HOWARD DAVIS JR. DEATH NOT SANS FIGHT
THE HOWARD DAVIS I REMEMBER
TALKED VIA FACEBOOK AS GENARO “FACTOR” LOOMED
We clicked a little back and forth since the diagnosis, but I couldn’t push myself to ask for any of his limited time to talk or do radio. This had a lot to do with my interviewing Genaro Hernandez 36 hours or so prior to his being KO’d by guess who, yeah Cancer. I was in tears as Genaro acknowledged death was imminent. Like Howard Davis, Genaro didn’t smoke or drink.
DEATH WAS GONNA BE QUICK
While it was clear that the Grim Reaper had reserved a room for the 56 year old as the Stage 4 Diagnosis meant weeks and then on his last legs just a fortnight ago, I just couldn’t push myself to contact Howard. And much like Genaro and SHO Box announcer Nick Charles, Howard fought Cancer like the greatest of champions, something I’m not so sure this writer is man enough to do.
DAVIS’ PRO BOXING LIFE DEFINED BY TWO MATCHES
His professional boxing career boiled down to losses in two title fights. Unbeaten (13-0) and the slight betting favorite, Howard went to Glasgow, Scotland and was beaten by WBC lightweight (135 lb.) champ Jim Watt (38-8, 27 KOs). Then scoring referee Carlos Padilla had it a one point win for Watt, others not so close as Davis certainly had lost in my mind. To many, the Watt effort was baffling as Howard was quite reluctant to engage Watt in their June 1980 bout.
LATE KNOCKDOWN BY ROSARIO COST DAVIS TITLE
Some 13 wins later, now 26-1, the most pivotal fight of Howard’s professional career occurred in San Juan as (late) native Puerto Rican Edwin Rosario and he went at it in four Junes later in 1984. A late round knockdown of a seemingly in control Davis, somehow gave two of the three jurists reason to declare him the victor. At times aggressive, unlike the Watt bore, I thought Davis had won.
“ROAD WARRIOR” DAVIS NEVER REALLY HAD PRO “ZENITH”
While one judge had it 114-113 Davis, twas’ the other scores of 117-113 & 115-114 for hometown guy Rosario that determined that the great Howard Davis, the Most Valuable Player on the iconic 1976 American Olympic team of Ray Leonard, both Spinks bros., Leo Randolph et al, would, whether he deserved it or not, never attain the status of professional world champion.
FELT ROSARIO FIGHT “WAS TAKEN”
It was a bitter pill for Howard when we talked about this at the Hall of Fame in the early 90s. Davis felt he had won and was unabashed at saying so. Not a huge draw like his Olympic teammate “Sugar Ray” Leonard, the decision loss hurt Howard, the guy nobody wanted to fight. If memory serves me correctly, Howard only got the two WBC fights because he was ranked #1.
DAVIS RETIRED, CAME BACK AND GOT DRILLED!
After the Rosario fight, Davis never really regained his groove. The one bright spot after Puerto Rico was a Draw with 1984 Olympic wiz Meldrick Taylor in 1986. Outside of that, the remainder of Howard’s professional life as a boxer could best be described as “pedestrian.” After losing to IBF 140 lb. guy Buddy McGirt in 1988, Howard retired. The ill fated comeback (aren’t they almost all) began in 1994 at 160 lbs. and ended with a TKO 2 loss to Dana Rosenblatt in 1996.
LAST RING TALK APPEARANCE HOWARD WAS TEACHING!
Training fighters turned out to be his passion. When he last appeared on “Ring Talk,” Davis talked about his “teaching MMA fighters in Florida how to punch.” I think the only time he ever gave me the eye was when I suggested his vegetarian diet might have hurt him down the stretch in the Rosario fight. Outside of that, Howard and I were cool!
HOWARD DAVIS FOUGHT REAPER OFF UNTIL END
Although Howard knew that his condition was “terminal,” meaning there was no turning back, he continued to be more positive about life and the world in general than, again, I certainly could. Truly a gentleman of gentlemen, Howard Davis leaves a family and many friends. He already is missed. They will have a public service for Howard on January 7 at 6 PM at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8 Ave in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.