Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fighting for the Borscht Belt Gleason’s Gym Sets Up Camp at Last Kosher Resort


by Binnie Klein


Joselito, Daniela, and Matt are standing in the hallway waiting for the elevator to take them down to the dining room. “Why is it taking so long?” asks 10-year-old Matt, the youngest of the kids. They are hungry and impatient, having just finished their boxing work-outs. Joselito, a veteran of previous summers, knows that it’s Friday night at Kutsher’s Resort in Monticello, and the elevator has been preset so that it stops at every floor. No one has to push a button on Shabbes.
Later, at dinner, Maureen O’Brien, of the father/daughter team from Boston who I have dubbed “The Fighting O’Briens,” leans over and shyly whispers: “What’s kasha?” We are seated in the Gold Dining Room, set aside for participants in Gleason’s Gym’s Eighth Annual Fantasy Boxing Camp, while the usual guests dine in an adjacent room. . At this table I am the only Jew, and the task of explaining Kutsher’s kosher menu has fallen to me. “Oh, it’s delicious,” I say. “It’s bow-tie noodles with buckwheat groats.” She looks blank. I wonder if I’m right. The menu also includes flanken, a dish my Polish grandmother used to make -- but I’m still not sure what it is.
In the upper lobby Jackie Horner is leading a ballroom dance class for five older ladies, one of many hotel activities like Big Bucks Bingo, Justine’s Makeover Face Lift Show (with door prizes), even Chassidic stories from Rabbi Avi Zablocki. Retired folks are the “meat-and-potatoes” of the place, says Yossi Zablocki, a legal aid lawyer from New Jersey and Kutsher’s new manager and investor. Of Dirty Dancing, Jackie says “It’s my true story. There really was a ‘baby,’ like in the film, and she was my student” she reveals, crossing her slender legs on the couch. The character of “Penny” in the film was based on Jackie. “Patrick Swayze wasn’t our first choice, by the way! We danced all day and all night; we were young.” She looks away. “There was a pulse; you’d feel it the minute you hit the Catskills. I even taught the boxers to dance.”
Kutsher’s Resort has its own impressive history with sports, and boxing in particular. Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, Archie Moore, and Floyd Patterson all set up training camps at Kutsher’s. Jews, too, have a strong history with boxing; between 1910 and 1940 there were 27 Jewish boxing champions.
The 1400 acres of the 103-year-old Kutsher’s spreads out forever, like a college campus, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts, bocce ball, and shuffleboard. I’m sitting with Irwin and a few of his cronies by the lake, as he complains about the service. No doubt; the place needs rehabilitation. But he still comes to Kutsher’s, every year. Irwin is in his eighties, and was a comedian for 19 years at The Raleigh, another big hotel. “Wednesday night I’d open the talent show, white straw hat, cane.” He begins to sing, another opening, another show… We all join in, as the geese on the lake honk. He tells me an off-color joke, and his eyes twinkle under his jaunty cap. I laugh. “You know, you’re a pretty woman,” he says. “I’m a kissy-kissy guy. You married?”
I gracefully duck Irwin’s flirtation, and head into the big event -- the Saturday night sparring exhibition. There are 12 bouts, 3 rounds each, and everyone gets a trophy. I look behind the ring after 73 year old lawyer Michael Tarnoff’s fight, and notice a small group of Orthodox Jews have wandered in and are quietly watching, as their little girls in long frilly dresses sidle up to the ropes, transfixed. Another tiny Jewish toddler gets up on a chair. “Get him! Get him!” she shrieks, her curls bouncing. Her yarmulked daddy pulls her back into her stroller. There are now three distinct types of headgear in the room: yarmulkes, tall black hats, and boxing helmets.
Later that night and into the early morning, the campers celebrate in the “Deep End Lounge,” a disco/bar with cut-out windows that look out onto the indoor pool. On the stage, hard-working Bruce Silverglade, 64 year-old owner of Gleason’s Gym, has set up a shrine to Muhammad Ali and Orthodox boxer and future rabbi Yuri Foreman. While boxing trainer Martin Gonzalez, Joselito’s father, is cutting loose on the dance floor with some salsa moves, several guests wearing yarmulkes wander in. They look confused. “Is this the show?” they ask. “No,” I say. “You want the Stardust Room, down the hall.” And off they go, to hear singers Oneg Shemesh and Chaim Kiss, and maybe a little comedy. The Stardust Room was once host to Jerry Lewis, Steve and Edie, Milton Berle, and Sid Caesar, and raucous crowds that roared with laughter and applause.
The next day, Bruce Silverglade and his crew begin to dismantle the boxing rings, and pack up the gloves. It’s time to “break camp.” “The history of the Catskills is like the history of New York City,” Bruce says, surveying the huge and now mostly empty “Sportsmen’s Room.” “They worked hard, and they played hard.”
The group is slow to leave, as hugs and business cards are exchanged. “Boxing people are family,” Bronx-raised boxer Al Roth says. I’m thinking that Bruce Silverglade and Yossi Zablocki have similar and impressive missions that go beyond nostalgia; Bruce to recreate an old-style sports training camp, Yossi to preserve a version of the old Catskills resort hotel experience, and I’m remembering the last thing Jackie Horner said to me about the thriving Catskills culture of half a century ago before she started up her next rumba lesson for a few eager souls.
“It was a time, Binnie. That’s all. That’s all I can say.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

