Three time Olympic gold medal champion, and one of the greatest boxers amateur or professional that ever lived, Teofilo Stevenson reflects on his life in boxing.
Olympics 1972 Munich Games(Gold) 1976 Montreal Games(Gold) 1980 Moscow Games (Gold) Pan American Games 1971 Bronze 1975 Gold 1979 Gold World Championships 1974 Gold 1978 Gold 1986 Gold Central America and Caribbean Championships 1970 Gold 1971 Gold 1972 Gold 1973 Gold 1974 Gold 1977 Gold North American Championships 1983 Bronze Friendship Games 1984 Gold
Chris “The Chosen One” McCoy, 3-0-1 with 3 KOâ€™s (Houston, Texas by way of Lafayette, Louisiana) scored a devastating, first round knockout over Andres Rincon (record unknown) last night in Cartagena, Colombia.
The 140 pound bout, scheduled for four rounds started with both fighters measuring each other out and trying to find their footing, in what appeared to be a slippery ring surface.
Just as it looked like we were gonna see the customary first round feeling out process though, the southpaw McCoy backed Rincon into a corner and unloaded with several combinations, quickly knocking Rincon out with a flurry of straight lefts and right hooks.
After a short amateur career and tough debut that resulted in a draw against the tough Rey Trujillo, McCoy made some changes to his training and management teams that seem to be serving him well, as he is now riding a three fight winning streak, all by first round knockout.
Although he never competed as a professional, 1972 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Jesse Valdez is considered one of the best, if not the best boxer to have ever been born and raised in Houston, Texas.
A classical boxer with power in both hands, who could fight going forward or backward as well as counter-punch, Valdez started his amateur boxing career at The Red Shield Boxing Club in Houstonâ€™s Northside, under coaches Moses Vaquera and Charlie Court.
According to Valdez he decided at about the age of 14 or 15 that he would try to make it to the Olympics, but would never turn pro. When asked what would lead him to that decision at 14, he stated:
“When I was 14 or 15 there were pros training at the gym I went to after school. There was one professional boxer there I really liked and looked up to. He was a world champion, (who I wonâ€™t name) and I used to like to watch him work out. Iâ€™ll never forget, one day he asked me if he could borrow $1.00. I was a kid who didnâ€™t have a nickel to his name at the time and that really opened my eyes. Here was a world champion asking me for money. It stuck in my mind.”
This article was written by Saddo Boxing and is used here with permission. It was written in October of 2011.
A Case For The Boxing Hall Of Fame Induction Of Harry Wiley Sr
The following article is on a subject I hold very dear to my heart. 10 years ago I was contacted by Harry Wiley Jr, the very proud son of Harry Wiley Sr, who trained the man that most experts call the greatest fighter to ever to grace the ring; Sugar Ray Robinson.
Harry Jr is 51, not in great health and has no family line to pass on the thousands of stories he knows about his father so they might sadly never get told.
Harry Jr has only ever truly wanted one thing in life and that is for his father to get the recognition that is so rightly deserved.
To that end, Harry Jr has campaigned for many years to get Harry Sr inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in Canastoda, NY, an effort which has included an article I ran in 2001 when this website was just starting out, called “The Forgotten Trainer”
It is sadly very hard to put any article together about Harry Wiley Sr as there is very little info about this amazing manâ€™s life, but with the help of Harry Jr and a lot of searching through old news reports, books and youtube clips, I now have the following appeal that I will be submitting to the IBHOF in a bid to get Harry Wiley Srâ€™s place in boxing history cemented.
Harry Wiley Sr was born in New York, NY on October 23,1907. At the age of 16, he decided to take up boxing and instantly fell in love with the noble art.
He soon found that he was quite good in the ring and managed to rack up 11 wins before one fatal day in Manhattan when he was crossing the street and was struck by a taxi cab.
The incident left Harry with a badly broken leg, thus ending his short lived career as a boxer. But boxing was now in his blood and he loved the sport so much that he carried on hanging out at the gym to help the development of the young fighters that trained there.
Sometime in the 1920â€™s, Harry hooked up with Jack Blackburn, the great Hall of Fame trainer who went onto train one of the best heavyweights of all time, Joe Louis.
Wiley and Blackburn really got on really well and learning the trade from one of the best was so invaluable for Harry that he decided to become a trainer himself.
Blackburn was hard on young Wiley, teaching the very keen student everything from how to work with young fighters, how to bandage hands, giving rub downs, motivating the boxers and most importantly, getting them into tip top shape.
Wiley must have been doing something right because just before 1932, he got offered the position of trainer to the USA Olympic Boxing team, something Harry was very proud of all through his life as he believed he was the first ever African-American trainer in the USA Olympic Boxing program.
