Monday, October 10, 2016

Thoughts on Pryor vs Arguello I (And the Decade That Was)

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By Randy De La O

When Alexis Arguello moved up in weight to challenge Aaron Pryor for the WBA Junior Welterweight title on November 12, 1982. I was rooting for Arguello. I didn't think it was shoo in but I thought he would win. As it was, it turned out to be one of the great fights of the 1980's.

I was rooting for Arguello, even up to that final millisecond when Pryor stopped Arguello with a barrage of punches that left him helpless against the ropes. It was a heart breaking knockout. Arguello really looked hurt. It broke my heart and the heart of everyone at my house that night. Arguello was a beloved fighter. .Still, Pryor had proven that he was the real deal. I had to give him respect as a man and as a fighter.

The fight itself was named the “Fight of the Decade” by Ring Magazine and the eighth greatest title fight of all time. That's saying a lot when you consider all the great fights that took place in the 1980's.

The following year, September 9, 1983, Pryor gave Arguello a shot at redemption but it was not to be. Arguello never beat Pryor but they did become friends. Both men were champions not only in the ring but in life.

I consider myself lucky to have come of age at a time when even the contenders were great and the great Champions faced the very best, consequences be damned. It will be a quite a while before we see their like again.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor Has Passed

By Randy De La O

Sad news today One of the fighters that made the 1980's one of the greatest era in boxing, Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor, has passed away. He was one half of one of the greatest fights from that era. The other half was Alexis Arguello. Pryor twice beat Arguello in the early 1980's, defending his Jr.Welterweight title in the process. Their first fight, in particular, has become part of boxing's historical, almost mythical lore.

Pryor was a non stop, forward moving, quick thinking force of nature. How we could use a fighter like him today!

Our condolences to his family , friends and his many fans across the country and the world.
Rest in Peace Aaron Pryor! And thank you!

Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor

For a younger generation, who may or may not truly understand why us old guys cling to the past. This was boxing! This was fighting!

Aaron Pryor vs Alexis Arguello I. A fight for the ages! Rest in Peace Champs!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Bobby Chacon Has Died

Bobby Chacon vs Danny "Little Red" Lopez
Bobby Chacon and Danny "Little Red" Lopez 

By Randy De La O

California Boxing Legend and former WBC Featherweight and Super Featherweight Champion Bobby Chacon has died. There was no more exciting fighter in the ring than Bobby nor was there ever a bigger heart.
My condolences to his family, friends and fans. He will be missed. On a personal note I was privileged to meet him years ago while training at the Main Street Gym and again later in life. God Bless you and Rest in Peace Bobby.

Bobby Chacon and Randy De La O
With Bobby Chacon at the Mando Ramos memorial Service 2008

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Breakfast, a Walk Uptown and "Hands of Stone"

By Randy De La O

A fantastic morning courtesy of my daughter Meranda. She called us (my wife and I) up early this morning for breakfast at the Greenleaf Cafe in Uptown Whittier ( I had Chile Verde with eggs) followed by a walk through uptown.

As we passed the Whittier Village Theater we saw that "Hands of Stone", the Roberto Duran movie, was showing. She treated us to the movie, which we all loved.

For me it was like a walk back through time. I remember all those moments in Duran's career. It was like a quick walk through the 70's and 80's.

I'm not a movie critic and I did read some not so great reviews for the movie. I only know I enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone that asked about it. Sometimes a movie gets a different reaction from different people. Today it was part of a overall great day.

It had to be difficult to channel Duran's raw intensity. I think actor Edgar Ramirez did a pretty good job. I won't say any more since the movie just came out.

We enjoyed breakfast , the movie and spending the morning with you.. Thank you daughter!

Hands of Stone

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Ali and Frazier

Ali vs Frazier

By Randy De La O

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, or if you prefer, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It really doesn't matter Either way it still adds up to the greatest rivalry in boxing's storied history, maybe even in all of sports!

I read once that they weren't just fighting for the heavyweight championship, they were fighting for the championship of each other These great champions were created for each other They were forged long ago in some fiery heavenly furnace and put here on Earth to do battle with each other. They brought out the very best and the very worst in each other They thrilled us, they captivated us and they enchanted us and we loved them for it all!

Muhammad Ali

By Randy De La O

Ali was free with advice and willingly shared his wisdom with us. I read years ago where Ali said (I'm paraphrasing) "If you want to fight you have to do your roadwork. Don't wait til the morning to get your gear ready. If you have to start looking for everything in the morning it's just too easy to change your mind and go back to bed. Get everything ready the night before!"

