Wild Card Boxing Club, Hollywood, CA: It Ain’t Easy
“When I was a young fellow I was knocked down plenty. I wanted to stay down, but I couldn’t. I had to collect the two dollars for winning or go hungry. I had to get up. I was one of those hungry fighters. You could have hit me on the chin with a sledgehammer for five dollars. When you haven’t eaten for two days you’ll understand.” – Jack Dempsey
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” – Muhammad Ali
I have to admit, there is some truth to that. Especially the swooping fly girls at Topless Beaches in summertime thing.
However, what many don’t know is that I usually take a month off from the difficult lifestyle of an International Playboy and get back to my roots. And when I say, “get back to my roots” I mean spending a month in Hollywood, in a small apartment, with no car, and go to The Wild Card Boxing Club, Hollywood, CA every day, all day.
I literally live on Vine Street. Minus a few trips to Beverly Hills to work on a little “project” I have going on. I did this in March and April this year.
I get real “street”. Every day I wake up go to the gym, chill for a while, then come back and workout or spar. I don’t wear Custom Suits until the weekend comes. And I swoop a little fly Mexicana girl I know from the hood some nights. Other nights I just stretch and read. Real soulful.
If you have never been to The Wild Card Boxing Club, the place is crazy. It’s small. It is about the size of four boxing rings (it has two boxing rings). There are about 100 people in there at any given time. The place has unbelievable characters. The intensity is off the charts. It is a straight up Madhouse.
But truth be told, I feel more at home in The Wild Card Boxing Club than almost anywhere in the world. I straight up love the place. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble. Freddie Roach might be the coolest cat in all of America. His MOM is a sweetheart. Pepper is funny as hell. All the regulars are cool as hell and are always helpful. All the pros are mad cool. Manny is The Man. The trainers are dope as hell. I love the energy and vibe. And even though I am basically at the bottom of the totem pole there (I am being humble as usual, I am really not at the bottom, more like a significant level below the Pros and real fighters), I do earn people’s Respect there, and that is really all that matters.
In fact, I think I will make at least a two week pilgrimage to The Wild Card Boxing Club for the rest of my life, no matter where on the globe my travels take me.
I probably won’t be going this summer to The Wild Card Boxing Club, but I do have plans to hit up another legendary boxing gym in another city. I typically do this when I travel.
Now that I think about this, this would be a great idea for a TV show: Have cameras follow me around the globe going to different Boxing Gyms. They could also follow me going to different tailors I know and get Custom Suits made. If it is a beachtown, I could bust some cutbacks and get shacked at some dope surf spots and swoop Topless girls at the Beach.
That would easily be the dopest show on TV. Maybe put it on HBO so we could show Topless girls. It’s kind of crazy that I just came up with this idea and no one else has.
I probably would want to wear a ski mask to keep me low profile.
I don’t want to jeopardize this whole “International Playboy thing” I got going on, after all.
4. I have never seen a 3D movie (save the old school ones as a kid, think those horror ones). I have never seen Avatar. I can’t handle looking at Blue people for three hours.
5. I have never seen that Leonardo Depricio, movie The Titanic. In fact, I make an effort to not consume popular culture. I consider this one of my “keys to success”.
6. I know how to work on cars. Although these days I rarely drive. I realized a few years ago that every time I was arrested, jailed or caught in the rookers of the milicents; it was “vehicular related” in some way. That being said, I still will slide a Cadillac to The Del Mar Racetrack in summertime though to reclaim my #1 Spot. Turf Club Parking. What’s up?
7. I know my way around a construction site, and worked construction for two years and multiple summers as a young pup. I can hang sheetrock, run copper and PVC, do carpentry and I am an artist with a jackhammer, skilsaw and a chainsaw. I never really learned electric but can bust out some.
8. I have driven Cross country 3 times in my life. It was 3 times too many. This was back in my “transport” days. I thought it was going to be all “On The Road” style like my man Jack Kerouac. It wasn’t. America is a hell hole of strip malls, fat people, track housing and chain restaurants. The only redeeming parts of Middle America are Las Vegas, New Orleans and Chicago.
