=== Olympic champ Davis: "I didn't complete all that I set to do" ===
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
Cape Coral, FL (Sports Network) - Many people might not even remember.
Though the 1976 Summer Olympics highlight reels are crammed with footage of
all-time great Ray Leonard and future heavyweight champs Leon and Michael
Spinks, it was a lanky native of Glen Cove, N.Y. who actually made the biggest
in-ring impact in Montreal.
That man was Howard Davis, Jr.
Then just 20 years old and already a two-time national AAU champion, Davis
reeled off five straight points victories to capture both the gold medal in
the 132-pound weight class and the Val Barker Trophy as the most outstanding
boxer of the games.
The wins north of the border closed a 120-5 amateur career that had also
included defeats of Thomas Hearns and Aaron Pryor, and launched Davis on a
path that looked likely to include world championship recognition alongside
his celebrated U.S. teammates.
Instead, the subsequent 19-year pro run saw him go 0-for-4 when it came to
world title bouts before eventually finishing up at 36-6-1 with 14 knockouts.
Nonetheless, he parlayed the success into an eight-year position as a boxing
trainer for would-be mixed martial arts fighters in Coconut Creek, Fla.
These days, he's crossed over to become a full-fledged MMA promoter in his new
home state, operating Fight Time Promotions with his wife/business partner,
Karla Guadamuz-Davis. The company's "Fight Time" series includes five events
per year at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.
We caught up with Davis to reminisce about the Olympics, discuss the peaks and
valleys of his pro career and get an insider's view on the rivalry between
boxing and MMA.
Fitzbitz: All of a sudden, it's been 37 years since your summer in Montreal.
How often do you daydream about what happened at those Olympics? Is it still
the No. 1 icebreaker people have when they approach you?
Davis: I do think about the Olympics. Not every day, but often enough.
Sometimes it is an icebreaker when people recognize me and don't know what
else to say. People will approach me about my professional boxing career and
if they're a little older, they'll remember the '76 Olympics.
Fitzbitz: Most casual fans, when asked about boxing at those Olympics, will
probably mention Ray Leonard and perhaps Leon and Michael Spinks before
remembering your role. As a competitor, did that or does that frustrate you at
Davis: Not necessarily true. When someone approaches me about the '76 Olympics
it's because they recognize me from those Olympics. And if I don't get
recognized by the public, it's OK.
Fitzbitz: You had a 19-year career that 99.99 percent of pro fighters would
envy. Looking back, are you satisfied with what you accomplished? Did you do
everything you set out to do when you started?
Davis: Great question. No, I didn't complete all that I set to do, and that is
winning a world championship belt. But there's one thing that I don't do, and
that's live in the past. If I do look back, I only use it as a reference, a
guide and a learning tool.
Fitzbitz: The one thing glaringly absent from such a long run is a world title
belt. You got cracks against memorable fighters - Watt, Rosario and McGirt.
What do you instantly recall about those fights? Are any of them more
memorable than the others?
Davis: Believe it or not, for each title fight there was a reason not to
fight. My first title fight against Jim Watt, I really didn't want to fight at
all because my father and managers weren't getting along at the time. Timing
is everything for me and it was not the right time. I was a real sensitive kid
at the time and I loved my father. I also liked my managers a lot. I felt like
I was caught in the middle. I didn't enjoy training at all and I was consumed
with negative feelings throughout the whole training camp as I got ready to
fight Jim Watt. It was a close fight and I thought the fight could have gone
either way. Unfortunately for me, it went Jim Watt's way.
My second chance at the title was against Edwin Rosario. I was at home
contemplating retirement in my living room when my trainer at the time - Craig
Gibson - showed up at my house and said he got a call about me fighting Edwin
Rosario for WBC title. I asked him how much time I had for training camp and
he said two weeks. That's all of the time that I had to train for one of the
hardest-hitting lightweights in the world. On top of that I had to lose 15
pounds. I went 12 hard rounds with Edwin and lost by split decision. Most of
the boxing pundits thought I won the fight.
My next title fight was against Buddy McGirt. Same thing, short notice. I had
a little over two weeks of training and at the time I needed the money. It was
a first-round stoppage. He hit me with a right hand and down I went. I wasn't
really hurt, if you watch me getting up you will notice me getting up real
slow. Not because I was hurt from the hard right hand that Buddy hit me with.
The reason I got up so slow was that I was extremely weak from losing so much
weight prior to the fight. But I want you to understand that I made these
decisions to go out and fight.