That year, five of the eight boxers on the team producing two Gold and three Bronze medals. It took America another 20 years before they got another Gold medal for boxing, so Harryâ€™s input that year must have been pretty good.
Sadly for Wiley, his skin color meant he never made it to the end to enjoy the celebrations. Harry noticed that all the Caucasian fighters got fresh milk, fresh eggs and steaks, but the African-American fighters got powdered eggs, pork chops and powdered US Army issue milk. Harry was not happy as he wanted steaks for the African-Americans too.
Unfortunately for Wiley, his complaints made their way to the Olympic chairman, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. For those who do not know, Landis was known famously for cleaning up corruption in the sport of Baseball. He was known as “The Judge” and his word was final; no one would dare argue with him.
Landis also had very obstinate views on race and thwarted all attempts to integrate Baseball under his watch. He repeatedly upheld the sportâ€™s unwritten ban against African-American players.
This incident led to Wiley being fired by Landis from the USA team and was another very hard lesson about the realities of skin color in those dark times of history.
Wiley went back to the gym and it was there he met and started training and working the corner of Hall of Fame legend Henry Armstrong, the only boxer to ever hold world titles in three different weight classes simultaneously.
It is not confirmed if they first met when Armstrong briefly changed his name to Melody Jackson in his failed bid to join the 1932 Olympic boxing team but I feel the connection is worth mentioning.
Wiley was good friends with George Gainsford, who invited Harry to come help with the Salem Crescent Church boxing team.
At the same time, a very young kid tarted hanging around the gym, stating he wanted to learn to box like his idol, Joe Louis. Gainsford and Wiley let the kid hang around the gym for a few years as the youngster tried to copy the styles of other fighters.
The young manâ€™s name was Walker Smith, later re-named Ray Robinson after avoiding the AAUâ€™s age restriction by borrowing a card from his friend, who was actually named Ray Robinson.
While Gainsford was busy with the team, young Ray went everywhere with Wiley. Wiley would do a lot of sparring with Ray until, in his own word said, “he [Robinson] just hit too damn hard later on for this shit”.
Wiley became Rayâ€™s trainer and chief second, Gainsford would handle the business while Wiley would handle the boxing end, such as acquiring sparring partners and so on. This is what Wiley Jr recalls his dad saying and gets annoyed when he reads the false claims that Gainsford did it all by himself.
In truth, Robinson owed his greatness to Gainsford, Harry Wiley Sr and the little known Charles Beale, who never seems to get any credit.
Ray Robinsonâ€™s greatness speaks for itself with 85-0 record as an amateur with 69 of the victories via KO, 40 of which came in the first round alone.
Turning pro at the age of 19 in 1940, by 1951 Robinson had an outstanding pro record of 128â€“1â€“2 with 84 KOâ€™s. Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 until 951, when won the world middleweight title.
Robinson retired in 1952, only to come back two and a half years later and regain the middleweight title in 1955. He was the first boxer in history to win a divisional world championship five times. Most experts pick Ray as the Pound for Pound best boxer who ever lived.
Harry Wiley Sr was the chief second for Robinson for over 24 years and played a key role in Rayâ€™s success.
After working with Robinson, Wiley went on to train Jamaican fighter Bunny Grant, Englandâ€™s hopeful golden boy Billy Walker and top ten 1970â€™s fighter Carlos Marks among others..
Wiley also helped train Sonny Banks for his up and coming fight with Muhammad Ali, then named Cassius Clay.
American journalist A. J. Liebling visited Harryâ€™s Gym while Banks was training. The following is his description taken from Lieblingâ€™s article Poet and Pedagogue published in New Yorker magazine on March, 3, 1962 about Harry Wileyâ€™s Gymnasium on 137th Street and Broadway in New York.
I felt back at home in the fight world as soon as I climbed up from the subway and saw the place — a line of plate-glass windows above a Latin American bar, grill, and barbecue. The windows were flecked with legends giving the hours when the gym was open, the names of fighters training there. The door of the gym -“Harry Wileyâ€™s Clean Gym,” the sign on it said. Inside was full of didactic signs among the photographs of prizefighters and pinup girls. “Road Work Builds Your Legs,” the sign said, and another, “Train Every Day — Great Fighters Are Made That Way”. A third admonished, “The Gentleman Boxer Has the Most Friends.” “Ladies Are Fine — at the Right Time,” another said.
Wiley was in Bankâ€™s corner that night, and while Sonny lost to Clay, with hindsight Banks actually did very well indeed by being the first of only four fighters to ever put Clay/Ali on the canvas and he did it in the first round.
When Harry was asked after the fight what the turning point was and where it when wrong for Sonny, Wiley said, “Things just went sour gradually all at once. You got to respect a boxer. Heâ€™ll pick you and peck you, peck you and pick you, until you donâ€™t know where you are.”
