Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dunne Loses, Klitschko Wins

Mark Connor
© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Saturday, September 26, was a good day for me because I was able to watch two entertaining world championship professional boxing matches. The first was Bernard Dunne’s defense of the 122 pound WBA Super Bantamweight title against Poonsawat Kratingdaengym, and the second Vitali Kiltschko’s defense of the WBC Heavyweight Championship against Chris Arreola. Dunne lost his title to Kratingdaengym at the end of the third round in an action packed fight, and Klitschko successfully defended his title with a dominating performance putting him far ahead on the scorecards before Arreola’s corner refused to let him answer the 11th round bell at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.

Dunne defended his title in Dublin, Ireland, and I watched it at The Local, one of the “Trinity of Pubs” owned by Irish native Kieran Folliard, including Kieran’s, not far from The Local in downtown Minneapolis, and The Liffey, on West 7th Street and Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. It was good to view the fight at The Local and the staff were quite friendly to me, as I was the only one to show up for it and the rest of the patrons were watching soccer matches in other sections of the place. The bartender indulged me in conversation, listening to my technical analysis of the fight and fighters as the action took place.

Dunne fought well and moved and jabbed effectively the first round, but from the beginning he periodically stopped and traded punches, and that caught up to him with 1:23 left in the third round, when he suffered the first knockdown. He got up and struggled to clinch. He shook the cobwebs and moved, and although he seemed to be surviving he started trading punches again and went down. He got up and went right back to it, foolishly, and was knocked out. The last knockdown came with 13 seconds left in the round, and he was unable to recover

The quick turn of the tide from the first to the third round was striking. Dunne moved and landed punches well from the opening bell, and actually looked very skillful, strategically jabbing and dancing to the left, sometimes hooking effectively off the jab and landing right hands and left hooks over the top. He also landed left uppercuts to the liver followed by left hooks and right hands, and some good right uppercuts when Poonsawat tried to move in under his jab. After moving Poonsawat all the way around the ring to the left Dunne would double back to the right, and about halfway to where he started he’d reset and lead him the other way again. But when Dunne stopped to throw his own power combinations, Poonsawat punched right with him and always landed solid blows at the end of exchanges. Also, Poonsawat kept bobbing and weaving forward, had his own jab, and was effective with left hooks and right hands. His determination was overwhelming, and Dunne could not keep the necessary pace. The first knockdown came from a perfectly thrown left hook, and Dunne’s response was to increase his vulnerability by slugging back instead of moving away and avoiding more punishment.

Dunne actually has a connection to St. Paul, having fought in Aldrich Arena in North St. Paul on August 19, 2004, when he won a unanimous decision over Adrian Valdes. That fight was on the under card of the first loss of St. Paul’s East Side son, Matt Vanda, who was defeated in a 154 pound Junior Middleweight fight by Armando Velardez of San Bernardino, California. Freddie Roach was with Dunne for that fight. I had the privilege of meeting Roach and working out at his gym while visiting Hollywood at the end of May, and when I told him I was from St. Paul he recalled being there with Dunne. It seems to me that if fighting is in Dunne’s future he’d benefit from more training with a man like Roach, because in spite of beginning very well he did everything wrong once he got solidly hit. Poonsawat deserves extra credit for the victory, though, because the large ring was obviously chosen for Dunne’s advantage, but in spite of the Irishman’s initial speed and movement the Thai warrior walked him down and caught him with the fatal blows.

The Klitschko fight was not nearly so exciting, but that’s often to be expected among heavyweights, especially when the fight is such a mismatch. But it was still pleasurable to watch this 38-year-old Ukrainian World Champion so skillfully move and pick Arreola apart for ten rounds, especially while taking into consideration the overwhelming intellect he carries through life along with his boxing skills. When a heavyweight capable of beating him or his brother, Vladmir, will come along is anybody’s guess at this point. But Jim Lampley’s assessment at the end of the HBO broadcast was poignant. He and colleague Larry Merchant discussed how difficult it is for a man in his fourth decade to be physically fit enough to compete on the world class level in boxing or any professional sport, and Lampley emphasized in the closing statement that Arreola or any other fighter believing he can take even a short period off to drink beer and still defeat the likes of Vitali Klitschko is only fooling himself.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Emmett Yanez Honored with 2009 Harry Davis Award


Mark Connor

© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Robert Brant of the White Bear Lake Boxing Club carried the flag for the U.S. team at the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) World Chapmpionships in Milan, Italy, which took place September 1 through September 12. After receiving a bye in the tournament's opening round, Brant lost a decision to Cuba's José Larduet Gomez. Brant is guided locally by the same trainer who taught me to box as a boy and guided me to national tournaments, 89-year-old Emmett Yanez, who was awarded this year's Harry Davis Memorial Award at the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves. Pictured above is Brant (L), Yanez, boxer Jonathan Escoto (R) and me. ( © Copyright 2009, Mark Connor) The following article appeared in the 2009 Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Yearbook in recognition of Emmett's receipt of the award.

I was thrilled to learn that Emmett Yanez is receiving this year’s Harry Davis award. At age 89, he is still healthy and working daily with boxers, which he has done for at least forty years. His longevity greatly impresses me, and I’m satisfied to know he continues doing what makes him happy. Nearly thirty years ago, when I was ten years old, Emmett taught me the skills that led to an Upper Midwest Golden Gloves title and competition in three national tournaments. But what I most value about him is a quality he shared with me from the moment we met, and would have shared regardless of whether I succeeded in boxing. That quality is integrity.

