How A Bad Decision Derailed A Career The Arthur Palac Story Interview by Ken Hissner (March 3, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
It was February 26, 2000, and the finals of the US Team trials to determine the 2000 US Olympic team. The two combatants were not strangers to each other. They had met three times going back to March of 1998 at the Colorado Springs US Championships. Tonight in one corner was 22 year old St. Petersburg, Florida’s Jeff Lacy, the 1998 US Champion. In the other corner was the 19 year old, 6:05, 178# southpaw, Arthur Palac, from the Hamtramck section of Detroit, who was the #165 Golden Glove champion in 1999 and Silver medalist in the Pan Am Games that same year.
In their first meeting in 1998 US Championships finals Lacy won by referee stoppage in the 2nd round. A year later the young Palac defeated Lacy 13-11 to win the US Championships in Colorado Springs. That same year Palac won the first of his two Golden Glove titles in May of 1999 in Syracuse. He had to defeat Johnny Torres, Matt Godfrey, Tommy Walker, Julius Fogle and Jerson Ravelo in the finals. “Palac is one of the reasons behind me changing my style as a left hander. I wanted to style myself after him. He did things that seemed effortless. He was very difficult to fight. He was probably best at 165 and certainly would have medaled in the 2000 Olympics,” said Matt Godfrey.
In their third meeting two weeks before tonight Palac defeated Lacy in the finals of the US Team trials 12-9. He had to reverse a loss to Ravelo 10-8 on Feb 9th (fifth meeting, Palac 3-2); In between he defeated Brad Austin 12-2, Fogle 16-4 and after Ravelo he defeated Randy Griffin 18-10 just to meet Lacy in the end. Six fights in six nights. The stage was set.
I watched it live on the tube and was amazed the way Palac was scoring with his jab as Lacy tried to get inside. What was even more amazing is they would show the scoring of the judges and it seemed Palac would land and Lacy on occasions would get the point. I wasn’t the only one that thought that. “They may have mixed-up the scores with that Computer scoring which was a joke,” said Odell Nelson. This was coming from the trainer of Jermain Taylor who qualified for that Olympic team. When it was announced 10-9 in favor of Lacy the fans let the judges know their displeasure.
Young Palac had been living his father’s dream. Ted Palac was more than his father. He was his trainer. He was on the 1966 Polish team that went to Sweden for a match and didn’t return to Communist Poland, staying in Sweden for two years before going to the United States. “My older son, David, was the 1995 GG champion and the 1996 US welterweight champion and Arthur learned a lot from him,” said Ted Palac. “My two million dollar boys,” he would call David and Arthur. “It wasn’t meant for him to make the Olympics as a boxer, but maybe it is as a coach“, said the younger Palac. Last year coach Palac was in China with team USA and still going strong.
When the younger Palac left the ring that night he let the judges know his feelings. “I guess they didn’t want a white guy on the team,” said Palac. This writer was disgusted even back then with the computer scoring and had no way of feeling his pain and others who got the short end of the stick. There were others not only from his 1999 and 2000 Golden Glove team’s but one’s who know boxing at ringside who let me know what they saw and thought that night. “It’s terrible what they did to Arthur. I’m getting a lawyer. I’m working on them to change the decision, and do something about the corruption“, said Ted Palac. The elder Palac spent $12,000.00 in legal fees and had a Chicago judge agree the decision was not correct, but couldn’t change it.
Others at ringside voiced their opinions to this writer. “I was there when Palac lost to Jeff Lacy in the 2000 Olympic Box-Off and with all due respect to Jeff I thought Palac won that fight pretty convincingly. His southpaw style was too much for Lacy on that night as it looked to me. He was a very good southpaw, tall, used his jab-left hand combination to great effect against Lacy in that fight,” said John “Iceman” Scully. This is from someone who had a good amateur career and professional career who is training fighters today and is an excellent broadcaster. He is also one who has stayed on top of the amateur boxing program. Today he is training Lawrence Clay-Bey’s son, who is an amatuer. He also trains Matt Godfrey who will be fighting for vacant IBF title in March and who fought Palac.
