* The Jimmy Longo Story

In 1980 I watched the Roberto Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard fight at Madison Square Garden in New York, which was beamed in from Montreal, Canada. There was a live card at the Felt Forum in the same building. One of fights that night was between a young Welterweight named Jimmy Longo who fought a draw against a guy named Blas Dechamps. it was a well fought four round Draw. I remember the night well and the good friends that were with me. Duran beat Leonard and won the Welterweight Title, it was a great night.

When I walked into Jimmy Longo’s Shoe Store a couple of years ago I realized a couple of things right away. That Jimmy Longo is from New York, is an Italian-American and a former boxer. So naturally we hit it off and we talk boxing every time I go to his shop.In our discussions he told me about how he trained at the Huguenot Boxing Gym, in New Palz, New York which was Floyd Patterson’s Gym. Patterson was Olympic Gold Medalist in 1952 and was heavyweight Champion of the world from 1956-1959 and from 1960 to 1962. Jimmy also told me how he knew legendary Trainer Cus D’amato and meet a 12 year old Mike Tyson among many others. Jimmy finished with a 11-7-1 record as a professional and had fifty amateur fights as well. He knows his way around the ring, that’s for sure.

After his last fight, Jimmy became a teacher and coached several sports teams at a High School in New York. After a “disagreement” with school officials he moved to Florida thirty years ago and opened his Shoe Repair Store and has been a Cobbler here in Jacksonville all these years.

Jimmy is an interesting guy and a good man, He has been a fighter all his life too. Recently he told me that is his mother passed away when he was just a kid, and he and his five brothers and sisters were ultimately packed off to an orphanage in New York. It’s no wonder he found boxing, where everything depends on your own ability, it’s all on you.Jimmy’s Shoe Store is on 3rd Street/AIA here in the Jacksonville area, he will be closing the shop soon after all these years. You see, this generation doesn’t want to repair shoes anymore. It’s a throw away society we live in today. But Jimmy Longo is keeper. Thanks for sharing your story Jimmy.

Written By: Al Iannacone Sr.

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* A look back at Henry Cooper. Just how good was he?

Mike Garland this is for you. I have been thinking about writing this story for quite a while. Mike Garland is a regular at the Gym, a good guy and a knowledgeable boxing fan. Many times he has brought up Henry Cooper, the British heavyweight contender in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s who is best known for knocking down a young Muhammad Ali when he was called Cassius Clay and before he won the title. Mike is pretty high on Henry Cooper. He thinks he was a great fighter, and if not for the fact that Henry cut easily and was often bloodied that he could have gone far; who knows even beat Ali and win the World Heavyweight Title. I respectfully disagree.

I know well who Henry Cooper is and also know British boxing and their history of “Horizontal Heavyweights” which is the long bleak history of Heavweights from Britain and especially England who failed one after the other to beat the best, even though each was supported with brass bands playing and enough ethnocentric and nationalistic hype to launch a man to the moon. Then the fight happens and one after another they are pounded from pillar to post and leave the ring a loser. A couple notable examples are Tommy Farr who Joe Louis chased and battered in 1937. All Farr could do was run for fifteen rounds. In 1955 Don Cockell challenged Rocky Marciano who knocked him down five times and out in nine rounds. Cooper fought Muhammad Ali and Muhammad’s speed and sharp punching were too much for him – twice. You may know that several other Englishman who also fought “the Greatest” and failed where Joe Bugner, the aptly named Brian London and Richard Dunn. Bugner was too cautious and was pounded throughout and lost a unanimous decision and both Dunn and London were stopped early and easily. Regardless of the minor British, Commonwealth and European titles they held, even at home and with the frenzied support of their fans, they could not compete at the highest level.

So let’s take a closer look at Sir Henry Cooper. He turned professional in 1954 and his last fight was in 1971, he fought for seventeen years. He had 55 bouts, won 40, lost 14, drew once and had 27 knockouts. Those 27 knockouts were against lower level, home-grown opposition, mostly Europeans or a limited imported American, but never the best. He also fought all but five of his 55 fights in England. That’s 50 fights at home. What does that mean? Maybe he was protected and wasn’t that good? I was interested to find out what he had accomplished that could possibly justify Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. Here is what I found; He had beaten a pretty German Karl Mildenberger, Spaniard Jose Manuel Urtain, and fellow Englishmen Joe Erskine and Jack Bodell; all of which were lower level contenders at one time or another. Those fights and a flash knockdown against a 21 year old Cassius Clay are the positives.

