Kenny Rainford – The Man the Heavyweights Look Up to!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (June 21, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Earnie Shavers & Kenny Rainford

They call Earnie Shavers the hardest hitting boxer of all time. After boxing he worked for Kenny Rainford for 10 years in the UK. Rainford and Shavers go back a long way together around 1985 or 1986. On occasions Rainford gets the heavyweights like Shavers, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon and others together in the UK.

“Earnie is probably my best friend in life. I could tell you stories forever about me and Earnie. He was still training hard up until 2008 when he went back to the states. We talk all the time on the phone. He’s a hard worker no matter what he does. He puts his all into it. Whether it be writing his book (Welcome to the Big Time) or training or working as a greeter,” said Rainford.

“I was training in Consett County in Durham as an amateur alongside Glenn McCrory (IBF Cruiserweight champion). His manager then Beau Williford stated he liked what he saw after I sparred with Anthony Witherspoon (brother to Tim) and stated if I wanted to turn professional I could get exposure on Glenn’s undercard,” said Rainford. He signed with Williford but didn’t fight on the card. McCrory lost to Jeff Lampkin and with it went the title.

“I met Kenny about 25 years ago (after about a year of phone calls) in London, at the world famous Thomas A. Beckett Gym. He was a young boy interested in boxing and was very knowledgeable. He came to training camp in 1989, to spar with Glenn McCrory. Good boxer with a big punch, but low confidence level. Over the next few years he would come to the USA and I would put him in matches. His son Lee was conceived in my home! Great guy, who I believe could have really gone somewhere if he had believed in himself as much as others believed in his ability,” said Williford.

When he felt it was time to turn professional Rainford was 26 and would travel to the US. He would be on a card in Natchez, MS, in November of 1992 against Aaron Nance. “I stopped him in 3 with body shots,” said Rainford. In February he would be fighting in Oklahoma City, OK, against Anthony Campbell, 25-45-2. It would be Campbell’s 70th fight even though he had a losing record that’s a lot of experience to be up against. Rainford got hit very hard in the second round. “I thought the world ended,” said Rainford. He managed to win the fight over 4 rounds.

In February of 1993 Rainford would travel to Boston, and discover why you don’t fight a hometown fighter at home. He lost over 4 rounds to Jose Burgos, 1-1, from Boston. In March he would be back in MS but at the Casino Magic, Bay St. Louis, stopping Brian Sutherland 0-1, in 0:56 of the first round over the USA Tuesday Night Fights network. Former world champion Larry Holmes would be on the card. “I was training mainly in Lafayette, LA, but also trained in Vegas, AZ and NM with Earnie Shavers. I trained with Larry Holmes for a week and it was a great experience. He educated me to no end.

In April Rainford lost a split decision to Michael Moore, 3-0, in Tulsa, OK. “I won that fight, no doubt about it. I offered him a return match with winner take all but he would have none of it,” said Rainford. Moore would not give him a rematch and retired. In May he would have two bouts just one day apart. He stopped Joey Hague, in one round in Ft. Smith, ARK, on May 13th. The following day he traveled to Greenville, MS, stopping Mike Tobler, in the second round. He went back to the UK for 14 months. “Sadly in the Tobler fight I broke my left hand in 3 places with the last punch of the fight, one I did not need to throw but never mind. Earnie and Beau used to tell me no one hit the pads harder,” said Rainford.

Rainford would come back to the states and have two fights a week apart stopping Sammy Clounts in 3 in Ft. Smith, ARK, and Ray Stewart, in the main event in the first round in New Orleans, LA. After 10 months he would have a return bout again in Ft. Smith this time winning a decision over Clounts.

In July of 1996, some 17 months later, Rainford defeated David Robinson, 18-33-3, in Ft. Smith over 4 rounds. It would be his last fight in the US. Another 23 months passed before he would fight again in Liverpool, defeating Robert Peel, 4-25-1, over 4 rounds. Just over 2 weeks later he had his first 6 round bout defeating Paul Bonson, 4-8-4, in the same Liverpool site of Everton Park Sports Centre.

In March of 2000 after being off for 21 months Rainford took on cruiserweight Brian Kilbride, 2-0, at Birkenhead, Merseyside, where he resides. “It should have been my easiest fight but I dislocated my left shoulder in the first round,” said Rainford. He gutted it out for 6 rounds losing the decision.

In his book “Welcome to the Big Time” Earnie Shavers had this to say about Rainford: Once again, God intervened in my life when he put me in touch with an old friend. I got a phone call from Kenny Rainford, asking me to visit him in England and speak at a boxing dinner. I accepted in the blink of an eye, figuring the trip would clear my mind. He had been a fan of mine ever since he saw me fight Jimmy Ellis and Muhammad Ali on television in 1977. He lived on the Wirral and did most of his training in nearby Liverpool. The boxing hero of most fight fans in England was Henry Cooper, but for Rainford, it was me.

“The reason I had gaps in my career were injuries. I made the Guiness Book of Records by being the last Brit to box twice in 2 days. The British Boxing Board of Control changed the rules after to say no boxer could box more than once in a week. My little claim to fame,” said Rainford.

