- - Sunday, June 2, 2019


NEW YORK — It was a big weekend in New York for fat guys in boxing.

Saturday night, Andy Ruiz reminded everyone that boxing is not a body-building competition, as the doughy last-minute challenger upset the undefeated Greek god, Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden with a seventh-round knockout to win several versions of the heavyweight championship.

The night before, about 12 blocks away at the Copacabana, yours truly was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America with the Nat Fleischer award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism. You don’t have to be a Greek god to write great boxing stories, either, though the statue that is part of the massive award does include what appears to be a Greek boxer — an impressive physical specimen.

Neither Andy Ruiz or I are impressive physical specimens. But we left New York as champions.

Ruiz is a heavyweight champion for these times, a young man with heart who knows a few things about fighting. Given the sorry state of heavyweight boxing, that puts a championship belt around your waist.

Joshua is the Brit who won the International Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Organization by stopping 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko in 11 rounds two years ago.

Since then, those who pretend heavyweight boxing is competitive and worthy of your attention have been waiting for Joshua to fight undefeated World Boxing Council heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder, who throws punches as if he was in a road rage video. Hard punches, yes. But championship caliber? Not if you recognize what championship heavyweight boxing is.

The Boxing Writers Association of America said I do Friday night with the award named for Nat Fleischer, the legendary boxing writer and Ring Magazine editor.

There was this bank robber back in the Roaring 20s called Willie Sutton. He kept robbing banks, getting caught, escaping, robbing banks and getting caught.

He was asked, “Willie, why do you keep robbing banks?”

Sutton answered, “Because that’s where the money is.”

So why did I choose to write about boxing? Because that’s where the stories are.

It’s no coincidence that Hollywood loves boxing more than any other sport, because the life of a boxer is often filled with rich humanity and inhumanity, and that drama that goes along with both.

I feel very fortunate to have found my place in between all that drama and had the chance to chronicle it as best as I could.

I arrived at The Washington Times — and at the boxing beat — at the right time in 1992. Boxing in Washington was about to enter a golden age. Riddick Bowe had moved to suburban Washington and was about to become heavyweight championship. That was a gift. At his first title defense at the Garden in New York against Michael Dokes, I convinced Rock Newman to let me spend the day of the fight with Bowe — right up until the last two minutes in the dressing room before he came out to the arena.

The best part of that gift, though, was getting to know one of the greatest men I’ve ever met — Bowe’s trainer, the legendary Eddie Futch. I spent many hours with Eddie talking about a life that dated back to sparring with Joe Louis, talking strategy and fights and was fortunate enough to get a lot of it on tape. I miss Eddie Futch. If there had been an office for a national wise man, Eddie Futch would have been a natural.

The boxing scene in Washington was rich with champions, and I was lucky enough to cover all of them — William Joppy, Keith Holmes, Simon Brown, Sharmba Mitchell, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and many other contenders. I thank all of them for the opportunity to chronicle their dramas. They helped me have that big night in New York Friday.

Here is also what helped — my fellow boxing writers who welcomed me into their remarkable fraternity.

One night in Vegas before that Holyfield-Holmes fight, I ventured into the nearly-mythical writers hangout, The Flame. There at the end of the bar sat Eddie Schuyler of the Associated Press, Pat Putnam from Sports Illustrated and Mike Katz from the New York Daily News. For me, it was like being a rookie ballplayer in New York in the 1950s, walking into a bar and seeing Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider sitting at the other end. By the end of the night I was in the club. But make no mistake about it, to stay in the club, your work had to be impressive enough to get their attention.

That was the best part of this job — the writers. Working alongside the likes of the late Dave Anderson, Tom Archdeacon, Wally Matthews, Bernard Fernandez, Ron Borges, Tim Dahlberg, the late Royce Feour, Tim Smith, my Washington colleague, Bill Gildea — all past Fleischer award winners — along with others on the beat made press row special. I’ve covered many sports in many press boxes. None are equal to the talent and camaraderie I often felt from those boxing scribes.

I wasn’t at ringside Saturday night for the fight. I’m guessing most of them weren’t at the Garden either. The business has changed.

But Andy Ruiz can say he is the heavyweight champion of the world, like Ali and Joe Frazier and George Foreman and other greats in the history of the division. And no matter how the business has changed, there was a time when I was ringside covering great heavyweight fights with the best in the business. I’ve got the hardware to remind me.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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