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The Travelin’ Man returns to IBHOF induction weekend – Pt. 3

Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images
13
Jun

Friday, June 10: The bowling must have tuckered me out because the five-plus hours I slept were quite restful. After finishing the process of getting ready for the day, I settled in for an extended writing and editing session that included submitting the first installment to RingTV.com, gathering and identifying the photos that were to be included, smoothing out the edges of Part II and getting started on this, Part III of what could become a five-part series.

Unlike yesterday’s gray and gloomy weather, today’s backdrop was much sunnier, though the blustery wind that made Wednesday feel more like October than June persisted. A most gratifying moment occurred when I was able to pull on a pair of dress pants that I couldn’t have dreamed of fitting into seven months ago. People have commented on my somewhat slimmer appearance, and while I appreciated the compliments, I also know I am still very much a work in progress. I hope to lose at least 20 more pounds, but even if I don’t, I still intend to remain on the walking program for some time to come.

I left the Days Inn for the museum grounds shortly before the official 10 a.m. start time, and, as was the case yesterday, I was instantly recognized by many faces – familiar and otherwise. In the early years I was always the one who initiated the conversations but now, in appearance number 28, I am the one who’s being sought out, usually seconds after I break away from the previous conversation. Am I famous? Hardly. Am I known? More and more, yes, thanks to my work with CompuBox, Ring magazine and RingTV.com as well as my presence on social media and my role as a panelist on the FITE.TV show “In This Corner: The Podcast” with host (and IBHOF induction weekend emcee) James “Smitty” Smith. While the attention is appreciated, it’s still somewhat strange and new. I’ve never been one to purposefully slough off anyone who wishes to talk with me, especially if the subject is boxing, and while It’s difficult to keep track of everyone who has reached out to me, rest assured, each conversation is relished.

Former WBA lightweight champion Sean O’Grady kicked off today’s slate of ringside lectures, and seeing him seated next to Smitty immediately conjured a flashback with deep Hall of Fame connotations. Smitty, the Hall of Fame’s host, and Sean, a Hall of Fame’s guest, served as the broadcast team for what many consider the greatest one-punch KO in women’s boxing history when IBHOF Class of 2022 inductee Ann Wolfe starched Vonda Ward with a crushing overhand right that left the former Tennessee basketball star in pieces. At age 63, O’Grady has retained his younger-than-his-age visage as well as the trim physique that prompted longtime “Tuesday Night Fights” partner Al Albert to tease him about when he was making his return to the ring – a return that never happened. O’Grady said he would be happy to return to broadcasting, and hopefully someone will give him that opportunity.



Photo by Ring Magazine/ Getty Images

The subject of the next ring talk – Class of 2022 honoree Roy Jones Jr. – drew the first standing ovation as well as the longest line of questioners. Although he was lively and personable throughout the lecture, he became most animated when someone asked him about the validity of his disqualification loss to Montell Griffin in the first of their two meetings – a result that remains a very sore spot with Jones. His justification in a nutshell: The referee has only three core commands to give — break, stop and box – and because the referee failed to say “stop” when Griffin’s knee was on the floor, Jones continued to fight. He said because he was still in the heat of combat, it wasn’t his job to ascertain whether Griffin’s knee was on the floor; he believed he had the right to fight on until the referee ordered him to stop just like an NFL player is taught to “play through the whistle.” I don’t agree with his assessment because (1) Jones is blessed with eyes that spotted hard-to-recognize openings when he fought and technical aspects other analysts aren’t able to see or articulate at ringside, and (2) I’ve seen other fighters slam on the brakes under similar circumstances. That said, Jones’ considerable highlight reel more than supersedes this one negative result, and the proof is his election into the IBHOF, an election that will culminate with Sunday’s induction ceremony.

Because I was so impressed by the cheesesteak from the PB and J’s Lunch Box Café truck, I decided to buy another one today to see if what I experienced was a one-off or a trend. I’m happy to say it was a trend, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I chose to sit at the same table as one of the people associated with PB and J’s. Longtime IBHOF photographer Pat Orr, who is also linked with the business, stopped by our table, as did Class of 2020 inductee Christy Martin, the most recent guest on “In This Corner: The Podcast.”

I missed the other ringside lecture featuring another past podcast guest in Sebastian Fundora, and I left the grounds during the fist-casting ceremony because, all of a sudden, I was gripped by fatigue. I walked back to my room at the Days Inn and allowed myself to take an hour-long nap, a nap that ended up working wonders. I suppose I could have called it a “power nap” but really, how much power can one generate by choosing to rest?