I know from experience that this is true. To this day, when I want to walk or run,these words pop into my head and I get everything ready the night before.

Thank you Muhammad Ali!

Muhammad Ali passed through this world like a comet or meteor blazing across the skies. Burning brightly and lighting the night with his passion. So brightly did he shine that when his career was over he was no longer the same. It seems like the darkness of his post boxing career was in direct proportion to his light. I think Ali gave his all to boxing and to his fans. There will be other heavyweight champions, maybe even some great heavyweight champions but we will never see the likes of Muhammad Ali again!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Remembering Muhammad Ali

 By Randy De La O

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I woke up this morning to a world without Muhammad Ali. Ali, like Joe Frazier and my own father was a large part of why I fell in love with the sport of boxing. Although he had been made silent years ago, it is still hard to believe that the “Mouth that roared” will roar no more.

I was six when Cassius Clay - as he was known then – won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy in 1960. I was nine when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston. He captured this boy's heart from the get go! I was never able to shake the belief that there something magical about this man. That he was no mere mortal.. Even as an adult I still look at him through a young boy's eyes. I think it was the same for all of us that came of age during the 1960's.

Muhammad Ali is arguably the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the sport. The list of greatest heavyweight champions is short and consists of two: Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis. They are both in good company.

Ali had his own particular (and spectacular) style; he backed away from punches, he flicked his jab and he often crossed his legs. He did so many things wrong, a fact acknowledged by his late, great trainer Angelo Dundee, who once said, “Muhammad does everything wrong but he does it better than anyone else”. Ali's greatest weapons were his mind, his indomitable will, and a speed of hand and feet never before seen in the heavyweight division, The Ali Shuffle served as a distraction for his foes, maybe a way to break down their will but more than anything it was for his fans. Was there ever anything more beautiful?

In the days when giants still roamed the Earth, and the heavyweight division was thick with competition, it was the self proclaimed “Greatest” that was King. Ali was a true champion and a true world champion taking his show to all corner of the planet and ducking no one.

Ali fought them all in an era where even the contenders have become legends. Ali was one half of the two greatest heavyweights championship battles of all time, the other half of course, being Smokin' Joe Frazier, when they battled for heavyweight supremacy on March 8, 1971, in “The Fight of the Century” at New York's legendary Madison Square Garden. Frazier got the nod in this fight between the two undefeated heavyweight champions. Ali would avenge himself a few years later, on October 1, 1975, when after a terrific battle in the “Thrilla in Manilla” trainer Eddie Futch stopped the fight before the start of the 15th round. Neither fighter was ever quite the same after this fight.

In a professional career that spanned the 1960's, the 1970's and the very early 1980's Muhammad Ali ducked no one and fought them all, winning most and losing a few. Here is a short list in no particular order; Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton, Jimmy Ellis, Larry Holmes, Bob Foster, George Chuvalo, Ron Lyle, Ernie Shavers, Henry Cooper, Ernie Terrell, Oscar Bonevena, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Leon Spinks and so many others.

On those days when the losses came, he showed the world how a true champion loses; he did not blame his trainer, he did not complain, he made no excuses went back into training and always found a way back and for the most part always won the rematch. He was a true champion and even more, he was a man.
Ali was a boxer but he was so much more, a fighter against social injustice and civil rights, a man who took a stand against the war in Viet Nam. Consequences be damned he stood his ground on those things he believed in.

On a personal note: Sometime in 1991 I was reading the book section of the Los Angeles Times when I saw a notice that Muhammad Ali and Thomas Hauser were going to be at the Book Soup in Hollywood. They would be promoting Hauser's book “Muhammad Ali: His life and times. When the day came I got up early and told the family, “Let's go, we're meeting Muhammad Ali today!”

We were the at 6:00am. The store was closed, the street was deserted and I didn't care. I wasn't taking any chances. This is something I don't normally do but this was Ali.

Little by little the crowd grew until it was in the thousands, although I didn't personally count them. I was told! It was around noon or so when a limo pulled up and Ali got out of the car. It was silent. He looked at the crowd. He was in the early stages of Parkinson’s and he was not speaking. Without a thought I yelled out “Ali!” I repeated it until it became a chant and then the entire crowd began to chant his name with me. He pointed at me and smiled then he walked through the door and into the store. I was beside myself.

