English Español
Advertisement
Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Of leather-pushers and songbirds: An ode to detroit

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    258

    Of leather-pushers and songbirds: An ode to detroit

    At various times, Detroit was a hotbed of prizefighting. The Wheeler era and the Kronk era were especially frothy.

    Detroit once had 12 after-school recreation centers. They were free to kids that couldn't afford the modest monthly dues. The Wheeler center, named for Detroit's first African-American recreation director, sat in the Brewster neighborhood and was also known by that name.

    The most famous Wheeler-Brewster alumnus was Joe Louis. He was such a towering figure that Detroit named an arena after him, one of the few large arenas left in America that hasn't sold its name to a corporate sponsor.

    The Wheeler era coincides roughly with the Brown Bomber's title reign (1937-1950). Top-tier fighters Holman Williams, Rosco Toles, Luther Burgess, and others with Wheeler connections were active during these years. Somewhat later, Hedgemon Lewis embroidered the legacy.

    Burgess and Lewis were trained and co-managed by Eddie Futch. A solid amateur, Futch was shunted away from a pro career by the revelation of a heart defect. A great ambassador for his sport, he lived to age 90 and left a large footprint.

    There's no record of it, but Futch may have shared a few pointers with Emanuel Steward. Steward trained at Wheeler while forging an impressive amateur log. One day he turned up at the Kronk recreation center where he volunteered to help out with the boxing team. In 1977, a fighter that he mentored, Thomas Hearns, won a national Golden Gloves title. You know the rest of the story.

    My favorite Detroit boxer -- perhaps I should say my favorite Detroiter who happened to box -- never advanced beyond the preliminary stage.

    This individual, initials BG, found his way to Wheeler after dropping out of high school. A scrawny featherweight, he turned pro three days after his 18th birthday and had a 12-3-2 record when Uncle Sam snatched him away, drafting him into the Army. He never fought again but would be able to tell his grandchildren that he appeared on the same card as the great featherweight Willie Pep.

    BG won four of his last five fights, but lacked the tools to make significant headway in boxing. Fortunately, he had a good ear for music.

    The record company that BG founded was so successful that it gave his hometown a second identity. The word Detroit now signified more than car-makers. For many, the name conjured up the distinct Motown sound.

    In newspapers, magazines, and across the Internet, one sees lots of people taking perverse pleasure in Detroit's current predicament. Detroit has only itself to blame, goes the mantra, and warrants no sympathy.

    I sometimes harbor this sentiment. It bubbles up whenever I'm reminded of the abandoned rec centers. Thieves pillaged Wheeler and Kronk of all the copper pipes and wires, leaving the buildings uninhabitable. Damn the despoilers, I think to myself, and damn the city that spawned them.

    The acrimony always subsides, swept away by an apparition of Berry Gordy. I envision the ex-boxer, now in his dotage, roving the streets of Detroit, looking forlornly at what remains of his boyhood haunts. The landscape, so much of it blighted, is a cruel trick to play on a man who put together a music factory that put a spring in the step of his homies and brought joy to people around the word.

    Perhaps in the course of his wanderings Mr. Gordy stops to say a silent prayer for his city's recovery. If so, I'd like to think that his countrymen are there in spirit with him.

  2. #2
    Administrator
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    1,467

    Re: Of leather-pushers and songbirds: An ode to detroit

    Yeah, Berry Gordy, Jr is ridiculously cool. Would have been a success at whatever he attempted. I have a lot of great BG, Jr stories, but I'm running to make a plane. Jet actually. Back here tomorrow.

  3. #3
    Advanced Users brownsugar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Home of the Buckeyes
    Posts
    4,371

    Re: Of leather-pushers and songbirds: An ode to detroit

    Quote Originally Posted by ArneK. View Post
    At various times, Detroit was a hotbed of prizefighting. The Wheeler era and the Kronk era were especially frothy.

