Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Adeyinka Makinde on Steve Bunce’s BBC Radio London Boxing Hour Show, August 12th 2010


Steve Bunce: I start tonight with a bit of a boxing gem. This one came out of the blue a few weeks ago and I chased it up; grabbed a hold of the two books. And I've read one of them –I haven't read the second one. The second one is going to be about a guy called Dick Tiger. I was always a fan of Dick Tiger. Obviously I never saw him fight in the flesh, but I could always remember watching two or three of his fights; especially the one he lost –the only time he got knocked out; so that's not particularly good. But I also calculated that he was at least thirty-nine or forty; probably even older. But what really struck me in this classic piece of old colour film at Madison Square Garden on the first night of the new Garden or some sort of deal like that; It was a great big night; was that he had on this robe; a big robe. Of course he wasn't even that big; he just seemed big, was that had on it 'Biafra' –not Nigeria. It always struck me as an intriguing piece of history. Anyway, the guy that wrote that then got interested in the life of a guy called Frankie DePaula. Now again, you might have to google and do some searches for this guy. His life was very, very entertaining. I knew about Frankie DePaula. I knew about the whole Mob involvement –sorry, I didn't know about it, but I'd heard about it, which is why we're talking about the book in a few moments. Anyway, DePaula and Dick Tiger fought each other and they actually got The Ring 'Fight of the Year.' Now that's a really rare thing that The Ring Fight of the Year isn't involved with a title. In fact, I might do a bit of research on that; I imagine we're talking very, very low numbers because generally it's a title fight of some description. Anyway, they were involved in a major fight and were both down a couple of times –we'll talk to the author about that in a few moments who'll give us the exact details- and then this guy, Frankie DePaula managed to get a title fight against the great Bob Foster and he got done in a round. He didn't get clipped with a proper shot but it's probably not for us to say whether he got clipped with a proper shot. But what he did get was clipped afterwards. He got shot and then he died. But he didn't die suddenly, I didn't know this, he wasted away in (hospital). There are amazing turns and twists in the book. The book's called Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula by Ade Makinde who I'm delighted to say is in the studio with me. Ade, welcome to the show.

Adeyinka Makinde: Thanks Steve.

Steve Bunce: We'll talk about the Jersey Boy book first, Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula first, and then we'll talk about a bit about Dick Tiger if we can. Now what inspired you to write the DePaula book. Was it just the fact that he came up while you were doing the Dick Tiger research.

Adeyinka Makinde: Little bit more than that. I'd read about him in Boxing Babylon, which was a...

Steve Bunce: ...Nigel Collins book...

Adeyinka Makinde: ...that's right. I think I read it as a serialisation in Burt Sugar's Boxing Illustrated so that was in mind. His name came up in my research of Dick Tiger. They fought this amazing battle at Madison Square Garden. They were both on the floor; on the canvas, twice apiece. Amazing, hellacious fight. And so when I had the Dick Tiger website going, I had a special section for DePaula. It was an amazing bout. After the book was released, DePaula's son discovered that and got in touch me and told me that he would like me to write a book on his father. And I said, "Hang on, I can't do that". You know, he died when he was thirty years old, what I'm I going to do about that?

Steve Bunce: And the thing is Ade, were you born in Nigeria?

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes

Steve Bunce: So you are Nigerian.

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes

Steve Bunce: Dick Tiger was a Nigerian stroke Biafran depending on what time in history we are talking about, because he was definitely a Biafran at that time although he was a Nigerian in the general scheme of things, but Frankie DePaula is certainly not a Nigerian...

Adeyinka Makinde: (Laughs)

Steve Bunce: He certainly wasn't raised in Liverpool or London like you and Dick Tiger were; so it was a bit of a cultural step to start tracking down Frankie DePaula's history.

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes, I suppose so. I was speaking to the son of one of the Mob guys that I mention in the book, James Napoli...

Steve Bunce: Jimmy Nap! Oh, fantastic!

Adeyinka Makinde: What a character! I don't know if you have any kind of character like that in your book?

Steve Bunce: I've only got characters like that in my book...

Adeyinka Makinde: Well, 'Jimmy Nap' was the guy I would say who was there between Frankie Carbo, 'Blinky' Parlemo and the time when they had the I.B.C., and the coming of Don King and Bob Arum. I would say he was the guy in the interim period...

