Desperately Seeking Oscar

By Peter Weston Wood on August 21, 2016
Desperately Seeking Oscar
I’d given him my youth and made him a hell of a lot more wonderful than he really was.

Boxers have an aura of nobility and menace that titillated my soul. I’ve seen presidents, media moguls, and Hollywood stars, kowtow to champion fighters…

When I found out I was a prisoner of sorts, a wild feeling came over me. I rushed down to the basement, pulled open a closet door, and started hauling out boxes of my old boxing magazines. I was looking for one magazine in particular—a November edition of 1965 Boxing & Wrestling. While flipping through all of the other magazines, I knew full well I’d been imprisoned, and I’d done it to all to myself.

I’m not certain why I came to this conclusion of being trapped, but I trust the facts. I’ve deceived myself for years and I’m finally admitting it.

I sort through yellowing copies of Ring, Boxing Illustrated and Flash Gordon’s Fight Programs. I see the faces of young Cassius Clay, crafty Archie Moore, and dangerous Jack Dempsey. I’d be lying if I said as a young boy I wasn’t captivated by these mysterious and magical men who choose boxing as a profession. 

Boxers have an aura of nobility and menace that titillated my soul. I’ve seen presidents, media moguls, and Hollywood stars, kowtow to champion fighters.

But now, as an older man, flipping through my old magazines, inhaling the musty odor, the magic is gone. I know these boxing articles are not just about boxing—they are loaded with false ideas of masculinity. For too many years, these naïve notions have lodged in my mind, like a kernel of popcorn stuck between my two back teeth.

Where is that damn magazine?

I look down at these dead boxers still fighting. The past is whirring before me in a blur as I flip through the pages, but I no longer hear the raucous crowds cheering for a bleeding Marciano punching Ezzard Charles, or an angry Jack Johnson breaking Stanley Ketchel’s front tooth, or a determined Joe Louis crushing Max Schmeling, or a baleful Sonny Liston giving the stink-eye to Cassius Clay.

Over the years, I’ve come to regard these yellowing magazines as a sort of museum exhibit, one in which I was both the curator and the only patron. I inhale the stale air. Who will I bequeath them to when I die?

As a young boy, these magnificent men had swallowed me up whole. They protected me. I was an angry boy-bomb who was forced to walk on eggshells at home. But when I discovered boxing, a new world opened up and I dreamed of becoming a fighter just like dangerous Jack Dempsey or vicious Mickey Walker. The explosion of violence in the ring, the blood gushing from my opponent’s nose, a perfectly thrown left hook, was exhilarating.

So I became a fighter.

My own chaotic childhood mirrored the chaotic career of one particular boxer—a 23-year-old heavyweight who once graced the cover of November’s 1965 Boxing & Wrestling, the magazine I am looking for right now.

Do I still have it?

I was thirteen when I read the article inside—“Making of a Heavyweight.” It’s about a loveable rogue fighting a main event against Zora Folley in Madison Square Garden. I remember reading it with a mixture of amazement and distant love.

Searching, I dig my hand deeper into a second cardboard box, and then a third box. Magazines are spilled over my legs and on the concrete floor. Where is that article? I pull out an old trunk that’s sitting in the back corner. He’s here somewhere. He must be!

The chest is covered with a faint skin of dust, and when I open the lid, I finally find him—Oscar Bonavena.

He’s on the front cover, still smiling or sneering. He’s still in his fighting pose, wearing Tuf Wear bag gloves, and his large square jaw is still slightly tucked. His manager and trainer—Marvin Goldberg and old Charley Goldman, respectively—are still whispering advice into Oscar’s ears…ears that are deaf to advice or wisdom.

My fingers turn to page 22 and I begin reading Lester Bromberg’s unforgettable article: “Argentina’s Oscar Bonavena stood in his corner in Madison Square Garden last February, and just standing there, oozing muscle and assurance, he looked like a heavyweight champion…”

But when the bell rang, Zora Folley beat the hell out of him. 

The gist of Bromberg’s article is that critics were predicting a brilliant future for Bonavena, but he was young, bullheaded and was ignoring the sage advice of Charley Goldman, the revered trainer who once had sculpted a crude Rocky Marciano into an undefeated champion.