Harry was very impressed with young Clay that night and it turns out that Clay was also impressed with Harry as a trainer because after trying to get Harry into his camp a few times over the years, he finally did as head trainer for the Jimmy Ellis fight as Angelo Dundee was in Ellisâ€™s corner.
Ali sang Wileyâ€™s praises after that fight, in fact at the post fight press conference Dundee said Ali looked like his old self to which Ali replied, “Thatâ€™s because I had Harry Wiley.”
Wiley was proof that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks because during a TV interview Ali had with Howard Cosell, Cosell mentioned Ali rolling his shoulder to avoid the right hand. Ali stated that Wiley taught him that as well as a few other things.
Ali was so impressed with Wiley as a trainer he told Cosell that he would be keeping Harry in his corner for all his fights and was true to his word as Wiley and Dundee where both in Aliâ€™s corner for his very next fight against Buster Mathis.
Sadly that was to be the last fight that Harry cornered and he just missed out on the ride that was the second coming of Ali as Wiley passed away just over two months later on February 7, 1972.
In closing, my humble appeal is for this great trainer and man, Harry Wiley Sr, who spent 50 years of his life involved in Boxing and playing a major role in the history of this great sport, to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but I will leave the final word on this to “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali, with a direct quote taken from his book, “The Greatest, My Own Story”, published in 1975 by Random House.
“Wiley, is a brilliant trainer, worked with Sugar Ray Robinson for twenty-four years, had been in the corners of Baby Joe Gans, Kid Chocolate, Henry Armstrong, Joe Louis, knew the habits of Jack Johnson, Sam Langford, Jack Dempsey, Harry Wills.”
Agustin “Augie” Arellano, who was also known by fight fans as “Tiger Pelon” was a Houston, Texas based middleweight who fought in the professional boxing ranks from 1936 to 1947, compiling a record of 50 wins, 36 loses, and 11 draws.
Augie was also a distinguished combat veteran who served in the United States Army as a Paratrooper, making five combat jumps in three separate invasions, including the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. As accomplished in his military service as he was in the boxing ring, he received a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his efforts while serving his country.
Born in Sombrete, Zacatecas, Mexico, he was billed as a “Mexican fighter” while he competed in the professional ranks, but he actually was raised and lived in Houston, Texas for the majority of his life. It was in Houston that Augie first took an interest in boxing after being bullied as a child. He found a boxing program at a local ‘Boys Clubâ€™ and from there competed as an amateur and his early years as a professional. A crowd favorite in his hometown of Houston, Texas, he was nicknamed “Tiger Pelon” due to his ferocious demeanor in the ring.
After establishing himself as a contender in and around the Houston area, he was one of the first in the area to venture to New York, where continued his assault on the middleweight division, facing and holding his own against the best in his division there as well. From there he fought most of his bouts in the The State of New York, as well as the Houston and Gulf Coast areas.
He fought regularly from 1936 until 1942, when he began his military service as a full time soldier. After serving his country and being honorably discharged he returned to the ring in 1946 as a light-heavyweight, and fought until 1947.
He was rarely stopped in his career and most of his loses were by decision, against the better connected contenders in New York. A legitimate contender, he fought many of the best top ten contenders and champions of his time, including Willie McCoy, Sonny Horne, Fred Apostoli, Michele Palermo, Joey Greb, Georgie Abrams, Tami Mauriello, Coley Welch, Artie Levine, Ken Overlin, Jackie “Kid” Berg, Artie Dorell, and James Elder and Lou Schwartz.
Growing up in Houston, Texas and spending lots of time in itâ€™s boxing gyms, you hear certain names mentioned with reverence when it comes to boxing and all that it entails. Within and between the long hours of time spent in the gym boxers and coaches talk boxing and as young minds often do, the question of “Whoâ€™s the best ?” will inevitably come up.
We wanted to know who the best fighters were, the best coaches, the best managers, matchmakers, cut-men, etc and many names were tossed around during those days. One name that always came up when coaches were mentioned was Creed Fountain. Whenever guys had an important professional fight coming up, they usually wanted one of several iconic coaches in town in their corner. Creed Fountain has been one of those guys for the last 45 years and he is still going strong!
I was fortunate enough to be granted a few minutes of Mr. Fountainâ€™s time today at The Plex Performance Center in Stafford, Texas, after he got finished working with former World Champion Erislandy Lara. Mr Fountain was kind and gracious with his time and even suggested we hold our interview in the lobby of the building, so that we would be able to talk without all the background noise of the gym area.
The video of our interview will be below and the transcript of our interview is below the video.
Clutch City Boxing: Sir can you tell us a little about your background and start in boxing?
Creed Fountain: I started a long time ago, back in the 60â€™s I guess you could say. I was training to be a boxer myself, here in Houston, then I had a car accident and that was the end of that. Then a young boxer at that time named Johnny Baldwin came in. Johnny Baldwin was a bronze medalist and roommate of George Foremanâ€™s in 1968 (Olympics) in Mexico City.
