Doug DeWitt’s Disappointment

By Brian D'Ambrosio on August 10, 2013
Doug DeWitt’s Disappointment
“Mickey Rourke turned out to be a bullshit artist. I like him, but he is so full of shit.”

“I was in my prime from 1983 to 1985. That’s when my skills were really good, and when I was supposed to fight for an undisputed title…”

Doug DeWitt dislikes Wikipedia.

The loosely monitored, community-driven website asserts that his birth name is “Douglas Anthony Ittaglio.”

Perhaps the word ‘dislike’ is an understatement. ‘Detest’ may be a better substitute.

“That’s total bullshit,” says DeWitt. “I don’t know who the fuck did that, the Wikipedia bullshit. I’m really pissed off about it. Wikipedia is so full of shit and I’m so pissed off. My father’s name was Clinton DeWitt. I’m proud to be a Dewitt, a Dutch and German name on my father’s side. No clue. Who knows? I’ve never heard of this ‘Ittaglio’ person. My son’s name is the same as mine. DeWitt.”

Wikipedia seems to be the slightest of DeWitt’s frustrations.

There are some great memories: a 13-round tiebreaker win over Tony “The Fighting Postman” Thornton for the USBA middleweight title, in 1987; a WBO title victory against Robbie Sims, in 1989; the 36-career victories that he stakes claim to.

But DeWitt is troubled by the close calls and clear-cut losses.

He steers the conversation toward the “letdowns and bad fights.” Occasionally, he watches his decision loss to Tommy Hearns for the NABF middleweight crown in 1986. He sits in the dark, volume turned off, and notes the damage to the fighters’ faces.

“A lot of guys thought I beat him,” says DeWitt, of the fight which took place in Hearns’ hostile hometown of Detroit. “At the end, I didn’t have a mark and he was all beaten up. I should have gone for it all when I had him on the ropes. How many can say that they fought an all-time legend, a legitimate superstar? How many guys fight a legitimate superstar and fight him well?”

In 1988, DeWitt was stopped in eight rounds by Sumbu Kalambay in a WBA middleweight title bout. “Emotionally, I was not the real Doug DeWitt,” says DeWitt. “I was going through the motions. If I fought him in 1984, I’d beat him, no problem. I was up and down at that point. I had no fight plan, I really had a great opportunity, and I took it like an asshole.”

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1961, DeWitt was raised in Yonkers, New York. His first taste of the fight game came as a teenager when he waltzed into a gritty White Plains recreation center.

“I walked in and I saw a guy on the heavy bag,” says DeWitt. “He was a guy who just did 20 years in prison, and he took a liking to me.”

DeWitt quickly became an ESPN headliner, and, after he won the ESPN middleweight title in 1984, he set his sights on bigger names and paydays. Then the losses to Tommy Hearns and Milton McCrory.

But DeWitt proudly fought on, winning the WBO belt in 1989 from Robbie Sims (half-brother of Marvin Hagler), avenging an early loss to Sims in August of 1985, and defending it valiantly against Matthew Hilton.

“I shined and rose to the occasion that night,” says DeWitt. “It should have catapulted me against Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns again, or Marvin Hagler. It gave me lots of exposure.”

In Dewitt’s second defense of the WBO title, he was halted by Nigel Benn.

“I was in my prime from 1983 to 1985,” says DeWitt. “That’s when my skills were really good, and when I was supposed to fight for an undisputed title. But, like an asshole, I lost the first fight to Sims.” 

Three fights after the Benn loss, DeWitt retired.

He has spent ample time thinking about that night in October 1986 when he faced Tommy Hearns, about what could’ve been if he had been a little taller, a little more aggressive, a little more, well, like Hearns.

“He was a great fighter, and I love Tommy,” says DeWitt. “Physically, I don’t think it was my toughest fight. He wasn’t the toughest fighter I fought. I had boxed Hagler in the gym, and I knew that I could fight Hearns. I thought I could knock him out in the later rounds. But I didn’t have the right team or plan going into fight.”

In recent years, DeWitt attempted standup comedy. He performed 29 shows in one year, including gigs at such New York icons as Caroline’s and the Gotham Comedy Club, but then he scrapped those plans.

“I wasn’t unsuccessful at it,” says DeWitt. “You get 10 minutes to make people laugh. I didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s like in boxing. When I was 15, I wanted to do it. I was hooked. But I hit the point where I didn’t want to do it anymore. You need to be motivated.”

