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Page 5 - A Slickster with Substance: Philadelphia's Tyrone Crawley, by Greg Smith


Fightworld:  You have been with the Philadelphia P.D. for over 18 years. In boxing, weíre 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 donít have an education. Many are abused and taken advantage of. They donít know how much money theyíre 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.

Fightworld:  Today, youíve come full circle. Youíve 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, ďMy ultimate hope is that they learn by example, from me.Ē Tell us more about that.

Crawley:  Itís ironic because Iím working in the same area where I trained near Champís Gym. Lots of people knew of me in this area. I donít tell people I used to box. I donít brag about it, and Iím 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. Iím stern, and I think the kids can be successful if they put themselves into it.

Itís 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.

Fightworld:  Much has been said about how kids are ďdifferentĒ today compared to when you were growing up. In your opinion, are kids today actually ďdifferentĒ 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 donít even know. They have different words for drugs and slang. Theyíre too young to know that. They have so many opportunities---trade schools, skills that can be learned---they just donít take advantage of it. Some do, but the majority wonít.

With a lot of the kids, thereís nobody at home. They donít have role models to steer them in the right way. I do the best I can. Iíve had some kids make good lives for themselves. Iíve 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. Iím 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 heís 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. Heís good at chess, and heís becoming a good tennis player. I was playing tennis with him last week, and heís getting real good. I always played chess with my kids because it teaches you to think through things.

Fightworld:  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.

Fightworld:  You also picked Trinidad to beat Mayorga. When we spoke one day before that fight, you indicated that Mayorgaís style played into Titoís 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 doesnít get old overnight, I think Bernard is still too difficult for a fighter like Tito. Same result as last time.

Fightworld:  We also recently discussed Roy Jonesí 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 didnít 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 werenít reacting.

I think Saad would stop him late in the fight. I think Spinks would beat him. Spinks didnít 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 Royís 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 wouldnít be good for him.

Fightworld:  Is there anything else youíd 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 didnít have groupies or hangers on. If I wouldíve won the title, I wouldíve treated it as Godís plan for me.

Just let everyone know that Iím alive and kicking and doing fine. I wish everyone well in whatever theyíre doing.

Iíd like to say hello to Steve Weisfeld. Heís 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 Iím 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.

Fightworld:  In perspective, the Tyrone Crawley story is one we donít 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, itís a success story.

Tyrone still follows the sport closely, and he has some very keen insights. Iíve 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. Brambleís postĖCrawley record is 16-25-2. He has won two of his last ten fights.

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Greg Smith wrote this article for the boxing Web site 

Reprinted with permission from & Mr. Smith.