The Road Warriors

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31.12.06 – By Ted Sares: I wouldn’t be surprised if the first name you come up with is Buck Smith. After all, he once went down to Mexico to get knocked out by Julio Caesar Chavez and after all, his current record is 178 – 17 – 2 – 25 . Hell, just last August he lost to one Julius Fogle in Kansas City and prior to his comeback, he got iced by tough Jorge Kahwagi in Tijuana in 2003. But most of Buck’s bouts have been fought in the Mid-plains circuit of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, and Tennesee. Yes, he did fight Shannan Taylor in Australia and Gary Murray in South Africa both in 1995, but these two fights plus his two in Mexico don’t even come close for qualifying him for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Road Warriors. The members of this Hall comprise a pretty exclusive group and entry is extremely difficult..

Let’s take a look at some real Road Warriors. Guys who will go anywhere to earn their keep. In fact, some seem to thrive on the fans being against them. However, one thing they likely can never get used to is “home town cooking” when it comes to decision. Still, while the risk-reward equation seems to be against them, they travel to such places as St. Maarten, South Africa and Düsseldorf, Germany to ply their trade.

Brian Mitchell

One such Warrior was perhaps the best South African boxer of all time. Brian Mitchell turned pro in 1981 and captured the WBA Super Featherweight Title in 1986 with a TKO over Alfredo Layne. He defended the title a world record 12 times before retiring in 1991, and never lost a title fight.

In 1985, he faced Jacob Morake for the fourth time. Morake was the only man to beat Mitchell. Mitchell won on a twelfth-round KO, but Morake had absorbed a terrible amount of head punishment. He later died of injuries incurred in the fight.

Due to South Africa’s apartheid policy during those times, Brian had no choice but to become a true road warrior, defending his title almost exclusively abroad. He proved his worth by making 10 of his title defenses on the road, and he repeatedly proved his ability when fighting for the world title. Spain, Italy (5 times), England, Panama, Puerto Rico, The US (3 times) and France were all countries in which Mitchell defended his crown, He retired with a truly remarkable 45-1-3 record. Many South Africans consider him the that country’s greatest ever boxer. Today, he is one of South Africa’s top trainers.

Someday I may do a fantasy piece on ‘Manny Pacquiao vs. Brian Mitchell: Who wins?”

Virgil Hill

“Quicksilver” is another such fighter. In between his Atlantic City title book-ends, he has fought tough competition holding two wins over Frank Tate, 41-5, two victories over Fabrice Tiozzo, 48-2. Including one in which he overwhelmed Tiozzo decking him three times in a remarkable one round onslaught in Villeurbanne, France. He has also defeated Donny LaLonde, 41-5-1, James Toney conqueror Drake Thadzi, 30-9-1, Lou Del Valle, 35-3-1, Rufino Angulo, 21-3-3, Adolpho Washington, 31-9-2, Lottie Mwale, 44-9, Marvin Camel, 45-13-4, Jean-Marie Emebe, 27-7, Ramzi Hassan, 35-12-2, Marcos Geraldo, 60-28-1, Leslie Stewart, 31-12, Bobby Czyz, 44-8, James Kinchen, 49-9-2, and Henry Maske, 30-1. The combined won-lost record of just the opponents mentioned here is an astounding 833-149.

His 1996 win over Maske was in Munich and was the popular Maske’s first loss. Henry retired after that loss. As a fearless road warrior, ten of his big career fights have been in other countries including England, Germany, Australia, France and South Africa. Amazingly, he won seven of them. While some might criticize the number of bouts fought in his home state of North Dakota, “Quicksilver” has had more than his fair share of fights in Atlantic City or Nevada and his willingness to fight in an opponent’s home country is reflective of both his courage and his international popularity. For him, being a road warrior has meant making money.

He is due to fight Maske 2007 in — you guessed it — Germany.

Glen Johnson

Tough Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson’s venue reads like an advertisement form a travel agency. He has fought in the Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, St. Maarten, Aruba, Philips Halle, Düsseldorf, Germany, Padova, Italy, York Hall, Bethnal Green, London, England, Estrel Convention Center, Berlin, Neukölln, Germany, Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, Ponds Forge Arena, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, and Reebok Center, Bolton, Lancashire, England.

