THREE BRITS WHO LIT UP THE GARDEN Sunday Times, London, Eng., March 7, 1999 By Alan English Jack 'Kid' Berg vs. Tony Canzoneri, 1930 Jack "Kid" Berg, the son of Jewish immigrants from Odessa, was born Judah Bergman above a London fish and chip shop in 1909 and was the first British boxer to gain widespread celebrity in the United States. They called him the Whitechapel Windmill because of his dynamic style; he was a slugger, an in-fighter who, in one contest, was reported to have thrown 2,500 punches in 10 rounds. Of Berg's 192 fights, perhaps his best was the defeat of the formidable Tony Canzoneri in January, 1930 at Madison Square Garden. It was a non-title fight Berg won the world junior welterweight title in his next fight, a month later, when he beat Mushy Callahan in London but 19,000 turned up. Berg was the 16-5 under dog against an opponent whose physical conditioning was far superior. In the first round, Canzoneri found his man with destructive punches. After surviving the round, Berg changed his fight plan and abandoned his misguided attempts to out-box the stylish Canzoneri. As a result, Canzoneri was battered for the rest of the fight. Barely able to keeps his hands up by the end, he was shown no mercy by Berg, who lacked only a knockout punch. The two met again for the world lightweight title which Canzoneri had subsequently won. This time, in Chicago, the American won in three rounds. They fought for a third time back at the Garden in September, 1931; Berg lost narrowly on points. Tommy Farr vs. James Braddock, 1938 Tommy Farr, the Tonypandy Terror, had be come a British national hero on the back of a courageous performance when losing to Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium, New York, in August, 1937, a fight many thousands back home listened to on wirelesses. Farr thought he might have got a decision and blamed British boxing writers ("real fatherless men") for spreading the word that he was a dirty fighter. As a result, he said, the wary referee would not allow him to box in his normal way. He also claimed his manager, Ted Broadribb, had done "everything possible to make me lose." When his eyes were cut Broadribb had produced "an unknown mixture" which blinded him for two rounds. His chances of a rematch hung on the contest with the former world heavyweight champion James Braddock at Madison Square Garden in January, 1938. A second Louis fight might have brought Farr £100,000; a year previously he had topped the bill at Bristol for a purse of £45. The preparations were typical of the shenanigans that accompanied Farr throughout his career. After Broadribb had been refused entry at the weigh-in, Farr was handed a writ for libel by one of his sparring partners, Mickey Shaw. Farr's reaction after the fight, which resulted in another points loss after the referee used his casting vote, was also typical. From his hotel room he allegedly dictated an "exclusive cable gram" to the News of the World. At 2,000 words, it must have been expensive, but it must also stand as the fanciest elaboration by any fighter on the theme of "I wuz robbed." The cable read: "Blindly I had gone from the ring bruised and stunned by the worst punch I have ever taken in my life. The blow came from no world champion, past or present; from no gloved fist or bare knuckles. It was the blow for which no counter or defence has yet been discovered. The blow of the raw deal." Ken Buchanan vs. Roberto Duran, 1972 In June, 1972, Ken Buchanan was offered £48,000 by the owners of Madison Square Garden to defend his world lightweight title against Roberto Duran, a 21-year-old from Panama. Buchanan said he wasn't sure that the undefeated Duran, who had scored 24 knockouts in 28 fights, was deserving of a title shot. "He really hasn't fought anyone of note," the Scot said. "There are probably other lightweights who are more deserving." But the money convinced him. That year a survey of Britain's top earners placed him at the top with an income of £120,000 a year, ahead of Jackie Stewart, Mick Jagger and Tony Jacklin, who all earned £20,000 less. (Edward Heath, the prime minister, was on £14,000.) Duran, managed by 72-year-old Ray Arcel, who had trained Kid Berg four decades previously, boasted before the fight: "I'll take him in nine rounds." His prediction was out by four rounds, but Duran's performance thrilled his compatriots among the 18,800 crowd, witnesses to one of the greatest fights seen at the Garden. Like Farr before him, Buchanan cried foul. He claimed Duran floored him after the bell in the 13th round with a knee to the groin. Duran denied it, claiming it was a punch to the abdomen. Buchanan, who had been well behind on points, was not allowed to continue and was further embittered by Duran's refusal to grant him a rematch.
