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Down Memory Lane with Renowned LA Sports Columnist Bill Dwyre

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  • Down Memory Lane with Renowned LA Sports Columnist Bill Dwyre

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Bill-Dwyre.PNG Views:	0 Size:	113.5 KB ID:	22418

    By Rick Assad

    Whether it's the NBA Finals, Super Bowl, World Series, college football's biggest games, college basketball's Final Four, thoroughbred horse racing or a boxing title fight, there is something special about being in the building or the stadium.

    Perhaps it's that history could be made or that it's the beginning or ending of a dynasty.

    Bill Dwyre has spent his entire adult life in the newspaper business, beginning in 1968 at the Milwaukee Journal when he was a staff writer and then as the sports editor from 1973 until 1981.

    Dwyre then transitioned west to the Los Angeles Times starting in April 1981 until 2006 as the sports editor and as a columnist until his retirement in November 2015.

    Dwyre, who in 2017 was bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism, confessed that he missed those salad days being press-box present, especially ringside for a major bout.

    "As a writer, I liked the color, the passion and the total unpredictability of the sport,'' he said of the sweet science. "The scene, especially at big fights in places like Las Vegas, was a writer’s dream. All you had to do was write with your eyes - watch the crowds, listen to the boxers and their handlers, try to figure out who is exaggerating the most. I loved it and I loved writing about it."

    Hanging around the other scribes was equally enjoyable for Dwyre, who still contributes freelance work to the Times and frequently writes for Palm Springs Life Magazine.

    "I miss being around the other boxing media, the likes of Dan Rafael and Kevin Iole and Lance Pugmire and Norm Frauenheim and Ed Graney and Mark Whicker, plus [Bob] Arum and [Bill] Caplan and Fred Sternburg and Steve Brener and so many more,'' he said.

    Somewhere along the way, boxing kicked itself in the rear, according to Dwyre, who graduated from the University of Notre Dame and was given the Red Smith Award by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 1996.

    "As in most things in sports, it [boxing] got run over by television, which made the huge pay-per-view fights less frequent. Television, and all its various iterations, is the monster that eats all in its path,'' he pointed out. "For example, Top Rank had a nice flow of fighters and pay-per-view schedules and then along came ESPN, which backed up the Brinks truck and now we have so many "huge" fights, as hyped by ESPN and Showtime. TV doesn’t care. It thrives by saturation and indifference. Boxing allowed it. It took the money and ran."

    Boxing isn't on par with the NBA, the NFL, MLB, college football and college hoops with regard to popularity, but a decent segment does like the sport.

    "No, boxing will never be mainstream and doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of fans to support the sport, as long as the sport doesn’t screw it up with over-exposure through television, which it probably will,'' Dwyre said.

    Part of boxing's allure is that at any time someone could get seriously hurt or even worse. It's what separates boxing from the other sports.

    "You can’t make boxing safer,'' Dwyre said of the manly art. "People are hitting each other in the head. Put helmets on them and the fans go away."

    Having been ringside for hundreds of fights beginning in 1968, Dwyre witnessed some of the biggest and best boxers in their prime. Manny Pacquiao, in Dwyre’s mind, stood atop Mount Everest.

    "Pacquiao was a once-in-a-lifetime guy. He carried with him the possibility of so many stories: rags to riches, almost successful politician in a Philippine world where nobody who is honest - and Pacquiao mostly is - will succeed; a man worshipped by a Philippine public starved for real heroes,'' he said. "On and on. He won often with more courage than skill, and he was pretty skilled. When he beat [Keith] Thurman, it was 95 percent guts. When he lost to Mayweather he disappointed an entire sports world, not just boxing fans."

    Other fighters who made their mark: “Oscar De La Hoya (great talent, badly flawed personally). Tim Bradley (getting the most out of a career and talent and getting out of the sport at the right time to become a highly successful and articulate broadcaster),'' he said. "Chico Corrales (won the best fight in the history of fights, getting up after two knockdowns to knock out Jose Luis Castillo). Mayweather (you started disliking him because he is so cocky and you watched, over the years, even after he retired and kept making millions fighting these silly fights with wrestlers, that he knew what he was doing all along). Even Butterbean (what a hoot.)."

    While the boxers are the main story, Dwyre also enjoyed the side show.

    "My favorite characters are not fighters. They are [Top Rank CEO] Arum and publicists Caplan and Sternburg. Arum is damn near 90 [he turned 91 on December 8] and I still would drive hours to be sure to be there if he were running a press conference. It was always can't-miss television, and it wasn’t even on television,'' he said. "Caplan was the kind of old-time public relations guy, schmoozing and getting stories that way. Sternburg was the best because he was honest, efficient and understood the newspaper and broadcast game better than anyone. Then there was Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer and alter-ego. He triggered a million stories. The most attractive thing about Freddie was, and is, that he cannot tell a lie. He is the George Washington of boxing."

    Over those hundreds of bouts, a pair of clashes are indelibly etched into Dwyre's mind:

    "The aforementioned Chico Corrales knockout of Castillo. Unbelievable finish. Unmatched sports drama, and Pacquiao getting knocked out by [Juan Manuel] Marquez, while easily winning the fight,'' he offered. "When he went down, I was sure Pacquiao was dead."

    Dwyre's been close to the action for nearly five decades, and knows a thing or two about what he likes and lined up his all-time favorite sporting events.

    "Big horse races like Zenyatta closing on the field from way behind in a Breeders’ Cup Classic would be No. 1 and Ali-Frazier II in the Garden and Pacquiao-Mayweather in Vegas are tied for No. 2,'' he said. “Super Bowls? No. 500. All Super Bowls. Too many people. Too much hype. You can’t breathe."

    Maybe you can't, but all those memories are fodder for a great book.

    Last edited by AcidArne; 12-20-2022, 06:08 PM.