In between, he waged war in Los Angeles, Florida, Memphis, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Hawthorne Park, Cicero, IL, both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, Valdosta, GA, The Blue Horizon, Philadelphia, The Palace, Auburn Hills, MI.

Hell, Glen, 44-11-2, even duked it out with Eric Harding at Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe in the Bronx in 1993 for the something called the vacant USBA Light Heavyweight Title. He took a UD from Harding in this one.

The thing about Glen is that arguably he may have been stiffed in many of his fights (two MD’s and two SD’s) and has almost become philosophical about. Thismay account for his other moniker to wit: “The Gentleman.” Yet, he has won many fights by bringing his own judges to the fight, Mr. Left hand and Mr. Right Hand….and this clearly is the safest policy for all Road Warrior types.

Interestingly, his trilogy with Clinton Woods (1-1-1) was fought in England and resulted in Glen winning over a great number of English fans.

Ronald “Winky” Wright

Winky, 51-3-1, up until recently was perhaps the ultimate American road warrior. Let’s look at his incredible road slate. From July 1992 to January, 1996, Winky fought in Luxembourg, France (12 times!), Germany, Monte Carlo, and Argentina. During this period, he racked up an amazing 16-1 record fighting 7 times in 1993 and 6 times in 1995. His one loss, a decisive one, was to Julio Caesar Vasquez in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France in 1994.

The great Argentinean “El Zurdo” Vaszquez was a roadster in his own right having waged battles in such diverse countries as Croatia (Hrvatska), Spain, Zadar, Russia, Uruguay, England (twice), Kazakhstan, France (nine times…he beat Winky Wright there in 1994), Northern Ireland, Monaco (twice) and the US ( four times).

He then came back to what must have seem to him the strange environs of the States in 1996 and beat the very capable Andrew Council, 25-3-3 coming in, and Bronco McKart, 28-1 at the time. His win over Council was aired on the USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights and finally gave him national exposure to American fans. But apparently homesick for the open road, his next three fights, each of which he won, were fought in England….two in Manchester and one in London. In 1998, he travelled to Temba, NWP, South Africa and lost a controversial MD to Namibian Harry Simon, 16-0 for the WBO Light Middleweight Title. Simon, ironically, was trained by the aforementioned Brian Mitchell and retired undefeated with a 23-0 record and the WBO Middleweight Title.

But back to Winky. After breaking with his managers, the Acaries brothers in 1999 and beating Derrick Graham by ko in Miami later that same 1999, he met heavily favored Fernando Vargas for the IBF Light Middleweight Title. He again lost a controversial MD in a fight I personally thought should have been ruled a draw. He continued to defend the NABF and won the USBA Light Middleweight title in another decision over Bronco McKart.

He then ran off a 13 fight undefeated streak which is still alive. Along the way, he won the Vacant IBF Light Middleweight Title, the WBC Light Middleweight Title, the WBA Light Middleweight Title, and the WBC Middleweight Title Eliminator. Among his victim have been Keith Mullings, Robert Frazier, Sugar Shane Mosley (twice), Tito Trinidad, and Ike Quartey. His fight with Jermaine Tayler for the WBC Middleweight Title did end in a draw, albeit a controversial one.

More importantly, Winky Wright has gone from underlooked and somewhat unknown road warrior to one of the top Pound for Pound fighters in the world. He is now in a position to influence, if not dictate the location of his fights.

Ross Puritty

“The Boss,” 30-19-3, has fought in Germany (three times), Uzbekistan, The Ukraine, Denmark, South Africa, Japan and Mexico. Heck, he even fought in East St. Louis in 2000. Of course, Ross’s defining road warrior moment was his shocking TKO win over Wladimir Klitschko, 24-0 at the time, for the WBC International Heavyweight Title in 1998. This was accomplished at the Sportpalast, Kiev, in the Ukraine

Whether a Teamster’s Hall, beery ballroom, floating casino, Riverboat, Country Club, civic center, fairgrounds, or the Blue Horizon, Ross is more than willing to duke it out. But that’s what road warriors do.