“Palac won that fight over Lacy,” said Demitrius Hopkins. He was another member of the 1999 GG team. “Palac was smart, tall, slick. I thought he beat Lacy,” said Anthony “Messenger” Thompson. He was a member of the 2000 GG team and stable mate of Hopkins as professionals in Philly. “Arthur was a good friend of mine. I traveled the world with him winning national titles. Great guy,” said Eric Kelly. He was a member of the 2000 GG team and represented Northern Michigan University. “I knew him and his father real well along with his brother David. Arthur was a good boxer who used his reach. His father was a great man. The fight between him and Lacy was close, but I think USA Boxing already knew who they were taking at the time,” said Ron Siler. A 2000 GG teammate, Siler, finally turned pro in January of 2010 and probably hit the nail on the head as far as picking the team ahead of time.
“Artur Palac was amazing! I thought he should have gone to the Olympics. He was robbed in that Lacy fight,” said Dennis Hasson. Like Kelly, Hasson also attended NMU and was a Ringside Tournament champion and currently 9-0 as a professional out of Philly. I remember Jesse Valdez getting short changed in the finals of the 1972 Olympics losing to the Cuban in the finals and never turning pro. “I thought the bout (3rd fight vs Lacy) was close in the trials and could have gone either way, but the box-off was the one I felt like Palac should have gotten the decision. That was a very entertaining bout,” said Larry Nicholson. As assistant coach at NMU from 1999-2007 Nicholson had won the 1992 PAL title, 1993 Silver World Tourney, #1 ranked 1994, 1995 Bronze World Tourney, 1996 won Eastern trials, 1999 Bronze in both National’s and US Challenge.
In January of 2000 at Colorado Springs, Palac defeated Daryl Woods, Tommie Stepp and Brad Austin, but lost in a walk over to Matt Godfrey due to a perforated eardrum. In February he loses to Jerson Ravelo in their second meeting 10-8 in the Olympic Trials. He went on to defeat Austin, Julius Fogle and Ravelo (10-5). Then he defeats Randy Griffin, in the finals of the challenger’s bracket at the trials. “He was a very good boxer,” said Al Mitchell. Mitchell has been coaching at NMU since 1984 and Stepp was one of his boxers. Another one of his boxers, David Reid, 1996 Gold Medalist fought David Palac four times.
Another member of the 1999 GG team and top heavyweight DaVarryl Williamson remembered Palac well. “They had to take that kid except for politics. He was 6:05 and a southpaw. Lacy had a professional style and they should have known he wouldn’t do as well as Palac“, said Williamson. In the Olympics Lacy defeated a Brazilian and a Pole, but was stopped by the Russian Gaidarbekov. Only 18 at the time unbeaten Carney “Beeper” Bowman, 14-0, of York, PA, who was the 2003 National Golden Gloves Featherweight champion remembers Palac. “He was long and tall and could fight,” said Bowman.
“Arthur was one of the tallest southpaws for his weight and difficult to fight considering he threw many punches and had such a long reach. The fights that were entertaining were those with Lacy. He was a reserved individual and had a European style which was different from the US style, but it worked well for him and he was a good boxer who would stick and move. He was a nice guy and his dad was his coach throughout his career,” said Roberto Benitez. Benitez was a member of the 1999 GG team at 112 and a member of the 2004 Olympic team. Another 1999 team member, Sechew Powell, now a 25-2 light middleweight in an IBF eliminator next month, said “Palac was a good fighter.” One of the top trainers in the business, amateur and pro, Nazim Richardson, whose son’s Rock and Tiger Allen fought when Palac did, said “Palac was outstanding, and one helluva fighter.” He also now trains his nephew Karl “Dynamite” Dargan, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Steve Cunningham.
“Arthur is a cool respectful guy. I lost to him three times in the amateurs. His reach, height and southpaw stance gave me and just about everyone he faced fits. He wasn’t the strongest or hardest puncher, but had a little snap at the end of his punches and he knew exactly how to use his reach to keep the proper distance to touch his opponent and stay away from incoming punches. Most people felt he beat Jeff Lacy in the trials and should have made the 2000 Olympic team. I felt he would have stood a better chance on the International Olympic style of boxing that he had than Lacy,” said Julius Fogle. Currently Fogle is 15-2 (10) and about to retire from the US Army in March.
