|Interview with Howard Davis Jr: Most Outstanding Boxer at the 1976 Olympics
Interview by Ken Hissner (Jan 8, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
Sugar Ray Leonard and Howard Davis, Jr. were two of the most outstanding amateurs in the country between the years 1972 and 1976. Leonard won the National Golden Gloves title’s from 1972-1974. Davis won the National AAU title in 1973. Leonard won the National AAU titles in 1974-75. Davis won the 1974 World Championships in Havana, Cuba defeating not only the Cuban boxer but the 1972 Olympic champ Boris Kuznetsov from the Soviet Union. Leonard won Gold at the Pan Am Games in 1975. Davis moved up in weight qualifying for the Olympic trials in 1976 defeating Thomas Hearns for the
AAU Championship at 132 pounds. He then defeated future world lightweight champion Hilmer Kenty and future Hall of Fame world junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor in the Olympic trials. Both went onto Montreal capturing Gold medals in the 1976 Olympic Games with the prestigious Val Baker Award for the Most Outstanding Boxer of the Games going to Davis.
Davis is the sixth member of the 1976 Olympic team that I have had the pleasure of interviewing. Though a book and movie deal would be a natural for the team, Davis could write a book of his experiences in and out of the ring himself.
KH: I know your mother passed away a week before the Olympics.
HD: I was devastated.
KH: Let me summarize the Olympics. In the second round you defeat Yukio Segawa of Japan. He would later challenge for the WBA title Ricardo Cardona held. You defeated Leonidas Asprilla of Columbia in two rounds. He would also move onto have a good pro career. You defeated Ace Rusevski whom had defeated
the Cuban earlier. He was 18-2-3 as a pro fighting out of Yugoslavia. You then defeat Simion Cutov of Romania for the gold medal. If anyone was a sure shot to become a world champion after turning pro you were it.
HD: I won my first five fights in five different cities and by then I was already getting frustrated with the pro ranks.
KH: I remember you had a number on your trunks marking the number of fights you won without a defeat. On top of that you would hand a rose to your opponent prior to the instructions. What was that all about?
HD: That was my promoter’s idea.
KH: In your seventh fight you are fighting your first ten rounder against fellow New York fighter tough Larry Stanton in Florida.
HD: That was an exhausting fight. I won a split decision.
KH: Next is Stormin Norman Goins in his hometown.
HD: I was knocked down in the first and fifth rounds. I came back to knock him down in the ninth and finished strong to take the decision.
KH: In your next fight again you come off the canvas with Luis Davila.
HD: I was knocked down in the third round. Even in the amateurs I would get knocked down but I would always get up.
KH: You would defeat the Italian champion Giancarlo Usai who was 43-5.
HD: I was able to knock him out early in the third round.
KH: You also defeated Termite Watkins whom I have done a story on. He was 46-2-1 and you only had eleven fights at the time.
HD: He was tough. I had to go to his hometown of Houston for that fight.
KH: In February of 1980 you win an elimination fight defeating Vilomar Fernandez. He had just defeated Alexis Arguello. Even though you defeat him you would both get world title bouts in each of your next fights. You were 13-0.
HD: In June I would travel to Glasgow, Scotland to fight Jim Watt who was 36-7 for his WBC lightweight title. I lost a decision and have never watched a replay.
KH: You would come back with a win and then be rematched with Stanton this time in both your home state of New York.
HD: I would develop bell’s palsy after being hit on the nose in sparring. It is a form of facial paralysis for those who don’t know. Even though I stopped Stanton in the eighth round he was one of the toughest fighters I ever fought.
KH: You would go on a new winning streak and in 1983 scored two major wins over Tony Baltazar who was 22-1 and Greg Coverson who was 33-1.
HD: Again I came off the canvas with Baltazar in the fifth and eighth rounds. I had the flu for this one. What a tough guy he was. My father called me at 1am to tell me about the Coverson fight. I only had ten days to train. Fortunately I always did a lot of running. I could run three miles in twenty minutes. I would stop him in the eighth.
KH: You win thirteen straight fights and get a title shot with WBC lightweight champion Edwin Rosario who was unbeaten 23-0. The fight was in his county of Puerto Rico. That was like going to Cuba in 1974.
HD: This was only five weeks after my last fight. I thought I won but lost a split decision in his backyard.
KH: Two wins later and you are matched with Joe Manley who was a good fighter from Detroit.
HD: I had no respect. No sparring. Though I was down in the first and fifth rounds it was still a very close fight that I lost.
KH: Now it was your turn as a veteran to fight the 1984 Olympic champ Meldrick Taylor who was 12-0. This was the reversal of you and Termite Watkins in 1979.
HD: Before the fight I had broken ribs in sparring but still managed a draw.
KH: Its now 1987 and you are matched with Hector Camacho who is 30-0.
HD: I had the flu and should never have fought that fight. I only weighed 131 pounds though the New Jersey Commissioner Bob Lee said we both weighed in at 141. I lost a ten round decision.
KH: You would win your next three fights and get a shot at Buddy McGirt’s IBF light welterweight title.
HD: I got caught in the first round and stopped for the first time.
KH: You would take a six year lay-off before coming back again but this time as a middleweight some twenty pounds heavier.
HD: My first fight back I had two broken vertebra’s from sparring. I would still win that fight and the next three.
KH: You would then take on young unbeaten 27-0 Dana Rosenblatt for the WBU middleweight title. It was twenty years since winning the Olympics.
HD: I got stopped in the second round and knew I would never fight again.
KH: Tell me something about your Olympic teammates. From what they tell me you were very quiet and focusing on what was at hand.
HD: John Tate was a sweet, gentle bear of a man. Leon Spinks was a character all to himself. Michael Spinks was quiet, kept to himself. Chuck Walker as I told you when you were doing his story, was the best white fighter I ever saw. I mean that in a positive way. Ray Leonard and I sparred the most being the closest in weights. Davey Armstrong and Leo Randolph were very quiet. Louis Curtis was very quiet and happy go lucky. Charles Mooney and I talk almost every day since he moved here in Florida.
KH: I understand you are a musician.
HD: I am self taught. I play the drums, keyboard and bass guitar.
KH: What are you doing with yourself today?
HD: I train individuals at the American Top Team Gym in Coconut Creek, Florida. I also have several fighters I train who are professionals. I’m up to 30 overall at this time.
KH: I understand you train your son Dyah.
HD: He is 10-1 with six knockouts fighting as a light heavyweight. He has a fight scheduled the end of January.
KH: You are someone I could talk to for hours. You could write a book.
HD: That is something I am working on.
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