By Steve Corbo
As my last article was about to be posted, I received some additional sad news. Another friend from Chicago boxing circles, former Cruiserweight Contender, Craig “Gator” Bodzianowski passed away in his sleep, Sunday July 28. He was 52 years old. Incredibly, Craig gained his greatest success as a boxer, becoming world ranked and then fighting for a world championship title, after losing part of his right leg in a 1984 motorcycle accident and while fighting with the use of a prosthetic. He turned pro in 1982, after winning a Chicago Golden Gloves title and ran off 13 straight wins, 11 by way of KO. Then disaster struck. While riding his motorcycle he was involved in a collision with an automobile, resulting in the amputation of his right foot and a portion of his leg. After a year and a half layoff he returned to the ring and went on to make history. In 1986 he stopped current boxing promoter Bobby Hitz, in the 3rd round, to capture the Illinois State Heavyweight Championship. In 1987 and 1988 he fought former WBC World Cruiserweight Champion, and fellow Chicagoan, Alfonso Ratliff with the Illinois State Cruiserweight Title on the line. Both times he dropped, razor thin, majority decisions. How close were these two fights? According to boxrec.com, The Illinois Boxing Commission appointed the same three judges to work both fights. All three judges scored both bouts identically. After watching these two guys go 20 rounds with each other, one of the judges still had it even!
By Steve Corbo
In December, 2012 I lost a good friend, Johnny Lira, to liver disease. He campaigned as a lightweight back in the late 1970′s and early 80′s. At one time he was the WBA’s #1 rated lightweight in the world. He also won the USBA lightweight title in spectacular fashion when he knocked out the undefeated Andy Ganigan. Nicknamed the “Hawaiian Punch”, Ganigan had a record of 25 – 0, with 23 wins by KO and he was looking to keep busy, while waiting for a shot at then champion, Roberto Duran. Johnny seemed a safe enough tune-up, he was only 14-0-1 with 8 wins by KO. The smart guys figured he’d go a few rounds, give Ganigan a little work and in short order become KO victim number 24. But the smart guys never could get a handle on the tough kid from Grand Avenue on the west side of Chicago.
Lira got his shot at a world championship in front of a home town crowd, when he took on WBA Lightweight Champion Ernesto Espana in 1979. The fight was televised on the old ABC Wide World of Sports with Howard Cosell calling the action. What a fight it was! Cosell called it even after five. Lira knocked down the champ in the seventh and it looked like he was going to put him away. But Espana fought back hard. That’s what champions do! Lira was dropped near the end of the 8th, then suffered a severely lacerated right eye and picked up a broken jaw. The ringside doctor stopped the fight after the ninth round.
There were more ring wars to come. After Espana, Lira’s career included losses to Willie “Fireball” Rodriguez, Howard Davis, Jr. and Alfredo Escalera. There were also wins over rugged Bobby Plegge, Al Ford and Sammy Matos! Lira finally hung up the gloves in 1984 with a record of 29-6-1 with 15 wins by KO.
By Steve Corbo
On Saturday, March 30, 2013, I saw one heck of a great fight when Mike Alvarado went to war for a second time with Brandon Rios. Alvarado came away with a unanimous decision victory setting up a third meeting between these two warriors. I think a couple of things must have made this such a sweet victory for Alvarado. First, redemption! He avenged his loss five months ago and evened up the score. Second, he was a 4 to 1 underdog when he stepped into the ring and he beat the odds!
Coming up on April 27, 2013, down in Buenos Aires, Argentina, another fighter is going to step into the ring, an even bigger underdog than 4 to 1. Little known Martin Murray from St. Helens, Merseyside in the United Kingdom, will be squaring off against WBC Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez, with Sergio’s Middleweight title on the line.
By Steve Corbo
Author Steve Corbo (kneeling) with current NFL player Tommy Zbikowski and members of the University of Notre Dame Football Team, including NFL Quarterback Brady Quinn, after one of Zbikowski’s amateur bouts.
Like most of us I was dismayed by the performance of the Men’s US Olympic Boxing Team in London. Add to our Olympic debacle the AIBA problems with USA Boxing, and it gets downright discouraging. Even those of us who love the game have to admit, boxing in the United States, just isn’t what it used to be. And that is especially true in the heavier weight divisions.
To remind myself of what it used to be like I looked at a Ring Magazine from April 1980. “The Ring’s World Ratings” listed the top ten heavyweights in the world, nine (9) of whom were from the United States.