|Calvin Grove: Mr. Silky Smooth!
Interview by Ken Hissner (March 14, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
It’s not often that a boxer works his way to capture a world championship unless he’s either not from a city, or trains in a city. One of these exceptional people was out of the steel town of Coatesville, Pennsylvania back in the 80’s. He followed in the footsteps of a great little boxer out of Philly named Jeff Chandler who captured the WBA bantamweight title in late 1980 and made 9 successful title defenses into 1984. Little did anyone know that on October 27th, 1982 when Chandler was making his 6th defense, on the under card was a young featherweight winning his 6th straight fight, scoring a 2nd round knockout named Calvin “Silky Smooth” Grove.
Grove took a 36-4 amateur record (Pennsylvania 1982 GG Champion) into his debut match in Conshohocken scoring a 2nd round knockout. Even his start was in a small town but places like Atlantic City, Houston, Somme, France, Mexicali, Las Vegas, Moscow and Melbourne would be in his future. “Lamar Lumpkin’s was my trainer in the amateurs. I would leave Coatesville for New Hanover Boxing Club
where John Traitz trained me. When he walked out of boxing, Carmen Graziano took over” said Groves. “At the end of my career Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts was my trainer, said Grove.
“I got my ear drum punctured in my 4th fight with Sylvester Kennon (3-4), in winning a 6 round decision,” said Grove. “In 1985 I signed with HBA (East) Promotions and had a new trainer in Al Bolden. My first fight under them was with Kelvin Seabrooks (14-9) who had fought everyone. He was one tough fighter”, said Grove. Grove would take a 22-0 record, with all but 2 fights being in Atlantic City, into a match for the USBA title against Irving Mitchell (25-2). Mitchell’s only defeats were Azumah Nelson and two months previously losing a narrow decision in South Korea for the IBF featherweight title. “Mitchell was a very tough southpaw,” said Grove. “My first defense of the USBA title was almost at the weigh-in with Dana Roston (14-2-1). He was as crazy as they come,” said Grove.
In January, 1988, Grove took a (32-0) record to Somme, France, and took the
IBF featherweight title from Antonio Rivera (17-4-1), of Puerto Rico, stopping him in the 4th round what would be voted round of the year in some circles. He would be the second boxer to take a world title for HBA East (Josephine Abercrombie), shortly after Frank Tate won the IBF middleweight title in October of 1987.
Grove would return to Atlantic City for his first defense against Myron Taylor (23-6-2), from Philly. “There was a time in the amateurs at Joe Frazier’s gym we both trained at the same time. Myron was 119 pound National Golden Glove champion in 1980. I was the State champ in 1982 at 125. That was the year his brother Meldrick was National champion at 119,” said Grove. Grove won the decision by a wide margin.
Grove’s next fight would be in Mexicali, Mexico, August of 1988, in a bull ring with temperatures over 100 degrees. “My opponent was Jorge Paez (25-2-1), who was the Naseem Hamed of the 80’s. He had been a circus performer. I was ahead going into the 15th round (last official 15 round fight) when I was knocked down twice, and slipped once, with the referee counting it as a knockdown. One judge had it a 10-4 round which cost me the title by majority decision,” said Grove. Both fighters would win a match in between their rematch, some seven months apart, back in the bull ring with temperatures soaring to 120 degrees. “We were supposed to fight in L.A. when it got changed to Mexico again. He was awkward as it is. I lost fair and square. I was exhausted by the 11th round,” said Grove
In his next fight Grove would travel to Moscow, Russia for the first professional fight there in August of 1989 against Camden, New Jersey’s Anthony English (20-9-1) listed as the USBA super featherweight title. Someone must have forgotten they were out of the US. “I was usually taller than my opponents, but not this time. I had him down in the 3rd and 9th rounds, winning a decision in 12,” said Grove.
In February of 1990 he fought former amateur champion Bernard Taylor (40-2-2) in upstate New York in defense of his USBA title. “I was ahead on two of the scorecards, and the other one even going into the 11th round. I received a cut in that round and before the doctor could come into the ring to check the cut, the referee waved off the fight. I kept asking him why?” said Groves
It was eleven months before Grove fought again. This time against former WBA bantamweight champion Julian Solis (40-10-1), who had lost his title to Chandler. It would be the first time that Grove fought in the Blue Horizon as a pro. He was knocked down in the 1st and 10th rounds, Solis in the 7th. Grove took the decision.
