Boxing Never Promised Anyone a Happy Ending

boxingBy Ted Sares - If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. --Orson Wells

“The Native Sensation” (1996-2009) -Last I heard, Jonathan “The Native Sensation” Corn, 47-21 (KO 15)-3, was still fighting. He stormed out of the professional gate fighting mostly in the unlikely locales of Iowa and Wisconsin. His level of opposition was as bad as bad can get, but he did manage to beat Harold Brazier in 1998 at the end of Brazier’s great career. Among The Sensation’s victims were Billy Pryor (0-18), Walter Cowans (24-92), Reggie Strickland (62-252-15), Gerald Shelton (8-44-3), Richard Wilson (12-57-10) and Donnie “The Spoiler” Penelton (12-123-4).

By the time he met tough Ray Domenge for the somewhat dubious WAA Middleweight Title, he was 26-0-1. However, he lost a 12 round UD to Domenge who had paid his dues by fighting top tier competition including Ray Close, Roberto Duran, Rob Calloway, Mads Larsen and Omar Sheika..

When The Native Sensation duked with Marris “Midnight” Virgil in March 2003, he was 42-5-1; Marris was 14-53-3, but harsh reality set in for Corn as “Midnight” won the six rounder. Corn would go on to win several more against terrible opposition, but whenever he stepped up against the likes of Matt “The Predator” Vanda, James Crawford, Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson, William Joppy, Cornelius “K9” Bundrage, and Raul “El Diamante” Marquez, he would lose. More recently, he fought to a draw against Donnie Penelton (13-164-5) strongly indicating the end is near. The thing was, Corn may have deluded himself into thinking he was as good as that 26-0-1 record, but harsh reality should have suggested otherwise. And that can hold true for many who toil in the squared circle.

Robert Mullins (1975-1986)

On August 8, 1975, South Carolina featherweight Robert Mullins launched his pro career by knocking out one Rondell Stevenson. Rondell would win his next bout against Jerry Strickland, who in turn finished his career with a horrific 13-122 mark. Rondell then lost his next eleven, ten by stoppage, and finished with a 1-12 (KO 11) mark. It was pretty grim stuff, but then, boxing has never been something that promised happy endings.

As for Mullins, his next win came against one Super Bug Williams. He would win his next 23 in a row, 19 by stoppage. However, thirteen were fought in the friendly confines of his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina and eleven of his opponents had a “0“in their win category. A good win came against Canadian Johnny Summerhays (28-13-3) in Saginaw, Michigan in 1979, but perhaps his best victory was against James “El Tigre” Martinez (45-12-1 at the time).

“El Tigre” (1973-1998)

Martinez may have been used up by the time Mullins caught him. Building his early record in Texas and Oklahoma, “El Tigre” was 20-0-1 before losing to the great Carlos Zarate. One of his early KOs came against the notorious and infamous Simmie “Spider Black” Black who would end his long career with an eye popping 35 (KO 8)-162 (KO 95)-4 tally. Simmie was one of those who started his career badly and remained bad to the end. Fighting frequently in Kansas, Martinez moved his record to.44-7-1, but then he fought Juan Meza, the great Salvador Sanchez, and Ruben Castillo. It was down hill from there; after all, going 32 rounds with these monsters within the space of six months should be enough to slow down anyone. His last hurrah would be a draw in a rematch with Castillo (then 49-2) in November, 1980 at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston and a decision over tough Gerald Hayes in Odessa a month later. Martinez then lost 30 of his remaining 38 bouts, mostly against top contenders and future champions like Hilmer Kenty, Edwin “Chapo” Roasrio, Rodolfo “El Gato” Gonzalez, Fearless Freddie Pendleton, and Rockin Robin Bake. His final tally was 54-44-3.

Sandy Seabrooke and “The Prince of Second Avenue.”

On April15, 1978, Mullins KOd Sandy Seabrooke, who was then16-35-15. Seabrooke fought mostly out of Southern Florida and warrants mention for having fought fellow Floridian Jerry “The Prince of Second Avenue” Powers, seventeen times going 3-7-7. Sandy also lost 7 of 7 to “Irish” Bobby Marie, while The Prince went 4-7-2 against Winston Green and 7-1-1 against George “Tooley” Sawyer. Most of Sandy’s fights were in Florida, but his last was a KO loss to none other than “Sweet” Saoul Mamby in Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles.

The Prince’s final record was an active 54-85-18 with only 13 KO losses in 157 fights and 901 rounds. Strange as it may seem, I saw him lose twice to Sam Giancola at Marigold Gardens in Chicago in 1962. If nothing else, he was a survivor.