Emmett Yanez always demanded dedication from the boys and men he trained, and also the small number of girls and women he began training in the mid-1990s. He communicates as well as possible with a boxer’s parents, and when I was growing up he demanded that I skip the gym and concentrate on school if my grades ever suffered. Also, unlike some coaches, he never cut corners. He always insisted on covering every aspect of training, including daily running, before even thinking of sparring. While some boxers from other gyms chewed tobacco after the weigh-ins or in the crowd after a fight, he would not allow such detrimental behavior in front of him. If he ever drank alcohol I didn’t know it, because when on a trip to a tournament he only concentrated on the boxers’ safety, success and enjoyment, and he was forever conscious of the example he was setting. He never spoke disrespectfully about women and would not tolerate it among us. He let us know it was great we were boxing, especially if we were winning, but that our success was not separate from our other responsibilities. That’s the way Emmett Yanez was, and he still is.
I sincerely hope Emmett Yanez is around for many years to come. There’s no reason to believe he won’t live and still be healthy far past 100, but of course he’s only working on 90 right now. Always dedicated to his family and his wife, Emmett Yanez is able to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it because he’s always done what he has to do—such as fighting in the U.S. Army to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany during World War II, being consciously present in the lives of his children, and caring for his first wife when she suffered and died from Alzheimer’s Disease—when he’s had to do it. Now he lives happily with his wonderful bride, Sylvia, in St. Paul, plays golf through the summer, and still trains boxers all year. That’s because he is a man of integrity, personally expressed in a manner that will live beyond his years in the lives he’s touched in the past, as well as the ones he’ll touch in the future.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ali Makes Irish-American Version of Hajj to Ennis, County Clare

Mark Connor
© Copyright 2009, Mark Connor

On Tuesday, September 1, the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, visited his matrilineal Great Grandfather’s birthplace in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. Like pilgrimages made by so many Irish-Americans over the last century, the trip enabled a descendant of Erin to spiritually and emotionally reconnect with an ancestral identity buried beneath the outward national expression that forgets the Diaspora experience of an immigrant past. Ali is not thought of as an Irishman in America, but as an African, a descendent of slaves who joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Casius Clay immediately after winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World from Sonny Liston. But his Great Grandfather, Abe Grady, emigrated from Ireland and settled in Kentucky in the 1860s, marrying a freed slave. Grady’s Granddaughter, Odessa Lee Grady Clay, gave birth to Ali (then Casius Clay) in 1942.

Such an Irish-American journey back to one’s ancestral home, in this case including a visit to the actual house Grady was born in, is a journey for descendants of Erin that carries heavy emotional weight, one that would not equal but could be compared to the religious journey a Muslim makes at some point in one’s life to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, known as a Hajj. The comparison here is not in any way meant to equate such sentiments for one’s ancestry with religious obligations, as the Hajj is for a Muslim who can afford it, but to celebrate the expression of an individual while recognizing the different combinations—from religious and ethnic to racial and cultural—that contribute to an individual human being’s identity. Such historical reality greatly influences Ali’s contribution to world history and status as an American icon.
Ali, who was stripped of his title, spent a short period behind bars and was unable to fight for three years because of his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army while objecting to the Vietnam War on religious grounds as a member of the Nation of Islam, had worn the U.S. colors in Rome where he won the 1960 Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the Olympics. While everyone in the United States has a right to express political opinion, his actions at that time were different than those who actually dodged the draft, because he publicly stood for his principles and accepted the consequences. Then, in 1990 as the standoff between the United States and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq built up to the Persian Gulf War, Ali traveled to Iraq as a Muslim on behalf of the United States and negotiated the release of some American citizens being held hostage in the American Embassy. These two events, along with his illustrious career including winning the Heavyweight Championship three times and becoming the most recognizable sports figure in the world, make him one of the most legendary American celebrity figures ever. His Irish ancestry mixed with his African identity also reflects the social and cultural history of the United States, where African and Irish intermingled from the beginning and by no exaggeration largely built our country together.
I was first made aware of Ali’s visit to Ennis, County Clare by an email received from my friend and colleague, Ger Regan, publisher of The Wild Geese today, http://www.thewildgeese.com/, an Irish Diaspora website. In early August he forwarded a press release to me that he’d received from another contact. On September 2 ESPN published a story on its website along with video coverage from Ireland.Ali’s wife, Yolanda, is quoted saying she believes if Abe Grady were alive today he’d be in every pub bragging about his champion boxer grandson, and that Ali’s poetic abilities that so enhanced his boxing persona and accentuated his skills are probably attributable to his descending from the Grady Clan.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Litzau and Hilario Battle for IBA Beltand Vanda Features on April 18

by Mark Connor
© Copyright 2009
Mark Connor

While the more widely known and accomplished Super Middleweight Matt “The Predator” Vanda of St. Paul is the featured attraction for the upcoming April 18 professional boxing card at the Minneapolis Target Center, the war of words between Featherweights Wilton “Pretty Warrior” Hilario and Alan “The American Boy” Litzau overshadowed most of the March 4 press conference that announced the event.

