|The James Scott Story
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (June 21, 2009)
I first saw him over 40 years ago on national television (NBC) inside a prison, inside a ring and now inside a gym. It was Rahway, New Jersey then and Trenton, New Jersey’s Goss & Goss gym ran by Sammy and Barry Goss.
I could hardly believe my eyes, it was him. James Scott, the man they called “Superman”! In my mind I flashed back to 1978 when he was in with the #1 contender in the light heavyweight division, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (29-3-1), the future WBA champion. Promoter Murad Muhammad brought him in to give a boxing lesson to Scott
who thought to pose no threat while allowing Mustafa Muhammad some exposure.
Mustafa Muhammad knew he was in a fight early. Murad must have been sweating it out seeing his fighter blowing a title chance. Muhammad had won 16 of his last 17 fights marred by a disputed championship with WBA champion Victor Galindez in Italy. Here was Scott beating the next opponent for the champion Galindez. Mustafa Muhammad two years later would defeat Marvin Johnson who got Mustafa Muhammad’s shot and defeated Galindez. Where did Scott fit, in this picture? If it were right to come into Rahway to put a fight on NBC, then why not Scott in a title fight? His manager was Al “Yah Yah” Dickens, also an inmate.
As I sat with Scott we talked about his beginnings in Newark’s Market Street gym. How he went down to Miami to start his pro career after serving time, to get away from the area. Angelo Dundee took him under his wing when Scott turned pro at 26 and debuted stopping John L. Johnson (9-0) in the 6th and final round. In February he knocked out 2 more opponents. In March they
brought in Baby Boy Rolle (33-9-2) from the Bahamas, who 5 months prior to this went 15 rounds for the British Empire title with future world champion John Conteh. Scott stopped him in the 8th and final round.
In April he won a pair of 10 round decisions. The second one was with Ray Anderson (35-11-2) who had gone 15 rounds with the murderous puncher and WBC champion Bob Foster. He also had draws with contenders Jimmy Dupree and Allen Thomas along with wins over other contenders Gregorio Peralta and Hal “TNT” Carroll. A knockout in May and a decision win in July followed. In September a defensive specialist named Dave Lee Royster (5-5) came in who cut Scott’s eye, requiring 8 stitches. The result was a disputed draw. “I thought I did enough to win the fight. I would get a rematch in Rahway 7 years later,” said Scott.
We talked about his being in Rahway, Trenton State, Yardville, Northern State and a place called Escher, for the past 1½ years. We were halfway through the interview before I realized he was still an inmate at Escher. He had their trust to walk to the gym each night and get driven back by some from the gym. He was an obvious bright person while talking about Emerson and quoting scripture, but still after over 30 years in the prison system, at age 61. Every day due to over crowding prisoners are being released. You have to shake your head. He had been set up by a drug dealer who borrowed his car and robbed someone of $150.00. Scott was accused of the crime. “I told them I am a boxer making good money, with good people like the Dundee’s and Ali, so why would I need to go out and commit a robbery? Scott would find the real criminal and after having words this scum of the earth would never make another drug deal ruining more lives. He defended himself in the murder charge and it ended up a hung jury. He was still sent away to Rahway for the robbery.
It was 1975 and Scott by this time had won his last fight outside of prison walls in defeating unbeaten Jesse Burnett (8-0-1), a future world contender, over 10 rounds in Miami Beach, bringing his record to (10-0-1) with 5 knockouts in just 13 months.
In Rahway, Scott, would spar with fellow inmate Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, being the only person that could go 3 rounds with him. Scott would convince those head of the system to allow professional boxing at Rahway. It had been over 3 years since he last fought and 2 ordinary fighters were brought in and were easily knocked out by Scott. Next would be Mustafa Muhammad. “I wrote a letter to Bob Hope, the comedian, who had something to do with the ownership of NBC, asking him to cover this memorial event” said Scott. Hope a former boxer himself in England, fought under the name of Packy East. Whether it was Hope or not, NBC came in to cover their fight.
Next would be contender Richie Kates (36-4) 5 months later in March of 1979. He had lost a controversial decision to Galindez in South Africa. Kate’s was also a correctional officer at another prison. In an earlier interview Kates had told me “very intimidating. All the inmates are screaming at me and surrounding the ring where they could almost reach out and grab you,” said Kate’s. I had interviewed Martin who said “I was very nervous the day before the fight at the weigh-in. I am glad I got that out of the way because I was not nervous at the fight,” said Martin. Scott would stop Kate’s in the 10th and final round.
