E.A. Sports Today

Take me back

Ringside at the Deontay Wilder-Johann Duhaupas fight stirs memories of an earlier era


By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — Guys like me don’t have to stand inside the ropes with a guy like Deontay Wilder to see his life flash before his eyes.

Sometimes it happens outside the ropes.

Take Saturday, for example. Getting ready to watch Wilder defend his WBC heavyweight championship belt against Johann Duhaupas in the BJCC Legacy Arena took me back – way back – to my early days in newspapering.

It’s been 30 some years since I last covered boxing, and that was a world championship bout, too. Watching the final preps on the floor for the night, it was like we were never away.

At the risk of showing my age, I grew up in the era of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Duran. At a time when boxing was still big on the radio and pay-per-view was just starting to be a novelty. In a place where boxing was big time, where venues like the Blue Horizon Ballroom and the Spectrum were the Meccas, and promoters like J. Russell Peltz were the kingmakers of the day.

Growing up in Trenton, N.J., the big local draws were featherweight Sammy Goss and lightweight Kenny Bogner. One was going out and one was coming in when I was coming around. The names probably mean little to folks down this way, but they were big stuff in our neck of the woods.

As a young newspaperman boxing was one of my favorite events to cover. The fighters and promoters were a colorful lot. We did shows regularly in Trenton, Atlantic City and Philly. Ran a little in those circles. Even did a world championship fight once where Jeff Chandler – as popular in Philly as Wilder is here – defended his bantamweight crown.

Sadly, the world changed boxing in my life and it was sent to the corner. It’s taken three decades to come out of retirement.

But the stories are still fresh.

One that sticks like a quick jab to the ribs is a cautionary tale about being careful what you wear to the fight. One of my early colleagues went to a Goss fight one night wearing a newly pressed white dress shirt at ringside. One particularly unlucky boxer took one square in the nose and my colleague’s white shirt was no longer that color he arrived in – and there were still two bouts, including the main event, to see. Yuck.

We’ve got a white shirt on for this one, maybe in memory of my old friend, but luckily media seating here is five rows from the ropes. Somebody’s got to get hit pretty hard to send their mouthpiece my way.

And there was the time watching a Golden Gloves Tournament show at a local high school where we visited with Larry Holmes months before he won the world heavyweight title. The Easton Assassin talked confidently that day about doing it and later he did.

That’s the thing I’ll always remember about boxers. They’re a confident lot. At one pre-fight press conference, one self-assured fighter handed — unsolicited — autographed pictures of himself in classic boxing pose to all the reporters in the room.

Every one of them predicts a knockout. You knew somebody was going to be wrong, but that’s what made it entertaining. And that’s what makes it fun. It’s what takes me back.

Wait. Wasn’t that the name of one of the songs in the Rocky movies? That reminds me, Rocky’s real life brother, Frank Stallone, was a fighter from my town, too.

Here’s the card for Saturday’s show:

HWT — Larry Knight, Tuscaloosa (1-2) def. Keith Thompson, Tuscaloosa (8-4), TKO, 2:31 into 4th
Lightweight — Whitney Webster, Selma (5-0) def. Ray Ray Bryant, Tuscaloosa (3-1), TKO, 1:55 into 14th
Super Middleweight — Kenny McNeil, Birmingham (9-1) def. Taronze Washington, Dallas (17-21), TKO, 1:00 into 3rd
Super Featherweight — Derrick Murray, St. Louis (11-0-1) def. Micah Branch, Cincinnati (2-17-1), 6-round unanimous decision
HWT — Andrzej Wawrzyk, Krakow, Poland (30-1) vs. Mike Sheppard, Palestine, W. Va. (24-18-1), 10 rounds
Lightweight — Mario Barrios, San Antonio (11-0) vs. Eduardo Rivera, Mexico (9-2-2), 8 rounds
Welterweight — Bryant Perrella, Fort Myers, Fla. (11-0) def. Patrick Boozer, Ann Arbor, Mich. (11-4), RCS, 2:28 into 5th
Super Welterweight — Terrell Gausha, Cleveland (15-0) vs. Eliezer Gonzalez, San Juan, P.R. (15-1), 8/10 rounds
HWT — Charles Martin, Carson, Cal. (21-0-1) vs. Vicente Zandez, Baja California, Mexico (13-4), 10 rounds
HWT — Dominic Breazeale, Alhambra, Cal. (16-0) def. Fred Kassi, New Orleans (18-4-1), 10-round unanimous decision (co-main event)
HWT — Deontay Wilder, Tuscaloosa (35-0) def. Johann Duhaupas, Abbeville, France (31-3), TKO, 0:55 into 11th (WBC world heavyweight title)

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