.

And I knocked him out in the first round.  Just like I told you above.

Sure enough, a month later Stan put a picture of me on his poster, down in a corner under the names and photos of the real fighters as an “Added Attraction: King Kong Willis vs. TBD”

And that’s how it was for my first five fights. One or two rounds, and a KO.  And Stan’s hunch was right.  I had fans.  People came to see me wallop somebody.

On one of those occasions, somebody (who had come to watch somebody else) saw me and approached Stan (I didn’t have a manager or nothing) and Stan came to me and said “They want to put you on TV”.

I was immediately nervous “Look I told you I’m not looking to “advance my career” here.  I mean, I don’t mind getting hit, but I don’t want to be embarrassed, especially on TV!”

Stan went on to explain that they wanted me to fight four rounds, just as I had been doing, and they wanted me to “knock some guy through the ropes” just like I had been doing. 

I paused.

“There’s money in it.  They’ll pay you $5,000.”

I paused.

“I can help you.  I’d like to help you if you want to do this.”

I had to get new elaborate and shiny trunks, ka-ching! And new shoes, ka-ching! And I had to hire a cut man, and now I had to pay Stan as well, as I agreed to let him be my manager / trainer. Ching! Ching!

The $5,000 melted down to less than $1,000 by the time I added up my expenses, but man, it was fun.  And less skeevy.

The locker room didn’t smell.  That in itself was a miracle.  I liked that too.  It made what I was doing seem more legitimate.

I hit my man in the first round with a right cross counter (more on that later) right after my opponent threw a left hook.  He missed and I connected and he was off balance and he did a pirouette with both arms out helicopter-style and flopped to the canvas.

Everyone called it a counter punch, but I don’t really think it was.  I think we both swung at the same time, but mine just took longer to get there.  It did make me look like I knew what I was doing though.

The clip of that punch was shown on TV again and again.  It even made it to ESPN’s top ten.  And this is when things really got rolling.

A few months later they invited me back, and I had to go to three rounds, but I knocked that fellow out too.  This one got some attention, but not as much as that first one.  I hit him with a straight right and he started to fall backwards, but turned and tried to get his feet under him and he kind of ran across the ring and fell down face first with his head poking out through the ropes.

For both of those fights I was introduced as Hanford “King Kong” Willis.

The third time I was on TV I had to fly to Vegas.  That was fun, too.  I had never flown before and I got a kick out of just looking out the window.  Stan sprung for dinner that night at a nice restaurant. I liked that too.

When fight time approached, I got dressed and wrapped and gloved and when the ring announcer called my name I started out the tunnel into the auditorium and the PA started playing “Twist Again” by Fats Domino.

Come on, everybody, clap your hands!

Aw, you’re looking good!

Gonna sing my song, and it won’t take long

We’re gonna do the twist, and it goes like this:

I don’t dance, but I smiled and kind of bounced as I walked to the ring.  I walked a little slower too, enjoying the moment

A minute later, the ring announcer introduced me as “the Twister”

My purse for that fight was $15,000 which, like before, largely melted away after expenses.  But I didn’t care.

I put on a show that night.  I was riding high on the excitement. I liked the new nick-name.  I liked the crowd cheering for me.  I like the flight and the steak dinner and I wanted more of all of it.

I feel bad for the guy I faced that night. I was extra motivated.  I had my heart set on getting back to the highlight reel.

I didn’t get the helicopter or knock him out of the ring, but what I did do was knock him out in less than a minute.  It was the first punch I threw.  He had to move toward me to hit me, and I just caught him coming in.  Boom! One and done.

After that we negotiated a contract for five more fights at $25,000 each.  Not exactly screw-you money, but it was an improvement to my lifestyle, even after expenses.  I was fighting for them two and three times a year, and in between times I’d still fight at Stan’s club.  He paid me more than $200 too. I had some notoriety, I put butts in the seats.

I was 40 years old, getting close to 41.

Round and round and

up and down we go again

oh baby make me know

You love me so…

One night at Stan’s club I fought some guy with an iron chin.  Couldn’t put him down.  The fight went the full four rounds. I won the decision, and he was swollen and bleeding.  I gave him the customary brief hug after the fight and thought we were OK.

