Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Journalist's Tribute to Al Gavin

From Steve Pinto - Former Boxing Columnist, Times Herald-Record - Middletown, NY (1993-1999)

"As a young writer in my early 20's attempting to give someone a reason to publish me for covering the sport I loved, I met Al Gavin at a fight card in upstate, NY. I knew who he was from having seen him in the corner of countless fighters on countless fights I'd watched on TV.

I introduced myself and expected nothing more than a gratuitous, "Hey kid" in return. What I got instead was a foothold on an opportunity I could only dream about. Al spent a good part of the night talking with me at ringside, far more time than I expected he would. He side-stepped most of my questions about his work with genuine interest about my writing pursuits.

A few weeks later, I wrote to thank him for his time and he replied with a long, thoughtful hand-written response. He also put me in touch with Lou Sahadi, publisher of Boxing Scene magazine. It lead to my first published piece, which led to a freelancing career and eight years working as a weekly boxing columnist for an upstate NY newspaper and some of the best moments of my life.

A number of years later, I ran into Al in CT at the Lou Savarese-Leo Nolan fight and had a chance to thank him for helping me get my start. I'm not sure he remembered me but he was as gracious and generous with his time as he was when I'd first met him. I'm grateful to Al for helping me to get my start as a boxing writer. Moreso, I appreciate the time he gave me simply because we shared a common interest. As I've come to know people who knew Al far better than I did, I'm not surprised by this. I'm told that's the type of man he was.

I've never been cut by a punch and needed Al's expertise to keep me in a fight but in some small way, I can identify. I'm a better man for having Al Gavin in my corner."

Monday, May 2, 2011

More on the Wit and Wisdom of Al Gavin

rom Sue Dunne.....

The first time I met Al Gavin was when he came to Cardiff, South Wales Uk, for the Lennox Lewis V Frank Bruno fight. I think this was in 1993.

We hit it off straight away and I left Al that day with an armful of gifts he had given me. I was later to learn that this was not a one off, but pretty much every time I met Al, with my family, we always had gifts from him.

We all loved to listen to Al telling us about his experiences and encounters of his life.

One story I remember in particular was about Al visiting an Aunt of his when he was younger, apparently the Aunt wasn’t a very good cook, and one of her favourite recipes was a concoction that he called cabbage soup. He said he always hoped there was something different to eat when he went to visit her, but she would always serve him this cabbage soup.

Although Al was not very keen on the soup he always ate it. His brother? rarely visited his Aunt as he hated the cabbage soup and made fun of Al when he said he had been to see his Aunt.

Many years later when the Aunt died she left some money to Al in her will, but nothing to his brother.
Al’s brother suggested that he share the money between the two of them. Al’s come back to his brother was “you should have eaten the soup”.

Al had many stories like this to tell and several times we suggested that he write a book, Al’s response was, no-one would want to read it. I am sure everyone who knew him would agree that there are lots of people who would have read it and it would have been lovely for us to read and remember other such stories that I am sure Al told to all his friends.

Al was a diamond, a unique irreplaceable diamond, we will miss him forever.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Tribute to Verne "Bulldog" Williams

Verne "Bulldog" Williams, a good friend of the Gavin family and a truly unique gentleman and scholar of the sport of boxing, passed away on October 14th at the age of 75.

Al Gavin Jr sent us this personal message about Bulldog....

Bulldog was a friend of my father's. You knew you were a friend when you were invited to one of Dad's barbeques, and Bulldog and his wife Sue were always there. He brought a certain persona to the table that was not like anyone else. 

When Dad passed, Bulldog was there. He remained a friend to me, calling sometimes once in six months, sometimes twice a week. He always made me laugh, and vice versa, always an animated conversation. 

Now he is gone too, much like Dad, much too soon.His love of boxing and life in general was to be admired. I know he hanging out with Dad, probably at the fights, and that Ill see the both of them again one day.  

RIP pal. Al Gavin Jr.