PROFESSORS OF PUGILISM


By
MIKE SILVER
It probably would surprise a lot of people who view boxing as nothing more than a crude and brutal brawl to know the words “art” and “science” were once used to describe the sport. “The Manly Art of Self Defense”, “The Noble Art”, “The Sweet Science” are phrases that originated during the 18th and 19th century English bare knuckle period. Modern boxing began in England in the late 16th century. The earliest bare-knuckle practitioners based their technique on the refined art of fencing. As a result, boxing’s footwork, straight punching, feints, blocking and parrying developed from strategies used by fencers. It is no coincidence that boxing’s most fundamental punch, the left jab, is very similar to the fencer’s straight thrust or lunge.
At the height of fencing’s popularity, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, numerous teaching academies appeared all over Europe. The best fencing instructors were highly respected for their knowledge and teaching skills. In England, and elsewhere, it was not uncommon for many of these fencing masters to be addressed as “professor”.
By the late 1700s bare-knuckle boxing had eclipsed fencing in popularity. In London, the epicenter of the sport, there were several well known boxing academies. The academies were owned and operated by famous ex- boxers, some of whom had the word “professor” printed on calling cards, or on the covers of instruction books they authored. Of course these men did not have a formal degree from an institution of higher learning. In fact some could barely read or write. But they understood the principles of balance, leverage, timing, footwork, punching technique, body alignment and strategy as it applied to boxing. In that sense they were no different than the fencing “professors” who preceded them. It was also not uncommon for master teachers of the art of singing, dancing, acting or playing a musical instrument to sport the title of “professor”.
According to Adam Pollack’s fine book “In The Ring With James J. Corbett”, Professor Walter Watson, an Englishman and “a celebrated exponent of the manly art”, was hired by the Brahmans of San Francisco’s exclusive Olympic Club in 1884 to teach boxing. One local newspaper reported that “Watson recently knocked out the famous pugilist, Professor McClellen, in New York City.” Professor Watson’s most famous pupil at the Olympic Club was James J. Corbett. Seven years later Corbett would defeat the great John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight championship. It was the first heavyweight title bout conducted under Marquis of Queensberry rules. After Watson left the Olympic Club, in 1888, Corbett was named instructor, thus earning the title of “professor” for himself.
I think the use of the word “professor” also served to further encourage the veneer of civility boxing was trying to achieve at this time. After all, for most of the 19th century professional boxing, especially the bare knuckle variety, was vilified and outlawed in America.
Mike Donovan, a middleweight title claimant in 1881, became “Professor Donovan” in honor of his being named boxing instructor at the prestigious New York Athletic Club. In 1893 Donovan wrote a popular instructional book titled, “The Science of Boxing”. He often sparred with President Teddy Roosevelt.
Hundreds of boxing instruction books and training manuals were published from the 1850s to the 1930s, with the words “science” and/or “art” in the title. In fact, the earliest book to include a section on boxing instruction appeared in a fencing manual published in 1747. It was titled “A Treatise Upon the Useful Science of Defense” by Captain John Godfrey. Although written 260 years ago years ago many of today’s boxers would gain from reading it. These words appear in the opening paragraph: “Strength certainly is what the Boxer ought to set out with, but without Art he will succeed but poorly. The Deficiency of Strength may be greatly supplied by Art; but the want of Art will have but heavy an unwieldy Succor from Strength.”
It is not clear why the word “professor”, as it applied to boxing, went out of style after the first decade of the 20th century. But during the 19th century it was not uncommon for the prefix to be used. Noted professors of pugilism included John Donaldson, Johnny Clark, Edmund E. Price, Billy McCarthy, John B. Bailey, William Miller and Jim Kelly. All were middle to late 19th century bare-knuckle fighters and trainers. William Muldoon, the legendary athlete, health fanatic, and trainer of John L. Sullivan, was sometimes addressed as “Professor Muldoon”.
Several of these names recently surfaced in the Hank Kaplan Boxing Archives, where a massive amount of material is currently being documented, catalogued and preserved. No doubt more information will be forthcoming as the Kaplan Archives continues to yield its varied treasures. I am confident of this because the whole process is in the capable hands (fists?) of an authentic professor with a love for boxing—Professor Tony Cucchiarra, Brooklyn College’s very own “Professor of Pugilism”.
*Historian and author Mike Silver is an advisor to the Kaplan Boxing Archives. He is the author of “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” (McFarland Publishers, 2009).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya Puts In An Extra Punch to the Great Boro of Brooklyn by Amy Handelsman


In a sweltering Gleason’s Gym on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya “put in an extra punch to the great borough of Brooklyn” in a celebration of his recent three-year deal with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to bring a yearly minimum of 12 bouts to The Barclays Center, future home to the New York Nets, among other sports franchises, at the former Atlantic Navy Yards.

De la Hoya, retired boxing champion and now founder and President of Golden Boy Promotions, was ringed by some of his more prominent fighters, among them lightweight Mickey Perez, welterweight Danny Garcia and middleweight Danny Jacobs. The natural showman used the occasion to announce the signing of world champion junior welterweight Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi, who trains out of Gleason’s and is a hometown favorite.

A bit of logrolling was indulged, as is often the case at these events, with a shout-out to Melvina Lathan, Chair of the New York State Athletic Commission; opening remarks by Barry Baum, the Vice-President of Communications at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the sales and marketing arm of the Barclays Center, and Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions; and even a surprise appearance by controversial Atlantic Yards developer Bruce C. Ratner.

De La Hoya, dressed casual-but-chic, in blue jeans, a tattersall checkered shirt and heather wool blazer, his face fuller and hair longer, looked like the very incarnation of an athlete-cum-businessman, still boyishly handsome, disarming and sleek. His platitudes about bringing big-time professional boxing back to Brooklyn, “starting now, with the kids that train at Gleason’s,” went down easily. We nodded in agreement when he claimed, “Brooklyn deserves it.”

Backing up his promise to be a role model to the amateurs of USA Boxing Metro,
Oscar held a clinic in one of Gleason’s three boxing rings, but not before a photo opportunity that had the Golden Boy swarmed with photographers and fans thrusting gloves up for him to sign. The jockeying for position was so intense that de la Hoya was muscled some 12 feet back from the podium, pinned against the ring where the clinic was scheduled. (I had a fleeting thought that the situation called for bodyguards, then remembered the champ--the first boxer in history to win world titles in six different weight divisions-- would have no problem defending himself should things get rough.)

There were plenty of us not part of the news media or avid fan base, milling around Gleason’s vast 14,000-square-foot floor: the regular gym rats, sporting thick gold chains and crosses, buzz cuts inlaid with lightning or yin/yang designs. Some came to train, dancing in the ring or punching heavy bags, seemingly oblivious to the hubbub around them. The din was punctuated by grunts and the slamming of bodies in the wrestling arena. Roaming like jackals were suited white guys with too much hair product--promoters, managers, publicity flacks—slapping their fighters on the arm, holding up an index finger (the universal sign for “We’re No. 1”) and delivering, a bit too self-consciously, the soul handshake. The women not working were all over-dressed, wedged into sausage casings and tottering on too-high heels. This also seems part of the fight game.

Soon paper barricades were ripped off and the center ring was crowded with a dozen USA Boxing Metro teenagers, all shadowboxing, cocky and sweet and twitchy with nerves. I clamored up on the ring apron and my eye went to the two lone girls, both sporting Gleason’s T-shirts, ponytails and braces; the flashier of the two chosen by the Golden Boy to throw punches at his upraised hands, his eyes twinkling in delight.

De la Hoya alternated correcting the stances of his young acolytes with flashing a dimpled smile towards the cameras, his attention divided between duties as trainer and spokesman. He pulled no punches when it came to exploiting his matinee-idol good looks and charm. The media pressed together on the ring apron, leaning in for a better view; the kids prancing, pivoting, throwing double and triple jabs, bobbing and weaving, their shoulders shrugging like real contenders.

One dad thrust his two-year-old son into the arms of the former champ; the cameras flashed and whirled. De la Hoya held the boy’s tiny fist and waved it for the press. The baby, his Mets cap half-obscuring his face, looked dazed and confused, unaware of the great man’s stature in this boxing mecca.

On my way out, I shook hands with Jack Hirsch, President of the Boxing Writers of America, in conversation with Bruce Silverglade, Gleason’s owner. Bruce allowed that the deal between Golden Boy Promotions and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment would be good for boxing in Brooklyn and in New York in general, inspiring other promoters like Lou DiBella and Joe DeGuardia to put on more fights.

