06/06/2012 07:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The "Battling Bellman" Loves Miami

Levi Forte, known by some as "The Battling Bellman" is a former professional boxer and an employee of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.


Dear Miami,

It's been almost fifty years since I left Alabama and headed south, but I am in love with you as much now as I was when I first arrived. You see, in my younger days, I was a fighter -- a pretty good one in fact -- and that's what drew me to your sunny skies. The year was 1964 and all of the day's top prize fighters were training in here. I knew this was where I needed to be to hone my skills, to prepare to take on the best in the world.

When I started my workouts at Angelo Dundee's Fifth Street Gym, I was 22. I'm 71 now and I still climb into that same ring as often as possible.

Throughout my years as a fighter, I was able to take on some of the most famous names in boxing, including former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman. In 1969 at the Auditorium in Miami Beach, Mr. Foreman and I went ten rounds -- the most any fighter had gone with him to date.

Even though he beat me, he vowed he would never fight me again.

I took a job as a house man at the famed Fontainebleau Miami Beach in 1965 because it allowed me to continue my rigorous training. I've now spent over 45years at the Fontainebleau, having worked my way up from a houseman and furniture mover to become a bellman, which I still am today.

In its heyday, the Fontainebleau was the place to be. Movie stars and musicians occupied every corner of the hotel. Muhammad Ali stayed here and I worked directly with Frank Sinatra whenever he visited. Years after our fight, I ran into Mr. Foreman, who was staying at the Fontainebleau with his youngest son. He proclaimed once again he would never give me that rematch.

Today, the Fontainebleau continues to be one of the most sought-after resorts in the world and I'm so proud to be forever a part of this family.

Most of all Miami, I love you for introducing me to the love of my life for the past forty five years, my wife Margia. It doesn't seem so long ago when she was selling popcorn at the local Martin Theater, which I visited every day, buying the popcorn she sold in hopes she would accept my dinner invitation. Luckily for me, my persistence paid off and, almost half a century later, we've never been happier.

Miami, you helped me start my boxing career, you were the place I met the woman I was lucky enough to make my wife and you gave me the chance to be a part of your history. For that I will always be thankful.

Levi Forte

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