|Fights I almost Had...
By John "Iceman" Scully, DoghouseBoxing.com (Jan 20, 2009)
He said, "Roberto is laughing. He said don't be a fag. Meet him at 160."
"You know what? I replied. "If you really are a friend of Roberto Duran's then you need to tell him to stay at 175 pounds before he gets killed by one of these guys after struggling so much to get his weight back down to 160 again like he did against (William) Joppy." - John Scully, chatting online in an Instant Message with the attorney/advisor of the legendary Roberto Duran
I like to think that I faced a pretty good level of competition over the course of my professional career. Whether it be in the gym or in live competition, win or lose, I am glad to have faced the men I did. To show you how the boxing business is, though, you only have to look at some of the guys I was SUPPOSED to fight (or guys that were asked about fighting me or guys that were considered by a promoter to match up with me at one time or another) but for one reason or another the fights didn't come to fruition. Some of these guys might not even know that the fight with me was even ever proposed, I don't know. I know that almost any pro can tell you that there has been a lot of times when he was supposed to fight someone and the fight fell through or the fight was offered and someone got sick or hurt and it was canceled. Happens all the time.
In 1997, for example, it was a pretty busy "non-busy" year for me (my only fights that actually went through in the twelve months were the ones against Ernest Mateen, Graciano Roccigiani and Scott Lopeck) as I was approached to fight, or set to fight, many guys (but the fights didn't come off for different reasons) including Dominick Carter, David Telesco, Rocky Gannon, Chris Eubank, Thomas Reid, Lupe Aquino, future WBA 175 pound champion Lou Del Valle, Glen Thomas, Fabian Garcia, Jose Luis Rivera (For the IBA title), Troy Watson, Eric Lucas, Steve Little and Ernest Mateen in a late summer rematch of our June fight that year.
Other potential opponents of mine have included former amateur star Dennis Milton, Herol Graham back in 1990, Rasheed Lee, Danny Sheehan, Aaron McClurine, Steve Detar, Richie Lamontagne, Jaime Velazquez, James McRae, Frank Nicotra in France, Exum Speight, Michael Dale, Kenny Butler, Kenny Snow, Robert Greg Thomas, Pedro Rivera, Terry Crawley, Elvir "The Kosovo Kid" Miriqui, George Holder, Tyrone Frazier, Jerome Artis (Yes, the Jerome Artis who fought back in the 1970's and early 80's), Harold "Bubba" Souther, Craig Salamone, Muhammad Shabazz, Lenny LaPaglia (for the vacant IBA title), Darryl Fromm, Dan Schommer (For his WBF 168 pound title, in 1992) and Darren Zenner.
I received a call back around 2003 from a good friend about possibly fighting against Rico Hoye but it would have been in Rico's hometown of Detroit and I just didn't feel I was at the point in my career where I needed to go to an unknown -but talented and up and coming at the time- guys hometown and risk getting robbed of a decision. For a fight like that I wouldn't necessarily say I would prefer to have it be in my own hometown either. I would take any fight like that in any reasonable neutral spot.
Back in early 1999 I was constantly trying to get back in the middle of things and was looking for any fights I could get when one day I was looking through an issue of The Ring magazine that had an article on Don Elbaum that mentioned some of his fighters including an unbeaten 175 pounder from Pennsylvania named Chris Mills. Chris was drawing a lot of fans in his hometown each time he fought and instantly bells went off in my head. I thought it would be the perfect situation for me to go into an undefeated guys hometown to try and make some noise. I figured beating an unbeaten guy who was a big draw and was "on the way up" would be one way to show the powers that be that I still had something left and it even got to be where I went over to Scranton with a couple guys from my gym who were fighting on a show that Mills was headlining. I remember walking into the weigh-in for that show and I felt like an out of town gunslinger in the old west riding in on my horse letting it be known that I was there to challenge the local "fastest gun in the West." It was fun, actually, and I enjoyed the little bit of buzz that the situation seemed to spark up. I had previously put my guy on the case and he approached Elbaum about the potential fight and for a while there it seemed like it was going to come off, too, but then I fought Sam Ahmad and messed up my rotator cuff in my left shoulder and that was pretty much the end of that.
The story has taken an amazing turn, tough, and illustrates how small and unpredictable this boxing world really is. Here it is a good seven years later and not only have I sparred Chris Mills several times in the last few months but his last fight saw a familiar face working his corner for the draw he got against a guy by the name of Randy Pogue. Yours truly.
I also almost encountered -or was considered for bouts against- a slew of Canadians including Willard Lewis, Alex Hilton, former IBF 154 pound champion Matthew Hilton, Laurie Gross, Todd Nadon and former world ranked amateur and pro Danny Sherry.
