|Vincent Boulware, Harrisburg Hit Man - Interview
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (July 22, 2008) DoghouseBoxing.com
Vincent Boulware was a 4 time Pennsylvania Golden Gloves champ at #147 in 1981, #156 in 1982, #165 in 1983 and 1984. He would have a professional career that included 3 world title chances from super middleweight to cruiserweight. His 29-11-1 (19) record was marred by 7 losses in his last 10 fights after losing his third try for a title. He would even end up as a sparring partner for George Foreman and Lennox Lewis.
Olympic coach Pat Nappi contacted Bob Spagnola after the 1983 nationals. Boulware lost in the finals, while suffering a broken hand. Spagnola told Boulware to contact him when his hand healed. Spagnola is the current manager of David ‘Nino’ Rodriguez, 27-0 (25), and was the architect for Houston Boxing Association. An accounting graduate at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he knew all about the Philly and area boxers. A New Yorker who moved to Houston, he also had HBA east in Atlantic City with future world champion Calvin Grove out of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, as one of their fighters. “Vincent and I almost met at #126 but he moved up to #132 in the amateurs. He was a good fighter,” said Grove. Grove and his brother Bunky run a gym in Coatesville, not too far from Harrisburg.
“Boulware was a very special person. He charmed us and we loved him,” said Spagnola. “I remember visiting the Galleria Mall in Houston when he was with his wife and two children. They were looking for children who wanted to be models. There had to be 200 people in line and they walk up to Boulware and bring him in for a photo shoot. You had to see him standing there posing with a tennis racquet in his hand. I’m sure it was the first time he ever held one from the looks of it,” said Spagnola. “He had these big shoulders and was quite a prospect at the time,” said Spagnola.
Top trainer Jesse Reid, and 1976 Olympian Chuck Walker were both high on Boulware. Reid was training the world champion Canizales brothers (Gaby and Orlando) and Walker then a pro would spar with Boulware and future champion Frank Tate when making a comeback in 1984. “Vincent had lots of talent, speed, power and guts. When we sparred they would stop and come over and watch us. He was tall and slim. It was like a scientific chess match when we worked,” said Walker.
I met up with Boulware in Harrisburg where his son Jerrell was to have an amateur bout on the 4th of July. He was as friendly and receptive as one could hope. It was our first meeting and it set the stage for a Q&A the next day. I was also able to re-connect Boulware with Grove. Grove plans to use the younger Boulware on their future shows.
Ken Hissner: When I arrived at an amateur show recently I asked “is there a Boulware on the card”? To my surprise I was told your son was to fight. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get an opponent.
Vincent Boulware: When they hear the name Boulware they know it’s a fighting name. My brother Ulysses also fought pro. It could help or hurt my son.
KH: You had a great amateur career and turned pro in December of 1984 with the HBA group in Houston. You beat Curtis Taylor (12-11) who had a win over future WBO welter champ Manning Galloway. You fought between Houston and Atlantic City before coming home.
VB: Freddy Stewart was my amateur trainer and Al Bolden when I went to Texas. The fight at the Zembo Shrine in Harrisburg was in my 9th fight. It was great fighting before my hometown fans.
KH: You followed that win with 4 more knockouts including Thomas Smith (17-4) from Houston, in Houston. You had 13 wins, 11 knockouts, before losing.
VB: I fought Orland Paulding (8-5-1) and got stopped in the 1st round and it was an eye opener. (Paulding had won 4 of his last 5 fights.) Between the girls and the scale, I was not concentrating on boxing like I should have been.
KH: You score 3 knockouts and meet Everett ‘Big Foot’ Martin (14-2-1) in February of 1987. He had just gotten a draw with Chuck Walker before that.
Bob Spagnola: They had a full house. Martin had knockout out ‘Poncho’ Carter who was on our team several months before this fight. Martin had all his people there betting heavy. Boulware had him down but couldn’t finish him off.
VB: That guy could take a punch. Years later I would become George Foreman’s sparring partner and he couldn’t even knock him down in a fight. So I didn’t feel so bad. Muhammad Ali was there to put the Texas title belt on me.
KH: You win two more fights and go to Germany fighting Graciano Rocchigiani (23-0) for the vacant IBF super middleweight title. He was the German champ and had knocked out Musapho Hamsho in one round in his previous fight.