“There’s something that really irritates me about this kid,” Litzau said in his opening remarks at the conference; “I just don’t understand how he calls himself the ‘Pretty Warrior’ when he looks like he got slapped with a ugly stick. The only thing I can say is pretty about him is this ass whipping I’m going to give him on April 18th.” When pressed by Boxers and Writers Magazine for the personal strengths he will utilize and Hilario’s weaknesses that he’ll exploit, Litzau only said that he knew what those were but wouldn’t reveal them publicly before the fight. The flaws are there and he’s ready to capitalize on them, but he would not share strategy with the press.

Hilario took his turn at the microphone with the ice cold confidence that has driven his red hot career over the last four years. Currently 10-0 with 8 knockouts and 1 draw, he has so far shown a determination that can only lead him to greater success.

“He said he beat me twice in the amateurs,” Hilario said, “but we didn’t fight two years ago because he didn’t have enough to gain from me, but now he’s fighting me because he’s got everything to win. I don’t got nothing to win from him. He’s already lost three times, got knocked out twice; so this is just another opponent for me, this is just another fight.”

Hilario makes a good point. As can be seen from my coverage of his last fight in Hinckley, Minnesota on January 24 published on the Blog section of www.boxersandwritersmagazine.com, I am critical of Hilario’s style and vulnerabilities. But he has fought a slightly tougher string of opponents, been much more active, and proven himself more relentless in the ring. Litzau does have the skills to beat Hilario, but his nearly 10 months of inactivity and lack of credible opponents will surely hurt him.

Litzau’s last fight was a 6th round TKO victory in a scheduled 6 round fight against Mario Galan, 4-3-0, at Grand Casino in Hinckley. Hilario’s last fight was a 5th round TKO victory over Darrell Martin, 4-6-0, at the same venue on January 24 of this year in a scheduled 6 round fight. Martin was one tough cookie, and he had the physical tools to beat Hilario also. However, he fought him toe to toe and paid the price. But even if the taller Martin would have jabbed and moved and tried to set up counter shots, there’s no telling whether he could have sustained his efforts amidst Hilario’s relentless attack. Furthermore, prior to the success of Litzau’s last outing, he hadn’t fought since losing by 3rd round knockout to Robert DaLuz on April 6, 2007.

The final observation between the 5’-7’’, 26 year old Litzau and the 5’-10’’, 25 year old Hilario is the respectively combined records of their opponents. Litzau, who himself is 13-3-0 with 7 KOs and two losses by knockout, has fought a list of opponents whose combined record is 106-99-12. Hilario, with his 10-0-1, 8 KO record has fought a list whose combined record is 132-113-8. Based on a surface level glance at these records, Hilario’s level of competition has been higher.

Yes, Litzau does have the skills to defeat Hilario, and as Hilario himself was quoted earlier in this article, he did beat him in the amateurs. Litzau also has much more amateur experience to enhance his years as a professional. But he has not been active and he has had some traumatic losses that have taken a toll on him. Furthermore, in spite of his flaws, Hilario is more determined, he is stronger, and he is a much more powerful puncher. Look to see Hilario win by the end of round 5.

Frank Stallone, Singers from Santana, Survivor, Toto feature at Scott LeDoux Concert to Fight ALS


Mark Connor
© Copyright 2009, Mark Connor

The Scott LeDoux Concert to fight ALS—Hope for a Cure-Help for Caregivers—will be held Friday, April 10, 2009 at Champions Event Center, Elko, MN. LeDoux recently revealed that he has been diagnosed with the degenerative illness, ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. After a career including challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, fights against a total of eight World Heavyweight Champions, an exhibition with Muhammad Ali and sparring partner duties with Mike Tyson, LeDoux has worked with charitable organizations for decades. For this benefit his good friend, Frank Stallone, who contended for an Oscar nomination with the song “Far from Over” on the Staying Alive soundtrack and is known for “Take You Back” and other classics, will be the feature performer. Also playing will be Alex Ligertwood, former lead singer for Santana; Jimi Jamison, who with the band Survivor sang the Rocky III anthem “Eye of the Tiger”; and Fergie Frederiksen, former lead singer of Toto. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
LeDoux’s friendship with Stallone goes back to the seventies, highlighted publicly with the exhibition they boxed in 1978. While some of Stallone’s best known singing and acting work has been in the series of Rocky films, he has appeared in numerous television and cinematic projects, including the role of Eddie the bartender in Barfly with Mickey Rourke. Further information on the Hope for a Cure—Help for Caregivers event can be found at the Minnesota Chapter of the ALS Association, including details of a silent and a live auction and T-shirt sales. Information on Frank Stallone is at http://www.frankstallone.com/.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

May 2009 Post, Sugar Ray Leonard's Recommended Reading and Other Boxers and Writers Magazine Updates

Sugar Ray Leonard’s Recommended Reading and Other Boxers And Writers Magazine UpdatesMay 24, 2009


Mark Connor

Sugar Ray Leonard participated in a Celebrity Roast of former Heavyweight Contender Scott LeDoux at the Marriot City Center in Minneapolis on May 3. The event raised money for the Wishes and More charity. Leonard spoke with Boxers and Writers Magazine, www.boxersandwritersmagazine.com, about the value of reading and education, mentioning one book that greatly influenced and inspired him. Read the full story on the Literacy and education page of Boxers and Writers Magazine at http://www.boxersandwritersmagazine.com/?110020000000#LiteraryArts.