When Johnny came into the city we used to all box and spar with him. After the car wreck I told him, “Man Iâ€™m done with boxing” and Johnny said, “No, no, no, no, I want you to train me”. I said, “Man I donâ€™t now nothing about training no fighters”, and he said, “Well weâ€™re gonna learn together”. I said, “Well if thatâ€™s what you want, I mean Iâ€™m a gym fighter and you are an Olympic fighter, but if you want me to train you, I will”.
So he (Johnny) told his manager Eddie Yates, and Eddie didnâ€™t want me to train him, but Johnny told Eddie, “Look youâ€™re the manager and Creedâ€™s the trainer and thatâ€™s the way itâ€™s gonna be”. Thatâ€™s what got me started in the training business.
Clutch City Boxing: You said you were training to be a boxer yourself before you started training people, who did you train with, or who trained you?
Creed Fountain: Well me and Johnny were working together so Eddie was gonna be my trainer.
Clutch City Boxing: What gym did you guys train at?
Creed Fountain: Oh gosh it was soo long ago, I think it was called Roxyâ€™s Gym, in downtown Houston. It was on the corner of Louisiana and Texas Street, upstairs.
Clutch City Boxing: Who are some of the boxers and clubs that youâ€™ve worked with and around throughout the years?
Creed Fountain: Probably most everybody that came through Houston. I used to work with my boss, Ronnie Shields, I used to be one of his trainers. So I guess all our guys, Reggie Johnson, Bigfoot Martin, Derwin Richards. Iâ€™m also a cut-man, you know what my saying was? If your fighter bleeds, call Creed.
So Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to work with Juan Diaz, as his cut-man, four time Heavyweight Champion of the World Evander Holyfield, Dominick Guinn, and man it just goes on and on. Iâ€™ve practically worked with all the guys from and that came through Houston, most of them.
Clutch City Boxing: I see youâ€™re working with Erislandy Lara now, how about the Charlo twins?
Creed Fountain: Yes Iâ€™m working with Lara now, Iâ€™m helping out with him, and Iâ€™ve also helped worked with the Charlo twins yes. We got a bunch of guys in the gym now that Iâ€™m working with.
Clutch City Boxing: In your opinion, what makes a good boxing coach/corner-man?
Creed Fountain: Thatâ€™s a good question. I would say, just be honest with your fighters, tell them the truth, and make sure they are doing the right thing. I mean a lot of guys go along with a fighter and let him do what he wants to do, you now? You know, if you ainâ€™t doing it right you ainâ€™t doing it right. If you need to do this, you need to do this, to get it right you know? Iâ€™m on your side.
Clutch City Boxing: Okay going along those those lines, what difference do you see between boxers today and boxers in your day?
Creed Fountain: Thereâ€™s a big difference. Boxers of today donâ€™t want to train unless they got a date, most of them. The majority of them, they want to know they have a fight coming up before they do any serious training. Back in my day we went to the gym every day whether we had a fight or not, we just enjoyed going to the gym.
Clutch City Boxing: What do you think makes a good boxer?
Creed Fountain: One that listens. If he listens to the people that are working with him, he should turn out to be a good fighter. And they canâ€™t be lazy, itâ€™s hard work being a boxer.
Clutch City Boxing: What are some of the things a boxer has to have to be successful?
Creed Fountain: A good jab! Thatâ€™s the most basic thing in boxing, your jab. If you have a good jab, you work behind your jab, you set up everything behind your jab, and everything else will fall in place.
Clutch City Boxing: Who are some of the coaches youâ€™ve worked with throughout the years? Some guys that maybe youâ€™ve learned from and can respect or have respect for what they do, here in town?
Creed Fountain: Well most of them are deceased. There was Al “Potato Pie” Boulden, Tim Goodall, there were a bunch of guys around town. Those guys and also when guys came into town, other coaches like Yank Durham and all them guys, I would learn a lot by listening and watching them. Houston was a fairly decent fight town back in the 60â€™s and 70â€™s, a lot of guys came through. A lot of good fighters and coaches. Guys like Dave Zyglewicz, Joe Brown, Mark Tessman, Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams. We had a lot of big fights in town back then and I learned a lot.
Clutch City Boxing: Whatâ€™s your thoughts on conditioning for a fighter? Do you think he should run every day, 3 or 4 times a week, do you go by feel or? Whatâ€™s your opinion on that?
Creed Fountain: I ask fighters, I tell them, there are three things in boxing, do you know what they are? Most of them tell me no, they ask what are they? I tell them, Run, Run, and Run. A lot of times you might not have the skill the other guy has, but if you have the condition you can compete with him. Thatâ€™s our philosophy here, if we canâ€™t beat them in skill, we beat them with conditioning.
