Sunday, March 04, 2018

More on Joey Giambra

By Randy De La O

I took this book off the bookshelf this morning. "The Uncrowned Champion" by Joey Giambra & Fred Villani. It was autographed by Joey Giambra. It was not autographed personally to me. I bought it a few years back on Amazon. I'm going to read it again starting tonight.

I only met Mr. Giambra once and it was almost forty-two years ago but he left a big impression on me. Some people you meet and the memory is fleeting, others, for whatever reason, stay with you forever. Joey Giambra stayed with me.

He was in his mid forties when we met. He still looked formidable and in good shape. We were introduced by my trainer Mel Epstein. Mel knew everyone from the glory days of boxing. I did not have a sense of history, boxing or otherwise, at that time, but as time passed I became more familiar with the man I met.

"He's going to referee your fight tonight!" Said Mel. "Oh" Says I. We sat down and had lunch and talked for a while. He was warm, well mannered and treated me like a professional athlete, despite the fact that it was only my second fight. I appreciated that. He had a friendly smile on his face. That more than anything is what I remember.

Adios Mr. Giambra and Rest in Peace! It was my everlasting honor to meet you and shake your hand.





Saturday, March 03, 2018

Joey Giambra the "Uncrowned Champ" Has Passed Away. 1931-2018

By Randy De La O

The great Joey Giambra has passed away! My prayers and condolences to the Giambra family. Such a great man and fighter. He will not be forgotten.

He was the referee for my fight with Eduardo Barba at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, on October 30, 1976 (I lost a 6 round decision). We shared the same dressing room and had a chance to talk and get to know each other a little. We also had lunch together, along with my trainer Mel Epstein.

Before he walked out of the dressing room he turned to me and said, "I like you kid! Good luck tonight!"

My memories of those days are few but he was one of the great memories. I was and always will be grateful to have met him. Rest in peace Mr. Giambra, you were the "Uncrowned Champion" and so much more!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Two Boxing Legends: Julio Cesar Chavez and Roberto Duran


By Randy De La O

Julio Cesar Chavez on the left, Roberto Duran on the right. Two bona fide Latin Legends in boxing but so much more than that. Two of boxing's finest that would have rose to greatness in any generation.

They never fought each other; age wise, weight wise and otherwise, the timing was all wrong. Chavez' star was rising as Duran was winding down his own career (though he did fight longer than he should have). together, they have a combined total of 234 fights.

In many ways they were made for each other. Both were at their absolute best when facing an opponent that wanted to fight. They would have no trouble finding each other.

If only there really was a mythical and mystical pound for pound Netherland where all the greats could meet and face each other in their natural prime and at their best weight without losing anything in the process. Instead, we are left to wonder.

Had they fought I'm convinced that it would have been Duran's hand that would be raised in victory. At his peak, Chavez was near impossible to knock out. If I remember correctly he was born with an abnormally thick skull. A curse for his opponent but a blessing for Chavez. I don't believe Duran could knock out a prime Chavez. With respect to Chavez, I think Duran had the better overall arsenal. Neither man was easy to hit but Duran  mastered the defensive nuances better than Chavez.

Duran was an underrated but masterful counter puncher and I think this would be the key to a win over Chavez. Duran had his own left hook but Chavez had one of the great left hook in boxing period, what has generally become known as the "Mexican Left hook". Still, as Duran has proven throughout his career, he can take it.

In his later, years after dominating the lightweight division for seven years, Duran moved up to take the welterweight title from Sugar Ray Leonard, the Jr. Middleweight title from Davey Moore, and the middleweight title from Iran Barkley, as well as many other middleweights including a better than expected close loss to Marvin Hagler. He handled the weight gain much better than Chavez did.

Chavez captured the Super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight divisions and was one of the most exciting fighters of his era. He beat the best of his era, including, Hector Camacho and Meldrick Taylor (a clear cut victory as far as I'm concerned). Chavez fought to a highly controversial draw against Pernell Whitakerfor the welterweight title. (He lost). He moved up one weight class to many.

