Cassidy Jr. wrote a play called "Kid Shamrock," about the ups and downs of his father's life; it's been well-received at all the venues where it's played.
Cassidy Sr. finished his career with a record of 79 fights; he won 59, lost 16, and fought to a draw three times. He also fought three world champions. He fought outside the U.S. on several occasions, going to other fighters' backyards, which made him kind of a globetrotter. A documentary film was made about Cassidy, in which he talks about his career.
What I found most intriguing about Cassidy is that he fought on or around St. Patrick's Day several times. CBS TV televised one of his fights around St. Patrick's Day, which he won.
Cassidy Jr. has written on a Who's Who of boxing. He knows the sport very well. Although Cassidy Sr. never won a championship, he was given one by his peers for his accomplishments in boxing. Both Cassidys have done great things in boxing.
This writer posed questions to both of them, which they graciously answered. In my eyes, and in those of many other boxing people, the Cassidys will always be considered true boxing champions.
Questions for Robert Jr.
1. Did you ever have any interest in boxing yourself? I heard you had some amateur fights; is that true?
I was always interested in boxing through my dad. I was reading Ring magazine probably from the time I could read. It was always in my house and fights were always on the television. I used to watch my dad watch fights on TV and for me, that was riveting. My father also prohibited me and my brother from boxing. He encouraged us to play every other sport. But he never allowed us to box. After I graduated college, I began training at the Westbury PAL. My father finally let me get a taste of it. I trained for about a year with my dad. I had some matches that were for charity but my father never let me get too competitive. He told me, "stick to writing, not fighting."
2. How did you get interested in becoming a boxing writer?
I guess I always liked writing and boxing. I used to write down fighter's records on a sheet of paper when I was a kid. Writing was a way for me to express my passion for boxing. My dad used to take me and my brother to the Grammercy Gym when we were kids. It was an unbelievable place. They filmed parts of Raging Bull there.
3. Could you give me some insight on the play "Kid Shamrock."
The play "Kid Shamrock" is a fictional version of my father's career and how alcohol ruined the biggest night of his life. He fought and lost on the undercard of the second Ali-Frazier fight at the Garden. But he hasn't had a drink in 37 years, which is probably the biggest victory of his life. We've been very lucky with "Kid Shamrock." It has been produced twice and will be again in the fall of 2011. We've had many boxing people involved with the play -- Seamus McDonagh, John Duddy, Gary Hope, Wayne Kelly, and, of course, my father, all appear in the play. There is also going to be a movie, "Middle Class Middleweight." Kevin
Connolly, who is in Entourage, has been the driving force behind developing the movie. There is a script that is just about done. David Schuster has also been important in the development process of the film. Kevin's dad, Johnny, and my dad grew up together in Levittown. They were actually in a rock and roll band together as teenagers.
4. Could you give me some insight on your father's documentary and why it was done by a production company in Portugal.
Bruno de Almeida is a fantastic filmmaker from Portugal. We met him when he was living and working in New York City. He took an interest in my father's career and produced the documentary "Counterpuncher." It was very well done and has screened in many places in Europe.
5. Who were some of your favorite boxers as a child?
My father was and always will be my favorite fighter. But as a kid, all my friends could name the starting lineup for the Mets and Yankees. And while I could do that too, I could also tell them the top 10 middleweights in the world. I would say, when I was a kid, I also loved to watch Carlos Monzon, Emile Griffith, Roberto Duran and Muhammad Ali.
6. How would you change boxing if you could, to make it a better sport?
I think the one thing I would do is go back to one champion for each weight class. I think the single thing that hurts boxing the most is that there could be as many as five featherweights walking around claiming they are world champions. That is confusing to the general sporting public.
7. What's your favorite book or movie on boxing?
There are so many great boxing books and movies that I know I will miss a few. As for the books, Thomas Hauser's 'Black Lights,' Mark Kram's 'Ghosts of Manila,' Jack Newfield's 'Only in America' and W.C. Heinz's 'The Professional' come to mind. As for the movies, I love the original "Rocky," "The Harder they Fall," "Requiem for a Heavyweight," and the recently released Mark Wahlberg film, "The Fighter." It may not qualify as a boxing film, but my favorite movie of all time is "On the Waterfront."
8. Please give me some information on what you've done in your career.
I've worked for Newsday for most of my adult life. I've been lucky to not only cover boxing, but a variety of sports. I also feel fortunate to have worked for Ring magazine.
