Profiles

People in Boxing

Johnny Bumphus


Johnny Bumphus could beat almost everyone except himself. So it was with Johnny “Bump City” Bumphus, (29-2-0- 20KOs) former WBA Light Welterweight Champion (1984). Suffering from long time drug addiction cocaine finally put him out for the count. The coroner listed his death as heart failure, a heart that never filed to beat during a fight, a heart that won him fame, a heart that beat with pride before every opponent. Cocaine is not a man, not a living creature as we understand living creatures, but an insidious kind of demon promising life, yet offering only confusion and death. In that fight he lost.

With the help of former boxer Ronnie Warren, I had arranged an interview with both Warren and Bumphus several weeks before Bumphus died. We were to met at the Tacoma Public Library at noon. The library was closed. I waited for half an hour with several homeless people standing outside. They use the bathroom in the library. I offered them a cigar, a stash I always keep with me when walking bout the streets and a way to break the ice. 

“Do you guys know the boxer, Johnny Bumphus?” I said. 

The younger man shook his head, no. He wore sand colored combat boots and his fingernails were black and he looked cold and lost. The other man, older, knew him. He drew on the cigar, a JR knockoff, a fat torpedo in Connecticut wrapper. The elbows of his jacket were out on the sleeves and hung down in ragged threads. He was freshly shaved with black chips in his teeth.

“He was a champion around here,” he said. “I seen him on the street a few times, pretty beat down.”

“He was a champion everywhere,” I said. “I was supposed to meet him here.”

The man was not impressed. “Thanks for the smoke,” he said.

No one showed, so I left.

I saw Bumphus a week later at the Emerald Queen Casino. He often showed up for the Battle of the Boat series of professional boxing. I had watched him for years at the fights, looking worse each time. He first looked old and beaten like a rich man who had just lost his fortune in the stock market and did not know how to get the money back.

Years later he hobbled in on crutches, growing fat and stiff. He often spent time in jail for crack cocaine. I knew a guard there. He said Bumphus never caused any trouble and mostly kept to himself, a sad case being picked clean by drug dealers.

Drugs had always confused me. Perhaps the government should not regulate morality, if drug use comes under the guise of morality. Opinions very. Many laws are against he simple pleasures of poorer people. It they want to take drugs, or drink, let them. If they steal a television to pay for the drugs, arrest them for stealing the television, not for the drugs. The rich can drink all the expensive Oban Scotch they want, but cheap fortified wine must be regulated. Criminalizing and arresting people with an illness does not solve the problem, it only beats them further down. There is something cruel about arresting people with an illness, sort like arresting people for having a mental illness.

William Burroughs had some interesting things to say about addiction in his book “Junkie.” Burroughs was a addict his entire life. He started taking drugs because of the highs it gave him. He said that soon disappears. There is no more high. One keeps taking drugs because of the pain of not taking them. Withdrawal is deadly. One is on a treadmill mill attempting to outrun the pain.

The last time I saw Bumphus was about a week before he died. He was rolled into the fights the Emerald Queen Casino, bundled tightly against the weather, and smashed into the wheelchair like an overstuffed soft leather plush toy. His cheeks folded around his thick glasses. He was not yet sixty, but looked ninety. His face and eyes were expressionless.

On the way home, I wondered why I had never interviewed him. He somehow seemed unapproachable. He wasn’t, nor was he mean. Quite the contrary. He had a great smile as a younger man before the drugs turned his lips into ridged and thick ropes. I had never interviewed him because I never knew what to ask. Talking about his early boxing successes might only cause him sadness.  People often live in the past when the past is the one thing they have. The Buddhists say, “All suffering lies in the past.” Time there cannot be revisited. We are what we are are today. I also did not want to discuss his drug addiction. Everyone wanted to talk about that, to pry, to ask what he was doing about the problem, if it was a problem. That was his business. Life is not a reality show and most things are simply no one’s business. I knew plenty about him, all superficial, anyway, the usual write-ups.

He started boxing at the age of eight at the Tacoma Boy’s Club. Most of the boxers were trained by Joe Clough, a legend in boxing. He helped turn out great boxers and champion after champion including Rocky Lockridge, Leo Randolph, Sugar Ray Seals, and Davy Armstrong.

Bumphus was born in the Hilltop area of Tacoma the roughest neighborhood in town. He was the only male in a family of six sisters and started boxing at the age of eight and massed an amateur record of 346-18. He earned his spot on the 1980 Olympic boxing team while working for the Nashville, Tennessee Sheriff’s Depart. He was rated as the number one Lightweight by the U.S. Amateur Boxers and Coaches Association. 

His life soon went horribly wrong. His mother was shot to death and the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The death of his mother severely affected him emotionally and the missed Olympics affected him financially. Boxers, like Ray Leonard, who had won gold in previous Olympics often earned $40,000 for their first professional bouts. Bumphus was offered less than half that amount.

