Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus – WBA Light Welterweight Champ & Olympian!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 26, 2010)
Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus was a member of the 1980 “Forgotten Olympic team” and the WBA Light welterweight champion from Tacoma, WA. This tall southpaw had a lengthy amateur career. He was a member of the famed Tacoma Boy’s Club starting at the age of 8 in 1968 under Joe Clough who would eventually coach the 1983 Pan American Team.

Clough had trained the likes of “Sugar” Ray Seales the 1972 Gold Medal winner, Davey Armstrong of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic teams, Leo Randolph the 1976 Gold Medal winner and WBA Super bantam champ, Robert Shannon of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams, Rocky Lockridge the IBF and WBA Super featherweight champ, Charles Carter from the 1980 Olympic team and Brett Summers with over 400 fights between the amateurs and the professionals.

“Johnny Bumphus is my friend. I will always respect him for what he did for boxing. He was a great left hander and he will be in the boxing history book,” said Leo Randolph.

“I was a teacher at Jason Lee Junior High School. I will never forget Johnny was an “A” student but I gave him a “B” in the class. I felt so bad about that. Everyone knew he was my boxer. Bad teacher!

Bumphus won the 1977 AAU title at 126 defeating Lee Simmons. In 1979 he won the Golden Gloves title at 132 defeating Efrain Nieves. In the 1980 Olympic trials he defeated Ronnie Shields. The team was set for Moscow which included Shannon and Carter.

“Yes, Johnny was one of my Tacoma champs. I spent a lot of time with Johnny. He and Rocky (Lockridge) were on my Pee Wee football teams. I will never forget when his mother was killed.

We were in Texas fighting against Cuba. Johnny just beat a top Cuban boxer who would later win a Gold Medal. After the bout we all brought Johnny back to his room. There was Dave Armstrong, Sarge Johnson (1976 Olympic coach), myself, and a few more. When we told him his mother was dead Johnny went into shock. Dave took him back to Tacoma the next morning. At the time Johnny was in my custody. We lived in Nashville,” said Clough.

Bumphus was 341-16 in the amateurs. His record was 23-2 fighting international fights out of the country. “I felt we were cheated out of the Olympics when we didn’t go,” said Bumphus. President Carter allowed other tournaments in Europe that year but cancelled the Olympics due to the Russians invasion of Afghanistan.

“Johnny was one of my good boxers. One time when we moved out of the Boy’s Club and Rocky (Lockridge) stayed with my assistant Tom Mustin. Johnny fought Rocky in the finals of the Tacoma Golden Gloves and beat Rocky. Then Rocky started training with us,” said Clough.

Bumpus signed with Shelly Finkel and Lou Duva when turning professional at age of 20. Philadelphia’s George Benton would train him. He scored a first round stoppage over Mike Michaud, 13-8-1, in November of 1980 in his debut in Stateline, NV.

Bumphus won 2 fights in December including in Atlantic City going 6 rounds defeating Norberto Figueroa in the first of 2 fights with him. “Good fighter. Made to order for me but wouldn’t go down in that firs fight,” said Bumphus. In April he stopped the tough Argentine in 2 rounds in the rematch.

In his fifth fight Bumphus took on Victor Pappa, 17-1, from Upper Darby, outside of Philadelphia, in the semi-8 winning by decision. In May he would travel to San Remo, Italy, stopping Arseno Green, 9-4, in 7. Green had stopped Juan Jimenez, 78-5-4, in his previous fight in Italy. In August he stopped Dale Hernandez, 36-5, who had lost in his previous fight in a USBA title bout.

Bumphus would take the USBA light welter title from Willie “Fireball” Rodriguez in the latter’s sixth defense over 12 rounds. “It was a tough fight,” said Bumphus. Rodriguez had held the NABF title before this and gave “Sugar Ray” Leonard one of his toughest fights. It was the twelfth straight win for Bumphus.

