There is nothing better than a humble boxer. I’ve seen and met my share such as Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Marvin Johnson, Alexis Arguello, Harold Johnson, Naim Nelson, Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, Rocky Marciano, Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik and Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao.
I was interviewing the former light heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson over the phone when he asked “why would you want to interview me?” I replied “you were on the 1972 Olympic team and a world champion!” With that he gave me the go ahead to conduct the interview.
Muhammad Ali did a lot of trash talking and showed plenty of arrogance but if you got near him like I did at his then Cherry Hill, NJ, home and several times at his Deer Lake training camp you knew it was always “tongue in Cheek.” I don’t list him as humble nor arrogant. One of Ali’s former sparring partners and opponents was and still is No. 1 on arrogance and that’s Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes whom Ali referred to him affectionately as “Peanut Head!”
About seven years ago I did an article “Not Just Another 1976 vs 1984 Olympic Boxing Teams.” I tried to contact as many as I can on both teams. From the 1984 team was Tyrell Biggs whose brother Xavier gave me Whitakers number.
When I reached Whitaker and told him what I wanted he said “I’s studying” in which I felt he’s studying a reefer or a babe and told him that at a signing show this past Saturday in Hatfield, PA. He laughed but would again have the last laugh on me. After my call seven years ago I contacted one of the 1984 teammates of his and his reply was “there’s a long line of guys who don’t like him and I’m in it!” Another team member said “I liked all my teammates but one.” When I said “Whitaker?” He replied “how did you know?”
It was 2009 and my second question to him was “do you have an e-mail?” He replied I’s don’t have a computer and will call you back” hanging up. I guess he may have lost my number because it’s been seven years and no return call.
This time I asked him one question being urged by the first female boxing judge in the world Carol Polis who was selling her book and pictures. “Oh, he’s so nice to talk to please go over there.” I reluctantly do articles on people I do not like because people like Greg Sirb the Boxing Director in PA who doesn’t answer tough questions and even changed the title to his satisfaction. I asked Whitaker “who was the best boxer you fought and he replied “all of them!” End of interview! I was told after this “he’s only nice to female’s asking him questions.” Maybe Polis should have taken my questions to him.
After a press conference in Bethlehem, PA, recently one of the top known Philly trainers said “Pernell Whitaker was the greatest boxer of all time including “Sugar” Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.” Since our friendship isn’t all that close I didn’t ask “what are you smoking?” I asked “are you serious?” He said “he was on drugs every fight so how great would he have been if he weren’t on drugs?” I told him “there was never anyone P4P better than “Sugar” Ray Robinson!” Just my opinion folks.
I later had been informed by a boxer who knows Whitaker if anything “too well?” He told me “every fight he had someone else took his piss test and handed it over to Whitaker.” I remember Whitakers trainer Philly’s George Benton saying “no use training him he knows it all.” George was a Hall of Fame trainer and one of the slickest boxers I have ever seen.