9. At one point, I had close to $100,000 in credit card debt. And over $300,000 in debt to the kind of people that don’t exactly send you “past due” notices in the mail. All my accounts are clear now. Maybe one day I will write about how I got out of that situation.
10. I have never claimed to be a great writer. In fact, when I first started writing The G Manifesto, I could barely write. I never paid much attention in school. I mean yeah, I went to school. All the way through school, right in the front door and out the back. Read the earlier “Manifestos”. They are almost un-readable (interestingly, enough, it was back then when I was getting the most attention from the publishing world and Hollywood).
11. I have surfed many parts of the bubble. In fact, traveling, swooping and surfing was what my life was about in my younger years. You would be hard pressed to find someone that knows Las Playas de Norte Baja better than your humble author. Hell, I could write two “Manifestos” on the beaches of Northern Baja alone. But you know what? I never will. People just don’t talk about that place. Myself included.
12. I sometimes get para. But like Chopper Read once said, “Just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t trying to kill me”.
13. I once stayed up for 4 nights straight in New Orleans solely on a diet of Gulf Oysters, Creole food and Swooping fly New Orleans girls. No drugs. No joke. I was hallucinating and almost in tears. To the best of my knowledge this is a world record (one of two “un-official” World Records I think I hold). I may tell this whole story down the road.
14. I have a couple of dope screenplays I want to write. One of course, would be my life story. The younger years and the come up. The only problem is there is no actor dope enough in Hollywood to play me. The second screen play is about my Grandfather and his boxing gym in Northern Ireland. It is kind of “Michael Collins” meets “Hoosiers”. Both would be two of the dopest movies Hollywood has ever put out. Maybe I will write them once I learn how to actually write a screenplay. Anyone know how to do that sh*t?
15. I find the whirl and clicking of a money counter to be one of the most mellifluous sounds in the world. I am not joking. I really do. I have said it before, and I will say it again, “I am interested in money so one day I won’t have to be interested in money.” Can ya dig it?
16. I have a split personality. And each of my personalities is Bipolar, with an identity crisis. So, like, you know, it can get pretty Maddening being Michael Porfirio Mason. Like J.J. Connnolly has said, “Madness is the darkness in your head, the restless one percent that wants to push strangers under trains. Madness is paranoia made normal. Madness is when the mundane is insane, the insane mundane. Madness is thinking you can predict the future, while sitting in a jailhouse, doing birdlime. Madness is fun for a little while, then gets dark…then darker still. Madness is not to be believed…but is so fuckin convincing.”
17. There are a lot of other things I am sure I could do in my life that would make me rich and famous. However, I don’t want to sacrifice this whole “International Playboy” thing I got going on. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation. It is way too priceless. After all, International Playboys are really at the top of the food chain when you think about it.
18. I have extreme ADD, as witnessed by the frenetic jumping around of topics on The G Manifesto. My ADD seems to be getting worse with age. I actually consider it a strength, although it is enough to drive most men insane.
19. Recently, I have come to terms that I am going to be an International Playboy/ Gentleman of Leisure for life. It is not a choice. It is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. I have no say in the matter. My life was predicted by a Gypsy. It was written and so it shall be.
20. I hate cell phones. If everyone agreed to turn them in tomorrow and stop using them, I would be first in line. I like pay phones.
21. I like flowers. I really do. One day I may open a flower shop when I am older. However, I am doing it “Dion O’Banion Style”. Although, lately, I am thinking I may open a salon or a massage place or a yoga spot when I get older so I can swoop mad fly girls into my later years. We’ll see.
22. I have friends in jail that I came up with. I have friends who have faded away due to The Mirror, The Razor Blade and The Straw. Not to mention some have fallen due to The Spoon, The Flame and The Spike. And I have good childhood friends that are locked up for being criminally insane. My best friend (who I may add is the CEO of a company half way to a billion a year) and I recently spoke about this. It’s the little decisions in life that make the difference between being lucky and becoming a casualty. Can ya dig it?