About a half hour later they let us in. We were led to the back of the store where Ali and Thomas Hauser were sitting behind a tall counter. I put my book on the counter top and Hauser placed a small sticker with Ali's signature on the book and handed it back to me.

I did not want to seem unappreciative and presumptuous but I said “Would it be alright if he signed my book personally? Hauser gave me a quick “No, if you want a personal autograph you'll have to go to the end of the line! He seemed bothered by me.

I decided to ignore him and speak directly to Ali. “Mr. Ali, I'm the first one in line. My family got here at six in the morning just for you. I would like for you to autograph the book for me if you wouldn't mind. I put the book in front of him. He still had not spoken. Hauser started to shove the book back to me, and by now it was clear that he was irritated with me and just wanted to move on. Ali placed his hand on Hauser's and shook his head. He took the pen from my hand and signed my book. He stood up, reached over the counter and gave my wife and daughters a hug and kiss. He shook my son's hand and mine.

I gave my wife the camera and pointed to my chin and said to Ali “Plant one here Champ!! He made that famous grimace, biting his bottom lip and tapped my chin with his right hand. I turned to my wife and said, “Did you get it? She said “No, just as I was going to take the picture a reporter from the Daily News started talking to me and when I turned back it was all over. It broke my heart but I wasn't going to ask him to do it again. We said our goodbyes to the champ and left the store. We will never forget the day we all met Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali belongs to history now. He was an original. I can say with absolute certainty that there will never another like him. Our family extends our sincerest condolences to the Ali family. Rest in Peace Champ, and please don't start up anything with Joe!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sylvester Stallone and the Saga of Rocky Balboa

Rocky 1976

Creed 2016

By Randy De La O

It's funny How things work out in life. Exactly forty years ago this month Rocky was in full production, in both Los Angeles and in Philadelphia. No one, including and especially Sylvester Stallone, had any inkling they were creating an American myth, a story for the ages, a character that would come to embody all the elements of the underdog that just refused to quit. Sylvester Stallone, as the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa captured our hearts with his portrayal of a simple and honest man, literally fighting for his spot in the world. When we see a great fight on television where some fighter lays it all on the line, maybe losing early and coming back to score a knockout, someone will almost invariably say,  “It was like a Rocky movie!” Rocky and his huge heart have become part of our American lexicon.

Maybe it was that simple naivete of both Stallone and Rocky Balboa that grabbed us. In many ways, metaphorically, the story of Rocky Balboa, is the story of Sylvester Stallone, albeit, in a different arena. Stallone, like Balboa, like all of us, has had his ups and downs, wins and losses, and at times facing criticism, some deserved, some not, but always finding a way to win, and always, against the odds. 

We have followed the saga of Rocky from his first fight with Apollo Creed and the ensuing rematch, the loss to Clubber Lang and his struggle to win back the title, we went with him to Russia, during the cold war, when he fought and beat the unbeatable opponent Drago, and as a damaged ex fighter training the unworthy Tommy Gunn, and his “comeback “fight against Mason “The Line” Dixon and finally coming full circle in Creed, as an aging fighter, or more to the point, an aging man, with all the pains and aches and frailties that inevitably come with age, even to an icon like Rocky Balboa. 

We rooted for Rocky when he wooed the love of his life, Adrian and we grieved with him when he lost his beloved trainer and manager Mickey Goldmill. To be sure, some of the Rocky movies were, as one friend put it to me, “dogs”, but the character, Rocky Balboa, despite going astray at times always came back to who he was, a man and fighter with an indomitable spirit. That same spirit we all want to believe lives inside of us all, waiting for the opportunity to present itself!

Then again, maybe it's just me. Maybe I am just making too much of all of it. It does not matter. I have enjoyed every minute of the Rocky saga. Maybe you just have to know what it feels like to stand in the ring and see your opponent in the opposite corner looking a at you. Maybe you have to know what it's like to lay it all on the line, win, lose or draw. Maybe you just have to know what it's like to be an underdog. I don't know. Maybe you don't have to know any of these things just to appreciate the story of a humbled man that wins it all, and loses it it all.

Rocky won the Oscar for best picture in 1977 (Rocky premiered in 1976) and forty years later despite the odds and the years, Sylvester Stallone wins the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the indomitable Rocky Balboa. Congratulations Sylvester Stallone and thank you for all of it!