My last title fight was against a hard-hitting southpaw by the name of Dana
Rosenblatt. I had broken my wrist a week before being asked to fight Dana. I
went to my doctor, who put the cast on my left wrist. I asked him if he could
take the cast off and show me how to wrap my hand and wrist in a way where
I wouldn't feel the pain. We tried everything, but nothing worked. This was my
last fight and I needed the money and it was also a short-notice fight, too.
He stopped me in the second round.
I do have some regrets, of course, and if I had it to do it all over again I
would I have made some changes in my boxing career. Yes, some. But my life
experiences have made me who I am today.
Fitzbitz: In today's era, a significantly larger slice of fighters get shots
and win titles. For a guy from a different era, is it difficult to see so many
champions when you never got that opportunity?
Davis: No. It is what it is. It's out of my system, so to speak. There are
some regrets, of course, but we keep moving forward. It's the era and time of
Fitzbitz: In addition to the title fights, your record is littered with big
names like Camacho and Taylor and others. In your view, who was the best
fighter you ever shared a ring with? Were there any guys who, upon actually
being in there with them, were better or worse than advertised?
Davis: Each fighter that I fought was advertised to their ability. Hector
Camacho was the smartest fighter that I ever fought, Meldrick Taylor was the
fastest and Edwin Rosario was the hardest puncher.
Fitzbitz: In your view, how would some of today's perceived pound-for-pound
elites - Mayweather, Pacquiao, Marquez - have fared against you or the other
greats of your time? Are they as good as advertised, or particularly fortunate
to be fighting when they are?
Davis: I think that I would have done well against all three in my prime. All
three deserve the publicity that they're receiving in this era.
Fitzbitz: Was there one fight in your career that you absolutely wish had been
made that wasn't? Why?
Davis: I wish that I would have fought Roberto Duran. I just thought that it
would have been nice to have that notch on my resume.
Fitzbitz: Here in Florida, you've clearly established yourself on the MMA side
in recent years. Describe your connection to the sport? Where did it come
from? And how do you compare the high-end athletes in MMA to the high-end guys
Davis: I started out as the boxing director of American Top Team in Coconut
Creek, Fla., and that's how I got to know many of the best MMA fighters in the
world. Now, as an MMA promoter with my wife, it has been great getting to have
some of my former students fight under my organization - Fight Time
Promotions. MMA hasn't caught up to boxing just yet in terms of finances. MMA
fighters aren't making the same kind of money like Pacquiao, Marquez and
Mayweather. Once that happens, mixed martial arts will arrive.
Fitzbitz: There seems to be a rivalry, either real or perceived, between
boxing fans and MMA fans. As a guy with obvious connections to both factions,
what do you think of the divide? Can the sports peacefully co-exist, or will
there always be a built-in tension?
Davis: I don't think that there is a rivalry. Boxing isn't MMA and MMA isn't
boxing. And what I mean by that is that a boxer cannot throw someone to the
ground, a boxer can't arm bar someone, choke someone out, etc. It's like
apples and oranges. To me, it's perceived. The only similarity is the
striking, which is about 15 percent, and 85 percent to the ground. There lies
the difference - apples and oranges. Both sports can easily co-exist. They
have no connection to one another.
This week's title-fight schedule:
IBF junior welterweight title - Washington, D.C.
Lamont Peterson (champion) vs. Kendall Holt (No. 3 contender)
Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KO): First title defense; Fourth fight in Washington
Holt (28-5, 16 KO): Fifth title fight (2-2); Held WBO title at 140 (2008-09,
Fitzbitz says: "Holt has been dangerous for years, but seems a level down from
where Peterson was against Khan. Unless the rust is an issue, the champ should
retain." Peterson by decision
IBF junior middleweight title - Detroit, Mich.
Cornelius Bundrage (champion) vs. Ishe Smith (No. 14 contender)
Bundrage (32-4, 19 KO): Third title defense; Unbeaten in Detroit (14-0)
Smith (24-5, 11 KO): First title fight; Second fight in Michigan (1-0)
Fitzbitz says: "Despite rankings, there doesn't seem to be a big separation
between the two. Still, it's been a while, if ever, since Smith beat a fighter
of Bundrage's caliber." Bundrage by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-
fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world
championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight
Last week's picks: 2-1
2013 picks record: 5-2 (71.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 468-154 (75.2 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
02/19 16:25:05 ET