I quote the perceptive writing of Bromberg: “One particular day in Gleason’s Gym, never forgotten by those who witnessed it, Goldman was showing Bonavena a move. The usual gathering of hangers-on was present. And the fighter seemed more attentive to their flattery than to Goldman’s instruction.

“But Charley was deeply wrapped up in his seminar. He had been a successful bantamweight in his day as a protégé of Terry McGovern. He dipped his shoulder and pivoted with a punch.

“At the moment, Bonavena was ostensibly studying the move. Actually, he was busy making wisecracks for the benefit of the lobbygows off on the aisle. This didn’t satisfy him, however. He felt he had to do more for his audience.

“He moved closer to Goldman. Then, as Charley, head-down, slid forward, Oscar stuck his foot out and tripped him. Goldman half fell and recovered.

“‘The mat is bad,’ he said to Goldman with mock seriousness.

“The onlookers chortled…so clever.

“Goldman looked up to see what the laughing was all about.

“‘Nothing, Charley, nothing,’ Bonavena said.

“The trainer tried another move, left hooking to the body out of a weave.

“‘You get low, Oscar, then a tall guy like Folley can’t hit you with a right cross,’” he lectured.

“‘Good, good,’ Bonavena said. ‘This time I watch you closer.’

“He edged nearer. Goldman dipped forward.

“Again the errant foot, again the stumble—and again the laughter.

“Bonavena’s behavior didn’t change much from that day. His workouts obviously were no serious matter to him. Instruction, he seemed to feel, was unnecessary.”

Bonavena was a handful.

“Bonavena left an indelible negative impression on me,” states John Clohessy, a 1970 New York Golden Gloves heavyweight champion in a article penned by Robert Mladinch. “‘One day I was training at Gleason’s Gym, when it was still located in the South Bronx. In walked Oscar Bonavena, a really nasty kind of guy, a real beast’…Bonavena asked Clohessy to spar with him, but gym owner, Bobby Gleason, interjected and volunteered another fighter who was used to working as a paid sparring partner for better fighters…‘Bonavena really wanted to hurt this guy, who was nowhere near his skill level. He nearly killed the guy. I couldn’t believe it.’”

Randy Neumann, a young up-and-coming heavyweight at the time said, “One day Bonavena took on every heavyweight in the gym. Luckily I wasn’t there that day. If I was, I’m sure he’d a kicked the crap outta me.”

The more I learned about Oscar, the more fascinating he became. He was a good fighter, but not a clean one. He was disqualified during his 1963 Pan-American Games bout for biting Lee Carr’s shoulder. 

Oscar’s reputation for bullying people was legendary. He would knock guys out in bars then search through their pockets when they were unconscious.

Leroy Caldwell, a tough-as-nails heavyweight fought Oscar in 1973 in Las Vegas. “I took the fight on four-day notice. I wasn’t in the best of shape, but I was outta work and figured I could still outbox him. When we met at the weigh-in, he gave me that bully-boy look, but I just laughed. I’d already fought Foreman, Lyle and Shavers, so that kinda thing didn’t bother me.

“In our fight,” says Caldwell, “I misjudged the ropes and they kinda pushed me into his left hook. Yeah, he caught me good. I got paid $1,500.”

Caldwell ranks Bonavena’s punch excellent, but not as excellent as Shavers’s or Foreman’s. He puts Bonavena’s punching power on a par with Ron Lyle’s. 

As a kid, I saw the chinks in Oscar Bonavena’s character, but they were forgivable chinks because, well, he was a fighter, and any fighter worth his salt, was supposed to be rude and crude.

Young boys are silly creatures. One of my friends mimicked the batting style of Yankee catcher, Elston Howard. Another emulated the idiosyncratic jump-shot of the Knick’s Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. Me? I sometimes copied Oscar by jutting out my jaw while hitting the speedbag.

I was stuck idolizing a jerk—a crude, rude, ape man who threw a bludgeoning left hook.

But by the time I hit my twenties, the jig was up. I wasn’t a fan-boy anymore and I acknowledged Oscar wasn’t a loveable rogue. He was, perhaps, what many fighters are: an angry guy in the ring trying to turn his psychological problems into a paycheck; a guy who needs to train himself in just the right way to make the most amount of money because he has no other marketable skills.