In 1996 Palac won two Invitational Dual meets in Canada. In 1997 he won three matches in the Golden Gloves in Denver losing to Bobby Lewis. Palac became the Junior National Champion defeating R Davis. In 1998 he defeated Randy Griffin 23-11 in the US Box-Off in Colorado Springs. . He was victorious over Javier Pizarro in the US vs PR dual meet. He also participated in the Goodwill Games. In the 1998 Junior Championships he stopped Olin Frazier, while defeating Matt Godfrey and Les Ralston for the title. In the US Championships he beat Kendall Gould and lost to Lacy in what would be the first of four meetings being stopped by the referee in the 2nd round. In March of 1999 he came of age winning the USA Boxing National Championship with a win over Lacy 13-11. He had to defeat Ravelo in the previous match. In May he won a USA vs Mexico match over Efren Alvarado 24-3. Later that month, he won his first Golden Gloves title defeating Jason Ravelo 3-2 in Syracuse, New York.
In July Palac went to the 1999 Winnipeg Pan Am Games and in the finals lost to Cuban Yohanson Martinez by 12-7, bringing home the Silver Medal. “I had an egg sized knot on my left shoulder from my last fight,” said Palac. The team won one Gold Medal, three Silvers and three Bronze. Palac had defeated David Sanchez-Leyva of Mexico and Jim Rodriguez of Venezuela to go the finals. “He (Cuban) had a style just like mine and was the best I met along with Andriy Fedchuka of the Ukraine. He lost to the latter in the under 19 World Championships in November of 1998 by a 5-3 score in Bueno Aires after stopping Puerto Rico’s Carlos Charles in the 1st round. “Palac was a very good amateur. I wish he could have furthered his career and maybe even turn pro. I’m sure he is doing well with whatever he decided to pursue,” said Dominic Guinn. This was another member of the 1999 GG team and a one-time top heavyweight contender and still active.
After the Olympic Trials Palac at #178 won the Golden Gloves National Championship again defeating Philly’s Terrance Johnson in the final and DeAndrey Abron, BJ Flores and James Long along the way. The event was held at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. “He was very European in using his jab and I couldn’t touch him,” said Terrance Johnson. Middleweight title challenger Lajuan Simon from Philly remembers Palac well. “I was in the 2000 Gloves when he beat Terrance Johnson. I couldn’t believe how tall and slick he was,” said Simon. Former IBF Cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham was the 1998 #178 GG champion and remembered Palac well. “I saw a few of the Lacy/Palac fights. They went back and forth. In the last one, some thought Lacy had it, while others thought Palac should have won. I think that Palac had a lot of skill as an amateur and would have been a good pro,” said Cunningham. He will meet Matt Godfrey for the vacant IBF title in March.
From winning the GG in May of 2000, Palac moved up to 200# in April of 2001 defeating Alvaro Morales and Malachy Farrell. “I had been shoulder butted prior to the tourney in sparring and again in the tourney (Farrell), having my nose broken,” said Palac. He was unable to compete in the final against Charles Ellis and lost by walk over. “I told the ringside doctor he could fight in the finals but they wouldn’t let him,” said Ted Palac. The Farrell fight would be the last for Palac. “I tried going back to the gym several years later, but I had no snap to my jab and my knees were bad. I finally had my nose fixed so I could breathe again and decided not to fight again,” said Palac.
Some of the other past opponents of Palac’s went onto the pro ranks like Randy Griffin, 24-2-3, who drew with current WBA Middleweight champion Felix Sturm in a title bout before losing in a rematch last year. Ellis went 5-0 before retiring in 2007. Jerson Ravelo, 20-4, is still active. BJ Flores, 24-0-1, is a top cruiser contender. DeAndrey Abron, 15-6, is in the Kelly Pavlik stable. Terrance Johnson was 4-1 when he retired. Malachy Farrell was 16-2 with his last bout in 2008. Matt Godfrey is 20-1 and fighting for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title in March. Of course Jeff Lacy went on to win and lose the IBF super middleweight title and is currently 25-3. “I remember that kid (Palac) and can’t believe he never turned pro,” said Jesse Reid. Reid is one of the top trainers in the business and assisting Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym. Reid has had his share of champions and knows talent when he sees it.
Today, Palac is an Area Manager for Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko. The politics of the amateurs was expressed by many earlier and turning professional as an Olympian as opposed to losing in the trials is a matter of dollars and cents. “The money was not there at the end like it is today, so I didn’t turn professional,” said Palac. Whenever I think of or hear the name Arthur Palac I have to think WHAT IF? I hope through this story his name will be revived and people will look at the amateur scoring system a little closer and make demands on change!