Thursday 29 October 2015

Dick Tiger’s Tenacity and the Wit of Terry Downes

Above them were a number of balconies that hung steeply, seemingly above the ring, the occupants, according to Reg Gutteridge, “practically breathing down the necks of the contestants.”

This photograph captures the brutal intensity of a small show fight in London’s East End held on May 14, 1957. The audience, compact and voluble, watched intently from the chairs adjoining the ring and the balconies that rose steeply above. It was not an uncommon sort of bout: A promising fighter testing his armour against a journeyman pugilist. One with high hopes and the other with presumed low expectations. An anointed versus a peasant.

Or so it was supposed to be.

For this was the fight which established Richard Ihetu, better known by the nom de guerre, ‘Dick Tiger’. Tiger had had a nondescript career to this point since his arrival to Britain from his native Nigeria. He had lost his first four bouts and had been in danger of losing his British Boxing Board of Control-issued licence. Terry Downes on the other hand was primed for success. He had emigrated to America where he’d taken up boxing while serving with the marines. He had even been selected to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Melbourne only to have that scuppered on account of his still existent British nationality.

Downes lost and Tiger won. But each man would go on to become a world champion. In victory, the soft-spoken Tiger showed that a gentlemanly spirit could exist with one adept at practising a remarkably brutal trade. And Downes too had a spirit, one that was brave and determined. He was also marked by a razor-sharp wit.

Excerpt from the book Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal:

Chapter Five/”Reborn” -- Mickey Duff, an ex-fighter and now the rising matchmaker for Harry Levene promotions, had seen Tiger lose by a decision. To him, Tiger’s six wins to five losses record spelled “journeyman fighter”; convenient cannon fodder for Terry Downes, the great hope of British boxing. “I thought I had done my homework,” Duff recalled in his autobiography. “I had seen Tiger lose to a nobody in Liverpool and thought he was a perfect opponent -- one who would make a show, but wouldn’t be good enough to win.”

. . . . . . .

Later on that evening, the hall quickly filled to capacity. The demand for tickets had been so great that “hundreds” were reportedly locked outside. Inside the smallness of the venue ensured a semi-claustrophobic atmosphere as spectators, many of them sitting and standing shoulder-to-shoulder, crowded around the ring. Above them were a number of balconies that hung steeply, seemingly above the ring, the occupants, according to Reg Gutteridge, “practically breathing down the necks of the contestants.”

At the din of the opening bell, Downes sprang out of his corner throwing leather from all angles -- aiming, Tiger surmised, to secure a quick rout over what he expected to be a weight-weakened, muscle-bound duck. Tiger held his ground until Downes waded into a powerful left hook, which deposited him onto the canvas for a seven count. At this moment Tiger would later claim that he knew his man was beaten. With indecent haste, Downes scrambled up, dusting the resin from his scarlet trunks. He was still in the process of gathering his senses when the referee yelled for both men to “box on.” Outweighed by six pounds, Downes had yet to shake off the effects of the blows when in the second round another of Tiger’s left hooks sent him tumbling over. But this did not finish him off. He gathered himself again, and both men traded punches with some of Downes’ combinations ending under Tiger’s heart. The damage nevertheless had already been done, and while Tiger waited for the sounding of the seventh round, Downes’ handlers, mindful no doubt about the effects that a prolonged assault would have on their youthful charge, decided to withdraw him from the contest.

Back in his dressing room, Downes, the irrepressibly loquacious wit, bandied trademark quips in response to the questions being asked by the journalists. When one asked him whether he thought Tiger might have been too big for him, he responded, “Yeah, he did look a big middleweight to me too, when I realised I was lying down and he was standing up.” Another then asked him which opponent he would like to face next and Downes shot back a gem:

“I’d like it to be the bastard who suggested Dick Tiger.”

© Adeyinka Makinde 2005 & 2015.

Sunday 25 October 2015

COMMENTARY: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Struggle with History

Haj Amin al-Hussein (Left) in conference with Adolf Hitler
Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments made before a gathering at the 37th Zionist Congress of the World Zionist Organisation on October 20th which effectively blamed the Palestinian nationalist leader, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem for instigating the Holocaust have been met with widespread incredulity. The Israeli prime minister has been alternately ridiculed and condemned.

This is not surprising since Netanyahu was attempting to twist the largely accepted narrative of the development of the holocaust in order to suit the contemporary agenda of demonizing the cause for Palestinian self-determination as well as suggesting a malignant link between Islam and fascist-Nazi ideology.