I clomped down the two flights of stairs, happy to feel the cool night breeze. There on the sidewalk before me was Bert Sugar, boxing writer, editor and sports historian, biting on his signature cigar under a wide-brimmed fedora, and by whose very presence blessed the event, a true Pope of the Fistic Science.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dirty Boxing: How I Finally Made it to the Catskills Binnie Klein, 9/2/10


I’m an unlikely contender. As a psychotherapist, I sit on my tush all day, but in my mid-fifties, while re-habbing for an injury, I discovered one physical activity I came to love: boxing. My articulate coach (how does someone like me get a coach? Read Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind (SUNY Press, 2010) for the inside story! http://amzn.to/9orW3U) John Spehar, a former middleweight state champ, is not Jewish, but knew about the amazing history of Jewish boxers. When he told me about Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, Abe Attell, Battling Levinsky, Daniel “The Light of Israel” Mendoza, among many others, I felt punched in the gut with an ethnic pride that had been missing from my alienated-from-Judaism, post-modern life.
Boxing is a sport of immigrants who discovered that they could make more money in the ring than by working 14 hour-days in the sweatshops, and although observant parents often considered it a shanda for nice Jewish boys to hit and be hit rather than study Torah, it was a way up and out of tenement life. Boxing is also linked with the Catskills, where boxers like Ali, Barney Ross, Marciano and their entourages enjoyed training at the big resort hotels like Grossinger’s and Kutsher’s.
Until this August, when I attended Gleason’s Fantasy Boxing Camp at Kutsher’s Country Club in Monticello, the last remaining kosher hotel, my own relationship to the Catskills was like my relationship to Judaism – fragmented and underdeveloped. My sisters remember going to a bungalow colony at Camp White Lake, and my father, a traveling candy salesman who loved the horses, took the family to Monticello Raceway. “Daddy wished we could have afforded one of the big hotels.” What I do remember is staying in nearby Woodstock at age 16 to try my hand at acting by apprenticing at the summer playhouse. I left after two days, dismayed by having to build scenery, no chance of getting a part, and watching my more-experienced housemates make out with townies in the kitchen. I was both virginal and lazy.
Just two years later, I meandered down Route 17 with a friend in her dad’s Ford Falcon, on our way to a little music and arts festival called Woodstock. Two miles from the festival site, in Bethel, we turned around, missing this historic event. There was so much traffic people were abandoning their cars, and we, little girls outfitted in fringe jackets and long, ironed hair, were afraid her father would be mad if anything happened to the car (for the full story on THIS fiasco, listen here):
http://www.archive.org/download/TwoMilesFromBethel-AudioEsssayByBinnieKlein/TwoMilesFromBethel-AudioEsssayByBinnieKlein_vbr.m3u

Monday, August 23, 2010

Know the Answer?


This is for the boxing detectives out there. Perhaps someone knows who the boxer in the story was.
The story titled "Nat Siegford Does it Again: A Christmas Story," caught my eye as I was processing The Ringside Reporter magazine. The issue is dated January 8, 1950, Vol. XXII No. 1. I read the whole story, and loved it. It must be true, seeing how Fred Eisenstadt was a writer of good repute for Ringside.
It may also be untrue, but whatever the case, Eisenstadt is writing about a man whose life was drastically different compared to the times when he was a boxer.
So, here is a question, which I too would like to know: Who IS the boxer in the story? There are clues that a good boxing historian may follow.
The boxer fought against "top-ranking welterweights of that era." That era being the 1920s. He fought against "Phil Bloom, Kid Graves, Jack Britton, Ted Kid Lewis, Dave Shade, Mike O'Dowd, Steve Latzo, Sailor Freedman, Harry Greb, Ace Hudkins, Soldier Bartfield, Honey Mollody, Pete Latzo and others--in a career which lasted some eighteen years."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jerry Haar remembers Hank

When I first met my father-in-law Hank Kaplan, my knowledge of boxing could have filled half a thimble. Thanks to him, I was able to fill the other half in no time—with a lot left over. But it was not Hank Kaplan, the dean of boxing historians, that made the most lasting impression upon me, but rather Hank, the unassuming, regular guy. His quiet charisma, his patience, his understanding, and complete lack of pretension were what impressed me most in the decade-long period I had the privilege to know him. No sincere question posed to him about boxing or entymology—his greatest passion (something known to a very few!)—was deemed silly, stupid, or irrelevant. I observed in every instance Hank’s ability to calmly, clearly, succinctly and respectively respond to any and all questions posed to him from novices as well as those well-versed in the ins and outs of the “sweet science.” Hank was a man with a mission—to chronicle for posterity the history of boxing. He did precisely that—and he did so with class and humility, setting the bar high for future boxing historians and archivists who will build on the rock solid foundation he created…..Jerry Haar

Monday, August 2, 2010


Another Rare Item from
the Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive


By Mike Silver


To paraphrase a line from the movie Forrest Gump, “the Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to find.” This rare AP wire photo, dated June 29th, 1936, attests to that. The caption attached to the photo reads:

“Schmeling’s Wife Gets Gift From Hitler. Surrounded by flowers and congratulatory telegrams Annie Odra, Max Schmeling’s wife is shown the day after the Louis battle beside the odd plant (left) sent by Adolph Hitler, above her hangs the trophies of Max’s former fights.”

The photo shows Anny Ondra (correct spelling), Schmeling’s actress wife, pictured in their Berlin apartment surrounded by gifts, awards, flowers and telegrams in honor of her husband’s 12th round knockout of Joe Louis at New York’s Yankee Stadium on June 19th 1936.
Max Schmeling’s knockout of Joe Louis was the greatest upset in boxing history up to that time. Germany’s Nazi propaganda machine made the most of the unexpected victory. Schmeling and his wife were photographed with Hitler and the fighter was paraded around Germany as a model of “Aryan racial superiority.”
Anny Ondra was born in Poland to Czech parents. She became an actress and appeared in several Czech and German films. In 1933 she married Germany’s former heavyweight champion, Max Schmeling. They appeared in at least two films together after Schmeling knocked out Louis. Schmeling’s star faded rapidly in Germany after his rematch with Louis in 1938. On the eve of World War II, in a symbolic victory for the free world over fascism, Joe Louis annihilated Schmeling in just 2:04 of the first round.
For anyone who wants to learn more about the Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling era and their historic fights, I suggest you read David Margolick’s definitive history, “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink”.
In addition, the Brooklyn College Library, Archives and Special Collections has Margolick’s extensive research materials which will shortly be made available.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Quite a discovery!


On Wednesday, July 21, Jon and Mimi (two outstanding members of the Kaplan team) were working together in the archives.When Jon gallantly volunteered to help Mimi with some photos on a high shelf, he made a great discovery. Tucked away in a bubble-wrap envelope was the infamous napkin drawing signed by none other than Muhammad Ali.

As Hank told the story,

The Publisher Taschen held a book release party for their newest title “GOAT—A Tribute to Muhammad Ali.” The dinner was attended by Hank Kaplan, Angelo Dundee, and Muhammad Ali, as well as many other star-studded guests. Ali always known to be a prankster pulled the napkin right out of Hank's unsuspecting hands, cleared the table and proceeded to start drawing on the napkin, signed it and handed it to Kaplan. As if to say here, take this for your archives! And well, the rest is history...