Steve Bunce: ...that made it happen. You needed to go through Jimmy Nap to get any where...

Adeyinka Makinde: Exactly.

Steve Bunce: And Frankie was very involved, or was he very involved? Do we just assume that he was involved because he was 'DePaula'? Name like that?

Adeyinka Makinde: He was an associate. He did hang around mobsters. He started like Rocky, the fictional character; he was a mob collector. You know, like gambling debts and all those sort of tithes that local business people would have to pay to a Mafia Don.

Steve Bunce: Now as a fighter, he was obviously brave and he was tough, but he didn't train very hard. Sometimes he didn't train at all. But he did have a following and he could bang. He could punch.

Adeyinka Makinde: Absolutely, that was his main strength. He was what they call a banger. He started off basically as a street fighter, which comes in handy if you're going to be a bouncer in a hard area like...

Steve Bunce: And an enforcer...

Adeyinka Makinde: Absolutely. You know, I talked to a lot of British people from that generation and they've read the book, and even before they read the book, I told them stories of Frankie DePaula and they'd say 'Oh blimey! Thank goodness I wasn't there; these guys are way harder than wot's down there at the East End mate'.

Steve Bunce: That whole period in North New Jersey; the whole Jersey City into Hoboken, obviously where Frank Sinatra was from. Sinatra was a 'friend' too strong a word? Associate? Knew him.

Adeyinka Makinde: Uhmm, definitely knew him. Definitely came to his fights. You know, we're talking about 'Jimmy Nap', we're talking about Frank Sinatra; all of these people come from the same (sort of) neighbourhood. And I must say that when we talk about Mob involvement of which there was no doubt that it took place, there is no doubt in the book that Frankie DePaula was involved with them. You've also got to think on the level that Italian-Americans like the Irish-Americans and Jewish-Americans were into boxing, and he would have come from a generation –'Jimmy Nap'- when you had neighbourhood champions before you got up to world champion level...

Steve Bunce: So you went over to watch them fight wherever they were fighting...

Adeyinka Makinde: Absolutely. And Sinatra was definitely a big boxing fan. I'm sure you know how he helped guys like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson financially.

Steve Bunce: He did. He did lots of things. I'd love to read a good Frankie Sinatra book one day. A really good one instead of the usual stuff. So, Frankie DePaula has this incredible fight with Dick Tiger who at the time is already established as a great fighter. He's already won the middleweight and he's about to win the light heavyweight...

Adeyinka Makinde: No, no. He's recently being dethroned by Bob Foster earlier in '68...

Steve Bunce: Ahh so he fights him after he loses to Bob Foster...

Adeyinka Makinde: That's right.

Steve Bunce: So he's won his middleweight title. He's won his light heavyweight title after this improbable –we'll talk about Dick Tiger in a moment- after this most improbable start. And it's a most unbelievable piece of British boxing history that is really undiscovered. It's the influx of West African fighters and Jamaican fighters in the fifties. I've been working on this and pitching this and talking to people about it for ten years. That fifties period was a great period. And I tell you why. My father was an amateur boxer who trained at St. Pancreas in North London. And they used to go into a gym in Fitzroy Square and inside this gym, it was known as a 'black' gym. In fact back then it was known as a 'coloured' gym. And in this gym, there were always Africans and Jamaicans. My dad used to go there and train sometimes because there was decent sparring. It was close to where he lived as opposed to the gym which was a little bit further away. And I've always been fascinated by that. By nineteen sixty; sixty one there being a gym in central London packed full of West Indian immigrant fighters and African fighters. And that's what Dick Tiger – we'll go onto that in a minute. I tend to do this a lot; float about. To be honest with you Ade, it's my show.

Adeyinka Makinde: (Laughs)

Steve Bunce: I can do what I like. If I speak to the guy in there (studio technician) and say that I want, I don't know, MacFadden and Whitehead, the disco version twelve minutes long; we'll have twelve minutes of that and then we'll come back in twelve minutes. But I wouldn't do that because there's a lot of people listening. It's a very popular show. So tell me about the 'Jersey Boy' DePaula when he finally gets into the ring with Bob Foster. What happens? What goes wrong?

