Copyright 2016 Ron Lipton
“THE BURNED HAND TEACHES BEST.” GIARDELLO V CARTER TRAINING CAMP
“I lay on top of my rock hard bed in agony with no medications to ease my pain, my face was swollen beyond recognition with cotton stuffed into both of my bloody nostrils with an ice pack on my jaw, while sharing the small musty room with one of the other sparring partners “Wild Bill” Hardney who ended up fighting Bob Foster a few times.
No one gave a f*** if I was crippled, we still had to get up at 5 A.M to run our 6 miles around River Road and then some in the freezing cold, or we were out of camp with no pay. The hope and prayer Rubin would be too drunk to get up early to rouse us out of bed always evaporated with his storm trooper knock on our doors.
No one quit and being I was the only “White boy” sparring partner as I was some time jokingly referred to and being once again I had asked for the job I was not going to quit from any beating Rubin could put on me. I had gone through this before but this one was especially vindictive and vicious.
Awhile back Carter came over to my home in West Orange for dinner before we went to Ehsan’s training camp to get down to business for this once in a lifetime world title fight. I was 18 years old and in great fighting shape and excited once again for this chance to go back to training camp with Rubin.
Carter and I had done a lot of things together from training together in Newark, Chatham and Patterson, partying in some of the toughest night clubs, fights on the street side by side but tonight at my parent’s home we were both going to be on our best harmless looking polite behavior.
I will leave the rest of that story as to what happened at my home for my book but suffice to say we had a good dinner, some emotional moments and my family collectively wished us well upon leaving and now I took my 1962 black dynamic 88 Oldsmobile with blood red interior and like always I was the one who did the driving and promptly left for Newark to pick up one sparring partner and then I headed off to Patterson to get the other.
At the training camp which had been host to many legendary champions of the past, Carter had his own room and we took the remaining bleak rooms up the few stairs into the back of this bunk house which was part of the former Whore House down the hill by the spring called Madam Bey’s, now “Ehsan’s Training Camp” famous the world over for its Spartan atmosphere, silence and boredom.
While alone in my car with Rubin we had talked about Joey Giardello and Rubin had truly respected my vast well read knowledge about past and present boxing history. We had sat ringside together watching Joey G out point Dick Tiger in Atlantic City and his words to me on more than one occasion regarding that night were always , “Giardello did nothing wrong in that ring in Atlantic City.” I knew Joey had Tiger’s moves down pretty well having fought him 3 times before winning two, but he would eventually lose his title to him in Oct 65 in M.S.G. but that is another interesting story.
I told Rubin that only Ellsworth “Spider” Webb stopped him on cuts 6 years earlier, and Harold Green tough as they come had hit Joey after the bell for his only other stoppage along with Carey Mace early in his career. I remember saying this motherf***er is impossible to knock out to the head, he can take a trimming all night long, just ask Henry Hank, Gene Fullmer, Ernie Durando, Tiger, Ray Robinson and all of the rest of the killer head knockers he fought.
I also said, I heard he doesn’t like doing roadwork too much, everyone knows he smokes like someone I know and is so relaxed in there that nothing makes this guy nervous and he will be the toughest Italian son of a bitch you can ever dream of in that ring. His boxing balls make Marciano look fluffy.
I said Rube, you cannot box with him, he will keep turning you, and he has perfect range, timing, leverage and radar, he has a lifetime of ring moxie and will tie you up, sneak shots into the gut and spin out. Your only chance is to take him over the line of what anyone has done to him before, bust him up and knock him out or they will never give you a decision in Philly. Bring a lunch with this guy unless you over power him early. He listened to me but the reality and truth of what I said, started working on him.
When we got into training camp I knew he was very mad at me for telling him the truth, doubting he could hurt Joey G to the head. He was smoldering and his eyes glittered with anger toward me which always happened when he was drinking.
I had told him the hard core truth which was my way. I added to smooth things over, that yes you have great hand speed, both hands, and your chopping right and short and long left hook along with that left uppercut to the body and your nose smashing jab will do the job but you have to have the stamina to pour it on all night and not hold back. Half measures will blow it for you.
