The Howard Davis Jr. Story
Growing Up in Long Island, NY
Howard Davis Jr. was born on February 14th, 1956 in Glen Cove Long Island, NY. He’s the eldest of 10 children. His mother Catherine was a homemaker while his father Howard Davis Sr. ran a local youth center (called the Lincoln House), trained amateur and professional boxers and was a social worker. He was also a father-figure to many of the kids in the community. Back in the 60’s life in the projects of Glen Cove was simple; with neighbors helping one another in the close-nit community. Although the Davis family and their neighbors lived in a poor community; it was rich with honesty, integrity and with the discipline of a father, who told his children to always do the right thing. Howard Davis Jr. attended Glen Cove High School and during these hard times he didn’t have money to buy breakfast or lunch, so his only meal of the day was dinner when he would come home from school.
As a young teen; Davis Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps. Davis Sr. loved boxing and music, which his son gravitated to at a young age. When Davis Jr. was 12; he taught himself how to play the congas and started a neighborhood band called the Dynamics. That year; his mother told Davis Jr. that the family may not have a Christmas because there wasn’t enough money to buy gifts. On Christmas morning however, Davis Jr. woke up to a brand new drum set under the Christmas tree. He noticed that his father had a swollen eye only to find out that his dad had taken part in a last minute professional boxing match; in which he’d lost and was knocked out. He made enough money, though, from that fight and made the sacrifice to give his family a Christmas that year. With those new drum sets the band was complete and Davis Sr. saw that his son and his friends had musical talent. He began to get the young musicians gigs all over town including auditioning and playing at the Apollo Theater Amateur Hour. The Dynamics were the opening acts for some of the top groups of that era such as The Chambers Brothers, The Unifics and even got to share the stage with James Brown and Sammy Davis Jr.
1976 – Olympic Glory – Trials & Tribulations
The early years of the Dynamics were fun for Howard Davis Jr. and his father, but the group would eventually break up. About a week after the band folded; Davis Sr. would ask his son a question that would forever change their lives. He asked him, if he wanted to go to the movies. Davis Jr. said yes and sat down with his father and watched the documentary playing on the big screen: AKA Cassius Clay. It was the story of Muhammad Ali’s life and at 15, Howard Davis Jr. had an epiphany and was inspired to be a boxer. On the way home he told his father that we wanted to box! Davis Sr. told his son that he needed to eat right, go to bed early and train hard, if he wanted to be successful. With those words Davis Jr. found his new passion and got up the following morning at 4:30 and ran up and down the hills of Glen Cove. This was the making of one of the best Amateur Boxers in US history fighting in the Featherweight and Lightweight Divisions.
Howard Davis Jr. was the first amateur boxer to win the New York Golden Gloves 4-times in a row from 1973-1976. In 1973, at 17-years-old Davis Jr. was the first boxer to compete in a national tournament (National AAU) with only 8 amateur fights and beat the defending champion in the finals. Davis Jr. then began to travel the globe as part of the National AAU representing the US and fought in places such as Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania and Italy. In 1974, he travelled to Havana, Cuba for the first World-Amateur Boxing Championships. Davis Jr. was the first and only American to win the tournament. He beat the 1972 boxing Olympic champion of Russia in the finals.
In 1976, after Davis Jr. won his 4th consecutive New York Golden Gloves Championships, an official came up to the young boxer and told him he had just made history. Davis Jr. was unaware that he had just won the New York Golden Gloves 4-times in a row; something that no other amateur boxer had done before. Shortly thereafter, Davis Sr. asked his son yet another question that would change his life once again. He asked, “How would you like to go to the Olympics this year?” The young amateur boxer said, “how?” His father told him that he had automatically qualified him for the National AAU, a national tournament to determine, who the best amateur boxer in the country would be.
Davis Jr. fought six times in four days. One time; he fought twice in one day. His semifinal match victory was against Hilmer Kenty, who later became Lightweight Champion of the world as a professional. The following day during the final match; he faced Tommy Hearns and won yet again. This final victory qualified him to take part in the Olympic trials in Cincinnati, Ohio. His opponent was none other than Aaron Pryor. Howard Davis Jr. beat Pryor, but he still didn’t qualify to make it on the Olympic team. A few hours after facing Pryor, he was told he had to face him once again during the box-offs the following month.
