Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Twelve

By Peter Weston Wood on August 28, 2014
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Twelve
“The Godfather's got plenty of pop. And this guy Puzo punches out a good sentence."

“Even though I never made it as a fighter, I still am a winner. I never was in trouble with the law or messed around with drugs or alcohol. My life is good…”

I asked professional fighters to finish this sentence: “MY FAVORITE BOOK IS…” Their responses were fascinating and illuminating; sometimes surprising and sometimes just plain funny. 

If the adage, “We are what we eat” is true, then “We are what we read” might also be true.

Read the responses of these tough guys, (and tough girls), and peek into the soul of a prizefighter.

Their book could be fiction, nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, history, sport-related, or not. We simply wanted to peek into their soul and see what book—as a kid, or now—knocked them out!

Below, are their responses. Enjoy!

1. Mando Ramos—Popular WBA Lightweight Champion, WBC Lightweight Champion (Feb. 18, 1969 – March 3, 1970), WBC Lightweight Champion (Feb. 18, 1972 – Sept. 15, 1972)

o Defeated Pedro Carrasco for WBC title (SD 15)
o Defeated Carlos Teo Cruz for WBA & WBC title (TKO 11)
o Defeated Sugar Ramos (SD 10)
o Defeated Hiroshi Kobayashi (UD 10)
o Defeated Frankie Crawford ((UD 10)
o Defeated Raul Rojas (SD 10)
o Won 37 (KO 23) + lost 11 (KO 6) + drawn 1 = 49

Mando Ramos’s Favorite Book: Ring Magazine

“I wasn’t much of a reader. But my dad would bring home Ring Magazine and I’d read that. All I like is boxing. I still try to keep up with all of the boxers.”

2. Eddie “The Flame” Mustafa Muhammad—WBA Light Heavyweight Champion (March 31, 1980 – July 18, 1981) 

o Professional trainer of many champions and contenders
o Defeated Eugene Hart (KO 4)
o Defeated Matthew Saad Muhammad (SD 10)
o Defeated Jesse Burnett (TKO 10)
o Defeated Dave Conteh (TKO 8)
o Defeated Marvin Johnson (TKO 11)
o Defeated Rudy Koopmans (TKO 3)
o Won two Welterweight New York City Golden Gloves Championships: 1971 & 1972 147-lb Open Championships
o President of boxing union, the Joint Association of Boxers (JAB), which is affiliated with the Teamsters
o Won 50 (KO 39) + lost 8 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 59

Eddie “Mustafa Muhammad’s Favorite Book: The Holy Quaran

“The Quaran. It’s the way to a peaceful life.”

3. Yaqui “Indian” Lopez—Highly-Touted Light Heavyweight Contender of 1970 and ‘80s

o Fought two ring epics with Matthew Saad Muhammad
o Defeated Andy Kendall (KO 5)
o Defeated Mike Quarry (W 10)
o Defeated Jesse Burnett (2x) (W 10) & (MD 15)
o Defeated Tony Mundine (TKO 3)
o Defeated Karl Zurheide (KO 6)
o Defeated Mike Rossman (TKO 6)
o Lost thrillers to: Carlos Deleon, John Conteh, Michael Spinks, Victor Galindez & James Scott
o Inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame: 2005
o Inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame: 2007
o Won 63 (KO 40) + Lost 15 = 78 bouts

Yaqui “Indian” Lopez’s Favorite Book: “Reader’s Digest”

“I always liked reading Reader’s Digest. I read it both in Spanish or English. I enjoy the true, uplifting stories as well as the humorous stories. I also like ‘The Living Healthy’ section about medicine and stuff.”

4. Armando “El Hombre” Muniz—NABF Welterweight Champion 1972

o Represented the USA in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the welterweight class
o Muniz was the National AAU Welterweight Champion in 1969 and 1970
o Defeated Percy Pough (KO 2)
o Defeated Pete Ranzany (TKO 6)
o Defeated Jimmy Heair (W 12)
o Defeated Hedgemon Lewis (10)
o Defeated Clyde Gray (KO 9)
o Defeated Ernie “Red” Lopez (TKO 7)
o Defeated Adolph Pruitt (KO 8)
o Dave Oropeza (K0) 3
o Won 44 (KO 30) + lost 14 (KO 2) + drawn 1 = 59

Armando “El Hombre” Muniz’s Favorite Book: “Life Cycle Completed” by Erik Erikson

“Erik Erikson interests me. He writes with wisdom and he’s a keen observer of human beings. As a former pro fighter, and now, as a high school math teacher, the psychosocial stages of people have always interested me. The night before I fought a tough 10-round draw with Oscar Albarado in The Olympic Auditorium in LA, I was reading—studying for my finals. It might’ve been Erikson I was reading. Boxing is the most elemental of sports. It offers a most unique vision of human beings.”

