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Marc Abrams Proof That Even a Boxing PR Guy Can Be a Fighter

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  • Marc Abrams Proof That Even a Boxing PR Guy Can Be a Fighter

    It is somewhat ironic that 15rounds.com, the boxing website owned by publicist Marc Abrams, invokes memories of champions of yesteryear and those who attempted to usurp them, rather than an era where titlists and challengers are only asked to survive the arguably lesser hell of going 12. Those nine additional minutes in the crucible of the ring sometimes served as a line of demarcation separating simple fatigue and utter exhaustion, and the kind of pain any fighter accepts as an occupational necessity and a level of agony that can make the difference between the merely well-conditioned and the fanatically determined.

    The 46-year-old Abrams performs just about every task required of a boxing lifer with the exception of actually taking punches, but by any manner of assessment he has demonstrated he has already gone 15 hard rounds, many times over, in a decades-long battle within himself that he might soon be on the verge of winning.

    If the third and final stage of a surgical cycle that began 10 months ago is successful in late October, Abrams is hopeful of resuming a normal life, or however normal that life is for a man who has surrendered all or parts of several diseased and malfunctioning internal organs. Until his body relays the message that he is finally all that he needs and wants to be, it will be because the bouts of incapacitating pain, waves of nausea and occasional hemorrhages necessitating blood transfusions are forever in his past. Maybe then he will be free to eat and enjoy more than a mouthful or two of food at a time without vomiting, an unwelcome development that has seen his weight precipitously plunge from 177 pounds to 138. He proudly notes, however, that he has put 1½ pounds back onto his scrawny frame, a telltale sign that his stomach is not quite as rebellious as it so long has been. Even a small step forward is a welcome development after so often being told by doctors that his quest for better health again was on hold or, worse, stuck in reverse.

    “It literally has been hell,” Abrams said of the most recent period during which his plethora of medical issues, which might have cost him his life or at least significantly shortened it, took a foreboding turn. “But I am very optimistic that this next stomach surgery will be the end of it.”

    Given his history of frequent hospital visits and grim prognoses, it is a wonder that Abrams has been able to mostly maintain a schedule and work ethic that would sap energy from presumably more able-bodied competitors. Although the native Philadelphian is known mostly as a publicist to the not-yet stars and never-weres, there is virtually no task in boxing he would refrain from taking if called upon. He said it is not unusual for him to put in 15 to 16 hours to his myriad duties each and every day, with perhaps a few hours taken off on Sundays.

    “Before (his most recent surgery), I’d get up and start at 9 in the morning, maybe 8:30, and put in an hour before taking a shower,” he related. “I’d be in the Banner office (he has something akin to a full-time job with Philly-based promoter Art Pelullo) from 10 a.m. to maybe 5 in the afternoon, working the phones, sending out or answering emails. Whatever is needed. After that, I work on my own things or whomever I’m doing stuff for, until midnight, and often later.

    “The next day, I do it all over again.”

    It had always been Abrams’ hope to one day have a job in sports, although initially he believed he’d be involved in the NFL or NBA. But, he said, “I’ve always loved the big fights, when they would come on network TV. I was a big fan of Larry Holmes because all his fights were on TV, and because he was the heavyweight champion.

    “I guess I caught the boxing bug even more when the Jack Newfield book (Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King) came out (in 1995). It had so much fascinating stuff in it, I wanted to learn more about boxing. That’s where my passion for the sport really began.”

    Although Abrams has worked his share of bigger fight cards – he points out that he has done HBO, Showtime and ESPN events – he is most associated with promoters, managers and fighters who live and work in the Philly metropolitan area, the outer limits of which might extend westward to Reading, Pa., and to Atlantic City to the east. He estimates he has been associated with 50 to 75 such clients, most of whom appreciate his bulldog style although some were unwilling to reciprocate his loyalty, moving on to more established PR types as their place in the boxing pecking order rose.

    “I can handle bigger shows,” Abrams stressed. “I’ve done stuff nationally and internationally. But before that you have to take pride in being kind of the main guy in your area. There are still a lot of great stories that need to be told about kids in and around Philly. OK, so maybe it isn’t the heyday that it was 20 or 25 years ago, but there still are a lot of good fights and good fighters locally. This is where I grew up and still live. I want to see local promoters and local fighters succeed and go on to the next level.”

    Marshall Kauffman, president of Reading-based King’s Promotions, has worked with Abrams often and he cites him as an example of someone who never gives less than his best effort, and has not forgotten where he comes from.

    “Marc has helped me tremendously by doing PR and commentating for some of my shows, and he’s been just as helpful to numerous other local promoters,” Kauffman said. “Not having Marc around would be like not having boxing around in this area. If he weren’t here, that would make for a very empty space.”