VB: I was too nervous and hate fighting southpaws. It was stopped in 8.
KH: That was March 11, 1988. You don’t fight for another year to the day, in Finland against Guyanan Keith Bristol (22-9) winning a decision in 10.
VB: They switched opponents at the last minute but I still won.
KH: You travel to the legendary Blue Horizon in Philly to fight Joe Frazier’s nephew Tyrone (15-1-2). One judge had you ahead by 5 points.
VB: I trained so hard knowing I needed a knockout that I went to the hospital before the fight due to dehydration. Though I thought I won it ended in a draw.
KH: Next you travel to South Africa to fight future WBC #168 champ Thulani Malinga (27-4) and lose a decision.
VB: I should have gotten the decision in that one.
KH: In early 1990 you have a rematch with Tony ‘The Tiger’ Harrison (22-14-1) for the USBA #175 title.
BS: This was one tough Oklahoma puncher. We knew he was tough the first time. Boulware fought him. He had Boulware down. Boulware had him early in the fight but wore down and was stopped in the 9th round. Harrison failed a urine test and the fight was changed to a no contest in 9.
VB: I broke my hand in the fight. I had broken both hands several times.
KH: Three more wins and you are in with ‘Prince’ Charles Williams (31-4-2) for his IBF light heavyweight title in Italy.
BS: This was our last fight with Boulware. He was having trouble making weight and wanted to go up to heavyweight. I thought that was too much for him.
VB: I had trouble making weight and had cut him in the beginning of the fight. He was rough and strong, stopping me in the 3rd round.
KH: You have your first of two fights in Camp Hill, near Harrisburg, not knowing at the time it would be a place you would later do time.
VB: I had Melvin Ricks (7-13-1) down 4 times and one standing eight before the referee finally stopping it in the 5th round. That was my first cruiserweight fight. I would also become a sparring partner for George Foreman who was on his comeback.
KH: You stopped Fred Adams (8-3-2) for the vacant IBC Continental Americas title and beat Dale Jackson (20-4-3) at Camp Hill for the IBC cruiserweight title.
VB: That win earned me an IBF title bout with Alfred Cole (23-1) in Atlantic City. I had to lose 7 pounds the night before. I was stopped in the 5th round.
KH: You travel to France to fight little known Norbert Ekassi (20-4-1) who had wins over future champs Johnny Nelson and James Waring.
VB: I was then training with Emmanuel Steward. This opponent was rough. He caught me in the first round and I couldn’t recover.
KH: While on suspension you come back 25 days later and lose to Torsten May (3-0), the future European champion, from Germany.
VB: That was a split decision and a bad one. He was the 1992 Olympic champion and was being groomed for bigger and better things.
KH: You beat Jason Waller (20-4-2) in Maryland to earn a WBF title bout.
VB: That was in Idaho where Kenny Keene (27-0) was from. He had me down in the 1st and 10th rounds before they stopped it.
KH: In 1995 you get a pair of wins, the first in Harrisburg, and didn’t fight for eleven months. You are stopped in two by heavyweight Jeremy Williams (25-1).
VB: I was even heavier than him and in no shape to take that fight.
KH: Almost down to cruiser you fight Jerry Ballard (16-1) with 16 knockouts, for the vacant WBO NABO heavyweight title losing again in 2 rounds.
VB: He was a real good fighter and later killed. (had fought a draw with former champion Greg Page)
KH: Your last fight was in Germany, July of 1997, with the German Willie Fischer (14-1-1) losing in 2 rounds. Did you know it would be your last fight?
VB: No, for in my next fight I couldn’t pass the physical, ending my career. I had been a sparring partner for several years making $2000 a week with Foreman. I took a job with Lennox Lewis preparing him for Razor Ruddock. Foreman was one of the commentators for HBO and when he saw me, I never got another call to work with him.
KH: You mentioned when I first saw you had been in Camp Hill and later Somerset prison. We don’t have to mention this if you don’t want to.
VB: I think we should. I want to warn kids that though I wasn’t using drugs I was selling them. I spent 13 months in prison getting out 2 years ago. The one good thing in there was I started reading the Bible for the first time in my life. I was in a place where I had the time and took it. Jail cleansed me and has put God first in my life.
KH: I want to thank you for taking the time and hope to see you and your son in the near future.
VB: Hopefully you will get to see him fight. I look forward to seeing the story.
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