Watching Leonard inspired him to try for the Olympics. He was 15 and he said to his mother, “I’m going to be there in 1980.” He ran up to nine miles every day to keep up his wind and endurance. He moved to Nashville after trainer Joe Clough moved there. He felt that Clough was the best trainer there was.

Bumphus has is own ideas about boxing. “Boxing is the art of landing more punches. Hit and not get hit is my style. I don’t go out looking for a knockout.”

Bumphus won his first 22 professional fights. He signed a promotional contract with Bob Arum for an estimated $500,000. He beat Lorenzo Luis Garcia in 1984 to win the WBA Light Welterweight title. The glory was short lived when Gene Hatcher wrested the title in an 11th round TKO in the upset of the year.

Bumphus attempted to win the WBC and IBF Welterweight title from Lloyd Honneyghan in a fight that should have been a disqualification for Honneyghan. Bumphus, hurt in the first round, stood for the start of the second round when Honneyghan rushed across the ring and nailed Bumphus before the bell sounded. The match was given to Honneyghan by TKO. Various countries like to protect their own fighters.

Toward the end of his career, cocaine entered his life. He had always been susceptible to drugs. For a short time he managed to overcome the addiction. The cure did not last long. He became addicted to crack cocaine, cheap and really obtainable in the Hilltop area of Tacoma. He was not finished yet. In an attempt to kick the habit he spent a year in rehab, then went to work for Lou Duva in Florida.He relapsed and Duva let him go. The worst place for him to return was back to Tacoma, but that was the only place he knew.

Poor friends and poor friend and acquaintances helped do him in. There were in  a constant struggle with the good friends who attempted to help him recover. Often in life, evil wins out.

I watched Bumphus being backed through the back door of the casino in his wheelchair. Outside he was pushed along the sidewalk lighted briefly under one streetlight after another until he disappeared into the dark.

Duane Ford - A boxing Legend


BY - Richard E. Baker

Since the retirement of Larry Merchant, no one knows more about boxing than Duane Ford. Ford, a quiet and dignified man, is a name familiar with hard-core boxing fans. He has been a judge since the 70’s and has judged over 150 championship bouts. He takes pride in the fact that he has always judged honestly and has never been swayed by managers, promoters, television, or anyone else in boxing. That is not to say he has been without contravisty, like when he gave the first Pacquiao/Bradly fight to Bradly. He is a short, soft-spoken man with a lovely wife.

He sits in the lobby of the Legends Casino in Toppinesh, Washington nursing a cup of coffee. He is president of the NABF and is at the casino to sanction the fight between Jade Bornea and Ernesto Delgadillo. He has also ben chairman of the Nevada State Boxing Commission. He much enjoys his work with the NABF, a chance to help rising boxers gain recognition.

His white hair is neatly groomed and he runs a finger across the screen of his cell phone in an attempt to remember the man who ruined boxing in Oregon and he talks of the time when boxing brought in sold out crowds in Oregon’s Rose Garden and how some people are dedicated to destroying boxing.

The casino is comfortable and first-class in every way, large windows letting in copious amounts of light and facing Mt. Rainier and the desert land than flows off its eastern side, up and beyond the parking lot.

He has much to say about boxing, both good and bad. Referee Joel Scoby and I listen intently. Joel was trained in boxing scoring by Ford and they have been friends since then.

People still ask him about his decision for Bradly in their first fight. “I score them as I see them and I am not swayed by anyone. Bradly was faster and controlled the ring.” He saw many of Pacquiao’s punches as close misses. “Bradly simply out-boxed him. There was a lot of subtle pressure on the fight. “Pacquiao was supposed to win. He was under contract to HBO, a very powerful organization. The fight was close and could have gone either way by a single point. I do not give in to pressure and I gave the point to Bradly because that’s the way I saw it.”

The boxing chairman said he was content with the decision. All three judges are professionals “and I am not going to second-guess them.”

This was not the only time Ford went against other judges. He was the only judge to chose Molina in Montel VS Molina; Figueroa in Proctor VS Figueroa; Aoh in Larios VS Aoh; Juarez in Barrera VS Juarez; Corley in Judah VS Corley; Griffin in Toney VS Griffin; and Hglar in Antuofermo VS Haglar.  None of this affected is status as a fine and knowlegerable judge.

He especially enjoys being president of the NABF. “Our job is to seek out the best prospects of the day and to help being them to the next level and get them noticed by the larger sanctioning bodies.”

Ford is a link to history and a valuable to boxing. He is one of the most respected in boxing and goes about his work in a quiet, respectful way.

The NABF continues to do a decent job and is a credit to boxing. Many past and future champions owe them a debt of thanks. Boxing owes the same to Ford.

© Copyright Left Uppercut