23. I first boxed at The Wildcard in Hollywood when I was a kid. Mickey Rourke days. Back then, I used to Base of Operations out of The Three Clubs and chill with that cat with was in that movie Laws of Gravity (great movie by the way). It is not lost on me that this probably reveals my identity. However, anyone that knows me from those days, already knows.
24. I try my hardest not to spend a dime with any big corporations; zero for Starbucks, zero for department stores, zero for big oil, zero for Big Banks, zero for big pharma, zero for…you get the broken picture. I treat big corporations like Pretty Tony once said, “You know, man, all bitches are the same, just like my ho’s. I keep ‘em broke–wake up one morning wit some money in their pockets, they subject to go crazy. I keep ‘em looking good, fly, and all that, but no dough. When I get a bitch, I got a bitch.”
25. I once swooped 32 girls in 30 days when I was a young pup in Los Angeles. Mostly Hollywood actress types. A got the flu pretty bad afterwards. Could have been the drugs. It’s kind of hard to track exactly.
27. I have been on the receiving end of a few “three on one” beatdowns. Not fun. And I got cracked over the head with a Louisville Slugger when street crews were clashing in High School. I had an out of body experience. I still have the spot where it deformed my skull. Sometimes I let girls touch it. They usually get grossed out.
28. I have been robbed at gunpoint two times. One time by knife point. Charge it to The Game.
29. I am not smart enough to make big time passive income. Not yet anyways. Working on it.
30. I have never seen a Walmart with my own eyes in my whole life. Although, I have been to Carrefour.
31. I have never had a meal at a PF Wangs, Olive Garden (Garbage), or TGI Fridays. And that includes the TGI Fridays in Riga, Latvia too.
34. I have been swooping girls since I was knee high to a kangaroo and although I have had ups and downs in the biz world I have been clocking dough and traveling since I was a kid.
35. I have been becoming more Spiritual with every passing day. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have said before, “My mind is the enigma filled with broken pictures. The spiritual International Playboy can see clearer now.” Like King David said, “I guess my life was pretty extraordinary. In the end, I suppose it all comes back to the whole karma thing. Who knows? If it’s half as real as the Hindus say…I may just get a second chance after all. I wonder, what lies ahead for me on the other side?”
36. I wanted to also say, “thanks” to all the fly females that fed me. Just in case they ever thought, “Did Michael forget me?”
Chuvalo was rough, tough and very strong; He had a “cast iron” chin, similar to that of the great Jim Jeffries; He fought the hardest of punchers – George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Cleveland Williams, Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena, Yvon Durelle – and was never knocked down; During his career, he won the Heavyweight Championship of Canada
George was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997
Interview conducted by Barry Lindenman
BL: You come from Canada which is known for turning out tough, rugged hockey players. You were known as a tough and rugged boxer. How did you get involved in the sport of boxing when it appears from your boxing style that you would have made a great hockey player as well?
GC: You think I fight like a hockey player (laughing)? You think all Canadians are tough? I thought they were mostly “stick and move” guys (laughing). As a kid, I remember when I first opened up a Ring magazine. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything about boxing, heard anything about boxing or even knowing about boxing. For me it was like when a kid opens up the centerfold of Playboy. To me, it was like “wow, this is it!” I thought it was like the greatest thing in the world. I saw pictures of guys with all these muscles throwing punches shots at each other. I guess it was the respect for power that really turned me on to boxing as a young man.
BL: Did you have a certain boxing role model that you patterned your style after?
GC: No, not really. There was a lot of guys I liked but I don’t think I ever tried to fight like this guy or that guy. I grew up watching Joe Louis, Willie Pep and Ray Robinson. As a kid when I first started to box, those guys were champions of the world so they’ll always mean something a little more special to me than a lot of the other guys. You’re looking at me through American eyes. To me, I’m just a fighter, you know what I mean? I don’t think I had a Canadian style or an American style. My style was just mine, just walk in and pitch.
