Back in 1992, I was attending a USA Tuesday Night Fights card in Tampa Florida. The card was to feature Tyrell Biggs vs. Michael Dokes, but Dokes pulled out due to making a deal to fight Riddick Bowe for a title. While walking around, I heard someone mention that legendary fight promoter/manager Johnny Bos was in the crowd. I looked around and spotted the brightest dressed guy in the crowd, and knew it was Johnny. I went over to say hello and was greeted with a booming “How are you! Come over here with me and meet WBO cruiserweight champion Tyrone Booze!” So for the next few minutes, I walked around with Johnny Bos, now remember I just met the man, but he was taking me over to meet Tyrone Booze, former heavyweight contender Alex Stewart, and the guys calling the action for Tuesday Night Fights, Al Albert and Sean O’Grady. Johnny really made an impression on me that day. Fast forward to 2009. I am looking at something on Facebook, and I run across the name Johnny Bos. Of course I added him as a friend and started talking back and forth to him. I soon realized that I was speaking to a man who had been in the middle of boxing when it was in it’s heyday of the late 70's through the late 90's. I knew I had to get these experiences down on paper.
Recently, Johnny sat down with me to discuss his history in the sport of boxing.
Bob Carroll (BC) Johnny, you are one of the most successful matchmaker/promoter/managers in boxing history. To what do you relate your success?
Johnny Bos (JB): Basically, hard work.
BC: I first met you at the Hyatt Regency Tampa in 1992, at a Tyrell Biggs fight. You were there with the then WBO cruiserweight champion Tyrone Booze. Give our readers a run down of some of the fighters you have been involved with in your career.
JB: Tyrone was one of the biggest underdogs in boxing history to win a championship. I have been involved with so many fighters; I can’t even begin to tell you off the top of my head. You can’t say I am, you can say I was, because in 2000, it was all taken away from me.
BC: Can you fill in our readers on what happened in 2000?
JB: Well, in 2000 the Joey Gamache and Arturo Gatti weigh in, in New York. I was handling Gamache and we had signed for a 140 lb fight. Joey made the weight, Gatti didn’t, but they announced Gatti on weight. How much Gatti actually weighed, I could never tell you. Because as it went up, it hit the top and uh, that was all that you saw for it, you know what I’m saying? They won’t put him back on the scale and that is why it is in court now. But, after that, the (New York State Athletic) commission put the word out that they didn’t want me match making.
BC: You spoke of Joey Gamache, who is in the midst of a law suit against the New York State Athletic Commission, for exactly what you just said, allegedly allowing Arturo Gatti to come into a fight well over the weight limit. What part have you taken in this trial?
JB: Well, I was Joey’s manager, promoter, and agent, whatever you want to call it. I was representing him on the scales that day along with Jimmy Glen, and if anybody knows Jimmy, they had never seen him raise his voice his entire life. He’s one of the calmest guys in the business, but even he exploded. I mean, the weigh in was out and out incompetence, negligence, or crookedness, whatever you want to call it.
BC: What do you think the outcome will be of the trial will be?
JB: Well, you know, anytime you are suing the state, it is hard. Basically they were admitting he was over weight at the end. But that still doesn’t mean it will come back in our favor. I mean, through all of the tapes, you could see that Gatti did not make the weight. That had nothing to do with Arturo, hey, he’s a fighter.
BC: With all of your experience, what do you feel is dragging down the sport of boxing today?
JB: Well, I think promotional rights are a major thing. As a matchmaker, you used to be able to call up the manager of the fighter, you would offer them what they want and you come to a deal on both sides. Then you would do the same with the other fighter and have your fight. Now days you have to call the promoter and before the money even gets to the fighter, it’s chopped in half. It’s kind of difficult to make fights that way.
BC: In your opinion, how bad has the sport of boxing taken a hit from MMA?
BC: You have recently come back to Florida to work with Starfight Productions. What brought you back to the sunshine state?
JB: Well, when I had money in the eighties and early nineties, I bought a condo down here, or else I would have been out on the streets. With the work that I was getting in New York, they stopped me from making a living.