You will really have to lay off the smoking, booze and p***y for this one. We have to get the lungs for this fight and train harder than ever before without going stale and if ever you are going to jump on someone with all you have and all night long, then this is the fight, but it has to be early with all you have like a Henry Armstrong blitz without a stop.
He hated me at that moment because he knew his limitations and how tough Joey was and I knew I was in for hell as the days went by for telling it like it was.
One day fairly early into training camp we had one of the most vicious sparring sessions I ever had in my life and I was not alone. Light Heavyweight Bill Hardney was knocked totally unconscious face forward and heavyweight Clay Thomas who fought Ernie Terrell caught the beating of his life before it was my turn.
Patterson featherweight Jay McCombs who always was fast enough to avoid getting knocked down by Rubin had left several days earlier and I was the only one left in camp to utilize for my hand and leg speed at 146lbs of muscle.
The bleachers had been packed with people during the day and now this day my friends from Mountain High School in West Orange were there to watch me go at it with Carter. My friend Dominick Scaglione who later went on to retire from the F.B.I. was sitting there and I wanted to look good in front of Dom who was a pretty tough guy himself and who I respected very much.
I had been with Rubin for a long time sharing some of his great victories over Emile and Florentino Fernandez, Benton, Mims, Brennan, Ellis and others. I grew up with him in camp from the days in Newark at Mooksie’s Arena gym where we had first met. Now after a quick KO over Clarence James in Los Angeles, he was getting a shot at the great Joey Giardello.
When on top of his game with no outside interference Rubin was superbly hungry, devastating and ferocious. I saw him destroy other heavyweights in sparring with his hand and body speed and short rapid fire explosive punching power.
We trained like demons at first doing 10 sets of 100 pushups sinking deep between the legs of a ring stool with our feet elevated onto the ring apron until we hit 1000 repetitions as we did with our sit ups in super set fashion of 100 reps per set.
He would loudly bang on our door being the first one up at 4:30AM while it was still dark and despite him drinking and smoking the night before and I swear to God to this day I do not know how this guy did it, he outran everyone including me who was a cross country runner for 4- 6 miles every morning up and down the winding hills in the freezing Chatham N.J. weather with ice hanging off our dark beards. He constantly stayed 10-15 yards in front of me no matter how much I put out.
He would box 6-10 rounds, hit the heavy bag for at least 6 or more rounds, and jump rope for 20-35 minutes or more straight, then 4 rounds on the speed bag, do our pushups, floor work, neck strap with weight plates, and a variety of sit ups, but as the days went by he was not himself in sparring, or bag work. We only ate breakfast, then napped, then got up to train, ate dinner, played cards, told jokes, watched a little bit of his rabbit ear antenna small black and white TV and went to bed early. We were all sex starved, hungry, vicious and mean which was the way it was supposed to be in order to do well in the ring. It was old school from A-Z.
During training he would become frustrated throwing his jump rope into the wall so hard he smashed the handles if he missed a beat. He was not into it like I used to see him and no one dared asked him why.
I have never in all my life later as a police officer, then a Detective working Organized Crime, a bouncer in the toughest night clubs, seen anyone alive who radiated more frightening real danger when they were moody and angry. He was an explosive force.
Yet if you stood up to him as I did on rare occasion which I will relate in my book, he did not back down but he respected it in the most dignified surprising way that was quite surprising. I had one hard fight with him outside the ring and despite the viciousness of it, it ended up OK. We both knew we would shoot each other if pushed too far. So it was not worth it. Back down from him and like a wolf or a stalking jaguar it would be your end like prey running from a jungle cat. He loved strength and so did I, but the son of a bitch did have justice and kindness in him, at least with me.
His sparring became too disinterested and he was not listening to my on the money strategy advice or to Jimmy Wilde who agreed with me on how to fight Joey G. He was just going through the motions as his focus seem to wane and I noticed changes in his physique, he seemed kind of flat and not as powerful as I was used to seeing him.
Outside troubles crept into his psyche like an unwanted wraith and that was his bane. I remember years later after I met Arnold Schwarzenegger at Joe Weider’s warehouse in Union City N.J. when I was a Detective in the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, I later read about him training for the Mr. Olympia title and he refused to attend a funeral in his own family or let it affect his training.