In January of 1998 there was a proposed ESPN or USA Tuesday Night Fights date for a double header that would have featured me against Joey DeGrandis and Eric Harding against Bryan Brannon.
Also in January of 1998 I was just coming off an ESPN win over Scott Lopeck when I happened to come across an article in the England based magazine "Boxing Weekly" that said I was a potential opponent for Fabrice Tiozzo and his WBO 195 pound title in France. I never heard from anybody about it, though. Just read it in that magazine.
In 1998 there was an idea being thrown around that said if I were to beat Drake Thadzi in August that I could fight Montell Griffin on HBO later in the year. I didn't win. So it didn't happen.
In January of 1998 there was also an idea thrown at me from Bob Mittleman that said if I was to go to Denmark and beat this guy (I forget his name) that I could turn around and fight the winner of Reggie Johnson-Ole Klemetsen for the IBF 175 pound title. I don't remember the details but I do know, of course, that the fight didn't come off.
On August 6, 1995 I got a call with an offer to fight fellow contender Ernesto Magdaleno on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley fight two weeks later. Wish they would have called sooner because I would have taken that fight but two weeks was just not enough time to get ready.
On March 31, 1998 there was an idea being thrown around about me and Antonio Tarver. I don't even remember all the details (I only know it because I just saw it in the 1998 diary that I was just looking through. My notes read like this: "Me and Antonio Tarver in the fall?? For the USBA title? Let's do it!!!")
Later on in 1998, around May sometime, I got a call to go to spar in Denmark with Mads Larsen but I had something else going on at the time and couldn't accept the offer.
A proposed 1997 fight with former WBC Junior Middleweight Champion Lupe Aquino on ESPN didn't pan out. Same thing goes for a Brett Lally rematch for November of 1992 on ESPN and a Troy Watson fight for the same channel in September of 1992.
In 1995, in the months before I fought Michael Nunn, I almost was set to fight a tune-up match with former amateur opponent Ricky Thomas of Albany. The fight didn't happen as we decided to just concentrate on training for Nunn. I had beaten Ricky in a 165 pound amateur bout a few years earlier and we had competed in several national tournaments together.
In March of 1993 I was at the Times Square Gym in New York City to spar with friend and former amateur opponent Lamar Parks when his father kind of caught me off guard when he asked if I would be interested in fighting his son for his NABF title at 160 pounds. We had just sparred eight rounds that day and had plans to box again the following day as well so it kind of took me by surprise that he would ask me about a fight at that point. Almost instantly I assumed that his intention was to sort of reverse the two amateur victories I held over his son.
"With all the other guys in or around his son's weight in the world what other reason could he have for wanting to fight me?" I thought.
In any event I never even gave the fight more than one second of consideration because there was absolutely no way at that point in my career that I could, or would even attempt to, get down to 160 pounds again. And even if I could have there would be a lot of things to consider before taking a fight like that. I was 25-2 at the time and held rankings by both the USBA and NABF at 168 pounds. I was no opponent. So who would promote the fight, my people or his? Where would it take place? Would it be on TV? How long would I have to prepare for it?
So many things to consider before saying yes or no but, like I say, the combination of our friendship (I have no idea if Lamar even knew his dad was asking me about such a fight) and my inability to make the middleweight limit rendered all questions moot.
In June of 2000 I flew down to Pensacola for a few days before driving over to Biloxi, Mississippi to watch my friend Eric Harding put the first loss on the record of Antonio Tarver. When I got back home there was a message that a booking agent in New York had called about me fighting former WBA 168 pound Champion Frankie Liles in Las Vegas in July but the fight was off the table by the time I got back. Then about a week after I got back from Biloxi we got a call from Russell Peltz asking if I "want to fight Julian Letterlough this Friday" on ESPN. I told them to give me a ten rounder with him and a solid five weeks to train for it and I will take that fight and win it, too.
Then in 1992 there was a time that I was ranked # 3 by the NABF at 168 pounds and I was being mentioned as a possible opponent for the winner of a Frankie Liles-Larry Musgrove NABF title fight that never materialized.
In 1999 there was talk of me going to Italy to fight Salvatore DiSalvatore for the IBC 175 pound title but that never panned out, either. It was also around that time that I myself pursued a fight with a very strong light heavyweight from Nigeria named Napolean Tagoe who I had worked the corner against at The Blue Horizon. We were about the same weight and although he was unbeaten at the time I really felt that I would have beaten him. I was sure enough that I even called Russell Peltz about trying to make the match but nothing ever came of it.
I was set to fight former IBF 154 pound title challenger Kevin Daigle in the summer of 1992 and didn't find out until I arrived at the arena to fight that the bout was off and I was boxing against Herman Farrar instead. My manager at the time didn't tell me the fight had fallen out a few days earlier because he, "didn't want to upset me." So he waited until I arrived at the dressing room?? Inexperience on his part. I won over Farrar, though, on a TKO-6.
