|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 18, 2021|
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Back in 2004, during the early years of this website, Greg Smith did an extended interview and story on Tyrone Crawley for the now defunct website FightWorld.us. Smith also offered his story to PhillyBoxingHistory.com for publication. With Crawley's recent passing, at age 62, it is the perfect time to reissue he piece as a tribute to Crawley.]
Philadelphia is the ultimate blue-collar fight town, and is arguably the preeminent fight town in boxing history. Detroit and New York might disagree, but the breadth and depth of talent coming out of Philly over the last several decades is hard to match. It’s a tough town with tough people. As Bernard Hopkins once quipped, in Philadelphia, they boo Santa Claus.
Traditionally, Philly fighters often won bouts through pure fortitude and punching power. It was once said that Bennie Briscoe was the only fighter never to be booed in Philly. Bennie personified the ethic of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Bennie’s straight ahead, no nonsense body attack and relentless pressure often destroyed foes no matter what the final scorecards read. As Bennie once stated, when a guy was in the next room after the fight screaming in pain, and Bennie was still fresh and unaffected, you knew who really won the fight.
Philadelphia fighters are a special breed in boxing history, but as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the stereotype of the rugged, offensive-oriented Philadelphia fighter is only partially true. Philadelphia has actually produced numerous slippery technicians practiced in the art of nullifying big punchers.
Jimmy Young was a great example of that exception to the rule. For instance, during the HBO telecast of Hopkins vs. Trinidad in 2001, George Foreman seemed genuinely surprised by Bernard Hopkins’ ability to defuse Tito’s potent offensive repertoire with lateral movement and counter punching. Immediately correcting George, colleague and former Philly scribe Larry Merchant pointed out that in Philadelphia gyms, you needed to learn how to box to survive. Ironically, Foreman retired for the first time after losing to Jimmy Young in 1977, but didn’t seem to remember that the rough nature of Philly gyms also forges boxers along with punchers.
Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley was also a departure from the bruising Philadelphia fighter. Tyrone, who grew up in West Philadelphia, was a quick, cagey craftsman who frustrated opponents with his style and intelligence. The 5’8 ½” Crawley was also ambidextrous, and a master of the difficult art of switching from orthodox to southpaw. This unusual talent bewildered some of his best opposition, and also made it difficult for Tyrone to get matches with the elite at 135 pounds because his style created unique problems.
Although many fighters avoided Crawley, the ESPN tournament in the early 1980s helped move his career forward. In his ninth pro fight, Tyrone won the ESPN lightweight title in 1982. After defeating future WBA jr. welterweight titleholder Gene Hatcher in his next fight, many felt Crawley was a prime candidate to act as a spoiler against the big names in the division.
After losing a twelve round decision to contender Melvin Paul in February 1983, however, some questioned Crawley’s status as a viable contender. Resolute, he rebounded with two ten round decisions, and then signed to face top contender Robin Blake on short notice.
The Robin Blake bout, held in Blake’s hometown of Levelland, Texas on October 8, 1983, was a rare Saturday night ESPN fight. Blake had been on a roll on network TV in the early 1980s. He was undefeated at 22-0 with 16 KO’s at the time of the Crawley bout, and had brutally stopped Tyrone’s nemesis, Melvin Paul, in his previous fight.
Most importantly, “Rockin” Robin was next in line to challenge Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini for the WBA title. Blake was a heavy favorite, but Crawley quieted the hometown fans with a tremendous display of ring savvy, and erased Blake’s title hopes with a unanimous decision.
For various reasons, Tyrone didn’t get an immediate title shot after defeating Blake. Over the next two years, Tyrone reeled off five consecutive wins, including a rousing twelve round decision over former IBF titlist and Philadelphia rival, Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, for the NABF title in 1985.
Crawley finally got his title shot against Livingstone Bramble at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada on February 16, 1986, exactly one year after Bramble successfully defended his title against Mancini at the same venue. Crawley was considered a big threat to dethrone Bramble, but Bramble gradually took control of the bout, and stopped Tyrone in the thirteenth round.
