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If It Glitters... It Might Be Gold
By George J. Elsasser (June 7, 2004) 
Rocky Marciano
Some past special ones got there on merit, the can't miss label came the ol' fashioned way, they earned it by performance inside the squared circle - unlike some today that are handed "prospect" recognition before having a pro fight.

Still, as a fan of the amateur game over many years, I did catch a few that had the pro look about them, and coupled with visible traits that hinted of something special down that proverbial pike.

Sometimes the exceptional quality surfaced during an early career conquest, and remains indelible in the backroads memory bank, with others, even in defeat the look of quality was there.

Some qualifiers:

Muhammad Ali ~ Was watching with my Dad over the black & white TV set ... annual East-West Golden Gloves tourney ... ugly one for us Brooklyn fans seeing the "Chicago" team winning fight after fight - and finally Tony Madigan time.

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Windy City team had it locked, six and 0 with only two bouts left, but talented Madigan would surely save us from a blanking, or so we thought. The visiting Aussie was in the Big Apple on business, a 29 year old amateur veteran that had breezed through the New York City tourney as well as the Eastern GG competition that followed, a solid boxer with punching power.

Enter a 16-17 year old Louisville kid named Cassius Clay, tall and lean with good skills, nips Madigan by close decision, and what remained in my memory was the ability to take the power punches in an exciting bout - punctuation is back then the GG tourney duels were done sans protective head guards.

And so it was later, when he was Ali, and the question arose concerning ability to take a punch, I had the answer most were still searching for. Madigan lost to Clay on second try in 1960 Rome Olympics.

Ray Charles Leonard ~ The 1976 Olympics, a golden entry that ever was. Leo Randolph at flyweight, Howard Davis at lightweight, Leonard at light welter, the Spinks brothers at middle and lightheavyweight, and were it not for Cuba's Teofilo Stevenson at heavy we surely had another winner in John Tate.

The name tossed about as best of the lot was Howard Davis. My guy was the second sweetest of all 'Sugars,' Ray Leonard, and what stamped him as special in my eyes was the display he showed in that finale for the gold against world top-rated amateur Cuba's Andres Aldama.

And did these two put on one dandy of a duel, after two rounds it was up for grabs, and then Ray reached into the trick bag with a blistering closing 20 seconds flurry that dazzled the eyes, mine and judges alike. I could see right then and there this kid would go far in the pro ranks.

Michael Spinks ~ The spinx jinx was always fun to watch, but I missed the potential even with him winning the gold. Saw him tough and game and that height and reach, but thought the big right hand was the rest of the story.

Sure fooled me... At 175 the names are there, victims all, good ones like Marvin Johnson, Yaqui Lopez, Murray Sutherland, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Johnny Davis, Dwight Braxton - Larry Holmes for heavyweight title. How I missed the special part I'll never know.

Couple of "winners" among the alleged losing department:

Evander "Real Deal" Holyfield and Roy Jones Jr. were victims of sheer criminality; both beat the other guy but failed to bring home the gold. In this case, the silver sure glittered like gold, while the respective winners took home the "fool's gold" version.

Guess is, all watching Evander and Roy could see "professional" scribbled over both, and time would prove them correct.

Rocky Marciano ~ only unbeaten heavyweight champion in history of the game. Had you seen him during the incubation period you'd swear the next outing would be the first loss, wrong!

Rocky wasn't pretty, but had to be the toughest of the tough ones - and was still at learning stage and improving the skills after sweeping away all contenders under stellar tutor in Charlie Goldman.

There are others for sure that fit the bill of the special amateurs turning professional, but not in the numbers we see tossed around today. Don't blame the gladiators, 'tis the media in its ongoing "now" rush ... and sometimes are caught up wailin' the extended contract blues.

A hit number in my book.
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