At the recent Atlantic City Boxing Inductions at the Claridge Hotel I ran into former NABF Champion and title challenger Richie Kates. Next to him was from what I understand a best friend in top trainer Hassan Hamid-EL. Both are from the Millville-Vineland area in New Jersey.
Kates works with teaching kids boxing in the Vineland area and Hamid-EL has trained some of the best professionals in the game today among them in Millville’s WBO No. 13 welterweight contender Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna, 25-2-1 (9), and Vineland’s unbeaten prospect Ismael “Tito” Garcia, 10-0-1 (4), who last fought in October of 2016 drawing in Philly with Philly’s Tyrone Brunson.
Kates was 57-4 in the amateurs trained by Letty Petway and 44-6 (23) as a professional. He was co-managed by Joe Gramby and Bonnie Coccaro. During his professional boxing career he fought in several foreign countries, once in Italy and four times in South Africa.
On April 13th of 2017 there was a premier of a documentary “Uncommon Journey” shown at the Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ, pertaining to Kates. Kates won his first eighteen fights debuting in December 11th 1969 in Baltimore, MD. He fought in Baltimore twice, Washington, DC and Boston once each. He made Philadelphia his “second home” in fighting there fourteen of his first eighteen fights at the Spectrum, the Arena and the legendary Blue Horizon.
In October of 1972 Kates lost for the first time after being inactive for eight months to Eddie “Red Top” Owens, 31-16-3, stopped with one second left in the seventh round by referee Jack Fitzpatrick. “I was so mad I punched him,” said Kates. In July of 1973 in a rematch Kates would decision Owens with the same ref, Jack Fitzpatrick, who also voted for Kates 48-45. Kates would go onto win his next fourteen fights boosting his record to 32-1 including winning the NABF light heavyweight title over Jimmy “The Cat” Dupree, 40-9-4, in May of 1974 at Philly’s Arena. The two fights prior to defeating Dupree Kates defeated contenders Don Fullmer, 54-19-5 and Jose Gonzalez, 42-19-2. Gonzalez retired from the ring after this fight.
At this time in Kates career he got a title fight with Argentina’s WBA champion Victor “El Leopardo de Moron” Galindez, 41-6-4, in May of 1976 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to this match Kates won three times in that country scoring a pair of knockouts before defeating contender Pierre Fourie, 49-5-1, who lost a split decision in a title fight to Galindez in his previous fight. This win for Kates over Fourie earned him the title fight.
“I hurt Galindez in the third round and cut him up. When the ref (Stanley Christodoulou) walked him to the corner I thought I won the title. They were there patching him up for 30 minutes. It took everything out of me waiting and watching this happen,” said Kates. Kates would get dropped in the last round. and seemed to beat the count with just one second to go in the fight when referee Christodoulou waved it off claiming he didn’t beat the count. “He apologized to me many years later when I saw him at a boxing function,” said Kates.
It would be over a year before Kates would get a rematch in June of 1977 with Galindez in Roma, Italy, losing a 15 round decision. In February of 1978 in a fight people still talk about when Kates knocked down future world champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, 18-3-2. “I had him down face first. I thought they were going to drag him back to his corner. He was a real warrior,” said Kates. Muhammad got up and would later stop Kates in the 6th round. “I was ready to quit after that fight,” said Kates.
Several highlights in the career of Kates he would defeat future IBF World Super Middleweight champion Murray Sutherland, 9-3, and future IBF World Cruiserweight champion Jeff Lampkin, 20-2. After the Lampkin fight Kates would defeat Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 25-5, and retire. Martin had three unsuccessful title attempts prior to this fight. He also was the first to defeat James Scott, an inmate at Rahway Prison. Kates had lost to Scott, 13-0-1, in 1979 in the tenth and final round.
Kates won eight of his last nine fights after the Scott loss. The lone loss was to Jerry Celestine, 18-6-1, who he had stopped in their previous fight. Why go back to New Orleans in a rematch? “That’s what I thought. Why go back there again? I was over confident and got stopped in the eighth round,” said Kates.
Kates had an outstanding career, with two title bouts, and all the respect in the world from those in the fight game. “I prayed to God for direction and have been blessed since. I train kids in the Vineland area,” said Kates.
Now let’s look at the career of Hassan Hamid-El and the friendship and brotherhood of him and Kates.
Hamid-El was the trainer up until recently for Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna. In 2016 another good prospect in super welterweight Ismael Garcia, 10-0-1 (4), of Vineland, NJ, retired.
He had this to say about his relationship with Richie: I met Richie in the gym as a youngster. All though we have several mutual relatives we never formally met because of the age difference I suppose. Richie was always an idol I guess because of his celebrity status, but even more so because of how he would go out of his way to pick me up to go to the gym. We later sparred and trained together and eventually in camp with then champ Dwight Qawi (Muhammad aka Dwight Braxton). He would also work the corner in some of my amateur fights. I had quite a few amateur fights winning several regional junior Olympic titles and novice Golden Glove titles and eventually boxed at Ft. Bragg (NC) and Ft. Benning (GA).
I never turned pro basically never seeing the intrinsic value of getting hit for a living. I always knew I was a teacher both in life and in the gym or on the track. I trained several amateurs and worked alongside of Carmen Graziano and Mike Hall to hone my craft along with Mr. Skeets who used to train Andre Cooper (17-3 as a pro and 35-2 as an amateur).
I split my time as a track coach in the late 80’s until 2010 when I met Ismael Garcia. I trained him and several other fighters until I developed “Cornflake” LaManna (25-2-1). I would eventually train Bryne Green (7-10-1), Isiah Seldon (12-1-1), Quian Davis (5-0-2), Decarlo Perez (16-6-1), Edward Cortez (6-4), and Ernesto Perez (1-0) among others. Boxing has always kept me and my brothers including Ray Kates (16-1) close either attending fights or training fighters or working with politicians. Over most of my life you see Kates you see me thus the adoption of little brother. But our greatest common bond comes from our love of youth and making our community better.