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23 OCTOBER 2014

 

Notes and Nuggets


Don Elbaum: photo by Holger Keifel
Don Elbaum: photo by Holger Keifel

By Thomas Hauser

Don Elbaum telephoned last week to spread a message: Boxing fans should no longer be depressed about the demise of Pacquiao-Mayweather. A new mega-fight is on the horizon.

Elbaum is an adviser to Joey Abell; a 28-year-old heavyweight from Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Joey has a (somewhat padded) 25-and-4 record, with 24 of his victories coming by way of knockout.

Elbaum swears that Abell is “the hardest punching heavyweight since John L. Sullivan.” He further proclaims, “When it comes to pure punching power, I’d rank Joey, Earnie Shavers, and Mike Tyson one-two-three in that order.”

Note to readers: When pressed, Elbaum acknowledges, “To be completely honest, Earnie Shavers at his peak might have punched as hard as Joey.”

2008 was a bad year for Abell. On April 26, 2008, he was knocked out in four rounds by Andrew Greely, who has lost 16 of his last 17 fights (the sole win coming against Abell). On September 5th, Joey lost a six-round decision to 44-year-old Al Cole (who was coming off a 42-month layoff and three consecutive losses). Then, on November 28th, he was disqualified in a bout against Jason Nicholson, who has triumphed twice in his most recent 27 outings.

But Elbaum is quick to note that Abell rebounded in 2009 with five wins over “the toughest guys I could find; and they were hard to find because most guys are afraid to fight Joey.”

Bottom line: Abell is now slated to face off against 41-year-old Frans Botha in Uganda for the coveted WBF heavyweight championship.

“What’s the WBF?” you might ask.

“It used to be the World Boxing Foundation,” Elbaum answers. “But the people who ran it couldn’t get along with each other, so they split into two groups; the WBF and the WBF.”

Huh?

“The World Boxing Foundation and the World Boxing Federation,” Elbaum explains. “But maybe the World Boxing Federation came first; I’m not sure. The president of the one I’m talking about is Australian. You can look up which is which on the Internet.”

“Anyway,” Elbaum continues, “Botha was supposed to fight Evander Holyfield in Uganda for the heavyweight title of one of the WBFs. Joey was going to be on the undercard. But the money wasn’t there when Evander wanted it, so Evander pulled out and they moved Joey into the championship fight. They don’t have a heavyweight champion yet; so if Joey beats Botha, he’ll be the first. I think Botha is already heavyweight champion of the other WBF. So unless Botha has been stripped, if he beats Joey, as far as WBF heavyweight champions are concerned, Botha will be both.”

“The promoter is an African-Swedish person,” Elbaum adds. “I’m not sure what his last name is. I just call him Eddie. He’s a great guy. We’re expecting 80,000 people at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Uganda for the fight. You gotta come.”

Botha-Abell was originally scheduled for February 27th. That enabled me to tell Elbaum, “February 27th is my birthday, and I’m not spending it in Uganda.”

“Your birthday?” Elbaum countered. “That’s fantastic. Then you really gotta come. I guarantee you; we’ll have 80,000 Ugandans sing Happy Birthday for you and we’ll bake you the biggest cake ever. It will be in the Guinness Book of Records.”

It wasn’t to be. Elbaum later called to report, “The fight is still on, but we have to move it to a new date because the money hasn’t arrived yet. Eddie sent it by wire transfer eight days ago. He’s at the bank now trying to find out what happened to it. Could you move your birthday back a couple of weeks?”

That’s why he’s Don Elbaum and we’re not.

* * *

In the 1880’s John L. Sullivan established an enduring tradition. He realized that, as heavyweight champion, he could make large sums of money by appearing on stage in legitimate theatrical and vaudeville shows.

A half-century later, Jack Dempsey signed a contract to star in ten Hollywood films for a minimum guarantee of $1,000,000.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali starred on Broadway in Buck White and played himself in a feature film entitled The Greatest.

Doug DeWitt was never a match for Sullivan, Dempsey, or Ali in the ring. But he hopes to outdo them as an actor.