HERBERT A. (HYPE) IGOE, FIGHT WRITER (New York Times, February 12, 1945) Herbert A. (Hype) Igoe, veteran sports writer and cartoonist, died at 6:45 o'clock last evening in Flushing Hospital, where he had been since Jan. 22 as a result of a heart ailment that had troubled him for more than a year. He was 67 years old. Regarded as particularly well-informed on boxing, Mr. Igoe had been the friend of virtually all the champions, from the days of James J. Corbett to the present. He started his newspaper career at the age of 15 on the San Francisco Examiner, being advanced later to the news staff of the paper. He came to New York shortly after the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 and, after brief service on the Evening Journal, he joined the World, where for many years he conducted a column, "Pardon My Glove," the title of which is said to have been suggested to him by Irving Berlin. Eighteen years ago, he returned to the Journal, and was a member of the staff of that paper, now the Journal-American, at his death. The nickname, "Hype," which he used so consistently that many readers believed it to be his real name, was fastened on him in his early days in San Francisco, when his extreme slimness caused an elevator operator to remark that he looked like a hypodermic needle. Subsequently, the nickname was popularized by his associates, including the late Thomas A. (Ted) Dorgan, the cartoonist. Other friends, including Damon Runyon, the writer, recalled last night that "Hype" had originally been a cartoonist, good enough so that he would probably have made a name for himself, had he not decided that he liked writing better. Throughout his writing career, however, he drew the illustrations for many of his own stories. It was as a writer and as a figure in the sports life of the country that he was principally known. He was a close friend of former heavyweight champion James J. Corbett and at one time was the manager of Stanley Ketchel. In this connection it was recalled by friends that he once went to Ludlow Street Jail rather than pay a judgment connected with Ketchel's training expenses, and was greeted on his release by sports celebrities attired in convict's striped suits. The celebrities gave him a "coming-out party" at Healy's restaurant. So well did he know boxing, friends said last night, that he failed only once in his career to forecast the outcome of a heavyweight championship contest. The exception was in 1926, when he picked Jack Dempsey to knock out Gene Tunney in their first bout at Philadelphia. Tunney won on points. Among Mr. Igoe's peculiariteis were two which caused him some difficulty. He liked to play the ukulele, and in his early days, at least he did not like to wear an overcoat. The first peculiarity caused him to be barred for a time from Jack's restaurant, where the management objected to his leading the waiters in song. His dislike for overcoats, which led him to place a newspaper under his ordinary summer jacket in cold weather, brought him several attacks of pneumonia. At least one of these was severe enough so that he was given the last rites of the church, friends recalled. In later years, however, he dressed more conventionally. Mr. Igoe was born at Santa Cruz, Calif. He leaves a widow and four children, living at his former home.
FOOTSTEPS OF AGE DOG HOLYFIELD (San Jose Mercury News, March 9, 1999) By Michael Martinez He is not the type to talk about retirement, at least not now, with a big fight just days away and his mind focused on so many other things. But the subject comes up often enough these days that Evander Holyfield can't avoid it anymore. Sooner or later he knows he will have to acknowledge his age, that he will have to surrender to the ravages of his profession. When? Holyfield won't say. Even after so many battles in the ring, he is not quite ready to give in or give up. If the time is near, he refuses to acknowledge it. Later perhaps. All that matters now is Saturday night, when he will attempt to unify boxing's heavyweight title by fighting Lennox Lewis at Madison Square Garden. The winner will lay claim to the belts sanctioned by the sport's three primary federations the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation and thus will unify the title for the first time in seven years. This is clearly what drives Holyfield. Although he will turn 37 by year's end, he is more likely to discuss his future as champion than his impending past. Quitting isn't an option. "After this fight is over, I might have to make a decision,'' he said, conceding the possibility of another brutish war. "But I'm not getting ready to retire now. It would be something for me to talk about later because I know I have to focus on other goals.'' In his 15 years as a professional, Holyfield, who currently holds the WBA and IBF titles, has engaged in some vicious bouts, most notably three against former champ Riddick Bowe. In the past seven years, he has fought 12 times, with six lasting 12 rounds. He has been knocked down and knocked out, and his body has absorbed an inordinate amount of punches for someone who is considered small by heavyweight standards. His career almost appeared over in November 1995 when he suffered a knockout loss to Bowe and doctors subsequently discovered a heart problem. But Holyfield, later claiming he was healed by a church minister, returned just six months later to knock out Bobby Czyz. Since then, he has never willingly discussed retirement, even if his allies think he should. Last week, his trainer, Don Turner, said he believes Holyfield will not fight beyond this year. "The plan is to beat Lewis, then have one more