In July of 1979 the British champion Bunny Johnson of Jamaica (52-11-1) was brought in. Scott gave Johnson such a terrific beating to the body that he quit on the stool at the end of the 7th round. Just 6 weeks later in August the Italian champ, a southpaw, Ennio Cometti (30-4-3) was brought over. Scott easily stopped him on a cut over his left eye at the end of the 5th round. “I knew he wanted to go to sleep when he entered the ring,” said Scott.
In October Jerry Celestine (18-4-1) who had just stopped contender Lonnie Bennet came into Rahway. The scores reflected on how Scott beat Celestine. Two judges had it 9-1 and the other 8-2. In December the veteran contender Yaqui Lopez (47-8) who the previous year had lost to Galindez over 15 rounds was brought in. “He talked how he was going to beat me,” said Scott. “I kept jabbing him and he didn’t know what to do,” he added. Again, it was a lopsided fight with scores of 8-2, 7-3 and 6-3.
It would be almost 6 months before his next fight when an unknown (to Scott) fighter from Philly named Jerry “The Bull” Martin (18-1) was brought in. He had just won both the USBA and NABF titles in his previous fight with Burnett. He had a winning streak of 12 including Celestine. There were rumors the inmates were going to go on strike causing the fight to be postponed. Scott had gone to them begging them to hold off. “One of the inmates had informed Martin’s people how I would drop my left hand. Martin was well prepared when we met. On the other hand I knew nothing about him,” said Scott. “I had a bad habit of dropping my left hand and he came right out and dropped me with a right hand in the 1st round. It happened again in the 2nd round,” he added. At the end of 10 rounds Scott would suffer his first defeat by scores of 6-4 (twice) and 7-3. “He was the strongest fighter I ever met,” said Scott.
It would be 15 months before Scott would be given another fight. It was August of 1981 and the rematch with Royster, with whom he drew with back in 1974 in Miami Beach. Royster was stopped in 0:52 of the 7th round. Just 4 weeks later future WBC champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi (14-1-1), the “Camden Buzzsaw” was brought in. He had a fight with Mustapha Muhammad who was now WBC champion lined up next. He had just destroyed former champion Mike Rossman. “Even though the fans may not like it, you box a slugger, and you slug with a boxer,” said Scott. “We were given only 6 ounce gloves, certainly benefiting Qawi. He was a tough short fighter,” said Scott. Once again Scott would lose by scores of 6-3 (twice) and 5-4 bringing his record to 19-2-1 (11). This would be his career ending fight at the age of 34. Now would be an even bigger fight, trying to get out of prison.
“I had been sent to Rahway for a robbery charge and 3 years later when I started boxing they re-opened up my murder trial. The judge said I was to say nothing in the courtroom in my defense,” said Scott. “The television rights brought me $104,000.00 of which I never received a dime. They said it all went to my public defender,” he added.
“The Bob Arum’s, Murad Muhammad’s and Don King’s are not liars, they just don’t tell the truth,” said Scott. “It’s such an injustice how I can be trusted to walk to this gym each night and get a ride back and not be set free,” he added. That’s hard to argue with.
There are thousands of inmates who have served their time. Some for crimes they did not commit. Scott went to prison for a robbery he claims he did not commit, but a drug dealer did. Put yourself in his place. You’re convicted of a robbery and you know who really did it. You’re sentenced to go back to prison again so you track down the one who you know did it. One thing leads to another, and the world is free of a drug dealer who will never ruin another life. I know of a pastor from San Diego who was a drug user before he became a pastor. He said, “they should line up drug dealers at halftime of a Monday night football game and bring in a firing squad. That will curtail drug selling.”
Scott has spent at least 41 of his 61 years on this earth in prison. He takes the time to help the kids at the Goss and Goss gym. I believe he could be more useful to society out than in at the tax payer’s expense of $41,000.00 per year. In California they are going to be forced to release 150,000 prisoners over the next 3 years due to overcrowding. Maybe we need Bob Dylan coming back to Rahway singing “Superman”, like he did “Hurricane” in the support of Rubin Carter.
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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