But while Netanyahu’s comments have led to plausible accusations of his falling foul of what often is referred to as ‘holocaust denial’, they also invite an examination of Zionism’s collaborations and even affinities with fascist movements and the Hitlerian regime itself.

His comments also provide insight into the mindset of the man as well as offering clues as to how he might see an ultimate resolution of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s words, delivered in his distinctive Philadelphian drawl, were enunciated with the now familiar casual intonation. But the conversational-style of oratory did not disguise the import of the point that he was attempting to get across.

Beginning with a reference to the Mufti’s alleged role in directing violence against Jewish settlers in British-ruled Palestine, Netanyahu, said that al-Husseini had been sought for “war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution.”

He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll come (to Palestine).” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.”

What Netanyahu was claiming was that but for the intervention of the Palestinian Mufti, the Nazi’s would not have had the idea to physically eliminate the Jews.

This astounding thesis was asserted by Netanyahu as historical fact. It is astonishing given Netanyahu’s light treatment of Adolf Hitler’s role in the genesis of what many historians believe to be the planned extermination of European Jewry.

A question arises. If any other person had presented such a thesis before the public in a published book, an academic paper or in a speech at a public gathering, would they be subjected to criminal investigation in the jurisdictions of a number of Western European countries for an egregious instance of holocaust revisionism?

There are, of course, those such as the writer David Irving, prosecuted and convicted in Austria of holocaust denial laws, who claim that Hitler himself had no hand in any planned extermination of Europe’s Jews. There is, he argues, no signed official document containing Hitler’s personal order to embark on the systematic murder of Jews.

Netanyahu, himself the son of a renowned historian, is compromised in terms of the chronology that he presents. He may need to be reminded of two key speeches given by Hitler; one in 1939, and the other in 1941.

Standing before the Reichstag in January of 1939, Hitler declared that if what he termed as “international finance Jewry” were to plunge the nations of Europe into another war, the result would not be what he termed the “Bolshevization” of Europe and thereby the “victory of Jewry”, it would, he predicted, lead to the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

The word ‘annihilation’, in German, ‘Vernichtung’, was again used by Hitler in a speech two years later before an audience at Berlin’s Sportpalast. Delivered in his characteristic firebrand style, Hitler stated that the war would not end as the “Jews imagined”, that is, in the extermination of the European Aryan peoples because others would not “bleed to death alone”. There would, he exploded, be an application of the ancient Jewish law: “Auge um auge, Zahn um zahn!” Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. He explicitly declared that the resulting war would lead to the annihilation of Jewry.

The first speech occurred in 1939 before the Mufti met Hitler in November of 1941, and there is no evidence that the latter, effectively a restatement of the former, was prompted by the meeting.

While Netanyahu seeks to delegitimize the Palestinian cause by association with Nazism, the history of the Zionist movement has not been without controversial connections with both Fascism and Nazism.

Indeed, Netanyahu as a die-hard Zionist with antecedents in the movement will need no reminder of the fact that his father, Benzion, served as the personal secretary of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the leader of the Zionist Revisionist movement, who forged ideological links with the Italian fascist party led by Benito Mussolini.

His Betar Movement, a youth wing of the revisionist Zionists, established the Betar Naval Academy in the Italian port city of Civitavecchia in 1934. That Betar operated along a similar ideological construct is not in doubt. The following appeared in Bollettino del Consorzio Scuole Profesionali per la Maestranza Martima, the official publication of the Italian professional maritime schools:

In agreement of all the relevant authorities it has been confirmed that the views and the political and social inclinations of the revisionists are known and that they are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine. Therefore, as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.

Netanyahu may or may not appreciate the reminder that Zionists entered into a pact with Adolf Hitler’s regime via the Ha’avara Agreement of August 1933. Also known as the ‘Transfer Agreement’, it was opposed by the vast majority of world Jewry who at the time favoured an economic boycott of Germany.

The agreement was predicated on the mutual desire of both Nazi party and Jewish Zionists to rid Germany of its Jewish population. A German Jew wishing to immigrate to Palestine would deposit money into a specified German bank account. These funds would then be used to buy German goods for export, usually to Palestine. The final phase of the transaction would have the Jewish émigré receiving payment for the goods they had previously purchased after their final sale.

And would Netanyahu need reminding of Avraham Stern’s proposed alliance with the Nazis during the Second World War? While most Zionists suspended hostilities against the British who they perceived as frustrating their efforts to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, the leader of Lohamei Herut Yisrael had the objective of forging a relationship with the Hitler government in order to give birth to what he termed a Volkish-national Hebrium. This would establish, he hoped, “the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis”.

