Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fifteen

By Peter Weston Wood on January 19, 2015
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fifteen
"This book influenced my approach to my studies, my athletics, and my fighting style."

“Speak the language that they understand and there will be some understanding, because you can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language…”

Well, this is it—the final installment of “Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter.” I hope you have enjoyed reading this 15-part series, as much as I have enjoyed compiling it.

It’s been an absolute joy interviewing all 250 boxing personalities. As the reader might expect, the favorite reading material that these noble men and women have been willing to share with us, has run the gamut—from comic books to books of philosophy; pulp fiction to the classics; the ridiculous to the sublime.

However, it’s not over. Coming up next will be the much-anticipated, much talked about, bonus installment of this series in which I ask our own talented and respected team of writers to share with the public what their favorite book is.

Stay tuned. This will be interesting.

1. Michael “The Jinx” Spinks—WBA Light Heavyweight Champion, July 18, 1981 – Sept. 21, 1985; WBC Light Heavyweight Champion, March 18, 1983 – Sept. 21, 1985; IBF Light Heavyweight Champion, Feb. 25, 1984 – Sept. 21, 1985; IBF Heavyweight Champion, March 18, 1983 – Sept. 21, 1985

o Defeated Murray Sutherland (UD 10) & (TKO 8)
o Defeated Ramon Ranquello (TKO 6)
o Defeated David Conteh (TKO 9)
o Defeated Yaqui Lopez (TKO 7)
o Defeated Marvin Johnson (KO 4)
o Defeated Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (UD 15)
o Defeated Vonzell Johnson (TKO 7)
o Defeated Jerry Celestine (TKO 8)
o Defeated Eddie Davis (UD 12)
o Defeated Dwight Qawi (UD 15)
o Defeated Larry Holmes (UD 15) & (SD 15)
o Defeated Steffen Tangstad (TKO 4)
o Defeated Gerry Cooney (TKO 5)
o Amateur Record: 93-7 (35 KO)
o 1976 Middleweight Gold Medalist for the United States at the Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
o 1976 National Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship (165 lbs.) in Miami, Florida vs. Lamont Kirkland
o 1974 National Golden Gloves Light Middleweight Championship (156 lbs.) in Denver, Colorado vs. Wilber Cameron
o Won 31 (KO 21) + lost 1 (KO 1) + drawn 0 = 32 rounds boxed 226 KO% 65.63

Michael Spinks’s Favorite Book: The Holy Bible

“He always had a Bible in his hand…When we’d go fight out of town, to New York, to California, to Boston, he always got us in the room and read the Bible to us. And he’d say, ‘Let’s pray.’ We were eighteen, nineteen, we thought it was funny. We thought it was weird. But I think that Bible took him a long way. It gave him courage, faith…”—Jesse Davison, in “One Punch from the Promised Land” (page 23).

2. Nick Charles—Award-winning sportscaster and journalist

o The first sports anchor for CNN in 1980
o He co-hosted CNN Sports Tonight with Fred Hickman
o Charles became host of Showtime’s ShoBox in 2001
o He also hosted Boxing on Versus, a sports network
o Nick won the Boxing Writers Association 2007 Broadcaster award
o Former CYO boxer in Chicago

Nick Charles’s Favorite Book: The Ox-Bow Incident

“Choose a favorite book? That’s impossible! There’s so many…The morality of ‘The Ox-Bow Incident.’ The stark reality of ‘The Professional” by W. C. Heinz.’ The power of ‘Crime and Punishment.’ The beauty of ‘Madame Bovary.’ The brilliance of ‘The Age of Innocence.’ Don’t forget ‘Death Comes for the Archbishop.’ Okay, choose one… ‘The Ox-Bow Incident.’ Just read the preface—that alone is transcendent.”

3. Chris Algieri—Current WBO World Light Welterweight titleholder

o Defeated Emmanuel Taylor (UD 10)
o Defeated Ruslan Provodnikov (SD 12)
o Defeated Mike Arnaoutis (UD 10)
o Defeated Jose Peralta Alejo (UD 10)
o Promoted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, signed after reaching 10-0 as a professional boxer
o Never fought as an amateur. Converted to pro boxing after retiring from pro kickboxing with a 20-0 record.
o Undefeated World Kick Boxing Champion, with a 20-0 record at welterweight and super welterweight in the WKA and ISKA.
o Won 20 (KO 8) + lost 1 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 21 rounds boxed 134 KO% 38.1

Chris Algieri’s Favorite Book:- “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu’s

“This book was ‘suggested reading’ material during my martial arts training in my teenage years. This book was influential in my approach to my studies, my athletics, and ultimately, my fighting style.” 