Bumphus would post 5 wins in 1982 including Ricardo Jimenez, 27-7-2, stopping his 8 fight unbeaten streak. Then beat Pat Hallacy, 30-8-1, over 10 rounds and stop Pat Jefferson, 11-1, in 7. He would open 1983 stopping Randy Shields, 40-8-1, a 2-time world title challenger. Then make his first USBA title defense stopping Michael Bradley, 19-1-1 in 6 rounds.

In August Bumphus stopped Adriano Marrero, 29-15-3, who was coming off defeating Kronk’s Dujuan Johnson, 19-1. At 2-0 in January of 1984 Bumphus would get to fight for the vacant WBA light welterweight title against Lorenzo Luis Garcia, 55-1-7, of Argentina, in Atlantic City. After taking the early lead Bumphus found himself on the canvas in the fourth round.

Bumphus had 5 inches in height on Garcia keeping him away until Garcia worked his way in landing punches. Garcia had a good ninth and tenth rounds but it wasn’t enough. In the end Bumphus won the title by scores of 146-143, 144-142 twice.

It would be a short title reign for Bumphus losing to Gene Hatcher, 21-2, in his first defense. “He was strong and I knew it would be my last fight at 140,” said Bumphus. Bumphus was well ahead before getting stopped in the eleventh round. “I had heard so much about being the underdog it is what got me ready. I really think Johnny was the best but allowed his humbleness to be wrecked by stardom. He and his manager (Duva0 got me upset before the fight,” said Hatcher.

Bumphus would win 6 straight earning a USBA welterweight title shot against Marlon Starling, 37-3, the former IBF/WBA welterweight champion, in Providence, RI. The fight was stopped after 6 rounds due to an accidental head butt with Bumphus the winner being ahead on the cards.

In February of 1987 Bumphus would get his shot at WBC/IBF champion Lloyd Honeyghan, 28-0, a Jamaican now living in the UK. Honeyghan was a hard hitter who had dethroned Donald Curry. With under a minute to go in the first round a straight right hand dropped Bumhus in a neutral corner. From a sitting position he pounded his gloves together frustrated he got dropped.

Bumphus was trying to hold onto Honeyghan until his head cleared when he got tossed into the ropes. Referee Sam Williams not only didn’t warn Honeyghan but allowed him to attack Bumphus who was just getting untangled from the ropes. He was able to get through the round but went to his corner on shaky legs.

As the bell sounded for round 2 Duva was halfway through the ropes and Bumphus just getting off the stool. Honeyghan had raced across the ring and hit Bumphus with a left behind the head as he was ducking down. Duva jumped into the ring and the referee took a point away from Honeyghan. “He ran across the ring as I was just getting up from the stool,” said Bumphus.

As the fight was re-started Honeyghan was on the attack with Bumphus throwing a lead left that fell short while Honeyghan countered with a right hand driving Bumphus into the ropes. As he came off the ropes he got hit with a left hook putting him into the ropes. If he hadn’t grabbed the rope he would have gone through them.

As Bumphus was holding the rope Honeyghan was allowed to continue hitting him while the referee stood by. Finally the ref got between both fighters and walked Honeyghan back to a neutral corner and waved him off as if to disqualify him. What he was doing was stopping the fight in his favor.

Both Bumphus and Duva went to the ref pleading for the fight not to be stopped in vain. It was not only the end of the fight but the end of the career of Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus at 0:55 of the second round. It was not the way he wanted to end it. It was one of the poorest officiated bouts this writer has ever seen on the part of Williams.

Bumphus would retire at the age of 26 with a record of 29-2 with 20 knockouts. He was born in Tacoma, WA, moved to Nashville, TN, with Clough, and at retirement lived in Flemington, NJ. He relocated to West Palm Beach, FL, to train boxers such as Kassim Ouma and Emmett Linton.

Bumphus would return to where it all started in Tacoma in 2010. Most of the club have scattered like Seales is in Indianapolis, Lockridge in Louisiana and Clough currently in the Philippines after spending the previous 5 years in Thailand. It makes one wonder if the boxers of the Tacoma Boy Club would have stayed put operating out of the North West if things would have ended different for some. That’s another story for another time!

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