Adeyinka Makinde: Well the first thing that is a bit curious is that he actually leaves Foster on the floor...

Steve Bunce: Right at the start of the fight...

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes.

Steve Bunce: Bizarre that...

Adeyinka Makinde: A lot of people look at that carefully and say that it was a bit of a shove

Steve Bunce: It was a punch-shove, but it's a punch...

Adeyinka Makinde: He was trying to dig for the body there

Steve Bunce: It's a shot then was off-balance but it that still counts as a shot...

Adeyinka Makinde: So Foster didn't like it...

Steve Bunce: To say the least...

Adeyinka Makinde: ...goes to the floor, but comes back after the mandatory eight (count). But then Frankie makes three quick descents. And of course, the New York boxing rules in those days stated that if you're down three times it doesn't matter if you're not groggy and looking like grandma on the whisky or whatever; you're out. And he didn't look too banged up. He'd taken harder punches from Dick Tiger.

Steve Bunce: Didn't have a shower. 'Can't have a shower. I don't deserve a shower'. He'd taken much harder punches from Dick Tiger and other people during his career. The thing is: did he complain? Did he moan? Did he scream? Did his corner moan, complain and scream?

Adeyinka Makinde: Not at all. They just said that the ring was 'a bit' slippery.

Steve Bunce: How? He sold all those ticket. He's an (Italian)-American fighting this great champion Bob Foster at the Garden in front of all these people. He had a following. Why weren't they going crazy? Why weren't they throwing things at the ring in disgust, Ade? I never understood that.

Adeyinka Makinde: That's a good one. I think they were just so shocked and disappointed about it...

Steve Bunce: And they got him out of the ring quick. A bit like Kevin Mitchell against the Australian kid, Michael Katsides. He (Mitchell) got bashed up for three rounds and it was over. And the crowd didn't realise. It was almost as if they were stunned. Maybe that...
Adeyinka Makinde: Possibly. I know that there were complaints...

Steve Bunce: Afterwards. Proper complaints

Adeyinka Makinde: But even (just after) the fight. Someone mentioned something like, "They ain't gonna make me pay two bucks to come and watch this". Actually, not two bucks; thirty bucks...

Steve Bunce: Yeah, decent price...

Adeyinka Makinde: For the 1960s. And I think Frankie's brother was somewhere in the stands and he punched this guy in the face...

Steve Bunce: Who suggested his brother was a bum, so he punched him. And then he goes back to Jersey City. Has a good night out if I'm not mistaken...

Adeyinka Makinde: Well, he goes to Manhattan actually, to a restaurant in the company of his manager Garafola and 'Jimmy Nap'. The guy who's pulling the strings...

Steve Bunce: Not with the teenage girlfriend at that stage.

Adeyinka Makinde: No. She hadn't yet shown up. The 'Mafia Princess'.

Steve Bunce: I've got to tell you about this book; I've written a work of fiction called 'The Fixer' set in the world of boxing, but this book is fact. And it's a cracking read. It's got some really good stuff in it and it's gone under the radar. You know that I'm a big fan of things that have gone under the radar. I like to drag things that have gone under the radars out. And this book has gone under the radar. So I'm doing my bit tonight -public service broadcasting BBC and all- to drag it out. So the Bob Foster fight is January 22nd 1969. He has two wins after that but he's already been charged with something...

Adeyinka Makinde: ...copper robbery and perjury...

Steve Bunce: ...and he gets shot in 1970 and he finally dies many months later...

Adeyinka Makinde: ...four months later...

Steve Bunce: It's a horrible, slow death.

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes

Steve Bunce: What happens when he's shot? What can you give away? Come on give us a clue. Did the bad guys do it Ade? Or was it inept hired hands or was it some locals that knew him? What's your gut feeling?

Adeyinka Makinde: It was the Mob leaders of Hoboken, New Jersey. I'll stick my neck out and say that.

Steve Bunce: This is going to be my next question. You're off to New Jersey soon aren't you?

Adeyinka Makinde: Hopefully

Steve Bunce: To do a bit of promoting. Is that not true?

Adeyinka Makinde: Yes.

Steve Bunce: Aren't you a little bit concerned because Ade, they live longer than they should...

