My brother emailed me Thursday asking if I had seen that the legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee had died. My brother reminisced how our grandpa Abe owned a diner around the corner from Dundee's renowned Fifth Street gym in the years we lived in Miami Beach. My grandpa was the person who introduced me to boxing. It was the first sport I loved and would end up reporting on for Sports Illustrated in the '80s.
After reading my brother's email, I came home and rifled through my old boxing tapes, hoping to find an interview I'd done with Dundee. And I found it; taped during the days he trained Sugar Ray Leonard. Now if I could only find my old tape recorder. It's probably stored somewhere next to my Betamax.
Reading the faded names on the tapes I'd saved was like taking a journey through my days as a cub recorder -- covering a sport where reporters weren't named "Amy."
Wow, here's my Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini tape! I remember traveling to his training camp on a bus with other reporters. When we arrived at his camp, in the ladies' room I ran into the only other female at the camp. Cody. She was the reigning Penthouse Pet of the Year. Great. She was also wearing a bathing suit, awaiting her photo shoot with Mancini. As she tugged at her suit in front of a full-length mirror (something I go at all lengths to avoid), she was getting more and more agitated with each tug. She turned to me and asked, "Do I look fat?" Fat? "You look fine, " I told her while thinking, "There is absolutely no hope for the rest of us."
Hey, where was my tape containing the three hours I spent at Mitch "Blood" Green's mom's house, just me and Blood? He was a 6'5" heavyweight and I was there to talk to him about his upcoming fight with Mike Tyson. But all he wanted to talk about were his problems with women. A week later I awoke to a news report on 1010 radio saying that the previous night Mitch "Blood "Green had been found impersonating a gas station attendant and robbing cars until the cops showed up. Surely that must be some other "Blood," I thought.
Ah, my Gerry Cooney tape was intact. Too bad Gerry didn't stay that way after his fight against Michael Spinks during 'The War at the Shore' in Atlantic City. A few days before the fight I ran into Gerry in his Atlantic City hotel lobby -- alone! A reporter's dream, no throngs of reporters. I asked if he had some time to chat and he said to come to his room in 10 minutes where he'd be getting a massage. I quickly did the math: Massage equals one massagee and one masseuse, that's two people. Phew. "Sure," I said confidently. "What's your room number?" I entered his room. As he lay on a table with just a small towel draped over his 6'5" frame, he started talking -- but not about boxing. He quickly switched gears as soon as I used phrases like "left hook.' His come-hither come-on remains the only one I ever received from a boxer. Or any athlete.
And where was my tape with that heavyweight whose name I am still afraid to mention, given that my meeting with him was part of an investigative mission to get the goods on a nogoodnik agent in the boxing business? When I arrived at the God-forsaken place he had chosen to meet, he was flanked by two equally large men. "Where did you get my number?" one of his henchmen asked me. I had been told explicitly NOT to reveal my source. So I humana-humanaed, Jackie Gleason style, all the while trying not to picture the New York Post headline: Day 12: "Sports Illustrated Reporter Still Missing."
What's this? My tape from my days at Sports Phone, pitching in when the hockey reporter was ill? One of my two forays into a National Hockey League locker room. A sport with no female reporters, fine, I could take that. But this was uncharted turf. Naked turf. Standing next to these very tall men and holding my microphone up, and more importantly, keeping my eyes up, I never longed for another female face more than I did in that locker room. Even Cody would have been a welcome sight.
Just let me survive this locker room and get me back to my comfort zone, I remember thinking. Back to boxing. A civilized sport. The sport my grandpa Abe taught me to love.
Now I've got to find that tape recorder.