Patterson Was Great in Buffalo

By Michael Schmidt on June 19, 2011
Patterson Was Great in Buffalo
Patterson says, "Buffalo is a great boxing town"

Don Patterson has the boxing “virus” and there is no doubt about it. The “virus” started when he was eight years old…

His preparation the past few weeks has been nonstop and paid dividends the night of the fight. Phone calls were answered around the clock, he arranged medicals, and he delivered his own posters here, there and everywhere. Radio and TV interviews were accepted at all times. He of course had help along the way and right up through fight night but it did not stop him from doing all that he could to help. Tonight he was on his toes, springing up and down, looking for any openings to fill. There was an economy to his movement and as well there should have been as he was a professional. He moved, balanced, left and right. In fact at times it seemed he covered every corner ever so smoothly. Sometimes he was crouching and sometimes he was straight up, ready for more. There was no peek-a-boo this night. That was not going to work. There would be no place to hide, as the cliché goes. He did not let the crowd’s enthusiastic noise bother him and in fact he, the professional, welcomed it, fed off it. Don Patterson was back once again doing his thing. He might have been fighting against the odds but he would make it a victorious evening by hard work, courage, and perseverance. He was back again! Floyd Patterson pitched a near shut-out back in the 1970s against Buffalo’s “Big” Vic Brown here in Buffalo, but in fact it is Don Patterson of Diaab Promotions that we speak of on this night.

Don Patterson put on a Pro-Am fight card Saturday night in Buffalo which, not by original design, evolved into a U.S. vs. Canada card. “Fight Night at the Flickinger” was held with the New York State Middleweight Championship up for grabs. Others have of course kept the torch in Western New York, including but not limited to Jack Singer back in the 1940s, Rick Glaser since 1992, and the legendary Don Elbaum, ongoing (in one week recently it seemed Don was in South America and then in Germany—we need the name of his vitamins!), who promoted some 16 shows in Memorial Auditorium alone.

“The Aud” hosted the State Golden Gloves in a big way in days gone by. In the early 1970s it would be packed to the rafters for Friday and Saturday night Golden Gloves semis and finals. Those days and that fan base in this area, short of headliners such as Baby Joe Mesi who packed them in, have disappeared, as they have in many parts of the country. I recall a boxer decked out in shiny red robe and trunks named Sugar Ray Heldon electrifying the crowd by winning two fights by clean-cut knockout only to lose in the final. Heldon is long gone and has left me wondering whatever happened to him, and what happened to boxing and all its fans? Certainly the extraordinary still bring them in—and Joe Mesi was certainly proof of that a few years back. Which brings me to Don Patterson. Why Don Patterson? He represents a host of promoters, not under the big tent so to speak, who keep this wonderful sport of ours alive.

I am sure Don Patterson has visions of bigger shows, bigger dollars, more and more promotional glory. It would be unbusiness-like not to have such dreams and visions. Here he is tonight, working hard at good old-fashioned promoting with such passion. No doubt, unless he has some very novel way of doing these shows, Patterson’s return on hard work won’t possibly equate to return on investment per hours spent, not at least in the dollar sense at this point. It will take time, and regular consistent shows, and he knows this. Patterson will develop and showcase fighters that bring the fans back wanting more. He will give himself, as a close friend always reminds me, to a sport that will never be able to properly repay him. In fact, the repayment is in the doing, and doing it as well as one can possibly can. Hopefully by repetition, and by developing a fan base, Patterson will also be rewarded financially for all the work he does on these boxing shows, and as an offshoot this will continue to reward Buffalo’s youth and the community as a whole. As he says, “Buffalo is a great boxing town,” and these shows and helping out kids and young adults in the boxing gyms affords “an opportunity to keep encouraging these kids to do what they are doing.” Patterson has seen his “reward” for years: helping the young gain confidence, learn discipline, stay out of trouble, use what they have learned in their boxing training to move on to successful adult careers, in and out of the ring.

