WHO BEAT WHO?
TALES FROM THE AMATEURS
An excerpt from "The Iceman Diaries"
"ICEMAN' JOHN SCULLY
The Olympic trials are held every four years to decide who will represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games. The tournament consists of eight boxers in each weight class who box each other for the Olympic Trials championship and a spot on the U.S. team. The winner, however, does not automatically go straight to the Olympics but, rather, he must defend his title against the most noteworthy challenger as designated by the U.S. Olympic Committee. They box each other once and if the defending champion wins then he advances to the Olympic Games. If he loses on that first day, however, they have to come back the next day and do it again. Whoever wins that match represents the U.S. in Olympic competition.
Several well-known U.S. Olympic Team members, including eventual Olympic gold medalists, have been forced to qualify in this manner, including Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Montell Griffin. Eventual Olympic Gold medalists who didn't win the Trials and had to win two bouts in two tries to qualify at the last minute include Meldrick Taylor (1984), Jerry Page (1984) and Andrew Maynard (1988).
Holyfield had to score two decisions over the Kronk gym's Ricky Womack, Bowe had to get by the U.S. Army's Robert Salters twice, Griffin had to overcome future “Contender” TV series trainer Jeremy Williams two times, Taylor had to best Oregon's Andrew Minsker, Page had to overcome Louisiana's Timmy Rabon and Andrew had to overthrow future IBF cruiserweight champion Al "Ice" Cole to make the 1988 Olympic Team.
Mark Breland scored a first-round stoppage of future super middleweight world title challenger Ron Essett in 1983. In the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials, in a highly anticipated bout, Breland scored a first-round knockout over future three-time National Golden Gloves Champion Mylon Watkins that was described to me by 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Jerry Page like this:
“It was like a laser beam came out of the sky and hit Watkins in the head.”
Breland had a devastating right hand, that's for sure, and that fact was never more evident than in his 1982 match with Pedro Estrada in the New York City Golden Gloves welterweight final when Mark scored a right-hand knockout of Pedro that culminated with Estrada standing up at the spot where he landed OUT OF THE RING and started throwing punches, thinking the fight was still going on.
In the New York City Golden Gloves tournament from 1980 right on through 1984 Mark scored stoppage victories in each years championship bout over the likes of Angel Garcia (1980), Jose Martinez (1981), Estrada (1982), Rodney Bowen (1983) and Victor Laguer (in a 1984 finals match shown on ABC's Wide World of Sports).
Mark scored many other good victories in the early ‘80s including a decision over future IBF junior welterweight champion Frankie "Panchito" Warren at the USA/ABF Nationals.
“Iron” Mike Tyson, then just 16 years old and known to fans at the Holyoke Boys Club as “The Tank”, won the heavyweight title at our local Golden Gloves tournament, the Western Massachusetts Golden Gloves, back in February of 1983 with a first-round stoppage in the finals over Jimmy Johnson of Springfield.
The February 14, 1983 edition of the Springfield Morning-Union newspaper described the bout:
“The Western Mass. heavyweight representative next week is Mike Tyson, a nationally ranked amateur from Albany who kayoed Jimmy Johnson of the Springfield YMCA at 2:35 of the third round.
“The game Johnson, clearly less ringwise than his veteran opponent, took a hard shot to the head just before the fighters were about to fall into a clinch. He crumpled to the floor and referee Matt Mullaney, seeing Johnson was in big trouble, halted the bout.”
Mike's victory over Johnson qualified him to advance to the New England Golden Gloves tournament of Champions in Lowell where he scored a semi-final stoppage win over Lowell's James Bisson.
“One guy who should turn pro tomorrow is Mike Tyson, a super heavyweight who at just 16 years of age has National Championship potential. He is an absolute monster in the ring as Lowell's Jimmy Bisson found out last night when the Holyoke fighter staggered him early in the round with short uppercuts then kept after him until the referee stopped the bout 42 seconds into the first round. His fight with James Rayburn should be worth the price of admission tonight. Rayburn, who puts the super in super heavyweight had his face painted with his own blood by Eugene Williams of Southern New England before turning into a tiger in the third round, chasing and pounding Williams all over the ring as the crowd went crazy. He became a cult figure in six minutes. Rayburn brought back memories of Harold ‘Mountain Man’ Rice to some although one fan likened him to the Humphrey character in the old Joe Palooka comic strip. Either way, though, he'll have his hands full with Tyson tonight.” – Lowell Sun, February, 1983
Mike wasn't able to take part in what would have easily been the most anticipated match of the tournament when he won the NEGG title by walkover after Rayburn was forced to pull out of the fight due to an injury received in his own semi-final match the night before.
The Lowell Sun carried this recap the following day:
“Tyson won by default over Jim Rayburn of Vermont and that was probably a good thing for Rayburn because Tyson is a buzzsaw who, although he has only had 12 amateur bouts (according to his trainers), looks like a legitimate national championship contender this year.”
Mike subsequently was disqualified from the New England team before they went to the nationals, however, because as a resident of Catskill, N.Y. he was not able to represent Lowell and New England in a national tournament (just as Rochester, New York resident Charles “The Natural” Murray would be disqualified in 1986 for the same reason after he captured the N.E. 139-pound title with decision victories over Mike Culbert and Pat Ireland).
Tyson did capture a National Golden Gloves title the following year, though, while representing New York State (Syracuse) on his way to the 201-pound crown. And, for what it is worth, I have often read people say that “Mike Tyson didn't excel as an amateur because he had too much of a pro style” and they point to his two losses at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials to Henry Tillman as some kind of proof of this. They say that “amateur scoring didn't suit him,” etc., but what people need to realize is that not only was Tyson a highly accomplished amateur boxer but it is also likely a thing where the average person doesn't truly have any idea at all what Tyson had to go through just to even get to that Olympic team deciding fight with Tillman in 1984.