Mike Silver Weighs in on Boxing Tournaments


BY MIKE SILVER

Boxing tournaments have always been a great way to determine the best fighter in a weight division and eliminate the curse of multiple champions. Unfortunately, they have been few and far between. The current super middleweight tournament is a rare step in the right direction.
The last time a tournament took place was over 40 years ago, when Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing induction into the Army in 1967. Promoters, in concert with the ABC television network, arranged for eight heavyweight contenders to compete in a series of elimination bouts in order to crown a new World Boxing Association champion
In the final bout Jimmy Ellis defeated Jerry Quarry via a 15 round decision to win the W.B.A. heavyweight title, although most people still recognized Ali as champion. (Trivia question: Can you name the other six fighters in the tournament?—answer at the end of the article).
Joe Frazier, the number one contender, chose not to participate in the tournament. Instead he fought Buster Mathis for the New York State version of the title. Two years after knocking out Mathis, Smokin’ Joe knocked out Ellis to consolidate his claim to the championship. When Ali’s boxing license was restored in 1970 it cleared the way for his epic showdown with Joe on March 8, 1971.
In the 1950s world champions Bobo Olson, Kid Gavilan,Virgil Akins, and Hogan Kid Bassey won their respective crowns in boxing tournaments, as did heavyweight Max Schmeling in 1930.
The greatest of all boxing tournaments took place in 1925. While doing research for my book, “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” I came across some astonishing information. Less than two weeks after lightweight champion Benny Leonard announced his retirement in January 1925, the powerful New York State Athletic Commission announced it would sponsor an open tournament to determine a new champion. By early February independent promoters had already begun staging the first bouts in a series of round robin eliminators.
The depth of boxing talent in the lightweight division was extraordinary during the 1920s, resulting in over 50 qualified boxers taking part in the tournament. The final bout was scheduled to take place in Madison Square Garden—only five months after the tournament had begun!
Some of the outstanding boxers taking part included Sammy Mandell, Benny Valger, Ace Hudkins, George “KO” Chaney, Jimmy Goodrich, Joe Benjamin, Jack Bernstein, Solly Seeman, Stanislaus Loayza, and Eddie “Kid” Wagner. Missing were top contenders Johnny Dundee and Sid Terris. Both decided it made more sense to challenge the eventual winner of the tournament.
On July 13th, 1925, in Madison Square Garden, Buffalo New York’s Jimmy Goodrich stopped Chile’s Stanislaus Loayza in the second round to win undisputed possession of the lightweight crown. Goodrich and Loayza had fought a total of 11 bouts in five months to get to the finals. With proper pomp and dignity the royal line was restored. A successor to the great Benny Leonard had been anointed. Boxing had a new world lightweight champion—not two, or three, or four—just one. Boxing fans never had it so good.
The world lightweight championship tournament of 1925 was as close to perfection as the professional boxing establishment has ever come to organizing a fair and open competition on such a massive scale.

(Answer to trivia question: Floyd Patterson, Ernie Terrell, Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena,Thad Spencer, Karl Mildenberger)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


