Robert “Bobby” Gonzalez grew up in Houston’s Barrio Magnolia, and graduated from Milby High School. He first became involved in boxing in 1962 as an amateur boxer, training and fighting out of The Magnolia Y.W.C.A.
From 1981 through 2017, he worked with The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (Combative Sports Division) as a professional referee and judge. In his career he worked everything from local four round bouts, to world championship bouts that included many great local boxers, as well as some of the biggest names in boxing in the last forty years.
Gonzalez was involved as a referee and judge in bouts that featured many great boxers including, Jesse Benavides, James Pipps, Jorge “Maromero Paez, Stevie Cruz, Orlando Canizalez, Billy Hardy, Jesse James Leija, Steve McCroy, Henry Maske, Chris Henry, Irene Pacheco, Rocky Juarez, Juan Diaz, Raul Marquez, Mark Johnson, Rafael Marquez, Danny Jacobs, Jermell Charlo, George Foreman, Regis Prograis, Michael Nunn, Larry Holmes, James Toney, Jorge Arce, Erik Morales, and many more!
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 Houston’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 won’t name) and I used to like to watch him work out. I’ll never forget, one day he asked me if he could borrow $1.00. I was a kid who didn’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.”
Growing up in Houston, Texas and spending lots of time in it’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 “Who’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. Fountain’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 60’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 Foreman’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 I’m done with boxing” and Johnny said, “No, no, no, no, I want you to train me”. I said, “Man I don’t now nothing about training no fighters”, and he said, “Well we’re gonna learn together”. I said, “Well if that’s what you want, I mean I’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 didn’t want me to train him, but Johnny told Eddie, “Look you’re the manager and Creed’s the trainer and that’s the way it’s gonna be”. That’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 Roxy’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 you’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. I’m also a cut-man, you know what my saying was? If your fighter bleeds, call Creed.
So I’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. I’ve practically worked with all the guys from and that came through Houston, most of them.
Clutch City Boxing: I see you’re working with Erislandy Lara now, how about the Charlo twins?
Creed Fountain: Yes I’m working with Lara now, I’m helping out with him, and I’ve also helped worked with the Charlo twins yes. We got a bunch of guys in the gym now that I’m working with.
Clutch City Boxing: In your opinion, what makes a good boxing coach/corner-man?
Creed Fountain: That’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 ain’t doing it right you ain’t doing it right. If you need to do this, you need to do this, to get it right you know? I’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: There’s a big difference. Boxers of today don’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 can’t be lazy, it’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! That’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 you’ve worked with throughout the years? Some guys that maybe you’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 60’s and 70’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: What’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? What’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. That’s our philosophy here, if we can’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 don’t like that. I like real running, like the old times, out on the road, or on the track, that’s what I like.
Clutch City Boxing: How much gym work do you like your guys to do for a fight? Let’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 aren’t gonna do that. They already know their body and what they can and can’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? Let’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 don’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? What’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, ya’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 don’t try to knock him out. Because you know that if you get knocked out in the gym, you won’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 there’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 didn’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 there’s been a lot of guys that were really good, but just didn’t make it as big for whatever reason.
Creed Fountain: Also when you asked me earlier about guys I’ve worked with, I forgot to mention Frank and Thomas Tate, I can’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 don’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 didn’t know who Creed Fountain was/is, you didn’t do anything in boxing.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Everett “Big Foot” Martin faced a virtual who’s who of boxing in the heavyweight division, in a professional career that spanned from 1984 to 2001. Bigfoot also may hold the all-time record for most heavyweight world champions faced, having faced 16 in his professional career, at one point facing 9 in a row!
He began his professional career as a light-heavyweight and cruiser-weight but competed as a heavyweight for most of his career, even though he was relatively small in stature for that division. Although he gave up size for most of his career and faced a murderer’s row of opposition, he was never knocked out and would only be stopped by T.K.O. several times during the tail-end of his career when he was already “tired and worn”.