When I saw him again I asked him about it and he confirmed that as he did in public interviews. He was a focused champion with a goal.
Rubin should have only focused on Joey Giardello, stayed away from the distractions and bar and night club trouble as well as training the right way for the specific guy he was fighting and he would have won or at least had a better chance. You cannot train the same way all the time, you have to have a game plan.
I did not like what I saw with him smoking and drinking at night in camp. He also was bringing up girls at night in the first couple of weeks. We all had our fun but I was not fighting for the title, he was.
I saw him down an entire 5th of Vodka gulping it down like a bottle of water one night. I could not believe my eyes. My room was right next to his and I could hear him cursing alone in his room. It was scary and sad and we all kept our distance until he chilled out.
Anyway, back to the day where it was my turn to get into the ring with him in front of my friends. I had warmed up plenty and felt good.
The great trainer Jimmy Wilde, not the former flyweight champ, taped my hands in camp. Formerly I had been honored along with Rubin to have the legendary trainer Charlie Goldman who trained Rocky Marciano tape my hands also, along with Freddie Brown and Chickie Ferrara in our training camp. Today it was Jimmy Wilde. Other times Freddie and Chickie were in the opponent’s corner even when Rubin later fought Tiger.
I knew all of Rubin’s moves and I could keep him off of me pretty well with lateral movement, my uncanny sense of timing and a stiff jab and fast combinations. If you let him get in close you would be flirting with a busted rib or pissing blood later from his ripping body shots exploding across your gut while some strayed low while paralyzing me for a moment despite my Tuf-Wear or G&S foul proof protector.
I finally landed a very fast and stiff flashing right hand with good body dip and shoulder snap that bloodied his nose and tried to put a short chopping left hook behind it. He grabbed one nostril with his boxing glove unattached thumb and blew an explosion of snot and blood out of his nose just missing my boxing shoe, I recoiled in disgust and for that tenth of a second lack of focus, he nailed me. I never saw his right shoulder move it was so f***ing fast.
The next thing I knew I felt an impact like I never felt before or after to this day. My chin, the point of my chin felt like it was driven through the back of neck with his whole shoulder behind the shot. I crashed so hard to the resin filled filthy and loose bunchy poorly padded canvas I had a big bruise on my leg later. I was down and out cold I was later told for about a 4 count. I hit so hard it snapped me back but I had been O.U.T. for a short count.
All I can remember is venomous rage, hatred, embarrassment and the thought of wanting to kill him rushing through my teenage vanity as I got up at 4 glaring at him through a red veil of concussed vision. I also saw Jimmy Wilde’s face and he was white with fear, Rubin had crippled another very young sparring partner before named Winnie Winfred who Lou Duva had sent him and I was not going to be the second one to be crippled.
I got up and bounded seemingly straight into him then pivoting off while maintaining my fighters balance and stance hands held high, he was smiling at me through his mouthpiece and his nose was still bleeding which made me feel good.
I came in crafty and at angles and then went into a very fast weave loading up my left leg and nailed him with a perfect short hook with good torque and snap on top of his headgear, and I weaved and spun to my right pivoting around him faster than he could move, and rolling my shoulders with as much hand speed as I had, firing from my abs, hips, shoulders and up from the floor, I fired blazing fast straight stiff short hard shots with a nice kick on each one aiming at his shoulders and face most of which he slipped with skill and grace, I whipped in two hooks one to his right elbow and other toward his jaw making him roll under the shot and then he exploded on me again.
I remember only the impact of his punches landing everywhere on my face and torso all bone jarring shots, some kind of shattering punch broke my nose for sure, and the other punches that ripped into my ribs and gut were like explosions of pain of a red hot poker slammed into my abdominal area deep into my internal organs with a feeling of being disrupted inside. It was sickening and the agony spread through me like wildfire. Wilde jumped into the ring when the bell rang. I was a bleeding mess, and I said through my thick specially made mouthpiece that Gil Clancy and Emile Griffith arranged for me to have, the exact one that Emile and Paddy DeMarco had from a dentist in the Bronx named Dr. Brown, I mumbled, I ought to kill you motherf*** doing this in front of my friends.