February 2009 Post, Sharing the Warmth at the "Out Cold" Night at the Fights

Sharing the Warmth: “Out Cold” Night at the FightsFebruary 3, 2009

byMark Connor

© Copyright 2009, Mark Connor

All athletes claim their sport to be the metaphor of life, but boxers seem to do so more legitimately, if only by virtue of the extra intensity of any misfortune that occurs. Such was the case with the “Out Cold” night at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota, Co-promoted by Seconds Out Promotions and Goosen Tutor promotions. The card suffered a heavy blow when Shawn Estrada, who represented the United States in the Middleweight Division at the Beijing Olympics last summer, canceled due to a shoulder injury. There were a number of other cancellations and rearrangements of the card before the opening bell of the first fight, and the third straight weekend of below zero weather made the odds of a large crowd about as good as that of beating the house. Nevertheless, the 2,500 seat Grand Casino Hinckley Events and Convention Center nearly sold out, and the crowd’s energy combined with the overall talent in the ring to yield a very entertaining night.

Rayco Saunders in corner after what he thought was an upset over
Marcus Oliveira © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

The biggest surprise was how well the underdog in the main event, Rayco Saunders, 16-10, 7 KOs of Pittsburg, PA, fought in his Light Heavyweight contest against favorite Marcus Oliveira, 15-0, 12 KOs, of Lawrence, KS. While Oliveira seemed to live up to his reputation in the first and second rounds, Saunders made adjustments and outboxed him for the rest of the fight. The judges didn’t see it that way, though, giving Oliveira a majority decision of 78-75, 78-76, and 74-74. I spoke to Judge Denny Nelson afterwards, as well as Judge John Mariano. Nelson scored the fight for Oliveira, and Mariano had it a draw.“You have to quit looking at women half the fight,” Nelson joked with me, saying I was mistaken in my assessment of the contest. Mariano told me he scored the fifth round on for Saunders, but Oliveira won the first four. It’s a lesson in how people view fights differently, and also in the position from which official judges witness it in contrast to the rest of us. There was a mix up between me and the promoters, so instead of getting a press pass I was granted entry that only afforded me the chance to sit just behind press row at ringside. That meant I was in the dark with the rest of the crowd looking into the lights over the ring, whereas the judges were underneath the lights, right up against the ring apron. But I still noticed a lot I can explain to you here, and I have to say Mariano’s final tally is a much more accurate judgment, at least in my humble opinion, than the others.

Saunders, left, fought a strategic fight, while Oliveira struggled to stay undefeated. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Oliveira obviously won the first two rounds. In fact, Saunders was making a big mistake, leaning in and smothering himself against Oliveira’s body with his left hand down after throwing the jab. This not only took power and speed from Saunders, but it opened him up for right hands. Oliveira’s corner must have told him to throw the right in the second, because he did a few times effectively. But Saunders suddenly made a strategic adjustment that changed the fight for the rest of the night.Saunders began moving to the right, and kept doing so in the third round. He used the jab and took control for the second half of the round, winning it on my card 10-9. That would have put him behind 29-28. In the fourth round Saunders mistakenly moved to his left and back into an effective right hand from Oliveira, but then readjusted, started moving away from that punch to the right more regularly, and boxed very effectively. At this point I believed the fight to be all even.A mixup with the promoters saw me ringside by the red corner, not in press row. Could that cloud my "expert" judgment of the fight? © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009In the fifth round Saunders out jabbed, outmaneuvered, and out punched Oliveira, and Oliveira was tired, backing up, and getting hit too much. In the sixth Oliveira was still tired, his mouth open, and backing up, and Saunders did the same things just as effectively. In the seventh Oliveira, still tired, did come forward but lost momentum, retreating from a hard body shot near the end of the round. Saunders dominated the round and answered Oliveira’s power evenly at the end. Oliveira did his best in the last round but it just didn’t seem enough in my eyes, and even the loudest, most obnoxious drunk in the crowd drew approval from those around him when poignantly yelling to Oliveira, “Come on—you need a knockout!” Evidently he didn’t, but when he fights someone in the top 100 of the Light Heavyweight division, he must perform better.Even though I disagreed with that decision, as did Saunders and his corner and much of the crowd, the fight and the card itself were of the highest quality.

The best raw talent of the night was displayed by Wilshaun Boxley of Anoka Coon Rapids. A fighter who learned the trade at the Circle of Discipline in South Minneapolis, where he became one of the top amateurs in the United States, he now shows the potential to become a world class professional.Wilshaun

Boxley, right, displayed the most raw talent of the night when in only his fourth professional fight he outboxed skillful veteran Torrence Daniels. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

While Boxley’s opponent at the 122 pound division, Torrence Daniels, has only defeated opponents whose win-loss averages are 500 or worse, his losses are primarily against undefeated fighters. Entering the ring with a record of 12-7, 5 K0s, he has one draw and was knocked out one time, by Bernabe Concepcion, whose record was 24-1-1. Although he’d lost his last three fights, the 34-year-old went the distance in all of them, the last two being 8 round fights, and the previous one 6. Such a fighter is a perfect match for a talented man like Boxley, who’s obviously not content with fighting lay down opponents, and it’s even more impressive that he had a 6 round fight in only his fourth time out.