4. James J. Beattie—“Big Jim” was a heavyweight contender of the 1960s & ‘70s who stood 6-feet-9½ inches tall

o Defeated Dick Wipperman (TKO 7) (W 10) (W 10)
o Defeated Alonzo Johnson ((KO 9)
o Defeated Tom McNeeley (KO 5)
o Defeated Mel Turnbow (TKO 6)
o Defeated Orville Qualls (KO 3)
o Northwest Golden Gloves Champ
o Lost to Buster Mathis in 1962 Golden Gloves (national?)
o Portrayed Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard in the James Earl Jones movie, “The Great White Hope”
o Won 40 (KO 32) + lost 10 (KO 7) + drawn 0 = 50 rounds boxed 246 KO% 64

James J. Beattie’s Favorite Book: “The Heart of the Soul” by Gary Zukar

“After my fighting days, I’ve become more of a reader. After fighting I’ve also developed spiritually, and have become more spiritually inclined. I wouldn’t say I’m religious. In fact, I think religion, to a large extent, is a fraud. So I read a lot of spiritual books on my shelf. Another book I enjoyed reading was ‘The Suicide Pact’ by Judge Andrew Napolitano. It’s far from spiritual, but it has an important message.”

5.  Steve Farhood—Former Editor-in-Chief of “The Ring (magazine)” and “KO Magazine”

o Former First Vice President of the Boxing Writers’ Association of America
o Analyst for ESPN, CNN, SportsChannel and USA Network’s “Tuesday Night Fights”
o Commentator on Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation
o In 2002 won the Sam Taub Award, which is given for “Excellence in Broadcasting Journalism”

Steve Farhood’s Favorite Book: The Sound and the Fury

“The best book I’ve ever read was ‘The Sound and the Fury’ by William Faulkner. In fact, I read it in college—twice. With the help of my college professor I was able to get so much more meaning and nuance out of it. Let’s face it, Faulkner is difficult. But sticking with it, and re-visiting it a second time, was such a gratifying experience.”

6. Kelsey “The Road Warrior” Jeffries—IFBA International Female Boxing Association Featherweight Champ – 2002-2007; IBA Super Bantamweight Title – 2004-2006

o Defeated Leona Brown (UD 6)
o Defeated Kelli Cofer (UD 10)
o Defeated Melissa Del Valle ((UD 6)
o Defeated Layla McCarter (UD 10)
o Defeated Rhonda Luna (SD 10)
o Defeated Donna Biggers (UD 10)
o Defeated Yun Jung Jun (UD 10)
o Defeated Jessica Mohs (TKO 11)
o Won the California Golden Gloves title from 1997 to 1999.
o Won 41 (KO 4) + lost 9 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 51

Kelsey Jeffries’s Favorite Book: “Sweetness: The Courage and Heart of Walter Payton” Tom Fantle & Tom Johnson

“Walter Payton was a remarkable individual and a true role-model. He was a short, tough, never-give-up type of guy. He was a goodhearted man.”

7. Carl “The Truth” Williams—USBA Heavyweight Champion, defeating Bert Cooper (TKO 8) – Held title for four years

o Won two New York Golden Gloves Championships—the 1980 Sub-Novice Heavyweight Championship & the 1981 Heavyweight Open Championship
o Lost to Mike Tyson (KO 1) for WBC, WBA & IBF heavyweight titles
o Defeated Ossie Ocasio (D 10)
o Defeated Trevor Berbick (D 10)
o Defeated James Tillis (D 10)
o Defeated Jesse Ferguson (TKO 10)
o Won 30 (KO 21) + lost 10 (KO 5) + drawn 0 = 41

Carl Williams’s Favorite Book: “By Any Means Necessary” by Malcolm X

“Sure, Malcolm can be divisive, but I don’t take him that way. I take him to say, ‘Be a better man, better father, better community person.’ I took the positive out of this book. The divisive stuff never appealed to me. Nah, I never fell for that negative crap. His words, to me, were about moving forward. This book is a brilliant collection of writings and speeches that deals with the last year of his life and it contains some really interesting material. One thing I liked best is Malcolm saying: ‘Speak the language that they understand and there will be some understanding, because you can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language.’ Yeah, I really like that. This book changed my thinking pattern and helped me move forward.”

