Bobby “Chappie” Czyz: More Than a Matinee Idol! (Q&A)
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 1, 2011)
Bobby with his State Championship Belt, along with 3 of his World Title belts.
In the modern day boxing era even in the 80’s a white fighter had to earn respect. If you were good looking and could articulate your words it doubled what you were worth, if you could fight. When Bobby “Chappie” Czyz came out of the amateurs as a member of the US Boxing team and still at Lakeland Regional High School he was a target for many.

“When I turned pro there were articles telling how I was an “A” student (member of Mensa the top 2% IQ’s in the world) and that I was white, bright and polite, but could I really fight? Imagine, reverse discrimination in the sport of boxing,” said Czyz. The ESPN group put the tag “The Matinee Idol” on him right away. His nose had been broken in a car accident which ended up a blessing since he was to go to Poland with the US National team whose plane crashed and killed all aboard in March of 1980.

NBC had introduced several members as “Tomorrow’s Champions” including Tony Ayala, Jr., Johnny Bumphus, Dave Moore, Alex Ramos, Rocky Lockridge and Tony Tucker. They chose to leave Czyz out of the group that Lou Duva had put together. It wasn’t until he defeated Teddy Mann, 20-5, in his eleventh fight that they put him in the group. He had defeated Danny Long, 18-0, in his previous fight.

“I trained at the Lou Costello gym in Paterson, NJ, from 1972 to 1980. Tommy Parks was my trainer,” said Czyz. He turned pro at the Ice World, in Totowa, NJ, in April of 1980 dropping Hank Whitmore and finishing him off with a right hand that buckled his knees while knocking out his mouthpiece. The referee stopped it in the first round.

Czyz helped make the Ice World, in Totowa, NJ, famous having fought all but 2 of his first 11 fights there. In his fifth fight he headlined there stopping veteran Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss, 33-13-2. Being from Wanaque, NJ, it was almost like fighting at home for him. In his next fight after defeating Mann they brought in Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado, 56-8-1, with 41 knockouts and the former WBC/WBA light middleweight champion who won 4 of his last 5 fights.

Here was Czyz in his twelfth fight in the co-feature with future champion Rocky Lockridge. Czyz stopped Albarado in the third round. Next would be a fight with the Marine and former Olympian Reggie Jones, 16-7-1, from Newark, NJ, who was 13-3-1 in his last 17 fights including a draw with Mustafa Hamsho. Czyz would stop Jones for the USA NJ State middleweight title with Jones retiring in his corner in 7.

Finishing up 1981 Czyz defeated Elisha Obed, 84-12-4, the former WBC light middleweight champion who was disqualified for holding. Next would be Robbie Sims, 12-0, the half brother of Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Sims had defeated James unbeaten James “Hard Rock” Green and O’Dell Leonard, Ray’s cousin. “I dropped Sims in the tenth and final round. It was a bit of a turning point,” said Czyz. He dropped Sims with a right hand with over 2 minutes to go but Sims held on until the bell. The win put Czyz in the world ratings and was the highest Nielsen rated NBC Sportsworld fight in history.

After the Sims fight 3 more knockout wins followed and bringing Czyz to 20-0 and a major fight with Mustafa Hamsho, 34-2-2, the Syrian out of Brooklyn. This southpaw was known for his “rough” tactics and had wins over Wilford Scypion, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Curtis Parker and the UK’s Alan Minter. He lost to Hagler for the WBC/WBA title the year before on cuts in 11 rounds.

Duva told Czyz he would get 125k. Czyz turned it down. Duva would come back with a 175k offer. We all know how that works. Hamsho was rated No. 3 and a win could propel Czyz into a possible title bout. It was a bout some critics said was pushing him too fast. “I got sick 2 days before the fight. The money was so much I couldn’t pull out. I took diuretics to make the weight,” said Czyz. It would be the last time he made 160.

“I broke my hand in the second round,” said Czyz. He didn’t mention it to his corner so when he lost the decision the news people were not easy on him. A bone graft was taken from his hip and he was in a hand cast for 3 months and out of action for 10 months. Czyz had a very abusive father. In June of 1983 Czyz stood up to his father and the next day found his father had committed suicide. It’s something more family members need to do since the authorities rarely get involved with this abuse.

