|Interview with Bobby ‘Boogaloo’ Watts: One of Philly’s Finest! - Boxing
Interview By Ken Hissner (March 6, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
In the mid 70’s the names that rang out in Philly were some of the middleweight divisions top contenders like ‘Bad’ Bennie, ‘Willie the Worm’, ‘Cyclone’, ‘Kitten’, ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Boogaloo’. Many times in recent years I would see the still slender, now top trainer with the big cowboy hat at the amateur and pro shows. I approached him one day to do a story on his former super middleweight world champion, Charles ‘Hatchet’ Brewer. He was always obliging at the Shuler gym, in Philly. I found it more difficult later on to get him to talk about his own career but we finally did it over a two hour period. Even though he left some stones unturned he gave me enough to bring back ‘that old time feeling.’
Ken Hissner: If I didn’t ask you how you got that nickname I would kick myself later.
Bobby Watts: It was an amateur championship fight in Vineland, New Jersey. First in the ring was Johnny Jones. Then I made my entrance “dancing” up the aisle and into the ring. The ring announcer said “in the
red corner Johnny ‘Shing-A-Ling’ Jones. In the blue corner from Philadelphia Bobby ‘Boogaloo’ Watts.” (We laughed). There were two big dances popular then and that’s the first time I was ever introduced by that name.
KH: Well, Bobby ‘Shing-A-Ling’ Watts just wouldn’t have had the same ring to it. Tell us something about your amateur background.
BW: I was about 43-5 out of the 23rd PAL in Philly. Cyclone Hart was a friend I brought to the gym. Joe Frazier, Gypsy Joe Harris, and Bennie Briscoe were training there. Frank Hamilton started as my trainer. It was 1964.
KH: I’ve been to that gym many times. You better know how to fight when you walk through that door at 23rd and Columbia to train. I think the first time I saw you was on TV at the 1968 Olympic trials against Armando Muniz.
BW: We were in the finals against each other in Ohio. I got dropped in that
fight and lost a decision. He was representing the Army. That was a tough loss.
KH: You win your first 3 fights between Baltimore and DC. Then you come to the Blue Horizon and win 3 more. Then you are in Las Vegas. How did that come about?
BW: I was training out there with my cousin Jimmy Young. I had 3 fights winning the first two.
KH: You lose for the first time against Clarence Geigger (10-0-1). What happened?
BW: I won every round but by the end of the 6th I was exhausted. I took it on short notice and didn’t pace myself right.
KH: Then you make the strange decision 5 months later to go to L.A. for a rematch with your Olympic trials foe, Armando Muniz, losing a 6 round decision.
BW: I had no idea in those days about locations and judging. I knew I won that fight. Muniz came up to me afterwards and said “this wasn’t like the first time.”
KH: You return to Philly and win 6 in a row plus one in New York. You then go up to Scranton in what would be a 3 fight series with Ralph Palladin (22-1). He had just won the NABF light middleweight title avenging his only loss to Matt Donovan.
BW: He was being groomed for a title fight. Even though I had fought many guys who held titles I never fought for one.
KH: You win a decision over Palladin and gain some notoriety. You sign for a rematch.
BW: I thought I beat him worse in the rematch and they called it a draw. They robbed me. I signed for a third fight in Baltimore where he was from.
KH: To go to his hometown after getting robbed you must have thought you could stop him?
BW: I didn’t want to sound cocky, but when I got there I put my two fists up in the air and told the reporters “I brought my own judges.” I stopped him in the 6th round.
KH: You then go to Madison Square Garden to fight Alvin Phillips (29-10-1) who had just beaten Willie ‘The Worm’ Monroe the previous month for the first time in 3 fights. He had wins over ‘Kitten’ Hayward, Charley Shipes, and Ronnie Harris.
BW: It was a good fight for both of us. One was trying to outsmart the other.
KH: You were unbeaten in 11 fights and returning to Philly for the first time in over a year. You fight Don Cobbs (18-8-1) and suffer what would be your only loss in over 20 fights in Philly during your entire career. What happened?
BW: I was playing around with him and got hit off balance. I saw the referee starting to count for a knockdown and I took a knee. When he got to 9 I started to get up and missed the count. The fight was over. I couldn’t believe it.
KH: Two wins later you are matched with Cobbs again and score a knockout in 3. What was going through your mind prior to this fight?
BW: I couldn’t wait until I got my revenge.
KH: Next you are in with veteran Manny Gonzalez (60-28-6) who was supposed to fight Gypsy Joe Harris back in 1968 when they discovered Gypsy was blind in one eye.