Both Jabotinsky and Stern serve as ideological heirs of the modern Likud Party which Netanyahu leads. Yitzhak Shamir, a former leader of Likud was a key figure in the ‘Stern Gang’ which waged a war of terror against both British and Arabs.

Netanyahu’s ideological antecedents also includes the figure of Menachem Begin. Begin, like Shamir a former leader of Likud, was the founder of the Herut Party in 1948. It was a development which prompted a group of far-sighted Jewish academics including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt to write an open letter to the New York Times declaring that Israel would eventually head down a path which legitimized “ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.”

This prophecy of sorts is arguably not far behind the prevailing mood of contemporary Israel which has lurched to the political Right during Netanyahu’s terms as prime minister. Netanyahu himself has no problem declaring that the phenomenon of African migrants, who are referred to as ‘infiltrators’, threatened Israel’s “social fabric” and needed to be expelled.

He was also clearly observed to be pandering to anti-Arab sentiment during the Israeli general election last March when he claimed that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves”.

Netanyahu’s assertions regarding the Mufti’s meeting with Hitler fall into a similar hue. His comments again show the opportunism he is apt at indulging. His distortion of history fits into Nicolas Sarkozy’s opinion, confided to US President Barack Obama, that he is a “liar”.

Netanyahu continually incites hatred for Palestinians and solicits perpetual gentile guilt for the tragedy suffered by the Jewish people in the middle part of the 20th Century.

While Netanyahu’s comments fit into a narrative of Islam and fascism continually spun by those wishing to promote the idea of ‘Islamo-Fascism’, they are ultimately aimed at discrediting Palestinian hopes of securing a state of their own.

The two-state solution to the enduring conflict remains as intractable as it has ever been. The increase in Jewish settler communities in the West Bank dampens any chances that a Palestinian state would ever be allowed to exist. The belief that the West Bank is part of Eretz Israel; component parts of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms of Judah and Israel that today are referred to as Judea and Samaria, is not limited to religious Jews.

By seeking to single out a Palestinian nationalist figure as the author of the Jewish holocaust, Netanyahu is attempting to indoctrinate the world with the idea that the Jewish state can never exist side-by-side with a Palestinian one.

It is part and parcel of preparing the ground for the solution which Netanyahu will not publicly disclose; namely that continued Israeli actions of land acquisition, settler colonisation, economic strangulation as well as punitive military expeditions will convince the Palestinians of the utter hopelessness of their situation and force them to migrate out of the territories in which they reside.

Failing this and at the prompting of some future extraordinary conflict, it is not difficult to imagine that the likes of Netanyahu would use the cover of such crisis to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians begun in 1948, by purging the inhabitants en masse from the West Bank.

Before his death in 1940, Jabotinsky claimed that “the world has become accustomed to the idea of mass migrations and has become fond of them”, adding later that “Hitler –as odious as he is to us- has given this idea a good name in the world.”

From an historical perspective, the leaders of Zionism have been remarkably shrewd at masking their true intentions which are then revealed at later, opportune moments.

For instance, a few days after the conclusion of the inaugural Zionist Congress held in at the end of August of 1897 in Basel Switzerland, the president of the congress and the man seen as the founder of the modern Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, recorded the following in his diary:

Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.

Chaim Weizmann, who later would become the first president of the Israeli state, once assured an Arab leader that “the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests.”

Benzion Netanyahu once admitted that his son had no genuine intention of offering Palestinian leaders any conditions they would feel able to accept as a pre-condition to the establishment of a state. Indeed, when earlier this year Netanyahu had stated, “If I am elected, there will be no Palestinian state”, he was admitting what he and his predecessors of every political stripe knew to be the case but would not utter in public.

His support for the proposition that Israel adopt a basic law designating it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” offered clarification of his true goals and intentions.

Severe criticism of Netanyahu, while tolerated over the years by many Israelis and Jews as somewhat inevitable because of the perception of arrogance in his personal style and complex political personality, is nonetheless beginning to be seen in these times of rising anti-Israel sentiments, by an increasing number of Israelis and Jews as a convenient tool by which anti-Semites may express their views.

Yet, many of his supporters would be hard pressed to defend the matter of his historical revision. Not if, as some including Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog have claimed that his words effectively gave succour to ‘holocaust deniers’.

The statement issued by Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, sums things up fairly accurately:

It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews.

