Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 5 of 7)

By Peter Weston Wood on May 4, 2018
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 5 of 7)
Anthony Quinn played the tragic Mountain Rivera in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962).

These intelligent and insightful people—like you—are willing to see past boxing’s blemishes and warts to glean beauty, determination, and courage…

Here is your next batch of boxing fans—luminaries who will surprise you. These intelligent and insightful people—like you—are willing to see past boxing’s blemishes and warts to glean beauty, determination, and courage.

Not everyone is willing to see the poetry in boxing. Boxers aren’t poets, but there is poetry in what they do. Most boxers wouldn’t know a poem unless it hit them on their nose.

Prizefighting’s brutality repulsed genteel Victorian elites—and today, it disgusts the aristocratic blue-bloods.

We have been born into a century in which boxing has found—and lost—its power, its significance, and, maybe its beauty. But that does not mean we have to like that trend or go along with it.

This seven-part series is written for those people who share a love and appreciation for the sweet science…and for those who don’t.

Let’s continue with the next twenty well-known boxing fans—“O” through “R”. But first, let’s recap…Here is a quick sampling of one fan per letter of the alphabet:

B—Dr. Joyce Brothers
C—Sir Winston Churchill
D—Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
E—Albert Einstein
F—Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
G—Bryant Gumbel
H—Ernest Hemingway
I—Hype Igoe
J—Al Jolson
K—President Kennedy
L—Jack London
M—Nelson Mandela
N—President Nixon
O—Clifford Odets

Okay, the bell has rung! Let’s see who else is on this esteemed boxing fan list: -#80—100! 


80—RYAN O’NEAL—Film Actor…O’Neal, the star of Love Story and The Main Event, as a young man he entered the 1956 and 1957 Los Angeles Golden Gloves Tournament. In total, he posted a very respectable 12-4 ring record, (7 by KO).

In these two videos below, O’Neal is still at it. In the first clip, he steps into the ring with heavyweight champion, Joe Frazier. In the second, he spars with his friend John “Iceman” Scully.

81—JACK O’HALLORAN—Film Actor & Former Prizefighter…O’Halloran, contrary to his villainous persona onscreen, is a thoughtful and articulate man who successfully reinvented himself.

In the middle 1960’s and early 70’s, this 6’6” giant from Runnemede, New Jersey, was considered one of boxing’s most promising heavyweight hopefuls after defeating title contenders Cleveland Williams, Terry Daniels, Manuel Ramos and Danny McAlinden. Earlier, as an amateur, he won the California state heavyweight championship with a win over Henry Clark.

After his boxing career ended, he went on to display superhuman strength in big-box office films—notably as “Non” in Superman I and II. His filmography boasts 30 films, one as a dim-bulbed henchmen in Farewell, My Lovely

In the clip below, the retired boxer discusses boxing…


82—GEORGE PLIMPTON—Writer, Editor & Actor…Plimpton pulled a Paul Gallico in 1959. In other words, in the quest of a story, he challenged Archie Moore, then Light Heavyweight Champion, to a sparring match. Earlier in the century, journalist Paul Gallico dared Jack Dempsey, then heavyweight champion, to step into the ring to spar. Both writers got smacked around, although Archie took it easy on Plimpton, who suffered only a bloody nose. Gallico was knocked unconscious.

Here is an interesting clip of Plimpton talking about it…

83—JACK PALANCE—Actor…Tough guy Jack Palance won 15 of 16 pro fights, using the ring name “Jack Brazzo”. He used the name “Brazzo” because he thought that sounded like what a prizefighter’s name should sound like. Another source credits Palance’s ring record as being 12-1 (12 knockouts) over a host of local club-fighters in coal-mining towns in Pennsylvania.  These fights, however, cannot be confirmed. BoxRec credits Palance with only one fight.

84—PLATO—Greek Philosopher…Plato—the Heavyweight Champion of Greek Philosophers—acknowledged in his writings the dangerous plight of boxers by calling them the “folk with the battered ears.” Plato, Gorgias 515e.

It’s not known if Plato was actually a boxing fan, but he did enjoy using boxing as a metaphor. He understood the fact that “persuasive communication could be used to deceive as well as to inform or to help people.” This, in essence, brings out a person’s…“boxing himself.” (Boxing Plato’s Shadow)

85—ROSIE PEREZ—Actress…Rosie Perez has been aptly dubbed “The First Lady of Boxing.” She telegraphed her love for boxing in her first appearance on a movie screen, dancing in boxing gloves and trunks behind the opening credits of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. As her fame grew, so did her ability to attend major boxing matches, and the talented young girl from the Bronx who had idolized Wilfred Benitez, Ray Leonard, Wilfredo Gomez, Marvin Hagler and Aaron Pryor, began to rub elbows with other fistic royalty: Mike Tyson, Hector Camacho and Felix Trinidad. 