Thanks to “Boxing” Bob Newman, I knew I needed to report to the Briar Room inside the Turning Stone Casino to collect my press row credential at 6:30 p.m., but, me being me, I arrived with plenty of time to spare. As soon as I entered the area just outside the Event Center, I was greeted by Grey Johnson of Boxrec.com, a frequent visitor to “The Chat,” a weekly Friday night Zoom session created by boxing writer/standup comedian Ernie Green whose visitors include the recently retired Jamel Herring, former four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Hall of Famer Michael Carbajal, former unified junior featherweight champion Daniel Roman and WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, among others. The “regulars” mostly consist of writers and devoted fans, and one of our favorite activities during the wee hours of the morning is watching streams from the Far East and engaging in free-flowing and often humorous commentary. In the early days I was the first to arrive and among the last to leave, but now I limit myself to three or four hours. This was the first face-to-face meeting between Grey and I, and I’m hoping that more encounters with “Chat” members will occur.

I also ran into veteran referees Mark Nelson and Benjy Esteves as well as longtime IBHOF Induction Weekend attendee Bobby Moore, who is often mistaken for former WBA lightweight champion Livingstone Bramble because of the dreadlocks and the similar facial structure. Another particularly knowledgeable fan who happened to be nearby posed three trivia questions (the answers will be at the bottom of the column):

* According to Boxrec, which man has scored the most knockout wins in boxing history?

* This notable heavyweight who fought Muhammad Ali twice began his professional career in a most unusual way — knocking out four opponents on the very same night. Who is this man?

* Another fighter who fought Muhammad Ali twice made national news as an amateur by scoring five KO wins to capture a national amateur tournament. Who is this man?

How’s your Ali knowledge?

As I waited for the people handling the credentialing process to arrive, I spotted Joie Silva, a senior production manager for Showtime. As soon as she saw me, her face joyously lit up and she rushed in to hug me. That’s because it had been more than two years since we last saw each other, and during the years we CompuBox operators worked ShoBox episodes they considered us part of the extended family. They were fun shows to work and excellent people with whom to work.

Once inside the Briar Room I ran into an unexpected thorny patch: Although I e-mailed my completed credential application the same day it was sent to me, my name was not on the master list. Thankfully, however, I was able to gain on-the-spot approval, and I believe this happened for several reasons:

* I was dressed professionally. Andre Agassi was right: Image is everything.

* I was wearing my IBHOF credential around my neck, proving that other people in positions of authority saw me as worthy of their trust.

* I was polite and patient with the personnel, who I knew were simply executing their due diligence.

* The other people in the room – fellow Ring scribes Tris Dixon and Joe Santoliquito, veteran photographer/writer “Boxing” Bob Newman and seasoned pro J.R. Jowett — knew me and seemed as baffled as I was that I wasn’t included on the list.

As Judge Wapner famously stated, my case was proven based “on the preponderance of the evidence” that indicated that I was exactly who I said I was. Once I showed them my ID, I was given my credential and was instructed to take any seat in the third and back-most table on press row that did not feature a name tag. I didn’t mind at all; I was just glad to get in.

After saying hello to ShoBox analyst Raul Marquez, and stage managers Mike Shea and JT Townsend, I took my seat and waited for the undercard to commence. Jack-of-all-trades Ray Flores, who on this night would serve as ShoBox’s ring announcer and the blow-by-blow broadcaster for an additional feed, took time to stop by the workstation and say hello – and many other extremely complementary things about how much CompuBox’s research enhances his broadcasts.

In the meantime, I signed a copy of “Tales from the Vault” for Derek Gionta and chatted with fellow scribes David Greisman, Cliff Rold and Matt Andrzejewski as well as matchmaker Eric Bottjer, not just because they’re great guys, but also because I’m never one to turn down boxing talk.

The first bell of the night’s first fight sounded at 7:03 p.m. and the match pitted welterweights Nicolas Tejada and southpaw Mike Taylor. Tejada – a redhead with a Hispanic surname who hails from Massachusetts – ended the fight at 2:11 of round two following a fusillade that drove him to the ropes and rendered him nearly helpless.

Next up was a scheduled six-round welterweight bout between Fort Wayne, Ala.’s Sonya Dreiling and southpaw Oshae Jones, a bronze medalist from the Tokyo Olympics who was making her professional debut. Jones’ sharper blows bloodied Dreiling’s nose by the end of the opening round and sent her mouthpiece flying in the closing moments of the second. Those rounds set the tone for the remainder of the fight, which Jones won by a trio of 60-54 scores.