8. Jill Emery—IFBA International Female Boxing Association Welterweight Champion

o Unprecedented Four-Time NY Golden Gloves Champion from 2000 to 2003
o Women’s World Boxing Tournament Champion
o Jill Emery was honored as 2004 “Athlete of the Year by USA Boxing.
o Attended Bucknell University
o Captured the following USA Boxing titles: National Golden Glove Champion in 1999; Three time USA Boxing National Champion – 2000, 2001, 2003; Feenix Cup in Turku. Finland, 2000
o In 2001, Emery won the first ever Female Pan American Games
o In 2001, qualified to represent Team USA in the first Women’s World Championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania
o Won the National PAL Tournament and “Outstanding Boxer” trophy in 2002
o Represented Team USA in the first Female Boxing Russian-American Dual in Moscow
o Won the gold medal in the Female World Cup in Tonsberg, Norway 2004 and received the “Outstanding Boxer of North America” Award
o She is still the only American to win a gold medal in the Ahmet Comert Tournament in Istanbul, Turkey
o Pro Record: won 9 (KO 3) + lost 2 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 11

Jill Emery’s Favorite Book: “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay

“This is an inspirational read. It’s also an historically informative saga about the dire political struggles inherent within South Africa. On another level, this book is about personal struggle—about a young boy and his life-long dream, his personal journey, to become a champion. This book makes us realize that it’s an honor to have a dream, no matter how difficult, because our dream enriches our life and makes it more meaningful.”

9. Dean Chance—President of International Boxing Association, IBA

o Pitched 11 years in Major League Baseball career where he compiled a 128-115 record
o Career highlight: Winning the 1964 AL Cy Young Award, that he captured with the Los Angeles Angels after going 20-9
o Two-Time All Star (1964, 1967)
o Pitched a no-hitter on August 25, 1967
o Also played with the Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, and Cleveland Indians
o Became involved in boxing, managing ‘70s heavyweight contender Earnie Shavers

Dean Chance’s Favorite Book: “ The Lou Gehrig Story” by Jonathan Eig

“I don’t read books. I might have read a book when I was a kid. Let me see…I did read ‘The Lou Gehrig Story’ as a boy. I enjoyed that book. He was a helluva ball player.”

10. Grady “Bad Boy” Brewer   IBO Intercontinental Light Middleweight Titleholder (2012)

o Defeated Steve Forbes (SD 10)
o Defeated Cornelius Bundrage (SD 10)
o Defeated Fernando Guerrero (TKO 4)
o Defeated Gorbis Barthelemy (DQ 5)
o Defeated Said Ouali (UD 6)
o Defeated Abel Perry (UD 6) & (UD 6)
o Won the second season of the ESPN boxing reality television show “The Contender”
o Titles Held:
o NABF Light Middleweight Title (2011)
o IBC Light Middleweight Title (2009)
o IBA Light Middleweight Title (2005)
o Texas Light Middleweight Title (2002-03)
o Won 32 (KO 16) + lost 19 (KO 9) + drawn 0 = 51 rounds boxed 293 KO% 31.37

Grady Brewer’s Favorite Book: Spiderman

“My favorite book? Well, that’s easy—but it’s not really a book—it’s a comic book. But a comic book is a book, isn’t it? I always liked Spiderman. Why Spiderman and not Superman or Batman, you ask? I don’t know. But ever since I was a kid, it was always Spiderman.”