These old boxing magazines sprawled all over me, I realize, are no longer magical, and I am no longer trapped in the sad violent shadows of my past.

Somewhere in this pile of nostalgia, there is another Oscar Bonavena article written by another writer who wrote, “Bonavena could have an excellent career ahead of him. But if a wise guy like him doesn’t wise up, he’ll die an early death.”

Oscar didn’t wise up. He was shot dead on May 22, 1975 at the age of 33. If he were alive today, he’d be 74.

My loveable rogue paid the ultimate price for the chinks in his character. He never realized the full consequence of being wild, reckless, devious, mocking, sarcastic, scornful, disrespectful, insulting, and ignorant.

Oscar was not the type of guy who flossed between his teeth, or was prone to introspection, or read a poem, or believed in courtesy flushes. Nor was he the type to appreciate the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. I’m sure he spit on the sidewalk and shit in the shower.

Oscar’s brain was paleo-mammalian. His brain was in his fists.

Indeed, a book entitled, “The Wisdom of Oscar Bonavena” would be the shortest book ever written.

I met Bonavena in 1970, at the high point of his chaotic career when he was training at Grossinger’s, preparing for his forthcoming bout with Muhammad Ali in Madison Square Garden. I was still in high school, too shy and nervous to approach him directly. I was a tough kid, but I was in awe of this ape man and didn’t want to admit my adoration. Besides, what would I say? Did he even speak English?

So I quietly sat in a chair watching him spar six spirited rounds with speedy Ray Anderson, a small version of Ali. Bonavena didn’t pussyfoot around that day. He plodded forward on his big flat feet, throwing left hooks and looping right hands, while smothering Anderson’s flicking left jab. Bonavena could handle a mini-version of Ali well enough, but how would he do with the bigger, taller, and faster Ali?

On December 12, 1970, Oscar took Ali deep into the 15th round before being TKOed—but he was stopped only because Mark Conn, the referee, neglected to direct Ali to the neutral corner—twice.

I looked up Marvin Goldberg, Oscar’s former manager, three years later while attending college. He worked as an optometrist on 42nd Street, and we walked across the street for a cup of coffee. “Oscar knew three words in English,” Goldberg recalled, “’more…money…millions.’”

“I remember riding with Oscar on the subway and watching him pickpocket a dollar from an old lady,” said Goldberg. “When he trained at Grossinger’s, a store owner told him to pick out anything in the store, ‘It’s yours!’ he said. Oscar went back to the guy’s store each day and stole items under his jacket. Oscar ended up with a trunk full of stolen goods.”

Then Goldberg recounted the well-known story about the Bonavena-Chuvalo fight. “Oscar remained in the hotel across the street from The Garden, demanding ten thousand dollars more to fight. Unless Teddy Brenner, the matchmaker, coughed up the dough, Oscar threatened to stay in his room. The fight was an hour away, so Teddy raced across the street, ran up to Oscar’s room, and showed him an envelope stuffed with ten thousand dollars. Oscar reached for it. ‘No! After the fight,’ Teddy promised.

“The next day, Oscar stormed into Teddy’s office demanding his money. Anticipating a problem, Teddy had hired two 250-pound body guards. When Teddy refused him the money, Bonavena broke two walls and a door, causing ten thousand dollars damage—but he never got his ten thousand dollars.

“Yes,” acknowledged Goldberg, “Oscar was a piece of work. He hurt many of his sparring partners. I had to pay for damaged ribs on a few occasions. It came right out of my pocket.”

As a fighter, Bonavena was an explosive flat-footed plodder, who lacked technical skill. “When Oscar was training for his bout with Jimmy Ellis in 1967,” continued Goldberg, “I brought in Rocky Marciano to give him advice. Oscar would nod; he always nodded, pretending to listen.  When Rocky left, Oscar would say, ‘He’s an old man, what does he know?’”

While Bonavena was under contract with Goldberg, Oscar fought twenty times in Argentina, with Goldberg never receiving a penny.

Oscar’s career began to languish after a loss to a timeworn Floyd Patterson in 1972. Then he dropped a decision to Ron Lyle in 1974. That year, he turned down a George Foreman fight on very short notice and began to drift, fighting lesser fighters in smaller venues—Maryland, Italy, Hawaii and Buenos Aires.

