Frank Tate: Olympic Gold to IBF Title
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 5, 2009)    
There are not too many boxers who spent 130 fights (125-5) with the Kronk team then moved on elsewhere into the professional ranks. Frank Tate is a man who made a decision to leave Detroit for Houston and sign with the Houston Boxing Association (HBA) in December of 1984. He left the shadows of Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and Milt McCrory after spending many rounds sparring with both world champions. Hearns at the time held the WBC light middleweight title and McCrory the WBC welterweight title.

Emanuel Steward and Ferris Purify trained Tate in the amateurs. Steward wanted to take the team to camp but Pat Nappi, head trainer, said no. “He was a very good coach and did what he had to do,” said Tate. “After winning the Gold medal in the 1984 Olympics I gave Emanuel time to sign me. The offer was a $90,000 house and a new Pontiac with one catch. It was Steward’s name on both the house and the car,” he added. I told Tate it reminded me of when Larry Holmes offered all his brothers new homes and kept his name on the mortgage. One brother had enough sense not to go for it.

The 1984 Olympic team had trained at Josephine Abercrombe’s 6,000 acre ranch in Gonzales, Texas. When the Olympics were over, her Houston Boxing Association offered Tate and Evander Holyfield contracts. Tate accepted. His new trainer would be Jesse Reid who trained several world champions and had Orlando and Gaby Canizales out of Texas at the time. “I remember Mrs. Abercrombie giving us all Houston Astro baseball caps,” said Tate. “We even got to stop at Ali’s house before going to the Olympics and he did a majic act for us,” he added. I can vouch for that because I saw him do it at his Deer Lake camp after the first Ken Norton fight. “Meldrick Taylor (17) and I (19) were the youngest boxers with the team,” said Tate. “Steve McCrory and I roomed together, both being with the Kronk Gym,” he added.

“In the Olympic trials I beat Reggie Johnson (future middle and light heavy world champion),” said Tate. He breezed through his first 4opponents at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He would shut out the Swede, the Italian, stop the Zambian in 1, get a walk over against the West German and get his rubber match with Shawn O’Sullivan, of Canada. “I had lost to him in the finals of the North American Games in the Houston Astrodome. In a rematch I beat him in the World Games,” said Tate. In the Olympics he would shut O’Sullivan out to win the Gold medal in the light middleweight division. Tate said he beat a Russian and a Cuban prior to the Olympics. “The 1984 team never got the recognition we should have because neither one of those countries went,” he added. In the 1983 Pan Am Games the Cubans took 8 Gold medals but the USA won the total medal count 11 to 10.

“Bob Spagnola became my manager with HBA. Cedric Rose and Mike Williams were their only fighters when I got there,” said Tate. “I was able to spar with 1976 Olympian Chuck Walker though he wasn’t with HBA. He had great movement,” added Tate. Eventually they had quite a team of boxers including world champions in Tate, Calvin Grove, Orlando Canizales and Tony Tucker. “We all lived in an apartment complex in Houston and signed for a percentage of the apartments,” he added.

Tate made his debut in December of 1984 stopping Mike Pucciarelli (11-2) in Houston in the 1st round. He scored 6 straight knockouts before winning a 6 rounder over Philly’s David Barrow (4-6-3) in June in Atlantic City. In August he defeated Thomas Smith of Houston (17-2). He would start 1986 off by winning an 8 rounder over tough Randy Smith (15-5) of Chicago who had stopped Detroit’s unbeaten Arthur Lawhorne in 1982. “I knew he beat Lawhorne and this was a tough fight,” said Tate. Smith would eventually retire with 63 fights without ever being stopped.

He would step up to a 10 rounder with wins over Jerry Williams (8-1), Ricky Stackhouse (15-3-1), Brian Muller (20-2-1) and contender Curtis Parker (28-7) of Philly. “He was short and came at you. It was a learning experience,” said Tate. Next up would be Atlantic City’s Kevin Watts (15-2) who Tate would win a majority decision over in his last bout in 1986. In March with millions watching over CBS he would defeat Philly’s Marvin Mack (15-5-1) who 6 months previously lost in 15 to Chong-Pal Park for the IBF super middleweight title. Next he defeated Mark McPherson (20-2) who he had down in the 3rd round and stopped in the 6th round. It would be McPherson’s last fight.

In 1987 Tate won the USBA title in 12 over Troy Darrell (22-1). “He was with Angelo Dundee,” said Tate. In October of 1987 Tate would fight for the vacant IBF middleweight title against unbeaten Michael Olajide (23-0) at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas. It was a lopsided win for Tate. “Winning the Gold medal was my highlight as an amateur and the IBF title as a professional. It was Super Bowl weekend,” said Tate.

