Saturday, December 2, 2017

MY JOURNEY THROUGH BOXING:



MAT TALES - Volume 1 is almost here!

 I hope you will enjoy the tales shared with you in my new book - Mat Tales: True Stories from the Bizarre & Brutal world of Pro Boxing. Foreword by former WBA Heavyweight Champion - Mike Weaver. 
It is in the final editing process, and should be available very soon.
    
Foreword written by: Mike Weaver (WBA Heavyweight Champion)

   Boxing is by far my favorite sport. I have been enjoying “the fights” since I was a young boy growing up in South Gate, California. I would like to share with you the story of how I became so involved in this awesome sport.


How it all started

   I was always a fan of boxing.  Only 11 years old when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier engaged in “The Fight of the Century”, I remember it well.  All of the neighborhood kids were talking about it. Looking back, it seems we were all just repeating what our Dads said about it. 
    
   Even before that historic fight, I watched “Boxing from the Olympic” On Los Angeles’ Channel 13 with my Dad many times.  I honestly can’t tell you who all of the fighters were that we watched. I do remember a few of those names from the Los Angeles boxing scene at the time.  “Lanky” Al Stankie, Ray “Windmill” White, Arturo “Tury the fury” Pineda are three that come to mind. Lesser known, but I didn’t know enough about the game to foresee greatness, or a journeyman career for any of them.  I just liked their nicknames.  And if Dad liked ‘em, I liked ‘em. 
The place that started a lifelong passion for boxing!
    As the years passed, I developed a love for lots of different things. No matter what I was into, I always kept an eye on the boxing scene. In Jr. High and High School, I really didn’t find many friends who kept up with boxing. We were all busy arguing over our favorite rock bands, or who would win a fight between Chuck Norris and Billy Jack. And, as I can best recall, it seems Pro Wrestling and Team sports were always talked about.  Boxing, not so much in my circles, but I did have a good neighborhood friend – Ed Delgado, who was just as into boxing as I was, and of course, we are still friends to this day. 
Ed & Dan - Lifelong friends with a love of boxing!

I quietly carried my love of the game with me through adolescence and into adulthood.

Technology’s gift

   When the VCR was invented, I began recording every boxing match that was televised. I was probably about 20 years old when we bought our first VCR. I didn’t have a long term plan, I just couldn’t resist the urge to record every boxing match, just in case I would want to watch it again.  Before I knew it, I had boxes filled with tapes, so I started cataloguing them, I wanted to know where each bout was and on what tape. We didn’t have home computers then, so I just typed everything up and kept it in a 3 ring binder.
   After we moved from Southern California to New Mexico in 1988, I began trading boxing matches on VHS tape with fans and collectors from around the country. People actually placed ads in KO and Ring Magazine, looking to trade boxing matches. It was a fun hobby, and it was amazing to see my collection grow.
   I was contacted by a boxing trainer up in Colorado named Dan Cushner who was looking for tape on a certain boxer that his guy would be facing in an upcoming match.  I had a few fights of that opponent, and sent them.  We ended up becoming best friends.  That was back around 1990 or so.  Nearly 3 decades later, we are still best friends!
Dan Cushner, James Buddy McGirt, and Dan in 2002


The Public Access TV Show

   I had this huge collection of boxing on videotape, so I thought it would be fun to start a boxing show on Albuquerque’s public access channel.  In 1991 The 8-Count Boxing Hour made its debut.  I had lots of fights shot on a home video camcorder, so I featured those bouts on the show.  
   From Albuquerque, NM, I traveled with a trio of pro boxers who were fighting in Thornton, Colorado – a suburb of Denver.  I worked the corner for Chino Sanchez, and Daniel Perez, but I brought my camcorder to record all of the bouts for my show.  The promoter – Tom Quinn was more than happy to have a little exposure for his fighters, and I would have some recent boxing action featuring local professionals to air on the show back in Albuquerque.  I showed them all, in fact, I showed the entire card on my 2 hour “pilot” for the show.  The response was totally surprising!
Toby Smith tuned in!
Albuquerque’s boxing fans had never seen anything quite like it, a very successful debut.
A funny little article from the Albuquerque  sports page.
   Danny “Kid Dynamite” Romero Jr. was just turning professional, and I enjoyed being a small part of his rising career, as he and his fights, appeared on quite a few episodes of the show.  It was fun to watch him rise and become a world champion. 
Dan with a 17 year old amateur - Danny Romero Jr.
 

Danny’s father also provided me with a whole library of great amateur fights for the show.  Johnny Tapia was returning to the ring wars, and he was always there for me to do an interview, or show some of his old amateur fights any time I asked him.  He never said “no” to anything I requested.  Rudy Lovato, Sean McClain, Daniel Perez, and so many other exciting local boxers.  I can’t name them all, but the local fighters were always featured on the show.
Dan does a post fight interview with pro boxer Jayla Ortiz & her manger Dan Cushner in 2006

Becoming a pro boxing judge

   The show caught on, and I was invited to bring my camcorder down to all of the local shows, pro & amateur boxing and kickboxing events.  As I was taping an amateur kickboxing event, the events coordinator for the New Mexico State Athletic Commission – the late Max Abeyta – approached me about applying for a license as a boxing judge with the State Commission.  He said that he was a regular viewer of the public access show, and that he was impressed with my knowledge of, and love for the sport, and that I should be involved as an official.  I was a little surprised, but felt honored.  I wasted no time in filling out the application, and heading down to the next Commission meeting to have my application for a license voted on by the commissioners.  It was a unanimous 5-0 vote in favor of approval!   I even recorded the vote and aired it on my boxing show.