March 19, 1992. While out in Reno, Nevada sparring with Roy Jones Jr. (for his fight with Art Serwano) I received a call from my manager saying that I had an offer on the table "to fight Tony Thornton this Sunday."
It would have been an ESPN televised fight but to take a fight like that on less than five days notice would have been foolish. So I declined.
The crazy thing is, though, that when I did face Thornton almost one year to the day later it came at a time when I was probably twice as non-prepared as I would have been had I taken the fight that day in March of 1992.
Sometime in 2002 I was talking kind of frequently with a guy named Mike Jarrell down in Georgia that was running shows pretty often and he discussed putting me on a few of his cards. Two opponents he mentioned were future super middleweight contender Vitali Tsypko and a guy named Issac Powell. It was par for the course, though, in regard to that time period of my career and although we had several conversations about doing something it never panned out in the end.
Late in 1996 promoter Al Valenti mentioned to me a possible return match with Michael Nunn on ESPN but it never came to fruition. Also late in 96' a representative for Cedric Kushners organization mentioned to me a possible fight with a kid from Europe named Leif Keiski that was rated #7 in the world by the WBC. I would have jumped at the chance, especially after I saw him fight at the Mohegan Sun the next day. He was a rated guy but he was also not a big light heavy. More of a guy that was built like me. I saw him and his style as something that would make me look good more than anything but when I talked to Angelo Dundee after the fight he pretty much squashed the idea of Leif fighting me, kind of implying that the guy wasn't experienced enough yet.
It made sense to a certain degree that they might want to avoid me at the time. Keiski was 23-1 at that point but his only defeat had come in his home country of Denmark to American Melvin Wynne. The same Wynne I had beaten by a strong twelve round decision in a previous fight.
In early 1997 I was offered a fight in Algiers of all places with former WBO Champion Chris Eubank. I did some checking into Algiers and someone mentioned "terror" to me, as in terrorists. I didn't take the fight.
In February 1994 there was some talk of fighting Leonzer Barber for his WBO 175 pound title. A month later I was fighting a 175 pound fight in Hartford and they talked about me fighting a guy named Joel Humm but when we looked into it we found out that he was a small heavyweight that usually fought in the high 190's. The other thing I remember was that a matchmaker told me that the guy looked a lot like Joe Piscopo from "Saturday Night Live" and I kept thinking, "I don't want to fight a guy that looks like Joe Piscopo!"
Another time I was supposed to go spar in Northern Ireland with Ray Close. I was all hyped up to go when someone said to me, "Make sure you check any car you get into for bombs." I laughed. They told me they were not joking. Then I remembered a story Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson's Dad, Ham, once told me. Ham said he was over in that part of the country for a fight that Mark had there and one day in a local bank a guy told Ham he better not walk back out in the street with the shirt he was wearing. Ham laughed and asked why. It was a particular color, orange, I think. Like gangs here in America, certain colors will get you shot and/or killed in certain areas of certain cities. The guy in the bank told Ham there was a guy outside with a gun waiting to kill someone with those colors on. Ham went to the window and looked up and saw a man with a rifle on the building across the street looking back at him.
"I took that shirt off and left it right there on the floor of that bank," he told me.
I loved to spar. But not that much. I declined the offer to go spar with Ray Close.
Back in early June of 1996 I got a call from my trainer and he told me that I was offered a fight with James "Lights Out" Toney on ESPN. I told him that James and I wouldn't want to fight each other and he said, "No, they said that James said he wanted the fight." I was kind of caught off guard by that and I asked him again. He said the matchmaker that called for ESPN said he checked with James and James agreed to it. I knew it was kind of fishy because, for one thing, James and I were friends and, for another, I had just gotten an invitation from him in the mail to attend his wedding in Michigan that was set for just a couple weeks from the day we got this call about a fight between us.
So I called James myself to ask him. First I spoke to his friend Jimmy (Griggs) who told me, "No, man, James and you are almost like brothers now. That fight won't happen."
Then he put James on the line.
He said, "What? Who told you that?" I told him the matchmakers name and he said, "If anybody ever tells you that I want to fight you then they are just talking ****. You and I are cool, we aren't going to ever fight." That's what I thought. Some matchmakers, they know how to play on a guys emotions. If I took the fight when asked and he went back and told James that I accepted the fight he would know that James would not check with me and would just be angry that I would accept the fight even though we were friends.