fight, and that's it,'' Turner said. "We will all talk to him about it. . . . I don't think he'll be fighting in the year 2000, but that's just me.'' Turner is not alone in his belief that Holyfield's career is near an end. Others in the sport think it is inadvisable for Holyfield, who has a 35-3 record and has boxed 263 rounds, to keep fighting. "There's no reason for him to be fighting,'' said Gil Clancy, who is Oscar De La Hoya's co-trainer. "In his last fight with Vaughn Bean and with Bobby Czyz (in 1996), he looked just awful. He got himself back together to fight (Mike) Tyson, but Tyson was a completely different challenge. "Evander's had so many tough fights. One night, all of a sudden, it's all going to catch up to him.'' Holyfield does not believe that night is close, and he might be right. Some of his best fights, especially his 11th-round knockout of Tyson two years ago, have been in recent years, and that has validated his belief that he seems to improve with age. He has company, too. Pitcher Nolan Ryan was 46 when he retired from baseball in 1993, having won 71 games after the age of 40. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still throwing in sky hooks at age 42, and Steve Young, who will be 38 in October, continues to be among the NFL's best quarterbacks. Occasionally, even boxers survive the hardships of training and fighting. George Foreman was 45 when he won the heavyweight title in 1994. So why shouldn't Holyfield keep boxing as long as he keeps winning? "Holyfield, to me, is just a remarkable guy,'' said Angelo Dundee, 75, who served as Muhammad Ali's trainer for more than 20 years and is celebrating his 50th year in boxing. "The guy is body beautiful. He doesn't look 36 years old; physically, he looks 22. These big guys bang on him, and he bangs back. He's resilient.'' Even so, it's likely the years have taken a toll not just because of Holyfield's age, but because his fights are so brutal and so taxing. He has always been willing to take a punch in order to give one back, and his refusal to surrender while being the hallmark of his wondrous career might also be the reason he can't sustain much more punishment. "It's a combination of everything he's gone through,'' said Jeff Grmoja, a veteran trainer and cutman who lives in Union City. "The number of amateur fights, the rounds of sparring, the types of fights you've had were they easy or tough? Did they go the distance? Did they end in knockouts? The culmination of all that on the body eventually catches up to you. "You start to see signs that guys can't get out of the way, they don't have bounce in their legs anymore, their punches are a little bit late. I've listened to Holyfield do some interviews, and I even detect a slight slur. All these signs are indicative of the clock running down.'' But Holyfield insists he's not worried about becoming punch drunk, or about becoming like Ali, whose Parkinson's Disease has been linked to his boxing career. "I'm not afraid of becoming like Ali,'' he said. "I'm not Ali. One thing I can say is that I'm getting better with age. If I consider stopping boxing, it's because the Lord has released me and my time is up. I'll be ready to go to something better. I'm not fighting because of money; I'm fighting because of purpose.'' Holyfield, who is Christian, has often said he fights simply to spread the word of God. But he will also be paid $20 million for fighting Lewis, a point that did not escape the WBC champion. "He wants to be a billionaire,'' Lewis said recently. "This is the way to do it fight until you don't have any brains left.'' Last week, in a conference call with reporters, Lewis added, "Everybody has their own limit and their own time, and I believe (Holyfield) knows his time. The only point I want to stress is that when Evander fights, it's a war and he receives a lot of punches. It's a battle for him.'' Only Holyfield knows their total effect, but Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer and a friend of Holyfield, said he believes their accumulation has been heavy. "All the great fights Evander has been in and that's what has made him one of my favorite fighters to watch he's paid a price for that,'' Steward said. "That's why he's called a warrior. He's been hit and come back, and he's been cut in at least three fights that I know of. "I still have a very close feeling with Evander and his family, and based on that, if I was involved (as an adviser), he would not be fighting Lennox Lewis. He would've retired after the (second) fight with Tyson. I would've given him one more fight for the public, but that's it.'' Instead, Holyfield is talking about a world tour he has always dreamed of fighting in South Africa and about satisfying all three boxing organizations' mandatory challenges. That would mean a minimum of three bouts a year. For Saturday's fight, he has even broken new ground, vowing to knock out Lewis in the third round. "I'm not boasting,'' he said. "I'm speaking the truth. Boasting is being proud, being arrogant. I'm not saying he's not a good fighter. He is, and he'll do well, but I'm still gonna knock him out in the third round. It's Evander telling the truth. I'm putting myself out on a limb.'' He may be doing that simply by stepping through the ropes, but Holyfield is showing no inclination to retire any time soon. "I think he'll fight until he gets tired of fighting,'' Turner said. "I can remember back in 1991, we were at a bowling alley and he said he'd like to do it five more years. That was eight years ago. "He's been written off before, but I don't see any deterioration. Somewhere, he reached down and got the fountain of youth.''