Tyrone retired from boxing at the age of twenty-nine in 1988, and never made a comeback. According to several sources, Tyrone won two more fights in 1987 after losing to Bramble, and his final ledger is listed as 21-2, with 7 knockouts. However, Tyrone informed me that he actually had one more fight, a ten round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in February 1988. The fight is undocumented, and with some assistance, I hope to have Tyrone’s record completed in the near future.
All told, the story of Tyrone Crawley is not the sordid tale we’re accustomed to in the world of boxing. Educated, bright, and a practiced chess player, Tyrone knew when it was time to step away from the sport. In fact, from the beginning of his professional career, Tyrone was planning for life after boxing. He was cognizant of the fact that even the greatest fighters often end up broke and incapacitated, and he carefully followed a plan that would keep him from becoming another statistic.
Since retiring from the ring, Crawley has been a rock solid example of stability. He is deeply devoted to his family and his community. Married to his wife Gina since the 1980s, Tyrone has three children. Tyrone has been a Philadelphia police officer since 1986, and has been Director of the North Philadelphia Police Athletic League Center (PAL) since 1988.
Tyrone’s career working with inner city youth is of vital societal importance, and he strongly recognizes the massive role and impact he plays in that regard. Tyrone, who fought several memorable fights in New Jersey, was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.
Recently, I was able to talk to Tyrone about his boxing career, life after boxing, the challenges facing today’s inner city youth, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones and Oscar De La Hoya, Tito Trinidad, and fellow Philly fighters of the past. Tyrone’s knowledge and insight are as instructive and educational as they are refreshing.
GREG SMITH (GS): You learned to box as a teenager at the Philadelphia PAL in the early 1970s. You had an amateur record of 56-6 (22 KOs), and won a Golden Gloves title. You were also on the All Army team when you were paratrooper in the military. You have said in the past that you fell in love with the sport instantly. What influenced you to get into boxing, and what specifically was it about the sport you liked so much?
Crawley: I was getting into lots of trouble in the early 1970s. Gang wars, and school fights. My father got me into boxing to steer me away from that. Once I was in the gym, I had a love for the game. It was one-on-one. I liked the sport, and the competition. Ali was on TV a lot at that time. Joe Frazier’s name was floating around and he was big in Philly. TV was a big influence. I was in football and baseball, but boxing became #1. I was dedicated to boxing after being in the gym.
GS: Philadelphia has long been one of the top cities in boxing history. During your developmental stages in the 1970s, who were the Philly fighters you looked up to? Please give us some examples of things you learned from some of the great Philly fighters, especially considering that you were a ring technician instead of a Philly puncher.
Crawley: Tyrone Everett influenced me the most. I used to go to the Spectrum from 1974-76. I took the subway to the Spectrum, and my parents allowed me to go as long as I got back on time. I was a good street fighter, and I was just learning boxing at the time.
Everett was on the undercard of one of the fights. He was a southpaw, but he could switch up and go right handed. In football and baseball, I could switch from right handed to left handed. I was a quarterback, and threw the ball with both hands. It was natural for me to switch back and forth.
The trainers wanted me to fight from just one side, and I refused. I was fast enough to do it. Fighting is like chess, and I would think my way through fights. My style would depend on whom I was fighting. Sometimes I was 90% southpaw and other times I was 90% right handed.
Jerome Artis is another fighter who influenced me. He was very crafty. I sparred with him at Champ’s Gym. Smiley Hayward was my trainer there along with Bouie Fisher.
GS: How did you get your nickname, “The Butterfly?” Interestingly enough, Everett’s nickname was the same.
Crawley: I gave it to myself, and it didn’t have anything to do with Tyrone Everett. Guys would tease me about my fast hands. It had more to do with Ali’s nickname, and the saying of “Float Like A Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee.” It stuck with me ever since I started fighting.
