After turning 80 at the weekend, royalties of IBHOF and boxing press Graham Houston reflects on a life in the fighting game with memories of Muhammad Ali, Carlos Monzon, Salvador Sanchez, Floyd Mayweather and more.
Here’s something you might not know about me. I don’t celebrate birthdays. I don’t even keep track of how old I am. (As 1950s Western film actor Peter Brown once told an interviewer who asked his age, “I refuse to admit it.”)
But I was around a long time. So many years writing about boxing, around this sport, watch it. How many years?
Well, here’s an idea how long. My first published article was in US publication Boxing illustration in February 1961. So if I’m celebrating a major milestone in 2022, what about 60 years (give or take a year) as a boxing writer?
That first published paper was actually an entry in a writing competition. The BIEN the editor invited readers to submit their analysis of “Fights We Want to See”. The best entries will have their articles published and receive a free one-year journal subscription. I am one of the winners.
Here are the five battles:
- Sonny Liston vs Floyd Patterson
- Joey Giardello and Gustav Schol
- Archie Moore vs Harold Johnson (a championship rematch between the two that never happened)
- Gene Fullmer vs Paul Pender
- Ingemar Johansson vs Henry Cooper (rematch)
The only one of those battles that actually took place was Liston vs. Patterson. Liston of course won KO in the first round and repeated that result in a rematch. My choice? “I find Patterson will have to kneel before the 13th round.” Well, 12 rounds are over, but at least Liston by KO is the right pick. And the odds were pretty close for that first encounter, believe it or not. “Although the final odds were reported as 7 ½ to 5 Liston, the fact that in Chicago, where most of the last minute action took place, bets were so high on Liston that the odds skyrocketed to 2 eat 1,” Sports Illustrated reported.
The BIEN people must have seen the promise in me because they gave me a press card showing me as the official writer of the publication. And I went my way.
I split in half BIEN press card into a performance written with a newspaper called South London Advertiser. This allowed me to get press tickets to all the matches in London, with the exception of promoting Harry Levene at Wembley Pool (as it was then known). Wembley press officers, who refused requests to transfer press from local newspapers. But Jack Solomons, another major London promoter at the time, kept an eye on the local press.
And now I have worked hard and work as an accredited boxing reporter.
So many years, a lot of fighting. Memorable moment? Favorite moments? Too many to list. But here are a few.June 18 year
Poland’s Olympic lightweight silver medalist Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (he lost to Cassius Clay in Rome) showed his class and strength when he stopped the brave John Fisher of Scotland in the second round of the all-men’s bout took place with England. vs European Amateur Tournament at Royal Albert Hall. As I recall, a large left hand caused Fisher to fall onto the canvas. Pietrzykowski is possibly the greatest amateur boxer I have ever met in person.
November 3, 1964:
Peter Cheevers, a former amateur champion and classical boxer from South London, is widely seen as Britain’s future lightweight champion – but he has been beaten up by the more seasoned, Ghana-born Joe Tetteh but based in North London, swept away in an astonishing 45 seconds, at the famous old Shoreditch Town Hall. Cheevers tried to hold back tears in the dressing room afterwards. He never boxed again.
April 15, 1965:
One of the greatest amateur fights I’ve seen and hardly seen of the day (no live broadcast) was at the London Championships at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a lightweight-medium semi-final between South East champion Mark Rowe and North East London champion Jimmy Tibbs. In those days the semi-finals and finals were played on the same day. Rowe vs Tibbs played in the semi-final, in the early afternoon, in front of a tiny crowd. Tibbs boxed beautifully, scoring with the hit, but Rowe’s hits were heavier. I thought Tibbs had a slight lead after two innings but Rowe had a huge third round, with Tibbs severely swollen left eye. Rowe made the decision, well deserved. I still have the image of a brave but beaten Tibbs saying to Rowe, “Good fight” when the final bell rings.
July 2, 1973:
Joe Frazier came on as a substitute to meet Joe Bugner in a 12-round match at Earls Court in London (Danny McAlinden, originally due to defend the British heavyweight title against Bugner, was dropped after stopping in the third round. supposedly a launch against Morris Jackson the American is not interested). The battle with Frazier was Bugner’s best hour. He came back from a knock to lock Frazier’s legs with a big right hand in the 10th round. Frazier made a good decision after 12 rounds but ended with a swollen eye.
May 24, 1976:
One of the two times I got to see Muhammad Ali in the flesh was when he stopped British champion Richard Dunn in the fifth round in Munich. The fear in the British fighting brotherhood was that Yorkshire southpaw Dunn would be humiliated. But Dunn did well. I sat near Dunn’s corner and still vividly remember his manager, George Biddles, encouraging him to continue using emotional words. “I’m proud of you, son!” Biddles yelled at Dunn faint but still ready between rounds.
July 30, 1977:
At the Stade Louis II in Monaco for Carlos Monzon’s final game, a unanimous decision lasted 15 innings against Colombian Rodrigo Valdes. In their first match, a year earlier, Monzon had won with a powerful finish, knocking Valdes out in round 14. (I was also offside for that game.) This time, Valdes was the knock-out scorer, in the second half, and Monzon was slashed in the bridge of his nose. But the great middleweight champion from Argentina slowly took control with his long shots and right hand to ensure a tight but unified decision against the fiercely aggressive Valdes.
August 21, 1981:
Salvador Sanchez stopping Wilfredo Gomez in the round of 16 was the first of more than 100 on-site matches in Las Vegas. The late great featherweight champion Sanchez is defending his title against 122lbs champion Gomez, of Puerto Rico, at Caesars Palace. Duet musicians set the tone in the pre-fight competition, with a Mexican mariachi band dominating Puerto Rican salsa beats. In the fight, a courageous Gomez came back strong from a knockdown in the first round and turned this into the close, intense competition before, his eyes were bruised and swollen, he was eliminated again and stopped at round eight.
October 3, 1998:
Floyd Mayweather, then a rising but unproven star at the top level, had one of his best performances when he stopped Genaro Hernandez for eight rounds in Las Vegas Hilton to become the 130lbs champion. We knew that that night we saw a special talent in Mayweather. He faced a much more experienced champion in “Chicanito,” but Mayweather dominated the fight with hand speed, reflexes, and timing. Floyd Mayweather Sr told me before the fight, “My son is going to dominate this fight. It won’t even be close anymore.” He was right.
June 17, 2000:
Shane Mosley rose to the occasion when he won the decisive 12 rounds against Oscar De La Hoya in what was probably the best weight class fight I’ve ever seen. Location is Staples Center, Los Angeles. This is high level boxing, nip and tuck, every man has his moments. After 11 rounds, the fight was on the table but Sugar Shane dug down, let the punches fly and swept the final round onto the referees’ cards to draw a hard-fought victory.
March 1, 2003:
With a burly 193lbs, lightweight champion Roy Jones Jr showed he didn’t lose speed or fitness in the heavier weight class when he overcame John Ruiz to become the heavyweight champion at Thomas & Mack Center in London. Las Vegas. It was a great performance against a bigger, stronger opponent. I would even go as far as to say that, on this night, Jones was invincible.
July 6, 2014:
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (observer category) in Canastota, New York. I have never given an acceptance speech before. How to handle it? I used to say that it’s better to let people want more than to have them look at their watches. Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad are great warriors waiting to be introduced. I kept it short and sweet, thanked everyone and assured the meeting that I knew who it was real star was.