In my years of boxing I have developed friendships with several guys that are in or around my weight class that I would never have fought even if asked. James, Roy Jones, Vinny Paz and Otis Grant are ones that immediately come to mind. People say sometimes that it would be dumb of me not to take fights like that even though the money for them would be very good. But the thing is, I never really looked at boxing like that. In all the time that I was training with these guys and boxing as a pro myself, it never occurred to me to pursue fights with those four guys. Looking back on it, for example, a fight with Vinny and I at one of the Casinos here in Connecticut would have been a sure fire seller. Other than Rosenblatt there was nobody else really in the New England area that would have been an attractive and sellable fight with Vinny. Maybe Sean Fitzgerald if he had beaten Rosenblatt when they fought in 1993. If I wasn't good friends with Vinny then I could have seen him and I being considered for a fight with each other sometime in 1995 or 1996. It actually came up once very briefly by the people I was working with in the late 1990's as a possible Foxwoods main event but I never pursued it at all.
As for Roy, we knew each other since our amateur days and had sparred as both amateurs and professionals. I specifically remember a day in 1992 when he had sparred earlier with future opponent Reggie Johnson. Later that night he was saying how he was uncomfortable with Reggie even being there training at his gym in Florida because, "we're in the same weight class and I don't like to train with anybody or be friends with guys in my weight. You and Lamar (Parks), that's enough friends for my weight." That was the first time I had heard him actually verbalize that we were "friends" and I knew from that moment that there was very little chance we would ever box each other outside of the sparring ring. I know so many people in his camp that boxing him would have been very unusual. His lawyers son, Sherrod Levin, and I are very close friends. I always stay at Stanley Levin's house when I go for a visit. Probably been there fifteen or twenty times on vacation. To this day I still go see Big Roy whenever I am in Pensacola.
As for Otis, we fought each other as amateurs in 1988 when I only knew him from seeing his name and picture in amateur magazines. After we turned pro, however, he fought on a couple cards early on with me in Hartford and I have been to Montreal and London sparring with him numerous times over the years. I know him and his entire family very well and I consider him a good friend. So even though were both rated at or around the same weight class at different times in our careers I would have never taken a fight with him.
I was supposed to fight Rocky Gannon a couple times. That was a sure-fire interesting fight to say the least. At one point in the second half of 1996 we were supposed to meet up on ESPN but he got cut either in training or in a previous match and the fight was called off.
On January 23, 2003 I was told by a New York promoter that I was going to fight on his February 15 show in Lewiston, Maine against Sam Reese but the fight never came off for some reason. Another time saw the same promoter ask me about fighting Shelby Gross. Then there was yet another show that this promoter had me on against Michael Corleone (yes, that's his real name) from New York but apparently there was a dispute over money and it ended up as another in a long line of fights that was canceled on me.
Amazingly, there was yet another time when this same promoter supposedly had me set to fight a guy by the name of George Blades on one of his other shows but again the fight fell out for some unknown reason. I say "supposedly" because I was down in Hollywood, Florida at the Warriors Gym in January of 2007 where I ran into George Blades (first time we ever met) and when I mentioned how we were supposed to fight at one time he said he remembered that situation very well because he only found out about the fight by reading about it on the Internet. He was never, as far as he knew, even called about the fight. So, in a nut shell, all these fights that this particular guy was supposed to get for me never happened and in some cases the entire shows they were supposed to happen on fell out, too.
Another potential fight, against future WBO Champion Steve Collins, didn't happen because I was going to fight him on ABC Wide World of Sports in 1990 providing I beat Kevin "Killer" Watts first. I didn't beat Watts, though, and never got the chance again to match up with Stevie.
I had actually forgotten about this but today I was looking through some notes I kept and in 1995 I was offered a fight in Germany with then-WBO Champion Darius Michalczewski. My notes said the offer was on the table but, based on the money offered, I am sure the lack of available funds was a big part of the reason that fight didn't come off.
In March of 1990 I was all set for a ten round main event on ESPN in Atlantic City against
top ten ranked Michael "The Silk" Olajide. The fight was announced in the local papers and was on the TV fight schedule and everything but it fell out for reasons that I cannot recall. The original opponent for that same fight was Rockin' Robbie Sims, brother of Marvin Hagler and former conqueror of Roberto Duran and Later on, in November of 1991, Robbie's name came up again as a potential opponent for me but apparently at that point in his career Robbie was looking for more money than my promoter at the time (in 1991) could afford to pay him for a non-TV fight. All in all I can remember three separate occasions when Robbie and I were being considered to match up against each other. Those two, of course, and another time in late 1990 when I was set to appear on a show in Worcester, Massachusetts and the promoter tried to put together a fight between us -to no avail- for the vacant New England middleweight crown. That was one of the fights I really was looking forward to and I think I would have been more motivated for him that most guys because of the fact that he was Marvin's brother, had beaten Duran and was a big name in the New England area. We both had also held the N.E. 160 pound crown in recent years and a fight between us, in my eyes and mind, would have been sort of a battle to see who the man really was in New England at 160 pounds. On top of that I had sparred with Robbie a few times at his gym in Brockton and I always felt I matched up well with him.