You think you know a lot about boxing? Listen to Rosie Perez talk boxing in these two short clips!

86—ELVIS PRESLEY—Singer & Actor…Long before he was a drug-addled superstar with delusions of karate grandeur, long before he was a star at all, Elvis was a boxer. He was on his high school’s boxing team…for about a day.

The young Elvis developed an interest in the sweet science when a friend of his showed him a few moves. The future King enjoyed what he was learning, and decided to join his school’s boxing team.

Walt Doxey, the coach at Humes High School, put Elvis in the ring against a student named Sambo Barrom to try him out. Sambo made quick work of the new kid’s face, particularly his nose, and the bloody beating made Elvis reconsider his commitment to the sport. After the match, he told the coach that he was quitting the team because he was a lover, not a fighter.

Sambo Barrom went on to become a Golden Gloves champion in real life. Elvis Presley went on to become a championship boxer in a musical, All Shook Up.

Mushy Callahan, the former World Light Welterweight Champion turned film choreographer, said of Elvis, “Of all of the actors that I’ve worked with, Elvis and Errol Flynn were the two actors least afraid to take a punch.”

87—EDITH PIAF—French Singer, Songwriter, Cabaret Performer and Actress… Piaf, France’s national chanteuse, fell madly in love with a boxer—Marcel Cerdan. Their love affair lasted from summer 1948 until his death in autumn 1949. Piaf wrote one of her most famous songs, Hymne à l’amour, for Cerdan. Their love affair made international headlines, as Cerdan was the former middleweight world champion and a legend in France in his own right.

In 1983, Cerdan and Piaf had their lives turned into a successful screen biography by Claude Lelouch. The film,Édith et Marcel.

Watch this short video. Oh La la!...

88—ALLISON PORTER, MD General Surgeon—Doctor Porter, a serious boxing enthusiast, competed in amateur boxing tournaments for eight years. In the clip below, she talks about her experiences in the ring—as well as her experiences as a beauty contestant and as a volunteer relief worker.

This boxing enthusiast is a very special woman. Check her out!

89—EZRA POUND—American Poet…Ezra Pound is known for using colorful boxing analogies in his writing and was fond of using boxing metaphors during interviews. When living in Paris, his friend Ernest Hemingway attempted to teach Pound to box. 

Wyndham Lewis wrote of a visit to Pound’s Paris studio: “A splendidly built young man, stripped to the waist, and with a torso of dazzling white, was standing not far from me. He was tall, handsome and serene, and was repelling with his boxing gloves—I thought without undue exertion—a hectic assault of Ezra. After a final swing at the dazzling solar plexus (parried effortlessly by the trousered statue) Pound fell back upon the settee. The young man was Hemingway.”


90—ANTHONY QUINN—Actor, Painter & Sculptor…Anthony Quinn played the tragic character Mountain Rivera in the compelling drama, Requiem for a Heavyweight.

He could also rely on personal experience to play the role since he had boxed professionally in the Los Angeles area as a young man. For a spell, Quinn worked out at the Main Street Gym with Mushy Callahan and Newsboy Brown. He even sparred with heavyweight champion Primo Carnera when the Italian trained at Echo Park. (The Boxing Filmography, Frederick Romano, p.159)

91—MARQUESS OF QUEENSBERRY—Scottish Nobleman…John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (20 July 1844 – 31 January 1900) was remembered for his atheism, his outspoken views, his brutish manner, and for lending his name to the “Queensberry Rules” that form the basis of modern boxing. He is also known for his role in the downfall of author and playwright Oscar Wilde.

In February 1895, angered by the apparent ongoing homosexual relationship between Oscar Wilde and his son, Queensberry left a calling card reading: “For Oscar Wilde, posing as Somdomite [sic]” at Wilde’s club. Wilde sued for criminal libel, leading to Queensberry’s arrest. 

92—ELLERY QUEEN—Writer(s) … Daniel Nathan, (professionally known as Frederic Dannay) and Emanuel Lepofsky, (professionally known as Manfred Bennington Lee) were American cousins from Brooklyn, New York who wrote, edited, and anthologized detective fiction under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen. The writers’ main fictional character, whom they also named Ellery Queen, is a mystery writer and amateur detective who solves baffling murders.

