Where Are They Now? Pinklon Thomas

By Shawn M. Murphy - It has been a long road for Pinklon Thomas with a lot of highs and lows. The early part of his life was drugs and crime. Boxing however proved his salvation and eventually he became the heavyweight champion. Clean and sober since 1989, Thomas will tell you that he is lucky to be alive. He now counsels youth on how to make smart choices in life and shares his story on how he overcame an addiction that nearly destroyed him. Thomas says he is currently writing a book about his life story because as Thomas says "There is a real message here that needs to be told." It's a message that kids need to hear and hopefully they benefit from it. Fans can catch him at his site,

(SM) Pinklon how are you today?

(PT) Things are going pretty good. I'm here in Orlando right now. I worked with youth for awhile and some athletes including the amateur boxing association. I have a website also and will be updating it soon to let people know what I'm doing now. I have a project called Project Pink, working with kids to help them in their life skills and physical training too.

(SM) You've had a lot of ups and downs in your life, can you tell me about your childhood?

(PT) I donít want to go too deep into it because of the book but I had a difficult childhood. I grew up in the ghettos and it was the choices I made, the wrong choices that led to disaster. I thank God I'm here today.

(SM) So how did you become involved in boxing?

(PT) I was about eighteen when my wife joined the service. I was leading a pretty fast lifestyle at the time. When she went to the service I stayed behind and had basically given up. I got a call from her to come out to the Carolina's where she was at. I started to box in 1977 I think. I trained for about 2 1/2 months getting ready for the golden gloves. Lost my first fight, won my last two, and eventually became an amateur champion.

(SM) Who was your first name opponent you fought?

(PT) Oh I don't really know. I fought a guy in my tenth fight out of Las Vegas named Leroy Caldwell, he was a veteran. I fought Jerry Williams three times, he was pretty good. I fought Luis Acosta too before I fought "Quick" Tillis.

(SM) Give me your thoughts on the Gerrie Coetzee fight and decision?

(PT) It was a very political fight; apartheid was going on in Africa. Bob Arum and Don King had their rivalries going on too. I was under Lou Duva at the time. I had upset "Quick" Tillis who Don King had and King wanted me to sign with him. Lou Duva negotiated with Bob Arum for me to fight Coetzee. I was offered a lot of money to fight him in South Africa but I wouldn't. I fought him for a lot less in Atlantic City. We had to sign contracts several times because he got injured and then I got injured and the third time the fight went off. I was really sick with a cold but I would not postpone it for a third time. I was in bed for about eight days and trained as hard as I could. My team told me not to lie back on this guy. I did lay back the first four or five rounds though. I had in my mind that if I pushed myself too hard I was gonna lose a lot of energy. They told me to pick it up and I did in the later rounds. I really feel I should have got the decision, but it was really a political mess I think. Bob Arum had moved Coetzee over here and set him up in New Jersey. Bob spent a lot of money to do so and had him on a promotional contract and so I think it was all political. The draw was a real surprise to me, I wasn't impressed with it.

(SM) Tell me about the Tim Witherspoon fight?

(PT) I was really pumped for that fight. I trained at Joe Frazier's gym in Philadelphia. Angelo Dundee was with me for that fight. I had good sparring partners for that fight which I kept messing up my right knuckle and went down the street to Temple University and got in the whirlpool bath a lot and had ultrasound. Three weeks before the fight I was having some serious problems with it. There are two things that happened before that fight that most people don't know. Two days before the fight I had two cortisone shots in my hand because it was killing me. Also about two or three days before the fight I was sparring with Kenny LaKusta from Canada. He hit me with a shot and my vision went bad. I was seeing double at the time and didnít know that I had a detached retina. So I went into the fight seeing double along with my knuckle being really messed up. But I wanted it so bad because I had trained so hard and nothing was gonna keep me from it. I fought a good fight and won the decision. After the fight it wasn't bothering me that bad so I didn't see anyone about it. A week later I was in Canada for the WBC convention and was walking up a hill with a guy that ran security for me. I couldnít see him beside me looking out of one eye. I went to a hospital in Philadelphia and found out I had a detached retina. Don King told me I may have to retire. I told Don that I had come to far to quit now. I got myself together and took on Mike Weaver?

(SM) Weaver is really an imposing guy, how confident were you against him?

PT) I was really confident because I was in great shape. I set up camp in Atlantic City and had real good sparring partners. I bought in a guy to help me on my hand conditioning. I felt real good and knew it would be just a matter of time before I got to him. I knew he could punch and I knew I couldnít stand toe to toe. But I said I wasn't goanna back up for him and I didn't. I saw his gas tank running low after about six rounds. Sugar Ray Leonard, who was doing commentary for the fight called it right. He said Thomas is throwing jabs looking to set him up to lower the boom and that is exactly what I did.

