Friday, August 29, 2008

What it was like, FIGHTING AT THE OLYMPIC . . . By Rick Farris

Courtesy of Rick Farris

What it was like, FIGHTING AT THE OLYMPIC . . . I'll never forget the first time I went to the Olympic to watch a fight. It was the mid 60's and I was a kid with my dad. The place was like a magic kingdom to me. The smell of beer and cigar smoke, the roar of the crowd, the powder blue ring canvas, the TV lights shining down from the edge of the balcony. The ring lights glaring straight down from above, the beam of light shrouding the ring in smoke that wafted up from ringside.I dreamed of fighting there one day. Just a kid's dream, but I made it come true. How? I don't know, but I did!I remember the excitment of the crowd as I watched as a kid. The fighters would come bouncing down the aisle to the ring, the crowd would greet them with a thunderous ovation, especially for the big fights. You'd never forget the excitement of Mando Ramos, his ring entrance would send a shock wave of energy thru the crowd. So would Jerry Quarry, Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez, and so on. I rememebr Mando when he would enter the ring, it was so different than what you see today. No rap music, no entourage, no dancing, no magic carpet entrance, just Mando bounding down the ring behind Jackie McCoy, holding a bucket. When Mando would step thru the ropes the crowd would explode. When he was introduced by the late Jimmy Lennon Sr. there were no histerics, no stare downs, no false bravado. Mando would just calmly nod to his fans. He'd do his fighting in the ring. He was the coming of a new "Golden Boy".I dreamed of fighting in that ring, and I would one day do just that, and I would do it quite a few times. The first time in the 1967 Jr. Golden Gloves Championship finals, in a bout that Frank Baltazar was matchmaker. Frank's boys were there too, Frankie Jr. Tony and Bobby. Later I would appear there as an amateur, in the Golden Gloves, and the Diamond Belt tournaments, and before the thursday night pro cards on a few occasions, and then as a pro. The first nine pro fights of my career were held at the Olympic. I was never a great fighter like the guys I named above, but I fought at the Olympic, and Jimmy Lennon introduced me to the crowd quite a few times. That is something that NOBODY can take away from me. I had a dream, and made it happen!I sat in those underground dressing rooms, watched the guy fighting before me leave our dressing room and hear him introduced to the crowd from deep below the arena. Then, as I nervously tried to rest, hear the crowd roar. I knew something was happening, as I nervously anticipated my bout, which was next up. Johnny Flores would warm me up, lace on the gloves, apply a thin layer of Vaseline and then pull my robe over my shoulders. The bout would end, a decision was announced and a few moments later the guy who shared the dressing room with me would return, sometimes smiling in victory or not, sometimes battered and bloody, sometimes not. Then the athletic commssion rep would step in and say "It's time Ricky, your on . . ." Johnny Flores would slap my back and say, "Let's go champ", and we were off. Out the door of the room, down to the exit tunnel, thru the opening, turn left and up a short flight of stairs to the top, turn left, past the concessions stands, turn right and down the aisle to the ring. I then move slowly behind Flores as the fans reach out to touch me, we pass from under the balcony and as I come into view of the crowd I hear a roar and I begin to jog the rest of the way to the ring, up the steps, thru the ropes and suddenly all the butter flies disapear. Jimmy Lennon flips a large disk to determine which corner will be mine, then we move to that corner. I walk to the rosen box and see my opponent climb thru the ropes. The perspective from the ring is much different from that outside the ring. Frank will tell you, no matter how many times you've sat ringside, nothing looks quite the same at the Olympic as it does from inside that powder blue ring. Things are suddenly much smaller inside the ropes. There is an unexplaneable intimacy, excitement, energy. Suddenly, the microphone drops down from the rafters into Jimmy Lennon's hands."Ladies and gentleman this is the semi-main event of the evening, six rounds of boxing between two outstanding banatmweights. Calling the bout from ringside will be TV announcer Jim Healy, keeping account of the knockdowns will be our timekeeper Jack Smith at the bell, and physician in attendence will be Dr. Bernhart Schwartz. Judging from ringside will be George Latka and Dick Young, and the referee in charge of this bout will be John Thomas. Allright fans here we go . . ."Sorry guys, I just got caught up in the greatest memory I posess. . . I FOUGHT AT THE OLYMPIC!-Rick Farris


Mike Duffau said...

WOW! great story and i was caught up in too. i wanted to read more about the olympic as the way you were telling it. i heard nothing but great things about that place. i wish i was around in those glory days to experience that. the olympic reminds me of a madison square garden of los angeles.

keep punchin'

Randy De La O said...

Mike, that was courtesy of Rick Farris, an old friend. He's a great writer.

Frank said...

Randy; you, Rick and diego are 3 great writer's.

Yes, the Olympic was a great place for boxing back in the days of my youth.

Randy De La O said...

The best for my money. Guess it just wasn't meant for me. Thanks Frank.

Unknown said...

Mr. Farris,
Terrific story! I am glad that I was able to read it. You do really nice literary work. Is there a book available? I would like to read it!

Your comments regarding the preparatory stages of going to the ring are heartfelt...

Reading your information, I recognize a lot of people that I know first hand, and it is quite nice!

Keep up the great work! You're doing a great job!

Rudy Hernandez said...

I too fought at the Olympic Aud. First as an Amateur, then had my Pro Debut.. My first fight there, Bobby Chacon was the main event, over 5k in attendance, I was 16. Few fights later, I fought Jack Alvarez, and after the fight, the public threw just over $250. that Jack and I split.
My Pro debut, African fighter against Korean fighter. I was on standby and ready at 4:30. Warmed up a few times, but didn't go in until around midnight. It was a full house, but once the title fight ended, 90% left. Joey Olivo fought right after, and there must have been under 100 people there, then I went up in the ring to about 20 people.. I won. Just went by there a few days ago, and told my wife how that places had so much history, if only it could talk. Miss that place.

Unknown said...

What a great piece of writing. My dad would always talk about how the memories of the roar of the crowd and the vibration it created. He said it was deafening and it was so loud one time that he couldn't hear himself think!!! He truly missed that after his time inside the ring was over. He tried to explain it to me, but I was to young to fully grasp the true vibration of what really went on inside those hallowed walls. He always said it was the best moments of his life. Thanks for sharing. We all will miss the stories and events of the Grand Olympic Auditorium.

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