Czyz stopped 4 of his next 6 opponents including Tim Broady, 15-1-1, in Houston. Broady had a couple of knockout wins over 2 Philly boxers. One was Charles Singleton, 17-0, a former amateur champion and the other Anthony Witherspoon, 9-2, Tim’s brother. In the second round Broady landed a right and a left that stunned Czyz who would come back strong prior to the bell.

In the fourth round Czyz started using his jab to offset the punching power of Broady until a left hook dropped Broady. Czyz walked right at Broady and rocked him with a right hand followed by a left right combination as the referee came into stop it Broady hit the canvas. It was a sensational stoppage win for Czyz in 1:41 of the fourth round.

Czyz was trying to get a super middleweight title bout. Duva also had Murray Sutherland who won the vacant IBF Super middleweight title which was a new division. Instead of his first defense being Czyz it was South Korean Chong Pal Park, 33-3-1, with Czyz being told by Duva he would get the winner. Anyone with any sense knew Sutherland wasn’t coming back from South Korea with the belt. When Sutherland lost by knockout there was no contract with Park for Duva. Czyz was lied to by Duva.

Park goes 5 months before defending and when he does he fights Roy Gumbs, 26-10-2, whom he knocks out in 2. In the meantime Czyz defeated Marvin Mack, 11-2, who would get a title bout with Park in September of 1986. Park was defeating Vinnie Curto, 54-5-3, twice before Mack. Czyz beat Broady and couldn’t get a title bout. Duva finally let Czyz fight Sutherland a whole year after losing to Park. The contract was coming to an end with Duva for Czyz so now Duva matches them.

Czyz took on Sutherland, 47-12-1, who won 5 straight by knockout after losing his title the year before. Both fighters came in under 170 with Czyz winning a lopsided decision. Frustrated, Czyz split with Duva deciding to go it alone and shoot for the 175 title knowing the South Korean who beat Sutherland wouldn’t fight him.

It was over a year without a fight and the negotiations with IBF light heavyweight champion Slobodan Kacar, 21-0, of Yugoslavia, were made for Las Vegas in September of 1986. Kacar was a former Gold Medalist from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. He defeated Eddie Mustafa Muhammad by split decision to win the vacant crown. This would be his first title defense.

“I went to Italy to see the fight. It was very close. I got to look into Kacar’s eyes and I could see his fear. I knew I could knock him out,” said Czyz. It would be 9 months before the fight would take place. Czyz did something Duva could never do for him. He got a title bout.

It was held in Las Vegas, NV, in September of 1986. Czyz came out with not only red, white and blue trunks but shoes to match. Kacar had Angelo Dundee in his corner. He also had 4 inches in height on Czyz and used his jab but little use of his right. Czyz was always the aggressor scoring with good body shots.

In the fifth Czyz had him hurt spinning him around whereas Czyz hit him in the back and down went Kacar. It couldn’t be avoided. Referee Joey Curtis didn’t give a count. Czyz was all over Kacar at this point and landed over 20 straight punches driving the champion from one end of the ring to the other before Curtis put a stop to it at 1:10 of the fifth declaring Czyz the new IBF light heavyweight champion.

Just 3 months later Czyz made his first defense easily stopping the No. 6 contender David Sears, 17-2-1, in 1:01 of the first round with wicked body shots. This was like a warm-up for another defense 2 months later against tough Willie Edwards, 22-2-1, of Detroit who was the NABF champion having wins over Matthew Saad Muhammad, David Sears, Donny Lalonde and Anthony Witherspoon.

This fight was a 2 round war from the opening bell. Edwards knocked Czyz into the ropes just prior to the end of the first round. If it were in the middle of the ring it would have been a knockdown. In the second round with both fighters cut over their left eyes it was a slugfest until a right hand rocked Edwards. Czyz followed up with a left right combination and down went Edwards for the count at 2:16 of the second round.

