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R.I.P. Former World Champ Buster Drayton

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  • R.I.P. Former World Champ Buster Drayton

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Buster Drayton, who died this past weekend at age 70, was an old-school fighter. That’s a label that can be interpreted several ways, but old-school fighters, by connotation, come up the hard way – paying their dues, as the saying goes – with a long apprenticeship before achieving main event status.

    Buster Drayton was 32 years old and brought a 27-9-1 record into his first title fight, a 1986 match with Carlos Santos at the Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. On the surface, with “only” 37 fights under his belt, Drayton wasn’t particularly well-seasoned, but the record doesn’t show all those wars in the hardscrabble gyms of Philadelphia, home to a hornets’ nest of rugged fighters in his weight class. Marvelous Marvin Hagler used Drayton as his chief sparring partner on his frequent forays to Philly and no one left the ring with Hagler without soaking up a few scorching rib-roasters.

    Buster was actually Drayton’s middle name. One of nine children born to parents who migrated to Philadelphia from South Carolina, he was christened Moses Buster Drayton. He fought under his middle name because his mother, a deeply religious woman, didn’t think it was fitting for a fighter to fight under a Biblical name. Prior to taking up boxing, Drayton served in the U.S. Marine Corps, advancing to the rank of Sergeant.

    Carlos Santos, a Puerto Rican, was 33-1 when Drayton fought him, his lone defeat a loss on points in a 15-round match with the great Wilfred Benitez. Drayton out-worked him, winning a majority decision to win the IBF 154-pound world title.

    Drayton dressed as the underdog, a familiar role. Prior to defeating Santos, he TKOed heavily favored Duane Thomas, a future world title-holder from Detroit’s formidable Kronk Gym, and scored TKOs over Jimmy Cable and Mark Kaylor, well-regarded Brits. The Thomas bout was in Atlantic City where Buster had 21 of his 56 fights. The Cable and Kaylor fights were in London.

    Cable and Kaylor were managed by Mickey Duff, a major force in British boxing. Duff was so impressed by Drayton that he became his co-manager, acquiring 50 percent of Drayton’s contract from Ivan Cohen who also handled middleweight Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Drayton’s trainer.

    Sixteen days after going 15 rounds with Santos, Drayton was in Paris fighting a tune-up with Benito Fernandez. Both of his successful title defenses were in France, stoppages of Davey Moore and Said Skouma. In June of 1987, he was dethroned by Matthew Hilton on Hilton’s turf in Montreal, losing a 15-round decision. In that bout, Drayton purportedly broke his right hand in the third round.

    Drayton’s bout with Carlos Santos at the Meadowlands was conjoined with two other IBF title fights, a lightweight match between Jimmy Paul and Cubanito Perez and a bantamweight contest between Gaby Canizales and Bernardo Pinango. The Top Rank promotion, staged on July 4, was a flop at the gate but the event made its way into boxing trivia as the first live boxing show on Showtime. The cable network had previously aired Marvin Hagler’s title defense against John Mugabi but on a tape-delayed basis.

    All told, Drayton fought nine men who held world titles at some point in their career. He was encouraged to retire after losing back-to-back fights with Julian Jackson (L TKO 3) and Terry Norris (L 12), but soldiered on for six more years, finishing 40-15-1 (28 KOs).

    In a conversation with Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Elmer Smith, Buster recalled the celebration in his dressing room after he won the title. Someone had the foresight to bring a bottle of champagne, but they had nothing to go along with it so Drayton dispatched a member of his camp to a nearby White Tower (an imitator of White Castle) for several sacks of those little hamburgers. That was typical of the ex-Marine, a man who eschewed the high life.

    In retirement, Buster Drayton worked as a policeman for the city of Philadelphia and as a federal law enforcement officer for the Philadelphia branch of the Department of Veteran Affairs. He was married twice and fathered seven children.

    News reports contain no information as to the cause of his death. May he rest in peace.

  • #2
    Another 15-round fighter is gone with the wind.

    Rest in Peace Buster Drayton. 🙏


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