How good wsa Jimmy Ellis? Pretty good, it says here

                          ELLIS INTEGRAL PART OF ALI STORY

(Lexington Herald-Leader, Feb. 19, 1999)

By Billy Reed

The fight should have been held in Freedom Hall because both the contestants
were longtime friends from Louisville. Instead, Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis
squared off in the Houston Astrodome on July 26, 1971. The promoters,
playing on their history together, billed it as "The Inevitable Fight.''

For Ali, the fight was the first step back toward the heavyweight
championship that he had lost 41/2 months earlier to Joe Frazier. For Ellis,
it was the chance to climb out of Ali's long shadow and prove he deserved to
be regarded as more than merely ``the other'' heavyweight from Louisville.

"I thought I could beat him,'' Ellis told Ali biographer Thomas Hauser.
"We'd sparred a thousand rounds together and I knew him good. There was
nothing he could do that I hadn't seen before.''

Their relationship went back to the mid-1950s, when both were teenagers. The
son of a Baptist lay minister, Ellis one night watched a friend lose to a
brash young fighter named Cassius Clay Jr. on an amateur card in Louisville.

"You sure did take a whippin','' Ellis said to his friend. "I could beat
that guy.''

"You think you're so smart,'' said the friend, "you come down to the gym and
we'll see.''
So he did. He began training under Al Allen, an old-timer on the
then-vibrant Louisville boxing scene. And soon enough, sometime in 1956, he
found himself in the ring with Clay (who, of course, later changed his named
to Muhammad Ali).

"We fought twice against each other in the amateurs,'' Ellis said. "I was
older, by two years, but he was bigger than me even then. The first time we
fought, he won. It was close, but he got the decision, the first time I had
ever lost. Then we fought again, and it was close, but I won. After that, we
became friends.''

While attending Central High (where Clay also was a student), Ellis posted a
brilliant boxing record while also playing basketball, baseball and
football. Married in 1957, Ellis became a professional fighter in 1961.

In November 1964, after losing a split decision to George Benton, Ellis was
ready to quit fighting and devote all of his time and energy to his job with
a concrete company. He had a wife and four children to support, and --
unlike Ali, who had become the world champion -- he seemed to be going
nowhere in the ring.

One night he sat down at his kitchen table and wrote a letter to Angelo
Dundee, the Miami-based trainer who was working with Ali. After Ellis signed
the letter, asking Dundee to take over his training, he added, "P.S.

With Ali's approval, Dundee invited Ellis to come to Miami. Between his own
fights, Ellis served as his old friend's No. 1 sparring partner.

"We were good for each other,'' Ellis said. "He knew I always gave my best
and he always had to defend himself, because, if he didn't, I'd tag him. I
made him work, he made me work, and we got better together.''

After Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to be drafted into the U.S.
Army, the World Boxing Association put on an eight-fighter tournament to
determine who would inherit Ali's crown. One of the eight was Ellis.

"I got down on my knees before the WBA Tournament started,'' Ellis said in a
1969 interview, "and I prayed, and asked for the strength to become the
heavweight champion.''

His prayers were answered on April 27, 1968, when he beat Jerry Quarry in a
15-round decision to win the title. Nobody was happier for him than Ali.

After a successful defense against Floyd Patterson on Sept. 14, 1968, in
Stockholm, Ellis signed up for a consolidation title fight against Joe
Frazier, who owned the World Boxing Council share of the title.

They met on Feb. 16, 1970, in New York's Madison Square Garden. The
relentless Frazier knocked out Ellis in the fifth round. A little more than
a year later in the same arena, Frazier took a 15-round decision from Ali,
who had been reinstated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably in his
draft-evasion case.

After losing to Frazier, Ellis won three more fights to set up his match
with Ali in Houston. For all they had in common, they were religious
opposites. While Ali had become a devout Muslim, Ellis remained just as
strong a Baptist. He even sang in his church's choir.