Boxley, foreground, outboxed Daniels for six rounds, but the veteran was too skillful to be taken out. It was a good learning experience for this point of Boxley's career. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Boxley, now 4-0, 2 KOs, took control from the beginning. My assessment of the fight agreed with Denny Nelson’s tally of 59-55 for Boxley. Although he out jabbed the taller man and outmaneuvered him round after round, Daniels showed himself to be highly skillful and competitive, and he obviously knew he could go the distance. A couple of times I thought Boxley should have tried harder to hurt him, and maybe even see if he could finish him off. Particularly in the last round, which I gave to Daniels, I thought Boxley laid back and took too much of a breather. Two things Daniels did very well but can’t be counted as reasons for giving him rounds are throwing low blows and landing a head butt. The low blows came effectively in the 4th round, and referee Mark Nelson didn’t motion for him to keep the punches up until Boxley stepped back and voiced complaint. Daniels threw low blows from an angle at which it was hard for the referee to see, but from where I was the view was clear. That’s the smart way to do it, and even though it’s not fair, it’s a means of survival a veteran sometimes learns to rely on against a younger, stronger man. He landed the head butt at the end of the 5th round. He did it so smoothly, taking a half step back from the middle of the ring, letting Boxley come charging in on him, crouching a little and motioning forward quickly so that the top of his head landed between Boxley’s eyes. Boxley stepped back and shook the cobwebs form his head, obviously disturbed. But alas, it only slowed him a bit and forced him to go the distance, which is a good learning experience for this point of his career.Another exciting fight was the battle between Featherweights Wilton Hilario and Darrell Martin. Hilario came at the taller opponent from the beginning, the way he always does, winging wide lefts and rights nonstop. Martin’s only chance was to control the fight with a strong jab and keep it in the center of the ring, but instead of using his height and reach advantage, he chose to slug it out with the slugger. Hilario, entering the fight with a record of 9-0-1, 7 KOs, is solidly chiseled with strength and endurance, and his overwhelming attack proved too much for Martin, who entered with a losing record of 4-6, 1 KO, and was unable to answer the bell for the 6th round. He showed a lot of courage in battling that long, though, and while Martin sealed his fate by not using the physical tools available to him, Hilario made the fight much harder on himself than he had to.

Hilario, right, entertained the fans with his knockout victory, but he made the fight more difficult than it had to be. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Wilton Hilario is a fighter I’ve been watching since 2005. He won the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves that year in the very same arena at Grand Casino, while Boxley, his Circle of Discipline teammate, won the Featherweight Championship. Hilario at that time used his defense much more effectively than he has in recent professional fights. I’ve watched him training at Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis since he turned professional under the Tutelage of Chuck and Pete Daszkiewicz and Jacques Davis. I had the opportunity to spar with him for two rounds in August, 2006, when he was 6-0, 6 KOs. Mind you, at that point I hadn’t competed in 12 years, but I could still make observations, and while I wish to acknowledge his determination, dedication and skills, I also feel compelled to point out the obvious problems he must correct for advancement in his career. First of all, he impressed me as a fearless warrior with overwhelming strength. Also, when he lands a shot, there’s always power behind it. It is worrisome, though, to see him come forward without regard to his safety. He’s terribly susceptible to the jab, and when he gets hit with that punch he is open for combinations. He digs well to the body, but he leans over off balance in an attempt to increase his leverage, and when throwing uppercuts and hooks to the body and head he turns his face in the corresponding direction, following the punches he misses with his eyes instead of keeping them on his opponent. When he fights someone who can make him miss a hook and come back with a right hand over the top, he’s in danger of his career losing momentum with the punch he doesn’t see. While his victory over Martin is well deserved and he pleased the crowd with his relentless style, I sincerely hope to see him correct these flaws in coming fights, because if he does he has the chance to climb the latter of international boxing success.

Hilario, working the pads with trainer Jacques Davis the week before the fight, is impressively determined. But his lack of defense endangers him. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009 (Uppercut Boxing Gym www.uppercutgym.com, is where Hilario trains.)

“Golden” Caleb Truax, the recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, continued his undefeated streak with a fifth round TKO of Johnny Hayes in their Super Middleweight fight. Near the end of the first round Truax put Hayes down with a single punch, and Hayes slowly made his way back to his feat as referee Gary Miezwa counted. Hayes survived the round and came out for the second, but beyond tying Truax up he was never able to effectively neutralize the Golden fighter’s relentless attack that kept him on the ropes for much of the fight. By the fifth round Truax caught Hayes on the ropes and punished him with a series of blows that prompted Miezwa to step in and stop it while Hayes’ corner was simultaneously throwing in the towel. Improving to 10-0, 7 KOs, Truax is scheduled to face veteran JJ Corn at Epic Nightclub in Minneapolis on Friday, February 13.

Jeffrey Osborne, Jr. showed a lot of strength and heart, but fatigue and the lack of an effective jab made him vulerable. He lost by a knockout to Dion Savage. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

The opening bout of the evening was between Super Middleweights Dion Savage of Flint, Michigan, and Jeffrey Osborne, Jr. of Davenport, Iowa. Osborne showed promise throughout the fight and made it competitive till the end, but through the first three of the four scheduled rounds, his effective punching was continually answered by a skillful Savage, whose conditioning, determination and efforts gave him the edge. Osborne made a very game effort in the fourth, but a mounting fatigue and the lack of an effective jab made him vulnerable to Savage’s power and speed, and he was knocked out in that round.It’s true; the extra intensity of any misfortune that occurs allows boxers to claim their sport to be the metaphor of life more legitimately than other athletes. But those misfortunes can be turned into opportunities, depending on how they’re perceived. The cancellation of Estrada didn’t stop Tony Grygelko and Joe Goosen from promoting a top notch show that entertained a sizeable crowd who showed up during a month of perpetual cold. I didn’t get my press pass, but I was grateful to be in the arena with access to a ringside view, and I got to see some of the people—including father and son referees Denny and Mark Nelson, referee Gary Miezwa and judge John Mariano—who make the Minnesota boxing community so great. I also met legendary local trainer Ron Lyke, and saw a number of fighters and trainers I don’t get to speak with often enough. Below you’ll find an arrangement of pictures I took of and with them before the fights. The conversation, the atmosphere, and the fights themselves warmed the night enough to sustain me till spring. I’ll be posting again soon. Until then, keep boxing and keep writing. “Malicious” Mark Connor