Czyz was back in the ring 3 months later stopping “Diamond” Jim MacDonald, 20-3, in the sixth round. MacDonald’s nose was bloody and was dangerous to the end with a hard right hand. Czyz just overpowered him. It would be almost 6 months before Czyz would defend against his mandatory challenger the dangerous “Prince” Charles Williams, 26-4-2, the USBA champion in Las Vegas.

With 3 seconds to go in the second round Czyz landed a right that had the knees of Williams shaking. He followed up with another right and left as Williams hit the canvas just before the bell. In the third round Czyz came out after Williams landing a left hook driving Williams toward the ropes. He followed up with a barrage of punches when a left right combination drove him into the ropes as Williams grabbed the top rope to break his fall or otherwise he would have been down. The referee Carlos Padilla gave Williams a count which is not allowed in the NV rules. The commissioner did nothing to stop this at the time. Later an appeal went in but was overturned.

Czyz was all over Williams banging away when they had a clash of heads which would cause swelling around the left eye of Czyz. There was no time out by referee to check this damage. Czyz was stunned as Williams landed 5 straight uppercuts before Czyz fired back. It was a sudden turn of events that even the announcers did not pick-up on. Smiley Hayward encouraged Williams to put more pressure on Czyz whose right eye was starting to badly swell by the end of the round. By the end of the eighth round Czyz couldn’t come out for the ninth giving up his title to Williams. It seemed he never recovered from the clash of heads in the third round.

Czyz would come back 7 months later against the former WBC champion Dennis Andries, 30-7-2, losing a majority decision in Atlantic City. Andries would win back his title in 7 months. Czyz would come back to take a split decision over the former WBA champ Leslie Stewart. This earned him a title fight with Virgil Hill who won the title from Stewart for the WBA title. Czyz lost in March over 12 rounds in North Dakota.

A rematch with Williams was arranged for Cyzy in June of 1989 just 3 months after losing to Hill. It seemed there was little more in the offering at the time. This time they fought in Atlantic City with the end result the same losing in 10 in the corner. He decided to go up to cruiserweight and take on Uriah Grant, 17-7. It was a tough fight with Czyz coming out on top. Grant would later win the IBF cruiserweight title in 1997.

A match with the inexperienced Olympian Andrew Maynard, 12-0, was made just over the light heavyweight limit. Czyz suffered a pinch nerve to his neck and advised he couldn’t make 175 but would still take the fight. Czyz stopped him in the seventh when Maynard took a knee for the count. Czyz challenged Maynard’s manager “Sugar” Ray Leonard who was at ringside. It was a fight that would never happen. Like Hearns, Leonard was not interested. Leonard had won the WBC 175 title in 1988.

In March of 1991 Czyz got a title bout with Robert “Preacherman” Daniels for the WBA Cruiserweight title in Atlantic City and took the title by split decision making him a 2 division champ. Daniels was coming off a draw defense after having won 17 straight including defeating Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the vacant title. Czyz was a 3 ½ to 1 underdog. “Daniels was too strong for me. I had to slip and box him,” said Czyz. Daniels would go 16-1 after this before winning the IBO title in 1998.

Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank had signed Czyz for a purse of 225k but came back and said he would have to cut it to 185 but give him 40k in tickets. After Czyz agreed Arum made the announcement to the press he “gave” the tickets to Czyz. When word got out Czyz couldn’t sell the tickets to his friends because they thought he got them for free. He made a deal to sell them for half price with the network which put his purse up to 205k.

In August Czyz defended his title winning every round over Bash Ali, 36-12, over 12 rounds in Atlantic City’s Convention Center. After this fight Ali would fight until he was 46 posting a 29-1 record only losing in another title fight.

It would be 9 months before he would make another defense and was starting to do some broadcasting with Showtime during this period. Czyz defeated former WBC champ Donny Lalonde, 35-3, who had won 4 straight by knockout since losing to Leonard. Czyz would defeat Lalonde over 12 rounds in Las Vegas.

Czyz was hit by a car. The injuries were enormous forcing him to give up his title. It would be 21 months before he came back at his highest weight at 192. He won a decision and 6 months later fought murderous puncher David Izeqwire, 15-0, of Nigeria for his IBO Cruiserweight title. He was knocked down in the fourth and couldn’t answer the bell for the fifth. The injuries from the car accident may have caught up with him. He announced his retirement.

