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!

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Last Time I Saw Mike Quarry

Mike Quarry, Andrew and me. 

 Earlier this year I won 2nd place with this short story on a private boxing forum on Facebook.. The rule was it had to be a true boxing related story. Since the forum is private I won't mention the name without their permission. I enjoyed remembering and writing about it.

The Last Time I Saw Mike Quarry 

By Randy De La O

I first saw Mike Quarry in 1967, at the Olympic Auditorium. I was there with my father to see Mando Ramos fight. We sat ringside, a couple of rows back. A family started crowding the row in front of us. They took up several seats in the row. A teenage boy a few years older than me walked up, looked around and we caught eyes for a second. He smiled and sat down. “That's Mike Quarry” my father said.

I was at the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles , in mid 1976. talking with my trainer, Mel Epstein, getting ready to skip rope. I looked up as the doorway to the gym opened. It was Mike Quarry. He was impeccably dressed in a blue three piece suit. He had smile on his face and carried himself with an aura of confidence that told you he was a professional.

“You're sparring with Quarry”, Mel said, “He needs to work with someone smaller and fast. You okay with that?” A short while later I was ready to go. “Don't get nervous just because it's Quarry” and don't slug with him, you're just sparring”. “I'm not nervous Mel.”

There was probably a 25 or 30 pound difference between us. I was a welterweight, Mike a light heavyweight. Still, I did what I could. I was looking for that friendly smile but it wasn't there. It was a hard workout but I just kept moving forward and managed to land a few punches of my own.

Later, with a smile back on his face Mike walked up to me and said “Tomorrow?” “Sure. I'll be here!

The next day was more of the same. This time a friend came to watch. Mike was tough to spar with. I'm not complaining, it's just an observation. He was a professional. His job is to get in the best possible shape. I understood this. Boxing is a tough business. You're either up to the task or your not.

After sparring, Mike was back to his friendly self, smiles and all. They were sincere smiles too. That is a lesson I learned from Mike. Outside the ring; friendly, get along with people but inside the ring, in the gym or in the arena, take care of business.

On the way home that day my friend said to me. “Quarry kicked your ass but you never backed up, I'll give you that!” “Yeah, well......”

I went back for another day of sparring. Mike began to have fun with me – fun for him, not for me – he started throwing some hard shots,and showboating. He dropped his hands and did the Ali shuffle. I'm not going to lie. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. When his hands dropped to the side and his feet began to shuffle I was a little irritated. When he thrust his chin toward me and chuckled I let go of a right hand. It landed flush. It caught Mike off guard and sent him to the ropes. He came back and jokingly wobbled but I knew, at the very least, I got his attention. It took me three days to land that punch.

Drying off in the locker room Mike said, “Randy, you gave me a harder workout than most of the light heavyweights that I spar with. I mean it, thanks!” Outside the ring it was hard not to like Mike.

Later that year we would meet again. This time at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It was October 30, 1976. Mike was fighting Tom Bethea that night. I was on the undercard .

Mel and I arrived the day before the fight. Mike was a popular fighter but in terms of big money fights and fan base, he was no Muhammad Ali or Roberto Duran but the fight was to be shown live on the Wide World of Sports, so there was a sense of excitement. Mel took me around to meet everyone. That's when I met Joey Giambra, Ken Norton, and Eddie Futch. Giambra was the referee for my fight that night. Norton was the announcer.

We saw Mike at the Blackjack table, and spoke with him a while. He was feeling good. He was his normal self, smiling and friendly.

The next morning we got up and went to the weigh-in. Mike and Tom Bethea were there. This was in the days when the weigh-in was the day of the fight.

I opened the show that night. I was a four round fighter taking on a ten round fighter, Eduardo Barba, in a six round fight. I was a substitute for a fighter who pulled out of the fight. I had two weeks notice. I gave Barba a good fight but lost the decision. Mike won his fight with Tom Bethea via a 10 round unanimous decision. Mike did good that night. Despite the loss I was happy to be a part of that night.

It would be eighteen years, 1993, before I would see Mike again. It was a benefit, in Azusa, California, for a local fighter, Johnny Chavez, from the La Puente area, who lost his eyesight after a fight. I was there with my son Andrew. There were some good fighters there that day, Frankie Baltazar Jr, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Alberto Davila, Ruben Castillo, Ray Mancini and Mike Quarry.