Clutch City Boxing: So lots of running, what do you think, like 5 or 6 times a week?
Creed Fountain: Well you pace yourself, you get your pace you wanna run and you do three miles, four miles, however you wanna run. I like outdoor running, a lot of guys they like running on treadmills, but I donâ€™t like that. I like real running, like the old times, out on the road, or on the track, thatâ€™s what I like.
Clutch City Boxing: How much gym work do you like your guys to do for a fight? Letâ€™s say a guy is getting ready for a ten round fight, how much sparring should he do?
Creed Fountain: Well it depends, we spar three days a week. We probably start off sparring four rounds, later add to it, go to six, and just kinda keep going up from there. And you take him a full ten rounds of sparring before he gets to fight night. Most guys they do it that way, now an old veteran they arenâ€™t gonna do that. They already know their body and what they can and canâ€™t do, they might spar six or eight rounds. An old veteran that goes twelve rounds, he might spar six or eight rounds. Now these young guys we got, we will take them the full amount of rounds they are going to fight, at least one time in sparring. If they are gonna fight twelve rounds, they are gonna spar twelve rounds, at least once before their fight. With two or three different guys, that way they get a different look throughout that twelve rounds.
Clutch City Boxing: What do you think has made you soo successful throughout the years?
Creed Fountain: Just hard work, coming to the gym, being dependable, being there every day.
Clutch City Boxing: What are some of the things you stress to your boxers? Letâ€™s say you get a guy that is just starting out, or maybe a guy going from amateur boxing to the pros, what would you stress to him?
Creed Fountain: The key to boxing is the jab. If you work behind your jab, everything else will fall into place. I heard Larry Holmes talking one day, saying that coaches donâ€™t teach guys to jab anymore, well we teach our guys to jab.
Clutch City Boxing: Okay one last question. As far as sparring goes, do you believe guys should go easy and work with each other, or kinds go after it? Whatâ€™s your philosophy on sparring?
Creed Fountain: Well my philosophy is guys need to get in there and work, not to try to kill each other, but work. Now on the other hand sometimes you have a couple of guys get in there and they spar like if they are in a real fight. I will stop them and call them over and tell them, hey guys look, yaâ€™ll are not in a real fight, work with one another, you now?
Clutch City Boxing: So work hard but just working?
Creed Fountain: Yeah work. I mean let him feel it but donâ€™t try to knock him out. Because you know that if you get knocked out in the gym, you wonâ€™t be able to fight.
*I then ask him several more questions after I had already told him the last question would be the last* I was just very excited to speak to him and got a little carried away.
Clutch City Boxing: When you are looking at a fighter, what are some of the things you see that let you now you are looking at a good fighter?
Creed Fountain: Well thereâ€™s a lot of different things you can look at, the way he keeps his hands up, the way he jabs, the way he moves, his balance, a lot of different things. Also does he listen to his corner when he goes back to his corner? I look at all that.
Clutch City Boxing: Who are some of the guys from back in the days that didnâ€™t maybe make it big in the pros but were really good fighters?
Creed Fountain: Oh gosh there were a lot of guys, Anthony “Wildcat” Wiley, Kent Kneeley, Earl Winbush, Freddie Jackson, Ron Collins, Bigfoot Martin. I mean thereâ€™s been a lot of guys that were really good, but just didnâ€™t make it as big for whatever reason.
Creed Fountain: Also when you asked me earlier about guys Iâ€™ve worked with, I forgot to mention Frank and Thomas Tate, I canâ€™t leave those guys out. Both were champions, Frank was a gold medalist and a world champion.
Clutch City Boxing: You mentioned Bigfoot Martin, who fought more world and former world champions than most people. How was he able to do that without getting hurt?
Creed Fountain: Well Bigfoot knew how to fight without getting hurt, and he was just a really tough guy in the ring, he could take a good shot. But he fought them all, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, Bonecrusher Smith, George Foreman, he fought them all!
Clutch City Boxing: Well thank you for your time sir and I appreciate you being so forthcoming with all this information.
Creed Fountain: Thank you, you thought enough of me to come give me a shout out.
Clutch City Boxing: Oh man, your name is heard in gyms all over this town. Maybe not as much now because these young kids donâ€™t know much, but when I was coming up, man I heard you name in gyms all over town. If you came up when I did, and you didnâ€™t know who Creed Fountain was/is, you didnâ€™t do anything in boxing.
Pro Record:Â Â 60 winsÂ Â Â Â 34 losesÂ Â Â 6 draws
Born: Charco, TexasÂ
Hometown: Odessa, Texas
Manuel “Manny” Gonzalez left an undeniable impression on The City of Houston, Texas and itâ€™s boxing fraternity. Manny started his professional career in 1957 and by 1958-59 he was already training with trainer Billy Defoe, in Houston, Texas. Soon, after proving himself to be a hot prospect with plenty of potential he was taking in by the trainer/manager combination of Bill Gore and Lou Viscusi, who had set up their Texas Boxing Enterprises operations in downtown Houston.