May, 1992. I was set to fight Melvin Wynn for the World Boxing Federation Intercontinental 168 pound title and there was talk of me defending the title, if I won it, against Adam Garland. I went on to win the title but never heard anything else about fighting Adam. For what it's worth, when Adam was rated #8 in the world by the IBF less than seven months earlier, he lost to Willie Kemp just twenty-three days before I beat Kemp on a 10 round unanimous decision.
In late 1988 my then-manager F. Mac Buckley tried to put together a fight with the U.S. Olympian in my weight class, Anthony Hembrick. I think it was Top Rank, Inc's Akbar Muhammad that told Mac that Hembrick was undecided as to who he would sign with as a professional and a fight between us was not possible at the time.
In 1997 I fought Ernest Mateen on ESPN. In the weeks prior to that fight there were other potential opponents considered that fell out for different reasons, guys like Troy Watson, Fabian Garcia, Thomas Reid and Charles Smith.
In April of 1994 I got an offer to enter the 175 pound "Stroh's tournament" at the Forum in Los Angeles with other light heavies Montell Griffin, Ernest Magdaleno and Ray Lathon. I don't remember the details but we didn't end up accepting the offer.
About a year and half ago or so I got a call from a matchmaker that offered me a fight in North Carolina with Tiwon Taylor, a 12 round fight on TV (some middle of the road cable outlet) for a title of some sort (I forget what one, WBC International I think it was). I immediately took the fight! Twelve rounds was right up my alley. Twelve rounds on TV made it all the better. But, of course, something happened to squash the fight. I never even really got the full story of what happened but of course it was something on the business of the end of this crazy game that caused the fight to fall out.
In 1992 WBA Middleweight Champion Reggie Johnson, in a Roy Jones training camp with me in Pensacola, told me that he and I were set to fight each other a couple years earlier but I had never even known about it. Same thing with a potential fight with Dave Tiberi that his brother Nick told me was all but set at one time. Nick even told me he had a poster with our pictures on it but I didn't recall ever hearing from my management about such a fight.
Several years ago at Foxwoods, the night he lost a controversial decision to Ravea Springs, Lenzie Morgan told me that he had been offered just a few thousand dollars to fight me. He told them, ''I'm not fighting John Scully for that kind of money. That's a tough fight for only a few thousand."
I told Morgan I would have said the same exact thing about him. Lenzie is one of those guys with a very bad looking record on paper but he is very slick and cagey and can fight. He dropped top ten contender and future world title challenger Springs three times in their fight only to lose a decision.
In 1991 I was scheduled to fight former world title challenger Sean Mannion from Boston. Sean was a cagey veteran that had good boxing skills and had faced Mike McCallum eight years earlier in a 15 round WBA title fight. A few weeks before the fight there was a change in plans and I fought the veteran spoiler Randy Smith instead.
In late 1999 I had been promised an ESPN Televised rematch with Sam Ahmad in Philadelphia again at the legendary "Blue Horizon." I was VERY excited about that fight. One day, though, when we called Russel Peltz to check on some detail of the fight I found out that Ahmad (his people anyway) didn't accept the fight after all.
In the summer of 2003, in what was the last proposed fight that I actually accepted and trained for, I was set to fight Prince Badi Ajamu in Philadelphia at the Spectrum (the same arena where Creed and Balboa matched up twice!!) on ComCast-TV but just one week before the fight I got a call saying that Badi got the chance to fight Hoye on ShoBox so I couldn't really blame him for pulling out of the fight with me. I was VERY ready at that time, though. Sparring was great. Weight was unusually right. Those are the breaks. After that cancellation, my ninth in a row since I defeated Cleveland Nelson in the summer of 2001, I basically began concentrating full time with no distractions on training Clay-Bey.
In 2004 I got another call to fight Badi again and as tempting as it was to take it was also on only three weeks notice and there was no way I could ever make 175 pounds in that short of time. Also, it was only an eight round fight. I got offered fights against guys sometimes who I honestly did not believe were on my level when I was at my best, and I normally would love to jump at the chance to take on one of these inexperienced guys like that into the late rounds and see what my experience could do for me. Badi was a shorter type guy, too, and that was tempting for me as well because almost every 175 pounder that I ever fought was no less than six foot one inches tall. Fighting a light heavy that's my size, on the other hand, now that's fun for me but in an eight round fight, to me, there are no late rounds and that fact negates the huge advantages I would normally enjoy in experience and ring generalship. On top of that they pay eight round money for those fights and, really, I don't need the money like that at this point. Certainly not enough to give an inexperienced guy like him any kind of chance to try and out hustle me for eight quick rounds. But don't give a guy with my experience and background the same money that you would give anybody else that was an eight round fighter. That is why it is unusual for local shows like that to get guys with a lot of experience or a credible history in the main bouts...because they usually cannot afford to pay well enough without TV or strong sponsorship dollars.
