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Page 3 - A Slickster with Substance: Philadelphia's Tyrone Crawley, by Greg Smith

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Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  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.

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Greg Smith wrote this article for the boxing Web site www.FIGHTWORLD.us 

Reprinted with permission from FightWorld.us & Mr. Smith.

     

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