First of all, Tyson was a two-time National Junior Olympic Champion, a National Golden Gloves Champion (1984) and an Ohio State Fair champion (in 1983) who on the way to these and other titles defeated standout amateur boxers such as Jonathon Littles (twice by stoppage), Jerry Goff, Kilbert "Junior" Pierce, Derek Isaman, Orbit Pough, Warren Thompson, Avery Rawls, Olian Alexander, Henry Milligan, and Winston Bent (who stopped Littles, Pough, Goff and Milligan). Add in the fact that Mike also scored a decision over top European (and world rated) Hakan Brock and you have quite the impressive resume.
Those accomplishments and victories certainly signify a stellar amateur career (that he put together in an era when national competition was particularly fierce) and the revealing of such should put to rest any notion that Tyson somehow “wasn't a good amateur fighter.”
* “Irish” Micky Ward lost a close decision at the 1983 USA/ABF Nationals to future WBO 140-pound champion Zack Padilla. Padilla also scored a decision victory over future IBF 154-pound Champion Vincent Pettway in the same tournament and eventually won the top spot with a championship night victory over highly touted Kronk boxer Roderick Moore to take the 139-pound title.
* The 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials saw future heavyweight champions Michael Dokes and John Tate meet up in the semi-finals with Tate capturing the decision (reversing an earlier loss to Dokes) on his way to representing the United States at the Olympic Games that year (where he lost to the legend in the making that was Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba). Dokes, meanwhile, scored a 1976 National Golden Gloves decision victory over another fellow future heavyweight champion in Greg Page.
* As young Junior Olympians (aged 15 and under), future middleweight world champion Michael Nunn defeated future lightweight contender Charlie “White Lightning” Brown three times (Charlie told me this himself when we were in camp together in Glenwood Springs, Colorado in 1993). Nunn also scored a 1983 decision at the National Sports Festival in the 156-pound class over future world champ Frank Tate (Tate also defeated Nunn as an amateur in another bout while, as professionals, Nunn took the IBF 160-pound title from Frank in the summer of 1988)
* Vinny Pazienza won the 1981 National Sports Festival crown with a decision at 132 pounds over future (1984) U.S. Olympic Trials Champion Timmy Rabon (Rabon won the trials but then lost the 1984 Olympic spot at 139 pounds via a box-off to eventual gold medalist Jerry Page of Columbus, Ohio).
* Back in the second half of the 1990s (maybe 1996 and 1997), probably at 132 pounds, future WBC light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson and future junior welterweight contender Dmitriy “The Star of David” Salita met up in regional tournaments on two occasions with Dawson winning decisions both times. Dawson also scored an upset (at the time) in his very first open class bout (as a 16 year old) over the already well established Connecticut boxer and current rising professional welterweight prospect (18 years old at the time) Delvin Rodriguez.
* Future undisputed welterweight champion Corey Spinks (then known as Corey Calvin) won the 1997 National PAL welterweight title with a decision victory in the finals over future (2000) U.S. Olympian Dante Craig.
* The 1988 National Junior Olympic tournament saw Oscar De La Hoya win a decision at 132 pounds over future lightweight contender Lamar Murphy
* In the 1980 U.S. Amateur National Championships Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus beat both Ronnie Shields and Harry Arroyo.
* Future NABF Middleweight Champion Fabian Williams scored a third-round stoppage over future WBO-175 pound challenger (to Darius Michelczewski) Kady King (a.k.a. Vernez Duskin) at the 1987 National Golden Gloves in Knoxville. (I was there for this one. I was actually fighting Kermit Cain in the center ring at the nationals and between rounds of my fight I glanced over at the Williams-King fight just in time to see Fabian landing the final punches that brought the fight to a close).
* Lawrence Clay-Bey won two of three bouts with “Baby” Joe Mesi including a crushing one-round knockout in the Olympic Box-Off in 1996. Clay-Bey also scored an impressive stoppage over the favored Lance Whitaker in 1995 and a stoppage victory over current undefeated heavyweight Faruq Saleem.
* Paul “The Ultimate” Vaden scored an amateur win over his fellow future IBF 154-pound world champion Raul Marquez in 1988 and lost a decision to Chris Byrd in 1989.
* Montreal, Canada's former WBO middleweight champion Otis "Magic" Grant defeated over one hundred opponents during the course of his celebrated amateur career including future world title challengers Dan Sherry, Egerton Marcus and Duran Williams. Grant stopped Williams in the first round of their bout at the 1987 Pan-American Games before losing in the finals to legendary Cuban Angel Espinosa. Otis also scored a very big win in an international tournament over in Germany in late 1987 over top flight American Kevin Bryant.
Less than two months after he beat Bryant I scored a decision over Otis at an international show held in Montreal and then a few months after that, in the fight to decide Canada's representative at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Otis lost in a rematch to Egerton Marcus. Egerton then went on to capture a silver medal in those Olympics, losing a decision in the finals to future IBF light heavyweight champion Henry Maske.
* Park Si-Hun, the Korean who “won” the Olympic gold medal in 1988 despite being thoroughly trounced in the final by Roy Jones, Jr. had two other interesting victories of note against American amateurs. In the 1985 World Cup tournament final, where victory allowed him to walk away with the #1 world ranking, Si-Hun was on the receiving end of two eight-counts against highly regarded American Kevin Bryant just as he was against Roy but still came away with the decision (I didn't see the fight so I don't know if it was actually a robbery or not). Also, in 1987, Si-Hun scored a decision over future contender Thomas Tate.