“TIGER” TED LOWRY PASSES
Obituary written by Mike Silver

Photo courtesy of Hank Kaplan Archive

It is with sadness that I report the passing of my friend, the great Ted Lowry on Monday June 14th. Ted’s heart gave out. He was 90 years old. I use the word great in describing him not so much for his extraordinary boxing career but for the type of man he was and the quality of his character. Any of us who were fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of meeting Ted and getting to know him will agree. He was an intelligent, kind and generous individual, who treated everyone he met with genuine warmth and respect.
Ted was a member of what is referred to today as America’s greatest generation. He was born October 27, 1919 in New Haven, Connecticut, but grew up in Portland, Maine. In high school he excelled in every sport he ever tried, winning letters in track, football, basketball and baseball. He was even the state agate marbles champion and runner-up in the national tournament.
Ted Lowry began boxing professionally in 1939, at the age of 19, to help support his mother and siblings. Even though he had a limited amateur career Ted was such a natural he was fighting main events by his eighth pro fight. He never had another preliminary fight for the rest of his 144 bout career. Ted was fortunate to have an excellent trainer in Panama Roy Brooks, a former New England featherweight champion in the 1920s who was trained by the great Jack Johnson. Brooks taught Lowry many of the defensive maneuvers that Johnson had used to keep himself virtually untouched during his 25 year ring career. Lowry learned the lesson well. He never took a beating and was mentally sharp and active into his late 80s. When Ted was 86 years old I interviewed him for my book and if I had never met him could not have guessed that he had ever been a pro fighter, let alone one with 144 pro bouts to his credit. His speech was articulate and crisp and his memory of his fights astounding. He looked and acted like someone 30 years younger.
Lowry was a well muscled light heavyweight of stocky build who stood 5’ 10” and tipped the beam between 165 and 180 pounds. In the first four years of his career (1939-1943) he kept up a schedule that is hard to believe today but was standard operating procedure for many fighters of his era. In the 45 months before he joined the Army he engaged in 68 professional fights, winning 42, losing 22 with 4 draws. A heavy puncher, Lowry flattened 31 opponents and was never stopped or even knocked down during this time. He lost to the more experienced Coley Welch, Vince Pimpinella, Eddie Pierce (twice) and the feared heavyweight Lee Q. Murray (who outweighed him by 20 pounds).
Ted was often thrown in against heavyweights although he rarely scaled more than 175 pounds. In 1943 he drew with heavyweight contender Eddie Blunt. Outweighed by 30 pounds, Lowry still managed to drop his 6’ 3” opponent.
In examining Ted’s record one cannot help but notice a curious pattern. He would knock out an opponent and then in the rematch drop the decision. Or he would lose a decision to an ordinary fighter and then flatten the same opponent easily when they fought again. This could have several explanations; he was always available and sometimes would be called to substitute for another fighter on a days notice. He always kept in shape but the extremely busy schedule he kept would be hard for any fighter to maintain a consistency of performance. The other explanation is that as a black fighter trying to make a living and often fighting in an opponent’s backyard he was robbed dozens of times, or perhaps promised more bouts if he cooperated and tried not to knock out the local favorite. Ted once told me that of his 67 losses in 144 fights, he believed he actually lost only 23. I have come across a number of Ring magazine accounts of his fights which decry unfair decisions against him. I have no doubt what he said was true.
Like millions of other patriotic Americans Ted answered the call to arms during World War II. When he heard that the Army was starting its first all black paratrooper unit Ted was quick to volunteer. After a thorough vetting process he was admitted to the elite 555th parachute battalion, nicknamed “The Triple Nickels”.
Extensive training at Fort Bragg followed and included over 30 practice jumps. While in the Army Ted was asked to box an exhibition with heavyweight champion Joe Louis who was touring with a USO troupe. He always considered that exhibition with “Big Red” (as Louis was called by fellow Black soldiers) the top highlight of his entire boxing career. After the three round bout Louis told him he had the potential of a champion and could go all the way in boxing. Those words spoken by the great Joe Louis inspired and motivated him to continue boxing if he survived the war.
Ted (now a sergeant) and his fellow soldiers were eager to join the fight and be shipped over to Europe. To their disappointment the battalion was never shipped overseas. Instead they were used on a stateside secret mission that only recently became public knowledge. During the last year of the war Japan launched hundreds of balloons carrying high explosive incendiary bombs and aimed them at the U.S. The balloons were intended to follow the Pacific Ocean jet stream to the west coast of the United States and spread terror and destruction when they hit the ground and exploded. Dozens of these balloons actually made it to the west coast and beyond. Fortunately they landed in unpopulated areas but the explosions started massive forest fires. One family picnicking in an Oregon forest was killed by one of these explosions.
The government did not want to start a panic or let the Japanese warlords know that some balloons had gotten through, so the public never knew about the fires. The 555th was given a quick course in fire fighting and was parachuted into the forests to try and stop the fires from spreading. They soon acquired a new nickname “Smoke Jumpers”. Their success in accomplishing the mission was not revealed until the 1970s. A documentary called “Smoke Jumpers”, made in the 1990s and hosted by General Colin Powell, tells the story of the 555th all black parachute battalion.
Upon his discharge Ted picked up where he had left off in his boxing career. His problem was that he had all the talent in the world but not the right managerial connections to maneuver him up the ladder. But what he did have was Sam Silverman, New England’s premier boxing promoter, who used him constantly. At least Ted could be guaranteed to have a steady income fighting every two or three weeks. His record reads like a who’s who of top heavyweights and light heavyweight of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Ted crossed gloves with the legendary “Tiger” Jack Fox (L-10), Aaron “Tiger” Wade (W-10), Lee Savold (D-10), Lee Oma (D-10, L-10), Roland La Starza (L-10), Jimmy Bivins (L-10), Jimmy Slade (L-10), Ceasar Brion (L-10), Billy Fox (D-10,W-10).
In October 1949, in Providence, R.I. Lowry met a young Rocky Marciano. The Rock was undefeated, having knocked out 19 of 20 opponents. In the fourth round Rocky was staggered several times by Lowry’s right uppercuts. At the end of 10 rounds Marciano was awarded the decision but most spectators, including the reporter covering the fight for the Providence Rhode Island Journal thought Lowry deserved to win.
Eight months later Ted got one of his frequent calls to substitute for another fighter on short notice. The opponent was Rocky Marciano. Although Ted would have wanted more time to prepare for the re-match he couldn’t help but notice the tremendous improvement in the Rock’s technique. Ted lost the unanimous ten round decision but won Marciano’s everlasting respect. After the fight Rocky said, “I think Lowry would have gone the distance if we had fought a hundred times. I could never get use to his style of fighting.”
Ted’s style was mostly defensive, as he could not afford to get beat up or take too many chances if he was to continue his busy schedule of fighting once or twice every month. But there were times when he knew opportunity was knocking and he gave it his all. It was at these times that we saw what could have been and what Ted Lowry was capable of. In 1948 he fought future light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in Baltimore. After sampling a Moore left hook that nearly floored him in the first round, Ted proceeded to give the great fighter a hard fought battle. He lost a unanimous decision but won at least 3 rounds. In the write-up on the fight that appeared the next day in “The Baltimore Sun” the reporter wrote that the rounds that Moore won were closely contested and the scoring did not reflect how tough a fight it was for Moore whose eye was closed tight at the end.
In 1950 Ted, took the New England heavyweight title from Bernie Reynolds in 12 rounds. And in one of his best performances, in 1952 in St. Paul, Minnesota, he fought light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim in a non-title bout and was robbed of a decision he clearly deserved to win. The fix was in for this one as Maxim’s next fight was against the great Sugar Ray Robinson. There was no way Ted was going to get the decision.
Ted was 35 years old when he decided to retire in 1955. His final stats were 66 wins (43 by KO), 67 losses (KO by 3), 10 draws and 1 no decision for a total of 144 professional fights. Only two fighters were able to stop him. He lost to the power punching heavyweight contender Lee Q. Murray in a bout that Ted thought was stopped prematurely. And he was knocked out by the always dangerous Rusty Payne in the 7th round. Ted had twice gone the distance with both of these murderous bangers in previous fights. There is one other KO loss on his record, to Harry Kid Mathews, that occurred late in Ted’s career. Let’s just say the fight was of dubious veracity and that questions still remain about that “knockout”.
Ted did not get the breaks he deserved during his lengthy career. The fact that he never fought in Madison Square Garden says it all. But he was never bitter. The only time I ever saw him come close to an expression of anger was when he recalled an experience in the Army while assigned to a base in the Southwest that also housed German prisoners of war. The busses that ferried soldiers and prisoners around the base required black soldiers to sit in the back but allowed the German POWs to sit up front.
After his ring career ended Ted operated his own construction business in Norwalk, Connecticut for many years. For the past 40 years he has had the love and support of his wife, Alice. She was fond of saying that in all that time they never had an argument.
Ted believed in contributing to the community. He coached boxing at a local Norwalk gym where he was a father figure to many young men who otherwise would have gone in the wrong direction. He received many civic awards for his work in combating juvenile delinquency. Work was always very important to Ted. He could not sit still and always wanted to remain active. In his late 80s he was working as a bus monitor for a local elementary school.
In 2007 Ted published his autobiography, titled “God’s In My Corner: A Portrait of An American Boxer” in which he describes, in his own words, his fascinating life story.
During his boxing career Ted was considered a reliable journeyman fighter, always in shape, and always counted on to go the distance. 144 fights! I considered him to be a boxing treasure—one of the last links to boxing’s great golden age of talent, activity and popularity. I was proud to call him my friend and proud and honored to have interviewed him for my book to which he added so much.
Ted is survived by his lovely Alice, children and grandchildren. Rest in peace my friend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fight Night by Amy Handelsman


June 6, 2010
Miguel Cotto (Left) lands a blow on champion Yuri Foreman (AP Photo)

June 6, 2010

Pre-fight
6:30 p.m.

I arrive early to the Stadium, a little too sparkling clean for my tastes. In the spirit of hospitality (inviting folks to the South Bronx who might ordinarily resist), the Yankee Stadium employees hold up paddles that say, “How may I help you?” This seems a bit too friendly, un-Bronx like—the opposite of my experience at the old venue, when, asking for directions to the D train, a native trumpeted, “The D? The D? You don’t want the D. The D?? What are you--outta your mind?”

With seven fights on the undercard, there are not many people yet in the stands. Banners along the top spell out, “Mazel Tov, Scott,” evidence of the Ballan Bar Mitzvah that had been booked before the fight (and which Top Rank promoter Bob Arum successfully negotiated around, inviting all the guests to attend that evening’s bouts).

Most of the patrons are Cotto fans and wear some symbol of Puerto Rican nationalism. The Orthodox Jewish contingent will show up long after dark.

I worry about the clear ethnic rivalry between these two groups, and how, in a testosterone-filled event, there might be roving groups of guys, spoiling for their own fight. Freddy Colon, a security guard in a pale blue polo shirt, assures me that there was no special training given to handle the crowds, but admitted that there were close to 100 cops hired to help.

7:37 p.m.

I thread between the Mohegan Sun Press Room and the Monument Park Concourse where fans are starting to stream in. There are some decent fights on the undercard in the lighter weight classes; the female referee Sparkle Lee is in the ring. I’m glad they’ve got a woman in there, but her constant movement makes me think she’s not secure in the position. Maybe it’s a style thing.

Styles make the fight, they say. We’ll see how trainer Manny Steward has tweaked that of his boxer, Miguel Cotto. Cotto has taken a beating from the last two fights—against Manny Pacquaio (some say the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of today) and against Antonio Margarito.

Meanwhile, the styles of the Latinas entering the stadium are fierce, girls poured into dresses with backs cut out in strips, tottering on platform gladiator sandals, hips swaying. I admire their moxie. The men are likewise baroque; they sport fancy shaved buzz cuts, elaborate crucifixes nestled against their Cotto T-shirts, the bling of a martyred challenger with a chance of redemption.

8:21 p.m.