5. Larry Merchant—Outspoken commentator for HBO Sports presentations of HBO World Championship Boxing, Boxing After Dark and HBO pay-per-view telecasts

o Former sportswriter and columnist for the New York Post
o Born February 11, 1931
o HBO boxing analyst

Larry Merchant’s Favorite Book: “The Killings of Stanley Ketchel” by James Carlos Blake

“I got a big kick, or punch, out of a recent read, the novelization of the life and times of the James Dean of boxing, “The Killings of Stanley Ketchel” by John Carlos Blake. A century ago, before Jack Dempsey exploded out of the west, Ketchel was already a mythic figure for his middleweight-heavyweight melodrama with Jack Johnson, and for his wild life and tabloid death. As John Lardner wrote, ‘He was shot dead having breakfast with a woman not his wife.’”

6. Ron “The Butcher” Stander—Courageous Heavyweight Contender 1972-05-25

o Joe Frazier beat Ron Stander by 5th round TKO for the WBC & WBA heavyweight title. Stander required 32 stitches after title fight.
o Defeated Morris Jackson for Iowa & Nebraska State Heavyweight Titles
o Defeated Ernie Shavers (KO 5)
o Defeated Thad Spencer (W 10)
o Defeated Manuel Ramos ((D 10)
o Defeated Jack O’Halloran (UD 10)
o Won 37 (KO 28) + lost 21 (KO 9) + drawn 3 = 61

Ron Stander’s Favorite Book: “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo

“FUGGEDABOUTIT! This book packed a heavyweight punch—like Ernie Shavers! Yeah, boxing’s got plenty of colorful characters, but nothing like the characters in this book—like Don Vito Corleone and his sons Sonny, Fredo and Michael. Yeah, The Godfather’s got plenty of pop. And this guy Puzo punches out a good sentence.”

7. Pete Ranzany—Tough NABF Welterweight Champion

o Defeated Sean O’Grady
o Defeated Jimmy Heair
o Defeated Clyde Gray
o Won 59 (KO 38) + lost 8 (KO 3) + drawn 2 = 69

Pete Ranzany’s Favorite Book: “Somebody Up There Likes Me” by Rocky Graziano

“When I was a teenager I read “Somebody Up There Likes Me” by Rocky Graziano and Rowland Barber. I was inspired by Rocky overcoming so many hurdles in his life, to become a world champion as well as being successful outside the ring. Rocky appeared to be a humble person. I wish I had met him and heard some of his stories.”

8.Alex Miteff—Perennial heavyweight prospect in the early 1960s

o Noted for his vicious body attacks
o Defeated Archie McBride SD 10)
o Defeated Willi Besmanoff (W 10)
o Defeated Nino Valdez (SD 10)
o Defeated Harold Carter (TKO 2)
o Defeated Alonzo Johnson (2x) (W 10) & (W 10)
o Had a small part in the movie, “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, starring Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason
o Won 26 (KO 16) + lost 13 (KO 8) + drawn 1 = 40

Alex Miteff’s Favorite Book: “New York Post”

“I’ll be honest—I don’t read too much. But I do look at the New York Post.”

9. Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos—Talented Middleweight Contender in the 1980s and ‘90s

o Lost to Jose Fernando Castro for WBA Middleweight Title (KO 2)
o Defeated Curtis Parker
o Defeated Fred Hutchings
o Four-Time New York City Golden Gloves Middleweight Champ
o 1979 National AAU Champion
o 1979 Intercity Golden Gloves Champion
o Founder & President of the Retired Boxers Foundation
o Won 39 (KO 24) + lost 10 (KO 6) + drawn 2 = 51

Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos’s Favorite Book: “Sugar Ray” by Sugar Ray Robinson

“My favorite book is ‘Sugar Ray’ by Sugar Ray Robinson with Dave Anderson. Dave Anderson was a writer with The New York Journal-American. He tape-recorded hours and hours of interviews with Sugar Ray Robinson. He started writing this book at a time when, like too many retired boxers, Sugar Ray was boxing’s version of a sideshow. He was making money at exhibitions taking on anyone who showed up for a couple hundred dollars. I liked this book because it’s the closest thing to an autobiography. It’s Ray’s words and they mean something very special to me. I also loved the book ‘A Clenched Fist: The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion’ by Peter Wood. A fighter himself, Wood brought back a lot of Golden Glove memories! It was great writing from a first-hand perspective. Of course, I also like the idea that my name is included in back on a comprehensive list of ‘The 10 Greatest New York City Golden Gloves Champions!’”

10. “Irish” Johnny Turner—Formidable Brooklyn Welterweight Contender

o Defeated Danny McAloon
o Defeated Frankie Benitez
o Defeated Alfonso Haymon
o 42 Wins (KO 32) + 6 Losses + 2 Draws = 50 bouts

“Irish” Johnny Turner’s Favorite Book: “Somebody Up There Likes Me” by Rocky Graziano

“My favorite book?... ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me.’ Even though I never made it as a fighter, I still am a winner. I never was in trouble with the law or messed around with drugs or alcohol. My life is good. My wife of 25 years is an amazing woman, and I have two absolutely wonderful daughters. One of them, Dee, was recently the winner in the CBS reality show called ‘The Amazing Race.’ She won herself a ton of money. Both my daughters are simply the best. Like I said—somebody up there likes me.”