11. Cletus Seldin—“The Hebrew Hammer”—Undefeated & Hard-Punching Light Welterweight

o Defeated Mayan Jargal (TKO 9)
o Defeated Ramesis Gil (KO 2)
o Seldin began boxing at the age of 22—Amateur Record: 26-2 Record
o 2009 Ringside Amateur World Champion
o 2010 Long Island Amateur Champion
o Lost in the finals of the New York State Golden Gloves
o Participated in body building and placed in the top five at the Eastern USA Body Building Championships
o Won 15 (KO 12) + lost 0 (KO 0)

Cletus Seldin’s Favorite Book: “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall

“The book I enjoyed most was ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall. It’s an amazing about people running 100 miles at a time while doing it barefoot. After reading it, I went from maxing out at four miles while running in sneakers, to running in shoes with no heel and a shortened stride, which allowed me to run as long as I want now.”

12. Joe Smith, Jr.—“The Irish Bomber” is an up-and-coming Long Island Light Heavyweight with heavy hands

o Defeated Michael Gbenga (RTD 2)
o Defeated Tyrell Hendrix ((TKO 3)
o Defeated Maxwell Taylor (TKO 1)
o Won 17 (KO 14) + lost 1 (KO 1)

Joe Smith Jr.’s Favorite Book: The Internet

“Well, I’ll be honest with you—I haven’t read too many books since high school. But I do like to read, but it’s mostly online stuff, like about cars and off road Jeeps. So, I do read.”

13. Donny “Golden Boy” Lalonde—WBC Light Heavyweight Champion, Nov. 27, 1987 – Nov. 27, 1988

o Defeated Eddie Davis ((TKO 2)
o Defeated Wilbert “Vampire” Johnson (TKO 2)
o Defeated Jean-Claude LeClair (TKO 2)
o Defeated Tony Menefee ((UD 8)
o Defeated Leslie Stewart (TKO 5)
o Defeated Mustafa Hamsho (UD 12)
o Defeated Carlos Tite (TKO 2)
o Won 41 (KO 33) + lost 5 (KO 2) + drawn 1 = 47 rounds boxed 238 KO% 70.21

Donny Lalonde’s Favorite Book: “The Kid Who Missed the Bus” by Matt McCoy

“This book is about a guy who loves hockey and women. It’s a fun read—especially if you’re interested in hockey and love women. Two other favorite books of mine are ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill and ‘Ask Your Uncle’—it’s a trivia book.”

14. Badou Jack “The Ripper”

o Defeated Francisco Sierra (TKO 6)
o Defeated Jason Escalera (UD 10)
o Defeated Rogelio Medina (TKO 6)
o Defeated Farah Ennis (UD 10)
o Amateur Career record: 150-25
o Represented Gambia at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, boxing as a Middleweight
o Jack is the only boxer ever to represent Gambia in any Olympic Games. (He has a Gambian father and a Swedish mother.)
o Won 18 (KO 12) + lost 1 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 20 rounds boxed 94 KO% 60

Badou Jack’s Favorite Book: The Holy Quran (and related pages)

“It’s the holy book I live by.”

15. Jimmy Magnifico—A Clever & Highly-Touted Featherweight Sparring Partner

o Magnifico was a hired sparring partner for:
o Roberto Duran – “Roberto was the hardest puncher I ever was in with. We had the same trainer—Freddy Brown.”
o Hector Camacho – “Hector was easily the fastest fighter I ever sparred—bar none. Too bad what happened to him.”
o Alfredo Escalera – “Alfredo was good—real good. The hell with that—he was great!”
o Barry McGuigan – “A very strong featherweight. His best punch was his right hand. I love the people in Ireland. They treated me great when I was there.”
o Davey “Baby” Vasquez – “A real fast bantamweight. We sparred all the time at Gleason’s, when it was in The Bronx.”
o Doc McClendon – “Tough, tough, very tough New Jersey fighter.”
o Eddie Parks – “Another rough New Jersey guy—until drugs messed him up.”
o Magnifico reached the finals in the New York City Golden Gloves Finals three times during the mid-1970s, once losing to Johnny Verderosa.
o Won 9 (KO 1) + lost 12 (KO 5) + drawn 3 = 24 rounds boxed 136 KO% 4.17

Jimmy Magnifico’s Favorite Book: The Daily News

“I don’t read no books.”