Visit Bulldog's website

Read more about Bulldog

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Boxing Hall of Fame Misses Mark Again

Al Gavin Left Off New List of Inductees

Another year has come and and gone, but the glaring omission of Al Gavin's name on the list of inductees to the International Boxing Hall of Fame continues.

The world-renowned cutman and gym proprietor who touched thousands of lives during his half century of service to the sweet science still remains on the outside looking in.

If there is anyone who deserves enshrinement into the Hall, it's Al Gavin.

There is not one soul in the sport who will disagree. Gavin's importance goes beyond his recordable achievements and statistics. His dedication, kindness, tutelage and friendship to the scores he crossed paths with - from champions to club fighters, to trainers, managers, sportswriters etc.-  puts him in the pantheon of boxing greats.

Yet, the INHOF does not recognize him.

Al Gavin is perhaps omitted because he was a class act in sport where class is not valued. The way he lived his life and dedicated himself to his craft and his subjects is something rarely seen not only in boxing, but in any walk of life these days.

If it were not for Al, and many like him such as his partner Bob Jackson,  boxing would have been dead long ago.  He was from a generation that preserved rather than destroyed.  He built bridges, not walls.

He loved boxing and dedicated life to helping all willing participants. Unlike many in his position, he helped people. He wasn't a user.  He was Boxing's good guy.

The Hall should rewarded him years ago, before his untimely death in 2004. Now, six years later, they have failed once again to bring class into their fold.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Message From a Former Fighter

This was sent to us from Jay Speelman, a former welterweight boxer who trained under Al Gavin..

I had the great privilege of knowing and training under Al Gavin for about seven years. As with anybody who knew Al, that time was not enough.

I first met Al when I was twenty-three years old. I previously came from an extensive martial arts and kickboxing background, but was in pursuit of a more respected sport and felt the need for a world class trainer. One summer night, my friend Walter and I drove up to Gleason's "Bull Dog" boxing gym in Garden City, N. Y where I heard Al was training fighters. Upon observing my sparring sessions, Al kindly took me under his wing.

Al was unparalleled as a trainer in two different ways. First, he had an in depth knowledge of the game unlike any other trainer I have come across. Second, he treated and directed his fighters as though he were looking through a father's lenses.

He taught me many of boxing's finer points and steered me out of harm's way when I was too foolish and prideful to realize that the sport was bigger than my ego.

We headed to Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, NY for one of my amateur fights. My family was there to support me along with many of my friends. There was confusion with the fight card and some fighters didn't show and others didn't make weight. Al was talking to some officials and coaches in the back while other event members prompted me toward the ring. Across from my 139 pound frame was a 165 pounder waiting eagerly to make minced meat out of me.

My thought was that my family and friends came to watch me fight-- I wasn't going to let them down by going down. I was hoping Al would get to my corner before the opening bell. Instead he came walking out of the back pointing at me saying, "GET OUT." He was wearing an expression as if to say, " Don't even think about talking back either." Perhaps Al didn't realize the depth of my respect for him and wouldn't question him even in the midst of that humiliating moment.

Later in the locker room, Al explained to my family and me that certain people involved with the event were trying to play dirty, "but Uncle AL stepped in." Later, Al told me that he knew I wasn't afraid and was willing to fight.

Al made a very successful career out of the sport he loved. He never found any financial security in me. Al took the time to steer me away from the dark side of boxing and eventually out of the game all together. What can I say? I just didn't have it. The thing that made Al unique is that he truly cared. He wouldn't advance his agenda if it meant hurting someone else.

Since Al's passing, I have stepped out of boxing completely. I have a wife and daughter now and have not followed boxing the way I use to. I recently learned that Al Gavin is not in the Boxing Hall of Fame. This disturbs me. Al is known in the sport as the "world's greatest cutman" and "boxing's good guy."

Boxing has had it's run in with many corrupt people making money from the blood of others. Al was NOT one of them. He was a light in what is sometimes a dark sport. Al was a true professional who took in a guy like me and kept him safe.