People in boxing, as a rule, want to fight people they think they can beat. One thing that is common practice is for a younger up and comers to try and add the name of a veteran to his record. I love when the more experienced guys come along and take fights with younger guys they are supposed to lose to and surprise everybody with a win. The young guys think they are going to add that name to their list and maybe learn something along the way without actually losing. It usually goes according to script, too. Sometimes, though, it backfires. Like the time they brought in 43 year old Manning Galloway to fight Olympic star Ricardo Williams. Galloway was expected to go the rounds but lose to the young star. But all that experience counted in the end as Manning won the decision.
Back in late 2002, working as a matchmaker for Stele Promotions in Toronto, Otis Magic Grant called me about fighting a kid from Toronto named Jesse Cancilla, a solid former amateur who was something like 8-0 as a professional. I had sparred him once in 1997 and worked lightly with him at the time because of his lack of experience. Now, though, he was a professional and was "on the way up." I had not fought in about fifteen months at the time Otis called so I have to guess that Jesse's people figured I had not been in the gym all that time and that I was very rusty, etc. Now, with most guys that is true but I am always in the gym and always sparring somebody somewhere. Anyway, what happened was they offered a purse that in my eyes was below average. Add that to the fact that the fight was coming up relatively quickly (I need time to make 175). I was offended, though. This might be why I didn't get called back by certain people sometimes to follow up on offered fights.
Clay-Bey used to laugh at me all the time as he told me that my anxiousness is part of the reason I wasn't getting fights at the time.
"You're showing them you're too ready to fight their guy," he'd say. He said I don't play the game right, that I tip my hand out of emotion too easily. Instead of just taking the fight and then doing what I have to do on fight night I go off the deep end to let everybody know how ready I feel.
It's true, too. When Clay said that I immediately thought back to what I told Otis when he offered me that fight. I said, "Otis! Look, call Dwight (Jesse's trainer) right now and tell him that not only I am going to take this fight but I am going to smash Jesse. Is he crazy, trying to put that amateur in with me?"
Then I found out that they wanted the fight for only eight rounds. That explained a lot. I was even more irritated when I told Otis, "Eight rounds?? Look, man. Tell them if they want to fight a pro fight against a former world title challenger then they need to fight ten or twelve rounds. If they want eight rounds tell them to stick with the type of inexperienced guys they already fought."
I have to admit, it felt real good to be so energized about my fighting career at that point. I wasn't going to take a small fight like that under those circumstances but, at the same time, it felt real good to be even talking about fights. I enjoyed the excitement of it all. I just felt like they shouldn't say they want a real fight but only want it for the same amount of rounds that prelim fights go. Don't challenge a guy like me and then say you want it to be for eight rounds, that's all.
To me, that is like an amateur kid saying he wants to fight a pro boxer and that he can beat him because he is faster, stronger, quicker, etc but then he says he only wants to fight the pro in a three round fight. If you really think you are on that level then you have to fight the pro on the playing field that you think you are better than him on. Otherwise, in my eyes, a victory by the amateur under those conditions doesn't mean that much.
I took it as a disrespectful challenge and I took it very personal, I was all hyped up, and I even called Russ Anber -one of Dwight's friends in Canada- to tell him what I thought of this fight. After all this time in this game and all the top guys I had fought and now I had some prelim kid trying to match up with me. It made me mad and offended me because I know how this game works. They saw me as an experienced guy, past his best days, that would be a great name on their up and comers record if they were to win. What they didn't realize was that I am still in shape and would LOVE to have gone up there and beaten him for even thinking he could deal with me. But for "eight round money" and in only an eight round fight? No way. Pay the right money, though, with enough notice and at a somewhat neutral site for ten rounds and I would fight anyone in the world.
In 2001 I won my last fight as a professional with a decision over Cleveland Nelson of Detroit. Since that time I officially had nine fights fall out on me for different reasons, one of them a proposed rematch with Nelson that was set for January 26, 2002 at the site where we had our first fight, the Hershey Center in Missisauga, Ontario (just outside of Toronto). Our first fight was a good scrap that was easily the best fight of that night in June of 2001. I put on a good show and Nelson was game throughout. They wanted to do it again but something happened and the fight fell out. That seemed to set the trend for my immediate future as I had more eight more fights fall out on me before I decided to concentrate on training Lawrence Clay-Bey full time.