(This is the 15th of a 15-part series)

Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part One
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Two
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Three
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Four
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Five
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Six
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Seven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eight
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Nine
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Ten
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eleven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Twelve
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Thirteen
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fourteen
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Fifteen

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.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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Algieri vs. Provodnikov 2014 (HBO Boxing)

Steve Farhood on the Super Six World Boxing Classic

Ana julaton wins IBA Superbantam world title upsetting multi-time champion Kelsey Jeffries

Larry Holmes vs Carl "The Truth" Williams (NBC Broadcast)

Jill Emery - Tough Girl

Grady Brewer Vs Erislandy Lara

Cletus Seldin vs Bayan Jargal


Donny Lalonde - Mustafa Hamsho

Badou Jack vs Francisco Sierra full fight 12.12.2014

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  1. Eric 01:18pm, 01/21/2015

    nicolas…I’m wondering if we’ll ever see Chris again. I say NO. Can’t say I blame him either. The guy has other options. Maybe that is why fighters like the Klits, Algieri, Tunney never quite capture the public’s approval. Since most fighters come from backgrounds of poverty, lack of education, no job skills, etc., these type of guys are probably viewed as people who only box as a hobby or they are thought of as taking money away from people who can only box and nothing else.

  2. nicolas 11:53am, 01/21/2015

    Too bad a book could not help Algeri in his fight with Pacquiao.

  3. Eric 02:08pm, 01/20/2015

    peter…I believe the Ranquello-Cassidy III bout is on Youtube, great fight. Ranquello is somewhat of a name, at least he was for a brief period of time, following the upset of Rossman. Tangstad & Ranquello were decent fighters, but I guess it is just they pale in comparison to names like Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson, Qawi, Holmes, etc., Spinks defeated a lot of good fighters for sure. I had certainly heard of Tangstad & Ranquello, but had to think about where I had heard the name, David Conteh.

  4. peter 01:34pm, 01/20/2015

    @ Eric Thanks for your feedback. Eddie and John Conteh I don’t think are related. I included Eddie because of his big KO win over a highly-touted Bunny Johnson. Another reason he’s included—and this isn’t the best reason—is because when I’d watch him train and spar in Gleason’s Gym, in Manhattan, he was very impressive; he handled himself real well with anyone they put him in the ring with…Steffen Tangstad (24-2) has a good record and wins over some credible opponents. He drew with Buster Douglas in Illinois, he beat Joe Bugner, Lucien Rodriguez, and Alfredo Evangelista…Yes—Ramon Ranquello is a stretch, (and a flash-in-the-pan), but he did beat Bobby Cassidy, Bobby O’Brien and Ray Elson.

  5. Eric 01:03pm, 01/20/2015

    Bob…I still have that magazine and a couple of totes of those old SI mags from the 70’s & 80’s. That was a great article and some good photos of Bobby Halpern. Back then, a 44 year old fighter was regarded as a freak show, 34 was considered old for a fighter back in the 70’s. Back then Sports Illustrated was probably twice as thick as the ones today, great magazine back then, but I wouldn’t waste my time with the magazine they put out today. Still like to thumb through a lot of those mags. Leonard-Duran, Norton-Holmes, Foreman-Young, etc., even have the magazines featuring Ali-Frazier I & II.

  6. Bob 12:52pm, 01/20/2015

    Eric. On my opinion that Bobby Halpern article in SI was one of the best boxing articles I ever read.  Still read bit over now and then.

  7. Eric 12:39pm, 01/20/2015

    I knew that Conteh’s name sounded familiar. I was sure I had read it in the SI article about Bobby Halpern, decades ago. Sure enough, the 44 year old ex-convict defeated Conteh by a 6 round decision in 1977.

  8. Eric 12:33pm, 01/20/2015

    Looking at the excellent list of opponents that Michael Spinks beat during his illustrious career, one name stands out, DAVID CONTEH? Is David somehow related to John Conteh? Other than that, I have no idea how David’s name can be placed as one of Spinks’s most noteworthy opponents. Tangstad & Ranquello are a stretch, but Conteh is really reaching.

  9. Bob 04:00am, 01/20/2015

    Wow!!! Jimmy Magnifico!!!  One of the better Glolden Glovers to never win a title. I love his response. James J. Beattie!!! You sure run the gamut. The best part of this series is the eclectic participants, who range from world champions who everyone knows to seemingly long forgotten journeyman, sparring partners and amateurs. Sad to see this end, but looking forward to the Peter Wood encore, who always brings the goods.

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