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From Magnolia to Madison Square Garden: A Heavyweight Champion

Heavyweight Champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Frank Bruno in London 2010

Boxing is a huge business and I have had the opportunity since taking a trip to Puerto Rico decades ago to meet some champions including Hector “Macho” Camacho, Juan LaPorte, Joe and Marvis Frazier, Livingston Bramble, and James “Bonecrusher” Smith (who told me that he had been trained by Emile Griffith).

Mike Weaver, Leon and Michael Spinks, Tony Tubbs, Earnie Shavers, and James “Buster” Douglas will be the Boxing Hall of Fame inductees in December.

In the Census of 2010 Magnolia, North Carolina had a population of 939 people. One would not expect much opportunity there. But the opportunity arrived for the best- known person that was raised in that town and it happened in the mecca of boxing in New York City.

So known in the Spanish speaking world as “Rompe Hueso,” my friend James “Bonecrusher” Smith became the first heavyweight champion to earn a college degree. He spent time in the United States military and started boxing there. His professional career began at the age of twenty-eight.
Don King and Reverend Al Sharpton were responsible for setting up he Magnolia (North Carolina) to Madison Square Garden theme that has helped shape most of Bonecrusher’s life, but his book M.A.D. or Make A Decision tells us how his father gave him a whipping for not going to school. He was really only a kid. And James straighten out because of the tough love that his father showed.

Bonecrusher had just destroyed Frank Bruno in London. It was the final round where James landed a hard punch and then pummeled Bruno repeatedly to knock out the Englishman. This is how the Sharpton-Don King-Bonecrusher connection worked out. Tony Tubbs had to back out of the title fight against Tim Witherspoon and with one week before the fight Sharpton told King to contact Bonecrusher. The champ had already fought Witherspoon and lost, but this time it was different. James was M.A.D. and mad at the same time, determined to knock Witherspoon out and in the first round with Witherspoon knocked down three times the fight was won by Bonecrusher. The mandatory three knockdown rule was in effect.

Bruno would have lots more fights and suffered four more defeats, two at the hands of Mike Tyson, and one each to Lennox Lewis and Tim Witherspoon.

I met the champ on a free talk radio blog about sports with some friends and we immediately talked on the telephone. As we were talking and I shared the story about how I had contacted the lawyer for James “Buster” Douglas to get involved with the then heavyweight champion about some business matter, Bonecrusher dialed Buster and the three of us were on the phone together. So I was talking to the man that Mike Tyson defeated to win the heavyweight title and the man who defeated Mike Tyson for the title. That was amazing!

Smith and I later met in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where we had lunch together. Then we had dinner together near LaGuardia Airport in New York City. I went down to a golf tournament that he sponsors and we later had lunch where people quickly recognized him and engaged him in conversation. I doubt if any champ could be more-friendly and more humorous upon meeting him.

James has worked with the Horry Public Library and he has a program for disadvantaged kids called Champions for Kids where he provides a program in the summer. At this time the champ is working on starting a Boxing Legends Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach. These are the plans for the event from Bonecrusher himself.

On Thurs Dec 6, 2018 I will host a ribbon cutting at the Barefoot Resort in N. Myrtle Beach, SC for the
Boxing Legends Hall of Fame Office. Then on Fri Dec 7 I will host a Meet/Greet. 2018 H.O.F. Inductees will get welcome Myrtle Beach by Sponsors, Fans & Volunteers. For more information log on here.

This year’s inductees will be Mike Weaver, Michael Spinks, Leon Spinks, Tony Tubbs, James “Buster” Douglas & Earnie Shavers.
The champ told me that he hopes to distribute an event brochure with a photo of the inductees on the cover. And continue on each year with new inductees on the annual event cover.

James “Bonecrusher” Smith fought
Larry Holmes
Mike Tyson
Joe Bugner who fought Muhammad Ali
Michael Moorer who George Foreman knocked out to regain the title
Greg Page
Mike Weaver
Donovan Ruddick
Marvis Frazier son of Joe Frazier
Tim Witherspoon
Tony Tubbs
Frank Bruno
James Broad
Jose Ribalta

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