I spoke with Mike for quite a while. I introduced my son Andrew to Mike and they shook hands. You could see Mike was damaged but he was in good spirits. That smile was still there. That made me smile. Mike was there with a friend whose name I can no longer recall. He took a photo of Mike, with my son and I, and mailed it to me some time later. That was the last time I saw Mike Quarry.

  Mike Quarry
Mike Quarry  1951 - 2006


Rocky 1976
Yesterday marked the 39th year since the movie "Rocky" was released. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. One of the great highlights of my short time in boxing was working as an extra in the movie, meeting Sylvester Stallone, having lunch with Burgess Meredith and working with some great fighters, including Mando Ramos and Monroe Brooks.

When we took a break during the scene at the Main Street Gym, where Rocky and Mickey are arguing, Monroe asked me if I wanted to spar a few rounds. I said "Okay" and I went through six rounds of boxing 101 with Monroe. Sparring with Monroe was literally an educating boxing experience. I never forgot it.

The filming at the gym took three days. I remember it all like it was yesterday.I went to the opening with my wife Jeri, my parents and my brother Dennis. When the movie was over the audience stood, cheered and clapped. We knew then that it was something special. It won the Oscar for best picture for 1976. It remains a great memory for me and it is still my favorite boxing movie.

Rocky 1976
Rocky and me

Rocky 1976

My thanks to my friend Rene Ramirez for finding the above photo of a deleted scene from the 1976 movie "Rocky". The scene was filmed at the Main Street Gym in Downtown Los Angeles. I'm on the left in white trunks and wearing hand wraps. The older man in the white shirt is my late manager/trainer Mel Epstein.Just to the front of me is Boxer Monroe Brooks. In the center of the photo is actor Stan Shaw. On the right is Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed.

Rocky 1976
That's me peeking over Stallone's shoulder.

Rocky 1976
Above and below, sparring with Monroe Brooks in the movie

Rocky 1976

Rocky 1976

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Waiting on Greatness.......

By Randy De La O

Somewhere out in the world, maybe in one of our 50 states, there is a young boy with a faraway dream of becoming a great champion. Maybe he is alone in that dream with no one to push him or encourage him but he gets up every day and finds a way to keep his dream alive. Or it may be that he has a father, or a grandfather (or a mother) perhaps, that once fought in the ring and he has taken on their dream.

Somewhere in a small unnoticed boxing gym or a maybe in an old garage, a young boy is learning how to hit the heavy bag. He is being taught his craft by someone who cares. First he will learn his stance and balance. He will stick with it until the awkwardness is gone and his movement becomes natural. He will learn to punch, starting with the jab and again, he will stick with it until he cannot remember what it was like to not jab. One by one he will be taught his punches, the right cross, the uppercuts, the left hook and so on.

He will be taught not only how to throw them with authority but how to avoid the same punches by an opponent. He will be taught all the nuances that make up the world of boxing. Just as importantly, he will learn the importance of roadwork and skipping rope, of getting and staying in shape.

A knowing and caring coach will guide him through his early amateur fights. If the coach has the right stuff he will get him through his first loss without a hitch, reminding him that, after all, even the greatest of men, of fighters, will lose from time to time.

If his coach, or father, is worth his salt, he will understand that there are some things that cannot be taught, only learned. Call it what you will; courage, intestinal fortitude or heart, these are the things that reside inside a man, or a young boy. A good and honest coach knows this but he also knows that he can help his young fighter to find these things within himself, “The stuff inside!”

Maybe the young boy is having his first amateur fight today or maybe he will fight his first professional fight next week. He's out there somewhere, running, sweating punching and taking punches. Maybe he's hurting too but he understands deep down inside, instinctively, that the Mantle of Greatness requires sacrifice. There is a price to pay in being the best.

Maybe he will be a welterweight or maybe he will grow into a heavyweight. Whatever weight he grows into he should know this. “We're waiting for you kid!”

Lucia Rijker

Lucia Rijker 

 Lucia Rijker, still my pick as the greatest female fighter of all time!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey: On Talks of a Rematch..