BW: After I decisioned him, he told me “you’re a good, smart fighter.”
KH: At the end of 1973 you go to the Felt Form in New York and win a split decision over Mario Rosa (12-3). Was it a tough fight?
BW: I know I didn’t look my best because his southpaw style was confusing.
KH: The next fight you are in with your boyhood friend Cyclone Hart. What happened?
BW: We were friends growing up together. The promoter Russell Peltz was putting together a tourney between the Philly fighters and we were matched together. I hit him with a 5 punch combination putting him through the ropes and he didn’t get back in time. (This all happened in the first round at 2:49)
KH: Next fight is with Willie ‘The Worm’ Monroe (29-2-1). You win a decision and must have thought you would fight Emile Griffith next. Peltz said “Bennie Briscoe was in the middle of bigger things at the time so he didn’t fight in the tourney.”
BW: Griffith beat Bennie the month before in Philly by majority decision and I thought I would get the winner but it never happened. I even asked for Briscoe.
KH: You go 10 months without a fight after beating both Philly guys. How come?
BW: I felt like I was being black balled. I finally got a fight with James Marshall (11-3) from California.
KH: You stopped him at the end of the 9th. Was it a tough fight?
BW: This guy had just came from Australia where he scored 2 knockouts. One was over Tony Mundine (47-5-1). I knew this was not going to be an easy opponent. He was one of the roughest and hardest hitters I have ever been in with.
KH: Next up is Marvin Hagler (25-0-1) the future world champion. You win a majority decision. This would be the first of 5 fights Hagler would have in Philly.
BW: I had been sparring with light heavyweight Wayne McGee. It was waring me down.
I felt I had over trained and only weighed 155 ½ . Hagler was walking in but didn’t throw that many punches when he got inside.
KH: You only have 2 fights the rest of 1976 and against a pair of club fighters. Why?
BW: I wasn’t hooked up with any promoter. Peltz said “promotional contracts were not the same in those days. Watts was a terrific boxer with a fair to good punch like a whip.”
KH: In January of 1977 you go into Don King’s U.S. Championship tournament. You fight Reggie Ford from Guyana in Florida. This would be your 13th straight win.
BW: He was a very good fighter.
KH: In the next round you fight David Love (28-12) who had stopped Monroe in 4 in his previous fight. You were also stopped in 4 rounds. What happened?
BW: I went into that fight overconfident and got caught. I wasn’t able to get a rematch.
KH: You get a win then go to Jersey City of all places to fight Mustafa Hamsho (15-1-2).
BW: I didn’t realize how dirty this guy was. He used his thumbs quite a bit, but the referee (Larry Hazzard) never penalized him. I got hit on the ribs a couple of times and was hurt. The ref jumped in and stopped it in the 6th. I didn’t want it stopped.
KH: The next fight is in Italy with Norberto Cabrera (21-6-5) who you decision. How did you end up in Italy?
BW: It was on the undercard of Marvin Johnson’s defense against Mate Parlav. Cabrera was from the Argentine but quite a few of his fights had been in Italy.
KH: You are off for 10 months then pick up a couple of early knockouts and are matched with Hagler again. This time you are in Portland, Maine. You get stopped in 2 rounds.
BW: I took the fight on a week’s notice. My timing wasn’t there. I was not prepared.
KH: 19 months later you are back to your home state of South Carolina. You score 3 knockouts in 4 months. How did that come about?
BW: I was there for a funeral. A promoter saw me in the gym and asked if I had any fights. I told him, “a couple.” He asked my name, and I told him. He recognized it.
KH: You come back to Hershey, Pennsylvania and get another knockout win and again are off for 8 months before going to London losing to England’s Mark Kaylor (21-0).
BW: I wasn’t planning to fight again but took this fight for the money.
KH: In looking at his record I see after he became Commonwealth champ he got stopped by Philly’s Buster Drayton (18-8-1) almost a year to the day you fought him.
BW: I was training Buster then and knew Kaylor well so we went over there and got the win.
KH: Tell us about the fighters you have and are now training.
BW: I worked with Drayton who became IBF light middleweight champion. I also worked with IBF featherweight champion Calvin Grove at the end of his career. He had some nice fights in Australia including a win over Jeff Fenech, the former IBF bantam and WBC feather champion. It was really nice down there. From 1989 thru 2005 I trained Charles ‘Hatchet’ Brewer, the IBF super middleweight champion. I’m preparing Rogers Mtagwa for his NABF featherweight title defense March 7th.
KH: I appreciate you taking the time with me. I look forward to seeing you on the 7th.
BW: It’s been my pleasure and I’ll see you there.
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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