Monday, July 26, 2010
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...
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)