DeWitt was born in Youngstown in 1961 and grew up in Yonkers (on the outskirts of New York City). At age 18, he turned pro. After five years, he had 25 wins, 1 loss, and 2 draws. Then the competition got tougher. Doug lost decisions to the likes of Thomas Hearns and Milton McCrory and was stopped by Sambu Kalambay in his first bid for a (WBA) world title. He rebounded in his next outing to decision Robbie Sims and win the inaugural WBO middleweight crown. After that, he knocked out Matthew Hilton before losing his title to Nigel Benn. He retired in 1992 with a record of 33 wins, 8 losses, and 5 draws.

Four months after his ring career ended, DeWitt began studying acting at the Lee Strasburg Theatre and Film Institute in New York.

“My first day at the Strasburg Institute, I fell in love with acting,” Doug recalls. “It was the same kind of feeling I had when I found boxing. I’ve been pursuing a career as an actor ever since. When I do it well, it’s the most euphoric feeling in the world.”

Over the years, DeWitt has been in twenty plays. He devoted a year to stand-up comedy (“I always got laughs, but I decided I didn’t want to be a stand-up comic”). And he had a role in Bullet; a 1996 feature film starring Mickey Rourke.

“In Bullet, I was a cop yelling at someone who was painting graffiti on a wall,” Doug says. “I had one line: ‘Hey, fucknuts. Come on down from there.’ It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it got me into SAG [the Screen Actors Guild]. I’m a member of Actors Equity too. And I had one other film role, in a movie called The Florentine. I played a thug and had a good scene with Chris Penn, but it got cut. That pissed me off. It would have been a good showcase for me.”

“Film is what I really want to do,” DeWitt continues. “But I haven’t been able to get film roles, so I’m doing theater. If a guy in the gym says he’s a boxer but he just hits the heavy-bag and doesn’t fight, he isn’t a boxer. It’s the same thing with acting. An actor who doesn’t act isn’t an actor.”

DeWitt is currently appearing in The Cutting Den; a drama set in a Brooklyn barbershop that doubles as a bookie parlor. He plays the role of Eddie Armstrong (a former fighter who’s battling dementia and works as an enforcer for a local crime family).

The play was written by Ron Scott Stevens (former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission). “Doug auditioned; he earned the role,” Stevens says. “He takes his acting very seriously and he’s good.”

Ray Mancini (who fought at the same time as DeWitt) also took up acting when his ring career ended. He now has two dozen feature film and television roles to his credit.

“Ray tells me that, if I want to do film, I should move to Los Angeles,” Doug says. “But I’m not moving to LA. My life is in Scarsdale [an upscale New York City suburb]. I work as a personal trainer. I make a good buck. And the most important thing is, my son is here. He’s three years old. I see him every day. His mother is my girlfriend. We have keys to each other’s apartments. The best thing I am in my life is a father.”

As for the future, DeWitt notes, “I have a name from boxing. A lot of people in theater and film know me. Getting good roles is hard. Let’s be honest; I’m not young anymore. I’m a middle-aged character actor in a business where being young is important. But I still think I can make it. And whatever happens, my life is good.”

“The Cutting Den” will be at The Soho Playhouse), 15 Vandam Street in New York City, from February 4th through February 21st. Tickets can be purchased at www.sohoplayhouse.com.

* * *

On January 27th, Winky Wright ventured to New York to promote a six-fight card at the M2 Ultra Lounge on the west side of Manhattan. Sal Musumeci served as matchmaker, adviser, and on-site coordinator. As a quid pro quo, Derric Rossy (who Musumeci promotes) was in the main event.

Rossy was a star linebacker in high school and earned All-American honors from SuperPrep Magazine and USA Today. He started at linebacker for Boston College as a sophomore; then moved to defensive end. After graduation, he had free-agent tryouts with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Chicago Bears, but couldn’t land a roster spot. Meanwhile, to stay in shape, he began working out at the Academy of Boxing Gym in Huntington, New York, where Al Gavin was training fighters.

"After a while," Derric remembers, "Al asked me, ’Do you want to try this? I’m not saying you should, but you might be good.’”

