Sunday, August 24, 2008

Al Was Always There For Down-and-Out Fighters

I was at a boxing show in Hackensack, NJ in the early 90s, with my Dad, who I believe was working the corner of Willie Wise. On the undercard was a fighter that was brought in from Buffalo, NY for a 4 rounder against a local product, I presume.

The fight never went the distance. The guy got laid out flat in like the second round, and believe me, when this guy's head hit the canvas, it sounded like a bomb went off. I was in the dressing room and heard it. The doctor checked him over and said he was alright, save for an embarrassing defeat, and the fact that his "Cornermen" stole the $400 he had earned for the bout.

So at the end of the night here's this guy, sitting there, no money, in a virtually empty Holiday Inn ballroom , with tape and old handwraps all over the floor.

My father saw him, and when he heard what had happened to the guy, took him to the depot and bought him a ticket home.

Thats the kind of guy my Dad was.

Al Gavin Jr..

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Platitutes For The Cutman

Inspiring Loyalty - from Tom Mahoney...

In 1968 I boxed for Al at the PAL's Wynn Center in Brooklyn's Bed Stuy section. At the time Al had a disagreement with John Defoe, PALs head boxing coach.

This led to Al leaving the PAL for the Seafearers Gym in Sunset Park at the opposite end of Brooklyn. The funny thing was that every one of Al's fighters followed him across the boro. Bo Bo Ackerson a lightweight GG champ lived around the corner from Wynn Center.

He and perhaps a dozen others who lived within walking distance to Wynn Ctr, traveled across the boro (probably taking a couple of trains) just to stay with Al. After several months, Al again moved, this time to the Gramecy Gym & again ALL his fighters followed him. He inspired loyalty. He was my boxing coach, trainer, manager, mentor, even a big brother.

I was very lucky at 16 to have a trainer who would stay a life long friend. I miss him dearly. Tom Mahoney

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Martin Snow on Al Gavin

This post was submitted by Martin Snow of Trinity Boxing

Al Gavin...

To say that Al Gavin was a great cutman would be like saying that Mother Theresa was a great nun. If all we remember Al for is his work stopping cuts, we do him a great disservice. I prefer to think of Al not as a guy who closed cuts, but as a guy who opened doors. The doors he opened to me shaped my life. Al was more like an alchemist – he turned men into fighters and fighters into men. He was a life coach before anyone knew what a life coach was. Al was Dr. Phil with an Enswell.
Reggie Jackson once said that a good coach can make you better than you think you are. Al was a great coach because he made you better than you really were.

I fought (and beat, I might add) guys I had no business being in the ring with. Boxing for me was Plan B. Striking out on four pitches at my college baseball tryouts ( I took one pitch just to make it look good) kind of sealed my fate. Washed up at 20, boxing was the only thing standing between me and Slo-Pitch softball.
I was a white guy from a middle class neighborhood in Brooklyn going to school at Fordham University. By contrast, some of my opponents were receiving a different kind of education at the New York State Correctional Facility in Sing Sing. Where did I get the nerve to think I could fight, let alone beat, guys whose lives depended on how well they could use their fists? I got it from Uncle Al.

Al had a way of keeping you calm when everyone else was losing their heads. As long as I had those two eyes on my back, I felt like King Kong. Self confidence in the ring means nothing without the same level of confidence in your corner. Nothing fazed Al. If he wasn’t worried, why should I be? After all, we’re talking about Uncle Al here! The bad cop, badder cop routine that he worked with Bob pulled me through some tough fights.

One of the most important contributions that Al made (outside of his great family, of course) was that church on 14th Street called the Gramercy Gym. I’ve seen many people walk in, some broke, others broken, and walk out with faith, hope and another shot at redemption. If boxing was a religion, then Al would have been pope. He treated every member, no matter who they were or where they came from, the same. He ran the gym with an even hand, not an iron fist. The Gramercy is the place, mine included, that all gyms can only aspire to.

I could never repay the debt of gratitude for the way Al treated my brother and I, especially when my father passed away. Strange as it may seem, some of my fondest memories came at one of the lowest points in my life. He treated us as if we were his own sons, as he did with all of his fighters. It was because of him that I chose to make boxing my mission in life. I hope that I can make a difference in other people’s lives the way he did in mine. I miss you Uncle Al.

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