‘THERE WAS SOME REAL HANKY PANKY GOING ON’
Former heavyweight contender Eddie Gregg looks back on getting the rough end of the stick, with
TALL, athletic and possessing fast hands and decent punching power, New Yorker Eddie Gregg should perhaps have gone further than he did. The 1980s heavyweight contender – arguably most famous for his 1986 one-round loss to a comebacking Gerry Cooney – became a favourite at the Felt Forum, and it was while fighting at this venue that Gregg won his only pro title – stopping the previously unbeaten Carlos Hernandez to collect the New York State heavyweight belt in February 1985. His other big victory came when he got the verdict following a 10-round slugfest with the granite-tough Randall “Tex” Cobb, three months after defeating Hernandez.
Gregg, like many heavyweights of that period, blames promoter Don King for his failure to get a shot at the world title, but it’s unlikely his three losses – which all came inside schedule – to Cooney, James Broad and Francesco Damiani helped his cause either.
Today, Gregg is still loosely involved with the sport as a part-time trainer, and though he has that familiar ‘I wuz robbed!’ mindset, Gregg – who was trained by George Washington and Tommy Gallagher – offers a fascinating insight into the world of heavyweight boxing from someone who was, once upon a time, right in the thick of it.
You retired from professional boxing in 1987 with a record of 24-3-1 (18). What was your amateur record, and did you encounter any famous opponents?
I was 32-2 as an amateur. The biggest fight then was probably Marvis Frazier. I fought him right in Joe Frazier’s gym and I lost a split decision. Can you say home cooking! That’s what it was. I really had him going during the fight.
You fought a number of big names at pro level: Gerry Cooney (l ko 1), Randy “Tex” Cobb (w ud 10) and James Broad (l rsf 8). What are your memories of those fights?
Broad, I was a little over-trained. I got winded and he hit me with a good shot. Cobb, he was so tough, easily the toughest guy I ever faced. He was tough, but he found out that I was just as tough, or tougher. By the time of the Cooney fight, I had lost some desire. I had been promised a shot at Tony Tubbs’ [WBA] title after I beat Cobb. Don King promised me that, but I never got it. I know for a fact I would have beaten Tubbs. So I was more than a little frustrated. Against Cooney I had lost a good deal of my desire as an athlete. But he was a good puncher and he caught me, I have to give him that.
Was Cooney the hardest puncher you ever met?
No. Cooney was a good puncher, no doubt, but the hardest puncher ever, I met in sparring; that was Ron Lyle. I sparred Lyle during the early part of my pro career, we went about five rounds – and it was hard.
You had a fine left jab. Was that your best punch?
That, and I went to the body real well. The thing is, I learned how to go to the body so well due to the fact that I trained and sparred with a friend of mine, who was just 5ft 3ins. He was a shorter guy and all he could do was go to my body, so I learned how to go to the body from him.
You beat a good young fighter, Carlos Hernandez, who was 15-0 when he met you. You stopped him inside a round, yet he later shook up George Foreman during his comeback…
[Interrupting] Let me tell you about him! Have you heard about the racist element in boxing? I was in the [dressing] room ahead of the fight, and then Hernandez walked in, he was late. Anyway, he said, real loud, ‘Is that the n **** r I’m gonna fight tonight?’ I said to him that I wasn’t no n **** r, that I was Indian. I also told him I was gonna kick his damn ass! He was probably trying to get a psychological edge, but it sure backfired
Have you any real regrets regarding your career, and if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have retired as soon as I did. But I had been lied to by Don [King] and I never got a shot, at Tubbs or at Larry Holmes. They were making millions of dollars and I had fought enough tough guys to have earned my shot. Let me put it this way: there was some real hanky panky going on in the Broad fight and in the Cooney fight; let me leave it at that. You know, if the big people in boxing want something to happen, it will happen. You know, it’s not always fair, in any sport. That’s all I’ll say.
Do you still follow boxing today?
I train fighters today, but the only division I follow is the heavyweight division. And let me tell you, it is weak, as weak as… [Deontay] Wilder, he’s decent, probably the best of the current crew, but he hasn’t impressed me too much. If he was fighting in the 1980s, there is no way he would have been undefeated. The guys from the ‘80s, they’d blow everyone away today.
REVENGE IS SWEET: Gregg [right] makes Hernandez pay for his offensive remarks