The Memory Bank: Part Twenty-Three

By Ted Sares on May 19, 2013
The Memory Bank: Part Twenty-Three
The highly touted Anthony Hembrick fought Booker T. Word at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.


“I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. And I’ve squandered my existence, for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises. All lies in jest, till a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”—“The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel

I am old enough to recall exactly where I was when World War Two ended and also when JFK was assassinated in 1963. I also knew what I was doing at the time 9/11 occurred. And when Mike Tyson was knocked out in Japan by Buster Douglas, I also knew where I was; it was that big of an upset. But when “Hollywood” Anthony Hembrick fought Booker T. Word in 1990, all I can recall was that it was on television. However, I remember the fight itself like it occurred yesterday because upsets have always had a way of finding a prominent place in my boxing memory bank.

The 1988 Olympics

The highly touted Hembrick (14-0 coming in) fought Word (16-1-1) at Fort Bragg in North Carolina where the ex-army sergeant Hembrick was to perform in front of many of his former soldier buddies. At stake was the vacant USBA light heavyweight title.

Hembrick was a storied amateur while boxing for the U.S. Army, and also an Olympic middleweight hopeful but his reputation took a big hit when, amidst a tragedy of errors, he missed the bus on his way to his first Olympic fight at Chamshil Students’ Gymnasium in Seoul. He was disqualified and the match was awarded to South Korean Ha Jong-Ho. The entire episode became a case of massive finger-pointing and buck-passing within the U.S. boxing delegation. Hembrick had been the apparent victim of a foul-up by U.S boxing coach Ken Adams and assistant coach Hank Johnson when they reportedly misread Monday’s schedule and brought Hembrick to the Chamshil Gymnasium too late for his scheduled fight. In boxing lore, the Detroit native would forevermore be known as “the guy who missed the bus.”

1990: What’s the Word?

Coming into the ring, the heavily favored and overconfident Hembrick—looking to erase the memory of Seoul once and for all—did one of the most imbecilic walk-ins ever witnessed on television. Unimpressed, the squat Word (also from Michigan) immediately launched an all-out blitzkrieg attack and at just over the one-minute mark drilled Hembrick with a wide right. Hollywood went down like he had been sapped and the fight should have been stopped at that point, but referee Rafael Ramos inexplicably let it continue. The second somewhat delayed knockdown was equally malevolent courtesy of a left hook, but Ramos, an otherwise excellent referee who himself was once stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, was apparently having an off night. He again let the slaughter continue until finally Word finished the mugging by putting the brash Hembrick to sleep with a savage right that landed flush on the his defenseless opponent. It was a free shot much like the one James “The Heat” Kinchen landed on Alex Ramos in 1984 and it was frightening to witness. The beating stunned the crowd and sent Hembrick to a Fayetteville, North Carolina hospital where he was treated for a head wound.

The fight also put Hembrick’s pro future in serious doubt, though he did go undefeated in his next nine fights. He finished in 1996 with a 31-8-2 record losing every time he stepped up—including two stoppage losses to James Toney.

Word did poorly after this major upset and finished 23-12-2, losing his last eight all by KO, but at least he had the satisfaction of perpetrating legal assault and battery on a heavily favored “Olympian “in the hostile environment of Fort Bragg.

The Memory Bank: Part One
The Memory Bank: Part Two
The Memory Bank: Part Three
The Memory Bank: Part Four
The Memory Bank: Part Five
The Memory Bank: Part Six
The Memory Bank: Part Seven
The Memory Bank: Part Eight
The Memory Bank: Part Nine
The Memory Bank: Part Ten
The Memory Bank: Part Eleven
The Memory Bank: Part Twelve
The Memory Bank: Part Thirteen
The Memory Bank: Part Fourteen
The Memory Bank: Part Fifteen
The Memory Bank: Part Sixteen
The Memory Bank: Part Seventeen
The Memory Bank: Part Eighteen
The Memory Bank: Part Nineteen
The Memory Bank: Part Twenty
The Memory Bank: Part Twenty-One
The Memory Bank: Part Twenty-Two
The Memory Bank: Part Twenty-Three

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Anthony Hembrick vs. Booker T. Word



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  1. Tex Hassler 05:58pm, 05/21/2013

    A defeat by a KO can kill a fighter’s will to win and make him gun shy or maybe I should say punch shy. Some can come back after a devastating KO. Joe Louis was one who came back after a terrible beating by Max Schmeling. Max hit Joe with many hard right hands and it would have ended the career of many men but not Joe Louis.

  2. Ted 09:28am, 05/20/2013

    Yes, Mike. After this fight I knew Hollywood would never make the movies.

  3. Mike Casey 09:10am, 05/20/2013

    Point of trivia: Paul Simon penned ‘The Boxer’ after seeing Billy Walker sparring in a London gym. I will now venture out and get a life.

  4. Mike Casey 08:40am, 05/20/2013

    Reality bites, eh Ted? I got the impression at the time that Anthony would not go too far after this one.

  5. Ted 05:09am, 05/20/2013

    Thanks very much Michael.

  6. Michael Hegan 06:54pm, 05/19/2013

    Ted….another…outta the park..

    Tens of millions of people remember that part…when Hembrick and his team are sitting there…..ringside…...pleading to allow them to compete.
    They ‘d missed the whole movie…...registration….weigh in…medical..gloving…

    and now he wants to strip his guy down and glove up ...to compete…...
    the coaching team should be shot with a ball of their own shit !!!

    Always tried to keep up with this guy…..watched that bludgeoning he took in front of the home team…..referee should be suspended…

    Thanks Ted…...

    All of us await your next one…..and meantime….re read the pearls we’ve got so far

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