BC: We spoke of Gatti earlier, what is your take on his recent tragedy and the new finding of a suicide?
JB: Well, since then we have read that there wasn’t a complete autopsy on Gatti’s remains. Until that is done, it’s going to be pretty hard to tell. You know you have the old strippers trick where the drop a pill in your drink and knock you out for fourteen hours, you got to wonder about that. You know, there are different things that could have happened. They say that no one entered after they did what if someone was there before they got in there? What floor were they on, was it possible that someone climbed in and out of one of the windows?
BC: July 2009 was a very deadly month in the sport of boxing. Not only did we lose Alexis Arguello, Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forrest to gun fire, we lost three other fighters to ring injuries. Now we are hearing the calls to make boxing safer again, calls for bigger gloves, shorter rounds and headgear (Bos interrupts writer).
JB: You know headgear is not going to save nobody from nothing. Well, I’m lying. Headgear prevents cuts. Headgear does not prevent the brain from scrambling. The people who have been preaching they want more violent fights are the television announcers. When Floyd Mayweather Jr. out boxed Carlos Baldomir, he put on a beautiful boxing exhibition. Yet he was criticized afterwards for not knock Baldomir out. I had a fighter in the early 2000's, George Khalid Jones, and we had a ring accident against Beethaeven Scottland in which Scotland passed away after the fight. Do I think that fight should have been stopped a lot earlier? You’re damn right I do! But about a year to a year and a half later, I had Khalid fighting on ESPN and we were fighting Rodney Moore out of Texas. In the fifth round, Khalid hit him with a tremendous straight left hand and Moore sagged into the ropes. From that point on, Khalid just out boxed him the rest of the way. I got a call from ESPN after that fight telling me that they want to see knockouts, they don’t want see guys out boxing guys. When I brought that to Khalid, he said ‘Johnny, the shot I hit Moore with, was harder than any one shot I hit Beethaeven Scotland with. If I have to kill somebody to make $7500, I can make more than that in the street.’ Obviously it is not a sport if you have to kill somebody to beat them. I saw Emanuel Augustus do that to Ray Oliveira. There was a point in the eighth round, and this was at the end of Ray’s career, Augustus hit with a shot in the head and Oliveira stopped for a second, and grabbed his head and Augustus backed off. The referee waved Augustus on and He just went to the body for the rest of the round. I mean, he should have got fighter of the year for that act. Oliveira’s corner stopped the fight, but I mean. Augustus could have gone after Oliveira and just started to blast him in the head with shots to try to hurt the guy, but he chose not to do it. It’s the same with warm up fights today. A guy takes a warm up fight and he’ll train six weeks to blast out some poor bastard in thirty seconds. In the old days, you’d have guys that would take a warm up fight as a warm up fight, to work on things during the fight. I’m not talking about carry somebody for the odds; I’m talking about getting some work in, some rounds. Why train six weeks for a thirty second fight?
BC: In your opinion, is there a way to make boxing safer without taking away from the sport?
JB: Yeah! There are plenty of ways. Maybe instead of head gear, they go to 10 and 12 oz gloves. I’ll tell you something else that sounds crazy, if you look at today’s gloves, be it the 8 or 10 oz gloves, there is more padding in the six oz. Gloves than there is in the 8 oz gloves of today. Today all the padding is in the wrists. I hear that now they want to make smaller rings. Why? So that there will be more brutal fights? What they fail to realize is that when boxing first started under the Marquis of Queensbury rules, it was called the art of self defense, not offense. People could appreciate the art of seeing a good boxer. Someone who knew what he was doing, knew his ring mechanics. You know, if they want Toughman Contests, why don’t the just do them?
BC: Johnny, say you had a magic wand and could fix anything. What would you fix in the fight game?