11. Gary Stark Jr.—Held the New York Super Bantamweight Title (2006)

o Defeated Andres Ledesma (W 10)
o Defeated Luis Bolano (W 8)
o Won 23 (KO 8) + Lost 3

Gary Stark, Jr.’s Favorite Book: “The Contender” by Robert Lipsyte

“I was always into sports. Baseball was my first sport. I was shortstop and second base. I guess I’m blessed with pretty good hand-eye. And bat speed, too. I got good bat speed. Boxing helped my baseball, and baseball helped my boxing. I played for Kingsboro Community College and could’ve gone further, but boxing took over. Now watch out—I’m gonna hit a home run—in boxing!”

(This is the 12th 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

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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№29 "Smokin" Joe Frazier (Джо Фрейзер) vs Ron Stander

Pipino Cuevas va Pete Ranzany

Jerry Quarry vs Alex Miteff 4/27/67 | 16mm transfer & audio restoraton

James Kinchen - Alex Ramos

Victor Pappa - Johnny Turner

Antonio Escalante vs. Gary Stark Jr.

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  1. peter 12:09pm, 08/29/2014

    My parents also attended the Graziano/Arnold fight. I recall my dad calling it a very big sporting event, and that the fight itself was very exciting. Graziano’s victory put him on the map. I’m surprised that my mother, (not a big fight fan), recalls attending this NYC fight fondly.  Unbeknowst to me, she said, as a child, her father always brought her to watch the fights up in Springfield, Mass.

  2. beaujack 11:53am, 08/29/2014

    Jim,I have watched hundreds of fighters going back to the early 1940s,but the most exciting fighter I ever saw was the pre-Zale
    fighter Rocky Graziano, from his earl prelims up to the three Tony Zale wars…These 3 bouts took everything out of the 34 year old Zale and
    began Graziano’s   start downward’s… After Graziano’s tremendous ko
    upset of Billy Arnold in 1945, some people called him the “new Stanley Ketchel”, but later events disproved that…

  3. Jim Crue 09:10am, 08/29/2014

    Beaujack, WOW, you saw the Graziano/Arnold fight. Holy Cow. How cool. Rocky was some guy. A real character. As I have written here before while growing up in Chicago I spoke to Tony Zale many times. He was a proud man but told me the fights with Rocky took a lot out of him. There is a crude home movie of Rocky knocking out Arnold I saw on ESPN when they did a bio of Rocky.

  4. beaujack 05:42am, 08/29/2014

    Jim Crue, seeing your post on the Rocky Graziano Ko of Billy Arnold brought back to me great memories of that upset. In 1945 my dad and I saw Graziano,whom I saw since his prelim days flatten Billy Arnold from Philly in the 3rd round at old MSG…Rocky was a 1-8 underdog in that bout as Billy Arnold [called the new joe Louis], kod about 40 or so men
    since his career and was a powerful hitter. Well Graziano took a horrendous beating in the first and part of the 2nd round until Rocky
    unleashed his right hand grenade and Billy Arnold was terribly hurt, and
    Graziano finished Arnold off in the 3rd round…We in the crowd went crazy watching the dead end kid Graziano become the new best gate attraction in America that night and Billy Arnold’s career was finished
    as a result of that upset…What a sensational night that was. If I can recall
    Vice President Harry Truman was in the audience that eventful evening…

  5. Jeffrey Sussman 02:48pm, 08/28/2014

    I found Peter Wood’s article highly informative. He’s a walking, talking, writing encyclopedia of boxing information. He never fails to dazzle.

  6. Jim Crue 05:54am, 08/28/2014

    It’s a shame we don’t have professional films of early Graziano. There is a home movie of him beating Billy Arnold. What a tremendous fight. The great writer WC Heinz always said watching Rocky spar at Stillmans or in his fights the air was filled with electricity. Read his book and it seems the guy had 9 lives.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:34am, 08/28/2014

    “I never made it as a fighter” (Johnny Turner) I missing something here….42 (32 KOs)-6-2…..he must be talking about the Hall of Fame…...yeah….that’s it… to be.

  8. Bob 04:10am, 08/28/2014

    It’s a beautiful thing that the Rocky Graziano bio influenced so many young fighters. Throughout this series, the book comes up a lot.  Somehow I can’t imagine a book about Bernard Hopkins motivating youngsters into the gym.  You can tell a lot about people by what they read, which is very illuminating. Mustafa Muhammad, for example, is a man at peace, as is Yaqui Lopez.  Turner and Ranzany were both offensive oriented, like Graziano. Because Merchant is so thoughtful, he enjoyed the novelization of a truly interesting boxer’s life.  This series by Mr. Wood does much more than just tell us a fighter’s favorite book, it really provides an insight into what makes them tick.  Always nice to see a new one appear.

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