From another part of Shaver’s book: Rainford started following my career as a nine-year-old kid. He loves to tell the story how he was sitting on the couch when the Ali-Shavers fight came on. Rainford watched the full 15 rounds, and then started collecting all the available video footage of my fights, even exhibition bouts. He probably knew more about me than I knew about myself. When he was old enough, he eventually trained in the United States to jump-start his own career as a light heavyweight. He trained in Louisiana under the tutelage of Beau Williford. He got my phone number through a mutual friend and asked me to help him out. It was the start of a long friendship.

I discovered I enjoyed training, giving advice and sharing my ring knowledge with Kenny. In turn, Kenny was easy to teach and was willing to pay the price. He listened well, trained hard and was dedicated to the sport. I even had him chopping trees. He reminded me a lot of myself during my climb to the top. His first 11 fights were in the US, but he had a security company he had started back home that was beginning to take off. He went back to England, but we stayed in touch. Now he wanted me over in jolly ol’ England to train him and do some public relations for his security business. It sounded like a blast, and I took the lad up on his offer.

I flew over in early 1998 and had a great time. I made a few personal appearances for Kenny’s company, Security Conscious that went over very well. In England, boxers are revered to the point of worship. It felt good to be in the presence of true fans, and I enjoyed myself so much that when Kenny approached me with an idea he had, I didn’t think twice before accepting.

“Earnie, business is very good since you’ve been here,” he said. “I want you to move here so I can put you on a lifetime salary and benefits.” I told him I’d be back as soon as I tied up some loose ends in the States.

“Honey, I’m home,” I said in a pleasant tone to Lynette as I walked through the door in Aurora. “But I’m leaving again just as soon as I get my bags packed.” When she found out what I had in mind, Lynette started right in with the honey-glazed Bible talk. “Earnie, God said that we must forgive others or He won’t forgive us,” Lynette said. “Do you forgive me?” “I do, Lynette,” I answered.

But forgiveness was the last of what she wanted from me. Putting her hand on my arm, Lynette purred, “Darling, please fly me over to England with you so I can show you how much I love you. I want to be with you and only you.” “The only things I’m taking to England,” I told her, “are these suitcases. I’m leaving all the excess baggage behind, including you.” She got the message loud and clear, followed by divorce papers shortly thereafter. This Acorn was on a roll.

Rainford would be off for 7 years until May of 2007, winning a decision over Mickey German. Shavers boxed an exhibition on the card. In May of 2008 Rainford won over Lee Wigley. Larry Holmes was there as guest of honor. In 2009 Rainford defeated Neil Harwood stopping him in the second round. In October he fought an exhibition with Tim Witherspoon. In March of 2010 he stopped Peter Mc Jobb in 3 rounds. These 4 bouts were under the European Boxing Federation. Overall he is 15-3 with 6 knockouts and ranked No. 10 in the cruiserweight ratings of the EBF.

Over the years Rainford has come in contact with many well known people of the boxing world: I was driving in a limo with Ali and Steve Crossen when Ali told tme of his huge desire to screw as many women as he could. Seeing first hand why Ron Lyle only needed to work on his own in Ellis Island. In Vegas no one messes with Lyle. Walking into the Top Rank Gym in Vegas and asking Bruce Trampler (TR MM) if there was any good sparring there only to be told a few like Mike McCallum, Iran Barkley and Virgil Hill. I’ve spent quite some time with Hagler. He will not let the Leonard thing go ever. I’ve also met Leonard quite a bit. Also, Hearns and Duran (Talking good English as well! Very funny guy). Ernie Terrell, lovely human being as is George Chuvalo.

I found Tommy Morrison OK. Met George Foreman twice and spoke on the phone to him. Didn’t like him at first! Seemed moody and bullish but when I met him with Earnie (Shavers) a different man saying he wouldn’t fight Earnie because he punched too hard. I used to talk to Tex Cobb and Ron Stander all the time. Great guys! Just lost touch with them during my 2005 divorce. I thought with more people behind him Bobby Crabtree could have been a different fighter. I used to spar with him. A tremendous puncher but no self belief!

One of the fondest memories is sitting in the Sheffield Inn in Vegas with Eddie Futch talking about Joe Louis and telling me about how he thought Bob Satterfield hit harder than Sonny Liston. Also how he would never let Earnie near Norton, saying he saw Earnie destroy and KO Mac Foster in the gym. He swore no one hit harder than Earnie. No one! He said Earnie trained in CA in 1972 for 2 weeks. After a week no heavyweights entered the gym. Having Earnie in the gym was bad for business.

Shavers lived in the UK for 10 years. Rainford invited him over to speak and take a look at his security business. “Kenny asked me to be a greeter and spokesman which I did for 10 years making good money. When the contract ran out I wanted to return to the US to be with family,” said Shavers. The two of them have a strong bonding relationship. “Kenny was one of the nicest guys you ever want to meet in life. He’s been very good to me and is a very powerful man,” said Shavers.

The Kenny Rainford’s of this world are rare. He didn’t forget his friends from the US when he returned to the UK. Not only did he stay in touch but welcomed them over for get-togethers. Though a fan, he is one who has boxed and knows what it takes to get into the ring. Hopefully one of these days in the near future it will be Rainford’s turn to return to the US and be welcomed by his many friends he has come in contact with over the years!


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