Questions for Robert Sr.
1. You said in your documentary that you had several street fights, but no amateur fights. Could you give me some insight on the street fights.
The street fighting really was a result of being physically abused by my stepfather. He was Italian and because me and my brother were Irish, he used to beat us. He and my mother were alchoholics. We had no chance as kids. So I began getting into fights all the time. Eventually a judge told me, you go to a boxing gym or you go to jail. I went to the gym and it saved my life. I was ready to go into the Golden Gloves in 1963 but the Daily News went on strike and they canceled the tournament. I turned pro with no amateur fights. But a lot, a lot of street fights.
2. You said you were ranked the #1 contender. Why didn't you get a title shot?
I almost fought for the title twice. I was rated in the top 10 for a long time. I fought Jorge Ahumada at the Garden and the winner was getting a shot at Bob Foster for the title. I had been drinking too much and my divorce was finalized the day of the fight. So I was in no shape to fight. I lost that fight. The other time, I had a signed contract to fight John Conteh for the WBC light heavyweight title at the Nassau Coliseum, but he broke his hand in the tuneup fight and we never fought. Not getting a title shot is the biggest regret of my career.
3. Why did you fight Jimmy Dupree so many times?
Probably because his manager, Al Braverman, and my manager, Paddy Flood, were good friends and it was an easy way for them to make money. But Jimmy "The Cat" Dupree was a great fighter. We fought three time, I won one, he won one and we had one draw. We fought 30 rounds and they were all tough rounds. We were both ranked in the top 10 when we fought. You don't see that too often these days.
4. What's your favorite book or movie on boxing?
Raging Bull was great. I was in the original Rocky movie. I was in a scene at the end when Paulie let's Adrian into the ring. I was a ringside cop. That movie is still a classic. It will be my favorite until the one about me comes out. The only book I ever read when I was a kid was 'The Jack Dempsey Story.'
5. What's the comparison with you and "Million Dollar Baby"? Were you training an Irish girl at the time, or was there some other reason?
I think it was because I was training Peggy Donovan Ward at the time. It was the first year women were allowed to compete in the Golden Gloves and she won the title. That is really the only comparison between myself and that movie.
6. I saw you on CBS on St. Patrick's Day. What was it like fighting with green gloves and an Irish backdrop?
I fought on or around St. Patrick's Day many times in my career and it was always a lot of fun and a very important day for me to fight in. Fighting on CBS and beating Ramon Ranquello was certainly one of the highlights of my career.
7. In the documentary, it said you were incarcerated. How long were you in there? It must have made some positive changes in your life. How did you divide your time? What's it like to be working with inmates today?
I was in jail for almost a year. When I retired from boxing I wasn't sure what to do with my life and I made some mistakes. I got caught up in shylocking and it was just something that happened to me. The one thing I always did in jail was run. I did roadwork every day. I ran circles around the yard. When I was in jail, I tried to help inmates and when I got out, they offered me a job. Denis Dillon, the district attorney who prosecuted me, got me a job at the same jail I just came out of. I worked with inmates who were struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. That was very rewarding. I am retired now.
8. What was it like training some of the fighters you've worked with. What are some of their names?
I trained Donny Lalonde, Lonnie Bradley, Godfrey Nyakana, Lennard Jackson and Lenny LaPaglia. I loved these guys like sons. I loved training fighters. Donny won the light heavyweight title and Lonnie won the middleweight title. It was wonderful to be in their corner when they won the title. So I may have missed out on that as a fighter, but at least I was there as a trainer.
9. Please give me some general thoughts about your career.
I fought from 1963 to 1980. I fought all over the world -- Italy, Sweden, South Africa. And a lot of times I was shipped out as an opponent. It's hard to win when you are fighting the South African middleweight champion in South Africa. You are just not going to get a decision there. I fought so many tough guys. So many rated fighters. I wish had better management. I wish I was taken care of a little better, given some better opportunities. But I was a fighter. That's what I did, tell me where to show up and I'll fight.
10. How would you change the state of boxing today if you could, to make it a better sport?
I think fighters need a pension plan. I fought for 18 years and really have nothing to show for that in terms of financial benefits or health benefits. In every other pro sport, athletes have a pension and some kind of medical coverage. I think that should change