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Exclusive Interview with Eddie Gregg: “The heavyweights from the 1980s would blow everyone away today”

Tall, athletic and possessing fast hands and above average punching power, New Yorker Eddie Gregg should perhaps have gone further than he did. The 1980s contender, most famous for his 1986 KO loss to Gerry Cooney, became a favourite at The Felt Forum, and it was whilst fighting at this venue that Gregg won his only pro title – stopping an unbeaten Carlos Hernandez to collect the New York State heavyweight title in February of 1985.

Gregg once threatened the elite of the division, yet he says today how his elusive world title shot frustrated him in a major way.

Here, Gregg – who exited with a 24-3-1(18) record in 1987 – speaks exclusively with ESB:

Q: Your amateur career, what was your record and did you face any big names?

Eddie Gregg: “I was 32-2. The biggest fight then was probably Marvis Frazier. I fought him right in Joe Frazier’s gym and I lost a split decision. Can you say home-cooking! That’s what it was. I really had him going during the fight.”

Q: Who was your head trainer when you went pro?

E.G: “George Washington and Tommy Gallagher.”

Q: You fought a number of big names at pro level: Gerry Cooney, Randy “Tex” Cobb and James Broad. What are your memories of those fights?

E.G: “Broad, I was a little over-trained. I got winded and he hit me with a good shot (scoring an eighth-round stoppage). Cobb, he was so tough, easily the toughest guy I ever faced (Gregg winning a ten-round unanimous decision in a fan-friendly slugfest). He was tough but he found out that I was just as tough, or tougher. By the time of the Cooney fight, I had lost some desire. I had been promised a shot at Tony Tubbs’ [WBA] title after I beat Cobb, Don King promised me that, but I never got it. I know for a fact I would have beaten Tubbs. So I was more than a little frustrated. Against Cooney (a one-round KO loss for Gregg) I had lost a good deal of my desire as an athlete. But he was a good puncher and he caught me, I have to give him that.”

Q: Was Cooney the hardest puncher you ever met?

E.G: No. Cooney was a good puncher, no doubt, but the hardest puncher ever, I met in sparring; that was Ron Lyle. I sparred Lyle during the early part of my pro career, we went about five-rounds – and it was hard.”

Q: You had a fine left jab, was that your best punch?

E.G: “That, and I went to the body real well. The thing is, I learned how to go to the body so well due to the fact that I trained and sparred with a friend of mine, who was just 5’3.” He was a shorter guy and all he could do was go to my body, so I learned how to go to the body from him.”

Q: Have you any real regrets regarding your career, and if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

E.G: “I wouldn’t have retired as soon as I did. But I had been lied to by Don [King] and I never got a shot, at Tubbs or at Larry Holmes. They were making millions of dollars and I had fought enough tough guys to have earned my shot. Let me put it this way: there was some real hanky panky going on in the Broad fight and in the Cooney fight; let me leave it at that. You know, if the big people in boxing want something to happen, it will happen. You know, it’s not always fair, in any sport. That’s all I’ll say.”

Q: Do you still follow boxing today?

E.G: “I train fighters today, but the only division I follow is the heavyweight division. And let me tell you, it is weak, as weak as……… [Deontay] Wilder, he’s decent, probably the best of the current crew, but he hasn’t impressed me too much. If he was fighting in the 1980s, there is no way he would have been undefeated. The guys from the ’80s, they’d blow everyone away today.”