Here I am with Jeremy McLaurin, left, now 2-0 as a professional in the Lightweight division. We sparred at Uppercut Gym (www.uppercutgym.com) last April when he trained with Edison Santos. Now he's under the guidance of Ron Lyke. "He's a great trainer," McLaurin told me of Lyke. Best of luck to Jeremy on Friday, February 13, when he fights at Epic Night Club in Minneapolis. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Chuck Daszkiewicz, who with his brother Pete and Jacque Davis trains Wilton Hilario, smiles in the lobby before the fights. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

"[ A previous post on this blog, "An Old Story" refers to a story I published on the web site www.minnesotaboxing.com, published by the journalist in the picture below, Jesse Kelley]Jesse Kelley, publisher of www.minnesotaboxing.com, talks with Laura Fink, a Boxing Writer who teaches Literature at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Veteran referee (and well known former St. Paul boxer) Denny Nelson talks with famous promoter, manager, and trainer Joe Goosen before the fights. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009Boxing

Judge John Mariano smiles in anticipation of a great night of fights. © Copyright Mark Connor, 2009

Sharing the Warmth at the ‘Out Cold’ Night at the FightsTags: Boxing, Boxley, circle of discipline, Davis, Denny Nelson, Epic Nightclub, Goosen Tutor promotions, Hilario, Hinckley casino, Mariano, Mark Connor, Mark Nelson, McLaurin, out cold, Seconds Out Promotions, Tony GrygelkoPosted in Uncategorized 1 Comment »

January 2009, Boxer is Pleasure of Novel 'This Won't Hurt a Bit'

Boxer is Pleasure of Novel ‘This Won’t Hurt a Bit’January 6, 2009

byMark Connor

© Mark Connor

While reading Timothy Sheard’s novel, “This Won’t Hurt A Bit”, I more than avoided pain; I gained the pleasure of following a working class hero who is encouraged, protected, and supported by a boxer. The story is good enough to hold my interest from the beginning, and the presence of a hero’s faithful lieutenant for whom I have such affinity accentuates the excitement always experienced with a page turner.Tim Sheard and wife, Mary, "and my /69 avanti, made in South Bend, Indiana!" This is a promotional photo for his novel, "A Race Against Death". © Tim SheardThe hero is Lenny Moss, a hospital janitor and union shop steward in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who comes to the aid of a coworker arrested for the murder of a doctor. Lenny’s reluctant investigation is facilitated by Moose Lennox, an accomplished former amateur boxer employed in the laundry room. Passionate and strong, he pushes Moss into the investigation and supports him throughout. The scenario moves the plot along with ever increasing tension as the pair must rely on coworkers and luck to simultaneously avoid the real killers and the hostile eyes of management.

Sheard, who is a nurse at State University Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, found the inspiration for Moose Lennox in a couple of coworkers he knew while previously working in a hospital in Philadelphia.

“He’d worked in the dietary office, in the kitchen,” Sheard explains, “and he’d done some boxing in high school and after high school.

I took a lot of his characteristics, and I wanted to show in my novel working class men and women with all of their wonderful qualities as well as some of their defects and flaws. I wanted to try and present them as grounded and fully fleshed out characters. So Moose, I think, is an honorable man, he’s a gutsy guy, and he’s a good and loyal friend to Lenny and his other coworkers.”

This athletic man upon whom Sheard sketched Moose Lennox was a legendary figure among the employees, he explains, recounting a story about him running in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park.

“Supposedly he was caught in the middle of a gale—some kind of hurricane strength thunderstorm—” Sheard recalls, “—and he kept on running and didn’t let it stop him. Now maybe it’s not true, but I decided . . . what a wonderful character to have that joy in the exertion and the vitality of the body. You know, that a body in training—that’s in good shape—that you can do these great things with it and find joy and almost rapture in working that body and exercising it and pushing it to its limit.” Capturing that physical spirit in the creative Process, Sheard rounded the fictional character out with the creativity of another coworker known for artistic talent. Moose draws caricatures of people in the hospital, and he, Lenny, and their investigative allies chart them out on the wall while discussing the clues that could pin the murder on one of them. “The idea of this character being a caricaturist was derived from a respiratory therapist,” says Sheard. “Again, a respiratory therapist is not necessarily college educated—not been to a lot of schooling, a good working class guy—and that’s what he did. He made caricatures of people in the therapy office, and he was very good. So I combined the qualities of these two characters I knew in the hospital into one.”That character, Moose Lennox, prods Lenny Moss along, pushing him the way a boxing trainer would while emotionally expressing his own athletic drive and fighter’s spirit. He makes Lenny start taking the stairs around the hospital instead of the elevator, suggests he come running with him when they’re off work, and is there to rescue him from a suspect’s attack. The odyssey opens with two female medical students realizing their assigned dissection subject is a murdered doctor hidden among the cadavers, followed by a young black man employed at the hospital being falsely charged with the crime. Lenny Moss’s desire to free him, along with Moose’s suggestion that solving the crime will greatly frustrate their nemeses in charge of security and personnel, carries us through the different parts of the hospital while revealing the multicultural mosaic of characters—from a highly educated Russian immigrant stuck with Lenny in the low paying janitor’s job to a devout African American Christian woman praying for Lenny’s and Moose’s safety, and a vast array of others—populating this novel the way people of all backgrounds occupy a boxing gym. The glorification of these regular people is the major charm of the novel, but it made for great difficulty, Sheard explains, in getting it published.

