PART II: WHACKY PEOPLE OF NEWMAN’S GYM

Bob Halloran

Bob Halloran


PRETEND TO BE BOB HALLORAN FOR LAUGHS

San Francisco, CA– In the early 80s, I liked pulling Don Stewart’s chain by calling him from the pay phone in the gym and telling him that I was the great Bob Halloran’s producer and I wanted to do a phone interview with him from Miami. Being able to see Don from the phone booth, it was hysterical to watch him thinking he was doing an on-air interview with Halloran, who shot to fame as a Miami TV news reporter who had unlimited access to Muhamad Ali in the early part of both of their careers.

BUST INTO DON’S OFFICE SANS KNOCKING

I’d tell him that we needed to take a commercial break, at which time I would exit the phone booth and bust into his office. “Get outa’ here you hamburger, I’m on the phone with Bob Halloran.” I’d go back to the phone, finish the interview with some unwarranted comments about what a great boxing trainer he was before terminating the call. Don, who stood about 5’7, would emerge from the office like a man of Lebron James height. Over the years, we did this over a dozen times. I told Halloran about this, when he Las Vegas hotel magnate Steve Wynn’s right hand in the late 1980s over a cocktail and he cracked up.

THEN THERE WERE GUYS LIKE LESTER JACKSON

Lester Jackson was a nearly 40-year old man who had a male girlfriend. “Lester, his wife, she be a man,” said JT Walker, the culprit who stole that aforementioned pound of marijuana I mentioned in Part I, and the same guy that admitted to me he took a dive against future lightweight champ Jose Luis Ramirez. The man that handled Jackson, who never had a pro fight was Taxi company owner and overall sleazeball Phil Rancatore. For Lester’s pro debut, Phil sacrificed him by putting him in with world class Cubanito Perez, who drilled (and retired) him in the blink of an eye.

GYM CLOSED AFTER A MOVE & STEWART’S DEATH!

When Billy Newman died, Newman’s Gym was circling the drain. Don Stewart moved the gym to a smaller location in the 100 block of Leavenworth. In declining health, I remember Don kicking Golden Glove champ Lenny “El Animal” Albert out of the gym solely because he got a bloody nose and some of the crimson got on the ring canvas. The only star of note to spend time at the relocated gym was Gerry Cooney, who after having lost to Larry Holmes was returning with a bout against Eddie Gregg. Cooney and whacko co-manager Dennis Rappaport took over the gym for three weeks from 4-6 PM. Unlike other fighters who were far greater than Cooney, Gerry’s people made everybody stand up against the wall until Gerry was finished!

THE OTHER LATE CHARACTERS OF NEWMAN’S GYM

Marvin Moore, an old white “bucket carrier” type that dabbled in training showed me how to throw the perfect jab. Vic Grupico claimed that he fought in that one-time “round” ring back in the day. While his voice was compromised and and it was hard to hear him, Vic trained world ranked Andy Nance. Another guy that has left us was Al Citrino , a Paisan who was one tough son of a gun. Citrino, once the trainer of “Irish Pat” Lawlor, another Newman’s Gym product that holds wins over ex-champs Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Rene Arrondondo. Al told me about the time he faced the great Henry Armstrong and was knocked down five times in the first, thrice in the second, twice in the third, and three more times (13 total knockdowns) in 1938 before the massacre was stopped in the fourth.

PETE HERNANDEZ & OH THE SHOCK & HORROR

Pete Hernandez was a Mexican who supplied “opponents” for the fight game. On occasion, Pete would have a fighter worthy of building up, but as was his M.O., he threw them in with sharks who devoured them. What I always found hysterical was that after his guy lost six rounds in a six round fight, Pete would stand in the ring, feigning shock and dismay. Even when Pete’s guys were KO’d, he’d wage some type of protest.

MANY PEOPLE I LEFT OUT HERE BUT…

I’m sure reader and renowned private investigator Malcolm Boutwell will add some names to the mix, and if I can, I’ll write what I remember. Ah, San Francisco boxing, it was sweet when Billy Newman was alive!

Pedro Fernandez

PART II: WHACKY PEOPLE OF NEWMAN’S GYM

12 comments

  • Geoffrey Sadao Prenter

    Dolph Thomas managed former World Middleweight Champion, Fred Apostoli, local middleweight attraction, Dick Foster, Heavyweight contender and challenger for Ezzard Charles’ World Heavyweight Title, Pat Valentino, among many others. A long time ago, he ran the Royal Gym. Back in the 30’s, there was Jimmy Duffy’s gym as well.

