Friday, October 07, 2011

Touching gloves with…Sammy Goss

Posted on this site with the expressed courtesy of the author

By Dan Hanley

In the summer of ‘73 during a series of telecasts on ABC from New York’s Felt Forum, I was introduced to the east coast’s version of Mexican featherweight warfare. And I was absolutely smitten with the rampaging style of Sammy Goss as I watched this ’sure thing’ in action on those Saturday afternoons. Catching up with Sammy takes me back to the days of network TV and the efforts displayed which drew rabid crowds into unforgiving arenas of attrition. Good times.

DH: Sammy, you’re originally from Trenton, New Jersey, is that right?

SG: Born and bred and still here to this day.

DH: You’ve got quite the family background in boxing. Tell me about it.

SG: Well, my Dad was Jesse Goss. He was a fighter and eventually a trainer. As a matter of fact he trained Ike Williams back in the day. I started boxing around the age of 6 or 7 and all my brothers boxed. But boxing was not just in the family but also in the entire neighborhood. Everything was about boxing.

DH: How old were you when you formally started?

SG: I was 15. My father brought me down to the Trenton PAL to Percy Richardson for instruction.

DH: You had a remarkable amateur career. What are your stats?

SG: Well, I came along very fast. I was 5 time N.J. Golden Glove champ, 5 time state AAU champ, 1965 National AAU flyweight champ, 1968 National AAU bantamweight champ and 1968 National Golden Glove runnerup, losing in the finals to Earl Large of New Mexico.

DH: Now didn’t the AAU title grant you a berth at the ‘68 Olympic Trials?

SG: Yes it did. And in the finals of the trials I beat Earl Large. However, since I had lost to him recently in the Nationals it was decided we had to have a boxoff. So I beat him again for the bantamweight spot on the 1968 Olympic team.

DH: Tell me about Mexico City 1968
SG: I would have had to win 5 fights to medal in the tournament, I received a bye in the 1st round and the second round I was fighting an eastern European. Now remember, Percy Richardson was not in my corner. I got to that point with Percy Richardson, who knew my style. In the Olympics we all had the National Coach, who was Pappy Gault. In the first round of my bout I had my opponent hurt bad but when I got back to my corner Gault jumped all over me. He wanted me to go to the body and nothing but. Well, he’s the coach and I had to do as I was told but I had to try and get under and in there and ate nothing but jabs trying to get in. He just kept popping me as I bore in and I lost the decision. That was all for me and I went pro after that.

DH: Who did you turn pro with?

SG: Well, Percy Richardson of course along with Frank Cariello were my trainers and I was managed by Pinny Schaeffer and Pat Duffy. We were together from beginning to end and we had the best time. (laughing) Those crazy guys could joke, let me tell you.

DH: You were up and down the eastern seaboard after turning pro. Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts. Was it an issue getting fights for you?
SG: Well, I was taking the fights as they were coming to me, but then we hooked up with Promoter Russell Peltz in Philadelphia. And now, although I still lived in Trenton, I would take the train into Philly on weekends for some real serious sparring.

DH: I take it you were introduced to the Philadelphia gym wars?

SG: Oh man, you had to be on your toes. Sparring in Philly, to me, meant working on defense because every sparring partner was looking to beat on me in order to make a reputation for himself.

DH: You were a very busy fighter. In a year and half after turning pro you were 18-1 and went into a fight which smacked of old school rivalry. You and Augie Pantellas had been making a lot of noise out of Philly. In fact, Marty Feldman, Pantellas’ trainer, said that this had been brewing for two years. Tell me about the fight.

SG: Well, you’re right, this really was a rivalry. We packed them into the Philadelphia Spectrum that night, which was one of my best paydays. I don’t recall the figures but I remember I made enough to put a down payment on a house. As for Augie Pantellas, he was a puncher and this was going to be a very tough fight if I fought him the same way. But during training I watched the tape of the Sugar Ray Robinson - Jake LaMotta title fight every single night. I copied the same moves. I boxed, I spun him and countered him and took an easy decision.

DH: Were you aware that Promoter Lou Lucchese offered to bring lightweight champ Ken Buchanan to Philly to fight the winner in a non-title?

SG: I was not. And obviously I never heard anymore about it. See, Lucchese was more Pantellas’ promoter, whereas I was affiliated with Russell Peltz. But Buchanan would have been too big for me anyway. I was comfortable between 126-130.

DH: Your next fight set you back a bit. That was one bad dude you fought in Ricardo Arredondo. Does the fact that he would become world champ less than a year later suggest that you may have been overmatched at this stage of your career?

SG: Yes, he was far more polished than I was.

DH: Were you ‘in’ the fight at all?

SG: No, to tell you the truth, he was picking me off coming in. He had reach on me and could hit. But it was a learning experience.

DH: Several fights later you had a similar result against Jose Luis Lopez, getting stopped in 6. Was it simply a case of having a problem solving the Mexican style?

SG: Yeah, it was the same thing. He was a tall guy and he caught me with an uppercut. But we rematched about a year later and I had it down. I made him chase me, boxed and took the fight easily. See, the first fight I was going after him and walking into the shots.