JB: Well, it’s so hard to fix. I saw what happened back in 1985-86, when they decimated basically the little leagues of boxing. I’m not saying that no one ever got hurt, but could you tell me that in sandlot football, baseball, rugby or soccer that no one ever got hurt? No, nobody could say that. In 1985-86, you being from Philadelphia and me being from New York, we saw all the gyms that were in the ghettos. They were subsidized by the gym owners, who were just regular guys, they weren’t rich guys, and there weren’t many fancy things in these gyms. A lot of them had homemade built rings and they would allow kids to train for free. They would give the kids the equipment and the kids would come off the street and box. When we were kids, you got into a street fight, the first thing the cops would do was take you to the gym to finish the fight. You know what I’m saying? Nowadays those gyms aren’t there. What happened was the USABF went to the state athletic commissions and had the ‘smokers’ banned. The ‘smokers’, in case people don’t know what they were, was were you would put on 10-12 fights in a local gym, charge $5 admission, set up 200-300 seats, sell chances for a 50/50, try to bring a few celebrities in, you know, neighborhood fighters or whatever. Maybe they would have brought in $2500-3000 a month. That was what supported the gym. This was where any kid could come off the street and become a fighter.
BC: I remember going to ‘smokers’ held in the basements of the church halls as a kid.
JB: Yep, sure the PAL’s, CYO’s, you don’t see them anymore. In fact right now you probably have ten times as many gyms in Florida than you do in New York. But it’s the ghetto gyms that got hurt. They couldn’t afford to pay all of the sanction fees and they all eventually wound up closing. It’s no secret that the best fighters were the hungriest fighters. The kids that wanted to work themselves out of the ghettos that wanted to make something of their life. On top of that, you had people in boxing for the love of the sport. Guys that wound run those gyms and dream every day that a world champion would come walking through those doors. That’s all been taken away. People say, well today’s kids all want to be football, baseball or basketball players, but hey, you have some of these 112, 118, 126, 135 pounders, they aren’t got no chance in those sports! Boxing has always been a sport that gave the odd man out or the poor kid a chance to make it. They would go into the gym, they would get equipment, and like I said, those shows they ran every month, those kids worked on each other better than the pros did. They had, I guess what you could call little league or sandlot boxing. It’s no different than a bunch of us guys going to Central Park, and play rough tackle football and no one would say a word. But, if we go there, set up a ring and put on 48 oz gloves (both writer and Johnny Bos laugh) and start to box each other, we could be arrested. I mean you want to see how dangerous football is, type in Lou Gehrig’s Disease to Google and then type in the search area football, and look how many of these guys die from that disease. I’m not saying that boxers don’t die from it too, but it is hidden a lot more in other sports than it is in boxing. When something happens in boxing, for example, Arturo Gatti, God rest his soul. He never made the headlines of the New York Daily News until he was killed.
Another thing, in boxing today, you could not take a kid out of a bad ass area, say New York, Philadelphia or Detroit and charge them $75 a month to train in the gym like these gyms do today. In order for a thirteen year old to do that today, he can do it two ways. One, he can hustle on the streets selling some weed or some coke and make some money that way, but you know what, once he starts making that money, do you think he’s going to want to fight? The only other way it’s done now, and if you notice, there is a tremendous increase in this way. It’s when the fathers pay the gym fees and when you look around boxing now, just about every decent amateur fighter that comes out of the US, has their father with them. That is because they are paying the gym dues. A kid without anybody to back them up isn’t going to be able to train. Those little ‘smokers were the back bone of boxing in the United States. You know I used to see, as well as you probably saw Bob, some tremendous amateur fights in those ‘smokers’. Mike Tyson and Gerry Cooney would participate in them, Hector Camacho Sr., Juan LaPorte, Alex Ramos; you know there were so many big names that took part in these ‘smokers’. Like I said, maybe a guy did get hurt once in a while, but you know what? I am sure that it was not the same odds that they had in getting hooked on drugs or getting killed gang banging! That is the place that some of the best boxers of the 70-80-90's were heading! You know what, $75 a month is a lot of money to these kids, hell, it’s a lot of money to me and you Bob! But that is the kind of prices that they are charging in gyms in those areas. Now you can’t even afford to put gyms in those areas! So, it will be very hard for boxing to come back in these areas! Unless you have the pros subsidizing the amateurs like they do in other sports, I can’t see boxing gyms coming back to the areas that produced world champions.
BC: What would you say was the best era in your career?
JB: Are you talking about years or are you talking about a five week period?