GS: Anthony Fletcher defeated Mancini, Harry Arroyo, Johnny Bumphus, and Jimmy Paul in the amateurs. He was the only man to defeat Livingstone Bramble before Bramble won the WBA crown from Mancini. Anthony’s pro career was moving along fine until he was diagnosed with a facial muscle disorder called Bell’s Palsey. Later in his career, he was one of the key sparring partners for Sugar Ray Leonard in preparation for Leonard’s bout with Marvin Hagler.
You grew up around Anthony and Frank “The Animal” Fletcher in West Philadelphia, and you sparred with Anthony. You were close to the same size. Tell us about your sparring with Anthony, and other fighters who were your toughest sparring partners.
(Interviewer’s Note: Anthony was convicted of first degree murder in the early 1990s, and was on death row for over a decade. Anthony’s conviction was overturned earlier this year. On Tuesday, October 12, 2004, I spoke to the law firm representing Anthony, and was informed that the District Attorney recently filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. Frank Fletcher received a long sentence for a parole violation, and is still incarcerated in Pennsylvania.
Crawley: I sparred with Anthony a lot. When I got out of the Army, Anthony was better. It was like matching an amateur against a pro. That changed a lot and became a lot more even over time. We sparred from February 1980 until 1981.
Gary Hinton was another fighter I sparred with a lot. He was a good friend. Gary prepared me for the Robin Blake fight. He was tall and lanky like Blake. Because of the sparring with Anthony Fletcher, Hinton, Jerome Artis, it made it a lot easier for me to fight southpaws like Blake. My sparring with Jerome was almost comical. We knew each other’s moves, and it was like looking in the mirror.
GS: Who was the toughest guy to spar?
Crawley: It was a guy from New Jersey named Anthony English. He was a jr. lightweight. He was quick, and he hit hard. He was small, and he would get under me, and then he would pop you out of nowhere. He gave me a lot of work. When I got real serious, dug down, and sparred him real rough, I would do better against him.
GS: Can you give us an idea of what your typical training regimen was for your big fights?
Crawley: I kept records of my training regimen for all of my fights. All of the running, sit-ups, sparring, and bag work. I was disciplined. That’s the kind of fighter I was.
GS: Smiley Hayward was your main trainer throughout your career, but other trainers assisted as well. Wesley Mouzon and Quenzell McCall were Dwight Qawi’s trainers, and Mouzon worked your corner for the Robin Blake fight. Georgie Benton was in your corner for the Al “Earthquake” Carter fight, and Bouie Fisher also worked your corner during for the Nick Parker and Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown fights. How were they different in their approaches?
Crawley: I watched Benton’s fight with Rubin “Hurricane” Carter on ESPN Classic, and Georgie fought a lot like he trained his fighters. He was a master of defense. Bouie was a thinking man’s trainer. He taught you to think through a fight. Mouzon was more basic and mechanical; nothing flashy. He emphasized conditioning a lot, too.
GS: Bernard Hopkins is a fighter who learned how to adapt to styles under Bouie Fisher. How does Bernard Hopkins compare to some of the great middleweights in Philadelphia boxing history? For instance, how do you think he would’ve done against Bennie Briscoe, Bobby Watts, Willie Monroe, Cyclone Hart, Frank Fletcher, and Curtis Parker?
Crawley: I think Bernard would’ve stopped Curtis Parker and Frank Fletcher. Hart was a harder puncher than Bernard. I grew up around Eugene. He was one of the hardest punchers in the middleweight division. Bernard would have to survive the early rounds against Cyclone Hart, and then he would do well against him.
A fight with Bobby Watts would’ve been very close. Watts had the most boxing ability of all of them.
Willie Monroe was real good. Willie was one of the best. Willie was close in terms of boxing ability. I think Bernard might either win a decision or stop him late.
I think Bernard would’ve out boxed Bennie Briscoe.
GS: Who do you think is the best fighter ever to come out of Philadelphia, and why?
Crawley: Tyrone Everett. He had great boxing ability, and he had fast hands. He was a good puncher, but not a KO artist. He was very well liked by the public.