The Written Word

   It was somewhere around that time that I was contacted by the late Ed Walsh of Pro Boxing Update/Flash magazine.  He said that he was no longer going to be covering the Southwestern United States for the publication, and that the publisher wanted me to do it.  Again, I was honored, and jumped at the opportunity.  The column became known as The Southwest Line and I reported on all of the happenings in pro boxing, mostly in New Mexico and Arizona, but also quite a bit of Colorado and Texas. 
Being a featured writer for PBU/Flash was very prestigious in those days, and it opened a lot of doors for me in the world of professional boxing.  Remember, these were the days before the internet.  There were no websites, no cell devices, no tweeting, no YouTube or Facebook.  Paper, Radio and TV were the kings of media.  Ring and KO Magazines may have had more subscribers, but for those in the boxing industry, PBU/Flash was #1. 

Boxing on videotape

   My video service was becoming more and more popular, I was getting contacted from boxing managers, trainers, and promoters from all around the United States, looking for scouting video of potential opponents.  Cameron Dunkin, Tom Loeffler, Bob Spagnola, were just a few of the super agents who used my services to provide scouting videotapes for their fighters.  It was always exciting to see a boxer who had just won a big fight say that he saw something on the video, or that they were well prepared with videotape of their opponent.  It was a great feeling of satisfaction to hear these great warriors acknowledge my small contribution to their winning efforts. I suspect most of them didn’t have any idea where their trainer got the video!

Over the airwaves

   I became a regular on Albuquerque sports radio.  Henry Tafoya’s Sportsline was lots of fun, as I would call in and talk boxing with “Henry T” on weekday mornings.  The late Jim Boggio would have me as a guest on his boxing radio show Punch Time at Lunch Time.  Dom Zarrella had me on as a regular guest to talk boxing on Dom’s Dugout.  Ron Harris even had me as his regular boxing analyst on his show Sports Talk with da’ Guru in Marysville, California.  It was a fun time being a guest on each of those radio shows.
   Here I was.  A pro boxing judge, writing for a boxing publication, providing video for some of the biggest names in the sport and hosting a local boxing show.  It was a very fun time in my life.

Real TV?

   A new boxing series had started airing on our local CBS station – Promoter Lenny Fresquez presented Rising Stars Boxing.  I welcomed a chance to see local boxing events carried on real television in New Mexico.  Local sports casting legend Henry Tafoya and Albuquerque Journal Sports writer Rick Wright did the first couple of shows and I loved it.  There was a card scheduled in December of 1997 headlined by Elias Paulin (9-4) taking on local favorite Andres Fernandez (10-1) for the vacant WBB Bantamweight Title belt.  I was getting ready to head down to the venue to work the show as one of the judges assigned by the State Athletic Commission when I got a phone call telling me that the regular broadcast team would not be able to make it for the event, and I was asked if I would consider filling in on short notice!   

   The promoter had seen me do broadcasts of boxing events on public access channel 27, so he hoped I would do it.  I had only a matter of hours to try to fit into one of my Dad’s suits, and head over to the State Fairgrounds for the broadcast.  I was excited, and a little apprehensive.  Real TV?  With no time to prepare myself?  But there was no way I was going to say “no” to a chance like this.  Boxing was calling on me, I had to give it a shot.  I was matched up with New Mexico’s “Mr. Boxing” – the late Stan Gallup and after a quick combing of the hair, and cliff notes version of what I was to do, we were called up into the ring, handed a bout sheet, and a microphone.  They started a countdown, and we began the broadcast.  I can’t help but laugh at myself every time I see the tape of that night, in a borrowed suit about 2 sizes too big for me, and talking off of the top of my head.  The boxing action was exciting that night, and that made up for the thrown together at the last minute broadcast team.  I guess I didn’t do that bad, I was kept on as Henry Tafoya’s color commentator for many more shows after that! 
Henry Tafoya & Dan doing an intro at the State Fairgrounds
He even gave me the name “The Boxing Guru”.  Of course, I know I am not the boxing guru, there are so many in the game with much more knowledge and experience, but I am honored that Henry considered me his boxing guru, and dropped that moniker on me. 


Doing a broadcast in Las Vegas, NM
I also thank boxing promoter Lenny Fresquez for having me on the broadcasts, it was a great honor.