                                                                * * *

The chaotic career of this cocky, iron-jawed brawler ended at Centennial Coliseum, in Reno, Nevada with a ten-round victory over Billy Joiner. “Bonavena punched me low in practically every round,” Joiner said, “and those low blows were intentional.”

Sitting ringside was Joe Conforte, the owner of the Mustang Ranch, the notorious whore house/strip club. He invited Oscar, (now a big gambler), to stay at his ranch.

Big mistake.

Bonavena began to use the whorehouse as his official mailing address. He began sponging off Sally Conforte, Joe’s 60-year-old wife, who became smitten by Bonavena and encouraged the fighter’s attention.

By the age of thirty two, Oscar’s body was still as muscular as always but he started to lose interest in training. He wore his hair long, smoked cigars, and called himself “Ringo”.

And the brute power of his sex drive took over. 

It’s written, even though he was already married, he married a prostitute after knowing her only for one week. Then he started an affair with Sally Conforte.

This brash Argentinian heavyweight, a top-ten fighter in the early ‘70s who had been knocked out only once in his boxing career, soon became a loud-mouthed womanizer who would soon be shot dead.

The facts about Bonavena’s death are sketchy, but it’s clear he soon began bragging about a plan to take over Conforte’s brothel, as well as steal his wife. “I’m gonna be the big boss at the ranch,” Bonavena boasted.

Fed up, Conforte pulled Oscar aside, gave him money for a first-class plane ticket to Argentina. “Oscar,” Conforte said, “hit the road. The game is over. You’re going back to Argentina. I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.” 

Oscar took the money, gambled it away, and knocked on the Conforte’s door at 6:00 one morning. Conforte’s bodyguard, Ross Brymer, warned Bonavena to leave, or else.

Bonavena, as usual, didn’t listen.

Brymer pulled out a high-powered rifle, and shot Bonavena square in the chest, shredding his heart. He claimed self-defense, saying Bonavena, drunk and belligerent, reached for a gun hidden in his boot. Brymer served 15 months in jail.

                                                                * * *

Good reporting always begins with the Five Ws: Who-What-When-Where and Why. In my case the Why is a tricky one.

I wrote this article to thank Oscar Natalio Bonavena, a deeply flawed man. In an odd way he helped me.

I look down with amused disbelief at his smirking face. I’d given him my youth and made him a hell of a lot more wonderful than he really was. As a kid, I combed through the sports pages, searching for ring results posted in small agate print and my heart raced when I found…

…Oscar Bonavena KO 10 Hubert Hilton…Oscar Bonavena W 12 Karl Mildenberger…Oscar Bonavena KO 1 Manuel Ramos.

Oscar Bonavena would not have made a good priest or minister. Instead, he was a free-swinging bully who tarnished his own legacy by running into trouble outside the ring.

He didn’t enjoy the brilliant career that Lester Bromberg had forecasted, or become the heavyweight champion of the world that Marvin Goldberg, Charley Goldman, and I had wished for.

He was simply a colorful and courageous warrior who will be best remembered for going toe-to-toe with four heavyweight champions; calling Muhammad Ali a black kangaroo, and even a chicken for draft dodging. Ali was furious, but Oscar was one of the few people to upstage Ali in a pre-fight press conference. During Oscar’s pre-fight press conference with “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, Bonavena needled Joe, implying Joe had a personal hygiene problem, and start sniffing and grimacing; and, arguably, Oscar will be remembered as the only fighter to have ever scored a knockdown over iconic George Chuvalo, the durable Canadian.

But he also will be remembered for his volatility outside the ring. Lawsuits were filed numerous times for broken cameras, smashed walls, and damaged doors.

I look down at the cover of the Boxing & Wrestling magazine. Marvin Goldberg and Charley Goldman are still whispering valuable words of advice into Oscar’s ears, and Oscar is still not listening.

Boxing, an exciting world that I had once romanticized and seemed so full of adventure and importance, is now an old musty magazine, yellow and brittle with age, gasping for breath.

The magic is gone.

