Jerry Page, Forgotten Olympian of 1984! - Interview
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 10, 2009)    
He came out of one of the best amateur towns in the United States. The Ohio State Fair was one of the biggest amateur events in the country. Past top fighters like Vonzell Johnson, Darrin Allen, Hilmer Kenty, Forrest Winchester, Virgil McClendon, Jose Spearman, Buster Douglas, Billy “Dynamite” Douglas and others came from Columbus, Ohio, but only one ever won a Gold Medal at the Olympics. In 1984 that was accomplished by Jerry Page when he defeated Dhawee Umponmaha of Thailand 5-0. He had shut out fighters from West Germany, Mexico and Yugoslavia while the South Korean was able to only lose 4-1.

“Kenty is my brother-in-law. He moved to Detroit when he joined Kronk,” said Page. Kenty would win the WBA lightweight title in 1990. He had 3 of his first 4 fights in Columbus. After winning the title he defended it 4 times finally losing it to Sean O’Grady in 1991. Of course, James “Buster” Douglas scored possible the upset of the century in stopping Mike Tyson in 1990 while losing it to Evander Holyfield in the same year in his first defense.

“I had about 130 amateur fights and won over 100 of them,” said Page. “Billy Cummings was my trainer. I won the ABF silver in 1982 losing to Henry Hughes,” he added. Page would represent the USA in the Pan Am Games in 1983 defeating Roderick Moore 3-2 in a box off to earn that right to go to Caracas. “I had to settle for the silver against the Cuban Candelario Duvergel. He was the best amateur I ever fought,” said Page. Joe Clough who helped train the team in Caracus has spent the last 8 years teaching in Thailand and recently told me that Umponmaha who Page defeated in the Olympic final is very popular there doing the Mury-Thai TV shows. His daughter is in Clough’s class.

“I had two knee operations before the Olympics. They took out my cartilage and it was bone against bone and I learned to live with it,” said Page. “After the Olympics I had a third operation. I had offers from Manny Steward, Shelly Finkel, Gerry Cooney and HBA,” he added. “He was a great kid and had a deal (almost with Shelly but with his knee problems and Meldrick Taylor coming from nowhere he got pushed out. We ended up using Henry Tillman along with our own Frank Tate,” said Bob Spagnola. (HBA) “didn’t want to sign with anyone if I was damaged goods,” said Page. “I was offered $20,000 for my pro debut in Houston. I should have taken it. I ended up getting $10,000 in Akron,” he added.

When Page turned pro John Russell became his trainer, who was working with the heavyweight champion Douglas while Angelo Dundee served as his consultant. “I won my first 8 fights (including stopping Alex Byrd, 20-6) and was scheduled to fight Vinnie Pazienza May 29th for $25,000. About 10 days before the fight it got called off and I was offered to fight Terrence Alli (36-5-2) which I thought would be a tougher fight and for only $12,500,” said Page. “The only problem was I was147 and would have to lose 5 pounds in less than a week. I should have just lost a couple and negotiated but I didn’t,” he added. Alli had lost a decision to the WBC champion Jose Luis Ramirez (97-6) by 1 and 2 pts just 10 months before. He also won 3 fights after that over quality boxers and was a hot fighter. “The fight was over NBC in Atlantic City and I was dropped once and had nothing left making weight,” said Page. This was May of 1988 and only his 9th fight in 3 years. Inactivity was a major problem during his career.

Next up would be Joe Walker (8-2-1) who had a draw with future WBA super middleweight champion Steve Little and a win over future WBC/IBF light middleweight champion Terry Norris. Besides that he just knockout out Hughes whom Page lost to in the amateurs in 1982. Page won by decision in 10. In early 1989 Page stopped Timmy Young (7-1) who was on a 6 fight win streak.

“The one fighter that I lost to that I should not was Raul Torres (9-2-2) after the Young fight. I just had an off night and the scoring was scattered,” said Page. One judge had it by 1 point and another by 9 points in Torres’ hometown of Cleveland. “The best pro fighter I fought was next in Frankie “The Surgeon” Randall (39-2-1). We both fought on the same card and he didn’t look good so I thought I might have a good chance. Randall had won 8 straight fights, but was 5 years away from winning the WBC light welterweight title from Julio Cesar Chavez. “I thought the fight was close and could have gone either way, but he got the decision,” said Page.

It would be 9 months before Page would fight again and it would be the first time in 3 years since he fought in Columbus. His opponent Donald Gwinn (15-27) had won a decision the previous year over former IBF lightweight champion Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, who like Gwinn’s career was on the downslide. Page stopped Gwinn in the 3rd round and was a career high 148 compared to the 140 he fought at his first 8 fights.

In what would be his last fight was in September of 1990 in Atlantic City against Philly’s “Mr. Blue Horizon” Rodney Moore (24-6-2). In Moore’s last 14 fights he was unbeaten which included 2 draws. “I got dropped in the 2nd round from a punch I never saw,” said Page. “I tried holding on and after several warnings the referee (Steve Smoger) took away a point,” he added. “I felt it was going to be a big obstacle to overcome, but in the 9th round while having Moore hurt and holding on I kept hearing this person screaming,” said Page. “Come on Rodney” was being heard at ringside. “I glanced over and it was the promoter (J. Russell) Peltz,” said Page. “I just thought it was a strange thing for a promoter to be rooting for a fighter like that,” he added.

“After I retired I worked in the corner of Manny Galloway and Darrin Allen,” said Page. “In the amateurs Allen beat Steve McCrory, Frank Tate,Henry Maske, Willie Guthrie, Al Cole, Leonzer Barber and won 4 out of 6 with 1988 Olympian Anthony Hemrick,” said John Scully. “I still help out training fighters, but my full time job is working for the department of Correction at a nearby prison,” he said. I asked him to talk about his teammates of the 1984 Olympics. “I had to beat John Meekin and then Tim Rabon in a box-off. The competition was so tough that even Whitaker and Taylor had to come back from losses in the trials to qualify,” said Page.

Tyrell Biggs is one of my best friends and we were roommates at the Pan Am and Olympic Games. Henry Tillman was a good boxer and street savvy. I liked him. Evander Holyfield to me was an underachiever. He matured as a pro. Everyone thought Ricky Womack would be on the team. Virgil Hill had a good jab and was pretty quiet. Frank Tate was a good boxer. His Kronk stablemate Steve McCrory was a beautiful boxer and a joy to be watching. Mark Breland was highly celebrated and an assassin. I never saw him get beat. Pernell Whitaker was a fun guy and a really good boxer. Meldrick Taylor had good hand speed. Robert Shannon was real strong. Paul Gonzalez was a good boxer. The team hopes to meet in Atlanta in November per Xavier Biggs who is the organizer.

Some of Page’s teammates had this to say about him: “Tough to beat”, said Biggs. “Real nice”, said Shannon. “He always made me laugh and was a real strong boxer,” said Gonzalez. “Hard worker and hilarious,” said Breland. In comparing the 1984 to the 1976 team which is a future story of mine Page had this to say: “I think Sports Illustrated did a story on this back in 1985. I would have fought Ray Leonard. He never stopped many opponents in the amateurs. What people seem to do is compare the teams after the Olympics when they were professionals,” said Page. “Life is not a sprint but a journey,” he added.

Like Chuck Walker was the “Forgotten Olympian” of 1976, Page is the “Forgotten Olympian” of 1984. Maybe it was because his professional career only lasted 15 fights, but with all the good fighters to come out of Columbus, Ohio there is only one person with a Gold medal and that’s Jerry Page!

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