That was in September 2003. A year later, Rossy turned pro. Give him credit for staying with it. He now has 23 wins with 12 knockouts against 2 losses.

It’s a matter of debate whether Derric is a good club fighter (the majority view) or (as Musumeci claims) world class. He was stopped each time he stepped up the level of opposition to face an elite opponent (Eddie Chambers, KO by 7; and Alexander Dimitrenko, KO by 5). But last July, Rossy won a ten-round decision over Carl Davis Drummond, which was a step in the right direction. In the ring, he’s starting to look less like a football player and more like a fighter.

Rossy’s opponent at the M2 Ultra Lounge was Alexis Mejias. Mejias sported a 10-and-2 record. But in his most recent outing, he’d been knocked out in 100 seconds by a 3-3-1 fighter.

Because of the overhead lighting and ring placement, large portions of the ring were ensconced in shadows. That ran afoul of Section 209.43 of the New York State Athletic Commission Laws and Rules Regulating Boxing, which states, “The ring shall be amply illuminated by overhead lights, which shall be so arranged that shadow shall be eliminated and discomfort from heat and glare minimized for persons in and near the ring.”

HBO has Boxing After Dark. This was Boxing in the Dark. The way the ring was lit had the potential to make it harder for fighters to see the punches coming.

Be that as it may; Rossy decked Mejias twice and ended matters at the 2:52 mark of round one. It wasn’t much of a test. Still, Derric did what he was supposed to do.

* * *

Scroll down the right hand side of our “home” and “USA” pages and you’ll see that SecondsOut has a new advertiser.

The Underground Clown is the creation of Frank Kozlowsky and Craig Mills. Kozlowsky, age 37, is a Coney Island native and the owner of Carousel Collision (an automobile body repair shop). Mills, 36, is one of ten workers in the shop and is known as “Turtle” because he does things faster than anyone else.

Eighty-five percent of Kozlowsky’s automotive business is insurance work. The rest is custom painting. He did automobile restoration work in the past, but says that “it’s too much time for too little money” so he doesn’t do it anymore.

Several years ago, Frank decided to paint an image on his own car that depicted the many sides of his personality. He chose a clown.

“During medieval times,” he explains, “the clown was the King’s jester. He mocked authority and ridiculed the establishment. The jester was the only one who dared talk back to the king. That was his purpose; to think outside of the box. And his ideas were often incorporated into official policy.”

“Besides,” Frank adds, “skulls and tigers and other dominant animals are everywhere.”

Kozlowsky received enough compliments from people who saw his car that he had the clown embroidered on work jackets for his employees. Then he and Mills (who had worked for Banana Republic, The Gap, and Versace) refined the image and took the next step toward what they hope will be a successful entrepreneurial venture.

On September 28, 2009, they launched The Underground Clown.

Most apparel companies start production with a basic T-shirt. The Underground Clown began with eight pieces and now offers close to fifty. Its best-selling items have been “future legends” shirts for men and tank tops for women. Kozlowsky and Mills are optimistic that, when summer comes, the sale of T-shirts will soar.

The company’s clown logo is a bit sinister, but there’s more to it than immediately meets the eye. That and more is explained at The Underground Clown’s website www.TheUnderGroundClown.com.

Meanwhile, Frank likes the clown logo enough to have had it tattooed on his right biceps and also the back of his left hand.

The reality that Kozlowsky faces is that it takes time to build up Internet sales and distribution to stores is hard. But The Underground Clown has begun to make inroads within the boxing community.

Joseph Agbeko wore an Underground Clown T-shirt and future legend shirt to the ring for his championship fight against Yonnhy Perez on Halloween night. Paulie Malignaggi wore Underground Clown patches on his trunks and robes for his December 12th rematch against Juan Diaz.

“I love the ‘future legend’ bit,” Malignaggi explains. “It fits my personality. The clown part is cool too. I’m a character; I know that. And the idea of the jester thinking outside box and daring to talk back to the king; that’s me.”


Thomas Hauser can be reached by e-mail at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (“An Unforgiving Sport”) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.


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