(Interviewer’s note: Tyrone Everett lost a hotly disputed decision to Alfredo Escalera in 1976. To this day, many people consider that decision to be one of the biggest robberies in boxing history. After winning two more fights by knockout, Everett was tragically murdered in Philadelphia in 1977. His final record was 36-1.)
GS: During the last 30 years, in all of boxing, who do you think is the best fighter you’ve seen?
Crawley: There are several. Ali. Hagler. Leonard. Jeff Chandler. Salvador Sanchez.
GS: Today, Philly is certainly still a fight town, but like many great fight towns, the city doesn’t turn out as many great fighters compared to the past. In your view, how is the fight scene in Philly different today than when you were coming up, and why do think it has changed? What will it take to make boxing more prominent in the city again?
Crawley: There aren’t as many fight cards today, and there aren’t as many fighters in the gyms. Kids don’t have the patience and desire we had back then. They want fast success. I don’t know the answer of how to bring the fight scene back like it was. Trainers tell me that kids aren’t as loyal. Things come too easy, and they’re given too much too soon.
Kids have so many other avenues they can take to make money. Street corners are also getting a lot of kids. Back when I was fighting you might have fifteen fighters from Philly among the top fighters in boxing. Today, you might have two.
GS: You started your professional career in 1980. You faced dangerous and highly ranked competition early in your career. In your ninth pro fight, you won a unanimous twelve round decision over KO artist Al “Earthquake” Carter for the ESPN championship.
In your next fight, you faced previously undefeated, and future WBA 140 pound champion, Gene Hatcher, and also emerged victorious with a ten round decision. Describe those fights in detail as you remember them.
Crawley: The Carter fight was part of the ESPN tournament. Carter had KO’d Javier Fragoso, and we advanced to fight each other in the finals.
Carter fought Jerome Artis in his fight before Fragoso, and Jerome and I sparred in Philadelphia. Carter knew that, and Carter ended up hiring Jerome as his sparring partner to prepare for me. Jerome told me about it. Jerome told me to outbox him; don’t mix it up with Carter.
In the fight, I held my ground with him for the first two to three rounds. A lot of people say I was just a guy who would move and dance, but if you look at tapes of my fights, that’s not true. I wasn’t dancing or moving.
Georgie Benton was in my corner for that fight, and he had me stay close to him so he couldn’t load up. I was beating him to the punch on the inside. I was flat footed in the first few rounds against him. A KO artist will always come to you even if you don’t move a lot, and I got respect from him early. Then, once I got respect, I would dictate the fight with hand speed, ring smarts and generalship.
They didn’t say I had power, but I had enough to get their respect. I could dance when I wanted to, and then mix it up. That’s how I fought.
I was on vacation in Las Vegas after the Carter fight when I found out about the Gene Hatcher fight. They contacted my manager during the football strike. They filled in air time with fights back then.
They called our fight “The Battle of the Undefeateds.” Jerome Artis fought Hatcher, but Jerome wasn’t in shape when he lost that fight. He took the fight on short notice for money. Jerome did that late in his career. Jerome told me about Hatcher. I knew Hatcher from the amateurs, too.
Hatcher was similar to Carter in that he was a forward fighter. I stood my ground for the first few rounds, and then I became the aggressor. There weren’t any knockdowns or cuts. He was tired after the 7th and 8th rounds, and he was confused by my defense. I was blessed with hand and foot speed, and I could switch back and forth.
GS: During that era, why was it so common for fighters to take bigger risks earlier in their careers against top contenders compared to today?
Crawley: In terms of taking risks early in my career, I just knew I was ready because of the way I prepared myself. It was a mental thing. I put a six year window of opportunity on my career. Six years and out.
I sparred the tough guys in Philly, so I was automatically prepared, and I wasn’t worried about being beaten or knocked out because of the guys I sparred. The guys I sparred with were ranked in their pro and amateur careers.