In the parking lot, as I was headed to my car, I got cold-cocked by his brother.  I fell on my ass, hard.  Before I could get my hands up to block, this guy whacked me two more times, knocking out a tooth.  Then he spit on my leather jacket. Then he turned around and shouted “I just knocked out the Twister! He ain’t so tough, he ain’t nothing!”

I had to spend a fortune getting that tooth replaced with an implant, but the spit…that really pissed me off.  When I found out that he was a fighter too, I asked Stan to get me a match with him.  No. I insisted that he get me match with him.  No police,  I just wanted to take care of this myself. 

He wasn’t as tough as his brother, and I knocked him out in two rounds.  Afterward I gave him the little hug and said, “That’s how it’s done, asshole.”

So I was 41 years old, 14-0 with 13 knockouts.

Who’s that, flyin’ up there?

Is it a bird?


Is it a plane?


Is it the twister?


I started to believe my own hype, that was my problem.  My weight had dropped to 300 – 305 but then bounced back up after I started making money.  I started asking Stan to get me better fights – harder competition. I had no designs on a title – I was not delusional.  I just wanted to reexperience the emotional peak that I had that night the first time they called me “Twister”.  I still enjoyed the crowd, and my new car and so forth, but the buzz was wearing off.

At first he would remind me of what we set out to do, that is, put on a show. We were successful in that.  Why take chance at losing our audience by getting whupped? I would argue with him, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make a lot of sense, because his was a good point.  I just came back with “because I wanna!”

Then he stopped arguing with me, saying “If that’s what you want, okay!”  I talked with the TV guys and they said they were on board too.  I only had two more fights under my contract, I wanted, no I needed them to be special, to be highlights of my career.

What Stan did was lie to me.  He’d tell me “this guy has wicked power” or “fantastic footwork” (my footwork was crap) but I’d nose around and look up their record and in reality they were just more turkeys.

I realized that Stan didn’t believe my hype.  He thought I would lose to a better fighter, even a slightly better fighter, and the money would dry up.  He was using me, stringing me along, just so he could continue to take his percentage.

Then the TV guys called with an offer.  They had a fellow, they said was “a significant step up” that was willing to fight me. It would be a co-featured event and they offered $50,000. The catch was I had to agree to fight eight rounds.

I had long thought that would come up. When you say you’ll only fight four-rounders you are basically saying “I’m not a real fighter!” “Don’t take me seriously!” “I’m a side-show!”  This is what I thought back at the beginning, back when they called me “King Kong”.  I knew I was freak then and nothing had changed in the years that followed but my appetite for it.

I had time to prepare, some ninety days, but not enough time to get fit.  Besides at almost 42 I could never get into the same shape a 30-year-old could. So, I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it.  It was damn frustrating, the very thing that I wanted was right there, but I was not sure I could pick it up.

Of course, I decided to do it.  I fired Stan for his lack of confidence in me, and hired Mauricio, another fellow from the gym to be my trainer and manager.  We continued to work in Stan’s gym and he pretty much gave us the silent treatment.

That was okay – an understandable reaction.  And I didn’t have time to worry about that – I had work to do! I had get ready to go 8 rounds.

I focused like before on strength and endurance.  I did lots of running, lots of calisthenics.  After a couple weeks I could see improvement and that built up my confidence, thinking that I was going to be in the best shape of my life.

And I was. After eight weeks my weight was down to 306 and I had to order new trunks. 

At ten weeks, for the first time in my life I attended a press conference.  Sure, the main event guys were everyone’s focus but we got five or ten minutes on the platform as the co-featured fighters.  We exchanged some polite trash-talk and posed for photos with our fists raised.  It was pretty stupid, but I loved every minute of it.

My opponent was 24 years old, he was 6’-3” and fought around 220 pounds. His record was 12-2. (I was now 17-0 with 16 KO’s).  I was very pleased that they didn’t try to bullshit me like Stan had done before, this really was a step-up fight, and if I win this one, the next one will pay even more.

At fight time I weighed 304 and my opponent 224.  This was the lightest I had been in my career. So I felt good, confident.