A sad day indeed, but also one symptom of a political philosophy that thrives on the projection of victimhood, the perpetuating of Gentile guilt and which continues to harbour its long-term aim of replacing what had been the land of Palestine with a purely Jewish state.

(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Reviews of 'JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula' at amazon dot com

Title – Five Stars

- Mr. M. Dawson (March, 2015)

Title – Four Stars

“A must read for any former Jersey Cityite."
- Lenny (September 28, 2015)

Title – Five Stars

"Great story." 
- George (September 15, 2015)

Title – Great for Boxing and True Crime Fans

"Frankie DePaula was a club fighter with a world's champion's power in his punch. The book traces his rise and fall and all the wise guys he befriended and angered during his career. Everyone who knew him said there was two sides to the man, but the darker side caused his 'mandatory retirement'. A very god read and I would recommend it to boxing and crime fans." 
- John in NYC (March 13, 2015)

Title - Talent Wasted

"I knew Frank a little bit when he trained in Chatham Township, N.J. I always wonder what happened to his family. Thanks to the book I now know. I thought that the writer did a great job.”
- John McMahon (March 8, 2015)

Title - This is One of the Best Books I Have Read about a Fighter

"This is one of the best books I have read about a fighter. A story of a man with great talent who got hooked up with the wrong people."
- Dennis Vespi (March 5, 2015)

Title - Coulda Been A Contender

"Mesmerizing and fascinating"
- Frank Randall (October 14, 2014)

Title - A Boxer from Bufano's Gym

"I can't remember enjoying a book more than this one. It's definitely film-worthy. But the author was a bit melodramatic and hyperbolic in describing DePaula's fistic abilities. Nevertheless, his research regarding DePaula's convoluted life, and the tawdry environment which spawned him, transported me back to Jersey City--a dirty and dark place from which I am happy to have escaped."
- Peter Wood (September 20, 2014)

Title - Jersey Boy, The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula

"Fascinating true story! This should be made into a movie". 
- Theresa Russo Steiner (July 21, 2013)

Title – Nice Mix

"This is a well-written book mixing my two favourite topics to read about- Boxing and the Mafia. This book paints a vivid and truthful image of the condition of boxing and its connection with the Mafia at the time. DePaula was an average fighter but his story is exceptional." 
- Mark Easter (March 27, 2013)

Title – Good Read!

"Very well-written and informative." 
- Ruger4 (January 27, 2013)

Title – Good Read

"Good book about local Jersey fighter, Frankie DePaula. Well-written...and should be interesting for any avid boxing fan who might be interested in a deeper perspective from a lost era of boxing." 
- T. Murphy (January 8, 2011)

Title – Great Story

"I can state that this is a highly readable tale."
- Michael A. Coluccio (September 20, 2010)

Title – Well Worth Reading

"The author tells it like it was -that DePaula was an above-average club fighter who drew people and had the right connections. Anyone who was around boxing in those days or has any knowledge of what the sport was like in the 1960s and early 1970s should read this book. It's worth every penny." 
- J. Russell Peltz (August 18, 2010)

Title – Great Book

"This is a deeply enjoyable book on a fighter perhaps now forgotten. The breath of the research and the style of writing create a 'sensitive' and touching portrait of tough and mean Frankie DePaula. The writer obviously cared about the subject and writes as if he cared deeply to tell the story of DePaula. Congratulations Mr. Makinde: wonderful book." 
- S. Selsavage (August 17, 2010)

Title – By Professional Boxing Referee Ron Lipton

"The exquisite and infinite painstaking research on this topic is something to be admired...Tremendous job and a must read for anyone not just boxing fans." 
- Ron Lipton (July 11, 2010)

Reviews of 'DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal' at amazon dot com

Title – Five Stars

"A great read about a truly great fighter”
- Thomas James Jenkinson (July 17, 2015)

Title – Five Stars

"Great book."
- Postieman (July 4, 2015)

Title - Great Black History Book

“This Book was a journey from Africa to the United States with battles and victories. Dick Tiger never quit he kept fighting and pulling himself up from the rough fight that life dealt him. This book would make a great movie. We can all learn the lesson of staying tough in hard times. You will overcome challenges with discipline and persistence.”
- Gerard McGrellis (April 7, 2009)

Title - Excellent Look at a Champion

“The book is a good read. Gives the life of Tiger very well”
- Peter (June 18, 2008)

Title - A Great Book

"I have been reading boxing books for over twenty years and Adeyinka Makinde has written one of the best I have ever read. Dick Tiger was one of the greatest Middleweights of the modern era and this book is a fitting tribute to him.