The body shots were causing pain that kept spreading through me like a wrecking ball hit me in the gut. It was a sickening dull ache laced with the mental anguish like I said that he actually disrupted or broke me up internally. It lasted all night it hurt so badly.
He laughed and said “Don’t be a p****y, you’re getting paid.” The other two African American sparring partners, who liked me a lot and had been good pals, were very taken back at the beating I took but I saw respect and definite shock and sadness in their faces for the caliber of the ass whipping I had just taken.
The place was like a morgue after that. That day Rubin had gone too far with his friends trying to get him ready for this fight but hell man, in hindsight business is business and we were getting paid.
I said to Carter, “Joey G is going to kick your f***ing ass unless you can do better than that, you hit like a little bitch” I said it as mean and viciously growling at him as I could but my anger came over ridiculous and funny from my bloody and bruised face busting everyone up, especially after he f…ed me up so bad. I laugh now thinking about my stupid useless comment in the wake of that ass whipping.
I smiled sickly at the other guys through my distorted face and went shaking and trembling from the beating staggering as proudly as I could muster on wobbly legs to the shower humiliated and plotting revenge.
Night finally fell and the big colorful banner advertising the title fight was outside flying high like a flag in front of our bunk house at the top of the freezing cold dark hill, I could hear it flapping in the wind in the dead silence of the night as I lay alone in the dark in my room plotting bitter revenge in my wounded lacerated adolescent foolish mind.
Rubin waited until everyone left and despite my earlier warning advice from the heart he went out drinking and shooting pool for money in nearby Providence while trying to get his last shot of p….y before the trainers and manager came back after the weekend. We all vowed silence about it of course.
It was then that I started to doubt his resolve. That show of power earlier against us poor bastards was more out of frustration and anger than a dedication to training and I knew if it continued Joey G would win.
Only Bill Hardney and I were there in camp later that night alone in our room and the tension was there like another presence creating a wall between us. It was total silence with me stewing in anger which was rising by the second while I remained wrapped up in my own agonizing thoughts.
We had been friends and I knew his sister Alma in Newark. Me and Wild Bill had traveled together to Atlantic City and stayed at his Father’s little shack while going to the beach. We did a lot of shit together training and having fun and I could make him laugh fit to bust anytime I wanted.
Not that night, I had no words for anyone.
The only TV was in Rubin’s room where no one was allowed. He kept his guns in there too so if anyone went in there it would be his ass.
One night on June 12, 1964 I remember just me and Rubin alone rested in his room at Ehsan’s training camp on the two Spartan cot type beds watching Emile Griffith beat Luis Rodriguez in Vegas with Rubin rooting for Emile all the way. I kept looking at his guns on the wall peg wishing they were mine as my father would not let me have any.
This night after he dropped me in that ring right in front of my friends I was full of hatred and brooding dangerously. Bill Hardney knew I did not play.
He was about 6’2” and was a N.J. Golden glove light heavy champ and he had balls, believe me. We would wrestle on occasion and with my background in Judo I would get him down, choke him almost out and make him tap out which only made this crazy bastard laugh that I could even do it. We had fights on the street against a carload of thugs and we got out and beat the dog shit out of all of them on Bloomfield Ave in East Orange N.J. one night, so we sure did some things together. He came to my fights and I came to his as did Rubin too.
The poor guy had no teeth in front and wore false teeth from lack of money and dental care, all he had was boxing. His real teeth were knocked out in fights and when he took out the false ones he looked like a 90 year old ugly ass black woman in drag with no teeth. Sonny Liston in a negligee would look prettier.
I told him “Wild Bill don’t ever go to jail, those guys will have you giving blow jobs all day long.” He would run after me mad as hell trying to punch me in the shoulder while I stayed out of his reach laughing hysterically which pissed him off even more.
As I said him, me and Rubin had been in fights on the street together and Bill knew I would do anything to win and would rather be dead than let anyone beat me, basically he felt I was a little more crazy than him or Rubin but tonight he started breaking my balls. A bad mistake.
He started saying shit like, “You took that whipping like a p…y today, you can’t do that, you have to be a pro, you can’t talk that crazy shit to Rubin, and he’ll just f***you up again. The brothers trained you in Newark, you’re good, you can fight and you ain’t some straight up white boy, you’re here with us so now so act like a f***ing man not a complaining little bitch.”