When the fight started my opponent met me at the center of the ring, then started backing up.  He backed up till he reached the ropes then he ducked right and continued backing up.  This forced me to chase him.  And as I told you back at the beginning, I am not athletic enough to leap forward with big wide swings.  I could not hit him. He would pause for a moment, me lumbering toward him, and sting my eyes with a jab.

This was pretty much how it went.  Round after round, me pursuing, occasionally catching him on the ropes with a couple shots, many of which he blocked, and him retreating and jabbing and sometimes counter punching.

By the eighth round I felt like I had sandbags tied to each limb.  He was fresh as a daisy and that spelled the end for me.  He stopped retreating and started pot-shotting me, rapidly getting more and more comfortable in range, and by the middle of the round he was on flat feet, hammering away at my head.

Next thing I know I’m in bed, curled up and comfy with my pillows and quilt and dreaming of a ride in a colorful spaceship the size of a sports car.  I was zooming along, miles above the earth, having a great time, when “Five!” What was that? I looked to my left, and blinked and “Six!” I blinked two more times and “Seven!” I opened my eyes and “Where was I?” and “Eight!” And I heard a roar, a crowd cheering, and I saw a very happy man waving to the crowd across…

A boxing ring! I was fighting! Why can’t I stand up?

About that time the doctor showed up and started looking me over and saying things I couldn’t hear over all the noise.  Eventually he got me to my stool where I continued to spin for a time.  At length I slowly got up and walked toward my opponent who saw me coming and he raced over and lifted my right hand in the air.  The crowd roared at this gesture.  I looked at him and said “You done good.” He smiled.  “Did I do good?” I asked. “Fuck yeah, that was a great fight”. I later looked it up and if I could have made it to the end of the fight on my feet, even losing the eighth, I would have won by decision.  The judges gave me all the early rounds because I was more aggressive.

The sportswriters and talking heads all said the same thing, that I had exceeded expectations. That they had watched, as some described it “through their fingers” fearing that I was in over my head and going to get hurt.

They said I rocked him several times but was not quick enough to get in the second or third shot I needed to close the deal.

The powers that be (I heard someone call them “the tapeworm” once) decided that since they had paid me double for that last fight, that my contract with them had been fulfilled. I doubted that, but I sure wasn’t going to hire a lawyer to take on those guys.  They could hire five attorneys that could run circles around anybody I could afford.

So, I had some time to reflect, you know, and drink.  I know, when you’re a prizefighter and you get depressed, you’re supposed get hooked on cocaine, but I couldn’t afford that either.

Richard Brautigan once wrote “I feel like a sewing machine that just sewed a turd to a trash can lid”.  And if you don’t think it proper for a prize fighter to quote a hippie poet, well fuck you too.  I think that quote about described my mental state perfectly.

I got knocked out.  At age 42. They said I fought the fight of my life, but nobody wanted to take chance on me.  I get it.  I was too old to try to climb the hill.  Had I won, then yeah, maybe I get a shot at a gate-keeper fighter. But I didn’t and no-one wants to be the one responsible for hurting an old man.

It was like a death in the family.  This thing, this all-engrossing avocation, this fantasy, this enchantment that supported the weight of my ego…just disappeared… 

I already told you what happened to my ego – you know, the sewing machine.

And I did not know where to go, or how to get it back.

So in time I went back to the gym to apologize to Stan, to tell him he was right but I had to see it to believe it.

I told him I was available to knockout a stiff or two if he had a mind to it.  He said “Why don’t you try training a younger fighter?  You get the same rush from winning, you don’t have to watch your weight, and it hurts a lot less.”  So I started doing that.  It’s like drinking white wine when you really want a whiskey, but at least it scratches the right itch.

What’s that?  You want to know what did before I started fighting?  I did your mother, OK?  That ain’t the subject of this interview.  The thing I did before I fought I did while I fought too.  Up until that last fight, then I quit in order to train.  I’m still doing it, but I ain’t talking about it.  Same goes for my family. I ain’t talking about them either.  Just forget it.

My message?  I would say the point of my story is this: getting old sucks, but you adjust, you go on.

Peace out. That’s what the kids say.  Used to say. I don’t know.