As boxing fans, a number of their stories are based on boxing, such as “A Matter of Seconds” and “The Adventure of the Lucky Punch.” In one story, during a practice bout, a lucky shot knocks champion boxer Kid Hogan unconscious. He revives enough to sip some water from his manager’s “swill bottle,” then falls comatose and is soon pronounced dead. An autopsy reveals he was poisoned, and the “swill bottle” was loaded with poison. The manager is strongly implicated, but so is the opponent Joe Simpson.


93—GEORGE RAFT—Hollywood Actor…Raft, the gravel-voiced movie actor who portrayed gangsters in dozens of films, was a celebrity guest on Rocky Marciano’s Main Event TV show in 1961.

In this clip, Raft, an avid boxing fan, discusses Rocky’s bout with contender Harry Matthews, and also weighs in on the heavyweight bout featuring Tony Anthony and the durable Canadian, Yvonne Durelle.

94—CYRIL RICHARD RESCORLA—Director of Securities and Financial Services for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center…Rescorla was a United States Army officer and private security officer who served in Rhodesia as a member of the Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) and as a commissioned officer in the Vietnam War, where he was a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Rescorla was a natural sportsman, setting a school record in the shot put, and was an avid boxer. When a professional boxing match was scheduled between a British boxer and a U.S. heavyweight contender Tami Mauriello, his friends backed the Briton. Rescorla stated, “I’m for Tami” and after Mauriello won the fight everyone called him “Tami.”

95—PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT—U.S. President…Generally, we don’t think of our U.S. presidents as athletic individuals. But Roosevelt broke the mold—he was a badass! He boxed for Harvard University’s intramural lightweight championship and continued to spar recreationally during his political career. During his days in the White House, he regularly put up his dukes against former professional boxers and other sparring partners until a punch from a young artillery officer smashed a blood vessel and left him nearly blind in his left eye.

96—PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT—U.S. President…Roosevelt greatly admired the heavyweight fighter Joe Louis. His meeting with Louis in which Roosevelt is filmed feeling Joe’s biceps and equates them with the muscle needed to defeat Germany is portrayed in the documentary movie, The Joe Louis Story (1953). Joe’s response: “God is on our side” speech, in which he simply, but poignantly, explains why the Allies will win World War 2 is chronicled in The Boxing Filmography by Frederick V. Romano.

97—PHILIP ROTH—American Novelist… In a New Yorker article Roth, a big boxing fan, quotes Joe Louis: “At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ It’s exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.” Roth, throughout his career, used boxing and boxers as harsh metaphors for life. The role of boxing in Roth’s work takes center stage, particularly in The Human Stain (2000) and Exit Ghost (2007).

98—HARRY REID—Politician/Former Senate Majority Leader …Reid was a legitimate baddass! He was an accomplished amateur lightweight with 20 fights under his belt. He wrote in his autobiography, “The black eyes and soreness to me were badges of honor to wear the next day, and I’d fight every chance I got.” He later served on the Nevada Boxing Commission.

99—BILL “BOJANGLES” ROBINSON—Renown Tap Dancer and Actor…Bojangles was a good friend of Jack Blackburn, Joe Louis’s trainer. The pallbearers for Blackburn’s funeral included Joe Louis, John Roxborough, Julian Black and entertainers Cab Calloway and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. (Corner Men, Ronald K. Fried)

100—RABBI YURI FOREMAN—Rabbi and Ex-Professional Boxer…Foreman was an outstanding professional boxer who became the WBA Junior Middleweight World Champion in 2009. Foreman was also the first Orthodox Jew to own a world title since Barney Ross back in 1935!

Come back next week for the continuation of this unique series—an eclectic series that you will find only on!

Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 1 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 2 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 3 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 4 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 5 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 6 of 7)

Peter Wood is a 1971 NYC Golden Gloves Middleweight Finalist in Madison Square Garden; a Middleweight Alternate for The Maccabean Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, and author of two books: Confessions of a Fighter, and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, published by Ringside Books. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at his webpage:

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  1. Alan W. 05:38pm, 05/08/2018

    This series keeps getting better and better, richer and richer.  I have a feeling you’re having a great time putting it together, Pete.  The videos are rich.  I could watch the credits from Do the Right Thing over and over—and I have.  Thanks for the report of the Ezra Pound-Hemingway match.  I’m glad to learn Hemingway knocked down Pound, that crazy anti-Semite. I’ve told you the story of Hemingway knocking down Wallace Stevens.Though Papa did write some verse, he seemed to get special pleasure taking on and beating famous poets.  Looking forward to the next chapter.

  2. Bob 05:00pm, 05/06/2018

    This series just continues to get better and better. Loved the subjects and the attached videos. I had always heard that Ryan O’Neal was a good fighter and there is no doubt he knew his way around the ring. Great stuff, Mr. Wood. Sorry these eagerly anticipated installments will eventually come to an end.

