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Randy Gordon's Love Of Boxing Shines Through in 'Glove Affair,' His Memoir

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  • Randy Gordon's Love Of Boxing Shines Through in 'Glove Affair,' His Memoir

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    By Sean Nam

    As far back as he can remember, Randy Gordon always wanted to be in boxing. To do what, exactly, he had little clue. All that mattered to this peppy Jewish kid from Long Island was gaining, by any means, a toehold into “this crazy and beautiful sport,” in which men he idolized, like the heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, roamed the earth with a hint of the invincible.

    As it happens, Gordon never got a chance to brush shoulders with “The Brockton Blockbuster.” In 1969, when Gordon was a college junior, Marciano met his death in a plane crash flying over an Iowa cornfield. He was a day away from his forty-sixth birthday. Ironically, the tragedy would become the very catalyst for Gordon’s entry into the sport which he had hitherto only viewed from afar, mainly through the pages of The Ring, the iconic boxing magazine. Distraught by his hero’s untimely demise, a young Gordon sought out the wisdom of the publication’s founder.

    How could ‘The Rock’ be gone? I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to know more about Marciano. How great was he? Where did he fit in among the great heavyweights of the past? I decided I had to speak with Nat Fleischer himself. I decided to call him later that morning. Then, I decided I wouldn’t give a secretary a chance to make up an excuse he was busy. I decided to go to his office and sit there for as long as I had to in order to meet him and talk with him.

    So early one morning, Gordon strode into Manhattan via the LIRR and made his way to the seventh floor of 120 West 31st St., the former address of The Ring headquarters, where, by dint of moxie alone, Gordon was able to score a meeting with “the man whose opinion in the sport was heard and worshipped the way Moses heard and worshipped his Lord in front of the burning bush more than 2,000 years ago.” It is safe to say that with this encounter, Gordon had effectively crossed the boxing threshold, shifting from plebian onlooker to soon-to-be tireless participant. Within a decade this giddy neophyte would become the editor-in-chief of the very same magazine, the self-proclaimed Bible of Boxing, working in tandem with the raffish, stogie-chomping Bert Sugar. He would strike up relationships, friendly or otherwise, with some of the most compelling figures in the sport, from Nicaraguan great Alexis Arguello to the irascible and incomparable Mike Tyson. And he would do so in capacities beyond his journalistic beginnings, most notably as the head of the New York State Athletic Commission under the Mario Cuomo regime. Gordon also fought as an amateur, dabbled briefly as a professional (for all of two fights), and refereed a few bouts. Today he is the host of the SiriusXM boxing radio program, At the Fights, which he helms with Gerry Cooney, the Hardy to his Laurel. The ultimate fanboy, it turns out, got to live the dream.

    No surprise, then, that a current of unflagging gratitude courses through Gordon’s new memoir, Glove Affair: My Lifelong Journey in the World of Professional Boxing, a wide-ranging, if hodgepodge, collection of the ex-commissioner’s most memorable moments in the sport. Boxing, from Gordon’s viewpoint, appears less as “The Sweet Science” or “The Cruelest Sport” and more like “The Providential Hobby,” if Gordon’s frequent attestations to his good fortune are anything to go by. He tells the reader, “I am, without question, the luckiest boxing aficionado the good Lord ever created.” Gordon’s indebtedness also extends to his friends and colleagues in the boxing business, as evinced by the long-winded acknowledgments section that includes more names than the entirety of the Pentateuch. (So all-encompassing is the list that an interesting exercise would be to suss out who from the industry isn’t on it. A hint: one absentee is a former Ring magazine editor).

    “I’m addicted,” Gordon confesses at one point. “I’m hopelessly in love with the sport. I still read every word about boxing I can find. I read every press release, every article, every column, every website, every result.” Gordon’s zeal is writ large in these pages and, no doubt, the source of the book’s unmistakable charm. For readers of a certain ilk expecting passages of deep philosophical probity and lyrical turns-of-phrases, however, this is the wrong place to look. The prose here is fairly straightforward, relies heavily on cliches and is driven mostly by jaunty dialogue that has the unintended effect of making Gordon’s chronicles appear exaggerated, even cartoonish, at times. Still, it gets the job done.

    Given Gordon’s high-ranking positions in the industry and the access that they afforded him, Glove Affair offers plenty of interesting material to engage fellow aficionados. Not many in the sport can say that they were called on by Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs, the managers of a juvenile Mike Tyson, to select sparring partners for the Catskill menace, as was the case for Gordon.

    Particularly engrossing is the chapter that hones in on the Billy Collins Jr.-Luis Resto fight, one of the most scandalous debacles of the 1980s. On that night of June 16, 1983, the undefeated Collins dropped a brutal and unexpected decision against journeyman Resto, whose gloves were discovered afterward to have had the padding removed by his trainer, Panama Lewis. (Decades later, Resto would admit that he had also dipped his wraps in plaster prior to the fight).

    Collins, having sustained a serious injury to the iris, would never box again and roughly a year later, alcoholic and depressed, he spun off the road and crashed to his death. Though Gordon himself did not attend the fight, the event shook him to his boots, as anyone who has read his fiery Ring editorial — “Murder, Plain and Simple” read the headline — can attest. His subsequent involvement with Collins’ disconsolate father and years later, with the disgraced Resto, offers intimate insight into the darker excesses of the sport. Throughout his tenure at the NYSAC, Gordon repeatedly rejected Resto’s applications to have his boxing license reinstated. More than thirty years later, Gordon remains convinced that he did the right thing, his anger still undiminished. “Luis Resto remains in jail — his basement apartment is his jail cell,” Gordon writes. “Unlike jail, he is allowed to go out into the world. Only, Luis Resto has no place to go, other than to a boxing card with the owner of the gym. Then it’s back to his jail cell. Sleep must be his only solace, but only if he doesn’t dream. For Resto, dreams must all turn into nightmares.”

    The bar for moral rectitude may be exceptionally low in a lurid sport like boxing, but Gordon never compromised his integrity, as he so persistently maintains chapter after chapter to the point, indeed, that he risks coming across as priggish. Of the one week when WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman and huckster emeritus Don King both tried — and failed — to bribe him with wads of cash, he says, humblebragging, “I returned home, proud of how I had handled two situations that have put many politicians and executives on the unemployment line or even in jail.” Of the time he was yanked off the air after snubbing the promoter’s pre-approved script during a broadcast, he reflects solemnly, “I didn’t believe I was 75 percent right, or 85 percent, or 99 percent. I believed the choice I made was 100 percent the correct one.”

    Such remarks, in the end, however self-aggrandizing, are not what define Glove Affair. Gordon’s ebullience for fighters and for fighting make sure of that.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Looks very interesting indeed.....