Tragedy strikes

   I was deeply involved in the sport that I loved so much.  Life was good.  I was rolling along, juggling these boxing responsibilities, my beautiful family, a good job.  Then in Jan. of 1998 it all came crashing down.  When I got a phone call at work, asking me to come down immediately to La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, NM, to learn that our 16-year-old Son was killed in an accident at his High School.  Everything stopped.  My mind and heart went numb.  The curtain came down on my life.  I can hardly remember those days after Daniel’s passing.  I had to keep going with my job as a Mail Carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, there was no options with that.  We still had to make a living.  But, I just didn’t have the emotional strength or focus to do everything that I was involved in with boxing. 
A wonderful night with my Son - Daniel at Albuquerque Toughman fights.
   I tried to keep going.  I thought “That’s what Daniel would want me to do”.  I was deeply honored to have them do the memorial 10-count, where they ask for a moment of silence while they toll the bell 10 times for the fallen member of the boxing fraternity, for my Son, at two different boxing events in New Mexico.  One in Albuquerque, and one in Santa Fe. 

 Video of Memorial 10-Count for Daniel & Congressman Steve Schiff

   Something like that means a lot to a grieving father who loves the sport like I do.  The boxing community really came together to support me during that time.  Andy Rivera had won the state golden gloves in the heavyweight division, and I was honored when he had the medal engraved and gave it to our family in honor of Daniel. What a tribute! 
Andy Rivera had his NM Golden Gloves Championship Medal engraved and given to my family in honor of our late Son - Daniel. A great honor!
It’s so hard to remember clearly, but through a haze, I kind of remember seeing some of the boxers at the funeral home on the evening before Daniel’s memorial service the next day.  Charles Anaya and members of his family, Rudy Lovato, are a few that I can recall.  I remember getting a call at my home from Johnny Tapia, who was in Big Bear, California training for an upcoming title defense.  He called to express his sorrow about Daniel’s passing.  Johnny kept an 8x10 framed picture of Daniel in his locker room with him as he warmed up for that title defense against Rodolfo Blanco. I’m sure there are other things that I just can’t recall, or wasn’t aware of.  All of it meant so much to me.  My faith in The Lord God was the biggest help of all.  Perhaps, he sent all of these friends from the boxing community to help get me through it.

Letting go

   I struggled, but finally, I just accepted the fact that I did not have the strength to do all that I was doing before Daniel’s death.  I finally resigned from my column with Pro Boxing Update/Flash.  With a very heavy heart, I turned in my resignation as a licensed pro boxing judge with the NMSAC.  The Rising Stars boxing series on our CBS station stopped, and as much as I loved doing it, I was almost relieved to have one more duty taken away.  I did continue to build my collection of boxing on videotape.  That was something I could do at my own pace without too much obligation. 
   I still remember the first boxing event I attended after resigning my judging position.  It was at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero were headlining separate bouts, and it was televised on Showtime.  I sat in the upper level of the arena with my family, and felt like Roberto Duran had punched me right in the stomach.  It was a very painful memory.  Seeing all of my old friends from the NMSAC doing their jobs officiating.  That event made me realize how much I really missed it, but I didn’t question the truth.  I had too much taken out of me from losing our son.  It was ok after that.  Almost like, it was something I had to do to finally accept that I would no longer be officiating professional boxing.
2002 with World Champion Johnny Tapia

Down but not out

   I’m still involved in the background of boxing.  Behind the scenes you might say.  Still providing boxing videos to fans, collectors, and people in the industry.  With the advent of YouTube, and all that’s available on the internet, there isn’t much of a need for my service any longer.  But, there are plenty of boxing fans who still like to trade for some of the rarer fights in the collection to add to their collections, and sometimes actually scouting potential opponents for upcoming matches, and that’s always fun.  Every once in a while, a former pro boxer will contact me looking for any of his fights that are available on video.  That is always such a pleasure to be able to do something for my heroes of the past. 
Clip from an interview used in the HBO Documentary: TAPIA
It was an honor to be contacted by film producer Eddie Alcazar, and to provide much of the footage
(even appearing in it for a few moments) used for the HBO Documentary TAPIA, about the life of my friend – Boxing Hall-of-Fame champion – the late Johnny Tapia.
   I have also been involved in a small way with former WBA Jr. Middleweight World Champion – Austin “No Doubt” Trout, and being even a tiny part of his successful career has been very satisfying.  My friends Louie Burke, and Rocky Burke keep in touch, keeping me connected to the sport too.  We are always there for each other, any time we need anything boxing related, or otherwise. I have also become an editor with boxrec.com which is now the internet’s official keeper of records for boxing.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
   
   In November of 2013, I created a blog called “The Boxing Guru’s Hall of Fame”.  It features the lesser known warriors of boxing who are not household names, but are no less awesome warriors of the great sport of boxing.  You are invited to check it out: www.guruofboxing.blogspot.com - You just might see some names you recognize there!

The journey continues

   I have never hidden my love for the sport of boxing.  It has been a big part of my life, and a part of my identity over the years.  I am both an ambassador, and a defender of this beautiful, brutal, sport.  It has been a fun and incredible journey.  That journey continues with this blog and my first boxing book.  I hope you will pick up a copy (when it is available on Amazon)!