What really tells the story is who he did not fight. Fighters that were active at the same time and went on to become top contenders or World Champions and Cooper never fought are; Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, George Chuvalo, Jimmy Ellis, Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Cleveland “The Cat” Williams and Ernie Terrell. Cooper’s manager Jim Wicks was offered a match in England withCooper against Sonny Liston and Wicks said “I wouldn’t put Henry into the same room as Liston, let alone the same ring” – that says it all.

Now let’s look at those 14 loses. He was stopped eight times, four by TKO and he was knocked out cold four times. Those that knocked him out where; Floyd Patterson KO-4 (see it for yourself on You Tube, it is a devastating knockout), Zora Folley KO-2, Ingemar Johansson, KO-5, and Joe Bygraves KO-9. Cooper also lost five decisions and was disqualified once. The myth that it was the cuts that hindered him is not true.

So what is the verdict? If the above record is justification for Knighting Cooper or a claim for greatness then Chuck Wepner should be Knighted as well, since he also knocked down Ali and took him into the 15th round, Henry lasted just 11 rounds total in two fights and was a mess at the end of both – if not stopped early by the referee, he would surely have been knocked out anyway. The fact is that Henry Cooper was a fit and determined fighter with a loyal fan base and scored a flash knock down against a young Ali. That doesn’t make him great any more than it did Doug Jones who also put Ali down. By the way the Doug Jones fight was the fight just Before the Cooper fight and no one talks about that,additionally Doug jones went the distance with Ali losing a close decision. My opinion is that Henry Cooper was good figther, with a loyal fan base. But great? Not even close.

Al Iannacone Sr.

* Lomachenko Dominates and Stops Rigondeaux in the Mecca of Boxing

On December 9 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, two great fighters fought for the 130 pound Title in a classic match-up. Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The fight didn’t quite get the exposure it deserved but it was a great fight that would be the main event in any era. If you missed it you need to go and see it for yourself on you-tube. It was a masterful performance.

First let me set the scene. Both fighters are two-time Olympic Gold Medalists and had won multiple world championships. It was by the way, the first time two fighters with two Gold Medals fought each other for a professional title. Both had unmatched amateur careers. Lomachenko, from the Ukraine had a 396-1 record and Rigondeaux a product of Communist Cuba’s legendary Boxing program had a 463-12 record. After turning professional they both quickly rose in the rankings, beating the best and won titles in their respective divisions , additionally both are ranked in the pound-for-pound rankings as well. What made this fight so special is that they are head and shoulders above all other active fighters with the exception of Gennady G. Golovkin. Both are so dominating that few want to fight them or if they do they enter the ring and immediately realize they have no chance of winning.

On fight night, it was just another’s day work for Lomachenko who treated the great Cuban like he was just another opponent. The Ukrainian did have advantages going in, he was younger and the bigger man, but that wasn’t why he won, he won because he is the better fighter by mile. He won when Rigondeaux quit like Duran did thirty-seven years ago. Cuba’s pride and joy could do nothing with the man in front of him. The difference in those two performances is that the Duran-Leonard II fight was competitive for the first half of the fight and then Leonard danced around the ring, mugged and stuck his tongue out and Roberto Duran the killer just walked away, his pride hurt and legacy diminished. Lomachenko, on the other hand was the better fighter. He was right in his face all night and Rigondeaux couldn’t touch him, while Lomachenko touched him plenty, he out classed him, out punched him and made him quit on his stool to the shock of Rigo’s fans.

It was a great fight. Please don’t be fooled by the outcome. What we witnessed was an all-time great in his prime. I would put him in the top five or so all time in this writer’s opinion. The “Matrix” is just twenty-nine years old and there are a lot of great fights out there for him. It will be a pleasure following him as he builds his legacy. Boxing is having a renaissance, and Lomachenko is Michaelangelo.

Written by Al Iannacone Sr.

* Jake Lamotta, The Raging Bull dies at 95

Last month Giacobbe “Jake” Lamotta, known both as the “Raging Bull and the “Bronx Bull” passed away in florida at the age of 95, decades after of his opponents took the final ten count. Lamotta was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan New York on 10 July 1921 to Italian Immigrants. It was a tough neighborhood, in fact he was in the same street gang as Rocky Graziano. How would you like to run into both of them in an alley in the middle of the night?