In October of 1991 he fought Bryant Paden (14-7-3) after scoring wins over Dennis Cruz (27-3) and Felipe Orozco (24-7), both by knockout. It would be his first fight as a lightweight. “I was knocked down in the 3rd round, and got up at the count of 7 telling the referee I was all right. He waved the fight off. I couldn’t believe it. Sometime boxing is like organized crime,” said Grove.
In 1992 he had two fights. The first fight was a win over Regilio Tuur (28-1-1), back at super featherweight. The second fight was up against Azumah Nelson (35-2-1) for his WBC super featherweight title, in Nevada. “He was pressing, but I hit him more and felt I got robbed,” said Grove. Nelson won a narrow decision to retain his title.
Next was former IBF featherweight champion Troy Dorsey (13-6-4) at the Blue Horizon. Anytime you are in with Dorsey it’s a fight. “Dorsey was in great shape, but he was slow and I won the decision,” said Grove. Then a trip to Australia with former three division champion Jeff Fenech (26-1-1) who had been off over a year since his loss to Nelson. “Fenech had beaten a friend of mine, Georgie Navarro in 1985,” said Grove. “When I was at the weigh-in he was in my face trying to intimidate me,” said Grove. “I caught him in the 7th round and he was out cold. They could have counted to 100,” said Grove. “The people there were in shock. Then this guy named (Lester) Ellis said I wanted Fenech and now I want you,” said Grove. That would be his return ticket 3 months later.
In September of 1993 Grove returned to Australia. “It was great down there,” said Bobby Watts, his trainer. Lester Ellis (35-5) had called Grove out after the Fenech knockout. That was supposed to be his fight. Grove at 136 ¾ was at a career high. Even though the fight ended up a split decision (1 pt) win for Grove, Ellis would get his rematch several years later. Several months later Pete Taliaferro (24-1) was the opponent. Grove was back down to 130. “I countered him throughout the fight,” said Grove. He won the decision in Biloxi, Mississippi. Next was an 8 round decision win over Angel Aldama (25-5-1) in Las Vegas starting 1994 off right.
Returning to his home state of Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains Grove would face Freddie “The Pit Bull” Liberatore (19-3-1). “I got robbed,” said Grove. The fight was close enough that both fighters were rewarded with championship fights. Liberatore at 130 had his career ended and Grove for some reason or other ended up fighting for the WBC lightweight title against Miguel Angel Gonzalez (34-0) in New Mexico. “In the 6th round he broke my nose with a head butt. I never even had as much as a bloody nose in my entire career. The referee (Joe Cortez) waived it off with all the blood he saw,” said a disappointed Grove.
Back to Atlantic City for two fights, Grove defeated the much shorter John Brown (12-1). In November of 1995 he was having problems making weight when he met Angel Manfredy (12-2-1) for the WBU super featherweight title. “I didn’t even make 130 but they let it go on. Though I thought I was ahead (on one scorecard and a draw on the other two), I was on the ropes in the 7th round, exhausted. I had nothing left,” said Grove. It was his first loss in Atlantic City in 31 bouts.
In April of 1996 Grove returned to Australia for a third time in a rematch with Lester Ellis. This time there would be no doubt about the decision. Grove stopped him in the 4th round. Over a year passed and contemplating whether to fight anymore Grove took a non-title bout with IBF super featherweight champion Arturo Gatti (27-1). It was said to be a thrilling match by all ringside observers. “I got thumbed three times and the referee never even warned him,” said Grove. “I told my corner between rounds that I was seeing three of him and I feared I might have a detached retina,” said Grove. The fight was stopped in the next round (7th).
“For the money I returned to Australia one more time (too many) to face Kostya Tszyu (19-1). We both weighed in at 141 but I was fighting a welterweight by fight time,” said Grove. His win streak ended in Australia as it did in Atlantic City, in the 1st round.
When told that Fenech is considering a comeback in Thailand for one million, he said “tell Fenech I will fight him at 147 in Australia for a million. They are the nicest crowd of people there.”
“I’ve been all over the world and met people who knew me, but I didn’t know them,” said Grove. He added, “I did everything I wanted to do but make a million dollars.”
“Boxers are the prostitutes and promoters the pimps,” said Grove. He now runs a gym/business in his hometown of Coatesville, Pennsylvania called GBG Silky Smooth Productions. He ended with “I left the game with all my marbles.” That he did.
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