Oscar Bonavena helped me learn that the person one passionately admires at first is not necessarily the same person one passionately admires at last, and that admiration is not an end but a process through which a person understands himself.

I entered my teens innocent, believing boxing was the solution. If life was the problem, boxing was my answer. Angry? Hit the bag. Depressed? Go to the gym. Scared? Spar. It always worked. But it was a false religion. 

Nevertheless, fighting has—magically—turned me into a gentler and more intelligent person. 

Suddenly, the cellar lights blink off. “Hey!” I shout.

The lights flick back on. “There you are!” says my wonderful wife of twenty years. “Dinner’s ready, Dear!”

“Be right up.”

But not until I neatly arrange the nostalgia back where it properly belongs. I carefully stack the great men I’ve worshiped—“Bad” Bennie Brisco, Ismael Laguna, and Boone Kirkman—back into their cardboard boxes. These courageous, anachronistic, men will continue to silently fight each other in the darkness of my closet.

Then I look down at the smirking brute who ignited the passion, vigor, and hidden talent of a young boy many years ago.

He smiles at me. I smile back. And I jut out my jaw.

I gently place him on top of all the other magazines, close the trunk, and slide him back into the corner.

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.

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  1. Peter DePasquale 09:16am, 09/16/2016

    Congratulations, Peter. Another very insightful piece, with meaning for someone like me who grew up with many of the same heroes and still thinks of them that way.

  2. Bruce Kielty 07:54pm, 08/26/2016

    An absolutely superb article, in all respects.  For many long-term followers of the sport, boxing magazines opened a glimpse into the exciting world of prize-fighting.  Peter Wood tied it all together beautifully.

  3. Dan 10:26am, 08/24/2016

    Great read!  Not so much a fan, as an appreciator of life’s metaphors.

  4. Lucas McCain 08:16am, 08/23/2016

    Attention 60s fans!  Only two weeks (or so) until Carlos Ortiz’s 80th.  Happy Birthday to a great lightweight champ.

  5. Alan W. 06:52am, 08/23/2016

    Great writing, Peter.  Reads like a hot knife through butter.  We’re no more responsible for who we identify with when we’re kids than we are for who we fall in love with.  (How many times did we—and do we—fall in love with exactly the wrong person?) The great lightweight Woody Allen once said, under very different circumstances, “The heart wants what it wants.” (Unlike you, Woody didn’t have much of a punch, but he sure can write.)  I’m glad you’ve come to terms with your “fling” with Bonavena.  My guess is at that time you really needed to stick out your jaw and walk with a swagger.  What kid wouldn’t want the room to stop when he walked into the room?  Only later did we learn that the room stopped because the assembled were checking their pockets.

  6. Jeffrey Sussman 06:13am, 08/23/2016

    Peter combines the unique insights of a former boxer with the skills and talent of a highly evocative writer. Everything he writes is worth reading, not just once, but many times, and one’s pleasure in reading him never wanes. His latest article is Peter at the top of his form.

  7. Jack the Lad 10:36pm, 08/22/2016

    Great piece.

  8. Eric 07:25pm, 08/22/2016

    I have totes full of old boxing mags from the ‘70’s & 80’s, always thought of getting rid of them, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Lots of old Sports Illustratred mags from the same time period, it was actually a decent magazine back then. I have the SI covering the first Frazier-Ali fight, Leonard’s fights against Duran, Hagler & Hearns among others. I say most of the magazines are in “good” condition, but probably not worth a helluva lot, so they will just continue to take up space. Always nice to go back down memory lane and look at these things. Happier times and far less worries back then.

  9. Michael Chiariello 05:55pm, 08/22/2016

    Bravo Peter!  Another great article!  Your writing evokes amazing emotion. I am always amazed by the way that your writing has a quickness, force, precision, foresight, readiness, and endurance - just as great boxers do!  You have a great ability to tell a story that the reader can relate to. Keep it coming!!!!