We miss you Al. God bless

Monday, March 22, 2010

Former Gloves Champ Seamus McDonagh on Al Gavin

We recently received this dispatch from Seamus McDonagh, the 1985 NY Golden Gloves Heavyweight champion.  Seamus would go on to turn pro and fight the likes of Evander Holyfield (that's Seamus, pictured, delivering a hard right hand to Holyfield's chin in a 1990 bout...)

"I loved Al Gavin. When I came to New York as a teenager, my introduction to the profession was at the Gramercy Boxing Gym on 14th street. Al was always so kind to me. 

I was shocked to see Mustafa Hamsho there and to be introduced to the likes of Paddy Flood. I was suspicious of the managers who sat at a table to the side of the ring, smoking cigars which enraged me. 

But Al would always come up with something funny and break the ice. He worked the corner in a lot of my fights in the "Gloves" and in the pros. 

When I'd see him in the dressing the night of a fight, I'd immediately relax. His expertise with cuts kept my unbeaten run going for a long time.

When I recall the "Gloves", an image of Al pops into my head, also Neil Ferara and "The Thin Man" Nick, Bobby Barbero, Vinny Cerola and Joe Baffi, and my dad Jim McDonagh. They were the days of innocence in boxing for me and 

Al was a part of that. So he isn't gone because he lives on in me and everyone's lives he touched, literally. Thank you dear Al."
Seamus McDonagh
NY Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion 1985

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Now that's a good wrap...."

I remember when my Dad got a call from Oscar De La Hoya's camp to come out to California to work with Oscar for his upcoming bout with Arturo Gatti.

He looked forward to going out there and working with them, but he never let on to his feelings about it, as they constantly changed personnel.

He told me they picked him up from the airport in a limousine, and drove him to the training facility in Big Bear.  Top notch, all the way.

After meeting with the crew, he sat with Oscar, talked for awhile, and got on the subject of hand wraps, as Oscar had sustained a hand injury at some time and was particular as to how his hands were done.

Well, Dad wrapped his hands, and Oscar, banging one fist into the palm of the other said "Now thats a good wrap". Soon after, De La Hoya went on to stop Gatti in 4 rounds.

Did Dad wrap his hands? I dont know. But the look in his eyes when he told me that story, well, said it all.

Al Gavin Jr.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Orlando Fernandez on Al Gavin

I met Al Gavin in 1990 when I was in upstate new york for a fight with Kevin Kelley and Regilio Tuur. I was Phil Borgia's assistant and he introduced me to the cutman Al Gavin in the lobby of the hotel. Al said to me hey kid, call me Uncle Al, so I did.

I sat there for about an hour talking baseball with him waiting for the weigh-ins to start. We ended up talking more baseball after the weigh-ins over dinner and then the next morning at breakfast. I enjoyed our conversation very much and our friendship continued from there. We went on many trips with Kevin, Reggie, Phil and even Paul Vizzio over the next couple of years. Holland, Vegas, Montreal, Atlantic City, etc.

I loved going on these trips because not only did we work the fights but we also got to see the sites. Al and I would share a room on these trips. We would get up and go to breakfast, then a walk, he would stop at a store to get some gifts and a postcard to send home. We would talk boxing and I would pick his brain about all the greats of the past and his most memorable fights as a trainer or a cutman.

I remember one trip to Chester, West Virginia where Kevin Kelley was fighting his 1st fight after losing the title. It was at a racetrack so after breakfast we went for a walk by the track. He asked a woman there how far the closest store was and she said "down the road a bit, not to far". So off we went to get a post card since this trip was a 2 fight trip. 1 in West Virginia and then on to Atlantic City for Paul Vizzio's fight. We walked about 3 miles and Al looked at me and said " this is more then just a bit ". I laughed and laughed with him walking. We ended up getting picked up by a local who drove us to the store and back to the hotel. We saw the woman the next morning and said hey some bit of a walk. She said "oh I am sorry I thought you had a car.

