|Richie Kates The Uncrowned Champ
Interview by Ken Hissner (May 31, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
Over the years I have watched Tyrone Everett win 13 out of 15 rounds over Alfredo Escalara, and Dave Tiberi come back to win the last 9 rounds out of 12, from James Toney winning everything but the decision and the title. Then there’s the story I heard about in 1976 in Johannesburg, South Africa, when Richie Kates watched as the WBA light heavyweight champion Victor Galindez was hurt and cut up, and taken to his corner for “30 minutes” to get
patched up. They are known as the “uncrowned champs”!
Every amateur show I go to I want to say “hi champ”, but start thinking, was Richie champ? Kates was the WBA light heavyweight champ in 1976 for about 8 seconds. South African Stanley Cristodoulou was the referee who after Galindez resumed fighting eventually stopped the fight at 2:59 of the final round in favor of Galindez after stunning Kates. “He apologized to me many years later when I saw him at a boxing function,” said Kates.
Kates has had other experiences such as punching Matthew Saad Muhammad to the canvas face first, thinking victory. Go into Rahway State prison to fight inmate James Scott. Get hit with the blood soaked glove of Pat Cuillo though neither fighter appeared cut. I met Kates and his lovely wife in February at a Dover Downs show Tiberi was promoting (TNT Boxing) some 16 years to the day since his bout with Toney. I was finally able to pin Kates down at a Junior Olympic show one of his young boxers was participating in. He was kind enough to allow me an interview a few days later.
Ken Hissner: Richie, you won your first 18 fights, 13 by knockout, starting in December of 1969 through February of 1972. What kind of amateur background prepared you for this?
Richie Kates: I was 57-4 and boxed out of the Millville and Vineland gyms. Lenny Pettway was my trainer. My managers as a pro were Joe Gramby and Bonnie Coccarro.
KH: In 1971 you fought Detroit’s Len Hutchins (9-0-1) in Philly, where most of your fights were fought. Was that a tough fight?
RK: I was not supposed to win that fight. It was rather easy and I took the decision.
KH: In your 18th fight you took on veteran Roger Rouse (36-20-5), who had title fights with Dick Tiger and Bob Foster.
RK: I knew he had a lot of experience. I had to be careful, stopping him in the 5th.
KH: Next you meet Eddie “Red Top” Owens (31-16-3) who had won 8 of his last 9 fights splitting with contender Jimmy Dupree. You taste defeat for the first time.
RK: I came in out of shape after being off for 8 months. The referee, Jack Fitzpatrick, stopped the fight with one second to go in the 7th round. I was so mad I punched him. I was young and very upset he stopped it.
KH: It wasn’t until your 21st fight you fought in your home state of New Jersey.
RK: I stopped Ron Oliver (4-4), a former New York Golden Gloves champ.
KH: You win 4 fights since losing to Owens and in July of 1973 get your rematch.
RK: He was no problem this time because I boxed him and won the decision.
KH: You win over a couple of former contenders in Don Fullmer (54-19-5) and Jose Gonzalez (42-19-2). Then stop Dupree (39-9-4) for the NABF title.
RK: I knew a lot about his reputation and was able to get him out of there in the 1st.
KH: You go to South Africa in 1974 in your first of 5 fights there. How were you treated?
RK: I had no idea they did not like blacks and whites to fight there. So my white opponent was switched over to a black one. I won my first 3 fights by knockout. The people were nice but I realized my place.
KH: You are on a 14 fight win streak since your only loss and are matched with Pierre Fourie (49-5-1) who fought the first mixed (black/white) match there in a title fight with Bob Foster in December of 1973. Fourie was just coming off losing a split decision to WBA light heavyweight champ Victor Galindez.
RK: I knew I would have to beat him soundly to get the decision, which I did.
KH: Six months later you are in your first title bout with Galindez (41-6-4) in Johannesburg, in May of 1976. Now if you ever wanted to hit a ref, Chrstodoulou was the one you should have picked.
RK: I hurt him in the 3rd round and cut him up. When the ref walked him to his corner I thought I won the title. They were there patching him up for 30 minutes. It took everything out of me waiting and watching this happen.
KH: In the last round Christodoulou stopped the fight with 1 second to go.
RK: He dropped me and the ref said I did not beat the count, which I thought I did.
KH: You have a knockout win 3 months later, but don’t fight for 10 months.
RK: I was under contract to Don King’s US Tournament but never had a fight or was allowed to get one elsewhere until the rematch with Galindez. He even asked “why have you waited so long”? It wasn’t up to me.
KH: This time, you are in Rome, Italy, in June of 1977, losing a 15 round decision.
RK: I was really disgusted how things were going in my career.
KH: You stopped Harold Carter in your hometown of Vineland.
RK: We fought at the Stadium.
KH: Then a fight you probably would rather not talk about. You fight Matthew Saad Muhammad (18-3-2) at the Philly Spectrum for the NABF title.
RK: I had him down face first. I thought they were going to drag him back to his corner. He was a real warrior. (Kate’s stopped in the 6th) I was ready to quit after that fight.
KH: Two fights later you travel to Rahway State Prison to fight inmate James Scott (13-0-1). You are also working as a prison guard (Bayside). Was that intimidating?
RK: Very intimidating. All the inmates are screaming at me and surrounding the ring to where they could almost reach out and grab you. He had just won a 12 round decision over Eddie Mustafa Muhammad who got robbed in Italy by Galindez. Our fight was stopped in his favor in the 10th and final round.
KH: Your next fight you go to the home state of Murray Sutherland (10-2) a tough-man champion and future IBF super middleweight champion.
RK: He dropped me in the first round. I was able to come back and take the decision.
KH: A couple more wins and you defeat Jerry Celestine (19-5-1) in his backyard of New Orleans, stopping him in the 5th. Why 2 months later go back for a rematch?
RK: That’s what I thought. Why go back there again? I was over confident and got stopped in the 8th round.
KH: You fight Pat Cuillo in April of 1982 in a bout with a strange ending. Explain.
RK: He had been in a street fight and had cut his hand. After a couple of rounds his glove is full of blood and neither one of us is cut. The ref stopped the fight in the 5th round by a “cut hand”.
KH: You beat Willie Stallings (7-1), Richie Bennett (24-4-2) and future IBF cruiserweight champ, Jeff Lampkin (20-2). It’s October of 1983 and you are matched with Philly’s Jerry “The Bull” Martin (25-5) in Atlantic City. He was the first boxer to defeat Scott in Rahway and has had 3 unsuccessful title bouts with Mustafa Muhammad, Saad Muhammad, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi. He was probably just be glad not to fighting a guy named Muhammad.
RK: I win a split decision for my 5th straight win. I wanted another title fight. My management and promoter couldn’t make it happen. So I quit.
KH: You had a 45-6 record, with 23 knockouts. You had an outstanding career, with two title bouts, and all the respect in the world from those in the fight game. You called it quits at age 32. What was in your mind at that time?
RK: I prayed to God for direction and have been blessed since. I train kids in the Vineland area.
KH: Richie, it’s been my pleasure sharing your experiences.
RK: I look forward to reading this story.
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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