Original article: http://agelessadonis.com/howard-davis-jr-aaron-pryor-roberto-duran-and-the-glen-cove-boxing-gym/
The Glen Cove Boxing gym was shoved behind Glen Street. An old garage made out of cinder blocks, cement and white paint, it housed a small ring, two dilapidated punching bags and a ringside spectator bench. It was home to such fighters as heavyweight contender Hubert Hilton, Allen “JuneBug” Hudson (who knocked down Muhammad Ali in the Golden Gloves) and the 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Howard (John-John) Davis Junior.
The gym was run by John-John’s father and trainer, Howard Davis Senior.
Like his son, Senior stood about 5’8 inches tall, but the similarities ended there. Unlike John-John who was a lightweight, his father was a barrel chested heavyweight and had a record of 0-3 as a pro.
Monday through Friday, the gym opened at 6 pm and closed at 8 pm. Saturdays it opened at 12 noon and closed at 3. Before locking up for the night, John-John’s father would talk about boxing – the prospect of John-John fighting Roberto Duran or how he just came back from Don King’s home after spending the afternoon in his pool which was the shape of a boxing glove, or how Alexis Arguello hit his opponent so hard in the mouth, the ref had to stop the fight because Arguello’s opponent was choking on his own teeth.
There was no shortage of stories – no shortage of views – including the debate over who would win if Aaron Pryor fought Roberto Duran.
When John-John was preparing for a fight, the old man imported sparring partners from as far away as Philadelphia and Cincinnati and housed them at the Meadowbrook Motel on Jericho Turnpike. Pryor who lost to John-John at the 1976 Olympic trials, was brought in to be his sparring partner.
It did not go well.
Pryor and John-John had wars in the small gym, which Pryor dominated. During their sessions, Pryor knocked John-John down, which drew Senior’s ire, given Pryor was paid to serve as a sparring partner, not an opponent. Concerned his son was going to get injured which would postpone the upcoming fight, Senior warned Pryor repeatedly, but Pryor paid no mind. “The Hawk’s” relentless attacks continued.
Justifiably, Senior exploded and fired Pryor.
Pryor went on to win the Junior Welterweight World Championship by knocking out Antonio Cervantes in the 4th round and later stopped the legendary Alexis Arguello in their two epic bouts.
Shockingly, John-John failed when his turn came to seize the Lightweight Championship from Scotland’s Jim Watt.
A lot of people blamed the old man for not letting Angelo Dundee take over John-John’s training as he did for Sugar Ray Leonard – blamed the old man for John-John’s failed career.
Worst of all, the old man said John-John blamed him too.
Only two fights ensued after John-John lost to Watt. Still, he was only 26 and had not endured any ring wars that prematurely age a fighter. There was still plenty of time on the clock and opportunity to win a world title. Looking to salvage his career, he hired renown trainer Jimmy Glenn. John-John would fight for the title two times in the years that followed, dropping a decision to Edwin Rosario and then suffering a first round knockout at the hands of Buddy McGirt.
At the 1976 Olympics, John-John won not only a gold medal, but also the coveted Val Barker Award for being the most outstanding boxer of the Games. Unfortunately, neither of these achievements proved to be a harbinger of future achievement. Out of the 5 American gold medalists, which included Sugar Ray Leonard, Leo Randolph, brothers Michael and Leon Spinks, John-John was the only one who did not win a professional world championship.
Although the fabled match between Duran and Pryor regrettably never happened, the old man was awed by Pryor’s prowess and strongly believed he would have beaten “The Hand’s of Stone.”
Of course, whether or not Pryor would have defeated Duran is pure speculation. But having also spent time in Duran’s camp, I had the privilege of seeing Duran, Pryor and John-John in their prime. Although John-John was clearly no match for Pryor in the pros, that did not translate into Pryor beating Duran.
Like Duran, Pryor’s chin, ability, and power was exceptional. But Duran’s boxing intellect was incomparable – esoterically it separated him as “The Professor.” A gift that enabled him to compile a record of 103 professional victories, fight off father time while being in the pocket over a 33 year professional career and win world titles in 4 different weight divisions. A synergy of achievements no other fighter in history has been able to duplicate.
The old Glen Street Boxing Gym was eventually torn down. Gone are the sounds of John-John’s Boom-Box blasting the songs “Get Away” and “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Gone are the shouts of the old man yelling, “Time” to start every round because there was no bell. Gone are many of the unrecorded stories about the fighters and trainers who spent their lives there.
Gone are the men whose talents, achievements and personas transcended the gym’s walls and shaped boxing history for the rest of the world.
Gone are brave warriors Allen Hudson, Howard Davis Senior and Howard Davis Junior.
Yours in strength,
Coach Craig Smith