The trips with Al were great. When I wasn't doing anything on a weekend he would call me up, have me meet him at Army's Restaraunt in Corona, right by my house and would grab a bite to eat and then off to A.C. for a fight we would go. That was fun. I moved to Florida in 1996 and continued my friendship even though I was not in NY.

He pointed me in the direction of a gym in St. Pete Florida and my days as a trainer continued. We met up a few times in Tampa for some fights and had laughs after laughs. I joined the Navy in 1999 and told Al I was going and he said train some fighters on the ship while you are there. I thought that was crazy but I ended up working with 2 amateur fighters on the ship while we were out to sea. I called Al and told him and he laughed and said I told you so.

The worst day of my life in the Navy was when we were out to sea but got a chance to catch the fights on HBO that night. I was by my rack when I heard them toll the bell for the late great Al Gavin. My heart dropped to the floor. I lost my best friend, my mentor, I lost Uncle Al. It was the hardest thing to swallow while out to sea. Could not call anybody since we were so far out to sea and had to wait 4 months until I could call the family to say I was sorry.

Now its going on 6 years since he has passed and he still has not been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. That is a shame. The man did so much for this sport and he deserves to be in the Hall. New Jersey inducted him in 2006 and I am doing what I can to get him into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. I am going to continue to do whatever I can to help him get into the Hall of Fame. He deserves it NOW! Not 5 years from now, not 10 years, but NOW!

I still work with fighters today here in Tampa and if I get into a pinch with a fighter and he gets cut I just ask Uncle Al to guide my hand. It works. Not only is this man missed by many people today, his memory lives on with me where his initial will always be on my cornerman jacket right on my left sleeve closest to my heart. I miss you Uncle Al and will see you again some day.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Harold Lederman On Al Gavin

I must have known Al Gavin for thirty years, maybe more. He didn't only like me cause he thought I knew a little about the game, he liked me because, like him, I was a good eater.

Funny thing about boxing judges and cutmen...they both wind up in a lot of God forsaken places with tons of time on their hands and no place to spend it waiting for the first bell to ring.

I remember one time Al and I wound up, in of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not a heck of a lot to do in Tulsa. Al was working some corner, and I think I was working for HBO, probably when Tommy Morrison was fighting Michael Bentt. Al and I found a little place to eat breakfast and lunch, owned by a nice lady named, "Jeannie". Of course the name of the restaurant was "Jeannie's".

Every morning and every afternoon Al and I would hop in my rental car and go to Jeannie's for breakfast and lunch because the food was good and Jeannie didn't charge L'Cirque prices. Well, as fate would have it, every time we went there there was a cowboy looking person wearing blue jeans sitting at a corner table having his meal. I kept telling Al, "I know this guy". I just couldn't place the face. Al thought I was a total whack job. "How could you know a guy sitting in a greasy spoon in Tulsa, Oklahoma?", asked the world's greatest cutman.

Well, finally I could not take it no more, so I went over to Jeannie, who by this time had become a friend of ours, and said "who is the cowboy who's always sitting in the corner?"

After that, Al had a little more respect for yours truly. He couldn't believe it when the cowboy turned out to be the recently retired kicker for the New York Giants, Don Chandler. Now kickers aren't the biggest guys on the football field, so when I told Al that Chandler kicked twelve years for the Giants, he had a hard time believing that a guy the size of Chandler could be on the same field as Roosevelt Grier.

Problem was that they don't take off their helmets enough, so although I had seen him kick, I couldn't remember who he was over his breakfast of creamed chip beef on toast.

Ain't too many guys left to hang out with now that Al's gone. Al had a special appeal that just made you want to be with him. A die hard fight guy, he knew the business inside and out, and made it fun to be at the fights.

I miss you Al. I'm sure we'll meet up some day, even if it's not at Jeannies.

Harold Lederman is a longtime in-fight commentator for HBO Sports

Contribute to Cutman

If you wish to contribute stories, anecdotes, regards, tributes, videos or photos to this site - or be added to our mailing list, please contact us via email. CLICK HERE