Adeyinka Makinde has done a great job of packing the book full of well researched information on Tiger and the times he fought in.

A must read for any true Boxing fan."
- P. Jones, Leicester, UK (August 16, 2006)

Title - Enlightening

"A comprehensive biography of Richard "Dick Tiger" Ihetu, two-time undisputed world middleweight champion and one-time undisputed light heavyweight champion. He was a humble man from humble beginnings in Nigeria, who went from Liverpool's boxing booths to New York City's Madison Square Garden. Makinde delves into Dick Tiger's life and explains the most intricate situations that allow us to know one of the greatest fighters of all times-a real history lesson."
- Cheryl Robinson (April 26, 2006)

Title - Highest Quality Saga Of One Of The Ring's Great Warriors

"One of the best stories I have ever makes the most interesting and historical reading for anyone of any age...One of the most complete researched books I have ever read, they should make it into a movie...Great job by Adeyinka Makinde."
- Brett Lipton (August 11, 2005)

Title - Dick Tiger Revisited

"Fine biography! Not much was really known about Tiger until this book was published. Even I, a long-time boxing aficionado, was unaware of many of the things in this work. Excellent!"
- Robert C. Scudder (August 6, 2005)

Wednesday 14 October 2015

COMMENTARY – About Benghazi and US Congressman Trey Gowdy

A certain US Congressman by the name of Trey Gowdy recently invited the American media to ask questions about the Benghazi incident which led to the death of the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens back in 2012. Gowdy is apparently Donald Trump's choice for US Attorney General if Trump becomes the president of the United States.

That the ‘Benghazi Incident’ is the subject of a state cover up is not in doubt.

My guess is that the late ambassador Stevens was involved in liaising with the Islamist militants NATO aided in overthrowing the regime of Colonel Muamer Gaddafi.

The term "militants", of course, refers to al-Qaeda sympathetic groups such as the now disbanded Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The British Special Forces regiment, the SAS, were instrumental in training them and coordinated their advances when French and other NATO jets bombarded Gaddafi's forces.

Benghazi was the route through which these fighters and weaponry were transferred to Turkey en route to the next theatre for NATO destabilisation: the Ba'athist government of Bashar al Assad in Syria.

The murky matter of "stand down" orders and the other strange events leading to the disaster may have involved competing factions within the intelligence agencies of the United States.

Some talk about a "Mormon Faction" within the US National Security apparatus springing an 'October Surprise' aimed at simultaneously embarrassing the incumbent Barack Obama and bolstering the electoral prospects of his rival Mitt Romney.

Whatever the truth of that, it would appear that the subsequent fall from grace of retired US Army General David Petraeus, who was then the head of the CIA, was tied into this political infighting.

But the pith of the thesis of a transaction gone wrong in regard to weapons and fighters being transported from Benghazi to Syria will likely be vindicated when the truth is finally revealed.

It is worth noting for the benefit of the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" hating crowd that the United States has had a longstanding relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood dating back to the Eisenhower years and continuing up to the support given during the tenure of Ronald Reagan to the Afghan Mujahedeen -many of them foreign Islamist mercenaries including a young Osama bin Laden- against the Soviet occupation.

The administration of George W. Bush also re-orientated its Middle East strategy in the mid-2000s to bolster support for Sunni Islamist groups (read: al Qaeda) against Shia forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Syria and Iran.

These groups of course metastasized into the Jamaat al Nusra brigade and the Islamic State fanatics of present day infamy.

One final point.

Speaking of suspected massive covers ups, stand downs, traitorous decision-making and so on, I wonder if Congressman Trey Gowdy would be minded to invite the press to ask what the true story was behind the destruction of the USS Liberty back in June of 1967?

After all, the pursuit of truth and justice should go beyond the narrow confines of party political point-scoring.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Annual Boxing Memorabilia Fayre (2015)

Once again there was a great spirit of conviviality amidst the gathering of boxing aficionados and collectors at Chas Taylor’s Annual Boxing Memorabilia Fayre held at the Dick Collins Hall in Camden.

I enjoyed signing copies of my biographies on Frankie DePaula and Dick Tiger in between chatting to fellow stall holders and attendees – some of whom I’ve known for over a decade through the Fayre.

Etching of world heavyweight contenders Gerry Cooney and Chuck Wepner

Chuck Wepner lost to Muhammad Ali in world heavyweight championship bout staged in Ohio by Don King in 1975.  He lost to Sonny Liston in a non-title bout at Jersey City’s Armory in 1970.