I sparred with Kevin Howard (famous for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard in their 1983 bout), and Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, who I fought in 1985 for the NABF title. Rocky Lockridge prepared me for Al “Earthquake” Carter. I sparred with Hector Frazier, Joe’s son, at Joe Frazier’s gym. He was aggressive and put a lot of pressure on you like his father. I sparred with Roger Stafford , and Ivan Robinson. Ivan was an amateur at the time, but you could see a lot of potential even then. Ivan’s Dad was in charge at first, and then Bouie took over Ivan’s career later on. I would spar 8-10 rounds per day, and then do the heavy bag and speed bag.
We also had what was called the “Harrisburg Connection.” It was fighters who would come from Harrisburg, and they lived in a duplex close to Jesse Ferguson in North Philadelphia. Darryl Martin was one of those fighters from Harrisburg. He was just above a club fighter level, but he could get to you. Tony Stern, who I fought in my sixth pro fight in Washington DC, became a sparring partner in Philadelphia and was part of that group. Bouie Fisher would put all those guys up.
GS: You were undefeated for over two years and eleven fights until losing a twelve round decision to Melvin Paul in early 1983.
A few fights after Paul defeated you, he was dominated and stopped by Robin Blake. Paul was Blake’s sixth straight knockout victim in 1983. You signed to fight Blake on short notice after that, and traveled to his hometown of Levelland, Texas to face him on a rare Saturday ESPN fight. You clearly beat him over ten rounds. In fact, your win prevented him from getting a title shot against Mancini.
You have stated in the past, and many boxing people agree, that this was your best performance. When you lost to Paul, did you learn things in that loss which helped you defeat Blake, or was it simply the old saying that styles make fights? Please describe the action to us in your fight with Blake as well. We are planning to show the fight on www.FIGHTWORLD.us.
Crawley: For Melvin Paul, I had two broken knuckles on my left hand. I looked at my training records for that fight, and I think I might’ve sparred too many rounds for that fight. Looking back, I think I might’ve over-trained because I sparred much less for other fights, and I felt better.
I don’t want to take anything away from Melvin Paul, though. Paul was aggressive. I was reading too many articles about myself. Paul was an opponent I thought I was going to beat, and I think I did beat him, but it was a good learning experience. It helped me get the Blake fight.
A lot of guys were avoiding me before that. I studied Blake. With a lot of fighters, if I didn’t have tape, I read about them in the boxing magazines. I’d study their records and whom they fought. If tapes were available, I would study the tapes.
There were some times when I didn’t want to see an opponent. There was a fighter who had been around a long time named Ernest Bing, who I fought in my eighth pro fight. I didn’t watch tape or need to study too much about him.
I think Blake’s people knew I was a good fighter, but they treated me like just another opponent because of the Paul fight. I was training in the gym, so I was ready when they approached me for the fight on short notice. I think they wanted me to take $15,000 for the fight, but I got more. I think I settled for $20,000 or $25,000.
It was hot in Texas. I got there on a Wednesday. Blake was arrogant and cocky. He felt like I was just an opponent. You could read between the lines at the press conference. They knew I could fight, but they didn’t treat it like that.
Early on during the fight it was tough. He hit me with a good shot in the second round, but I wasn't hurt. It was just a good shot. As we got to the late rounds, I had control of the fight. From rounds six through ten, it was a one-sided fight. I was hitting him a lot more than he was hitting me. I saw confusion on his face. I was the technician in the ring.
GS: In the third round, you caught him with a hard right hand, and you seemed to hurt and stagger him. Do you think that was the turning point in the fight?
Crawley: I thought he was going to fall in the third round and the ropes caught him.
He respected me after that. He didn’t come at me as he did with the other guys.
I hit him good in the first round, too. In the fourth I hurt him. I staggered him in the tenth round, and then I hit him with body shots. I don’t know if he took me likely, but he had trouble hitting me, and I had him confused.
GS: In the eighth round, you suffered a cut as a result of a head butt, and you appeared a little stunned as well. Were you hurt or stunned?
