Former light-heavyweight contender Tommy Hicks tells Jack Hirsch how he secured an international identify shot in opposition to ring legend whilst conserving down a role as a trainer
HAVING one a hit occupation is difficult sufficient, however to juggle two concurrently Tommy Hicks as soon as did used to be really outstanding. That he did so whilst elevating a circle of relatives most effective makes it the entire extra spectacular.
The primary query surrounding the previous light-heavyweight contender from Lockport, New York, must now not be how he did it, however why? Hicks used to be an basic and heart college trainer, first educating Bodily Schooling sooner than transitioning to Particular Ed. Later he would change into a Primary. Obviously there used to be no necessity for Hicks to don the gloves, however he did for the most simple of causes: He cherished to.
It's been a bit of over 50 years since Hicks, 18-12-3 (10), challenged Bob Foster for the arena light-heavyweight championship. In coaching for that combat he could be out at the roads at roughly 6am, sooner than reporting to his educating place. Then on the finish of the varsity day Hicks would head both to Cornell College in Ithaca or to Syracuse, to organize for Foster. Now that is Bob Foster we're talking about, one of the crucial devastating punchers in boxing historical past, one that struck such concern into fighters many had been crushed sooner than the primary bell rang, however for Hicks it used to be all in an afternoon’s paintings.
“I by no means had any objectives in boxing past simply seeking to be the most productive I might be” says Hicks modestly. “I used to be now not within the recreation to generate income or change into champion, I loved boxing, appreciated the demanding situations it supplied. This is the reason I did it.
“I performed soccer and were given a scholarship at Ithaca, however boxing used to be my favourite recreation. As a child I at all times labored out with my brothers and sister, playboxing. I were given into it for actual when my buddies challenged me to.”
Hicks had a rather a hit novice occupation, profitable the sub amateur light-heavyweight identify in 1965 within the Buffalo Golden Gloves match, then taking honors in the similar department within the open magnificence in 1967. He grew to become professional quickly later on.
The opposition early in Hicks’ skilled occupation used to be lower than stellar. That will in the long run alternate, however what by no means did solely used to be the load disparity he regularly needed to handle to get fights. There used to be no cruiserweight department on the time so Hicks used to be compelled to field heavyweights to get fits.
With a modest 9-4-2 (5) file, Hicks travelled to Cliff’s Pavilion, in Southend, on November 12, 1970 to tackle touted British prospect Danny McAlinden who had received 12 of 13. “I assumed it used to be a lovely even combat till it used to be stopped on account of a lower,” stated Hicks of the 9th around loss. “The referee [Benny Caplan] did a just right task in giving me each and every alternative to stick within the combat till he used to be compelled to prevent it. Maximum of my fights had been stopped as a result of I used to be lower. I used to be a bleeder and my fighters knew it. They might move out in their method to goal my cuts.
“McAlinden used to be an actual difficult man who may give and take a punch and used to be additionally lovely clever. He break up me up lovely badly in that combat.” However the fit used to be entertaining sufficient for Hicks to get a rematch in the United Kingdom simply 3 months later. In some of the extra noteworthy performances of his occupation, Hicks held McAlinden to a 10-round draw on the Global Wearing Membership in Mayfair. “I assumed I received the combat however that may be a biased perspective,” admitted Hicks.
Till knowledgeable by means of this creator, Hicks used to be unaware that simply 12 days after the McAlinden rematch his opponent would field at the undercard of the combat of the century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at Madison Sq. Lawn. McAlinden emerged victorious in handing Muhammad’s brother Rahaman his first occupation setback, outpointing him over six rounds. That his British opponent may field so quickly later on, and in an tournament of such top profile, speaks volumes of the mindset of the boxers of that technology in comparison to this one.
Together with a later combat in England in opposition to Johnny Frankham, it will be the most effective 3 times in Hicks’ occupation he boxed out of doors of the USA. He has superb reminiscences of his time in the United Kingdom. “The folks may now not were any nicer,” he says. “I used to be handled very slightly. The exposure sooner than the fights used to be about me being a trainer. They'd me going to the universities and talking with the opposite educators. I loved it. It used to be just right for the game.”
Little did somebody realise on the time, however the draw with McAlinden had located Hicks for a identify shot in opposition to Foster. First he adopted up with victories over Billy Freeman (w pts 8) and Walter Opshinsky (w rsf 7), each in Scranton.
The Foster combat got here simply 5 weeks after the victory over Opshinsky, a handy guide a rough turnaround however one who Hicks used to be ok with. “I don’t bear in mind obviously, however I feel that I used to be instructed about 3 or 4 weeks sooner than I fought Foster [October 30, 1971] that I might be getting a shot on the identify,” says Hicks. “I felt that I’d earned the chance and used to be in a position for it. Getting the decision on brief realize used to be now not an issue as a result of I at all times saved in form between fights. I cherished figuring out.”
Hicks used to be the gang favorite having up to now boxed 9 occasions in Scranton, however Foster used to be no stranger to the Catholic Adolescence Heart the place the fit used to be held, having effectively defended his identify there previous within the yr, preventing Hal Carroll in 4 rounds.
The fit used to be now not televised, however movie does exist by which static accompanies a not quite perfect image.
Because the challenger, Hicks entered the hoop first waving hopefully to the gang. He in brief attempted to interact Foster in a stare down all the way through the referee’s directions, however the champion used to be disinterested.
