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Page 2 - A Slickster with Substance: Philadelphia's Tyrone Crawley, by Greg Smith


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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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, 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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.)

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Greg Smith wrote this article for the boxing Web site 

Reprinted with permission from & Mr. Smith.