Crawley: I wasn’t hurt or stunned by the head butt, but I was worried about them stopping the fight because of the cut. I played it smart. I stayed southpaw quite a bit, and that confused him. That was the fight that put me over the hump in my career.
GS: After defeating Blake, you ran off five consecutive victories, including a great fight with Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown for the NABF title during the summer of 1985.
(Interviewer's Note: Most records indicate that this fight was for the NABF title. However, Tyrone told me the belt he won, and was presented with, was actually the USBA title.)
You finally got a title shot against Livingstone Bramble during February 1986. Considering the substantial lag time after defeating Blake, why do you think it took so long to land a title shot?
Crawley: Nobody was trying to get a fight with me because of my style. I was a good boxer, and one of the better ones at 135. Camacho, Ganigan, Jimmy Paul, “White Lightning” Brown, Rosario, and several other guys were around, so there were plenty of fighters.
I was the mandatory #1 challenger after the first Bramble vs. Mancini fight. They paid me $150,000 to step aside for their rematch.
GS: Looking back almost twenty years later, would you do the same again?
Crawley: Looking back to that time, I would definitely do the same thing again. I looked at it as a 50/50 deal. I was going to fight either fighter in the future. If Mancini won the rematch, that would mean more money for me instead of going directly to Bramble. Mancini commanded more money for a lot of reasons. Mancini was shorter and a brawler, and Bramble was a counter puncher. I think I would’ve beaten Mancini more than I think I would’ve beaten Bramble. Mancini would not be easy, but I felt that way.
(Interviewer’s Note: The official scorecards for the Bramble vs. Mancini rematch were: 144-143, 143-142, 143-142 for Bramble. Mancini is on record stating he strongly felt he won that fight. My card was very similar to the official scorecards in favor of Bramble, but it was a close fight that was hard to score.)
GS: Bramble is known for being one of the most eccentric fighters in boxing history. When he won the title from Mancini in 1984, Bramble used a variety of offbeat psychological ploys to unsettle Mancini during the pre-fight build-up. Bramble had Mancini so angry, many believed Bramble’s psychological tactics contributed heavily to Mancini’s defeat.
When you faced Bramble, he dedicated the fight to the West Philadelphia radical separatist cult, MOVE, which engaged in a standoff with Philadelphia police in 1985. Award winning author John Edgar Wideman’s novel, Philadelphia Fire, was loosely based on events that occurred between the cult and Philadelphia police.
Bramble knew you came from a family of law enforcement in Philadelphia. What were your thoughts when Bramble dedicated the fight to MOVE? Additionally, although the fight was somewhat close on two of the cards at the time it was stopped in the thirteenth round, it was your only stoppage loss. What went wrong in that fight?
Crawley: I knew MOVE people. I was running in the morning when they were around the neighborhood. They knew about my boxing career, and they were supportive of my career. When I was running in the morning, some of them would join me on my run and they would try to keep up with me. For Bramble to say that wasn’t right because a lot of those people were supportive of me. I felt Bramble was just running off at the mouth.
(Interviewer’s Note: Many people believed that Bramble’s psychological tactics bothered Tyrone, but in listening to Tyrone’s reaction and tone, he didn’t seemed bothered at all. Rather, he seemed to think it was a little amusing because Bramble was dedicating the fight to some of the people who were supporting Tyrone.)
In terms of the fight, nothing was wrong until the ninth or tenth round when I got weaker. Bramble dropped me in the thirteenth round with an overhand right that grazed my temple. My equilibrium was off, and I never recovered. I went down for the second time, and I just never felt that way before. I always had a good jaw and a good chin, but the punch to the temple was different.
He was stronger, and I thought he would get weaker. He didn’t get weaker like I thought he would. I thought I could settle in and take control, but he just kept coming.
GS: I noticed early in your career that you weighed in at, or above, the jr. welterweight limit for some fights. Was 135 difficult for you to make in your career?
Crawley: No. Initially, I started at jr. welterweight, but I went where they were ranking me, and that was at lightweight. 135 pounds wasn’t hard for me to make in the early part of my career. Late in my career, it was hard to make. I was getting older, but I didn’t really let anyone know I was having trouble making weight. That was more or less behind closed doors.
