Brush with fame
FEBRUARY 28, 2007
I used to help run a gym in North Philly in the late 80's. Near the end of my time in Philly, a guy walked in the gym at the request of another trainer to help train a heavyweight. That guy was Jimmy Young. He was at the end of his career, and was better off in a gym. That was my sense of the man. He was a sweet fellow, as most pro boxers are, very gentle and came to the gym every day. He mainly stood outside the ring and echoed commands from another trainer name Angel. I still liked to train in the ring, and would take my fighters through the motions of a fight and yes, spar on occasion. I must have made fighter's mouths water when I got in the ring because everyone wanted to spar with me. They would beg all the time. I took it as an insult (with a smile) but when Jimmy Young asked, I accepted his challenge. Who is Jimmy Young? Jimmy Young was a heavyweight contender from the 1970's who fought and to many defeated, Muhammad Ali to a 15 round decision. He had a difficult style to deal with. He bent away and down from a fighter and would do other odd things in the ring, like put his head outside the ropes which would halt the action. After losing to Ali, he defeated the rugged Ron Lyle and his biggest achievement was his 12 round decision defeat of George Forman. Forman retired after the fight have seen Jesus in his locker room. That's a warning sign I guess. Anyway, he was a crafty fighter. So, I got in the ring with him. Outside the ring he looked about 3 inches taller than me, in the ring 6. He also looked alive in the ring. I began to dance around him as much as I could. He stuck his jab out many times, cracking me square in the front of my headgear. I thought it proper not to hit him in the face so was happy just to jab him to the body. This went on until people started to urge some action. Then he connected. I moved and countered. The gym made it worse by letting out an "Ooooooo!" that Jimmy no doubt heard. He then cut off the ring and got me in the corner. I blocked what I could and remember hitting him a few times. The bell was a welcome sound and I hugged him before leaving the ring. He talked to me every day after that. I was sad to leave the gym when moving to Brooklyn, there were so many memories there. Jimmy Young died of heart failure 2 years ago this week.
Jimmy Young in is championship fight with Muhammad Ali
© 2023 Tim O'Brien