Patterson is also a delegate for the New York State Golden Gloves. He and I do some “storytelling” and his passion for boxing is overwhelming. I think I have the better of him as I recall being taken over to Buffalo’s “Boystown” as a youth to meet a Buffalo boxing legend, Monsignor Franklin Kelliher. Dear old dad took me over for a visit before a boxing show one evening. I don’t recall why, and in retrospect I suspect I was up to my usual not-so-stellar daily visits to my grade school principal’s office. (My vision of after school detention, sitting glumly and bored from the back corner of the classroom for thirty minutes, daydreaming as to why my good buddy Stevie S. was getting all the smiles from Jane with the long blonde hair, was now changing, as I recall, into something more potentially painful.) The good Monsignor, a 1920s standout amateur heavyweight boxer and a very imposing figure, gave me a smack on the back and then lightly shook my hand and shoulder and told me to always be good. Message sent! Patterson one-ups me on Buffalo history by letting me know that Monsignor Kelliher was also a professional wrestler, as it turns out, back in the late 1920s and early ‘30s, His nom-de-guerre was THE MASKED MARVEL. I imagine that was why there was no such thing as a bad boy at “Boystown.” Who the hell (sorry upstairs Monsignor) would want to mess with a wrestler named THE MASKED MARVEL?

Other Buffalo memories flash by: Irv Weinstein, WKBW-TV News Anchor for “Eyewitness News”; Rick Azar dishing up highlights of Bob McAdoo and that crazy unstoppable jump shot; Ernie “D” racing up and down the court proving, like Nate “Tiny” Archibald and, later, Allan Iverson, that little men could play a big man’s game; The Commander Tom show with Promo the Robot, Tom Jolls. I digress but thank Don Patterson for jogging my childhood memories. Time does indeed fly by. I can’t remember the poet but, yes, at some point “I will, by my circumstances, want not but for my memories and my health” and some damn good boxing shows to watch!

Don Patterson has the boxing “virus” and there is no doubt about it. The “virus” started when he was eight years old, watching boxing with his dad. The “virus” spread as Patterson would have a successful amateur career becoming a 1989-1990 U.S. National Team Championship member. His pro career was shortened by cataract surgery but the “virus” continued. There is no negativity to Don and, in salute to all the Don Pattersons of the world keeping boxing alive in locales that were, of yesteryear, electrifying, yes electrifying, places to go watch boxing live, there will be no negativity offered back from these quarters and nor are there any to give at any rate.

Don has been supported in this community and he will be supported back in kind as these shows continue. He is one of boxing’s “good guys.” The show here tonight was thrilling. The size of the crowd was disappointing, but fans will be back. The main event, for the Vacant New York State Middleweight Title, pitted Nick “Machine Gun” Brinson against Michael “Flash” Walchuk and it had people on the edge of their seats round after round as Brinson won a fight most certainly deserving of a rematch by entertainment value alone. Behind me sat a young man with his girlfriend. He was on his cell phone, probably talking loud enough to irritate those around him, but not yours truly, as he was telling a friend, “Seriously G-Unit you should come out to this live boxing stuff. It’s crazy seeing these guys smack each other around, and Jill likes their bodies all lubed up.” How good is that! Certainly not a portrayal of the finer points of “the sweet science,” but boxing has two new enthusiastic fans. I’d give the girlfriend a hug for being a new fan, but suspect she would rather concentrate on the two young athletic lads “all lubed” up and smacking “each other around,” as opposed to a hug from old Schmidty. No doubt her boyfriend or “G-Unit” might take exception as well!

If boxing had a good solid demographic study I suspect that for the most part hardcore fans would be dear old dad’s age. Although he’s long gone, great memories of him live on, rekindled by Patterson, of those days when we would go for weekends to Buffalo. Last week, while I was having a great meal at the boxing museum/emporium of fight photos, otherwise known as Graziano’s Restaurant in Canastota, Don Patterson was out on the International Boxing Hall of Fame Museum grounds having his picture taken with the likes of Al Bernstein, Chuck Zito, Bert Sugar, stogie in hand of course, Vinny Pazmanian Devil, Joe Cortez, Azumah Nelson, and my personal favorite, a duet of Tecate girls. No doubt Don turned around and emailed the photos to as many folks as possible. A promoter never stops! New fans and younger fans alike are all part of the evening when you DO THINGS RIGHT AND PUT ON A GOOD SOLID COMPETITIVE SHOW—and Don Patterson did just that. To all the Pattersons out there in Promotionville, WE SALUTE YOU. Patterson was great in Buffalo. The Professional. Tonight he was on his toes, springing up and down…

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