BC: (laughing) No, I am talking about years.
JB: Probably 1982-1994, because in 1994, I was still managing Joey and a few other fighters, but I tended to move on to the Toughman Contest in the New England area.
BC: With Art Dore?
JB: Yeah. They were more fun!
BC: Yeah, I worked for the Toughman Contest in Florida for a short time.
JB: Oh yeah, I ran them strict. I didn’t use 16 oz gloves, I used 18 oz. I got the bighead gear; you know the gear that has the thing in front of your face so you don’t get busted up? I think I ran forty of them and the two worst injuries I had was that one guy threw out his arm and another guy broke his nose. They went three one minutes rounds and basically the Toughman Contest is really not a “tough” man contest, it is pure, sub-novice amateur boxing. It is three one minute rounds with guys that have never been in the ring before the walked up. You know in a lot of places they would bring in ringers and that’s what fouled it up. It would be great if it was run pure. As crazy as it sounds, a guy from the Maine House of Representatives got a hold of me last night to ask me if I wanted him to put forth a bill to make the Toughman legal again in Maine. He said that the Toughman was the greatest fun he had ever had in his life. On his Facebook page, he has a picture of himself in the Toughman. Here is a guy on the Maine House of Representatives. You know I mean three one minute rounds, and I’m not going to lie to you, if I say a guy get clocked a real good shot at the 52 second mark, I rang the damn bell to end the round! Look, to me it was entertainment, it was fun and I did not want to see anyone get hurt. A lot of them were not run that way in other places, but if it is run right, it is so pure, it’s beautiful. You’re getting guys that have absolutely zero boxing experience. What really amazed me was some of these kids, I say kids but some of these guys were in their thirties, they had MORE heart than a lot of pro fighters I see today!
BC: Are you still a fan of the sport to this day, or has it been tainted after the Gamache fight?
JB: Well, that tainted it a lot, but there were other things. I mean, when you are talking about ESPN paying $65,000 a show in 1988 and so called promoters of today chiseled that price down like “I’ll take 60, I’ll take 50, I’ll take 40!”, and now they are getting $20-25,000 a show. I mean, a contender today can’t make a living. It’s probably two or three percent of all the people in boxing that are making all of the money. You watch Showtime; it could be called Shawtime because Gary Shaw has 90% of all of the cards on there. HBO could be called Golden Boy. There is no ability in their matchmaking whatsoever. Nobody knows how to develop a fighter. As little as I did from 2000-2008, and I think still to know, there has been only four New York City fighters that have fought for a world championship, and I had three of them. I’m talking about guys that became ten round fighters during or after the year 2000. That with two hands tied behind my back after the weigh in problem. I still had 75% of the guys, and that’s just from New York. I had (Paulie) Malignaggi, and Jameel McCline. With Jameel I did something no one had ever done before; get a fighter an amateur career while he was a pro. We would go into towns and fight guys that were 1-4 or 1-5, you know different things like that, just to get Jameel some experience. Was it going to work? I didn’t know, but you know what, it did! At one time, until he blew out his left arm, he might have been the greatest heavyweight in the world. I thought he beat Chris Byrd and you have to realize, when you lose a split decision to a Don King fighter on a Don King show, and remember this was still the early 2000's when Don had a lot more power, and you don’t have options with him, you got to figure you won that fight. The problem with Jameel is that he blew out his left arm early in his career. People never, ever knew that fact. I knew it, because when he left us, I beat him with Calvin Brock. I knew that left arm would only hold up for three rounds and he had a tremendous jab early in the fights. Had Jameel McCline come into the gym when he was 16 rather than 27 years old, he might have been the greatest heavyweight in the history of boxing. Everything he picked up, he picked up on the job.
BC: When I met you in 1992, you where and still are very approachable and personable. Do you think your personality helped you along in the fight game?
JB: In some ways it hurt me. I mean, uh, what kind of language can I use during this interview?
BC: I want you to be yourself in this interview, so what ever you want to say is fine Johnny.
JB: Well, I am trying to think of the name of the group that had a song back in the nineties. It was a hard rock song, it was the song “ Killing in the Name”, but I can’t remember (writer interrupts)
BC: Rage Against the Machine.