BL: You will always be remembered as a long time heavyweight contender who fought the best, took their best shots and was never knocked off his feet either as a pro or an amateur. Are you satisfied with your reputation and how you’re remembered as a boxer?
GC: First of all, it depends who’s trying to remember me. Certain guys may think of me in a certain way and other guys may think of me in another way. Most people think I was a tough guy who took a good rap. I think I was a lot better defensive fighter than I was ever given credit for. I’ll go down in history as a supposed tough guy who fought a lot of tough guys, beat a lot of tough guys, lost to some tough guys. I was there. I was a contender for almost a couple of decades and knocked on the door a few times, but am I satisfied, hell no! If you’ve never been champion of the world you can’t be satisfied. I guess I can say I’m proud of my achievements. I’m happy with some of the things I’ve done. I did OK. A fighter always thinks he coulda done better than he did. There’s always a gnawing kind of feeling that I wish I could have been champion of the world. There’s a piece of me that always feels kinda incomplete. All in all, I did a lot better in life than most guys. I was ranked number two in the world at one time. Not too many guys can say they were number two in the world, except Hertz, me and Hertz (laughing)!
BL: Having faced such great fighters such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, who would you say was the hardest puncher you ever faced in the ring?
GC: It was neither of those guys. Mike Dejohn was a real good wacker. Mike Dejohn knocked out a lot of guys in one round. Mike Dejohn was a good banger. Foreman was a good banger too, of course. Mel Turnbaugh was also. I guess they were about the three hardest punchers: George Foreman, Mel Turnbaugh and Mike Dejohn.
BL: During your great career, you fought Muhammad Ali twice and went the distance with him both times. You first fought him in 1966 just before his three year exile from the sport and then again in 1972 soon after his return to the ring. What differences did you notice in Ali in the two times that you fought him and did you alter your strategy between the first and second fights?
GC: You got it wrong. Ali went the distance with me both times (laughing). I threw more head punches in the second fight. In the first fight, I concentrated on maybe 75 – 80 % to the body.
I kinda switched it the other way around in the second fight. I fought a smarter fight the second time. I hit him with a lot of jabs in the second fight. Nobody ever talks about that but if you look at the film, you’ll notice I hit him with a lot of jabs. But I still think I should have worked the body more than I did. I worked the body too much in the first fight and not enough in the second fight. The second fight was still a very close, hard fought fight. Some sportswriters even thought I won the second fight. How was Ali different? He was just more energetic in the first fight. He threw more punches and had more verve in a sense. He was trying to get by in the second fight with a lot of guile. He didn’t have the same physical attributes as he had in the first fight. He had flashes of it but he couldn’t sustain it like he could in the first fight. In the first fight, he was a much better conditioned athlete. After his exile, he never really came back. He never came back to the fighter he was before he was put into exile. He was never that fighter ever, ever, ever again. Even though he fought some great fights after with Joe Frazier for instance, he was never the same fighter. When he beat George Foreman he beat him by using his brains. He sucked him in with the “rope – a – dope.” He didn’t beat him on physical ability as much as a well planned fight plan. He used his intelligence and general boxing savvy and let Foreman punch himself out. Then he just took over. But he was not the same athlete ever again.
BL: Ali was famous for giving his opponents nicknames. Sonny Liston was the Bear, Joe Frazier was the Gorilla. He nicknamed you the “Washer Woman.” Do you know what he meant by that?
GC: In September of 1963, I beat Mike Dejohn, knocked him colder than Missouri mule. I knocked him out with a left hook and pummeled him over the ropes. It didn’t occur to me until twenty five years later in 1988 why he called me the “Washer Woman.” It was because in the fight with Dejohn, I had his back draped way over the ropes and I already had him knocked out. I had him pinned against the ropes and I started pummeling him, just beating on a knocked out guy. It looked like I was working on a scrub board. That’s why he called me the “Washer Woman.” It sounds uncomplimentary but it really wasn’t. Ali said George Chuvalo fights rough and tough like a “Washer Woman.” It was a kind of a cute term.