Mullins vs. “The Heat” (March 18, 1981)

After speedily dispatching Carlton “Speedy” Brown (who ended his inglorious career with a 2-48 slate) and icing hapless Willie Banner in 1980-81, Mullins was seemingly ready and poised for the big step up—but unfortunately for him, that step up was in the form of tough New Yorker John “The Heat” Verderosa who also was undefeated at 15-0 . “The Heat,” however, had been in with much tougher opposition in and around New York City and was coming off two TKOs over Jean LaPointe and Felix Kid Perez, respectively. As an amateur, Verderosa won two New York Golden Gloves Championships: the 1975 118lb Open Championship and the 1976 126lb Open Championship. The smart money people knew exactly how this tiff would go, but even they were shocked by how fast matters were resolved.

The well-hyped fight was for the vacant USBA super featherweight title and fought at the Ice World in Totowa, NJ, but as the fans got comfortably into their seats, it was over just like that. A quick right-hand shot sent Mullins on his backside and he was counted out in just 0.38 seconds of the first stanza. It was a rude welcome to the big city.

Mullins quickly returned to Spartanburg and chilled useful Carlos Santana a month later, but then he embarked on the second half of his career by losing three in a row to Eddie Richardson, Hector Camacho, and Tony Santana. However, a return to South Carolina netted him a confidence-building win against the grim Rondell Stevenson. After a righteous draw with teak tough Gerald Hayes in Atlantic City, he was stopped by the very capable Rocky Lockridge. He then pulled off two upsets in a row by beating Wayne Lynumn (10-0) and Andres Tena (9-0) bringing his record to a respectful 29-6-1. Then all hell broke loose, as he went 3-17 (KO 11) in his next 20 bouts. His last fight was a KO defeat to Keeley “Poochie” Thompson in 1986. The fight was for something called the Virginia State Super Featherweight Title. “Poochie” would end his own career by losing to none other than Benji “Bad News’ Singleton. Benji turned out to be great news for most of his opponents as he finished with a horrible 26-107-5 record.

To Mullins’ great credit (and unlike most Dixie fighters of that era), he became a global road warrior. He stepped up his level of opposition and fought such notables as Pat Cowdell (in England), Tyrone “The Harlem Butcher” Jackson, Bernard “The B.T. Express” Taylor, Richard Savage, Wilfredo “El Orgullo de Puerto Rico” Vazquez, and Loris Stecca in Italy (Stecca ended his fine career with a 55-2-2 mark). He then lost to Ray Minus in Nassau, the Bahamas, Zambian Charm “Shuffle” Chiteule in Germany, rugged Kamel Bou-Ali in Tunis, Tunisia, and Orlando “Romerito” Romero in Trujillo, Peru. Other names that appeared in his lost column included Lupe Suarez, Chris Calvin, and John Sichula, each with a solid record at the time. In fact, eleven of his serious opponents were undefeated coming in.

Mullins vs. Medley (1984)

In 1984, When Robert was again badly in need of a win, he went back home to South Carolina to duke with fellow South Carolinian Terry Medley ((16-5 at the time) whom he KOd in two. The interesting thing about Medley is that he too started his career fast by winning 12 in a row, all by KO. Of course, his opposition was dreadful (in fact, he never beat a fighter with a winning record), and once he left South Carolina and stepped up against the likes of Teddy Hatfield in Tampa, he was KOd himself. Terry went 3-6 in his final nine outings with all of his defeats coming by way of early stoppage. His last fight was a KO loss to none other than the aforementioned “Speedy Brown (1-18 coming in). That win would be one of only two Brown would notch as he moved to his final and dreadful 2-48 (KO 30) mark.

If there is anything to be gleaned from this, maybe it’s that a record built up on the Southern circuit (or in the Midwest or “dustbowl” states) is often perceived to mean something if the fighter stays put, but once he decides to test his mettle elsewhere, harsh reality can soon check in.

As for happy endings, look, this is boxing; this is an unsympathetic and callous place where a fighter can build up his record on Southern fodder and then, in the end, become fodder for others. While Robert Mullins may not have had the happiest career ending, he did finish with a winning record of 32 (KO 24) - lost 23 (KO 15) - 1, and he did have those fights with Hayes, Summerhays, Lynumn, Tena, and “El Tigre.”And while El Tigre may not have finished well, he did have that draw with Castillo and the win against the aforementioned Gerald Hayes---and Corn has that big one against Brazier which no one can ever take away from him.

Those count for something in my book; hell, they count for a whole lot.

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Article posted on 10.03.2009

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