Gypsy Legend

David Adeleye has a record of 9-0.  Big Whoop.  When I saw him on this card I thought maybe I’d get to see him fight somebody, but no.  He fought some dude that looked like me, fat and balding that is.  His record an uninspiring 9-8. He had lost four of his last five fights.

In July of ’21 I saw him fight another chubby dude (with a 3-9 record) and I berated him here, on this blog  for engaging in fake boxing.  I looked it up and the nine opponents that make up his 9-0 record have a combined record of 50 – 131.

For him it must be like a hobby, beating up old fat men.  I don’t want to see that.  They really need to stop putting this clown on TV until he steps up to fight a real fighter.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the featherweight fight, with the underdog Ball beating up and stopping Isaac Lowe.

And while the main event provided no surprises, (I thought Fury would win by stoppage and he did), it was still entertaining.  That knockout was a thing of beauty, like the Klitschko left that flattened Pulev, one punch, right on the button.


(How many remember that it was the another single uppercut that Povetkin knocked Whyte out with?  Raise your hands.)

Those of you who have read this blog for a while will remember that I have had a problem with Tyson Fury on more than one occasion.  The first time was when people would call him the lineal champ after his big flake-out, while he was “dealing with his issues” and simultaneously denying Klitschko his rematch, twice.

In my mind, Klitschko and Joshua fought for the lineal title, and Joshua earned it, lost it to Ruiz, got it back, then gave it to Usyk.

That’s my alternate universe.

In this tilted world Fury made his comeback by fighting…Tom Schwartz. And was lauded by the media for his ‘bravery’ and such. Blech.

He eventually got around to fighting Wilder and in those fights he did impress.  His remarkable skill set was there for all to see, not to mention an iron chin.  I had to change my mind about him, and even took back some of the crappy things I said about him. 

Then, after the last Wilder fight, some sports-talker brought up that “it was time to think about Fury’s place in the pantheon of greats.”

Bitch, please.

I wrote on this before (See Good, not Great below).  This fight was only his second title defense, and now he is taking about retiring.  His record just is not that impressive.

Last night he was saying “I’m a legend, one of the best boxers in the world, maybe even ever” (paraphrased).  I started to rankle at this, but I realized that this was just a toned-down version of what Ali said about himself and I never minded that. 

Later I thought “maybe he’s right about the ‘legend’ thing.” 

That’s what we all said about Tyson (the original Tyson) – a legendary  boxer, but not an all-time great.  I think we wanted collectively to punish him for his many un-gentlemanly antics.  (Like how we have not put Pete Rose into the hall of fame.) We didn’t want to be seen as putting a stamp of approval on his behavior.  That ice has been melting for Iron Mike, though. People have been forgiving him, and if you do that, you have to compare him to others on the basis of his record, who he fought and how he fared.  And on that basis, he was great indeed.

I’ll concede “legend” for Tyson Fury.  He is devilishly hard to beat.  No-one has done it yet.  His last three fights were impressive, but that’s just it, it’s only three fights.  There are plenty of talented heavyweights out there that he could fight if he wanted to remembered as ‘great’.

I’d like to see him fight Usyk or Joe Joyce for instance.

But now we have to consider this:  Who is to fight for the lineal championship?  I suppose Usyk has to be #1.  Who will be #2? 

Turns out there is no controversy here. Box Rec, Transnational, (Teddy Atlas), the IBO, Ring Magazine all agree, Usyk is #1, Joshua is #2.  So the upcoming rematch will give us the new lineal champ.

If it were up to me Wilder would get to fight Ruiz or Joyce for the WBC belt. That would be fun.

I hope the big lad can make it stick, that he not return, a la Ali, ad nauseum, to the point of embarrassment or worse, personal injury. It would be a very happy ending (and one no doubt destined for a cinematic portrayal) to his hill-and-valley story.

Give ’em Hell, Vovel*

If life were a comic book or an action movie you’d know that one of these two is soon to put a right cross on Vladimir Putin’s lips that would knock him clean through a brick wall, or into the waiting mouth of a dinosaur or something.  Olexander Usyk would be their side-kick.  All three would then go home to a buxom wife and drink vodka straight out of the bottle while the closing credits rolled.  I can even hear the theme music, you can too.

