Friday, January 27, 2017

The Winner & New Champion


The Toughest Opponent In Boxing

Early Boxing History

As early as 1700 BCE in Greece and on the island of Crete, boxing matches were popular. In Ethiopia and Ancient Egypt, pugilistic contests began even earlier. In Sumeria, the earliest known civilization which started in 4500-4000 BCE, there are carvings depicting boxing matches. These carvings appear to be from the third century BCE. Bare-knuckle fighting was the norm then, but the combatants did wear leather straps around their wrists and knuckles for support and protection. 

     Minoan Painting, Akrotiri Fresco, Circa 1500 BCE

Boxing disappeared for many years, then reemerged in the 1600s in England, still as a bare-knuckle sport without gloves. By 1714, Champion Jack Broughton established boxing's first rules to eliminate any further fatalities in the ring. From that point on, a downed opponent could remain on the ground, unimpaired, for 30 seconds. If the fighter could not continue after the count of 30, the contest was over. 

These new rules gave a significant benefit to a hurt opponent for he may take a knee whenever in trouble. The fighter taking a knee was not penalized and came to be looked upon as unmanly. In time, the seconds for the fighters would negotiate that rule out of the fight until eventually it was gone. 

Boxing became a consistent attraction at the Royal Theatre in London in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  There were no weight divisions and only one Champion reigned so lighter weight fighters were at a disadvantage often being defeated. For the most part, brute strength and size determined the outcome of earlier boxing matches since few techniques and skills were on display in the early years of the fight game. 

As the sport matured, strategies, better skills, and conditioning came into play. The fights had no limit on the number of rounds and the combatants fought until one or both men could not continue. The ring might consist of spectators in a circle or loosely hanging ropes.

Boxing Rules and Gloves

In 1867, the 12 Marquess of Queensberry Rules were formulated by John Chambers and named after John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry. The ring would be 24 feet. Duration of each round would be 3 minutes, with a minute rest in between. If a fighter is struck and goes down, he must get up before the count of ten. In all, there are 12 Marquess of Queensberry rules that, for the most part, are followed in today's boxing contests although the original boxing gloves were much bigger.

The advent of gloves changed offensive and defensive strategies significantly. Combatants could now throw blows to the head with less concern of breaking their knuckles and fingers. They could also protect their head with newly developing defensive glove skills.

The first Heavyweight Champion under The Marquess of Queensberry Rules was "Gentleman Jim" Corbett in 1892 when he defeated former bare-knuckle champion John L. Sullivan in New Orleans. His notoriety and good name greatly helped boxing's popularity because through the end of the 19th century boxing became illegal in England and much of the United States due to the unseemly crowds it attracted.      

Bare-Knuckle Fighting 

Why Boxing?

So what is the fascination with two men in a ring pummeling one another? I would think to some degree it is a similar instinct that causes people to stop and observe an accident or to stand up and turn away from a world championship fight to see a fist fight in the stands.

A boxing match can be many things from choreographed chaos, to improvised brutality, as well as a pugilistic Lindy while playing hide and seek. It is my belief that most fans truly want to see the manly art of self-defense, but they also demand to see a fight.

One of the most anticipated fights of the past few decades was Mayweather vs. Pacquaio. Sadly,the match materialized at least five years too late leaving boxing enthusiasts frustrated and inevitably taken advantage of.

You would think to be touted as the best ever, never losing a fight, would assist in making a strong argument on your behalf, such as  Rocky Marciano (49 & 0 with 43 knockouts!) and  Floyd Mayweather (49 & 0 with 26 knock outs,) but that is not always a given!

Muhammad Ali had 56 wins and 5 losses, yet he is arguably higher on any pound for pound list then the aforementioned fighters

Muhammad Ali could have been a cutie winning on quickness, defense, and a jab, but instead he chose to beat his opponent, not just win.

Things get convoluted for me if in your 20, 30, 40, or more matches, you have rarely fought a great opponent in his prime. To wish, perchance to dream, for just one historic contest displaying the fighting heart and soul exhibited by so many champions of the ilk of an Arturo Gatti, Chico Diego Corrales, Matthew Saad Muhammad, and, more recently, Roman Gonzalez. 

The new heir apparent for the pound for pound title could be Andre Ward who displays the defense of a world class fighter as well as an offense complete with fast hands, great feet, and adequate power! He recently stated after the Brand fight that his fighting agenda moving forward will be to not get hit and leave the sport intact. This is a novel concept more in line with being an accountant!

He rarely takes any risks as it is so is he planning to wear full body Kevlar? 

Without question, avoiding having your body and brain compromised by unnecessary damage is the goal of all professional athletes in contact sports. So what does Andre Ward mean stating the obvious?  Did The Super Six World Boxing Classic make him revaluate the toll mixing it up can take on you?  Andre beat Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Sakio Bika, Allen Green, and Mikkel Kesslerfighters who are strong and tough and roughed Andre up whenever they could; however, Andre dispensed of them, but at what cost? Andre Ward got the nod against Sergey Kovalev in an excellent fight. I cannot wait for the rematch!

There is a decided difference between winning and beating your opponent and I am under the assumption fight fans would prefer the latter!

Boxing has changed and I guess I have not. I loved watching James Toney's defensive skills--for they were among the best! Showcased with his back against the ropes, slipping punches with head and shoulder rolls, and then he would make his opponent pay, because he wanted to. He had 76 wins, 46 knockouts, and 10 losses.

It is my contention that to be considered the best, you must have endeared yourself to the serious fight fans beyond your win/loss record. Fight fans judge you not only on winning or losing, but how you win or lose. I believe that if you have the ability to utterly outclass your opponents making them miss over and over again, but you do not have the power nor offensive ability to make them pay or take them out, in my mind you are not a complete fighter. I have had the opportunity to watch defensive geniuses embarrass all comers with their pugilistic expertise practicing the "hit and not get hit" philosophy, but on steroids!  

With all respect and kudos to these exceptional fighters, inevitably I am still wanting, desiring more, once the fight is over. Where one person might see an unsophisticated brawl, another might visualize abilities including speed, power, and great technique. Where one observer might fall asleep on his couch, another might testify to seeing the most technically skilled fighters they had ever seen where it appeared virtually no punches were landed--something like two drunks in an alley. 

The boxing game requires courage, a refusal to quit, professionalism both in and out of the ring, controlled aggression, quickness, good footwork, uncanny timing, and an extraordinary understanding of distance to maximize the impact of offensive blows while being out of reach defensively. Even when all of these are put together on any given night, the outcome might still be in question if the opponent has a better fight plan and is better prepared both mentally and physically.

Weighing In on Boxing

The rules that govern boxing are there for the pugilist's protection in hopes of assuring that each match involves two comparably skilled adversaries approximately the same weight designated by the division they fight in.

The subject of making weight and the physical toll it can take on the fighter is the topic of debate and concern in the boxing game. The number of pugilists who cut more weight than is healthy or safe is growing. Often the reality is the fighter has outgrown the division, but does not feel he has the size, speed, or punch to move up in weight.  These bigger men cutting weight to fight at lower weights have an advantage especially when they rehydrate one or two divisions above the contracted weight.
 Adrien Broner  vs.  Ashley Theophane

The Winner & New Champion

There is a new adversary in town capturing one championship belt after another--vacating titles in all divisions without throwing a punch--THE SCALE!  Over the years, there have been champions who have lost their belts on the scales.

    Eddie Mustafa Muhammad loses WBA Championship Belt for not Making Weight

Same day weigh-in abruptly ended in 1983 when Eddy Mustafa Muhammad could not make weight to defend his WBA title against Leon Spinks. He was indefinitely suspended by the DC Boxing & Wrestling Commission. Many other commissions followed suit when he refused to attempt losing the 2 1/2 Lbs. he was over. Quite a sum of money was lost by the fighters on the card, plus HBO was embarrassed for not being able to telecast the fight card as previously advertised to their subscribers.

By adding another day, the belief was if the fighter not making weight knew they had another day to rehydrate and recover from the unsafe weight cut in front of them, then they would be more inclined to move forward attempting to cut the extra pounds. Ultimately, less matches would be cancelled, but it could also increase the number of heavier fighters moving down in weight to capitalize on a size advantage exacerbating the problem.

"Bam Bam" Rios and Weight Loss

I followed Brandon Rios and observed how weight cutting eventually altered his career as well as his outstanding abilities. It is not as simple as Rios being a bigger man who let himself put on too much weight.

He was stripped of his WBA Lightweight title for not making weight. Now, fighting for the WBA Welterweight championship against Timothy Bradley, he failed to make weight on his first attempt. After an hour away from the scales, a gaunt and shaky Rios made weight on his second effort.

I would not miss a Rios fight for he is one of a small list of fighters who come to fight every fight. He is not a cutie unwilling to engage or be maneuvered into a fight.

He is a boxer who makes the fight! 

Watching him fight is a gift to the viewer for it's obvious he loves the competition and the challenge of breaking down his opponent--unlike the cuties who will bore you into submission. I wish him the best with his ongoing pugilistic career at whatever weight he decides will not hurt his body.
    Brandon Rios Fighting for WBA Title Making 147 Lbs. the Day Before the Fight

At 147 Lbs., Timothy Bradley (WBA Welterweight Champion) Fought Brandon Rios Weighing in at 170 Lbs. the Night of the Fight 

Sadly, drastic weight cutting can lead to a multitude of health problems and even death. A boxer's livelihood depends on stamina, speed, strength, and the capacity to think clearly and quickly. All of the aforementioned are drastically compromised by imprudent weight cuts! 

Intensive research at The Cleveland Clinic on drastic weight cutting has discovered serious factors related to the affects of unwise weight cutting. It reduces your bodies' ability to deliver oxygenated blood through your body because of the lack of plasma, which drastically hinders both cardio and aerobic endurance.

Eating and drinking barely anything to cut weight is harmful to the brain causing hormonal imbalances that perpetuate mood swings, depression, and eating disorders. We expect a lot from the fighters, but do we want them injuring themselves or dying while engaging in dangerous weight cutting?

Boxing's Weight Divisions

In 1909, a ratification of a vote cast around 1891, by 21 Sporting Clubs in London, amended the Marquess of Queensberry rules to implement eight divisions, or weight classes.  Since then, these divisions have been split so that now 17 weight divisions encompass the sport of boxing.  The current weight classes are:

Strawweight or Minimum Weight < 105 Lbs.
Junior Flyweight or Light Flyweight  105-108 Lbs.
Flyweight  108-112 pounds 
Super Flyweight or Junior Bantamweight  112-115 Lbs.
Bantamweight  115-118 Lbs.
Super Bantamweight or Junior Featherweight  118-122 Lbs.
Featherweight  122-126 Lbs.
Super Featherweight  126-130 Lbs.
Lightweight  130-135 Lbs.
Junior Welterweight or Super Lightweight  135-140 Lbs.
Welterweight  140-147 Lbs.
Junior Middleweight or Super Welterweight  147-154 Lbs.
Middleweight  154-160 Lbs.
Super Middleweight  160-168 Lbs.
Light Heavyweight  168-175 Lbs.
Cruiserweight  175-200 Lbs.
Heavyweight  > 200 Lbs.

"The Gentlemen of Boxing"

I became a fight fan in the 1950s when I was ten years old--listening to fights on the radio. Floyd Patterson, a 160 pound Middleweight who earned the Gold Medal as he knocked out five opponents at the 1952  Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, was a favorite of mine.

Floyd Patterson, 1952 Olympic Gold medalist                       

    Rocky Marciano, Undefeated Heavyweight Champion                                             

The Heavyweight title holder, Rocky Marciano, a 185 pound, hard-hitting, undefeated champion was also a favorite of mine. "The Brockton Bomber" was one of the toughest, most aggressive, well-trained heavyweights in the sports history! As a young boy, I felt Rocky Marciano represented much of what I loved about boxing as did Floyd Patterson, but for different reasons. 

It was important to an impressionable, young boy that they were both perceived as good people. They were both respectful of their opponents and fought a clean fight. 

Marciano was invisible and Patterson was vulnerable. Floyd Patterson became the youngest Heavyweight champion ever at age 21.  Each fighter brought their own brand of drama into the match. In a Marciano fight, there was the undefeated record on the line as well as his one-punch knockout ability possibly ending a fight in a heartbeat. 

In a Patterson fight, there was also heightened anticipation for his one-punch knockout power, plus additional drama came into play for Patterson was not always able to take a Heavyweight punch. Taking into consideration he was a blown-up Middleweight (160 Lbs.) fighting as a Light Heavyweight, then moving up to Heavyweight to take on the hardest punchers in boxing, Floyd did go down, but he kept getting up. He got off the canvas seven times in his loss to Sonny Liston

When Marciano retired, Patterson fought the great Archie Moore for the vacant division championship. Archie Moore was born in Benoit, Mississippi in 1913 or 1916 (according to documentation in respected publications) so no one really knew his age. That night in 1956, when Archie Moore fought Floyd Patterson for the vacant Heavyweight Championship, Moore was almost 20 years older then his opponent Floyd Patterson who knocked out Archie Moore in the fifth round.    

Archie Moore knocked out 141 fighters in his 200 plus fights. He still is one of the greatest power punches and Light Heavyweight Champions of all time!                   

    Archie Moore, Longest Reigning Light Heavyweight Champion Ever!
     Muhammad Ali, "The Greatest"          

Cassius Clay's "Punch"

In the 1960s, I was captivated by Cassius Clay's persona and charisma. Furthermore, he was the quickest of foot and hands I had ever witnessed in his division. He was also the most athletic, accurate punching heavyweight I had ever seen.

When Clay embraced the religion of Islam and became a Muslim, his name became Muhammad Ali. His voice and actions outside of the ring addressed the inequality people of color endured to the forefront of the American psyche, which helped initiate a constructive narrative acknowledging the bigotry Black people had suffered for far too long! He was certainly a man of religious conviction who lost everything for his beliefs.

Muhammad Ali fought and talked his way into a championship fight against Sonny Liston. Very few boxing enthusiasts believed Cassius Clay could beat the vicious, hard-hitting Sonny Liston, so that fight probably would not have happened when it did if it weren't for Clay relentlessly confronting and antagonizing Liston.

Listening to the Fight!

In February, 1964, The Allan Hancock College Bulldogs were in their locker room having ankles taped, putting on their uniforms, and closely watching the clock. Gilbert Gains, a 6'2" Forward, assertively said, "It's time." and walked towards the door to close it. Nick Allen, a  6'5" Center quietly called out, "Turn it on!"  Charlie Brown, a 6'0" guard replied, "Be cool or the coach will hear you!" Brown turned on the radio in hopes we could hear some of the fight between Liston and Clay. Three rounds into the fight we were all blown away that Liston was being beaten.

Our coach, Sam Vokes, pushed the door open and couldn't grasp that we were listening to the radio. In disbelief, he insisted we get our butts on the court!

I do not remember if we won or lost that game, but I will never forget that one of the biggest upsets in boxing history unfolded February 25, 1964, when Cassius Marcellus Clay made the supposedly unbeatable Sonny Liston quit on his stool.

    One of The Biggest Upsets in Boxing❗️
After college, I attended every Ali fight in theaters; however, it was not until Muhammad Ali was reinstated after a three-year suspension in boxing that I was able to see him in live competition.

In November, 1966, I was working late at The May Co. Department Stote in downtown LA. A few of us decided to take our break at the same time for the Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams fight was simulcasting at the theater up the block. That fight is one of my favorite Ali fights for he took apart a good fighter in Cleveland Williams who had won 78 of his 92 fights with 58 knock outs and 1 draw. Ali might have been the best I had ever seen him that night. He devastated "Big Cat" Williams with speed, accuracy, and power.  He knocked Williams down three times in the second round with a final knockout in the third.

Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams

The Fight of the Century

My life had changed. I traded in my job as the assistant manager of the cosmetic department for The May Co. for my new role as lead singer for Three Dog Night. On March 8th, 1971, I drove my new 1971 280SE convertible Mercedes to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to see the simulcast fight featuring Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier accurately dubbed The Fight Of The Century

It was an excellent matchup of two great fighters in their prime--although Ali was at a disadvantage due to his three years out of the ring caused by his suspension as well as a lack of rounds leading up to this fight. It was a fight ripe with tension and drama, but in the end, Joe Frazier won a unanimous decision. Everyone could not wait to see a rematch and we all would get our wish two more times.

Jerry Quarry was managed by the same management company that represented me so I was fortunate to obtain excellent seats. Ring Magazine voted Jerry Quarry "The Most Popular Fighter in America" from 1969-1971. Jerry Quarry would be the first combatant Muhammad Ali would face after his suspension was lifted. Jerry was a good man and I enjoyed spending time with him. After Jerry retired from boxing with a record of 53-9-4, 32 of which were knockouts, he worked as an advance man for Three Dog Night. 

An Elaborate Hoax?

The night Mike Quarry, Jerry's brother, fought the great Bob Foster for the Light Heavyweight Championship and Jerry Quarry fought Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas, I was there with a special friend. Nick Allen and I were good friends in college and we still are today!  We were on the basketball team at AHC in Santa Maria, California, and one thing you could always count on from the ball players were outrageous pranks--some of which were brutal.

Years later, when I was in Three Dog Night, Nick and Margo Allen flew from New York to California to visit family and friends stopping by my home for several days to visit. During dinner one night, I told Nick I had ringside seats to the Ali vs. Quarry fight and asked if he would like to go. Immediately, I could see on his face that Nick was thinking I was trying to pull a prank on him. The more I elaborated on Quarry being a friend and managed by my managers, the more certain he became I was hustling him.

The day of the fight, I told Nick a limousine would be picking us up in two hours and would take us to a private airport where our jet was. He began repeating to his wife Margo what I was saying to him,"The limousine will be picking me and Chuck up and taking us to a very private airport so we can fly to Las Vegas in Chuck's jet to see Muhammad Ali, and Chuck's good friend, Jerry Quarry, fight." He still wasn't sure if I was telling the truth.

A few hours later, the limo picked us up and now Nick was even more certain that I was pulling an elaborate hoax on him, typical of what we would have done in college. When we arrived at the airport, Floyd Sneed and Michael Allsup, fellow Three Dog Night members, were waiting for our jet to land. Nick was wondering if everyone was in on this prank or could it possibly be true?  Like a perfectly timed entrance of a spotlight on a dark stage, the jet descended out of the California mist making its approach to the runway.

When the plane was close enough to read the Three Dog Night logo on the side of the plane I gestured to Nick and said, "There it is." Nick looked up and watched the jet landing without saying a word. He was very cool, not acting impressed or surprised, but I know he loved it!

Ali vs. Quarry--Round 2

In the first fight that evening, Mike Quarry, Jerry's brother, was fighting a powerful punching Light Heavyweight Champion Bob Foster. Foster knocked out Mike Quarry in the fourth round with a knockout some say, including Bob Foster, was the scariest they had ever seen. Bob Foster thought he had killed Mike as did many in the ring attending to him. He was unconscious for ten minutes.

Ali was visibly shaken and later commented he had difficulty pulling himself together for his fight with Mike's brother Jerry Quarry. Needless to say, Jerry and his family were devastated and deeply concerned about Mike's condition since he was still unconscious. Jerry was spending his warm-up time with his brother, waiting for him to come around. Finally, Mike's eyes opened and everyone breathed a sigh of relief; however, that was one horrific blow he received. Furthermore, who knows what long-term affects a punch like that can cause?

