Monday, May 27, 2024  |

By Thomas Hauser | 

Jabs and Straight Writes

Above: Wladimir Klitschko gets a checkup from Dr. Goodman as Vitali Klitschko watches intently.



THE DOCTOR IS IN

Boxing has always been a male-dominated sport.

When we think of great fighters, we think of men like Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Great promoters? Tex Rickard, Don King and Bob Arum. Trainers? Ray Arcel, Eddie Futch and Emanuel Steward. Michael Buffer is the greatest ring announcer ever. And so it goes.



The first woman enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame was Aileen Eaton (2002). She got into boxing promotion with her husband. Like Eaton, promoters Lorraine Chargin (2018) and Kathy Duva (2020) had accomplishments in their own right. But the foundation stone for their respective careers was set with their husband.

This year’s selection of Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe brings the number of women in the IBHOF “women’s modern” category to four. There are three “women’s trailblazers” in Canastota with the addition of Marian Trimiar and Jackie Tonawanda.

That’s it. Ten women out of 485 inductees.

No! Make that 11. 

This year’s induction class includes Dr. Margaret Goodman.

Goodman, a neurologist by trade, was a ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission for well over a decade and chair of the NSAC Medical Advisory Committee for six years. In late 2011, she founded the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), which has become boxing’s gold standard in testing for illegal performance-enhancing drugs. In 2017, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Goodman with the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing. She and co-recipient Flip Homansky were previously honored by the BWAA with the James A. Farley Award for Honesty and Integrity. 

The most influential ring doctor ever and the first physician selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a woman.

***

On October 29, 1984, I found myself in the five-story Manhattan townhouse that served as headquarters for Don King Productions. For six months, I’d been tracking WBC 140-pound champion Billy Costello, Mike Jones (Billy’s manager) and trainer Victor Valle while researching The Black Lights (my first book about professional boxing). Costello had been scheduled to defend his title on November 3 against Leroy Haley. Now, at the last minute, King was attempting to orchestrate a change in opponents to the more dangerous Saoul Mamby.

Jones was resisting the change. Mike and I were in King’s office, which looked as though it had been furnished by a Hollywood set designer. There was a red carpet, plush leather sofas, a formica-topped desk and glass-topped conference table with two huge American flags standing in the background. The wall opposite the door was primarily windows. An adjacent wall bore 60 plaques awarded to King by various civic and boxing organizations. Three color televisions rested on a wall unit to one side of the door. A fully stocked bar was on the other. The ceiling and another wall were fully mirrored. 

Tyrell Biggs, Don King, Mike Tyson and Donald Trump. (Photo from The Ring archive)

King sat at his desk, dressed in brown slacks, a white shirt with faint brown stripes and a brown silk tie. He was pulling out all the stops. Pleading, threatening, cajoling, his words coming incredibly fast, each one enunciated with the ring of a carnival barker. But as Jones continued to resist the change in opponents, King’s tone grew ugly. 

“Who do you think you are, motherfucker? You’re a liar, man. You know that. Fuck you, man. Fuck you. You’re gonna be a fat, rich white boy living out on Long Island and your fighter will be hungry.”

A Shakespearean rage was building. King picked the telephone off his desk and slammed it down. Papers flew. The receiver spun off and twisted wildly, dangling in midair.

And then, in the midst of it all, King looked in my direction and blurted out, “That white motherfucker with the yellow pad is writing down every word I say.” 

***

Words of Wisdom from Great Trainers

Jack “Chappie” Blackburn: “You gotta throw away your heart when you put on those boxing gloves or the other fella will knock it out of you.” 

Charley Goldman: “The part I like best is starting from the beginning with a green kid and watching him develop. It’s like putting a quarter in one pocket and taking a dollar out of the other.”

Emanuel Steward with his most famous student, Thomas Hearns. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Emanuel Steward: “I make my living by producing winners. That’s what I do, so I know what I’m talking about. But the key in boxing isn’t the sculptor. It’s the marble.” 

Eddie Futch (when asked how far he could take Duane Bobick): “I’m a trainer, not a magician.” 

***

A lot of people – and I’m one of them – think that Jerry Izenberg is on the short list of best sportswriters ever. Now, at age 90, Izenberg has ventured into new territory with a full-length novel. 

After the Fire (published by Admission Press) is set in Newark in the aftermath of the 1967 riots that tore the city apart. It’s a love story about the relationship between a young Italian-American man and his Black girlfriend that plays out against the backdrop of a heated mayoral race between three unscrupulous candidates who represent different ethnic interests and different points of view. The plot covers a lot of ground – race relations, young love, Black nationalism, white backlash. There are mob bosses, a cameo appearance by Frank Sinatra and characters based on members of the boxing community ranging from publicist Fred Sternburg to Izenberg himself.

“I always wanted to write a novel,” Izenberg says, explaining the genesis of After the Fire. “And I figured I should write about what I know. I know Newark because I grew up there. I covered the riots. I know a little about Black-white love affairs because Aileen and I have been married for 42 years. So I gave it a try.”

Izenberg writes well. The storyline moves swiftly and smoothly. Is another novel on the way?

“I don’t know,” Jerry answers. “I’d love to, but I’m 90 years old, so I have to choose my projects carefully. I want to write a book about Larry Doby (who played for the Newark Eagles before becoming the second African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era). And I’d like to write a book about prejudice in America. The working title for that one is Made in America. So we’ll see.”

Meanwhile, After the Fire gives readers a chance to see another side of this multi-talented man.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is [email protected]. His most recent book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored him with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. Hauser will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020.