His first defense was in the United Kingdom where he would face the British and Commonwealth champion Tony Sibson (55-6-1). Tate would stop his challenger in the 10th round and put him into retirement. After winning his 23rd bout in a row in a non title fight it would be back to Las Vegas to meet southpaw Michael Nunn (30) who was the NABF champion. “Nunn knew I was having trouble making weight and I think it gave him confidence,” said Tate. Nunn would take Tate’s title in the 9th round. “He had a million dollars worth of talent,” said Jesse Reid. HBA East matchmaker Ron Katz wasn’t able to secure the weigh-in the day before the fight so Top Rank’s fighter had an extra advantage. Even though HBA had Mackie Shilstone as their weight expert, Tate could no longer hold 160.

“The weight was a problem and I moved up to light heavyweight for a fight,” said Tate. HBA was negotiating to bring him down to 168 for the vacant IBF super middleweight title against Lindell Holmes (40-5). Holmes had lost to the then champion Park in 1987 by split decision in South Korea. Al Bolden would be Tate’s new trainer. “I wasn’t focused and wasn’t training properly,” said Tate. He would lose a majority decision and his chance to become a two division champion.

Again Tate would move up to light heavyweight and score a couple of knockouts. “I fought Greg Everett (13-1) outside in a tent in New Jersey on an ESPN show,” said Tate. He had Everett down 3 times in the 3rd round and finished him in the 7th. Next up would be future IBF cruiserweight champion Uriah Grant (19-8) in Atlantic City. “Mid-way through the fight he was the first guy to cut me (left eye),” said Tate. This was for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental light heavyweight title. In August of 1991 Tate would travel to Selvino, Lombardia, Italy. “It was on top of a mountain and I got sick with all the circles on the way to the fight,” said Tate. His opponent was southpaw Yawe Davis (27-7-2) of Uganda, who fought out of Italy. “He was very weird and awkward,” added Tate. Tate would win by split decision in 12.

Tate started 1992 off with a knockout win over 1988 Olympian Andrew Maynard (18-1) for the vacant NABF title. Maynard was knocked down in the 11th, got up, and then went down again, forcing the referee to stop the fight. “I out boxed Maynard,” said Tate. A knockout win would follow setting the stage for what would be the first of two title bouts with his former teammate from the 1984 team Virgil “Quick Silver” Hill (32-1) in Bismarck, North Dakota, September of 1992. “I thought the fight was close but he won,” said Tate.

It would be almost two years and four wins later before he would get a rematch with Hill. The first fight after the Hill bout was a split decision win over tough Ramzi Hassan (34-8). “He was taller than me and it gave me a problem,” said Tate. His next three fights would be knockout wins. In July of 1994 back in Bismark he met Hill again and it wasn’t close. “He beat me that time. He was very quick. We still keep in touch, though” added Tate.

From October 1995 to October 1998 Tate would win seven straight fights. Only a split decision over Norbert Nieroba (11-0) in Germany was close. “He was a tall southpaw,” said Tate. This bout was for the World Boxing Union light heavyweight title. In October of 1998 he would take on David Telesco (19-2), who had won 15 straight, 12 by knockout, including a reversal of his two losses to Ernest Mateen. Tate would be stopped in the 4th round. “I had never been hit like that. I promised when it happened, I was done,” said Tate. He would finish with a record of 41-5 with 24 knockouts.

The 1984 team was to have all the members except for Steve McCrory who passed away in 2000 at the age of 36, together for the first time in August for their 25th anniversary. A new date was set for November 14th in Atlanta per Xavier Biggs, the organizer and brother of Tyrell Biggs, from the 1984 team. Several of his teammates had something to say about Tate. “He was a good boxer and slick,” said Mark Breland. “Nice guy,” Robert Shannon. “Kronk fighter and good boxer,” said Paul Gonzales. “Detroit flair with a good right hand,” said Tyrell Biggs.

Today Tate still lives in Houston and has three children, Dujuan Alexander, Katina and Frankisha. “We have a state of the art place we call Hanks Gym for the young boxers,” said Tate. His brother Thomas, a four time challenger for a world title still lives in Houston.

This Gold medal winner, who in 1984 left The Kronk team of Detroit and ventured out on his own to Houston, Texas, to win another world title in 1987. He may have another future champion in that gym some day. If he does I have a feeling he won’t let him leave Houston for Detroit!

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