I got up with the blood pounding and racing through my head with ultra violet anger, went into Rubin’s room and took his two High Standard .22 caliber 9 shot revolvers with the two gun black holster set off the wall that my buddy Frankie De Paula gave Rubin as a present and which we would go shooting with in back of the camp for target practice. I was a better shot than all of them times 10 and they all knew it too.
I strapped on the two gun holster and revolvers. I came back in the room and told Hardney to get up. He sheepishly and with great trepidation and visible fear followed me out into the gym. I shot one heavy bag in anger, then another one. The dust from those old school bags poured out onto the wooden floor. He was petrified of guns; I was not and shot them all the time.
Bill approached me very slowly with fear in his eyes and I told him to stay the f*** where he was, and then he said, “He is going to go f***ing crazy when he comes back from drinking tonight.”
I said; F** that, and f*** you, what were you saying about me being a p….y?
I was 18 and wild with anger. I saw he was getting even more scared because he had seen me angry before which was rare, I was usually very relaxed and friendly, but not now, I said dance motherf***er, and shot into the floor near his foot. He ran out of the gym like a maniac into the freezing night and down the hill to the main house.
Ehsan the man from Turkey who basically liked me, had woken up from the gun fire and Hardney screaming for him, he came up the hill. The frail and gentle old man came into the poorly lit gym and was yelling and freaking out when he saw the mess, “Who did this that is going to pay for this, wait till Rubin gets back.”
I went back to my bed, I was so dizzy and ashamed from what Rubin did to me I did not care about anything. Many hours went by and I heard a car drop Rubin off, I could hear Ehsan yelling at Rubin all the way from down the hill. I packed my bags and waited until he came in ready for the worst.
Then I saw his ferocious silhouette fill my doorway with his chilling countenance drooping mandarin mustache, goatee and powerful torso.
He knew my father and I had a fist fight before and he made friends with my father who asked Rubin to please look out for his wild son. He had promised my Dad that he would.
I said, “You going to try and f*** me up.” He said, “Nope, we both had enough of that shit in our lives, but you let me down man. I have to take this out of your pay. I said, so ashamed of myself and truly sorry, “Do you want me to leave tonight?”
He shook his head no while looking down at the floor, “No man, just get some sleep, heal up and I will give you a shot at me again because I know that’s what you really want.” He was shaking his head smiling with but with understanding. I watched him close to see if he was mocking me, and he was not.
I knew his Dad too had beat the shit out of him with a strap on a regular basis and he did not go for that at all, although I thought for sure he was going to come after me.
I said, with all the sincerity I could muster, sorry man you made me look bad in front of my friends. He said, “Ron, sorry don’t get it for this tonight, you want me to take it easy on you in there? I said, Hell no. He said, “Good then, be a man and do your job.”
After that we got along better, I took my lumps in stride and learned a lot from him in that ring.
His only losses up to this point in time were by decision to the cagey late Light Heavyweight Herschel Jacobs in Rubin’s 5th pro bout. Rubin had beaten Herschel 2 months earlier despite the height and weight disparity and the ridiculous managerial maneuver to match him again had no rhyme nor reason.
Then in his 12th pro fight he dropped a decision to Ernie Burford only to KO him in a rematch 2 months later.
It was very hard to get Rubin good sparring back then but once he was training with focus, good sparring and eating right he was on the way.
Then his only other losses were to the toughest guy to ever come out of Puerto Rico Jose Monon Gonzalez who beat Joey Archer, Florentino Fernandez by TKO twice and just about every other middleweight around.
The films show clearly as did the score cards that Rubin was ahead on points until a head butt caused a cut to his right eye. Today they would have gone to the score cards and Carter would have won. Back then despite being ahead they ruled it a TKO.
One must watch the films of this fight on You Tube to see the ferocity of the fight.
In my interview with Jose Monon Gonzalez at his home in 1994 which appeared in Boxing Illustrated, he told me that Rubin hit him a right hand in the shoulder which caused him pain for months afterward. Jose was staggered badly in the bout but lasted until the stoppage.