“All the fights took a toll,” he continues. “I really believe had I been right mentally and physically, not one of those guys could have beaten me. Mentally, I’m fine. I have arthritis in my feet, herniated discs in my neck, but I keep in shape, and I work around the injuries.”

In 2010, DeWitt appeared in an off-Broadway New York play called “The Cutting Den,” and he retains a slim hope of becoming a successful, bankable actor. He says it’s tougher to catch a break in Hollywood than it was in boxing. At least, when he was boxing, he had no one other than himself to point the finger at.

“Mickey Rourke turned out to be a bullshit artist,” says DeWitt. “He promised the sun and the moon and gave me a bit part in the movie ‘Bullet.’ I like him, but he is so full of shit. He came up with one line for me in the entire movie. “

He says his acting career has been hindered by a surgery he had done years ago to remove cartilage in his nose. The purpose of the operation was to remove the cartilage so he could breathe easier. But his nose ended up caving in—leaving him with the appearance of a badly battered pug.

“That is what happens when you listen to the advice of assholes,” says DeWitt.

There is one thing in DeWitt’s life that he is optimistic about, and that is the promise and potential of his six-year-old son, Douglas.

“He is my life,” says DeWitt. “I don’t want him to box.”

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Thomas Hearns vs Doug Dewitt Part 1 of 3

Thomas Hearns vs Doug Dewitt Part 2 of 3

Thomas Hearns vs Doug Dewitt Part 3 of 3

Sumbu Kalambay vs Doug DeWitt

Nigel Benn vs Doug Dewitt 1990 part 1

Nigel Benn vs Doug Dewitt 1990 part 2

Nigel Benn vs Doug Dewitt 1990 part 3

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  1. Ted 12:25pm, 08/15/2013

    Rourke was a decent amateur fighter in Florida. His short stint as a pro was, well, short. 6-0-2 highlighted with a draw with the infamous Sean Gibbons (14-7-3) which was Sean’s claim to fame as well. Some house Bruce The Mouse Strauss missed the mix.

  2. Clarence George 09:54am, 08/11/2013

    Glad I’m not alone, Jim.

    Irish:  I can’t resist observing, regardless of the irrelevance, that “The Wild Wild West,” starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, was one of my favorite shows, especially those episodes featuring Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn).  More to the point, I share your admiration for “Bones.”

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:29am, 08/11/2013

    Brian D’Ambrosio-Here are just a few of my favorite fighters….Clarence “Bones” Adams, Irish Micky Ward, Irish Frankie Crawford, Greg Haugen, Doug DeWitt, and Jesse James Hughes who said that Felix Trinidad wore panties and whose murder still remains unsolved after all these years.

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:13am, 08/11/2013

    Eric-Same for Robert Conrad who “adopted” Irish Frankie Crawford way back when…..he featured himself a tough guy too but pissed Frankie off and in the end had to get a restraining order on Frankie who was truly as they say, “bad to the bone”. Which reminds me Frankie’s story makes Micky Ward’s story seem like a walk in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood in comparison and I’m surprised that at least one of the great writers on this site hasn’t picked up on that fact as inspiration for a book or at least a screenplay.

  5. Eric 06:39am, 08/11/2013

    Rourke certainly seems like he’s full of sheet. Always liked his movies though. I’ve watched the movie “Bullet” and had no idea that DeWitt was in it. Rourke seems like he wants to be a REAL life tough guy like DeWitt but is really just another Hollyweird REEL tough guy, not a bad actor, but leave the boxing to people like DeWitt, Mickey.

  6. Jim Crue 04:31am, 08/11/2013

    I’m laughing to Clarence

  7. Clarence George 02:37am, 08/11/2013

    Really good piece, Brian, on a middleweight who isn’t brought to mind nearly as often as he should be.

    DeWitt’s anger toward Wikipedia is somewhat misdirected.  The culprit is probably BoxRec, and he should get in touch with them.  It’s an indispensable resource, but they sometimes get it wrong.  For instance, they have Henry Armstrong’s birth date as December 12, 1909, though he was famously born on December 12, 1912 (12-12-12).

    Given that his father’s name was Clinton, I wonder if the family is somehow related to New York’s Governor DeWitt Clinton.  Something else he should look into.

    It’s too bad he doesn’t want his son to box, but I can’t think of anything else to say against this very good indeed middleweight.

    By the way, am I the only one immature and crude enough to laugh out loud at “He was a guy who just did 20 years in prison, and he took a liking to me”?  Probably.

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