Whenever Ali's hangers-on would badger Ellis about their religious
differences, Ali always would say, ``Jimmy is my friend and that's it.
Whatever he wants to do is his business.''
The fight was a good one. Ellis hung tough until the 12th round, when Ali
finally knocked him out with a right hand over an Ellis jab. Afterward, they
shook hands and congratulated each other.

>From there they took divergent paths, Ali moving on down the road to
immortality and Ellis, his best years gone, heading inexorably toward the
obscurity from whence he sprang.

When he retired in 1975 after being poked in the eye by a sparring partner,
Ellis had a 40-12-1 record as a pro. But he had the satisfaction of knowing
that he had held his own against the best of his generation.

"Ali stands alone,'' ex-fighter Marcus Anderson told The Courier-Journal in
a 1997 interview, "but you've got to mention Ellis. He never ducked anybody.
When he fought, he came to fight. And he fought during a time when there
were great fighters.''

                             MUHAMMAD ALI ON WHEATIES BOX

(The Associated Press, Feb. 4, 1999)

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, the first man to win the heavyweight title three
times, is being commemorated on the Wheaties box.

General Mills Inc. said Thursday that its 12-ounce special-edition Ali
Wheaties box is being offered nationwide in February to coincide with Black
History month.

"Muhammad Ali is quite possibly the most recognized sports figure of our
time," said Jim Murphy, Wheaties marketing manager.

Ali, self-described during his boxing career as "The Greatest," was born in
Louisville, Ky., in 1942. Then named Cassius Clay Jr., he won the light
heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games.

Four years later, he defeated Sonny Liston in the sixth round for the world
heavyweight title. Following that fight, he announced that he had accepted
the teachings of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Ali's career was interrupted when he was stripped of his title for refusing
to register for the draft, but Ali recaptured the heavyweight crown by
stopping George Foreman in 1974, and regained the title again in 1978 by
defeating Leon Spinks.

After boxing, Ali became involved in numerous humanitarian efforts.   In
1996, Ali, who has Parkinson's disease, thrilled people around the world by
lighting the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremonies of the Atlanta
Olympic Games.

"My career demonstrates that everyone should follow their dreams," Ali said.

"Growing up in Louisville, it would have been difficult to believe that I
would win the heavyweight title three times. Now, I'm honored that Wheaties
has chosen to recognize me with my own box."

                             OSCAR-IKE A RESPECTFUL MATCH

(New York Daily News, February 21, 1999)

By Bill Gallo

I've had a whole week to reflect on Oscar De La Hoya's win over Ike Quartey
last week, but my opinion is the same today as it was after the 12th round

I thought the fight belonged to De La Hoya and it was the last round that
earned it for him. It was a very good fight and both boxers made it that
way. Unlike some recent pay-per-view shows, this one was well worth the cash

A good night at the fights is when the matchmaking is right. Good
matchmaking once took some artful thinking and I hope we return to those
days. I don't know if the new breed of matchmakers is anywhere as good as
Teddy Brenner was. Teddy always said: "Remember, you're putting on a show
and you want to give the customers their money's worth. The best kind of
match you can make is one where you yourself wonder which is the better

This one, pitting two punchers who box almost equally well, made for as good
a match as you can get. Forget the odds in De La Hoya's favor, this was a
tough call. For the record, I picked De La Hoya by a knockout in the eighth
but that was more a stab than it was thought out. Besides, as one-time
boxing sage Mushky McGee once said: "Who knows from picking fights?"
I watched it in my living room with two friends. One was a big fight fan all
his life, and the other is a former fighter, so I was in the best of

Before the bout got started there was the usual fight jargon: "I like this
kid, De La Hoya," said the fight fan, "But he's finally fighting somebody
and this is going to tell us something."

