By Kevin Alan Lamb
Take a stroll down memory line with “Your Third Man in the Ring”, Brian Garry; travel to Beijing, China, with Muhammad Ali, in 1993, and 1994, then to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics, and to the history books of pugilism as a Judge for 59 world-title-bouts and experience a Hall of Fame boxing-career, with the legend himself.
“Holyfield, Vaughn Bean at the Georgia Dome, in front of 42,000 people live,” Garry recalled as one of the greatest fights he officiated.
“Nobody gave Vaughn Bean a chance… he took Holyfield the distance, he actually won three rounds on one card and four on the other two,” Garry said remembering the 1998 Heavyweight Title between Evander Holyfield and Vaughn Bean when Holyfield knocked down Bean in the 10th round to win unanimously.
“As you know growing up, Holyfield was a grown-up light-heavy, so he had no ass, and in boxing they say, ‘you want to get some ass, you’ve got to break some ass!. You knock people out from your ass, your legs and back, like baseball, you don’t knock people out with your arms,” Garry said.
“That was one of the most memorable fights because it went the distance and it wasn’t suppose to,” the Hall of Famer said.
A boxer for life, the native of Springfield, OH., began his career refereeing in 1983, has 59 world-title-bouts to his credit, over 1,300 professional-bouts called, and has officiated in five continents, 22 countries, numerous states in the U.S., and 33 cities in his home-state of Florida.
“The sport is pure, filled with hellacious athletes, mano y mano. There’s no timeouts if you get a broken and bloody nose,” Garry said.
While the art of boxing is lost on the vast majority of today’s youth, the heart of this great country once beat with fighters like Mohammad Ali, James J. Braddock, and Detroit’s own, Joe Louis.
“Every fight is in deep water, both fighters 20-0, toe-to-toe with a guy as tough as you,” Gary said.
“At its height pugilism represented a different era, nobody used guns, we settled things with our hands, boxed it out,” Garry said.
Your Third Man in the Ring believes reinstating youth boxing would create an avenue for troubled minors to release their animosity and pent-up aggression in a structured and controlled environment.
“Drop the guns and put on the gloves. Reinstate C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization) Boxing and offer scholarships,” the Hall of Famer told Sportz Detroit.
“One kid died in collegiate boxing and it was blown way out of proportion. Look at the statistics and you will see that you lose five-and-a-half amateurs in the world each year, nine-and-a-half professionals,” Garry said.
An estimated 43,000 to 67,000 players endure a concussion during every high school football season, as noted by a Purdue University and Indiana University study. From 1931 to 2006 an average of nine fatalities occurred in football between professional, college, high school, and sandlot.
Garry’s lasting motto has always been since day one, round one:
“Stop it one punch too soon, rather than one punch too late.”
Listed in the Top 50 “Refs” World Wide, in The Ring magazine, 1998-99, he was also awarded the NBA’s “Referee of the Year,” in 2004.
“Boxing helps youth transform their hate and anger into respect, hard work, and honesty, controlled with helmets, gloves, and medical supervision,” Garry said.
Garry is a close-personal friend of “The World’s Greatest”, Ali, and remembers their time together in Beijing with extreme clarity:
“The streets were alive when he walked down them… ‘Ah-wee… Ah-wee..’ the locals adored him. It was the greatest time. There was a $100 a-plate-dinner, Ali never ate, he signed autographs the entire-time,” Garry said in honor of his old-friend.
“His (Ali) greatest regret was getting divorced, and not spending time with his kids,” Garry said.
Ali has been married four times, with seven daughters and two sons. He is a Michigan Wolverine fan, and has a home in Benton Harbor, Mich.
“If you’re ever there, knock on his door,” Garry said.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, Ali remains a beloved and active public figure.
“He’s intellectually still there, but his body is like a prison. He is the most gracious and giving guy you will ever meet. He was in exile for what would have been the best three years of his career. He told me he didn’t play football because he didn’t want to get hit,” Garry said with a chuckle, painting a picture of how fast “The People’s Champion” truly was.
Despite growing up in a time identified with tremendous racial conflicts, Garry recognized his peers by their hard-work, abilities, and demeanor, not the color of their skin.
“They can play,” Garry said of his black teammates.
“Most all of them were more respectful than we were. Ms. Garry, Mr. Garry…” Garry said. “It was 1965, the Civil Rights Act, we saw it happening… They fought with a chip on their shoulder. I remember thinking ‘they bleed red just like I do'”.
As a child, Garry admired the “Sweet Science” of another charismatic, fast, and boxing legend, Davey Moore. Moore, World Featherweight Champion, 1958-1963, was also from his hometown, Springfield.
“My dad had me using the hand held stop watch for sparring sessions, sweeping the deck, picking up the tape and handing out the water bottles, etc. Pretty soon, someone put a pair of 16-ounce training-gloves on me, and after about two-three months of ‘Bloody Nose Alley,’ I had my first ‘Smoker’! It was at a UAW sponsored picnic, outside-ring, a kid named Richard White and I squared off, for the amusement of the ‘drunken’ UAW members, before the Good Amateurs and Pros showed off their ‘Stuff’. I was so scared, my legs were shaking, like a dog ‘crapping razor blades.’ It seemed like a ‘lifetime,’ but in reality the rounds were probably only one-and-half or two-minutes long. The best part was after the final-bell, the crowd tossed change and some paper-money on to the ring canvas, as a sign of ‘approval’ for our ‘scrapping’. The ‘bug had bitten me’,” Garry said with an emphatic grin.
The bulldog of a man and referee retired from the sport he continues to love, in 2009, as a member of the National Boxing Hall of Fame. Garry’s favorite boxing movie is the classic “Raging Bull”, starring Robert Deniro.
Your Third Man in the Ring has traveled the world with the greatest, caught inadvertent jabs from the deadliest, and can be rarely seen without the brightest smile in the room. He is a shinning example of the role athletics can play in shaping the hearts and minds of this nation’s youth, and continues to live his life as a testament to the difference just one person can make.
Follow Kevin on Twitter (@ShaggyLamb).
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