Czyz came out of retirement after 7 months stopping Tim Tomashek, 50-11, in 5 rounds. He was over 200 for the first time in his career. He followed up with a win 6 months later. At the end of the year he stopped Richard “Action” Jackson, 19-0, for the vacant WBU Super Cruiserweight title in 6 rounds.

In May of 1996 Czyz took on Evander Holyfield, 31-3, at Madison Square Garden. He would be fighting on HBO for the first time in his career. After the third round Czyz came back to his corner telling them his eyes were burning like crazy. It was later suspected that Tabasco sauce was put on the gloves. Seems he later found out from “Smokin” Bert Cooper the same thing happened to him against Holyfield. The fight was halted after 4 rounds.

The referee Ron Lipton checked Holyfield’s gloves and didn’t discover anything after the fight. The skin on the face of Czyz was peeling off the next day as if after a bad sunburn. Czyz accused Holyfield of being a dirty fighter with his head and elbows. I don’t think anyone would argue about that if they have seen Holyfield fight. Ask Mike Tyson.

It would be over 2 years out of the ring and Cyzy couldn’t get fighting out of his system. He took on one of the most underrated heavyweights in this writers mind in 6:05 southpaw Corrie Sanders, 33-1, from South Africa. It was for Sanders WBU title. “He hit me so hard and so fast I knew I was finished,” said Czyz. I was over halfway through the second round.

The final record for Czyz was 44-8 with 28 knockouts. He was inducted into the NJHOF in 1998. In 2007 Czyz was in a bad car accident while falling asleep in the back of a car when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a tree head on. The car caught on fire and for almost 10 minutes Czyz was inside receiving burns on his body but worst part was severe damage to his lungs. He was put on a ventilator. He had a miraculous healing.

Czyz is no longer with Showtime but is doing some PPV work. I met him in 2009 at a show in New Jersey that he was broadcasting. We discussed the plane crash in 1980 that I was doing a story on. I would be asked this year to do some stories on retired New Jersey boxers and the first one to come to mind was Czyz. I contacted him and he agreed to do a Q&A.

KEN HISSNER: Bobby, what kind of amateur record did you have and what were some of your accomplishments?

I was 22-4 with 2 Jr. Olympic state championship gold medals and with 2 regional championship gold medals and 1 bronze medal in the nationals. I fought for the US team twice. The first time I won a decision against the Canadians and the second won by third round knockout against the Irish fighter which was on national TV and probably the highlight of my amateur career.

KEN HISSNER: You were scheduled to go to Poland with the US team on the plane that went down in 1980 in which there were no survivors. A car accident the month before in which you suffered a broken nose made it impossible for you to make the trip. Did this influence you in turning pro instead of going to the Olympic trials?

I turned pro BECAUSE WE BOYCOTTED the Olympics in 1980. I figured that I would get a head start on my professional career, not realizing that if I went to the Olympic trials and won, that I could have turned pro making A LOT more money for my early fights.

KEN HISSNER: You won your first 20 fights when your manage Lou Duva offered you a fight with No. 3 rated Mustafa Hamsho. He said the purse was 125 which you turned down. He came back shortly after with a 175k offer. Is that when you started mistrusting his judgement?

It was somewhat of an indication that his judgement would ALWAYS put his needs and the need’s of the promotion first, even at my expense. Based on the way things went down with that fight, my faith in Lou was never the same.

KEN HISSNER: Duva promised you a shot at the IBF 168 champ Murray Sutherland against Chong-Pal Park winner in July of 1984. Duva had Sutherland under contract and when he got knocked out in South Korea by Park told you he had no contract with the new champion, Park. Did you feel deceived?

YES, I DID! Lou told me that he had promotional rights to BOTH FIGHTERS and that I would fight the winner except, he never thought Park would beat Sutherland. He never signed Park! Once again, I felt betrayed and decided that I was intelligent enough and good enough to manage myself to a world title. MAN PEOPLE told me it couldn’t be done but, I PROVED THEM ALL WRONG!