BL: Although you never won a world title during your career, what would you say was your greatest moment in your boxing career?
GC: There’s a few of them. I knocked out Doug Jones, something that Ali couldn’t do. In fact, a lot of people thought he actually beat Ali. I knocked out Jerry Quarry when a lot of people thought I would lose to Quarry. I knocked him out with a second to go in the seventh round. After the Frazier fight, my eyes had a propensity to swell up very rapidly so in the fight with Quarry, I fought like a one eyed cat peeping in a seafood store for about four rounds. The referee told me if the eye gets any worse he was gonna stop the fight so if I didn’t knock him out when I did, they would have stopped the fight. I also knocked out Manuel Ramos in five rounds. He was the Mexican champion who’d beaten Ernie Terrell and a few other guys and had Frazier down before Frazier eventually stopped him.
He fought everyone and anyone who meant anything in the heavyweight division in the 50’s, 60s and 70’s. No one ever knocked him down, and only Joe Frazier and George Foreman were able to stop the man who Muhammad Ali called “The Washer Woman.” Make no mistake; George Chuvalo was no washer woman. In fact he was without question the toughest of the tough; the most rugged of the top men of his day.
He faced, in a career that spanned 22 years, the aforementioned Ali, Frazier, and Foreman, plus Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry, Doug Jones, Cleveland Williams, Brian London, Jimmy Ellis, Ernie Terrell, Zora Folley, Mike DeJohn, Robert Cleroux, Manuel Ramos, and Oscar Bonavena. Even before he was experienced enough he was put in with ranked contenders, Howard King, Big Bob Baker, Julio Mederos, and Alex Miteff. George turned pro in 1956 winning four fights by quick KOs in one night.
This all begs the question; how is it possible that Chuvalo looks (okay, his nose is a little mushy) and sounds as though he never stepped into the ring let alone absorbed the punches of the toughest men in the world? Just ask Chuvalo for an answer to that. He has a theory that appears to have validity.
“Some guys are built for speed,” explained the former Canadian heavyweight boss. “Some guys are built for power. Your body type dictates your style, I was a walk in pitcher, and I didn’t move too much. I wanted to walk in and slug it out. I can tell you the guy who won’t take a good shot; the guy with the small head and a neck like a stack of dimes.”
He explained that fighters who had bigger heads and short powerful necks were better equipped to take a hard punch than a guy with a skinny neck and a narrow or small head. He mentioned a few examples of fighters who have had that innate ability to take punches and that list included Jake LaMotta, Tex Cobb, and himself.
“And even Ali,” he added. “He took a pretty good rap, even though he’d been down a few times.”
Here is a little article on The re-opened 5th Street Gym:
Through a slumping economy and a rapidly changing boxing landscape, the owners have established 5th Street Gym as a landmark in its own right.
The secret, Baiamonte said, is in the spirit.
“A lot of gyms are so money-hungry, that all they care about is, ‘OK, this is what you have to pay, and that’s it,’ ’’ Baiamonte said. “Here, we won’t do that. Here, it’s just being friendly. That’s the one thing Angelo always did: He was friendly with everybody.”
Baiamonte is one of several “Dundee disciples,” a group of trainers who honed their craft under the late Angelo Dundee. A self-described gym rat, Baiamonte began working with Dundee in 2000, and in 2009 he decided he wanted to reopen the 5th Street Gym. As he looked into different options, he joined forces with the Chicago duo of Spencer — also a trainer — and Tsatas —a businessman and boxing enthusiast.
All that’s left of the original location is a plaque, and so Baiamonte, Spencer and Tsatas bought a space one block north, at 555 Washington Ave.
Now, the 5th Street Gym’s legacy is displayed on the walls of the new location with fight posters dating to Muhammad Ali’s storied 1964 upset victory over Sonny Liston. Baiamonte even brought in a window from the original gym and the sign that welcomed visitors from 5th Street.
Still, the owners know they’ve got to pave a legacy of their own.
“Don’t try to copy,” Dundee told the trio. “You’ve got to create.”