“In fact,” Sheard remembers, “most publishers thought it was good and told me they really liked my writing, but they didn’t want to publish it unless I had a doctor or a psychiatrist as the hero.”Apparently most publishers felt the regular, everyday people compiling the central cast of characters were not special enough to hold the interest of the reading audience, but Creative Arts Book Company in Berkeley, California, found the novel worth while, publishing it in 2001.“Creative Arts is now out of business,” Sheard explains, “but they started in the 1960s as a house that published the Beat poets in the days when nobody else would touch them. So they published [Jack] Kerouac and a lot of these guys very early on, and they also published a lot of hard hitting, hard boiled crime novels in a series called ‘The Black Lizard’. But then times went hard . . . and eventually a couple of years after they published my book, they went out of business.”Sheard’s second novel, ‘Some Cuts Never Heal’, was published by Carolyn Graft, “which is a medium sized publisher in New York, and they did a lovely job publishing a hardcover book, but my sales were not up to their expectations; so my third book [‘Race Against Death’], was printed by a small press out of New England called Five Star.” Sheard’s three novels have been used in the City University Schools in New York, exposing his work to students in all five boroughs. “They’re used in intro to literature classes and they’re popular in English as a Second Language classes,” he happily reports, “and I like that because the [immigrant] students are going in or are likely already working in the medical trade.” While Sheard’s novels are now out of print, the few hundred remaining copies are available for purchase through his website, www.timsheard.com. Sheard and I met at the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) biennial Delegate’s Assembly at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts in August, 2007. I was there as a Delegate representing the Twin Cities Chapter, and he was representing New York. “The National Writers Union is an organization of freelance writers,” Sheard explains. “We all work for ourselves, and as such we’re always looking for assistance in finding markets for our writing; whether it’s books, textbooks, short stories, journalist articles, bloggers—any form of writing.”Beyond helping us find work and other benefits, the union also makes sure we’re treated fairly. “You know when you sell your first story or article and you’re offered a boiler plate contract,” Sheard emphatically declares, “the chances are that contract is going to rob you of your intellectual property. So if you join the National Writers Union, you can get free contract advice, and most importantly you’ll get to know experienced writers so you can call someone and say, ‘Hey—this journal offered me a hundred bucks and these are their terms, is this a good contract?’”The National Writers Union can be accessed at www.nwu.orgCheck out Tim Sheard, purchase his novels, and view his short films at www.timsheard.com. EXTRA! EXTRA!NOVELIST COMMITS TO ATTEND FIGHT FOR FIRST TIMEMystery Novelist Tim Sheard was so intrigued by the Boxers and Writers Magazine [Boxers and Writers Blog] interview with him about his supporting character, a former boxer named Moose Lennox, that he promised to not only attend a live boxing match for the first time in his life, but to make sure that in his next novel, protagonist Lenny Moss and his friends also do. Read more about this, as well as a mention of how Sheard and I first met at the August, 2007 National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) Delegate’s Assembly at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, along with pictures and a narrative of my visit to South Boston Boxing Club, in my next post.Until then, keep writing and keep boxing. Sincerely,—-”Malicious” Mark ConnorPosted in Uncategorized Leave a Comment »


One Response to “Old article at www.minnesotaboxing.com

Eric Says: April 23, 2008 at 7:24 am Reply It’s about time.What’s up with Dennis?:Eric==========================

2 Responses to “David Lawrence is a Man of Words”

Lauren Lawrence Says: December 20, 2008 at 8:53 am

Reply David Lawrence is a man of words and so are you Mark. What an extremely well written review chock full of poetic sensibilities. The blogging world has been made this much better.Lauren Lawrence

Marty "Killer" Miller Says: August 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Reply I met David over 20 years ago and have spared 100’s of rounds with him. He was and still is one of my favorite people.He signed one of his books to me “to marty, the guy who really broke my nose”. Still makes me feel good. By the way, he hurt me on many occasions…probably still makes him feel good…Long Live David Lawrence…My Hero!===========================

One Response to “Sharing the Warmth: “Out Cold” Night at the Fights”

Eric Says: February 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm Reply Looks good Mark.:

December 2008 Post, David Lawrence is a Man of Words

Archive for December, 2008

David Lawrence is a Man of WordsDecember 18, 2008
by Mark Connor
© Mark Connor

David Lawrence is a man of words. A former Literature Professor at Hunter College in New York, he has authored five collections of poetry, including his latest, “Lane Changes”, published in 2007 by Four Way Books. He is a man of action, too, having occupied himself with intense physical activities that challenge the will and risk injury or death. Therein lay the mixture of mental and physical expression that animates his work, exemplifying a synchronicity of strength and thought that communicates to others the totality of human experience. The most basic source for him of such creativity is boxing.