"For sure, because I've seen Quartey fight and he's really going to test
this guy," said the fighter. I asked him how he thought Oscar was going to
treat his opponent in the beginning rounds. "With respect," he said. "And
that's exactly what any guy who knows how to fight should do."
I thought about that and asked the fighter if he had ever seen anybody not
having any kind of repect for his opponent. "Only one guy," he said. "He was
the exception."

I should've guessed when he said, "Rocky Marciano didn't give a damn who was
in front of him or what the guy was bringing, if anything, into the ring
with him."

In 1952 when Rocky took the crown from Jersey Joe Walcott, onlookers saw the
ultimate of one man's disregard for the other. There in Philadelphia's
Municipal Stadium was Marciano taking the best shots from Walcott for 12

It was a brutal battle which saw Jersey Joe decking Rocky with a left hook
in the first round. Round after round, as blood flowed free from the wounds
on both fighters, they went at it shot for shot. It was a hell of a match.
Marciano had a cut at the bridge of his nose and another on his forehead,
while Walcott suffered an early slice over his left eye.

Walcott was leading, going into that fatal 13th round but Rocky, head down,
kept coming. All of a sudden, while Walcott was coming in, Rocky met him
with a tremendous right hand to the jaw. It was just one bashing blow,
draping Jersey Joe on the lower strands of rope and with only some 40
seconds left, he was counted out.

In Marciano we now had a new heavyweight champion. The crown was all his.
Fortunately for boxing, there were no alphabet soups then and Rocky walked
the streets like the king he was. He kept his crown until he retired
undfeated in 1956. The heavyweight record of 49-0 may never be broken - one
reason being heavyweights of today rarely have that many fights anymore.
I've often wondered how Rocky would've fared against today's heavyweights.
You have to realize that here was one tough, undefeated fighter who, when he
successfully defended his title those six times, never weighed more than 185

Marciano once told me that he never felt fear at any time in the ring. I
believed him and I also sensed that he never once had any respect for any of
his foes.

Sorry for getting carried away looking back. But they were memorable years.
Now, back to Quartey-De La Hoya:

The fight is now over and the three of us - the fight fan, the ex-fighter
and myself - are in accord: Oscar wins it because of his 12th round
onlslaught. He had Quartey on the deck and pretty near knocked him out.
"That's what good fighters are supposed to do," says the ex-fighter. "You
win when you have to win. And De La Hoya had to win that last round."
The fight I'd like to see next is De La Hoya-Trinidad. That's great
matchmaking, one Teddy Brenner would've made.
My two friends agree.

                                PUNCH LINES: BERGER ON BOXING

(Reviews of a book by Phil Berger)

Berger, one of the country's most renowned sportswriters -- novelist Robert
Stone called him "the last boxing writer" -- profiles dozens of boxing
figures in over 20 articles, some original, some reprinted from magazines.
Among those discussed are Mike Tyson, Don King, Sugar Ray Leonard, Gerry
Cooney, Leon Spinks, George Foreman, Hector Camacho, and many more.

"Many of Berger's subjects are good people in a dirty, merciless business;
others are a perfect fit for the seamy milieu. No judgements are passed, but
Berger provides enough facts and impressions for readers to draw their own
conclusions. Excellent sports journalism." --Booklist

"Mr. Berger is refreshingly unsentimental about the fighters, trainers,
promoters and hustlers he has encountered." --Allen Barra, The New York
Times Book Review

"PUNCH LINES is certainly the best boxing book of the year so far, and is
going to take some beating. Highly recommended." --John Exshaw, Boxing

"He writes about the hipsters and the hustlers, Vegas and Atlantic City and
the high rollers who dropped 100Gs at the tables, all in pursuit of a lousy
$1,000 ringside seat. ... He writes about dreams -- the ones that are
fulfilled and the elusive ones -- and he writes about promoters carting
sacks of cash to the bank, when they should be going to jail. ... Berger
makes the reader feel the pain and smell the liniment." --Pete Coutros, New
York Post

"The articles ... offer the reader a primer on recent boxing history.
Recommended for boxing collections." --Library Journal