Here’s an interesting anecdote related to the Ali fight as told by Chuck himself.

Chuck speaking to his wife in the morning on the day of his fight with Muhammad Ali:

Honey, wear this negligee tonight cus you’re gonna be sleepin’ with da heavyweight champion of the world.

Wife speaking to a bloodied and battered Chuck after the fight:

Do I go to his room or will he be comin’ to mine now?

Gerry Cooney lost to Larry Holmes in a gruelling contest in 1981. He later suffered devastating losses to Michael Spinks and George Foreman. His most famous victory occurred when he ruthlessly stopped Ken Norton within a single round.

A nice guy who does a great deal for former fighters who are in need. I have never met him but he interviewed me on Siruis XM back in September 2010 when I was in the United States promoting my book JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula.

 Dempsey and the Wild Bull: The Four Minute Fight of the Century’ authored by John Jarrett

I wasted no time in snapping this book about the amazing brawl between the ‘Manassa Mauler’ and the ‘Wild Bull of the Pampas': Jack Dempsey, the American world’s heavyweight champion against Angel Luis Firpo, the challenger from Argentina at New York’s Polo Grounds in 1923.

Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran’ authored by Christian Guidice

It’s taken a while but I finally got a copy of the biography regarded as the definitive one of Roberto Duran: ‘Manos de Piedra’.

 ‘Boxing’ authored by A.J. Newton

A diagram on page 53 of this book written by 'Professor' Andrew J. Newton probably indicates to one and all that the 'shoulder roll' may not have been invented by Mr. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Newton was an amateur boxing champion in the late 19th Century and certainly an Englishman of his times if his introductory exposition of the value of boxing is anything to go by:

The idea of self-defence is natural to most men. As a race, the British in particular have bred into the very bone of the mind independent, and hence on occasion, pugilistic determination. To them self-defence instinctively implies a use of the fists – boxing. A native of southern Europe in excitement or dispute flies to his knife or dagger. A wild westerner grips his six-shooter, but the Britisher, wherever you may find him, is handy with his fists in an emergency.

Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries

I got this fine piece of art reproduced on fine material on the first bout dubbed ‘Fight of the Century’.

 Clockwise from top Left: Dick Tiger, Davey Moore, Carl Olson, Wallace Smith, Sandy Saddler and Sugar Ray Robinson

I got three of these faces wrong at first sight. The portrait of Davey Moore looks a great deal like the ‘Cincinnati Cobra’, Ezzard Charles. I mistook Carl ‘Bobo’ Olsen for Carlos Ortiz (whom I met at the Fayre back in 1998). Finally, I should be forgiven for mistaking the visage of the not well-remembered Wallace ‘Bud’ Smith for Ike Williams.

 Jose Torres

This is a signed photograph of the late Jose Torres, boxing’s renaissance man, at the time that he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York back in 1997.

I had interviewed him via trans-Atlantic telephone in the 1990s as part of my research into the life and career of Dick Tiger. He would later be part of the talking heads interviewed in the BBC World Service radio documentary on Tiger which was broadcast in 2006.

But I did meet him at the 1998 Fayre when he along with Emile Griffith, and Carlos Ortiz came to London on a fundraising mission under the auspices of New York’s ‘Ring 8’ boxing veterans association.

A very pleasant and open man who took the trouble to try to get me into a boxing dinner later that evening for free. Howie Albert, Emile Griffith’s manager, however would have none of that. But it’s the thought that counts. 

I recall buying a number of boxing magazines one of which had a story on him. I got him to sign it on the page next to a picture of him. However, he became so immersed in reading it that I did not ask for it back!

Torres was a world champion pugilist turned writer. He authored one of the most highly regarded biographies on Muhammad Ali, was involved in local politics, was a boxing commissioner of New York State and the president of a world boxing organising body.

I have written an essay about his life and career for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Boxing which I hope will finally see the light of day next year.

From left to right: Alexis Arguello, Henry Cooper and Denis Healy (PHOTO: UPI)

It is rather fitting that I should discover a photograph of political bruiser Denis Healy, who died last week, in a pugilist’s pose with the great Nicaraguan world champion Alexis Arguello.  Former British heavyweight champion, Henry Cooper acts as the “referee”. All were pictured at London’s Hilton Hotel for a Variety Club of Great Britain tribute lunch for Cooper.

It will be back next year on the 15th of October. Same venue, same time.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)