JB: Exactly! “F##k you; I won’t do what you tell me!” I have always been that way. I’m going to do what I think is right. That was it; Rage Against the Machine would fit me perfectly because it’s a machine out there now that I am fighting. Whether it’s the New York State Athletic Commission or it is the people who control boxing, I am not going to quit. It’s nothing out there but a bunch of cowards, pussies, pimps and whores!
BC: The floor is yours, what would you like to tell the readers of Convicted Artist magazine and the boxing public in general?
JB: You know it’s hard to say. Boxing is such a quiet sport in the United States of America. I mean Devon Alexander just won a world title, although the way he won it was kind of funky, but at least it’s an American winning. People want to see Americans; they don’t want to see, say Europeans. You are now seeing major heavyweight fights, for instance when Sam Peter fought Eddie Chambers that was on ESPN. Now Peter, even though he was born in Nigeria, I would call him an American fighter because he has fought his whole career in America. Eddie Chambers was born and raised in America, yet that fight could only get on ESPN. How many times do you see two Russians fighting or fighters from foreign countries fighting each other in main events on HBO or Showtime, flyweights or bantamweights? There was an old saying. ‘As the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing’. Right now, we don’t have any great American heavyweights. Now this problem came about from the amateur thing I was talking about earlier. If you look, just in New York, between 1985 and 1994, you had Mike Tyson, Michael Bentt, and, am I missing someone from New York that was a heavyweight champion? Riddick Bowe and I know Shannon Briggs won it, but that was later on in the 1990's. Look at it this way and I am going to prove to you that my amateur theory works, 1984 we had probably the best Olympic team, well, 84 or 76, it was a toss up, but one of the greatest amateur teams in the history of US boxing. Now we go to 1988, we still had a good team not as good as 1984, but it was still a good team because that team still had a lot of guys that were brought up on those ‘smokers’. Move onto 1992, the guys that were brought up through the ‘smokers’ are gone, we end up with one medal. 1996, one gold medal. 2000, no gold medals. 2004, one gold medal. 2008, one bronze medal. The amateur system being as it is, not only killed the amateur system, it killed the pros. Bob, I’m sure you remember when you were a kid, looking forward to the Olympics. It was big all over; the Wide World of Sports would cover it. Hell, now the Olympic fights are on some cable station at three in the morning. There are very few American fighters and when I was just in New York, I went to a MMA match, I think it was that Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, about three weeks ago. We went to Hooters to watch this card. There was a fight on the undercard, and look, I don’t know these guys by name, but there was an American against somebody from another country, and Hooters was packed. The whole place just started screaming when the American was winning, “USA! USA!”, so it tells you right there what the people want. Like I said before, promotional rights have hurt boxing, because now you can’t make the best fights. I mean, now the promoter wants more than the fighter is getting, it’s ridiculous! Boxing never used to be like that. Try to compare the eighties fighters to fighters of today. Do you think either Klitschko gets out of the first round with a prime Mike Tyson, NO! What type of chance do you give Chad Dawson against a prime Michael Spinks? Very little chance. How about this one, Marvin Hagler against Kelly Pavlik? (interrupted by laughter from both writer and Johnny Bos) You see what I am saying? Miguel Cotto against either Sugar Ray Leonard or Tommy Hearns? I mean the guys from the eighties are no contest for fighters of today. The guys then, they had a lot of amateur fights; they had a lot of amateur experience. When they turned pro, they were basically already 8-10 round fighters. You know I saw a fight the other night on ESPN, it was Julio Diaz against Victor Cayo, I’m sure that Pernell Whitaker could have licked them in his first pro fight! You know what I’m saying? It’s just, that is how far boxing has gone back. You don’t have trainers in the gym anymore, for the love of the sport. They are not working with the kids anymore. What they are doing in there is grabbing a couple of white collar guys who will pay them $35 an hour, or whatever, and make their living like that. You can’t blame them, but there are no guys in there for the love of the sport. That needs to be brought back.
I want to thank Johnny Bos for taking time out of his day to speak with Convicted Artist Magazine.