KEN HISSNER: 3 months after the Sutherland-Park fight you defeat Marvin Mack but are now up to 175. Less than a year later Mack gets a title bout with Park and you are winning the 175 IBF title. You defeated Sutherland a year after he lost to Park weighing 169 just before your title fight. Was there a chance to fight Park then?

It didn’t seem probable to fight Park, even though I tried to get that shot. As it was now, I became the mandatory challenger for the 175 title against the winner of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Slobodan Kacar (the 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist). Also, I was feeling a lot more comfortable at 175 than 168. As time and destiny would have it, that was my fate, the light heavyweight world title on September 6, 1986. The day that I would become IMMORTAL AND WALK INTO SPORTS HISTORY!

KEN HISSNER: After 3 title defenses in less than 5 months you take on your mandatory in “Prince” Charles Williams. He was from Ohio but trained out of Philadelphia. You have him down once and only his grabbing the top of the ropes prevented another knockdown. The referee gave him a standing count that is legal in Nevada. Shortly after this you clash heads if served me right. The fight took a complete turnaround at that point. I know you felt the standing count gave him time to recover but did the clash of heads effect the fight along with a badly swollen eye bring about your loss?

The clash of heads is what started my eye swelling so badly. Unfortunately I had over trained for the first Williams fight and was drained (it’s worse than under training by A LOT!) That swelling eventually became a big factor in the fight. There is NO STANDING 8 COUNT in Nevada and we protested that but the protest fell upon deaf ears.

KEN HISSNER: You lose to former WBC champ Denis Andries next but defeat former WBA champ Leslie Stewart after that earning you a shot at Virgil Hill for his IBF title and lose. Fighting a rematch with Williams was next. Do you think that was a wise decision coming off the Hill loss?

At the time, it was the only fight that was offered to me so, I took the fight.

KEN HISSNER: In 1991 you defeat Robert Daniels for the WBA cruiserweight title making you a 2 division champion. After a couple of defenses you are hurt in an accident which causes you to forfeit your title being out 21 months. Were you ever able to regain where you were before this happened?

Yes, this is when I was hit by a car. I had a slight impacted fracture in my pelvis and seriously herniated the L-4 and L-5 vertebrae on the right side of my back. That injury caused me to quit during the David Izeqwire fight. Right now I am in enormous pain from that injury and must go to a specialist for expensive treatments 3-4 times per year.

KEN HISSNER: After a defeat to David Izeqwire for the IBO title you win 3 straight as a heavyweight before losing to Evander Holyfield. Rumor was Tabasco sauce may have been rubbed on his glove(s) but never proven. “Smokin” Bert Cooper told you he had the same result when fighting Holyfield. What were your thoughts and what was done to inspect the gloves or corner? Also, do you believe Holyfield was on steroids?

I had independent corroboration from a NY police officer that Tabasco sauce was on the gloves, but he wouldn’t testify as to how he found out. Holyfield does a monthly cycle of Winstrol before each fight. To bulk up from 188 when he was a cruiserweight, he used anabolic steroids as well as Synthetic Human Growth Hormone to become a legitimate heavyweight. I received this information from an anonymous source but I had no way to verify it. I HONESTLY BELIEVE that Holyfield had so little regard for me that he DIDN’T use the Winstrol when he fought me and didn’t train well either. That is why he was so light and performed poorly.

KEN HISSNER: 2 years later you come out of retirement and fight 6:05 South African southpaw Corrie Sanders for his WBU title and lose in 2 rounds making it your final bout of your career. He would later stop Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO title in shocking fashion. What made you take such an opponent at that time? Was it your advisor Arnie Rosenthal?

Yes, Arnie was advising me but I couldn’t get a fight with anyone else so, I took the shot. Sanders is deceivingly fast and hits harder than it appears on tape. I thought Sanders was ahead when they stopped the Lennox Lewis fight and was robbed.

KEN HISSNER: There are too few good color commentators on the networks especially former boxers. I do believe you will be back on a national level in time. I want to thank you for taking the time and for all your fans out there can you give us some encouragement about that?

I definitely believe that, with my combination of tremendous experience in the boxing world coupled with my MENSA mentality, that I am the MOST QUALIFIED expert analyst that there has ever been but, politics is more powerful than ability. IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!

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