(SM) What happened in the Trevor Berbick fight?

(PT) I wasn't 100% at all. I was going through some real personal problems with my wife. I set up training camp in California about three weeks ahead of time to prepare. My wife and kid were in Michigan and they came to all my fights. I could always hear them hollering for me. They didnít come to the fight and that hurt. Another thing was that they didnít want Angelo Dundee in my corner. I'm not sure who didnít and why but Angelo didnít show up because I guess he thought he wasn't gonna get paid. I really missed him in my corner. Another thing leading up to the fight was that I was in a studio in Burbank making a record. Another interesting bit of information is that Berbick and I were the only two heavyweights that weren't signed with Don King. A week before the fight he got to Berbick and Berbick signed with him. I still don't think I lost the fight, it was very close. I was the champion, I wasn't hurt or knocked down and I think I should have got the decision. I think the reason I didnít get it was because I didnít go with King.

(SM) How did you like your chances against Tyson?

(PT) Let me say this, and I haven't told a lot of people this. I fought Tyson with a broken right shoulder. Angelo knew I was having problems during training. I was in the gym sparring and we both threw right hands and I heard my shoulder pop. This was about six weeks before the fight. Instead of going to a doctor, I went to a chiropractor. He just told me to not use it for awhile. I started training again and couldnít really even hit the speed bag or the heavy bag. I was just running and doing what little I could. I got on location about three weeks ahead of time and Angelo could tell something was wrong. I had to change my style for the fight and that hurt. I found out later that I had a broken bone in my shoulder. If you watch the fight you'll see that I just used a good jab and little of my right hand. If you listen to the commentary you'll hear them say I was taking rounds from Tyson. I took the second, third, fourth. At the end of the fifth I told Tyson "Boy, your ass is mine now." I go back to the corner and find out my glove is split. They did not have another set at ringside and had to go outside the building to get them. This takes about nine or ten minutes and I thought I had Tyson right where I wanted him before this. Unfortunately he got a long break and by the time the fight resumed Tyson was fresh again. When we resumed he hit me with some good shots, one of them in my shoulder. If you watch the fight you can see my hand instantly come down, my shoulder just went. After I went down I got up at eight but I couldnít go on, I was pretty hurt.

(SM) You entered drug treatment in 1989, tell me about that?

(PT) Well I had my day; I grew up in the 1970's. Heroin, cocaine, barbiturates, pot, alcohol, everything. After I fought Holyfield, I realized I wasn't 100%. After that fight I got really depressed because I knew that if I was in shape I could have done a number on him. He was a true light-heavyweight and I just wasn't prepared.

(SM) After you retired you became a counselor with The Orlando Center for Drug- Free Living is that right?

(PT) I wasn't a degreed counselor but I had been through a lot of things that the residents were going through. It took awhile for them to take me seriously being a recovering addict myself. But I never had a kid that I couldn't communicate with or relate to. I worked there for thirteen years before I left.

(SM) Have you stayed involved with boxing in any capacity since retirement?

(PT) I put together an amateur program before my comeback and out of there came Antonio Tarver. I did some corporate boxing programs also for several companies.

(SM) Any thoughts on the heavyweight division today?

(PT) I donít really have any thoughts on it. I was talking to a guy the other day who promoted some of my early fights and he said, "Pink, if you were around with Brewster and Klitschko and the heavyweights now, you would chew them up and spit them out." I donít even know who the champions are now. When I fought you knew who the champion was and who were the contenders. They have really taken away from the sport.

(SM) Why didnít you and Larry Holmes ever get together and fight?

(PT) Larry Holmes. Because Larry Holmes would never fight me. I used to get mad when people would ask me that. I cornered him all along the way. When Holmes fought Ali I had just started boxing. I cried after that fight because Ali was my hero. I told myself that if I ever get a chance at Holmes I was gonna whip his butt but he never gave me that opportunity.

(SM) What future plans do you have in the works?

(PT) I have got a book coming out soon. I've had several writers helping me with It. I just wanted to tell my story because the truth is gonna set it free. When I first went into the gym at twenty I told my trainer Joe West that I was going to win the heavyweight title, write a book and then do a movie. He just looked at me and laughed. That was my hope and dreams. And maybe a movie deal sometime is in the works. The message needs to be told. All these things will go on my website.

(SM) Pinklon anything else you want to say before we wrap it up?

(PT) If you really want something and have good people behind you, it can happen. I just love to help kids reach their goals. Everything is going good and I canít complain.

Article posted on 11.11.2008

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