Being born into a poor family of laborers, life started out rough for Manny in Charco, Texas. To make things worse he was stricken with tuberculosis as an infant and was sickly and weak as a child. The tuberculosis affected him so much so that he didnâ€™t even start school when he should have, due to his weak condition. This undoubtedly affected his ability to gain and build physical strength in his early years and would eventually play a part in his boxing style later in life.
When Manny was 12 years old his family moved to Odessa, Texas and he was forced to quit school in order to take on a full-time job picking cotton, so that he could contribute to his familyâ€™s income. This alone would have been difficult for any child of twelve years old, but it was even more difficult for Manny because he wasnâ€™t even a strong boy due to his early battle with tuberculosis. Quitting school and working full-time wasnâ€™t something he really had a choice in due to his family being very poor, but it also had the added effect of ensuring that Mannyâ€™s prospects for employment would be limited in his future adulthood. About the only positive thing that came out of the whole thing was that with the long hours of difficult, physical work, out in the elements, Mannyâ€™s health began to improve and he was finally able to begin building his strength, stamina, and endurance.
Soon Manny was able to build his strength and endurance enough to where he was able to begin practicing boxing after his hard days of work as a cotton picker, and he began his amateur career. Although Mannyâ€™s health had improved enough to where he was able to begin practicing and learning one of the hardest sports in the world, he was still somewhat behind in the development of his physical strength in comparison to other kids his age. Due to this fact, Manny improvised and made up for his initial deficit in strength by focusing on the finer points of boxing, and developed a smooth, counter-punching style, based upon the most important principle of boxing, to HIT AND NOT GET HIT IN RETURN.
As time went on he was able to build his strength, along with his skill, stamina, and endurance, enough to become one of the best welterweight boxers in the world, but Manny was never known as a heavy puncher. He instead relied upon speed, quickness, footwork, boxing fundamentals and technique to win most of his bouts by decision. Also luck may not have been on Mannyâ€™s side in his childhood, but he seemed to have been favored by luck as an adult, when he was able to connect with and become a student of Bill Gore in the late fifties. Gore, by this time, was known as one of the most astute and capable boxing teachers in the world, and had received his boxing education at the famed Stillmanâ€™s Gym in New York City. While Gore was still a young man, learning his trade by watching some of the most knowledgeable boxing trainers in the world, he was noticed by then lightweight champion Benny Leonard and taken under Leonardâ€™s wing. Leonard is now known as one of the greatest lightweight boxers to have ever stepped into the ring and used outstanding footwork, technical skill, along with what famed trainer Ray Arcel called “mental energy” to dominate his division in his prime. Leonard would pass these lessons in boxing on to Gore, who in turn taught these same concepts to his students, including his most famous product, Willie Pep. Gore was also one of the best in the world at not only having the knowledge, but being able to articulate the knowledge to his students in a way which they were able to understand and learn. Goreâ€™s approach to being a boxing “trainer/coach and corner man” was as a teacher and mentor, more than the stereotypical coach with a towel draped over his shoulder, barking out boxing “catch-phrases” and teaching worthless, fancy punch-mitt routines, of today. Gore was the boxing teaching and his partner Lou Viscusi was the boxing manager. Together they were a very successful combination.
While operating in the northeast part of the country, mainly New York and Connecticut, the Gore/Viscusi combination had already achieved much success in amateur and professional boxing guiding Melio Bettina, Mike McTigue, and Willie Pep to championships. When the pair came to Houston, Texas in the mid 1950â€™s they brought opportunity for local boxers that may have not gotten the opportunities otherwise, and continued being very successful.Â During this era Gore and Viscusi were known to be involved with many of the Houston, and Texas area contenders and champions, along with contenders and champions from around the country including, Roy Harris, Bob Foster, Cleveland Williams, Joe “Old Bones” Brown, Tony Licata, and many others.
The connection with Gore was a fortunate one for Manny not only because of the connections in boxing the Gore/Viscusi pair brought him, but also because Goreâ€™s preferred method of boxing instruction and outlook on boxing was perfectly aligned with the technical/fundamentally sound style and outlook Manny already practiced and believed in. This definitely would play a big part in Mannyâ€™s ability to become one of the best welterweight boxers in the world as the still upcoming boxer seemed to have found the perfect teacher/ mentor in the sweet science.
The Benny Leonard, Bill Gore, Willie Pep, influence on Manny became evident from that point on throughout the rest of his career, as he became known and respected for his technical skill, footwork, educated defense, and cerebral approach to boxing.