The only way out of the slums for Jake was with his fists. He turned professional on March 3rd 1941 and defeated a guy named Charley Mackley, and within a year was matched with “Sugar” Ray Robinson and lost a competitive decision. Some background on Robinson is necessary here.Robinson was just 22 when they fought, however he had been 85-0 as an amateur with 69 knockouts, forty of those in the 1st round, he then turned professional and was 35-0 (27 knockouts) when he fough Lamotta in the first of what would be a six fights.

Lamotta and Robinson set the standard for ring rivalries. Lamotta won the second one, knocking Robinson out of the ring in the process. There is a photo of that on the homepage of this website. In those six fights Lamotta put Robinson down three times, while Ray was not able to put Jake down, even in the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre fight on 14 February 19, which by the was the site of for the original massacre. Ray won five of the six, but that is misleading. You see the money was on Ray, not jake and the series could have easily been Lamotta five Robinson one, rather than the other way around.

Lamotta rampaged through the Middleweight and light heavyweight ranks unable to get a shot at the title for years, even though he beat great fighters like, Robinson, Fritzie Zivic, Jose Basora,George Costner, Tommy Bell, Lloyd Marshall, Robert Villemain, Bob Satterfield and Holman Williams. Marshall and Williams were black fighters that many fighters avoided including Robinson. Jake fought them both and beat them.

Finally Jake did get his shot for the title against the legendary Frenchman Marcel Cerdan in 1949. Unfortunately the only way Jake was given the opportunity was to agree to fix a fight.It didn’t matter that he had been a top contender for eight years, it was all about the money and protecting their own fighters. So Jake fought Billy Fox, a light heavyweight that had a knockout string that ran to 43. Jake was a great fighter but a lousy actor and everyone who witnessed it knew what they where watching. It is sad that Lamotta had to do that however, if he hadn’t he never would have won the title and he would have gone down in history as one of those “Uncrowned Champions” who were great fighters that just did not get the opportunity.

on June 16th 1949 Lamotta, stalked and battered the Frenchman and it was mercifully stopped in the 10th round. Tragically before the re-match, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean on the way to training camp.Lamotta went on to defended his title twice, including the Lamotta-Dauthuille fight, the 1950 Fight of the Year in which Lamotta won by knock-out in the 15th Round. Lamotta lost his title to who else – Ray Robinson. Jake fought on until `1955 and finished with 109 fights, 83 victories, 19 loses and four draws, including 30 knockouts. He fought the all and then some. He was very proud of the fact that he had never been knocked down, that is until until his 106th fight against Danny Nardico. The Academy Award Winning movie “The Raging Bull” won fellow Italian American Robert Deniro the best Actor Oscar in 1980, which was based on the best selling book that preceded the movie. Lamotta passed away quietly in a Hospice of pneumonia in Aventura, Florida on 19 September 2017 at the age of ninety-five, which was sixty-eight years after winning the MiddleWeight Championship of the World. Rest in Peace Jake, there will never be another one like you.

Written by Al Iannacone Sr.

* Adelaide Byrd please just go away

It has been almost a week since the Golovkin Vs. Alvarez fight. I wanted to wait a while before addressing the result of the fight and for the to smoke clear a bit. Adelaide Byrd’s score was 118-110. Many had that score, only it was for Golovkin not Canelo. The world was watching and it was an excellent fight, only to be ruined by Ms. Byrd. Another black eye for boxing, and at the worst time possible as well. When will it end?

My only question is this; is Judge Byrd corrupt or is she incompetent? The boxing commission and those in power seem to have convinced themselves that she just needs training. Training? She has judged 492 fights. If I do anything 492 times, I would be an expert. What’s her problem?

Adelaide Byrd is both corrupt and incompetent. Why corrupt? Because she usually is for the house fighter, the sentimental favorite or is personally biased. In the fight in question, she was for the Cash Cow – Canelo. A Judge is supposed to be impartial. Nonito Donaire, a former world champion, said she is ruining the game. He has point, but she isn’t doing it alone. The selection of judges is driven by State Commissions and influenced by the top promoters. The solution is a National Boxing Commission. The establishment of a National Boxing Commission, would be a giant step forward for boxing. And is long overdue.