    Detroit once had 12 after-school recreation centers. They were free to kids that couldn't afford the modest monthly dues. The Wheeler center, named for Detroit's first African-American recreation director, sat in the Brewster neighborhood and was also known by that name.

    The most famous Wheeler-Brewster alumnus was Joe Louis. He was such a towering figure that Detroit named an arena after him, one of the few large arenas left in America that hasn't sold its name to a corporate sponsor.

    The Wheeler era coincides roughly with the Brown Bomber's title reign (1937-1950). Top-tier fighters Holman Williams, Rosco Toles, Luther Burgess, and others with Wheeler connections were active during these years. Somewhat later, Hedgemon Lewis embroidered the legacy.

    Burgess and Lewis were trained and co-managed by Eddie Futch. A solid amateur, Futch was shunted away from a pro career by the revelation of a heart defect. A great ambassador for his sport, he lived to age 90 and left a large footprint.

    There's no record of it, but Futch may have shared a few pointers with Emanuel Steward. Steward trained at Wheeler while forging an impressive amateur log. One day he turned up at the Kronk recreation center where he volunteered to help out with the boxing team. In 1977, a fighter that he mentored, Thomas Hearns, won a national Golden Gloves title. You know the rest of the story.

    My favorite Detroit boxer -- perhaps I should say my favorite Detroiter who happened to box -- never advanced beyond the preliminary stage.

    This individual, initials BG, found his way to Wheeler after dropping out of high school. A scrawny featherweight, he turned pro three days after his 18th birthday and had a 12-3-2 record when Uncle Sam snatched him away, drafting him into the Army. He never fought again but would be able to tell his grandchildren that he appeared on the same card as the great featherweight Willie Pep.

    BG won four of his last five fights, but lacked the tools to make significant headway in boxing. Fortunately, he had a good ear for music.

    The record company that BG founded was so successful that it gave his hometown a second identity. The word Detroit now signified more than car-makers. For many, the name conjured up the distinct Motown sound.

    In newspapers, magazines, and across the Internet, one sees lots of people taking perverse pleasure in Detroit's current predicament. Detroit has only itself to blame, goes the mantra, and warrants no sympathy.

    I sometimes harbor this sentiment. It bubbles up whenever I'm reminded of the abandoned rec centers. Thieves pillaged Wheeler and Kronk of all the copper pipes and wires, leaving the buildings uninhabitable. Damn the despoilers, I think to myself, and damn the city that spawned them.

    The acrimony always subsides, swept away by an apparition of Berry Gordy. I envision the ex-boxer, now in his dotage, roving the streets of Detroit, looking forlornly at what remains of his boyhood haunts. The landscape, so much of it blighted, is a cruel trick to play on a man who put together a music factory that put a spring in the step of his homies and brought joy to people around the word.

    Perhaps in the course of his wanderings Mr. Gordy stops to say a silent prayer for his city's recovery. If so, I'd like to think that his countrymen are there in spirit with him.
    Nice work Arnek

  4. #4
    Advanced Users
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    9,197

    Re: Of leather-pushers and songbirds: An ode to detroit

    Super nice work, Arnek! You are DA MAN! I luv how you worked "BG" in there. For years, I've been posting about how his boxing slanguage and talk have had a deep impact on Pop Culture. See Berry Gordy is the same smooth cat that ran "Motown Records."

    And like himself, dudes who didn't make it in boxing, wrote musical lyrics for his singers. And the singers have been singing lyrics from that boksing gym of "Wheeler" for years and a mighty minute, thanks to BG. And just imagine, BG gave JJ and sons J5 their break. Of course, I'm not hollering about the 1970's television star JJ. I'm hollering about JJ, who is better know as Joseph Jackson -- ex-pro fighter -- and father of the famed Jackson Five [Later to be known as the Jacksons.].

    Wow! You are one superbad pugilistic historian, ArneK. Go ON! With your Bad self! You DA MIGHTY MAN! Holla!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •