Greatest Hits: Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – part 2
In Part 1 of Rubin Carter’s Greatest Hits, author Ron Lipton dug deep into his personal archive of interviews with the fearsome former middleweight contender to present his close friend’s posthumous recollections of his storied ring clashes with the likes of Emile Griffith and Joey Giardello.
Carter’s comments on more hall of famers, including the great two-weight champion Dick Tiger and Cuban welterweight legend Luis Rodriguez, are featured in Part 2. Read on and enjoy!
Date/location: May 20, 1965, Madison Square Garden
Weights: Carter – 159 pounds; Tiger – 163
Details: Carter’s 31st pro bout. Tiger enters the bout with a 50-16-3 record.
Result: Tiger UD. (Tiger scored two knockdowns in Round 2, one knockdown in Round 4.)
Carter’s comments: Tiger was a whole different ballgame. When I was in prison before, I used to dream of fighting all the middleweights and what the result would be. I knocked them all out in my dreams except Dick Tiger. I won a decision over him.
One of my friends who became a pro referee told me that I doubted myself in that fight because of that dream and carried it into the ring with me. I disagree. Tiger just beat the hell out of me. It was the worst beating I ever took in or out of the ring. No excuses, he was the better man that night.
At the weigh in I stared up at him while he was on the scale. I was sizing him up with bad intentions. He looked down at me and smiled friendly and sincerely at me. He was one seasoned war dog and he was cool as ice, confident, polite, and respectful to everyone including me.
I saw most of his fights and he was as strong, dangerous and tough as God could make a fighter. When I met him before our fight, he was always a gentleman to me. It showed me an inner strength and integrity about him and when I sized him up physically at the weigh in and added that to it all, I knew this would be my toughest fight. He looked extremely sturdy and solid.
I saw him beat the absolute dog s__t out of (Gene) Fullmer, (Florentino) Fernandez, Jose Gonzalez and Henry Hank. His left hook was vicious to the head or body and he seemed to eat pain like candy. I still felt I could take him and trained hard for the fight.
In the second round, he moved in close to me and torqued his body to his left winding up on the hook. I made one mistake, which cost me the whole fight and bought me an ass whipping I will never forget. Instead of pivoting out of there away from his left hook, I took a half step straight back onto my rear leg, I had nowhere to go from there and as I pulled back he cracked me on the jaw with his killer left hook.
The punch was so solid and hard it sent a bolt of white lightning down to my feet. When it landed I saw instant darkness and the next thing I knew I was looking up at the referee from the canvas. It snapped me back into every flashbulb at ringside popping off in my face.
The referee was counting loudly in my face and I made it up to fight, I could hear the crowd screaming for him to finish me off. That is when Tiger beat the hell out of me. He was getting every single punch, rights and lefts, and I mean hard shots right onto my face and jaw. Around my gloves, through my gloves over my gloves and my legs gave out and down I went again from another left hook.
When I got up, I thought the referee stopped the fight, I did not hear the bell the crowd was screaming so loud. He tried sending me to the wrong corner and corrected himself. I made it back to my corner after feeling like I got hit by a truck and somehow I came out for the third round.
I made it to the fourth round and Tiger squared off with me, he went into a crouch and then he threw a long slow right hand which fell short and he stepped in behind it like lightning with a short left hook. I could see it coming but my mind was sending signals to my legs, but the messages were not arriving, and he caught me flush.
He smashed me to the canvas with it and I don’t mean just knocked me down but smashed me down and I knew if I made it up I would have to keep moving to clear my head. In the seventh round I caught him with two of my hardest punches that I had left in my arsenal. It rocked him and he dipped from the shots and I have watched it on film. I thought I pulled it out with a counter-punching KO but he took it like nothing and kept coming.
I stayed away from him and was still numb from the knockdowns which kept me dizzy for hours after the fight. I kept fighting back and stayed in the pocket with him slipping shots and countering, but he was a force. He won a unanimous decision and deserved it.
After the fight, he put his arm around me and smiled at me like he did at the weigh in. When Dick Tiger smiles in your direction an ass whipping is not far away. He was the toughest son of a bitch of them all.
Dr. Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure
Date/location: January 8, 1966, Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
Weights: Carter – 156 pounds; McClure – 160
Details: Carter’s 35th pro bout. McClure entered the bout with an 18-3 record.
Result: Carter SD
Carter’s comments: Skeeter, boy did I love the Doc. He turned out to be one of the best pals I ever had. He had a heart of gold and was a pleasure to be around and talk to. There was not a mean bone in his body and he was a terrific and skilled fighter. His amateur career, winning an Olympic gold medal at the 1960 Rome Games, says it all. He was a brilliant man and achieved a PhD in Psychology. I was always proud of the Doc.
We fought twice. The first one was in Chicago. I ended up winning a split decision. What I remember about that fight was my manager started complaining about Skeeter’s weight on the scales. He made an issue of it and McClure had to lose some weight and come back.
I left and went to the men’s room. I am standing at the urinal and Skeeter comes in trying to piss out some water weight. We go to wash up and you can hear a pin drop. Just him and me in there alone. Two guys who are going to try and kill each other in the ring soon.
I liked him and I did not press the weight issue, so I said to him, “Hey ole buddy I’m sorry about this bulls__t; it was not me.” He said, “I know that, Rube, it’s no problem.” I liked him immediately. He had that aura about him. You had to like this guy.
He was tall and rangy and could move like the Flash in there. He had a good jab, but I got to him with some hard body shots and took the split decision. We fought hard and shook hands afterward, which is the way it is supposed to be in boxing.
We fought again exactly two months later in Toledo, Ohio. I dropped him in the seventh round, but it ended up a majority draw. He was one of the good guys in boxing.
Jose “Monon” Gonzalez
Date/location: March 30, 1963, Madison Square Garden
Weights: Carter – 160¼ pounds; Gonzalez – 158
Details: Carter’s 18th pro bout. Gonzalez entered the bout with a 23-7-1 record.
Result: Gonzalez TKO 6 (cut eye). (Carter was ahead on the scorecards and claimed that the cut was from a head butt.)
Carter’s comments: This is one fight that really made me angry. In my autobiography I called Jose “the Billy Goat,” because of all the head butts he would throw in there. That being said, he was an extremely strong and durable fighter who did not even think of losing. This guy always came to fight with everything he had and I knew that when we made the fight.
He had some build on him, carved out of stone like me. Very strong fearless and aggressive fighter.
I had seen him fight Joey Archer and head butt Joey causing a bad cut with Gonzalez winning the decision the year before. Archer took the rematch by decision, but I knew what I was in for with Jose.
I have watched the film of our fight and he used his head like a third glove. He came out in the first round and butted me in close and kept rubbing the top of his head on the cut making it worse. I was furious and took it out on him.
I staggered him knocked him sagging into the ropes and had him reeling several times in swap sessions in there. Each round I got the better of the exchanges and hit him a right hand in the shoulder, which he later said to my sparring partner, bothered him for months afterward.
My corner could not stop the cut from bleeding badly and in the sixth-round the doctor ordered the fight stopped. The judges had me ahead at the time of the stoppage.
I understand that if that fight was today, by today’s rules, the cut caused by the head butt even if ruled unintentional would have had me declared the winner on a technical decision after four rounds.
In later years I saw Jose and he gave me a hug and we were friendly and he said to me, “Rubin I swear I did not head butt you on purpose it was a right hand.” I looked at him for about 5 seconds without saying a word, and he broke up smiling and laughing with me. He knew what he did but it was in the past and we were cool about it.
After our fight he went on to beat every dangerous middleweight out there. He was one of those guys who could luck up and beat anyone on a given night.
Date: October 25, 1963, Madison Square Garden
Weights: Carter – 158 pounds; Archer – 161
Details: Carter’s 21st pro bout. Archer entered the bout with a 36-1 record.
Result: Archer SD. (Judge Al Berl had Carter winning 5-4)
Carter’s comments: When I signed for this fight, I knew I would need a pair of Acme rocket shoes that Wile E. Coyote used to chase the Road Runner.
I had seen Joey fight and he could box. He had an educated left jab and a ton and a half of Irish pride. He also had a solid set of whiskers and I never saw him dropped.
When I heard that they gave this fight to (Arthur) Mercante (Sr.) to referee me again I told the Commission I wanted out of the fight (because of how he scored my fight with George Benton). My family needed the money and I had no problem fighting Joey, but I knew somehow, someway he would screw me again.
I told him in the dressing room don’t even dream of slapping me on my f__king back, just tell me to break. He came back with some s__t like I’ll referee the way I want to and fighters don’t tell me what to do I tell them.
I told him to go f__k himself and he complained about how I spoke to him. He did not slap me on the back, though, that night. He must have been smarter than I thought, but after I chased Joey for 10 rounds and had him on queer street in the 10th round from what Archer said in Boxing Illustrated was the hardest punch he ever got hit with, Mercante still scored it for the boxer again (5-4). Judge Al Berl voted me the winner; the other judge had Joey. Giardello refused to ever fight Joey Archer for a title defense in New York and accused him of getting gift decisions over me and Tiger.
I respect Joey and have nothing bad to say about him. He had balls and he had an old-school mind set, jab, great balance and skill. I felt I made the fight by pressing him and out punching him. He had no punch but he had good snap and timing. Beautiful footwork too but I felt he ran too much to get the decision and never came close to hurting me once.