At one point in the late 1990's, when I felt I needed a good win to jump back into the middle of contention, I looked into getting fights out of the country with an established contender or champion in a non-title fight. I felt like I was willing to go somewhere and fight the local star in a fight that a win would cause me to gain instant notice. It led me to talks with some people in Canada about matching me up with future WBC Champion Eric Lucas but, of course, the fight never came to pass.
In April of 1991 I was in Pensacola, Florida training and living when Stanley Levin (Roy Jones' attorney) called to ask if I could leave in the morning and accompany the IBF 168 pound champion at the time, Lindell Holmes, to ITALY for his title defense against Darrin Van Horn. I instantly agreed to make the trip and was very excited to do so. But just like that, the next question squashed my trip as quickly as it came about. I had no passport and there was no way we could get one in time for me to make the trip.
In 1997 I was even in talks to fight the legendary Roberto Duran in Germany. I forget all the details but my manager was in talks with some people from Germany about doing the fight there because Duran was having big tax trouble in the USA and they didn't want to do it here. Whatever happened, the fight fell through.
(A crazy story concerning Duran and I was when a couple years ago I was on AOL one night and a guy Instant messages me claiming to be sitting at his computer with his friend and client, Roberto Duran. He said he was Duran's lawyer and Duran was interested in fighting me on such and such a date at 160 pounds. This was after Duran had fought William Joppy at 160 and I saw in that fight, and knew from watching Duran all these years, how much making 160 again at that stage in his career would affect him. I, myself, was long past my 160 pound days and I told the guy as much. I told him, "Tell Duran to fight me at 175 and we got a fight."
The thing is, I didn't believe the guy was even serious and just assumed he was one of many on AOL that love to play Internet jokes on people. I played along with him, though, just in case he was legit.
At one point he told me, "Roberto is laughing. He said don't be a fag. Meet him at 160."
"You know what?" I replied. "If you really are a friend of Roberto Duran's then you need to tell him to stay at 175 pounds before he gets killed by one of these guys after struggling so much to get his weight back down to 160 again like he did against William Joppy). You are a lawyer not a boxing guy so you have no idea what you are talking about. If you were really his friend you would be telling him, at his age, to not lose so much weight for fights anymore. Actually you would be telling him to not fight anymore period. And if you are really concerned about your so called friend then I am sure you will have no problem not collecting any money from him after his fights for whatever services you are performing on his behalf."
That did it. Now the guy was mad and he said Duran was mad, too. He said he was serious about making a fight with Duran and I and, as a matter of fact, he "was in Boston yesterday with some people from there, Bob Pace and others, and one of the things discussed was making this fight a reality." Now, the thing was, I knew Bob Pace from Boston personally and I made up mind to amuse myself and call him the next day to let him know some guy is on-line throwing his name around. So after I get done with another half hour of name calling and insults with "Duran and his lawyer" I logged off and went to bed. The next day I called him and said, "Hey, Bob, have you ever met Roberto Duran before?"
"Oh, yeah, as a matter of fact I was just with him and his attorney for a few hours the other day and I gave his lawyer your email because he said he wanted to get a hold of you about something," he replies. "I hope you don't mind."
In the summer of 2000 I was over in Germany sparring with IBF 168 pound champion Sven Ottke when a spot opened up on an upcoming show and they asked if I wanted to fight former Olympic Gold Medalist Torsten Maye in the co-main event. I had sparred with Torsten before and was able to land my jab with very good consistency against him but, at the same time, he was a very tall cruiserweight (had to be 6' 4) and I was small for a light heavy. I was there in Germany with no trainer, cornerman or cutman and wasn't about to go into a fight overseas on short notice without even having anybody there from back home on my side. It was tempting, still, but I had to pass it up.
In October of 1997 I got a call from Nick Tiberi (brother of Dave) and he asked if I wanted to "fight Steve Little for his IBC 168 pound title in four weeks." Normally, YES, I would take a fight like that but there was just no way that I could comfortably make 168 again at that point in my career.
As an amateur I was supposed to fight Michael Moorer in 1986 or 1987 on a show in Rhode Island but something happened and the fight never came off. Also, at a tournament in 1987, I likely would have fought Michael in the 165 pound class but he failed to make weight and was disqualified from the tournament. He turned pro a few months later at light heavyweight.