Jerry had to pull himself together and head to the ring to face Ali for the second time in his career. He first met Ali in Atlanta (10/26/70) which was the return of Muhammad Ali after a three-year suspension by the World Boxing Association for a draft evasion conviction. The Supreme Court overturned the verdict and Ali was acquitted and permitted to fight in Atlanta. Ali was determined to make a point and send a message that he was back and still "The Greatest." Unfortunately, Quarry had to fight a driven, and possibly angry, Muhammad Ali that night!

Ali said of this fight, "If Quarry didn't get cut, it would have gone ten rounds." Quarry was badly cut in the third and the fight had to be stopped. Jerry Quarry was consumed with fear for the well-being of his brother as he walked to the ring in Las Vegas to face Ali a second time.

Ali won the first round utilizing mostly his jab and staying on his toes. In the second round, Ali was flat-footed and setting down on his punches which gave Quarry an opportunity to find Ali to the body. Quarry won the second round, but that will be last the round he wins for Ali decided Quarry was too dangerous for him to remain flat-footed so he went back to moving and jabbing. Ali hurt Quarry in the sixth and pummeled him into submission in the seventh round.

After the fight, Jerry invited us back to his suite, but I was concerned that after the beating he and his brother had taken that it might be inappropriate for us to attend since his family would be there and concerned for his health. We decided to see Jerry and let him know how much we respected him.

As the evening unfolded Jerry, Nick, and I ended up sitting on the hallway floor, resting against the wall, talking about the night. 

Jerry's face was badly swollen and he was dejected. Jerry was a gracious host in spite of an extremely difficult and traumatic evening. During our conversation, Jerry, half-kidding, asked me if when he was done with fighting could he work with TDN,  and I replied, "Yes!"

Jerry Quarry

Later In Vegas

Three Dog Night was doing a concert in Las Vegas. While in the lobby of the hotel, I heard "Chuck Negro to the front desk. Mr Negro, message for Mr. Chuck Negro." I started making my way to retrieve my message when I saw Jerry Quarry laughing hysterically. Jerry always thought it was so funny to address me in that fashion. He gave me a big hug and asked how Nick was doing and we caught up for awhile.

Jerry inquired if there was still a job with TDN for him and explained he talked to our manager, Burt Jacobs, concerning the matter. Burt told him to ask me. Jerry started as an advance man! We were touring and performing at mostly stadiums across America. Jerry's job was to go to each city about ten days before the performance and appear on all the morning shows, midday programs, evening news, and any local late night TV. He would also do print interviews and wine and dine VIP's. Jerry was a natural and did a great job for us. Jerry then traveled with the band in an assistant road manager/security role position in which he was both professional and effective.

Meeting Joe Frazier

It was January 28, 1974, at Madison Square Garden. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali met for a second time. I flew in from LA with my new manager. Most who attended felt it was a great Heavyweight fight. It was not a championship fight, but it was 12 rounds. When the cards were tallied, Muhammad Ali won 7-4-1, 7-5, 6-5-1. It was obvious they had to fight again and so they did!

My manager not only knew Frazier, but he also managed the band performing at the huge after party event so we attended. They gave Frazier a new Corvette and one-by-one, family and friends shared stories of Joe and how much they loved him. A subtle shift occurred in the content of the messages being shared when a few female family members began suggesting Joe should retire. It was inappropriate, to say the least, to share such feelings in public without regard for how demeaning it must have been for Joe who was swollen and bruised. Mr. Joe Frazier was a class act and it was a privilege to talk with him. He loved music and entertainment and asked several questions about TDN and touring. 

It has been a lifetime since I first listened to my first boxing matches on the radio at age ten. My father and I shared the love of the sport and he took me to fights. My brother Rene and I talk and text boxing whenever a good fight is happening and we attend whenever possible.
I believe boxing is a metaphor for life!
I respect the fighters of yesterday and today. I am so grateful to all of them for what they have given me and taught me about life, hard work, and having a dream! 

The learned, and/or innate, ability to sustain physical damage, yet continue and, more often than not, turn the tide of the fight into their favor has always astounded me. The character and mental fortitude is another quality I find so very admirable in these men! To me, these warriors are all champions and will forever remain so in my mind!

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