    Pelullo is also effusive in his praise of Abrams, saying, “I think Marc is one of the more knowledgeable publicists in the business. He has tapes on everybody, and what he doesn’t know about somebody he can find out within 30 minutes. He is very conscientious about his job. And he tells me what he really thinks rather than what he thinks I want to hear, which is very important.”

    When he lived in an apartment in Center City Philadelphia, it was a messy bachelor pad with videotapes of boxing matches stacked from floor to ceiling in the living room and almost everywhere else. Since his December 2016 marriage to the former Ronnit Zalayet, the daughter of a British mother and Israeli father who was born in England, Abrams has relocated to more spacious digs in the Queen Village section of Philly, a living space that definitely shows the signs of a woman’s touch. Ronnit has urged her husband to transfer as many of the videotapes as possible to DVDs, significantly cutting down on the clutter. And, yes, Mrs. Abrams knew what she was getting into when she said “Yes” to Marc’s proposal of marriage, which came in Verona, N.Y., when Marc was there working the Ruslan Provodnikov-John Molina Jr. fight for Banner Promotions on June 11, 2016.

    “She’s gotten into (boxing) a little bit,” Marc said of Ronnit, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. “She knows who the local people are, and a lot of the big people, too. When Vasiliy Lomachenko was fighting Luke Campbell (on ESPN+ from London), she told me, `I’ll be watching my shows on Netflix, but call me down when the British guy comes on.’”

    More importantly than any shared interest in boxing, however, Ronnit was at her husband’s side when daunting medical news of more recent vintage came flowing down like floodwaters through a ruptured levee. She provided assistance beyond moral support by scouring the Internet and helping put Marc together with an internationally known colon and rectal specialist, Dr. Feza Remzi, in New York City. It was Remzi who successfully performed an intricate, nine-hour-plus J-pouch reconstruction operation on July 18, and urologist William C. Huang, also of New York, who performed a partial nephrectomy in April to remove a four-centimeter mass from his right kidney that turned out to be malignant. There were some complications that followed such delicate surgeries, which likely was to be expected, but Abrams can now claim to see light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel.

    Not that anything can make up for years of suffering – Abrams said he was 15 when evidence of ulcerative colitis, the first of his many medical problems, became apparent – but perhaps a small gesture from the writers whom he has helped for so long might provide some measure of consolation. The Boxing Writers Association of America first presented its Courage in Overcoming Adversity Award, now co-named in honor of Bill Crawford and John McCain, in 2006. Crawford, a onetime amateur boxer, was the recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor and Purple Heart for his battlefield heroism during World War II; McCain, a Navy fighter pilot, former Naval Academy boxer and avid fight fan, was subjected to horrific abuse as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before going on to a long tenure as a United States Senator from Arizona and 2008 bid for the presidency as the Republican nominee.

    Kassim Ouma, then a recently dethroned IBF junior middleweight champion, was the first person to be recognized for the prestigious award, a testament to the horrors he had endured as a conscripted child soldier in Uganda before he defected to the U.S. By the time Ouma took the stage to accept the award, his story was fairly common knowledge in boxing circles. A year later, the second honoree was some guy named Muhammad Ali.

    In all, there have been 18 persons associated with boxing who have been cited for courage in overcoming adversity. Almost without exception, all recipients had at least a modicum of name recognition with the BWAA electorate. Here’s hoping that the trials and tribulations faced and overcome by Marc Abrams, who may not be as well known to BWAA voters outside of the Philadelphia area, at least earns him a place on the ballot.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Fantastic article.......................

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    • #3
      This is one of the most heart wrenching stories I have ever read. My sincere prayers go out to Marc for a healing after the indescribable hell he has gone through. It brought back all the horrors I had to go through from the age of 8-14 never out of the New York Hospital for more than a few months at a time doing all my school work from the hospital with the most severe case of ulcerative colitis crippling me and ruining my life. See Bio www.ronliptononline.com

      What I have read about Marc brought tears to my eyes that such a courageous decent family man would have to suffer like this. Marc you are a real CHAMPION to me. May God grant you a full healing. Please know that you are a real inspiration to others for never giving up, you have more courage than I could ever dream of having. Blessings to you and your family.

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      • Kid Blast
        Kid Blast commented
        Editing a comment
        hear hear..................

    • #4
      Bernard, great article on a great guy.

      Marc, I had an adrenal hemmorhage on Feb.12, and was hospitalized for 3 days. Now I have scar tissue on the gland, and it has to come out. I was all worried and acting like a wimp. After reading your story, I no longer feel that way. You are an inspiration! Best of everything to you, brother.

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      • #5
        Thanks for chiming in, Rick. Keep on punchin'

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        • #6
          Marc knows how to take a beating and keep fighting. I saw him do it every day growing up! I’m very proud of the man he’s become.

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