When I was fifteen years old I was very fortunate to be 156 pounds in the Region One Junior Olympic Championships. I made it to that tournament with only one single bout under my belt (and that was an exhibition just nine days earlier) and still advanced to the finals of the light middleweight class. So the championship fight was my third fight ever including the exhibition match. I fought the Brooklyn, NY entrant at 156, a kid by the name of William Moore who beat me by decision. He was a three time Region One Champion and way over my head at that time. But not as much over my head as the guy I would have fought from Brooklyn if I was just a few pounds heavier and fought at 165 instead of 156. A killer by the name of Riddick Bowe
In 1994 I got a call at the gym that Hector "Macho" Camacho, fighting at 160 pounds, was going to be at another gym in Connecticut and needed some sparring. I volunteered to do some rounds with him that day but they told me he was looking for someone closer to his size so I brought Ray Cardona (solid amateur welterweight and brother of Pito) and a pro middleweight named Derek Whitley to work with him instead.
In 1998, out in Lenexa, Kansas where I was with my boxer Sammy Vega when he won the National Silver Gloves tournament, I was asked by my friend from "Ringside Products," George Smith, if I wanted to come to the gym and spar with his up and coming 168 pound prospect, Randie Carver. I didn't have any of my boxing gear with me and didn't think I would have been able to get the sparring in anyway because of having to be at the tournament each day so we didn't get a chance to box. I remember Randy being a real pleasant, humble kid and he joked around with me saying he was glad he didn't have to spar me. It's funny how his demeanor and friendliness stood out to me, so much so that when I went back home I even mentioned to a few people how much Carver he had impressed me and I had thought he could have went on and made a name for himself in the boxing game.
(Sadly, less than two years later, Randie Carver passed away from injuries sustained in an NABF title fight. Good guy. R.I.P. Randie Carver.)
In 2003 I was out in Las Vegas at the Top Rank Gym looking for sparring and there was a guy there shadowboxing who looked good and about my size that I figured would be good work. I came to the gym the next day with plans to work with Koffi Juntuah only to find out he was only 154 pounds (he looked bigger to me and I never asked his weight) and already had sparring set up with Danny Perez.
In 1987 I had worked a few days in camp with Donny LaLonde for his upcoming WBC 175 pound title fight with Eddie Davis (back when he was trained by future "The Contender" trainer Tommy Gallagher). A few months later he was scheduled to defend the title against Leslie Stewart in Trinidad-Tobago and he called for me to come there to help him get ready again and as eager and excited as I was to go it was a thing where I had the 1988 U.S. Championships coming up and I couldn't make it.
On Wednesday November 3, 1999 I was supposed to -scheduled to- spar with Felix "Tito" Trinidad at my gym in Hartford. He was in the area promoting a fight or something -I forget the exact reason he was in town- and they wanted to get sparring for him and asked me if I would do it. I accepted, of course, but somehow the plans got fouled up or something and he was not able to make it to the gym as planned.
I tried to get some sparring with Antwun Echols out in Las Vegas a few years ago when I ran into him in the lobby of one of the Flamingo Hotel (he was in town training for a fight) but I caught him a few days too late as he had just completed his sparring for that particular fight. I also missed out (timing wasn't right) on going to Sweden at one point in the late 1990's to do some sparring with then-contender Ole Klemetsen.
Out of all the wayward fights and sparring matches I almost had, though, there is one that -above all others- I wish would have come to fruition. I have had a lot of fights and sparred with hundreds of guys over the years, of course. I've been in there with some good and some great fighters. Some Hall of Famer's even. There were several fights that fell through that I really would have liked to have come through because of the level of opposition they presented. Like fighting Olijade, Eubank or Robbie Sims would have been very exciting for me and sparring with a Tito Trinidad would have been outright spectacular!!
I also wish that timing would have allowed me to go to Trinidad-Tobago to spar with LaLonde that time in 1989.
None of those opportunities, however, compare to the offer I got one afternoon in late 1988.
I walked into the gym one day in October of that year to find that I had gotten a request from J.D. Brown on behalf of Sugar Ray Leonard for me to come spar with the champ for his upcoming fight with Donny LaLonde. It goes without saying that I was extremely excited about the opportunity but at the same time I was just beginning my own career and had fights of my own coming up and at the end of the day my manager decided that the timing just wasn't right for me to go to camp with Ray.
I look back on it now, though, and definitely wish that I did go because while I have boxed with a few future legends (potential Hall of Famers) like McCallum, Toney, Pazienza and Roy I never got in with an already (at the time) signed, sealed and delivered, bonafide all-time, already established, great like Sugar Ray Leonard.
Not going to that camp with Ray Leonard would have to rank right up there at the very top of my list of regrets I have compiled from my time in the boxing game. Out of the cancellations, near misses, and imploded deals and opportunities, that is definitely the one I would choose to have gone through with if it somehow could have been arranged.
By John "Iceman" Scully, Author of "The Iceman Diaries" and currently the trainer for NABF Cruiserweight Champion Matt "Too Smooth" Godfrey.
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