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.


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