Jimmy Clark was attending West Chester University in Pennsylvania studying criminal justice. When he got into the ring there was no justice and he treated his opponents like criminals! He lived in nearby Coatesville where Jimmy “Pops” Johnson was his trainer. He was an excellent boxer who had some power. “At West Chester Al Macheski coached me until they realized I was too experienced for college boxers,” said Clark. He was the 1977 National Golden Glove heavyweight champion defeating future world champion Greg Page for the title. “I fought Marvin Stinson (1976 AAU champ) many times. Pat Duffy and Frank Cariello were sending me all over,” said Clark. “I fought him five times. The one time I lost I thought, I ain’t worrying about that knucklehead and didn’t train as hard as usual. He beat me good,” said Stinson.
Clark defeated Russian Igor Vysotsky in Russia who defeated Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba. Clark boxed Stevenson three times. The first time in February of 1978 he lost a 2-1 decision at the World Championships in Havana, Cuba. In October of that year he was stopped with less than a half a minute to go in New York. In February of 1980 he lost a decision in Charlotte, NC.
In 1980 Clark was “late as usual”, said former world champion Bobby Czyz. “I once told him he’d be late for his funeral,” he added. If Czyz hadn’t broken his nose in a car accident he would have been on that airplane. We were discussing the missed airplane going to Warsaw, Poland. A dozen of his teammates and officials went down to their death.
“After missing the plane, I went back to my hotel where I was staying that night. The next morning my mother called and upon hearing my voice, she stated “Thanked God you are safe”. I asked her what she was talking about. She then stated “everyone was killed on the plane that you were supposed to have caught yesterday, that was headed for Warsaw, Poland. When she told me that, I immediately and nervously called the AAU up to verify this,” said Clark. “God works in mysterious ways, not in boxing but in that plane. God saved me. No matter what else happens in my life or future, God preserved my life,” said Clark. He had over 100 amateur fights and traveled once to Germany on a team with the Spinks brothers. “I had my first fight in Trenton as a middleweight and lost,” said Clark.
When President Carter pulled a boycott on the 1980 Olympics Clark finally decided to turn professional. “I moved to West Philly and Bob Brown was training me and at the 23rd PAL Quenzel McCall trained me,” said Clark. “I had sparring with Bennie Briscoe and Richie Kates there,” said Clark.
In January of 1981 Clark debuted in Chicago scoring a 1st round stoppage over Steve Sandborne. After another win by the short route in Atlantic City, Clark would headline at his former high school in Coatesville knocking out Johnny Blaine. Claudie Magnum and Angelo Dundee were doing my business for me. Otis Matthews was helping Johnson,” said Clark.
Wins in Philadelphia and Madison Square Garden (undercard of Cooney-Norton) by stoppage would follow. In Atlantic City Clark beat the Jamaican Oliver Wright, 16-15-1, in a 6 round decision. “He was tough,” said Clark. Six more knockouts would follow over names like Lupe Guerra, 18-7, and Ishaq Hussein, 15-13, from the UK. “He was another tough opponent,” said Clark. His first 10 rounder would be against a former amateur foe in Bermuda’s Clarence Hill, 16-2-1. Hill, a southpaw, was a bronze medalist in the 1976 Olympics. He was no stranger to Clark. They split in two bouts with Clark being the only one to defeat Hill in Bermuda. “I hit him with a good body shot and he walked out of the ring. I have never had anything like that happen,” said Clark. Now as a pro Clark would win a split decision in a tough fight in New York. “Hill is an outstanding fighter, but must learn to live right,” said Clark. Hill would have problems later with the law in Bermuda.
Clark would score another pair of knockouts before 1984 ended, but wasn’t getting enough fights. After starting 1981 with 7 fights, 1982 (3), 1983 (2), and 1984 (3) were not busy times. In March of 1985 he would oppose his biggest challenge since the Hill fight in Baltimore’s Reggie Gross, 14-3. Though on a 3 fight losing streak, Gross had 10 knockouts on his record. In the 9th round in Scranton, PA, Clark would be stopped, losing for the first time in 16 fights. “I was ill prepared having listened to people telling me I would knock him out in a couple of rounds. I wasn’t in shape,” said Clark. Two fights later Gross stopped unbeaten Bert Cooper.
After a 21 month lay-off, Clark would return to the ring at Madison Square Garden and stop Mickey Pryor, 9-4-1, in the 2nd round. It would be 7 months before another fight would come up, and that would take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in July of 1987. He would stop Robert Obey, 5-9-1 in 3 rounds. Clark realized his career was going nowhere and didn’t fight again for 22 months. This would be his last fight and ended badly as he and Kimmuel Odum, 9-2, in Struthers, Ohio, ended up in a No Contest in the 2nd round. “I was beating him when he pushed me to the canvas and the referee waved it off and gave him the fight. It would later be changed to a no contest when he tested positive. I wasn’t in shape like I should have been,” said Clark.
“I once was supposed to fight Marvis Frazier and received 10k in training expenses after he pulled out on me. That was his dad’s idea not his. They wanted me to fight (future world champion) Pinklon Thomas who had twice as many fights as me at the time and my new manager Henry Mims turned it down,” said Clark. “At the end of my career I saw a film clip of Ali and thought this is not how I want to end up. Thank God I was fortunate. Too many fighters end up in bad shape,” said Clark.
Clark had a brilliant amateur career. His professional career just never seemed to get started though he only lost once in 19 fights. His final record was 17-1-1nc (15). I had met Clark at an amateur show months ago and we finally got together for this story. Another resident, the former IBF Featherweight champion Calvin Groves was also there. “Jimmy is a nice guy. He fought the top guys in the amateurs and may have waited too long to turn pro,” said Grove. He is a very bright and personal individual and knew how to box. “Today I practice law and litigation and am running for district judge,” said Clark. I have a feeling his new robe won’t have “Jimmy Clark AAU Champ” on the back of it. I can just imagine some wise guy giving “Judge” Clark a hard time and him taking off the robe and handing the guy a set of boxing gloves and saying “let’s settle this now”!