By: Albert Miller – I need to be completely serious for a brief second. For one reason or another, I got to thinking about a time that I had to visit my mom in a Pittsburgh hospital. During one of those visits, I had to go outside; you can only breathe hospital air so much before it drives you nuts. While I was outside, I got to talking to a gentleman who identified himself as “Sugar Lee.” According to Mr. Lee, he was a boxer who had trained with some pretty big names and he was down on his luck.
Truth be told, I don’t know Sugar Lee from Adam, the thought of prize fighters falling onto hard times just made me sad. My only regret in meeting the guy was that I didn’t get his information so that I could check in on him. If you’re walking the streets of Pittsburgh near the UPMC in Shadyside and you meet a man who says his name is Sugar Lee, be sure to let me know how he’s doing.
In honor of Sugar Lee making me feel feelings, I’ve decided to compile 20 facts about boxers, in what is surely going to be volume 1.
|James J. Braddock, the boxer featured in the biopic “Cinderella Man”, was actually named James Walter Braddock. He was billed as “James J. Braddock” in the naming style of such fighters as James J. Corbett & James J. Jefferies.|
|“Iron” Mike Tyson used to fly pigeons with local criminals when he was younger. They had asked him “Do you want to fly with us?” and he agreed without really knowing what he was agreeing to.|
|Former Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins was an active participant in the Prison Boxing system. Bernard had boxed in prisons all around Pennsylvania, including Rockview. Rockview Prison is located in Boalsburg, PA; which is a neighboring town to State College, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions.|
|Due to the fallout of Duk Koo Kim passing away following his bout with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the WBC shortened their fight lengths from 15 rounds, to 12. The WBA, WBO, & IBF would follow shortly after.|
|Evander Holyfield founded the record label “Real Deal Records,” and even had the popular group Exhale signed to a contract.|
|After James “Buster” Douglas had stopped Mike Tyson in their title fight in Japan, only the International Boxing Federation (IBF) recognized Douglas as their lineal champion. Due to a protest launched by Tyson (which was ultimately dropped) the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) didn’t recognize Douglas as champ until the said protest was dropped.|
|Former Heavyweight Champion Maximilian “Max” Baer (whom James J. Braddock defeated for the title) had an equally famous son. Max Baer, Jr. came to silver screens all across the country on the show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” where he played Jethro Bodine.|
|Despite being portrayed as a ruthless killer in the movie “Cinderella Man,” Max Baer, Jr. confirms that his father was haunted by the death of Frankie Campbell. At the announcement of Campbell’s death, Baer was said to have “broke down” and “sobbed uncontrollably.”|
|“Iron” Mike Tyson and others trained by Cus D’Amato used to compete in events called “Smokers,” unsanctioned bouts held in small gyms, given their name for the smoky atmosphere from spectators consuming tobacco inside. It was not uncommon for a 15 year old Tyson to be fighting other men much older than him.|
|Former WBO Heavyweight champion Tommy “The Duke” Morrison had been diagnosed with HIV & AIDS. In 2006, Morrison had claimed that he had tested negatively for the immunodeficiency viruses and was going to come back to combat sports, even having an MMA fight in 2007. Unfortunately, Morrison was still stricken with the diseases and succumbed to complications in 2013.|
|In 2005, the UFC’s “Ultimate Fighter” was going head to head with NBC’s boxing reality show “The Contender.” During the show’s runs, Dana White said that he’d have his middleweight winner fight the Contender’s middleweight champion; while the fight never came together, the fight would have been Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez vs. Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora.|
|Before it was “Big Knockout Boxing,” the boxing promotion BKB was “Bare Knuckle Boxing” and actually held fights with boxing gloves that had the knuckles cut out of them. The promotion abandoned this concept after one card.|
|The song “Warrior’s Call” by Danish-American hard rock band Volbeat is actually about Danish boxer Mikkel “The Viking Warrior” Kessler. Kessler used the song to make his entrance to the ring until his retirement in 2013.|
|Art Jimmerson was the only boxer set to compete in the first UFC; he showed up to the event without his gloves and without his boxing shoes. UFC producers, wanting a stylized boxer in the tournament, took Jimmerson to several sporting goods stores in the city looking for the equipment.|
|Most everyone remember’s “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” for the Nintendo, but did you know that there was also “Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing” in 1992, “George Foreman’s KO Boxing” in 1992, “Riddick Bowe’s Boxing” in 1993, and “Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Boxing” in 1993?|
|George Foreman has five sons, all named George Edward Foreman, so that they’d always have something in common.|
|Saul Alvarez’s nickname “Canelo” is Spanish for “Cinnamon Colored,” chosen for Alvarez’s red hair.|
|Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini borrowed his professional nickname from his father, Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini. Lenny Mancini was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during World War II.|
|Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield had initially entered into retirement after a heart defect was found. Holyfield would visit faith healer Benny Hinn and was adamant that Hinn had cured his heart defect. Holyfield would later say that the initial testing that found the heart defect was skewed because of morphine that had been in his system.|
|The years between 2006 and 2015 are known as “The Klitschko Era,” due to Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko being so dominant as heavyweight boxing champions. The Klitschko era came to an end when Tyson Fury defeated Wladimir Klitschko in a title fight in 2015.|
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Until next time: Fights, Cameron, Action!