Lawrence was not a boxer while growing up, but became one well into his adult life. He was 33 years old when his wife told him he had to find a hobby other than motorcycle riding, so he took up boxing. He was one of the first competitors in the “White Collar Boxing” scene started at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, which hosted the December 2007 launch of “Lane Changes”, and where he now trains fellow enthusiasts. In the early 1970s he actually turned professional at age 44 and compiled a ring record of 4 wins and 2 losses, every fight ending by way of knockout. A week after the publication party he sat in his office, where he periodically pens poetry and takes an occasional nap while waiting for the next training appointment, and spoke about his approach to the equally rhythmic arts of Boxing and Writing.

“I started boxing at maybe 34, 33,” he said. “I’m the oldest guy in history to have turned first time pro; at least that’s what they wrote about me years ago in the New York Times. I turned pro at 44 and I was fighting 22-year-olds.”

Fighting those 22-year-olds could seem like a major risk for a man in his mid-forties, but the beauty of boxing is the combination of variables that go into each contest, including the level of intellect in the experienced fighter’s head. With enough intelligence and boxing experience the extra age could be an advantage.

“[To] some extent,” Lawrence agrees, “but, see, I wasn’t a smart fighter. I just went in there and swung, you know?”The nostalgic reminiscence of his short-lived career reveals macho pride tempered with a humble recognition of the dedication an art like boxing demands of its faithful, extracting the same expenditure of emotion a life in poetry requires.“See, I connected with myself as an animal. I was an intellectual, you know I had my Doctorate, I’d run a huge corporation, but I go in and I feel my hands, I feel my feet, I feel my body, and I don’t think like, ‘Oh, I think he stepped to the left, I’ll go to the right and hit him, ’” he said, his assertion arrested by laughter. “You know, that’s bull shit. If I did I’d take up Tidly Winks. I wanna fight, that’s it; back and forth.”

So therein lay the explanation of why boxing is that basic source of creativity to him. The physical connection through the combative challenge touches his heart, pulls from him the drama in his soul.

“It’s funny,” he says, “I just published a poem in Atlanta Review, and it’s ‘Ringside at Gleason’s Boxing Gym’, but there’s a rhyme in the first stanza. I sometimes play with it. ‘When I was a young poet skiing on white glaciers in Oregon/I never thought I’d live my life/My wife of a life, my sacred to be breathing in and out life, in a boxing gym.’ So I’m playing with it—I’m letting the language explode here.”

With prompting, he reads the rest.

“I am missing the boost of white air and the snow gargling expectations/and the thin garrulous lightness of the clouds/mounting the sun like a hot humping dog disguised in vapor. But I’m here in the now/with no humdrum/but ecstatic punches, delirious hits, waking thuds and the angels of unconsciousness surrounding me like a breath of hurt fresh air.”

The poem points to the unbroken chain of one’s life, the marriage metaphor uniting spiritual self with the physical, sensual experience of sport, both in the mountains and in the realm of the ring, where the feminine snow combining with the masculine sun and air yields the simile of one’s virility masked in vapors, a man once a skier now a boxer fighting to express himself physically to the world with all the intensity of a poet, his vulnerability only protected by “the angels of unconsciousness” in the salvation of “here in the now”. The ups and downs of Lawrence’s life greatly inform his art, helping him to construct such soundly communicated poetry.

After years as a literature professor Lawrence entered the business world, managing insurance brokerages and becoming a multimillionaire. Then he fell from grace with a conviction for income tax evasion, and served time in federal prison. With a wife of many years and grown children, he is happy to share through poetry his observations of life in the many social and economic stations from which he’s experienced it. From poems in Lane Changes like “Cancer Dance”, which describes the rich patrons of a charity gathering, “Steve K”, which tells the story of two businessmen being snagged by the FBI for White Collar crime through an informing associate, and “Launderer”, which recounts passing Mafia man John Gotti on the street just after pocketing 50,000 dollars in cash from a shady business deal, one can see the author’s acceptance of his shortcomings while discovering that forgiveness must be found in his own heart before redemption is possible. And in poems like the opener, “White Plains”, in which he remembers “getting hit so hard in the head/ That the gray canvas turned into/ An albino snowstorm” and later “I turned around/ And hit him under the chin/ With a frozen hand”, Lawrence uses again the harsh imagery of nature’s extreme expressions, in this case the snowstorm, to explain the raw challenge of boxing. In the poem “Evander Holyfield Won’t Retire”, which opens with the line, “It’s not about the money,” and gets ready to close with the third to last line, “Your injuries are a form of dialogue with loneliness”, we get a glimpse into a true warrior’s motivations from someone close enough to the sport to understand why the great ones really keep pushing even when the world says stop, and in “At The Boxing Clinic” we read the same feelings in the presence of those getting licensed to train amateur fighters after their own years in the ring. “We are here to get our licenses/ As trainers, / To work the corners of amateurs, / Jealous of their broken noses, / Their glories.” The poem ends with, “The bags on our cheeks are suitcases/ We are all going nowhere.” You can hear the anticipation of another glorious adventure in the metaphor, along with a resignation to death.

Lane Changes is well worth the read. The publisher, Four Way Books, can be found on line at www.fourwaybooks.com. David Lawrence can be reached at Gleason’s Gym, 75 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Tags:Boxers and Writers, David Lawrence, Gleason's Gym, Gotti, Holyfield, Lane Changes, Poet, ProfessorPosted in Uncategorized 2 Comments »