Also after signing with Viscusi as his manager and taking on Gore as his trainer, Gonzalez made Houston, Texas his home and fought in and around Houston frequently, many times at The Sam Houston Coliseum. From 1960 through 1965 Gonzalez tore through some of the best talent in the welterweight division, beating and becoming the Texas State Champion, as well as beating the Louisiana State Champion and Canadian Champion.
Mannyâ€™s prime as a boxer may have been in 1965 when he easily outpointed then welterweight champion of the world Emile Griffith, in a non-title bout staged at The Sam Houston Coliseum. Griffith supporters may have tried to belittle Mannyâ€™s win over Griffith by claiming a hometown decision, but it should be noted that other than the judges and refereeâ€™s opinion that he won, a poll of boxing writers at ringside, many from Griffithâ€™s hometown of New York, also favored Gonzalez as the winner. When describing Mannyâ€™s win over Emile Griffith Ring Magazine contributing writer Chet Warner said this of him: “Gonzalez is a smooth working boxer, who is adept at slipping and ducking, while countering with darting jabs and hooks. He tattooed his jab on Griffithâ€™s jaw for virtually the entire ten rounds”.
Manny Gonzalez was known as one of the best welterweights in the world throughout the 60â€™s and he didnâ€™t start to slow down until 1970, after he had already been in the professional ranks for thirteen years. Thirteen years in which he fought the best competition in the division, many times on more than one occasion. The list of names he faced in the division reads like a whoâ€™s who in boxing at the time including: Dario Hidalgo, Rip Randall, Denny Moyer, James Shelton, Peter Schmidt, Emile Griffith, Marshall Wells, Kenny Lane, Ernie Lopez, Bunny Grant, Jose Napoles, Chucho Garcia, Charley Shipes, Gaspar Ortega, Rocky Randell, Curtis Cokes, Alvin Boudreaux, Nolan Duplessis, Bunny Grant, Billy Backus, and Joe “Old Bones” Brown.
He was able to secure wins over Alvin Boudreaux, Nolan Duplessis, Curtis Cokes, Rocky Randell, Rip Randall, James Shelton (for the Texas State Welterweight Title), Denny Moyer, Peter Schmidt, Gaspar Ortega, Charley Shipes, Dario Hildago, Chucho Garcia, Marshall Wells, Emile Griffith, and Joe “Old Bones” Brown, and many of his losses were hometown decision losses or politically influenced.
Trainer Bill Gore had this to say about Mannyâ€™s loss in a return bout held in New York for Griffithâ€™s title: “Manny didnâ€™t lose. He gave the champion a boxing lesson but they donâ€™t appreciate the art of self-defense in this town. If Griffith is a champion, Iâ€™m a watchmaker”.
As mentioned before Gore and Viscusi operated out of downtown Houston, having their offices and The Texas Boxing Gym there. While signed with Viscusi and trained by Gore, Manny worked with many boxers who were also associated with Gore and Viscusi, or who came to The Texas Boxing Gym for sparring. While interviewing several of the Houston boxing legends of yesteryear, Mannyâ€™s name has come up frequently. Here are some of the statements Iâ€™ve gotten in reference to Manny Gonzalez:
Jesse Valdez, Former Olympic Champion and possibly greatest boxer ever to have been born and raised in Houston, Texas:Â Â Â “Other than my trainer Charlie Court, the one who helped me out a lot was Manny Gonzalez. Manny had great movement and footwork and I learned a lot from him and by sparring with him.”
The late Kenny Weldon, a former amateur and professional champion, who became an all-time great boxing coach after his competition years, was quoted by his son Chance as saying:Â Â Â Â Â “Manny Gonzalez had the best ring awareness of any fighter Iâ€™ve ever saw.”
Melvin Dennis, a former amateur national champion, Texas State Welterweight Champion and world contender:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â “Manny Gonzalez was a bad dude in every sense of the word. After I won the National Title as an amateur and decided to turn pro, I was brought to The Texas Boxing Enterprises Gym to prepare. Manny Gonzalez was the first person who I sparred there. I was a little hesitant at first because Manny was known as one of the best welterweights in the world at the time, but Manny assured me he would work with me, and he was a man of his word.
While I was still getting accustomed to the additional rounds of sparring along with the advanced, professional level techniques of the pro game, Manny always looked out for me, and never tried to hurt me. Later when I was able to spar on a level in which Manny and I could spar hard, the sparring was always great work, done in a professional way. I learned most of what I know about professional boxing from Manny and considered him one of my best friends at the time.