But if you don’t know, those aren’t actors.  This is no movie. That’s Vladimir and Vitaly Klitschko, former heavyweight world champions.  Yes, they are on the front lines along with  Olexander Usyk (current heavyweight world champion), in real life, fighting the Russians.

All these men, and (Vasiliy Lomachenko too,) are proud Ukrainians.

God, “real life”, how I hate it at times.

I have seen these men in combat over 100 times, and I have never seen them look as grim as they do in that photo above.

I recently wrote about how I didn’t like to think of boxing as “entertainment”, that the sacrifices of these men (ironically, we call them “warriors”) deserve a more dignified characterization.  I felt that a black eye or a broken nose was as real as life needs to be.  I believe that war should have looking over it a supreme authority, someone to penalize a low blow, or a head butt, and to ring the bell to signal an end to hostilities.  

I have no place for rockets and madness.  That crazy son of a bitch fired on a nuclear power plant!   When you get to him, Vladimir, lean into it.  Don’t hold anything back.

But of course real life exists.  Of course these men are fighting for their homeland, their people.  There is an order to things, and real life far outweighs entertainment.

And in real life there is the “out there’ aspect, things beyond my control and even my comprehension.  Things like international politics.  I can’t begin to make sense of it and it worries me that other people claim that they can.  I think all I can do is pray, then wait and see what happens.

So then, the Joshua / Usyk rematch is indefinitely postponed.  We were supposed to get this one out of the way so we could resume hoping for a unification bout, one to name an undisputed champion.  But the four belts that Usyk owns will be unavailable for challenge till this madness stops. 

Of course, the tapeworm could start ‘stripping’ him of one title or another in what would be a singularly tasteless and callous act. They could then put those belts up for grabs for lesser men to fight for. 

I read where, since Usyk is unavailable, that Joshua is going to fight Otto Wallin.

Fury is fighting Dillian Whyte.

Wake me up when it’s over.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch both of those fights, but I am not inspired by either of them.  I grieve that we seem to be letting so many potentially great matchups fade to nothingness as all these men continue to age into the sunset.

Usyk is 35 years old already.  Fury is 33.  Joshua 32, Wilder 36.  Joe Joyce is 36 too, and even Andy Ruiz is 32.

Derek Chisora and Chris Arreola refuse to go away (38 and 41 respectively).

At least we haven’t heard from Shannon Briggs for a while (50).

Eddie Hearn is only 42.  Let’s put him in the ring with Luis Ortiz, who is also 42.  I’d definitely pay to see that one.

Don King and Bob Arum are both 90 years old.  They say only the good die young so I guess the fartheaded live forever.   Makes sense.

There is a good one coming up that is supposed to be a done deal: Hrgovic vs. Zhang.  Two undefeated prospects in a title eliminator.  The winner is supposed to be the IBF mandatory challenger for Usyk.  I hope they don’t scrub this because Usyk may be unavailable for a time.  But this one too may disappear like a mist.

Zhang is 38 by the way.

Anyway, it seems all the best matchups, (like Fury / Joshua) exist only in the mind of boxing fans; the loyal but beleaguered boxing fans.

*Vitaly’s nickname for Vladimir. You can hear him shouting this from the corner during his first fight against Samuel Peter.

The Ballad of Jonnie Rice

Back in July Jonnie Rice stepped in to replace Gerald Washington (who had covid) to fight undefeated prospect Michael Coffie.  This was supposed to be Coffie’s ‘gatekeeper’ fight, the win that would propel him into the upper echelon.

We remember Washington.  He defeated such men as Robert Helenius, Eddie Chambers and Ray Austin on his way up.  He made it that far, but then stalled out, being stopped by Wilder, Kownacki and “Big Baby” Miller.  Now he mans the door – if you want to break into the top ten, you have to go through him (or others like him).

But Jonnie Rice is not a gatekeeper.  He is a journeyman, a professional opponent, a sparring partner. His record the night of the Coffie fight was 13-6-1.  Coffie was his third undefeated opponent in a row, and he had lost the last two. 

