De Ken Hissner: In all my years of promoting, managing and advising my share of administrators, advertisers, and of course, boxers, here are some experiences.
In November 1982, I advertised what would be the third and final of my advertising events under the name Spartacus Promotions.
That event would take place at Easton High School in Easton, Pennsylvania. While out of the offices of WBC World Heavyweight Champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, I met his younger brother Mark Holmes, who was 21-0 at the time.
I asked Mark if he would like to take part in an exhibition about the show. He replied, “I’d love to because I didn’t fight in Easton as a professional, but you have to check with my brother Larry.” Mark would end his career at 38-1 and would not fight in Easton until his final fight. Many years later, I would nominate him as a member of the HOF Committee for the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, where he was inducted.
Having been a sales representative and talking to Larry during my visits to his area, I felt he was a Jekyll and Hyde character. You never knew what Larry would be like when you were around him.
I asked Mark, “So what, Larry?” He replied, “He is my steward.”
I left very reluctantly to get permission from Larry. I explained to him that 10% of the profits from the show would go to the San Antonio Boxing Club, where he and Mark would go. Larry’s response was, “I don’t present my brother in any show!”
After leaving Larry’s office, I made the mistake of later watching him fight at his gym. As he fought, he suddenly stopped and walked to the ropes and showed me sitting on a chair, and said, “I should come down there and beat the shit out of you. Next time I tell you, don’t go to my brother! ” Knowing I didn’t have to, but since there was a pond outside the gym and I would probably be thrown into it and not know how to swim, I quickly left the gym.
Years later, Philadelphia’s husband Gary Hegyi would say to me, “I have to give up and be fired twenty times while working for Larry performing his shows!”
Years later, at a press conference in Holmes, I stood up and asked. “Larry, didn’t Nick Wells stop you twice in the amateurs?” He replied, “Yes.” Then came the zinger, “You really don’t think you beat Timmy Witherspoon and Carl” The Truth “Williams, do you?” You could see his face change to like, “Who the hell is this guy?” Hesitantly, he replied, “I got the decisions, didn’t I?” I replied, “That’s all you have!”
At that moment, his companion Jay Newman approached me and said, “Hey buddy, can you calm it down?” I showed him an 8 × 11 picture of me between Holmes and his main battle partner Marvin Stinson of Philly, and he said, “Oh Ken, it’s you.” I replied, “you know I can’t stand this guy and waited years for this.” I sat down then.
Even when a statue of Holmes was built in Easton, I heard he paid for it, unlike the one in Philly by “Smokin” Joe Frazier which was built by donors.
Speaking of Frazier, I remember being in his Philadelphia North Broad Street Gym one day, standing near a boxer on a heavy bag. I heard a voice from behind me, “Hey, move on, or I’ll use you for a heavy bag!” I turned around, and it was Joe. I meant, “If I were Sonny List, you wouldn’t say that!” But I figured Joe meant business, and I was going to be his heavy bag and leave the gym.
Years later, I asked Joe’s motorcycle buddy, police officer Naz Gallie of Whitemarsh Township, where Joe lived, “why don’t we have a surprise party for Joe?” He replied, “For Joe? You don’t even like Joe. ”
After trying on Joe’s secretary for months while Joe was on his way with his group “Joe Frazier and the Knockouts,” the officer said he would contact Joe’s wife Florence, whom he knew.
When we got to the house, Florence was thrilled and said, “No one has done anything like this for Joe since we moved here.” Who entered the front door except Joe. He said, “What are you doing here?” Mr. Big Mouth, the policeman, never said a word the whole time Joe was there.
I told Joe, “We’ve planned a surprise party for you at a local country club.” He asked, “Who pays for this?” I replied, “half the people like your mother in South Carolina we’ll fly up for free, but the other half would pay like the Maxwell Club (football organization).”
He replied, “When Joe gives a party, no one pays!” I thought to myself that he is not giving the party, and I will not be blocked from paying for it. Joe said, “I don’t think so,” and went out the back door of his home where his wife Florence was standing. She asked, “Joe, where are you going?” He replied, “I’ll be back when I get back.”
Years later, Joe would come to Wilmington, Delaware, for boxer Dave Ruff to talk to the kids at the local Fraims Boys and Girls Club, and he was as nice as he could be with the kids. I must say that Joe was one of the most popular boxers in Branch.
The strange thing was in November 1983, JOE put his son Marvis then 10-0 and unranked, in a non-title fight with then-champion Larry Holmes, 44-0. Marvis was stopped at 2:57 of the first round. After the fight, Holmes said, “That’s because of all the beatings your dad gave me in the gym!”
I met others like 4-division world champion Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker at a book signing for boxing judge Carol Polis, who urged me to talk to him three times, saying, “he’s such a nice guy.”
I reluctantly approached him and asked, “Who was your toughest opponent?” He replied, “Everyone!” Former champions Mark Breland and Iran “The Blade” Barkley were also there. After he said that, I turned around and left when I heard Breland say, “he’s just talking to the ladies, Ken.”
I have met Muhammad Ali four times, and as reckless as he has been in his career, he has been one of the funniest people I have ever met. I once stood next to Hector “Macho” Camacho at a boxing event, and the usually overbearing boxer was as pleasant as possible. So you never know in the ring and outside the ring how a boxer will treat you.
In a meeting with WBA Lightweight Champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, I found him arrogant, while his one-time opponent, 3-time world champion Alexis Arguello was a class action when I met him.
I look forward to reading comments from some of our readers about their experiences with well-known boxers.