Adeyinka Makinde: (Laughs)

Steve Bunce: I mean that. They done nothing but illegal drugs, eaten rich food and danced with their girlfriends who are often prostitutes. They have this incredible life and yet still live until they're eighty-five. So aren't you a little bit concerned? Because you do name a lot of names in the book Ade?

Adeyinka Makinde: A couple of them.

Steve Bunce: No, a few more than a couple, my friend...

Adeyinka Makinde: A lot of them are dead now.

Steve Bunce: Phew, thank God for that...

Adeyinka Makinde: John DiGilio, hard man, dead. Zicarelli, dead. 'Jimmy Nap', passed away.

Steve Bunce: Very old. Lived to an old age. Garafola's dead isn't he obviously?

Adeyinka Makinde: He's in a nursing home...

Steve Bunce: Oh so he's not dead. What of Garafola's son? If he's got one.

Adeyinka Makinde: He had one son who I know one of the people I interviewed was a bit cautious about saying things because he knew this particular son was a bit of a violent guy, but he died a few years ago.

Steve Bunce: We'll I'm not saying it's good he's dead but perhaps it's good he's dead for your health.

Adeyinka Makinde: I was there in 2007 and I had to 'steel' it

Steve Bunce: Let me just tell it; this book Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula by Ade Makinde is absolutely sensational. How can people get a hold of it Ade?

Adeyinka Makinde: Go to amazon dot com.

Steve Bunce: And get it that way...

Adeyinka Makinde: Get it that way. Also, you can go to your local bookshop. So google the ISBN number and then ask your local bookshop to order it.

Steve Bunce: So if you are listening online or if you are listening live, it's called Jersey Boy by Ade Makinde. So that's a good way to get it and also, amazon. Let's just talk a couple of seconds, if we can, about your Dick Tiger book. It came out a few years ago. And this guy Dick Tiger; how there's not been a movie made about this guy I don't know. How the Poet Laureate hasn't penned poems in honour of this guy. He is not just one of the best; one of the greatest champions in my opinion –if you look at his career overall, not just over a little two-year period, at the hardship this guy had to come through; he's right up there. He's in the top fifty of all fighters. Now, with regard to the position within Africa, there's only Azumah Nelson in my opinion that comes anywhere close to touching him and perhaps how difficult Dick Tiger's earlier life was going to Liverpool and losing all those early fights; having really no right to get to where he got in the end. How is Dick Tiger perceived back in Nigeria now considering his Biafran stance?

Adeyinka Makinde: Well, a largely forgotten man unfortunately...

Steve Bunce: That's a disgrace

Adeyinka Makinde: It is, because when you consider that in his lifetime before the war started he was the greatest hero Nigeria had. They fought a big match, Dick Tiger versus Gene Fullmer, former world champion at Ibadan, Nigeria; promoted by Jack Solomons, and Jack Hart referee from England came over. That was the first (world title) fight in Black Africa before 'The Rumble in the Jungle'. He was a hero of immense proportions. You know, lionised. You talk about poet laureates; you've got calypso songs written about him and Hogan Bassey. He was such a big hero and his prestige went down when he took sides in the Biafra conflict. He felt he had no choice but to support a secession which was done largely by people of his ethnic group...

Steve Bunce: Igbo...

Adeyinka Makinde: The Igbo people, that's right. And he did whatever he could. You remember that Biafran towel or...

Steve Bunce: The robe...

Adeyinka Makinde: ...the robe at the Foster fight. He'd first worn that when he fought Roger Rouse. The troubles had already started when he fought those battles with Jose Torres but he was still a Nigerian then...

Steve Bunce: ...and he gave his M.B.E. medal back or sent it back to the British Embassy in Washington D.C.

Adeyinka Makinde: Absolutely. That was after John Lennon had handed his in.

Steve Bunce: How can people get hold of the Dick Tiger book? Same way?

Adeyinka Makinde: Same way.

Steve Bunce: Listen Ade, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on. I really mean that. It's being an absolute delight. I'll stay in touch with you because I'm going to do more on that whole forgotten history of British boxing when all the African and West Indian fighters came over. .And also the great names. We could have talked a bit longer because some of those names those guys adopted before they came over from Ghana and Nigeria and before they came over from Barbados and Jamaica. Ade Makinde thank you very much for your time this evening. It's being an absolute pleasure having you on.

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