.There has been a little talk about a rematch. In my opinion because of the ease in which Holm beat Rousey, unless there is a rematch clause written into the contract, a rematch cannot be justified. Holm will win every time out whether Rousey chooses to grapple or stand and fight.

Getting hit in the face and body is no easy task. This is something all boxers train for every single day of their careers. Perhaps if Rousey had some fights where someone actually punched back she might have developed that mental resistance that is a big part of boxing.

Taking a beating like she did, in what I see as her first real fight, may very well make her gun shy. Maybe I'm wrong but that's my guess.

I don't think she will be able to fight any natural puncher again without second guessing herself. To grapple, she needs to get up close and if she gets up close she's going to get hit. The slightest hesitation will change everything.

My advice to Rousey or any other MMA fighter, is if you want to box then become a boxer. It's the only way to develop that mental resistance to getting hit. A few sessions just will not cut it. Boxing, as Rousey found out last night, might look easy from the outside but it's more than just learning how to throw a punch correctly. It's about developing what we like to refer to as "the intangibles", or "the stuff" inside. It can be learned and developed but it cannot be taught. There is only one way.

This is why so many people in the boxing world were upset when Rousey recently made the cover of the Ring Magazine without ever stepping into the ring and facing a real fighter. Now you understand.
All is not lost Ronda. get some real fights under your belt and then give it another shot. It's up to you!

Former Boxer Holly Holm Knocks Out Ronda Rousey in the 2nd Round!

Congratulations to Holly Holm on her sensational KO of Ronda Rousey and congratulations to the great state of New Mexico on their new champion.

You know boxing is my sport and I don't usually comment on UFC/MMA fights (or is MMA/UFC?) but I'm making an exception on this fight and the reason should be obvious.

Before I say anything else I do want to give Ronda Rousey credit for her part in last night's fight between her and Holly Holm. She was outclassed and outfought the entire fight but to her credit she showed a big heart. She never stopped looking for an answer to Holly's fighting style. There just weren't any answers to be found.

From this moment on, this is where Ronda Rousey will finally meet her real self. How she handles the loss, and it was a big one, will determine if she can regain her former position as the top women's fighter of the world. This is where she really finds out what she is made of. I wish her luck.

From the get go Rousey had no clue on how to fight a southpaw. Holly figured that out immediately and landed the left hand whenever she chose and she did it without much resistance. Her corner had no clue either.

Rousey was facing a former undefeated boxing champion and a great one at that. Holm trained every day not only to dish it out but to take it as well. There is a big difference in learning "Striking Techniques" and being a true honest to goodness boxer. The difference in the boxing ability between the two was apparent from the start of the fight.

Holly also dispelled the notion that once a boxer is on the ground the fight is all but over. A fighter is a fighter and will try to find way to win in any situation. Rousey had Holm in her grip at least twice during the fight and on the floor once and could not keep her there. She did not lose because she chose to stand and face Holm. She did not lose because she lacked a real game plan. She lost because in Holly Holm she was facing a more determined, better skilled fighter. That is the long and short of it.

Somewhere in the first round you could see in Rousey's expression that she knew the gig was up. She looked demoralized but to her credit, she showed the heart of a fighter and gave it her best shot. What more can we ask of any fighter, regardless of their discipline?

To be fair, this fight should not be construed as a litmus test, as proof that a boxer will win every time out against a mixed martial arts fighter. The next fight between any boxer and MMA fighter could turn out differently. It will depend on the fighters themselves.But I will say this, the notion that MMA wins every time out has turned out to be just another myth. Plus they need better "Striking Technique".

To fight like a girl has a whole new meaning!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Congratulations to the 2015 California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee!

Click image for a larger view

Congratulations to all the 2015 California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductees. It is an honor you will never forget. Enjoy your day, you earned it! I won't be there tomorrow but the De La O family wishes you all the best!

Ruben Olivares
Eder Jofre
Mike Anchondo
Greg Haugen
Pat Goosen
Alex Garcia
Max DeLuca
Ray Corona
Thell Torrance
Armando Cotero
Jose Becerra
Hedgemon Robertson
Henry Tillman
Jeff Bumpus
Phil Garcia
Hector Lizarraga
Ernie Chavez
Richard Steele

George Parnassus
Jimmy Bivens
Lou Nova
Dr. Al Stolper
Babe McCoy
Alphonse Halimi