SPOTLIGHT BACK ON THE GARDEN (Philadelphia Daily News, March 9, 1999) By Bernard Fernandez It is less money than the New York Yankees will pay several of their starting players this season, but the decision by the parent company of Madison Square Garden to put up $8 million for the rights fee to Saturday night's heavyweight unification bout between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis sent a loud, clear and unmistakable message. The Garden, near death as a boxing venue just a few short years ago, is back and full of fight. "Madison Square Garden always has been synonymous with boxing's biggest events," said Kevin Wynne, vice president of MSG Sports. "We want to capitalize on our rich tradition. In landing this very important bout, we are making a statement that the Garden is still the rightful home of big-time boxing. We would like our future to be every bit as bright as our past." The Garden's level of brightness is relative to which part of the past is being referenced. The first Madison Square Garden opened in 1879, but it wasn't until after the 1890 opening of the second of four Gardens that boxing became as much a part of the New York scene as Times Square and Nathan's hot dogs. Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey's second-round knockout of Luis Angel Firpo on Sept. 14, 1923 voted the most dramatic sports moment of the first half of the 20th century established the Garden as perhaps boxing's most important site, the place where great fighters engaged in historic fights. "The Garden has always been No. 1," said former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, whose first of three meetings with Muhammad Ali, on March 8, 1971, was perhaps the most anticipated prizefight of all time and was staged in, natch, boxing's mecca. "Me and 'The Butterfly' [ Ali ] could have fought anywhere and it would have been huge, but it being in the Garden made it that much more special." By the early 1990s, however, that rich tradition had become soiled and shabby. Few fights were being staged in the Garden's 20,000-seat main arena, and what few cards that were held on the premises were shuttled into the 5,000-seat Paramount (now known as The Theater at Madison Square Garden). When the ax fell on MSG's small and underfinanced boxing division in May 1993, it was as if someone had announced plans to raze the Empire State Building and put up a taco stand. "It was a corporate decision," Bob Goodman, who headed MSG Boxing and is now director of boxing for Don King Productions, said at the time. "Paramount then MSG's parent company ] is in the bottom-line business and the fact is that we have not made money on boxing. There was some bleeding, in a financial sense, and I guess someone decided it would be easier to kill the patient than to come up with a larger Band-Aid." In addition to a desire to slash the sport's high operating costs, Paramount executives were said to be aghast at the testimony given by Sammy "The Bull" Gravano to a Senate committee investigating corruption in boxing. The mere hint of scandal, one might presume, was upsetting to a corporation that fancied itself a purveyor of family entertainment. But boxing in the Garden, as it turned out, had not been killed outright. It was merely in a state of suspended animation. What was needed to breathe new life into the old franchise were several changes of ownership, from ITT, which was more boxing- friendly than Paramount had been, to Cablevision Systems Corp., whose deep-pocketed owner, Chuck Dolan, absolutely loves the idea of his crown jewel of an arena again being recognized as the fight game's control center. The Garden's comeback began on Dec. 15, 1995, when Oscar De La Hoya stopped Jesse James Leija in two rounds before a national HBO audience and 16,027 on-site spectators. Since then, MSG has hosted fights involving Holyfield, Lewis, Roy Jones Jr., Riddick Bowe, "Prince" Naseem Hamed and, on Feb. 20, the International Boxing Federation welterweight title clash between champion Felix Trinidad and four-time former world champ Pernell Whitaker, a tasty appetizer just three weeks before the main course featuring Holyfield, the World Boxing Association and IBF champion, and Lewis, who holds the World Boxing Council title. "We will aggressively go after other major boxing events," Wynne promised, "and we will get them." Cablevision has ample resources and is willing to spread them around its myriad sporting enterprises. The payrolls of the Garden's two primary occupants, the NBA's Knicks and the NHL's Rangers, both owned by Cablevision, are among the highest in their respective sports, and Dolan, rebuffed in his efforts to purchase controlling interest in the Yankees from George Steinbrenner, reportedly has offered $600 million to the Mets. But even Dolan and his point man, Garden president Dave Checketts, don't have unfettered access to every big fight they want. The casino-hotels of Las Vegas and Atlantic City can overpay for events in anticipation of heavy pit drops from high rollers, and the cost of doing business in New York is, as always, a steep hurdle to overcome. If you don't think so, try comparing the price of hotel rooms in midtown Manhattan with those in Vegas. Wynne, however, believes fighters and promoters will continue to choose the Garden if they step back and see the big picture. "There's always a trade-off," Wynne said. "You have to give up something to gain something. New York is the media capital of the world. When 'Prince' Naseem fought here, he became an instant sensation with American boxing fans. I don't if that would have been the case had he made his U.S. debut anywhere else."