I ask the guy at the concession stand why there are only Cotto posters for sale. He turns over the stack—Yuri Foreman’s image is on the flip side. “Have there been any Foreman fans?” “Quite a few,” he says. “The bandanas are all sold out.” It is then I start to notice them, Jewish-American kids from Westchester and Long Island, in T-shirts that say “Advantage, Federer.” One wears a map of Israel with the inscription, “Let My People Stay.” These guys look like they might never have been to a prizefight. Next come some Israeli paratroopers, in considerably better shape.

9:50 p.m.

It’s more than 18 minutes after sundown (when the Sabbath officially ends), and Yuri has been whisked by police escort from the east side of Manhattan up to the Bronx. He won’t have much time to warm up and get his hands wrapped, and that worries me, too. Meanwhile, the last four fights have gotten better, gone the distance in unanimous decisions.

The Orthodox are streaming through Gate 8. It’s easy to distinguish the Modern Orthodox from the Chassids, the first in baseball caps or neat kippahs; the second, in black hats or fedoras, tallit hanging under their shirts. There’s a long line at the kosher food stand near the entrance. They look a bit stunned to be there, giddy that their boy made good. A fighter and an aspiring rabbi—how much better can you get? Talk about redemption…

10:13 p.m.

The final bout on the undercard is in the ring, for the NABF & NABO Super Welterweight titles: Joe Greene from New York, NY v. Vanes Martirosyan from Glendale, CA. They’re both good fighters, but my money is with the Armenian kid from Cali—he’s got Freddie Roach in his corner.

I stand next to big guy in a Mets uniform at Gate 8. I joke that he can’t wear that outfit in Yankee stadium. He tells me he’s not afraid. I say, “It’s just not right. When in Rome…” He tells me he can’t talk to me—I’m a Yankee fan. Next to him is a cop. Usually they’re in pairs. It occurs to me that the Mets guy may be a cop, too. I ask, “Are you undercover?” He says, “I can’t answer that.”

The city is doing everything it can to prevent what happened at the last Yankee Stadium bout 34 years ago, when Ali defended his title against Norton. The cops were on strike and roaming gangs went wilding. Despite an advance sale of some 30,000, only eight seats were sold at the gate.

There’s a bit of hysteria in the air now—a buzz from hype, adrenaline, and temptations of the flesh—liquor, blood, the potential for sex. A fight breaks out in front of me—two large black guys who could be football players in their size and grace. One has spilled the other’s beer. They are yelling, then suddenly freeze, touch fists and embrace. Meanwhile, a jostled sanitation worker calls out, “What the hell are you bumping into me for?”

I pass the concession stand—the Yuri Foreman posters are now right-side-up, next to the Miguel Cotto ones.

What looks to be former Yankee David Wells appears in a Red Sox uniform. He’s roundly booed and waves it off.

Vanes Martirosyan beats Joe Greene in a 10-round unanimous decision.


The Lead-in to the Fight

Cotto, the challenger, enters first to salsa music, wearing Ecko, his face solemn. He looks like he’s walking to his execution, his hand resting on the shoulder of his young son. He lost his beloved father in January. When asked about it, the boxer gets both wistful and defensive, saying his father’s never left him, he’s always there.

Foreman arrives to the call of the shofar, grinning, and to the singing voice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson. I think about the Jewish boxers that went before him: Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Lew Tendler, Kid Berg, Maxie Rosenbloom. Such was their popularity that Max Baer, who was assumed to be Jewish because of his name, never disputed it.

And in another homage to paternity, Arthur Mercante, Jr. is the third man in the ring. His dad, Arthur Mercante, Sr., who recently passed, refereed the Ali v. Norton fight in the old Yankee Stadium.

Spike Lee sits next to Ray Mancini at ringside. The Puerto Ricans in the pressroom join in with Frankie Negron to sing their national anthem. Shalva Berti croons a mournful HaTikvah (“The Hope”), and I think about the public relations disaster of the Israeli raid on the Turkish flotilla this week. A 16-year-old Andrea Rosario delivers our “Star-Spangled Banner” to the troops overseas. Michael Buffer invites us to rumble.


The Fight

Cotto clearly takes the first two rounds. He looks crisp, better balanced. He’s working his jab and double-jab. He’s not as fast as the elusive Foreman, but his timing is right. Steward did say that Cotto was a very willing student. In the second, Cotto knocks Yuri with a huge right hand. Yuri finally connects. He can control the tempo of the fight if he stays outside, but he’s no match-up for Cotto’s power.

The third round is up for grabs, most likely Cotto’s. Strangely, Cotto looks faster than Foreman; Foreman is slow to warm up. Cotto is also protecting against Forman’s jab by keeping his left hand high.

Foreman rocks Cotto with a right hand in the fourth. One of the announcers says, “Speed could be power.” The other, “Well, it is that.” Another right from Foreman.
He has to be careful he doesn’t leave himself open to Cotto’s deadly left hook. Foreman feints with the left and lands the right. Foreman slips in this round, but he’s shown more aggression and likely wins it.

In the fifth, Cotto looks sharp. Whoever said he was worn out from the recent losses didn’t count on this. Foreman is quicker, Cotto landing harder punches, and a fierce uppercut. (“You’d think he was Mexican.”) It’s a pivotal round—too close to call.

In the seventh, an announcer says that it looks like this fight might go to decision. It may be up to “who can make the other guy change.” Styles make the fight. Foreman’s right knee suddenly buckles—he goes down at a weird angle. He gets up, falls again. Mercante wants to call in the doctor; Foreman shakes it off. But it’s clear that he can’t pivot on his right, can’t even put much weight on it. For a boxer who relies on his speed and mobility, it’s questionable how long he can continue.

Foreman answers the bell for the eighth round and it seems foolish. He can barely move. We see Foreman’s beautiful wife Leyla Leidekcer (a model and fellow boxer) entreat Joe Grier, Foreman’s main second. From his corner, a white towel is thrown; it hits Cotto on the shoulder. Everyone assumes the fight is over—the white towel being a universal sign of surrender. But as corner men and press pour into the ring, Mercante throws the towel back out; he consults with Foreman, orders everyone to leave. Astonishingly, the fight continues after a 2:57-minute delay. Less than a minute to go in the round, Cotto holds back and Foreman is all heart.

The pressroom is electric with disbelief: Why didn’t Mercante stop the fight, either accepting the trainer’s surrender, or protecting a fighter who couldn’t be relied on to protect himself?

In 0:42 seconds of Round 9, Cotto delivers a left hook to Foreman’s body. Foreman crumbles and the fight is mercifully stopped.


12:45 a.m. Post-Fight Press Conference

Bob Arum addresses the crowd as a hungry press awaits the boxers. He thanks his partners at Yankee Stadium, thanks the 20,2072 attendees, thanks the weather for “cooperating.” Bobbing and weaving, Arum not so deftly addresses the question of the thrown towel. “Who threw it? I don’t know. But it didn’t come from the fighter’s corner!”

Arum commends Foreman’s heart but says, had the fight gone to decision, it most likely would have been Cotto’s. What’s next? That depends if Pacquaio v. Mayweather comes together. And it should. The issue of drug testing is off the table.

The first fighter out is Vanes “Nightmare” Martirosyan, along with trainer Freddie Roach. Martirosyan tells us he enjoys the boos from the crowd—that’s what you hear coming up from the amateurs.

