It is not unusual to see former WBA and WBC World heavyweight champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon at local bouts in Philly and Atlantic City. He’s what one would call a “people’s favorite” not forgetting where he came from.
This writer first saw Witherspoon with his trainer “Slim” Jim Robinson at Muhammad Ali’s Deer Lake, PA, camp. He served as a sparring partner for Ali at a young age with only four pro fights when Ali was training for his ill-advised fight against Larry Holmes. He only had five amateur fights going into the pro ranks. He also sparred with Gerry Cooney but was fired after three days due to bloodying Cooney’s nose.
In Witherspoon’s hometown of Philly he went 8-0 adding two more wins in PA. In nearby Atlantic City he went 10-1 adding one other win in NJ.
In May of 1983 Witherspoon, then 15-0, got his first title shot against WBC champion Holmes who was 42-0 at the time. Holmes won a controversial split decision. There would be no rematch and this writer had Witherspoon a winner.
Two fights later Witherspoon took the vacant NABF title stopping James “Quick” Tillis, 26-3, in 2:16 of the first round. In his next fight he won the vacant WBC title in March of 1984 defeating Greg Page, 23-1, by majority decision. In his first defense he lost to Pinklon “Pink” Thomas, 24-0-1, by majority decision.
Witherspoon would bounce back defending his NABF title defeating James Broad, 17-1, in two rounds and in his following fight defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 15-3. In January of 1986 he got a shot at Tony Tubbs, 21-0, WBA title defeating him by majority decision.
In July of 1986 Witherspoon traveled to the UK stopping their man Frank Bruno, 28-1, in eleven rounds before some 40,000 in attendance at the Wembley Stadium. Though being the champion he took the short end of the purse.
In December Witherspoon lost his title in a rematch to Smith in the first round. In the following year in 1987 he filed a twenty-five million dollar lawsuit against his promoter Don King and his son Carl whom was the manager of record accusing them of fraud and a conflict of interest. He was awarded one million dollars in 1992. Witherspoon went 22-1 before losing to future WBO champion “Merciless” Ray Mercer in December of 1996.
Witherspoon went 10-8-1 after the loss to Mercer before retiring after his final fight in March of 2003. In 2008 he was inducted into the PAB HOF.
Witherspoon agreed to answer some questions about his career.
KEN HISSNER: I remember first seeing you at Deer Lake sparring with Ali. What kind of experience was that?
TIM WITHERSPOON: It was beautiful. It was some kind of connection of Muslims from Philly to the camp. I liked him. He was a nice guy.
KEN HISSNER: As you know I always felt you beat Holmes. What are your thoughts on that decision?
TIM WITHERSPOON: He tried intimidating me before the fight. He said “see him I’m going to knock him out!” He put his elbow up but has no defense. If I had more experience I could have knocked him out. I was thinking “I wasn’t going to get it due to my status. I felt I won and everyone on the ring thought I’d get it. I knew before the fight I would have to beat him up or knock him out to win.”
KEN HISSNER: You had good wins over contenders James Broad, Greg Page, and Tony Tubbs. After a close loss to Pinklon Thomas and the split with Bonecrusher. The win over Frank Bruno was big in a defense with King giving more money to Bruno maybe due to being in the UK. But you fought for your share in the courts and beat King. How good did that make you feel?
TIM WITHERSPOON: They settled it out of court. I was told by the lawyers Don was going to get indighted. I stormed out of the lawyer’s office. I had to settle figuring I might not get anything.
KEN HISSNER: What are your thoughts on today’s fighters like the possible Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua future fight?
TIM WITHERSPOON: My opinion if Joshua gets someone to help him he has a chance. If Fury hits him right he can stop Joshua. I pick Tyson Fury to win.
KEN HISSNER: Have you been trying to train any of the top heavyweights?
TIM WITHERSPOON: I have reached out to Wilder, Fury and Joshua. Wilder has no jab and depends on his right hand. I met Fury and he asked me to spar with him. I told him being I have been retired and disrespected. I will help to train you.
KEN HISSNER: I understand you are doing an exhibition in September. Where and with who?
TIM WITHERSPOON: Don Majeski called me a month ago to be in a tournament of former champions. I told him I need 6 months to get ready. Damon Feldman called about boxing Buster Douglas.
KEN HISSNER: Thanks Tim for taking the time to answer these questions.
TIM WITHERSPOON: Ken, you have my number and can call me anytime.