Connecticut light heavyweight Charles Foster scored the fight’s only knockdown with a chopping left cross to the top of the head of Oklahoman Bo Gibbs Jr., then meted out steady punishment for the remainder of the contest, which ended in round four.

The most notable aspect of the heavyweight bout between Amron Sands and Joe Jones was the massive 72-pound weight difference. The 282-pound Jones tried his best to use his speed to best advantage, but Sands’ heftier hands eroded the 210-pound Jones’ gas tank to gain what ended up to be a narrow victory (77-75 on all three cards).

The three-bout ShoBox telecast saw lightweight Chann Thompson score a crimson-soaked fifth-round TKO victory over Tyler Tomlin – who bled from the mouth, nose and left eyebrow – while heavyweight George Arias raised his record to 18-0 at the expense of former NABF cruiserweight titlist Alante Green thanks to his eight-round points victory. The card ended in explosive – and scary – fashion as Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Bakhodir Jalolov extended his record to 11-0 (11) by stopping Jack Mulowayi at 1:20 of the eighth and final round. The final punch caused Mulowayi’s head to strike the canvas so hard that even from my spot in the back of press row it drowned out the crowd’s volume. While the Belgium-based Congolese remained on the canvas for more than a minute, he rose under his own power, prompting Jalolov to sportingly escort him back to his corner.

Bakhodir Jalolov. Photo by Stephanie Trapp/ SHOWTIME

From the back row of the press section, much of the attention during the Jalolov-Mulowayi fight was centered on one foghorn-voiced man who constantly shouted instructions toward Mulowayi. Strangely, this man kept telling Mulowayi to “go to your right,” which many of us thought was weird since he was asking him to move toward the southpaw Jalolov’s power hand. Soon, Mr. Foghorn was the subject of smiles and muted comments, and one wag noted that the only time in the fight Mulowayi did well was during the rounds in which this gentleman was not in the area. Shortly after he returned, Mulowayi suffered the bone-jarring knockout.

A pair of sidelights:

*Two fellows from the stands were asked to sit in the two empty seats beside me in the media section at the direction of medical personnel. The reason: A male spectator near them suffered an apparent episode of diabetic shock and had to be removed from the arena.

*A happier happenstance was that I was able to greet Showtime public relations ace Steve Pratt, whose sports knowledge always struck me as deep and impressive. When we were working shows at ringside, one of my first post-fight duties was to e-mail the CompuBox stats to Steve and his team of PR people and they often inserted some of my remarks into their copy. They didn’t have to do that – they were skilled writers themselves – so the fact they used my stuff was pretty cool.

I found out where the usual Showtime post-show pizza fest was located and stopped by to reunite with my past colleagues such as cameraman Gene Samuels, production manager Nikki Ferry, senior production manager Joie Silva (again) and stage manager Mike Sena. I also spoke with Marcel Smith of Ask Anyone Media. Smith has a podcast called “No Face Cuts,” and we spent a fair amount of time chatting about the card we had just attended as well as other boxing-related events such as Bivol-Alvarez and about what might happen should banquet attendee Terence Crawford finally meet Errol Spence. We probably could have talked for hours but both of us needed to break away and tend to our respective duties. For boxing people like us, the conveyor belt of tasks never stops rolling.

After consuming a slice of pizza and picking up two small bottles of Diet Pepsi, I drove back to the hotel and completed the winding down process around 2 a.m.

Trivia question answers:

* Billy Bird (139). Archie Moore, long recognized as the all-time leader, is credited with 132.

* George Chuvalo, who participated in the Jack Dempsey Heavyweight Novice tournament in Toronto on April 24, 1956. He stopped his first three opponents in one round, one round and two rounds and he won the tournament with a second-round TKO over Gordon Baldwin.

* Jerry Quarry, who drew widespread attention by capturing the 1965 National Golden Gloves heavyweight championship at just 183 pounds with five knockout victories, which, according to his Wikipedia profile, was a previously unmatched feat.

YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

THE TRAVELIN’ MAN RETURNS TO IBHOF INDUCTION WEEKEND – PT. 1

THE TRAVELIN’ MAN RETURNS TO IBHOF INDUCTION WEEKEND – PT. 2

 

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 20 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2006. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. as well as a panelist on “In This Corner: The Podcast” on FITE.TV. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves use the email [email protected] or send him a message via Facebook and Twitter (@leegrovesboxing).

 

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