Cotto follows. He’s still not smiling. Cotto manages to appear both humble and arrogant. He says he’s donating his shoes from the fight to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Arum gamely holds up one shoe, asking, “So, where’s the other?”

Foreman is all sheepish grins. It’s impossible not to like this guy. He tells us that he saw the towel being thrown—“it was a lot of commotion”—but when Mercante asked if he wanted to continue, he answered, “Of course.” He slipped not because there was a wet spot, but because the lateral movement put a strain on an old bicycle injury. He was just 15, and the family was too poor for medical insurance. An ESPN reporter asks Foreman if he thinks it’s a torn ligament. Arum pipes in, “That’s a stupid question.” The reporter shouts back, “It’s not a stupid question, Bob! It’s not a stupid question!”

Joe Grier, Foreman’s main trainer, has the last word. Grier did throw in the towel; he did it after not being able to get the referee’s attention. His fighter showed a lot of heart but started getting hit by shots. “I wanted him to leave with some dignity.”


###

Amy Weighs In....


June 4, 2010

Pedro, one of Foreman’s trainers, said his fighter would do a light workout at Gleason’s on Friday, the day before the fight, but I doubted it. Yuri was not at the gym this morning; I knew I’d see him later at the weigh-in.

My journey to Yankee Stadium on the No. 4 train was filled with anticipation. I’d missed going to a home game last year and while faithful to the old stadium, I was anxious to see the new one. This was an emotional homecoming of sorts for me, too, as my love of boxing came from my father, a Bronx boy and die-hard Yankee fan. I think about the old greats, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake La Motta, Mohammed Ali, even Jack Johnson. I think about when fights went as long as the opponents were standing; I even think back to the days before gloves. In any event, there’s a long tradition of watching fights out of doors.

The announcer at the weigh-in invokes the line from “On The Waterfront,” :

A title shot…outdoors…in a ball park

Two fighters on the undercard come out first—super-welterweights Joe Greene from New York, and Vanes Martirosyan from Glendale, Ca. Freddie Roach is Vanes’ trainer, representing the Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood where I once trained. It is good to see Freddie—good to see him so successful. (He trains Manny Pacquaio).

For the Main Event, Miguel Cotto comes on stage first. He is all glowering menace, in aviator shades. He quickly doffs headphones and a black knit cap and hands them to a rotund factotum standing guard beneath him. He shrugs off unlaced sneakers, his white Argentina # 28 Polo shirt; his navy cargo shorts, even his necklace. His tattoos are fierce. He wears royal blue Superman underpants and cups his hands demurely over his genitals. He weighs in at 153.5.

Foreman enters to boos. It’s a largely Latino, home crowd, with only a sprinkling of Orthodox Jews wearing skull caps and tallit. Yuri throws a few punches before getting on the scale and keeps his black booties on his feet. His underwear is also black, threaded with an elegant gold pattern, and he wears a signature jaunty cap. He weighs in at 154, a half-pound more than the challenger, but, at a rangy 5’11”, appears puny in comparison. Yuri grins impishly; Cotto never breaks a smile.

The fighters pose for photos side-by-side. They turn for the ritual stare-down. It seems contrived. But there will be plenty of people there tonight to “represent”: the Puerto Rican from Caguas vs. the Jew from Belarus by way of Israel.

I overhear Bob Arum say that someone’s nephew (Arum’s or Yuri’s) would be coming over from Israel to blow the shofar as Foreman enters the ring. It’s not an anomalous gesture. Before being used for religious practices (most notably at Rosh Hashonah) the shofar was blown as an Israeli call to war. One more marriage of spirituality and the fistic science.

Amy Handelsman on Yuri Formeman


Thursday, June 3, 2010

My boxing training has taken me back to Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, home to Yuri Foreman; I’ve become obsessed with the June 5th bout. To my delight, Yuri comes in to train while I am there this morning; I eye him keenly, trying not to stare but anxious to pick up pointers. We jump rope in tandem across the gym floor, a line of duct-taped heavy bags between us. He steps into the ring to shadowbox; he’s as fluid as an eel. I am reminded of the predictions about the fight—that Cotto has the superior punching power—but I’ll take a boxer over a banger any day, and Foreman may be too quick for him. In any event, it’s also said that Foreman will go against his natural instinct as a counter-puncher and be more aggressive, bringing the fight to his opponent.

At home, I read up on Yuri’s rabbinical training at the Iyyun Institute with Rav Dov Ber Pinson, a world-renowned Kabbalistic scholar. The rabbi has been recommended to me by other observant friends who know I am a spiritual seeker and looking for my next teacher. I watch YouTube videos of Foreman being asked how he reconciles his boxing with his rabbinical studies. He says that boxing is his job, while his studies with the Pinson are his schooling, and that they complement each other. The Iyyun website argues further for the balance of heart, mind, and body. I feel a surge of energy reading this, as I have always felt that being in the ring was a kind of sanctuary, and that my immersion in boxing, religion, and theater was all part of the same stew.

The Night Before Slugfest by Amy Handelsman


June 5, 2010

Friday night. Shabbos. I decide to attend services in the place where Yuri Foreman and his wife pray. There is construction near the building, so they will be held at the home of Rabbi Dov Ber Pinson, followed by the traditional Sabbath meal. I am a little shy about going—I won’t know anyone, and I even doubt Yuri will be present—but I remember how welcoming Orthodox Jews have been to me when I’ve shown up unaffiliated.

The Rabbi gives a talk after dinner on the Parsha of the week, Sh’lach. Moses sends 12 spies from the desert into the land of Canaan—a land supposedly flowing with milk and honey. The Rabbi says that Moses and G-d had an argument before sending out the spies; G-d wanted women sent; Moses wanted men. G-d let Moses have his way, knowing the outcome would not be as good. Indeed, 10 men came back and said that they came upon giants and were as grasshoppers, indicating a vast inferiority complex. Only two spies saw the possibilities. And this tells us that we see things not as they are, but as we are. I am reminded of the work of Einstein and the physicists who say that the act of observing changes the observed.

We learn that there are two ways of acquiring the land—through vision, and through conquering. We could not achieve the good by vision; our vision was distorted. It was left to Joshua to acquire the land through acts of conquering.

There were many friends of Yuri’s at the Shabbos dinner. None had been to a prize fight and many would be setting out, like Yuri, 18 minutes after the sun sets to trek to Yankee Stadium for the battle. But Yuri is being given an NYPD escort for a seamless delivery (and a delivery in style) to the stadium.

The Rabbi also talked about words trumping thoughts and actions trumping words.

Mike Silver's Reaction to Slugfest....