    Pedro, I’d really like to hear more about your experiences sparring with such fighters as Johnny Nava, Everett Ryan, Max Cervantes, etc. Also, do you remember local Flyweight/Bantamweight prospect Henry Martinez? And what the hell happened to his mentor/manager? I wondered what might have been behind his murder or disappearance. I remember watching Martinez spar with Eric Martin at Pittman’s Gym in Oakland. This was shortly before he represented El Salvador in the 1988 Olympics.

  • What a story Mr. Thomas’ era was. Dolph treated me well!

  • I am Dolph’s great-granddaughter. 🙂

  • Pedro Fernandez

    Don’t know Roscoe, I do remember Dolph Thomas though. Ike Mendoza, I do not!

  • What ever happened to the Dolph Thomas Gym in SF. Ike Mendoza lived in the back of the gym.

  • Elsie, send me an email ringtalk@yahoo.com

  • It’s great to hear stories about the gym that my dad trained in. My dad trained in the late 60’s. His gym name was “Kid Ray”. As a little girl my dad and I would box in front of a mirror. If there is someone out there that knows my dad and can share some of the stories when he trained at the gym I would love to talk to you.

  • I loved Newman’s gym as a young boy of 12 yrs old. My Father Harry Sandler was a fighter from this wonderful gym.My father won the golden gloves in California 3 yrs in a row and retired undefeated as a pro-fighter from this gym.I got to work the rosin box at the SF golden gloves in 1974 or 1975.because of Newman’s gym. A big deal for a young boy like me. Billy Newman use to talk to me about all the great fighters. I’m sorry to hear this gym is no longer around.

  • I WAS A FIGHT MANAGER AND I WAS PARTNERS WITH VIC GRUPICO.I NEW AL CITRINO,DON STEWART,WILLY WARTON,DON CHARGIN,BILLY NEWMAN,PETE HERMAN,TO NAME A FEW.GEORGE FOREMAN WAS TRAINING AT NEWMANS GYM.FOREMAN WAS NOT A VERY SOCIABLE GUY AT THAT TIME I REMEMBER FOREMAN USED TO BOX WITH A HEAVYWEIGHT NAMED ROBIE HARRIS.ROBIE WAS A VERY NICE GUY.EVERY TIME FOREMAN AND ROBIE BOXED,FOREMAN WOULD NOT BE BOXING,HE WOULD TRY TO TAKE ROBIE OUT!!AND FOREMAN WOULDN’T HARDLY TALK TO ANYONE.BUT GETTING BACK TO VIC GRUPICO,I REMEMBER HE WAS MANAGING EX LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMP JIMMY CARTER.(THIS IS IN THE 1960’S).VIC GOT A FIGHT FOR JIMMY SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH.THERE WAS STILL SEGERATION AT THE TIME.VIC AND JIMMY ARE MET AT THE AIRPORT BY THE PROMOTER AND ARE TAKIN TO THIS SHABBY HOTEL.VIC ASKED THE PROMOTER WHAT WAS GOING ON,BECAUSE VIC DIDN’T LIKE THE HOTEL AND IT WAS A TERRIBLE PART OF TOWN.THE PROMOTER SAID IT WAS ONE OF THE FEW HOTELS THAT ALLOWED BLACKS.VIC GOT VERY UPSET AND TOLD THE PROMOTER TO FIND A FIRST CLASS HOTEL FOR HIM AND CARTER.(A HOTEL THAT ACCEPTED BLACK PEOPLE, OR THERE WOULDN’T BE ANY MAIN EVENT THAT NIGHT.BECAUSE VIC AND JIMMY WOULD TAKE A PLANE BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO.VIC WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST GUYS I’VE EVER KNOWN.EVERYONE AT NEWMANS LOVED HIM.VIC DIED JUST LIKE AL CITRINO.BOTH OF THEM DIED ON THE OPERATING TABLE DURING OPEN HEART SURGERY.IF YOU WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT HERMAN-NEWMAN GYM FEEL FREE TO E-MAIL ME.I HAVE MANY STORIES ABOUT IT.I REMEMBER EDDIE MACHEN,CARMINE BASSILIO,BOBO OLSON,JOEY GIAMBRA,PAOLO ROOSIEAL FROM NEWMANS..THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME BRING BACK SOME GOOD MEMORIES.

  • A fine two part story about a San Francisco landmark. Time flies by and Newman’s Gym is of another era we will not see agan.

  • Sorry to read about Cooney’s gym behavior. I read something similar once about Ali after the first Frazier loss. Everyone in the gym had to stop because the sound of bags, etc., threw off his rhythm. Don’t know if it’s the fighter or an overeager entourage that’s to blame.

  • Another great story. Thank you.

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