He was one of the best welterweight boxers in the world for years before he ever got a shot at the world title and in my opinion he should have been world champion. His opponent in his world title bid didnâ€™t really bet him, boxing politics beat him. Manny was a defensive wizard, who was fast and slick as hell. The only thing about him was that he didnâ€™t really punch hard, but it didnâ€™t really matter because he hit you so many times from so many angles, you wouldnâ€™t know where you were or what hit you. The thing I liked the most about Manny though, was that he was a straightforward person. It didnâ€™t matter if you were black, white, or brown, if Manny liked you he liked you, and if he didnâ€™t he told you to your face and wouldnâ€™t talk behind your back. If Manny was your friend he showed that at all times no matter who was around and he never acted different around certain people like a lot of people did in those days. Like I told you before Lou, Manny was a bad dude in every sense of the word.”
According to Melvin Dennis, Manny Gonzalez remained in Houston after his boxing career ended and stayed until approximately twenty years ago when he told Dennis he was moving to care for his aged father, who lived out of town.
Manuel “Manny” Gonzalez died on June 11, 2021 in Greely, Colorado.
Although he wasnâ€™t a Houston native his legacy in Houston, Texas is felt to this day as he is mentioned frequently by some of the most accomplished and respected contenders and champions in Houston boxing history.
Born: March 31, 2021 in Galveston, Texas
Died: June 10, 2021
Nickname: The Galveston Giant
Height: 6 ft 1 in
Recorded boxing record: 104 total fights, 73 wins with 40 by knockout, 13 loses, 10 draws, and 5 no contests
First Black Heavyweight Champion and held his title from 1908-1915
Was awkward for his age as a young child because he grew tall at an early age and had yet to develop his coordination. Also helped his father with his custodian duties at his school, which is an admirable thing, but was bullied and made fun of by his classmates for it, resulting in fights which he mostly got the worst of because he was afraid to fight. After his mother saw him come home bloodied and bruised one too many times she gave him an ultimatum, start fighting back or get beat by her when he got home.
After fighting back a few times he found that with his size and speed he was actually pretty good at fighting and was never bullied again.
Left school fairly early and began working many different jobs around Galveston and throughout Texas because he was easily bored and didnâ€™t believe in the slow and steady lifestyle, because he dreamed of big things. Took a job on the Galveston waterfront docks and began getting even better at fighting when he found that the workers on the dock were a rough bunch that fought frequently. Him being younger than most but big for his age, made him a target for older workers and he won the majority of those fights. Johnson said this about his time on the docks: “I worked with some of the toughest,most hard boiled men imaginable. To them fighting was one of the important functions of existence”.
Began learning more about boxing in Dallas, at a job he held where the boss liked watching his friends and workers spar each other. Later moved to New York and learned even more boxing after living with a professional welterweight boxer named Barbados Joe, and later working as a janitor in a gym owned by a German heavyweight.
Later returned to Galveston, again working in several different jobs but this time he began fighting in unsanctioned, underground boxing contests held in back alleys, bar rooms, the beach, private boxing clubs, and the streets of Galveston. Boxing was still illegal in those days and there was still no organized amateur boxing program in Galveston, so these bouts served as his “amateur career”.
Johnson said this about his time in his life: ” I took up boxing, not with any intention of engaging in it as a profession, but because it seemed necessary for me to learn something of the science in order to pit myself against the fighting groups with whom I associated”.
Johnson won more often than he lost but he was still relatively green as far as boxing skills went, and although better than most, he was still learning.
Made his professional debut in 1898, in Galveston, Texas beating Charley Brooks by knockout in the third round, earning what was called “The Texas State Middleweight Title”.
By 1899 he felt he had beaten everyone worth beating in Galveston and went to Chicago, where boxing was thriving, took on all comers there, as well as worked as a sparring partner to make ends meet.
Returned home to Galveston to help his family after they lost everything in the hurricane of 1900 and continued working , as well as fighting, in and around the Galveston area.
Took a fight in 1901 that would prove to be a life changing event as well as a blessing in disguise, after losing the fight by knockout to professional veteran Joe Choynski. After losing to Choynski he and Choynski were arrested by Texas Rangers and ended up spending 24 days in jail together. Choynski, who was more experienced in professional boxing than Johnson, took the opportunity to teach Johnson some of the more advanced aspects professional boxing, namely defense. Choynski reportedly told Johnson, ” A man who can move like you should never have to take a punch”.
After this time Johnson began honing his skills and style, eventually becoming known as a master craftsman who could also punch hard with both hands. Johnson had a counter-punching style, and was known to get stronger as the rounds went on, using his defense to tire out his opponents, then taking them out.
In 1908 Johnson won the heavyweight title in Sydney, Australia, beating Tommy Burns by knockout. Johnson held the heavyweight title until 1915 and would have held it longer had the boxing community and the United States Government not had conspired to attack his personal and professional life, causing him to have to leave the country and go into exile, while holding the title.
Even with the odds Johnson faced and the unfair treatment he received, he is still considered an all-time top ten heavyweight by the majority of the boxing community including The Ring Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN Boxing writers.