The luster of the evening must have been somewhat tarnished in Coffie’s eyes.  He was going to fight a man who had been in with the very best, and thus raise his own stock.  But instead he found himself relegated to knocking out yet another chump, a journeyman, a tomato can.  Maybe he started at a psychological disadvantage, thinking he had very little to gain.

Meanwhile Rice recognized that this was an opportunity. While he had gone the distance with Ajagba, and was competitive, he later criticized his own performance. “I didn’t take the risk” of opening up offensively was how he characterized it.  In other words (mine) he was fighting like a sparring partner. Before the Coffie fight he vowed not to do that again, saying “It’s time for me to beat one of these guys.”

As you know, he did just that, stopping Coffie in the fifth round.

He earned $55,000 for that fight. He said that wasn’t enough for him to quit his job (bouncer).  But after he won the rematch, he got a three-fight deal.  He has quit his job, and for the first time, at the age of 34 he is a full-time boxer.

How many guys, in their thirties, after losing two in a row, just pack it in?  How many knuckle-down, saying “this is my last chance” and train harder?  Maybe that’s a fifty/fifty split.  The boxing world is full of tough guys, and not a lot of quitters.  But even tough guys have to look at the facts and weigh the pros and cons.  Everyone eventually gets to that place.

Many carry on when we wish they wouldn’t.  Tyson kept fighting past his prime. He said he needed the money.  Muhammad Ali never said why he couldn’t stop, he just couldn’t stop. 

How rare it is, when a 34 year old with a mediocre record and back-to-back losses knuckles down and makes for himself a whole new career.  If he keeps winning the competition will get tougher and the purses will get larger.

Jonnie Rice will fight on.  “But for how long?” you ask. 

Three fights long. That’s how long.

And God bless him.  He has given us all a thrill.  We love to see a fighter get up off the canvas and turn things around.  How much more when the man’s career seems to be over and yet he rises to new heights?

I remember, as we were taking our seats one night, hearing the ring announcer open his remarks by saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, for your entertainment, a night of professional boxing…” That phrase kind of startled me.  It was a little jarring to hear it described that way. I don’t like to think of boxing as entertainment, but in truth, it is.  I want it to be something more, the way that a symphony is more than a pop song, a sonnet more than a limerick.

It made me feel a little sordid, like an ersatz Nero watching the gladiators. 

I admire the skill, agility, craftiness, toughness and artistry of boxers, and their strength of will, their “heart”.  I’m a straight guy, but I am not unaware that many of these men (like Rice) are fine-looking individuals.  I admire this quality too. 

I am also aware of the enormous sacrifices they make, and the huge risks they take to present this spectacle to me.  To call it “entertainment” feels like a discount, an insult.

For every fighter we see on TV there are hundreds we don’t see, men that never make it that far. Blue collar men, and some drunks and ne’re-do-wells too.

They too contribute to the spectacle.  They are the rubble, the ballast that televised boxing is built on.  Without losers there could be no winners.  For every 10 – 0 prosect, there are ten men with a black eye and a concussion. Rice surely looked to be one of those before the events of last year.

And all these men too deserve our respect and our gratitude.

Rice is not yet a star, or even really a prospect.  All he has done thus far is earn for himself a chance at a better life.

Foreman and Ali were stars. I count them among my heroes.  The fame they achieved in the ring put the spotlight on otherwise exemplary lives.  They showed us how it is done.  Life that is.  They had their faults, surely.  But they both lived out their convictions.  In that they were examples to follow. 

We don’t all get to be examples.  We don’t all get Dragons to slay or mountains to climb.  I wrote about this before.  If you scroll way the hell down you can find a post entitled “The Big One” that talks about that.

Rice’s achievement, of course is much smaller, and so far is really only a potential achievement. Maybe a dragon with a small “d” has been given him. 

His story seems more like an endorsement of that cherished canard: “Never give up and you can make your dreams come true”.  We all like to cling to the belief that we are somehow in control of our destiny.  We look at Rice and say “See?” He did it! I can do it too!”

That’s still a fairy-tale, but when the Ballad of Jonnie Rice is written, I hope it ends on a high note.