  10. peter 04:54pm, 08/22/2016

    & LUCUS MCCAIN—Flash Gordon was classic; no one seems to know his whereabouts…...............It’s questionable, but being a Bonavena fan, I contend Chuvalo’s glove touched the canvas…...............@ ERIC—I agree, Bonavena would stand no chance against Foreman. And good catch re: Greb! It has since been corrected. Thank you!...................@ BILL—Thanks for your kind words! Bonavena was my Alley Oop!..................@ SWEETVIOLENTURGE—There was a time when I needed the money,  so I would lay a bed sheet down on the NYC sidewalk, put my magazines on it, and sell them. A well known writer, and friend of Ali, bought all my Rings with Ali on the cover, and gifted them to Ali….......@ Gordon—I think you agree that Ali was gifted that TKO because of an inept referee…....@ BOB—You are, perhaps, the modern-day equivalent to Lester Bromberg. Your kind words are always appreciated…........@ DIDIER—Thank you, Sir!

  11. Gordon Analla 04:04pm, 08/22/2016

    Not too diminish Ali’ ko of Oscar.  But look at the films.  Ali didn’t go to the neutral corner after the knock downs, that, and the dollar that was thrown at me at the beginning of the 15th by my friend, we had placed a bet that Oscar would go the limit, jinxed it.  He was tough, no doubt about it.

  12. sweetviolenturge 03:44pm, 08/22/2016

    Returning to the subject of those wonderful old boxing magazines, I loved them all. I originally just began with THE RING & BOXING ILLUSTRATED for a couple of months, but soon I was buying them all each & every month & continued to do so for decades. Right up until they all died out several years ago.
    With the exception of THE RING, of course, it’s still hanging in there.
    But, sadly, I gave up buying it regularly a couple of years back as I just could no longer justify spending $12 on outdated info & puff piece profiles.
    I hate to say it, but the internet has made the magazine pretty much obsolete.
    Besides, I’d much rather spend that 12 bucks each month on a vintage boxing magazine on e-bay. Which I still very much enjoy collecting. With my goal being to have every issue of THE RING & BOXING ILLUSTRATED from October of 1961 when I was born, to BI’s final issue ( not including any of the issues of INTERNATIONAL BOXING DIGEST, which BI became in the mid to late ‘90s ).
    After all these years of collecting, I don’t have many holes to fill in my RING collection now, but many of the issues of BI from the latter ‘60s & early ‘70s are difficult to tract down. But that’s what makes collecting so damned fun!

    - Jim Allcorn

  13. sweetviolenturge 03:20pm, 08/22/2016

    I very much enjoyed this piece Mr. Wood. Excellent work.
    Like you, I also often feel compelled to look through my vintage issues of THE RING, BOXING ILLUSTRATED, WORLD BOXING, BOXING INTERNATIONAL etc. when I’m feeling nostalgic. There’s nothing else quite like it.
    Although being just a couple of years your junior, I didn’t begin my love/obsession with boxing & my magazine collection until I was 14 years old in 1976. With my absolute favorite fighter at that time being Ken Norton.
    I began following boxing by watching the prime time broadcast of Ali’s title defense against “The Lion of Flanders” himself, Jean-Pierre Coopman. LOL. Not an auspicious introduction to The Sweet Science by any means, but it intrigued me enough to tune in the following month when Ali fought Jimmy Young. With that really being the night that I became passionate about boxing. It was also the night when I was introduced to Norton, who battered Ron Stander into a one-sided 5th round TKO defeat. 
    What it was that piqued my interest in Norton that night, I really can’t recall, but it was strong enough that I never missed a fight of his from that point onto his final contest vs Gerry Cooney.

    - Jim Allcorn

  14. Bill Angresano 12:56pm, 08/22/2016

    I looked forward in great anticipation for your article on this colorful heavyweight of the 60’s and 70’s Peter. Along with George Chuvalo , Quarry Ellis , Leotis Martin , Gregorio Peralta , just to name a few that we were acutely aware of . From as far back as our high school days when I heard his name role off your tongue in enthusiasm, following his career he was indeed colorful and ultimately a tragic figure. Being a former “denizen” of both your childhood basement and the Boxing ring , it struck me how even then I knew YOU would never follow in Oscar’s lumbering footsteps, being too concerned and focused on escaping and moving forward with your life. Which thankfully we all know that is exactly what you did! As George Chuvalo would pen when asked for his signature, “Keep Punching” ! Keep writing Pete !!