Appearing no concern of Foster’s vaunted energy Hicks rushed at him from the beginning. The speculation used to be to stay making use of power on Foster, tough him up and harm him with a large blow. It used to be sound technique, in all probability the one one Hicks may hope to execute being that he couldn’t outbox the lengthy and lanky title-holder from the out of doors.
Southpaw Hicks scored with a just right lengthy left every now and then. He additionally dictated the gap of the hoop for a lot of the time by means of forcing Foster to present flooring, however the champion methodically used to be busting him up with jabs and solitary proper arms. The tempo used to be rapid, however Foster’s punishing blows had been reducing the challenger over each eyes.
By way of the 7th around Hicks used to be slowing down. Foster stopped countering and stood at mid-ring and fired away. Hicks’ nice chin enabled him to soak up blows that would possibly have felled some other light-heavyweight. When issues didn't reinforce within the 8th it used to be stopped by means of referee Manny Gelb at 1-04. Hicks protested, however it's extra sadness than an objection. Foster grew to become and walked to his nook, however then made a beeline against Hicks. He patted Tommy at the bottom and the lads display one any other mutual appreciate.
The legitimate scorecards weren't made to be had however you must make a legitimate case for Hicks having received a few the rounds.
Boxing historian Don Majeski used to be ringside and describes it as thus: “It used to be the remnants of the closing days of an technology,” he says. “In the ones days now not each and every championship fit used to be on tv. They relied strictly at the reside gate of which the champion would get 40 according to cent and the challenger 20. My bet is that Hicks made roughly $10,000 at the combat sooner than taxes, supervisor and instructor’s charges.
“Foster used to be the sort of devastating puncher, some of the toughest in historical past that some folks may now not consider Hicks may legitimately rise up to his energy. Some concept that Foster carried him, however there's no proof of that. What I know is how Hicks were given the combat within the first position. It used to be on account of Chick Feldman, the sports activities editor of the Scrantonian. He driven laborious for it in line with Hicks’ previous performances within the Scranton space. He felt Hicks may hang his personal in opposition to Foster. Feldman did such a lot for boxing as a member of the media that it’s a disgrace he isn't within the Global Boxing Corridor of Status. Satirically in Hicks’ subsequent combat, a tenth around stoppage of Dennis McNamee that used to be the primary tournament at Madison Sq. Lawn, Feldman died of a middle assault at ringside.”
Foster paid tribute to Hicks later on by means of addressing those that had instructed him it could be a very easy combat. “If that is a simple combat, I don’t ever wish to have a troublesome one,” he stated.
Hicks is effusive in his reward of Foster. “He used to be some of the biggest of all time, duration” he says. “My cuts turned into serious from the 6th around on. His directly proper arms had been what lower me. The referee used to be protecting of me, letting me know he may now not let it move on too lengthy. Foster’s mindset used to be nice. He knew methods to arrange an opponent for hooks and directly rights. His conditioning used to be superb additionally. And he used to be a pleasing man too. On every occasion we had been on the similar boxing tournament he would at all times search me out, come over to mention hi. I revered him so much.”
Foster persevered his run of dominance within the light-heavyweight department in next fights however Hicks would now not come on the subject of boxing for the identify once more. Hicks may nonetheless maintain reasonable opponents, however the contenders he used to be matched with had been merely higher.
In March of 1972, he major evented at MSG once more, this time shedding a 10-round unanimous choice to Mike Quarry by means of ratings of 10-0, 8-2, and 7-3. This creator used to be on the combat and recollects Hicks following the elusive Quarry across the ring, however being not able to nook him. “I taunted him to combine it up with me, however he wouldn’t,” says Hicks. “He used to be sensible, a very good boxer. I assumed I used to be nonetheless a contender and would simply need to paintings tougher.” However Hicks may merely now not get his occupation on the right track, partly because of having comfortable pores and skin.
Upon getting stopped by means of light-heavyweight contender Jimmy Dupree, Hicks received a pair, however any thought of clawing again into identify rivalry evaporated with consecutive stoppage defeats to Bobby Cassidy, Johnny Frankham, and Vince Curto. Cuts naturally performed a job in each and every defeat. The Frankham loss at Royal Albert Corridor noticed Hicks maintain a badly gashed proper eye. A low profile victory over Sixto Martinez in Scranton adopted, however one month later (March 13, 1974), Hicks used to be dropped within the opening around and misplaced extensively on issues over 10 in opposition to prospect Ray Elson. That satisfied him it used to be time to retire from boxing.
“I might have appreciated to proceed to field,” stated Hicks, who used to be 29 when he had his closing combat, “however felt I owed it to my circle of relatives to present them extra of my time. “My spouse Jen, son Tom Jnr and daughter Melissa are all terrific. They've at all times been supportive.
“Being a contender made me a star in Ithaca and Lockport,” says Hicks. “That’s how it's in small cities. Other people had been in awe after they heard I used to be a certified boxer. It helped me as a schoolteacher in that the scholars gave me appreciate.”
Hicks, now drawing near 78 years previous, used to be eager about a horrific twist of fate in 2015, whilst as a pedestrian he used to be hit by means of a automotive. It used to be contact and opt for some time till he recovered, however there are lingering bodily problems that have slowed him down somewhat. “However I nonetheless stay in just right form and watch the fights the entire time,” Hicks says proudly.
Most likely no different light-heavyweight in historical past can have crushed Foster the night time Hicks fought him. However Tommy can at all times say he boxed for the arena identify. Now not dangerous for an after college task.