Date/location: February 28, 1964, Madison Square Garden
Weights: Carter – 157¼ pounds; Ellis 155 ¾
Details: Carter’s 18th pro fight. Ellis entered the bout with a 14-2 record.
Result: Carter UD.
Carter’s comments: Man, that guy was tall. He was like 6-foot-1, skinny but ripped, though. (Ellis’ friend and stablemate Muhammad) Ali was at ringside and kept yelling up to Jimmy to beat “the little ugly bear,” meaning me, as opposed to “the big ugly bear” Sonny Liston, who was my friend. I would just smile though my mouthpiece and take it out on Jimmy in the ring.
I fought many of Angelo Dundee’s fighters and became very close with Angie as time went on. Ellis was his guy and I am glad they did so well in boxing.
I dropped Jimmy hard in the fourth round and our fight was on the Friday Night Fights. He had guts and fought it out with me in spots. I won the unanimous decision and in later years after my sparring partner Ron Lipton got Ali involved to help free me from prison, I would run into Jimmy, who by then was a full-fledged heavyweight. Little did I imagine when we fought he would go on to win the WBA heavyweight title beating some of the toughest heavyweights in the world at the time.
Jimmy always had a nice hug for me when I would see him with Ali and it always made me happy to be friends with the guys I fought. We are all part of each other and I always wished them the best.
Date: February 12, 1965, Madison Square Garden
Weights: Carter – 154½ pounds; Rodriguez 151
Details: Carter’s 25th pro bout. Rodriguez entered the bout with a 57-4 record. Carter scores a knockdown in the 7th round.
Result: Rodriguez UD.
Carter’s comments: I saw Luis fight Emile Griffith a bunch of times and Emile had his number. Rodriguez just about beat everyone else in the welterweight and middleweight division.
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, who knew me well from fighting Angelo Dundee’s guys all the time, once said Luis Rodriguez had the best pair of legs on a fighter he ever saw including Ali.
I figure since I took out Griffith in one round, Luis would be fair game for me. I have never fought someone who jumped around like he did. It was like
he was on a pogo stick. He had fast hands and loved to flurry to the body and then jump back and out of the pocket in close.
He had tiny upper arms and kind of a chicken chest, but that guy was tough and came to win. He could take it and was fearless like so many pro fighters.
There was no kind of trouble with him and me at the weigh-in or in publicity photos, he was a good-natured guy, a real pro’s pro.
In the ring he had me very angry (from) running and jumping all over the place. I had to pick him up out of frustration and almost slammed him down, but the ref warned me.
I dropped him hard with a right hand in the seventh round and he dropped dead on his ass on the lower rope. He got up and ran and jabbed while the crowd booed all night and they gave him the decision win. My own damn fault for not trapping him but he was that fast in keeping away from me.
We fought again in L.A. and he won a unanimous decision again. I could not catch him, and it was just one of those things in boxing. I took it in stride as I was slowing down as time went on.
Note: Harry Scott passed away on December 16, 2015, at age 78. Carter passed away a year earlier on April 20, 2014, at age 76.
Date/location: March 9, 1965, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, England
Weights: Carter – 165½ (heaviest of his career), Scott – 161¾
Details: Carter’s 28th pro bout. Scott entered the bout with a 22-14-4 record.
Result: Carter TKO 9 (cut eye)
Carter’s comments: I remember Harry well as one of the toughest most durable fighters I faced in my career.
I came into our first fight, I believe, at the heaviest of my career at 165 or so. Harry had an iron jaw and he took some punishment in that fight. The crowd was really into it and rooted for Harry all the way singing to him during the fight. He was brave as they come and gave me one tough fight.
The famous referee from England, Harry Gibbs, stopped the fight in the ninth round because of a cut eye around Harry’s eyebrow.
We fought again in the same place, Royal Albert Hall, about one month later. I knew I had to bring a lunch to fight Harry as he was determined to fight as hard as he could like the last time out.
In our second fight I came in about seven pounds lighter. I dropped him with a good shot in the first round for a 5 count but he got up and the fight went the full 10 rounds with Harry winning on points.
I had to fight Johnny Torres, the cousin of Jose “Chegui” Torres, in the Patterson, New Jersey Armory exactly 10 days later if you can imagine how hard that was for me having gone 10 rounds with Harry then flying back home and fighting again. I was trying to stay busy for my fight with Dick Tiger in May.
Harry and me stayed pals through the years and I saw him around 2005 and we took more photos together, this time as two old wardogs. It was good to see him again and I always liked him, a tough man and always a gentleman to me.