DH: It does seem like you had it figured out with a two round blowout of Raul Cruz in your next fight. But thinking of some of these Mexican fighters made me wonder why you never relocated to the west coast for more work.

SG: I suppose I should have but Russell Peltz was bringing in the talent for me, so I didn’t have any complaints.

DH: In March of ‘73 you fought for the first and only time in Madison Square Garden. A 12 rounder against Walter Seeley. It was a brilliant win, but whatever happened to Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner’s promise of an October title fight for the winner at the Garden against featherweight champ Ernesto Marcel?

SG: Don’t know. Nothing ever came of it. Of course, like Lucchese and Pantellas in Philly, the Garden was Seeley’s promoter.

DH: Jose Fernandez of the Dominican Republic was coming off of a tremendous result over in Europe when you beat him at the Felt Forum. Then you rematched on National TV for the newly created American Jr. Lightweight title. Tell me about the fight.

SG: Everything was right that night. He came right at me, I boxed, I punched. I couldn’t miss.

DH: The following month you were back on the air against undefeated Edwin Viruet. But you came in as a late substitute for Chango Carmona. Were you ready for this fight?

SG: I was staying in shape, so yes, I was ready and won a close decision.

DH: There was some controversey over your 8th round knockdown, wasn’t there?

SG: (laughing) Yeah, I caught him good with a leaping left hook, but he couldn’t pull away because I came down on his foot. He was a good fighter but I beat him with body punches.

DH: At this time you were Ring Magazine’s #1 contender for the 130 lb. title. What kind of efforts were there to get you a title shot?

SG: I know Russell Peltz was working on it but the only one we heard from was Ricardo Arredondo offering us a non-title fight. I was the #1 contender, I wasn’t going to go for that.

DH: For the first time in your career you took time off. It was seven months before you fought again and looked very ring rusty against a club fighter. Why the inactivity?

SG: I think it was a combination of me needing a rest and them working on a title fight.

DH: In August of ‘74 you signed to defend your American title in an all-Philly affair with undefeated rival Tyrone Everett. I understand the fight reeked of bad blood. Tell me about it.

SG: Tyrone was saying a lot of nasty things in the press, which really angered me and I was responding to it, which really heated things up. As for the fight, he dropped me around the 3rd round. I then began doing well with body punches but then he began running and boxing on the retreat. Percy was telling me between rounds to chase him and I was saying, “I’ll chase him but I don’t know if I can catch him.” And he won the fight. Afterwards Tyrone shook hands with me and apologized for the things he was saying and that it was just to hype the fight and pump up the gate.

Goss (right) seen here dropping Raul Cruz
DH: After that fight you began fighting on the road more. You fought Flipper Uehara over in Japan and held him to a draw. He was one of Japan’s hotshots at the time. How do you perceive the draw?

SG: That was no draw. I gave him one severe body beating. He came up to me after the fight and said, “I never fought anybody that hit to the body like you.”

DH: Something happened around this time that really bummed me out. You started losing to guys you had once dominated such as Jose Fernandez and Augie Pantellas. Were you spent after such a long amateur and pro career?

SG: I really think I was. I was just tired by that point.

DH: While on the road you fought twice in South Africa when apartheid was at its height. How were you treated over there?

SG: Oh, I was treated alright, like one of their own. I had no issues. As for my two fights over there, the first fight was against ‘Happy Boy’ Mgxaji and I thought I beat him. From bell to bell I pounded his body but they gave it to him. My fight with Brian Baronet was also my last. In the 7th round I was hit with a right and something happened to me. I went down and just sat there and let them count me out. Percy asked me afterwards what happened and I told him that my head felt like a bottle of coca-cola after you shook it up. I felt something rushing to the top of my head. It was enough. And I never fought again.

DH: What have you been doing with yourself over the years?

SG: I have been running the Goss & Goss Gym in Trenton along with my brothers Barry and Tommy. We’re giving kids the same chance we had.

DH: Sammy, if there was one fight you wanted that you never got an opportunity at, what would it be?

SG: A third fight with Augie Pantellas.

DH: Whooa! I thought for sure you were going to say a title fight with Ben Villaflor or Kuniaki Shibata.

SG: (laughing) Nope! I felt I beat him again in our rematch. I wanted a third fight with Augie Pantellas to set things straight.

DH: Sammy, last question, while we’ve been talking I’ve been noticing that fighters you beat such as Jose Marin, Jose Fernandez and Edwin Viruet along with fighters you felt you beat such as Flipper Uehara and Happy Boy Mgxaji all received title shots sometime after fighting you. Where was the justice?

SG: Really? All of them? Well, I don’t know how those guys made out in life, but I’m healthy, have all my senses, have my family and my own home from my ring earnings. So…maybe I did OK.

Alas, in the fight game, fate can be a cruel bitch. She provides amateur silverware to adorn the shelves, grants Olympian status to enhance the transition to pro and even bestows the ranking of #1 contender for world laurels. Yet, obstinately withholds the elusive shot at that very same world title. Cruel indeed. However, cruel fate has left no malice in the heart of Sammy Goss as he teaches the very same sport which left him marooned from the brass ring. For that alone I say, way to go champ.

See ya next round

Dan Hanley

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