PART II: WHACKY PEOPLE OF NEWMAN’S GYM
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!
PART II: WHACKY PEOPLE OF NEWMAN’S GYM