This second match against Pryor took place in the state of Vermont and Davis Jr. once again came out victorious and sealed his ticket to the 1976 Olympic Summer Games in Montreal, Canada. During the most exciting time of his life; Davis Jr. received news that would shatter his world. Three days before his first fight he received a call that his mother – Catherine – had passed away of a heart attack. The devastating news was a shock to the young boxer, who was on the verge of realizing his dreams. He was contemplating a return home for his mother’s funeral. That’s when one of the teams coach’s Tom “Serge” Johnson began to talk to him. All of the young fighters affectionally called him “Serge” because he was a Sergeant in the Army. He put his left hand on Howard’s right shoulder and asked him, “what would your mother want you to do?” At that moment, Davis Jr. remembered his mother’s last words to him. She pointed her finger at him with a smile on her face and said, “you better bring home that gold.” That’s when Davis Jr. realized that he had to stay and win the Gold Medal in honor of his beloved mother.
Not only did Howard win the Gold Medal; he was also awarded the “Val Barker Trophy” at the Olympics naming him the best fighter of those Olympics, beating out boxers such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks and Leon Spinks.
During the post-press conference as the media was asking a lot of questions; Davis Jr. took the Gold Medal from around his neck and raised it above his head and only said one thing: “I dedicate this to my mother. This Gold Medal belongs to her.”
After the 1976 Olympics
Howard Davis Jr. became a professional prize fighter in the Lightweight Division after winning gold in the 1976 Olympics. He was the first professional fighter to receive a major television network deal with his fights being televised on CBS Sports. Davis retired in 1996 with a professional boxing record of: 36–6–1 with 14 KO’s.
After living in New York & New Jersey for most of his life, Davis moved to sunny South Florida in 2003 to train professional MMA fighters the sweet science of Boxing. Davis created a bond with many of these up-and-coming Mixed Martial Arts fighters, who credit him with improving their striking skills. Davis was featured on Spike TV’s “Ultimate Fighter” as the Boxing Trainer for Season 11and has trained superstars such as Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Thiago “Pitbull” Alves, Thiago Silva, Jeff “The Snowman” Monson, Din Thomas, Mike Brown, Rich Attonito and more!
In 2010, Davis went from fighter/coach to MMA promoter. He and his wife – Karla – launched their own promotion called: Fight Time Promotions. The successful organization is the leading MMA company in the State of Florida. Howard Davis Jr.’s Fight Time Promotions’ showcases are featured on the CBS Sports Network. The company has been a labor of love for the couple, who run the promotion together. Davis lived in South Florida with his wife and their daughter.
In August 1976, Davis’ hometown of Glen Cove, New York honored Davis with a parade for his Olympic achievement, which was attended by Lt. Governor Mary Anne Krupsak.
In July 2009, Glen Cove honored Davis by naming a street after him and his late father. The Mayor also proclaimed July 10th as Howard Davis Day in honor of both father and son.
Inducted into the New Jersey, New York and Florida Boxing Hall of Fames.
In 2014, Howard Davis Jr. was inducted into the New York Golden Gloves Hall of Fame and the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame
In 2016, Howard Davis Jr. was honored by the City of Glen Cove after his passing. The flags flew at half staff in honor of their beloved hero.
Amateur Boxing Record
Davis had an amateur record of 120–5.
Amateur accomplishments include:
- New York Golden Gloves Champion 1973-1976 (first to win 4-consecutive years)
- 1973 National AAU Champion (125 lb)
- Defeated Leroy Veasley of Detroit in the final
- 1974 World Championships (125 lbs) in Havana, Cuba
- Defeated Roberto Andino (Puerto Rico) on points
- Defeated Rumen Peshev (Bulgaria) on points
- Defeated Eddie Ndukwu (Nigeria) on points
- Defeated Mariano Álvarez (Cuba) on points
- Defeated Boris Kuznetsov (Soviet Union) on points
- 1976 National AAU Champion (132 lbs)
- Defeated Thomas Hearns on points.
- 1976 Olympic Trials
- Defeated Aaron Pryor to qualify at 132 pounds
- 1976 Summer Olympics – Gold Medal (132 lbs) and Val Barker Award winner for Most Outstanding Boxer of the Games
- Defeated Yukio Segawa (Japan) won on points
- Defeated Leonidas Asprilla (Colombia) won by KO 2
- Defeated Tzvetan Tzvetkov (Bulgaria) won by TKO 3
- Defeated Ace Rusevski (Yugoslavia) won on points
- Defeated Simion Cuţov (Romania) won on points