“Big Foot” was a journeyman that would fight anyone, anywhere, many times with no training camp and on short notice, but still managed to always be competitive, and give the boxing fans an entertaining fight win, lose, or draw. He also held Olympic Champion Chuck Walker to a draw, beat Jesse Selby, Sherman Griffin, “Smoking” Bert Cooper, and Tim Witherspoon by decision, along with knocking down Micheal Moorer.
In an amazing professional career that took him all over the world, he faced many top contenders and champions including:
Jesse Shelby, Sherman Griffin, Olympic Champion Chuck Walker, Kevin Kelly, Vincent Boulware, Tony Willis, Bert Cooper, Johnny Du Plooy, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, George Foreman, Gary Mason, Pierre Coetzer, Francesco Damaini, Micheal Moorer, Riddick Bowe, Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tucker, Larry Holmes, Herbie Hide, Tony Tubbs, Lance Whitaker, Wladimir Klitschko, Danell Nicholson, Lamon Brewster, Fres Oquendo, Joe Hipp,James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Obed Sullivan, David Bostice, Siarhei Liakhovich, and Ruslan Chagaev!
Originally from Fifth Ward, he would later move to Houston’s South Park neighborhood, where he began learning to box first from his mother Mary Martin, who he described as a “tough, street fighting woman” and “Big Al” Alfred Leon Willis, who taught and trained neighborhood boys to box in parks, back yards, and anywhere in the neighborhood, especially in the courtyard of The Villa Americana Apartments. “Big Foot” said that “Big Al” and his mother taught him everything he needed to know in boxing and although he would work with other coaches in his professional career, he would always depend on what he learned from his mother and “Big Al” to get him through anything, along with his faith in God.
A big kid in his youth with a good heart, “Big Foot” hated to see smaller, weaker kids getting bullied in school and would defend them by telling their tormentors, “Hey man, what are you picking on him for, he’s just here doing what he has to do, just like you”. This would inevitably lead to fights with those same bullies and though he didn’t like fighting, backing down wasn’t an option on the streets of South Park and Fifth Ward. After getting in trouble at school for fighting but not necessarily at home since he was fighting to protect those being bullied, his mother decided he needed to box to keep him out of trouble and off the streets. This was when she brought him to “Big Al” Alfred Leon Willis to introduce him to amateur boxing.
“Big Foot” stated he didn’t like boxing initially but eventually became very good at it, partly because “Big Al’s Boxing Club” sparred in the Villa Americana Apartments courtyard and he “Didn’t want to look weak in front of all the homeboys”. He also said that once he started becoming proficient in boxing he began to see boxing as a way he could eventually take care of his family, which was a strong motivation for him. This outlook served “Big Foot” well as he became an elite amateur boxer, winning The Houston Golden Gloves, Open Division, Heavyweight Championship in 1981, 1982, and 1983.
I asked “Big Foot” what skills he learned from “Big Al” that enabled him to become known as one of the toughest, most fearless boxers to ever grace the ring and he said, “He first taught me how to stand correctly and on balance, then how to move in and out and side to side, to be in condition, how to remain calm in the ring, protect myself, control my breathing and punches, and to make my opponent fight how I wanted him to fight, not how he wanted to fight”
I met “Big Foot” only once before calling him today for a phone interview and I must add that he was very gracious about sharing information about his life in and out of boxing. Our interview eventually became more of a private conversation and as a lifelong participant, coach, and fan of boxing I asked him many questions as much as for my personal interests as for this article. One of the main things that intrigued me was how he was able to be competitive against all the contenders and champions he faced over the years without ever being knocked out or seriously injured. “Big Foot’s” response was simple and direct.
“The only reason to be scared of those guys would have been if they were able to hit me and hurt me and I wasn’t about to stand there and let them hit me without moving around and hitting them back, that’s why it’s called BOXING”.