Back to Adelaide Byrd. She just needs to go away. I for one, and many agree, is that she should be nominated for the Boxing Hall of Shame and retire. She is not a good judge nor does she have the necessary skill set and is easily influenced – and for all the wrong reasons. Please go away Ms. Byrd, before you do any more damage, and find another line work.

Written by Al Iannacone Sr.

* Golovkin beats Canelo and the Judges call it draw anyway

It is just after Midnight and I just watched the much anticipated show-down between Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Similar to the Original Golden Boy, Canelo can not win the big one. Everyone I watched the fight with had Golovkin winning 9 or 10 rounds. GGG stalked and effectively pressured throughout and landed the harder blows. , Canelo had has moments but that’s all. He did try to come on late, but it was too little and too late. One Judge had it a ridiculous 118-110, another had it 116-112 Golovkin and the third had it 114-114 – a draw. The draw was off as well, but dimmed in comparison to the 118-110 score-card.

The commentators were very biased for most of the the bout, favoring Canelo. That is until even they had to accept what they were witnessing. The crowd initially were for Canelo, but these are people who know boxing, and when scores the were announced, booed mightly, as they did when Canelo was interviewed. They cheered the real winner Golovkin when he was interviewed. The men’s faces told the story. Golovkin was calm, confident and had the look of a winner, Canelo looked very much like a loser. He knew he did not deliver, and he winced when own fans booed him.

Well, that’s boxing. There will be a re-match, and we will all watch again. Why? Because no sport has what boxing has and love her or hate her, we keep coming back.

Written by: Al Iannacone Sr.

* Gennady Golovkin Vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez

The big fight is almost here. Not the glorified sparring session we saw last Saturday. It is a real show down against two of the best in boxing today. Gennady Golovkin and Saul (Canelo) Alvarez are both in their prime and have a combined 86-1-1 record with 67 knock outs. It doesn’t get too much better than that, and it’s on Mexican Independence day at that.

Gennady G. Golovkin, the 35 year old bomber from Kazakhstan had a 345-5 amateur record and is 37-0 with 33 knockouts as a professional. He is the WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and WBO Middleweight Champion of the World. His record includes a string of 23 consecutive knock-outs. He has defended the Middleweight title 18 times, just two behind the record set by Bernard Hopkins.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is 27 years old, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and has a 49-1-1 record with 34 knockouts as a professional. Like most Mexican boxers he had very little amateur experience which is understandable since he turned pro at the age of 15. Canelo has also won multiple titles, is the “Ring” Middleweight Champion, is the new Golden Boy and a boxing hero in Mexico and with Hispanics. Canelo is a boxer-puncher and natural counter puncher and is at his best when his opponent is coming at him – which GGG will do.

Both fighters have excellent resumes, Golovkin has fought and beaten; Daniel Jacobs, Kell Brook, David Lemieux, Willie Monroe Jr., Curtis Stevens, Gabriel Rosado, Martin Murray, Daniel Geale and Matthew Macklin. Canelo’s only loss was to Floyd Mayweather Jr. four years ago, and has beaten among others; Julio Ceaesar Chavez Jr., Liam Smith, Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland, Erislandy Lara, Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo, Shane Mosley, Carlos Baldomir and Josesito Lopez. Surprisingly they do not have any common opponents. Both have excellent cornermen.

The fight will be in Las Vegas, on Saturday 16 September, at the T-Mobile arena and has a good card including Jojo Diaz (24-0) vs. Jorge Lara (29-0-2), Lightweights and Randy Caballero (24-0) vs. Diego De La Hoya (19-0) Bantamweights. Two good fights between young undefeated fighters. Diego by the way is Oscar De La Hoya’s cousin.

The card is being promoted jointly by Golden Boy Productions and K2 Promotions, the Klitschko Brothers promotion company and will be on HBO PPV. This is a 50-50 fight for most people. I like Golovkin because I think he has more power and is a better boxer than given credit for. You don’t knock out 23 consecutive opponents on power alone. Also Golovkin has been fighting his entire career at middleweight, while this will be only the second time Canelo comes into the ring at 160 or more. My final thought is that Canelo has been moved carefully, in order to make him look good and build his confidence. He also usually fights smaller men or as in the case of the Chavez fight, had his opponent come down in weight to meet him at a catchweight (164). Like I said, I like Golovkin in this one. We’ll see. It should be a Classic, with the pressure fighter against the counter puncher. Enjoy the fight.

Written by: Al Iannacone Sr.