  15. didier 08:51am, 08/22/2016


  16. Eric 07:10pm, 08/21/2016

    I think you meant to write that Jack Johnson knocked out Ketchel’s teeth and not Harry Greb’s pearly whites. I always think of Earl Monroe as a Baltimore Bullet even though he was a Knick for a longer period of time. The Bullets & Knicks had quite the rivalry back in the day. I went through a period of trying to emulate Pete Rose’s batting stance in my yufe. Even taught myself to hit from both sides of the plate. Remember the first commandment of, Thou shall not diss Harry Greb.

  17. Bob 04:48pm, 08/21/2016

    What a unique, compelling, insightful and honest piece of writing. This was not just a great boxing story, it explored the circuitous arcs of life in an incredibly readable and understandable way. I cannot imagine anyone 40 years from now going into their basement to locate equally impressionable publications with Tyson Fury or Charles Martin on the cover. It is too bad because, among many other things, this article showed just how great boxing once was. Flawless piece of work, Mr. Wood.

  18. Eric 02:35pm, 08/21/2016

    Lucas.. No doubt that George was an awesome physical specimen. I think Oscar was robbed in the first Frazier fight. Oscar might not have been an angel, but he took that fight IMO. Oscar was a tough hombre, he certainly gave Ali & Frazier some tough moments.

  19. Lucas McCain 01:51pm, 08/21/2016

    And for a second slip-down, here Oscar, after solid exchanges, hits George on the shoulder, sending him down onto the ropes, at around 2:45
      Again the ref appears to call it a slip.  You can only be sure if there was a mandatory 8 count, since he does not invoke it either time. 
      Eric: I watched George F’s public workout before the Chuvalo fight at MSG and he was not only a monster back then, but also light on his feet.  I couldn’t imagine anyone beating him then.  I’m also curious what an aging Liston-Chuvalo fight would have looked like.  Apparently Sonny agreed to it some time after beating Wepner, needing the dough, but then his bizarre death put an end to that.

  20. Eric 01:43pm, 08/21/2016

    Is the Lyle-Bonavena fight floating around anywhere? It definitely isn’t on Youtube. Looks like Oscar was a real POS, and it looks like in the end, he got exactly what he deserved. Oscar also turned down a fight with Norton, and Quarry took his place on short notice. Would have loved to see Foreman knock his bully ass all over the ring, too bad Oscar backed out of that fight as well.

  21. Lucas McCain 01:27pm, 08/21/2016

    View from another angle of the ambiguous slip/knockdown:

    I sure am glad they didn’t have youtube when I was growing up.

  22. Lucas McCain 01:18pm, 08/21/2016

    Follow up:  Here’s one (silent) tape of Bonavena-Chuvalo:

    At 12:48 it appears that Oscar lands a good right (after eating jabs much of the way), Chuvalo counters with with wide left hook, and Oscar jabs/pushes him off balance, and Chuvolo stumbles, briefly touching the canvas with a glove.  The referee appears to be wiggling his hands in what may be a “no knockown” gesture but the tape jumps a second later before you can be sure.  One of life’s mysteries, though there appears to be a sound version elsewhere on the web. 

  23. Lucas McCain 01:07pm, 08/21/2016

    Nice column!  Most guys our age, with a taste for strange heroes, were fascinated by Sonny Liston, so congratulations on originality. Like many other who read this site, I still enjoy rainy-day visits to my fragile Ring Magazines, Boxing Illustrateds (man, that Stanley Weston put out a visually striking magazine after leaving the stodgy Ring), Flash Gordons (Kenny Breathe; Willie Getup, et al.) and stray SI’s with boxing cover stories.  I’ll have to check youtube to see if there are any clips of Bonavena-Chuvalo.  They always seemed like twins to me, though George was a lot more disciplined and a nicer guy.  Did Oscar really drop Chuvalo?  I thought it was ruled a slip, though memory can be a tricky thing.

  24. peter 12:33pm, 08/21/2016

    Thank you, Irish. I probably was sitting with you in the back row at that City College class. But I’m sure I didn’t ace it. Peace.

  25. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:03pm, 08/21/2016

    Peter Wood-From the back row of my remedial English class at City College (which I aced) directly to you….I was down in that basement with you…this is as good as it gets here at or anywhere else on or off the internet!

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