GS: After the loss to Bramble, you were inactive for almost fourteen months. In the meantime, you became a police officer in June 1986. You won two more bouts in 1987, one more bout in early 1988, and then retired from the ring. You had just turned twenty-nine a few months before your last fight. What caused you to retire from professional boxing, and move into law enforcement full-time?
Crawley: I always wanted to get into law enforcement after boxing. It was part of my plan from the beginning. I didn’t want to be in boxing too long and walk around and not be able to function. I saw that with a lot of fighters.
I went to community college, and then I went to Temple University for criminal justice courses. I have two years worth of credits. I got married and I ended up settling down with my family. My wife didn’t want me to fight anymore.
I felt I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in boxing. I wasn’t just a fighter. I was a student of the game and I served an apprenticeship. I took part in everything including the negotiations.
GS: You have been with the Philadelphia P.D. for over 18 years. In boxing, we’re unfortunately accustomed to hearing about fighters on the skids after retirement regardless of how much money they earned during their careers. Why do you think so many fighters fall by the wayside? What advice can you give to fighters to avoid the trap we hear about so often?
Crawley: A lot of fighters don’t have an education. Many are abused and taken advantage of. They don’t know how much money they’re making from the beginning of their careers. I believe that fighters need to participate in the negotiations, and in all of the business aspects of the game.
GS: Today, you’ve come full circle. You’ve been Director at the PAL Center in North Philadelphia for about sixteen years. You devote much of your time to work with at risk youth. You are extremely devoted to public service, and have stated that this is your biggest career challenge. Moreover, in your work with at risk youth, you have stated that, “My ultimate hope is that they learn by example, from me.” Tell us more about that.
Crawley: It’s ironic because I’m working in the same area where I trained near Champ’s Gym. Lots of people knew of me in this area. I don’t tell people I used to box. I don’t brag about it, and I’m a low-key person. If someone thinks they know more about the boxing game, though, I will put them in their place.
I work with the inner city kids in the Badlands area of North Philadelphia. The district is very hard and busy for cops. The community is rough.
A lot of kids are raising themselves. They get exposed to all of the negative things like drugs, alcohol, and gambling. I try to get them involved in the academic programs. I’m stern, and I think the kids can be successful if they put themselves into it.
It’s totally different here. I grew up for a while about six or seven blocks from here. I had family here, and I know the area.
GS: Much has been said about how kids are “different” today compared to when you were growing up. In your opinion, are kids today actually “different” compared to when you were growing up? If so, why do you think they are "different", and what unique challenges do they face today compared to when you were a teenager?
Crawley: They are different today. They grow up faster. They know just as much as adults in street knowledge. They tell me stuff I don’t even know. They have different words for drugs and slang. They’re too young to know that. They have so many opportunities---trade schools, skills that can be learned---they just don’t take advantage of it. Some do, but the majority won’t.
With a lot of the kids, there’s nobody at home. They don’t have role models to steer them in the right way. I do the best I can. I’ve had some kids make good lives for themselves. I’ve been doing this for sixteen years now. Some kids thank me for the knowledge I gave them. I do it for the love of it. They know what I stand for. I enjoy it. I’m a father figure to some of these kids. I attend graduation and athletic events. I attend their plays at schools. I watch them grow up. Sometimes, I spend more time with them than my own kids.
I have a daughter who is in graduate school. Her undergraduate degree was in chemistry from James Madison University in Virginia. My oldest son has attended college, and he’s a very talented basketball player. He has all of the physical talent, but I need to push him more than my youngest son. My youngest son isn't into sports as much as his older brother, but he's very self-motivated. He’s good at chess, and he’s becoming a good tennis player. I was playing tennis with him last week, and he’s getting real good. I always played chess with my kids because it teaches you to think through things.
