When I got my first amateur fight, I was so nervous I was going to go home. My hand was shaking. And then a friend of mine named Smitty, he came by. He said, "I know how you feel. You feel like going home." I said, "Yeah? How you know?" He said, "You going to be all right. Don't worry about it . . ." I wanted to go home, but then I couldn't face them guys the next day. [So] my first amateur fight, I stopped him in the second round. I've been a boxer ever since. I've been doing this for 46 years.
My first professional fight was at Madison Square Garden. I trained in the gym with Sugar Ray Robinson. And I was Emile Griffith's sparring partner for three-and-a-half, four years. I made a little money, got cars, and it really almost destroyed me, because I was too young, didn't have enough experience, enough living of life. My dream was to become world champion. But then I woke up one morning, and my dream turned to smoke. I fought professional for 11 years. And I retired with a losing record.
After I moved down here in '79, I found out they got young kids boxing. So I went up to [the gym], and the wife at the time, I came back, she said, "You going to train them kids?" I said, "You gotta be crazy. I ain't going to train them damn kids." I said, "There's 100 kids up there!" She said, "Look, somebody took time to be bothered with you. You weren't born professional." I thought about it, and I started training the amateur kids, and I ended up falling in love with it.
I tell these young mens here, when you come into boxing, you have to have the ability to want something. You have a dream, but the only person who gives you something is your parents. Nobody else is going to give you anything. If you don't earn it, you don't get it. But, see, why I like this sport is: It's an individual sport. It's just like living. It's what you make out of it.
-- Interview by Patricia Murret