  3. NYIrish 07:21pm, 05/05/2018

    Well, Peter Chu Chu was always a gentleman and easy going back in the day. On the other hand Ryan O’Neal had a Hollywood rep of being a bit mean spirited. Vern DePaul, Malave’s manager told me the story.

  4. peter 05:54pm, 05/05/2018

    NY Irish—That might explain why I haven’t seen Chu Chu in any other boxing-related films after that. Edwin/Chu Chu is a nice fellow, but he might have a control issue, especially when someone pushes his buttons.

  5. NYIrish 03:17pm, 05/05/2018

    The below was in a boxing scene. They were gloved up.

  6. NYIrish 03:15pm, 05/05/2018

    On the set of The Main Event, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, 1979, O’Neal got fresh with Edwin Chu Chu Malave, a NYC Golden Glove champ and good pro. Chu Chu gave him a brief taste of the tough life.

  7. peter 11:55am, 05/05/2018

    Gordon—Very true. Everyone wants the trophy on the shelf, but few want to do what it takes.

  8. peter 11:51am, 05/05/2018

    Lucas—That clip was powerful! Brought a tear to my eye! Thanks for sharing.

  9. peter 11:49am, 05/05/2018

    C.H.—Thanks, C.H. I’m glad you are enjoying this series. I enjoy writing them! Stay tuned for a few more.

  10. Lucas McCain 08:03am, 05/05/2018

    I continue to enjoy these immensely.  For those who may not have seen the great biopic about Piaf a few years ago, here is brief segment of the scene of her learning of Marcel Cerdan’s plane crash.  The magic of cinema follows her from grief to art as she sings the Hymn to Love in his memory.

  11. Ollie Downtown Brown 07:57am, 05/05/2018

    O’Halloran was big, but next to other big guys of Hollywood, he would be labeled the runt of the litter. Richard Kiel, Ted Cassidy, and William Engesser all towered over “Jack The Giant.” Even good ole “Marshall Dillon” aka James Arness, Clint Walker, and Chuck Connors were every bit as large as O’Halloran.

  12. c.h. 07:54am, 05/05/2018

    that should be ROBERT MITCHEM-NOT MITCHELL. This effn’ internet writes down who THEY think you mean, not what YOU mean. And if you don’t check they go with their version….chuck h.

  13. C.H. 05:17am, 05/05/2018

    One night at the Passyunk gym (S.Phila.) in 1973. Jack O’Halloran was back in town “training” for an upcoming fight in Baltimore with Larry Middleton. He hit the bags for about 5 minutes and spent the rest of the time bragging about all of his Hollywood friends he palled around with when fighting on the west coast. We all laughed, thinking “what a bullsit artist this guy is.” But (gym head) Adolph Ritacco didn’t mind, he wanted to hear who was banging who out in Hollywood. The next night they brought down amateur GG champ , Marvin Stinson to spar with O’Halloan and he punched “Jack the Giant” all over the ring. Middleton stopped O’Halloran and Jack retired not long after. and went into another profession….A few years later he was starring in “Farewell My Lovely” alongside (his pal) Robert Mitchell and in “Superman.”...Maybe his boxing career highlight was when after he KO’d Rahman Ali on the Coast ” He screamed “Now go get your big brother.” Fortunately for Jack M. Ali was unavailable…GREAT SERIES Mr Wood ..chuck

  14. Ollie Downtown Brown 04:27pm, 05/04/2018

    O’Halloran also fared pretty well in his fight with Norton from what I have read about that fight. O’Halloran matched up with another big, lumbering and limited fighter from that period, Chuck Wepner, might have been an entertaining bout for those who enjoy “pier six brawls.”

  15. gordon analla 03:45pm, 05/04/2018

    When Mr. O’Halloran beat Henry Clark, they were both professionals and this was for the California state title I believe.  They fought each other twice and each fighter won one.  Mr. O’Halloran was a very good fighter and I loved him in “Farewell My Lovely.”  I believe there was a rumour that a fight with Mr. Ali was in the offing.  But . . .

  16. Balaamsass 08:57am, 05/04/2018

    Elvis portrayed a fighter in “Kid Galahad”...the musical “All Shook Up” came years after his death….both Jack Palance and Anthony Quinn had the “looks” of a fighter….so does Rosie Perez for that matter!

  17. Gordon Marino 08:30am, 05/04/2018

    This is amazing—everyone claims they were a boxer—and here we get the real facts and clips.  Please put this together in a book! Thanks Peter!

  18. Ollie Downtown Brown 08:02am, 05/04/2018

    Wasn’t Dirty Harry Reid kayoed by a shower door during one of his sparring sessions?

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