I went to the fight--just couldn't stay home and watch it--had to witness in person. It was a good fight while it lasted because of the opposite styles of the fighters. Within a minute of the first round I saw that Yuri was in over his head and I wasn't sure at that point that he would last the distance. If not for the knee giving out I think he would have lost a unanimous decision. Cotto is not the fighter he was but still had too much ability and experience for Foreman who gave a great effort and won the respect of the crowd with his courageous effort.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Boxing Historian Mike Silver Weighs In

"I'm getting excited about the upcoming Yuri Foreman vs. Miguel Cotto title fight at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night. I love the hype. Reminds me of the old days when stadium fights were a regular feature in the greatest fight town of them all!
Here is a fact about the original Yankee Stadium (opened in 1923) that might interest you: During construction the stadium an engineer and partner of Jacob Ruppert designed a hydraulic lift that was placed under second base. A boxing ring was erected on the hydraulic lift and when fights were held, the direct around second base was removed and a trap door opened through which the ring was hoisted and set at second base. That's how big boxing was in those days!
It's ironic that the first world title fight at the new Yankee Stadium involves a Jewish champion. The first world title fight at the old stadium involved not just one Jewish fighter but two! Both the champion Benny Leonard, and the challenger, Lew Tendler were Jewish. Guess you couldn't lose if you bet on the Jewish fighter to win!
For more facts about the golden age of boxing read my book "The Arc of Boxing" The rise and Decline of the Sweet Science."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'll drink to that!


Mike E. Collins was the inventor of Light-Welterweight weight class in boxing. He was also promoter of boxing matches and publisher of "The Boxing Blade" in 1920s. We have a good number of Collins' newspaper, which he published in Minneapolis. Here's one issue, dated April 12, 1924, which featured on its cover a "quintet of athletic frauleins from the land of the pretzel and schnapps."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yuri Foreman at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn


Yesterday, we had the good fortune of attending a press event for Brooklyn's own Yuri Foreman, as he prepares for his June 5th battle with Miguel Cotto. This historic event will be held in Yankee stadium the first boxing event to be held there since the Ali-Ken Norton fight in 1976.
Now Yuri kick some.....

Thursday, May 20, 2010



Organizing and cataloging the Hank Kaplan archive is no small feat. Many hours and many archivists will help restore countless boxes of materials and make the collection available to fans, researchers, and historians. Attached are a couple photos of our team tirelessly working away.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Aris Pina remembers Hank
When I think of Hank, I remember a man that was unselfish, respected by all and always, and I mean always there to sit down and talk with you if you had a question about the sweet science. Hank was a person who had a deep passion for the sport of boxing and dedicated his life to preserving it's rich history and always keeping the memories alive for boxing's "forgotten members". Each year when the International Boxing Hall of Fame's induction weekend would come up, Hank would mention such forgotten greats such as Holman Williams, Lloyd Marshall, Cocoa Kid, Gaspar Ortega, and Eddie Booker just to name a few because he knew they deserved the admiration from the boxing world and was determined that they be treated with the same reverence as names such as Robinson, Ali, Marciano, his hero Jack Dempsey and so on.

One thing I will always remember about Hank was how he took to me, I was a wet between the ears 18 year old kid when I first met Hank back in 2003 at the Hall of Fame weekend, and after being introduced to him at a fight show, I made i a point to at least ask a question to him later that day, not only was I able to ask him a question, he invited me to sit with him and we chatted for a few hours! He didn't have to do that, but it was just his nature, he saw a young person that had a passion for the sport, and for that he would always make time. Over the years Hank would always remember who I was and each year he would bring me to his hotel room where he would give me a package of various items that he brought from his collection of which I will always cherish. In 2006 I had the honor of having a article about me featured on maxboxing.com, and Hank was interviewed about it, he mentioned that he thought I was curious with a thirst for knowledge and that he would follow my work in the years to come. The fact that the man who was known as the foremost boxing historian in the world would be following my work was an honor and something that I will forever hold dear to me.

Hank was my mentor, an inspiration for the sport, a friend and legend to the sport of boxing, and something that I will always cherish and proud to say, he was a friend of mine. We are lucky to have his collection preserved at Brooklyn College to keep his legacy alive and to educate future generations of boxing fans on it's storied past, which is exactly what Hank wanted.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Jeff Julian's Memories of Hank
Hank Kaplan
devoted much of his life to boxing and preserving its history. Considered the preeminent source for anything to do with boxing's long and colorful history, he was widely sought after for his boxing knowledge and expertise.

He wore many hats during his long years associated with the "sweet science" -- fighter (he had one pro fight, which he won), publicist, writer, promoter, consultant, archivist, and historian. When the International Boxing Hall of Fame was first founded in 1989, Hank was instrumental in sharing his wealth of knowledge with the museum. He served as the chairman of the Hall of Fame's Induction Committee and was finally convinced to step down from that role in 2006 so that he would be eligible for induction -- and honor many in boxing felt was long overdue. He was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994 and was a recipient of the prestigious James J. Walker award for long and meritorious service from the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2003.

Hank always had a deep respect and affinity for those men who climbed through the ropes and into the glory and loneliness of the ring -- whether it was boxing legends or unknown journeymen who never gained fame of fortune. He helped many fighters over the years, both in person and in keeping the memory alive of those who might otherwise be forgotten. For many years, he brought the late boxing greats Beau Jack and Kid Gavilan along with hom from Florida to the annual Boxing Hall of Fame weekend in Canasota. Because of Hank, these two great former champions were given the opportunity to relive their glory years among true boxing fans and peers, even if only for a weekend. That was so typical of the unselfishness and devotion of Hank Kaplan.

A modest and gracious man, he was well liked and respected by everyone who had the pleasure to know him. I, personally, was honored to call him a friend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


What a birth certificate...
Mimi Lester an archivist working on the Kaplan Collection made this discovery. A hardcore boxing fan chooses twenty-five first names for his daughter, all of them heavyweight champs. At only five pounds at birth this girl is not yet quite a heavyweight. But who knows what her future holds?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This November will be 4 years since Willie Pep (born Guglielmo Papaleo) died (Nov. 23, 2006). 36 years before his actual departure from this world, there were rumors of his passing on the other side of the Atlantic. May 15, 1970 issue of Boxing News (formerly Boxing), ran an insert on page 13 about this "rumour".

Monday, April 5, 2010


The editorial of 13 August 1919 issue of Boxing (a.k.a. Boxing News, this is the last time I am writing this) included a story, which shows that a certain practice in modern times, i.e. the crazed fanaticism often exhibited by a horde of teenagers following any famous super-star, goes back 100 years. Moreover, if today you only see teenage girls drooling over a poster portraying a member of their favorite boy band, in the 1900s the fans of a famous personality, in this instance a boxer, included women and men, young and old. Read the story of OLAD (Operation: Let's Ambush Dempsey, ok ok, I made this one up), where the presence of a boxing champion caused a crowd to act in such a manner that a witness is forced to call them "boot-licks." And you thought your grandma was boring...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another awesome find...
On page 453 of June 25, 1919 issue of Boxing (a.k.a. Boxing News), there's an ad for how one could be a boxer without "ever having [to] put on a glove." Apparently, you could have mailed in your name and address and get a copy of a book ("Brochurs"), which would lead you on a path of "be[ing] a master of men" "in the privacy of your own room." I wonder what Alexander or Napoleon would say to that; maybe they would have suggested putting thousand mirrors in your house.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lady Boxers Rule

Jahongir Usmanov an archivist working on the Kaplan collection had an interesting find.

The April 9, 1910 issue of Boxing, the oldest running newspaper on the subject of pugilism , had an interesting article. The title of the article was "A Lady Boxer" printed on page 111, and it talked about, you guessed it, female boxers. So, if you thought the the fair sex had only recently entered the square ring to show off their feathers, think again. Here's a proof that ladies have been punching each others mugs and guts since the early 1900s. Go Miss Britton!

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