After that before the end of the year Rubin beat George Benton in a fight that should be put into a time capsule. Rubin then beat the tall and tough Farid Salim, stopped Emile Griffith in one round knocking him down twice and while I sat first row ringside I watched him chase Joey Archer around for 10 rounds and finally stagger Archer so badly in the last round in M.S.G. turning his legs to jelly that Joey said, “It was the hardest I have ever been hit.”
Archer boxed brilliantly as he always did and many felt he deserved the decision although there were others who did not. All respect to Joey he did box brilliantly with Rubin constantly after him.
When Rubin finally broke camp and we went to Philly I did not like what I had seen in camp.
I did not feel the ferocity being built up, more like caution and a reliance on outlasting Giardello, maybe picking his shots but not the work I had suggested which was work on stamina, bring to the table everything that made you KO Griffith and Fernandez, explode all over Georgie Benton and go after Joey nonstop with power shots breaking open his scar tissue and stay on him like a Henry Armstrong with nonstop power shots.
I got down to Philly and later that night went to Lew Tendler’s for a steak with my beloved Father and friend Bob Kedersha. I got into the weigh in earlier and I remember it all and later seeing the famous photos of Joey G wanting Rubin to shave the goatee. Both boxers showed each other respect.
I sat ringside right next to Philly’s great light heavyweight champion Harold Johnson. We watched a very cautious Rubin Carter conserve his stamina and hold back on exploding with endless power punches for 15 rounds of Joey Giardello turning him, boxing brilliantly while tying him up but never hurting Rubin although Joey got in some decent body shots in the clinches. Joey G took the decision.
I got into the dressing room and Rubin had his head down, he looked up at me and I gave him a smile but said nothing. I saw the lights go out in his eyes for the sport of boxing right there and he was never the same, just going through the motions for a few paydays.
His dream was gone and actually like Rubin told many people, “I never really liked prize fighting.”
“Little did I know I would end up helping not only to free Rubin Carter from prison but helping Joey Giardello win his lawsuit against the movie “Hurricane” in which I refused as the potential choreographer to make Joey G look bad in the movie, I testified for over 7 hours for Giardello who won the lawsuit.”
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Ron Lipton Bio
****N.Y. State Athletic Commission Referee
2014 N.J. Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee as a fighter, pro referee and boxing historian.
2000 Lifetime Service to Boxing Award
2000 Life Time Civil Rights Achievement Award Winner
2007 NAACP Man of Distinction Award Winner
2015 Jose Torres Renaissance Man Award
Marist College Boxing Instructor for 16 years.
Was the paid sparring partner of Ali, Dick Tiger, Carlos Ortiz, Rubin Carter, and others for their world title bouts and main events in Madison Square Garden.
Refereed major title fights on HBO, Pay Per View, ESPN, MSG,WNEW CH 5, and 51 Champions and also top contenders in most every weight division including Evander Holyfield twice, Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitiker, Roy Jones Jr, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, Oscar De La Hoya, Jesse James Leija, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Montell Griffin, David Tua twice, Tracy Harris Patterson twice, Hector Acero Sanchez, Jake “The Snake” Rodriquez, Charlie “White Lightning” Brown, Frankie Toledo, Immamu Mayfield, Yori Boy Campas, Howard Davis Jr, Donavan “Razor” Ruddock, Orlando Canizalez, Poison Junior Jones, Israel “Pita” Cardona,, Mitch Blood Green, Ray Mercer, Bobby Czyz, Merqui Sosa, Prince Charles Williams, Joey Gamache, Jeff Mayweather, David Telesco, Alex Stewart, Larry Barnes, Ruediger May, Harold Grey, Paea Wolfgramm, Eamon Loughran, Allesandro Duran, Ivan Robinson twice,, Lonnie Bradley, Regillio Tuur, Michael Bentt, Kevin Pompey twice, William Bo James, Lou Savarese , Danell Nicholsan, Rudy Zavala, Tony Marshall, Derick Rolon, Fermin Cherino, Kabary Salem, Amir Iman, Jackie Trivilino, Alecia Napolean, Ronica Jeffrey, Olivia Gerula, Joe Smith, Zou Shiming and many others including present day champions in 2016 having done several title fights including 3 female world title bouts.