New Yorker Lou Savarese had quite the career. Facing a number of greats, including George Foreman, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield, Lou more than held his own.
Going 46-7(38) overall, Savarese scored KO wins over Buster Douglas, Tim Witherspoon and Buster Mathis Jr. Today the owner of two boxing gyms, 56-year-old Savarese has zero regrets and he has some career to look back on.
Here, Lou takes ESB readers in a trip down memory lane:
Q: Your resume is quite remarkable – with you facing greats like Foreman, Tyson, Holyfield, Witherspoon, Douglas….. Is it fair to say, your win over Buster Mathis Jr made you a legit contender?
Lou Savarese: “Thank you, but that’s why I look like this! Yeah, people were sceptical up to that point. He was a good fighter, a very credible fighter with a good amateur background – his dad was a great fighter. And he was a great guy too, but I was just a little too strong for him. So that win, it kind of got me the bigger fights.”
Q: You fought Foreman next, in a great fight – 12 rounds, with George getting the split decision win. Looking back now, was the decision fair?
L.S: “You know, a lot of people say I won. I thought I won. But Foreman’s a huge name, a mega-star, so you have to beat him decisively. But yeah, I thought I won, but everything happens for a reason.”
Q: That fight’s coming up 25 years ago in April…..
L.S: “Oh, wow! My God. That’s crazy. I did not know that.”
Q: You’ve been in with a number of greats as you know. How do you rate Foreman’s power?
L.S: “Well, of course when I fought him he was a little bit older. But as they say, the last thing you lose is your power, and he was amazing, especially at that age. When you look back in retrospect, that was probably the greatest comeback in boxing history, or in sports history – it was one of them anyway. Yeah, it was a great fight and even in losing, I won. Everyone thought I’d get knocked out.”
Q: Were you ever badly buzzed or hurt in that fight?
L.S: “He got me one time; I said something to him and he hit me hard and I said to myself, I better shut up. But the cool thing was, I actually sparred with him a lot before we fought. I sparred probably 200, 300 rounds with him.”
Q: And then, in your next fight, David Izon managed to stop you when Foreman couldn’t. What happened?
L.S: “No excuses obviously, but I was supposed to fight Shannon Briggs. Actually, I was supposed to fight Shannon, maybe three or four times throughout my career and it never came to fruition. So we were supposed to fight Briggs and my manager, he begged me not to take the fight with Izon, and I did and to this day he still holds that against me (laughs). Izon caught me with a good shot, he was a good puncher, and we had trained for Briggs. But he beat me, he’s a great guy and a great puncher.”
Q: Then you bounced back and you destroyed Buster Douglas in a round. Was that your best win, looking back?
L.S: “Yeah, well, for me it was a really good fight because it was must-win. Everybody was looking past me. Bob Arum knew I was gonna lose. Of 22 writers, 25 picked me to lose! You know, he was this icon with a great jab. But in training, we found something, we worked on one thing, the right hand, and it worked really well. We worked really hard and we put all our eggs in one basket with the right hand and it worked.”
Q: The great Gil Clancy was doing commentary in the fight and he was impressed. Clancy of course had seen it all.
L.S: “I’m a big Gil Clancy fan. He used to come to our gym. He used to come to the gym, a great and a really nice guy.”
Q: I guess when fans talk to you today they ask you about the Foreman fight or the Mike Tyson fight?
L.S: “I have two gyms, and I tell the kids – ‘ask me about a fight I won!’ But Tyson, I saw him just recently at a function and he seems to be in a good place. He was a great finisher and he probably could’ve finished me, but I wish they hadn’t stopped the fight. But it was revealed how he was doing cocaine two hours before the fight. I’d love to fight him again but we’re both getting too old.”
Q: Tyson was wild back then and he even hit the referee in the fight with you, you remember?
L.S: “I remember it vividly. At the time, we thought they stopped the fight because he hit the referee. But listen, he seems to be a lot more mellow now. I spent an hour with him and he’s a great guy.”
Q: Then you bounced back and you scored a fine stoppage win over Tim Witherspoon, who not too many guys ever managed to stop.
L.S: “I remember, my manager at the time, he told me, ‘whatever you do, don’t even think about trying to knock this guy out.’ He told me not to try it, that only a couple had ever knocked him out or stopped him. So of course, I wanted to knock him out so bad!”
Q: And then your final fight, with another great in Holyfield. Ten hard rounds.
L.S: “That was a good fight. It was tough. Me and Holyfield are good friends and it’s kind of tough fighting your friend, but once the bell rings it’s kind of all over with (laughs). He got me with a couple of really good shots and I got up. I hit him with some shots and he had some chin.”
Q: Any regrets today?
L.S: “No. I have a couple of amazing kids; life’s been good. I stay in great shape, I work out. I actually went back to the New York Hall of Fame, where I was inducted, and it was sad. I ran into a couple of fighters there, and it was so, so sad; I couldn’t understand what they were saying and it was so, so sad. So I’m thankful that I made it out with half a brain. I’m a trainer and you can’t have a fat trainer!”