I always had a house full of friends and family when these two fought. They gave us their all and the gave us our money's worth! It pleases me to see both of them enjoying their retirement.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Long Walk to the ring, …... and Respect


By Randy De La O

It never sits well with me whenever I hear someone call a fighter a coward. Almost to a “T”, most fighters that have made the long walk from the dressing room, to the ring, whether it be, professional boxing, amateur boxing, military, police or firefighters boxing, understand about respect. If you have made that walk into the ring you are deserving of respect. It's been earned.

When Oscar De La Hoya was fighting, he was often called De La Chicken. Floyd Mayweather has been called similarly ridiculous names, Gayweather being the most common. There may be a number of reasons to not like De la hoya and Mayweather, and other boxers but cowardice is not one of them.

It's no easy task to face another man in the ring because, despite the game face, and any and all bravado, a fighter still wonders. Yes, he is confident but still he wonders. No one knows what the outcome will be. A man, or a woman, is emotionally naked in the ring, for all the world to see. Not many have the kind of courage, at any level, to lace up the gloves, look the other guy in the eyes and then fight him. No easy task.

During a fight, someone will almost invariably say “Oh, that didn't hurt!”. I have news for you, they all hurt but you learn to push it aside. This is what you train for. At other times, again, someone will yell out “If it was me...... “ As if.

The worst of it, in my eyes, is to call someone who has trained hard, and dared to make that walk into the ring, whether he is a champion or someone making his debut, a coward. Years ago, Jerry Quarry was a color analyst for a fight, I cannot remember what fight it was. One of the announcers, again, I don't remember, made this statement as one of the fighters was stepping into the ring, “He has a bit of the dog in him!” In other words, he was a coward! To which Jerry snapped back, “No coward ever stepped into the ring.” Truer words were never said.

Years ago, my wife Jeri and I were going to see Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya fight at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. About a week before the fight we went shopping for new clothes. We were in a men's clothing store when this young salesman, probably in his twenties was helping me and he eventually asked me (I'm paraphrasing) “Big event coming up?” No, we're going to the Chavez and De La Hoya fight."

I didn't get a chance to finish what I was saying because he immediately went on a rant about Oscar. My wife and I looked at each other because we both liked Oscar but I just kept quiet. We reached the cash register where a sales girl and an older salesman were standing. As he was ringing up my sale he continued with his rant. The two salespeople were rolling their eyes as he spoke. I ignored him until he said:

“Someone ought to kick his ass!”

“Why don't you do it?

“Huh?”

“I said why don't you kick his ass!”

“No, I was just....

It's not really that hard you know, all you have to do is find a gym, start training, win some fights and then challenge Oscar. It's not that hard really, …. if you've got the balls.

Silence

“Yeah, that's what I thought! Show some respect!”

Talk is cheap. If you think any fighter is a coward. Step up and find out for yourself. It's not that hard, really.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Rocky Photo on Instagram

I woke up today to find that Sylvester Stallone posted this photo on the Official Sly Stallone page on Instagram, of him and I at the long gone Main Street Gym in Downtown Los Angeles. The photo was taken during the filming of the original Rocky in 1976.

I don't know if I can ever explain how lucky and how grateful I am just to have been a small part (and it was very small) of this epic boxing movie. It's one of my nicest memories of those days and I treasure it.

As nice as this is it's the reaction from my wife, kids and grandkids that makes this truly meaningful.


Monday, August 21, 2017

My Top Four: Ali, Frazier, Robinson and Duran

Muhammad Ali

Joe Frazier

 Sugar Ray Robinson

Roberto Duran

By Randy De La O

There are many fighters that have captured my heart over the years. Some of them may not have been the best and some were absolutely the best. It is usually a personal quality that draws me to a certain fighter, a big heart being at the top of the list but there are other qualities. It just depends on the fighter.

Boxing is the greatest sport in the world and these four fighters, with respect to all others were the best. These four are my pick. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson and Roberto Duran.

So many other honorable mentions, with some just a hair's breadth away from these four but these are the fighters that have captured my heart above all others. There were victories and there were losses There was drama, thrills, high points , painful low points and comebacks but through it all they continued to fight their hearts out for us, maybe longer than they should have but this is who they were. They entertained us and the world took notice when they fought. I don't know if we will ever see there like again.

The days when these four were fighting were the glory days of boxing for me.