GS: You attended the Hopkins vs. De La Hoya fight a few weeks ago. A few days before the fight, you told me that Hopkins would stop De La Hoya in nine rounds. It turned out that you were absolutely correct in your prediction. Did the fight go as you expected in terms of the ebbs and flows of the fight?
Crawley: Yes. De La Hoya did what he could, but Bernard was just too much. The fight went pretty much as I expected.
GS: You also picked Trinidad to beat Mayorga. When we spoke one day before that fight, you indicated that Mayorga’s style played into Tito’s hands because Mayorga is too wild and careless. Tito would be able to land consistently, and end the fight around the same time Hopkins ended his fight with De La Hoya. How do you see Tito matching up with Bernard now?
Crawley: Tito looked good for being off for two years. It was a good fight. Bernard has a totally different style than Mayorga, though. As long as Bernard doesn’t get old overnight, I think Bernard is still too difficult for a fighter like Tito. Same result as last time.
GS: We also recently discussed Roy Jones’ last two defeats. Why do you think Roy went downhill so fast, and how do you compare Roy to fighters of your era like Saad Muhammad, Michael Spinks, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi?
Crawley: Roy was a kind of fighter who relied on his speed. When he got a little slower, he was easier to hit, and he didn’t seem to know what to do when he got hit. I watched the Johnson fight, and he seemed confused. He just kept getting hit, and his reflexes weren’t reacting.
I think Saad would stop him late in the fight. I think Spinks would beat him. Spinks didn’t look like he could punch, but he had a lot behind his punches. He would land the Jinx, and later in the fight. Qawi might stop him early.
Those kinds of fighters were real fighters, and they would be able to hit Roy. At the same time, they could also take Roy’s punches, and they could land in return. When Roy gets hit, he wants to hit back quick. He would get drawn into a slugfest with those kinds of fighters, and that wouldn’t be good for him.
GS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Crawley: Boxing has changed a lot. Guys will ask me to compare the lightweight division when Mosley and Oscar were at 135 with the fighters of my day. I think we would beat them. We were more dedicated back then compared to today. They make more money today, and I think that makes it harder to be dedicated to the sport.
As a fighter, I was always down to earth. I didn’t have groupies or hangers on. If I would’ve won the title, I would’ve treated it as God’s plan for me.
Just let everyone know that I’m alive and kicking and doing fine. I wish everyone well in whatever they’re doing.
I’d like to say hello to Steve Weisfeld. He’s a lawyer and a boxing judge in New Jersey. He approached me for an autograph a long time ago at the Blue Horizon, and he was stunned when I took the time to sign it for him. I never snubbed anyone, and I’m just like everyone else. I knew I would work an honest job like everyone else after my boxing career was over. I ran into Steve years later when I was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.
GS: In perspective, the Tyrone Crawley story is one we don’t hear enough about in boxing. He got into the sport as a way to direct him away from trouble, and he instantly thrived in the sport. Furthermore, even from the beginning of his pro career, he was smartly planning for life after boxing. When he decided to retire from the sport, the transition was natural. All told, it’s a success story.
Tyrone still follows the sport closely, and he has some very keen insights. I’ve been closely attached to boxing for a few decades, but have learned more listening to Tyrone during our phone conversations than I have in the last few years.
As a final note, an uncanny and ironic twist exists between Tyrone Crawley, Ray Mancini, and Livingstone Bramble. Both Tyrone and Mancini lost to Livingstone Bramble, and both fought only a few more times before retiring permanently.
As mentioned previously, Tyrone won his last three bouts (including the undocumented bout). Mancini lost a disputed decision to Camacho in 1989 almost exactly four years after the Bramble rematch, and was stopped by Greg Haugen in his final bout in 1992.
Today, Crawley and Mancini are prime examples of fighters comfortably enjoying life after boxing with their faculties intact. In contrast, Livingstone Bramble, now age forty-four, is reported to be friendly and accessible, but is still an active fighter toiling in obscurity. He has fought forty-three times since defeating Tyrone. Bramble’s post–Crawley record is 16-25-2. He has won two of his last ten fights.