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Mickey Goodwin

Claude Abrams speaks to a level-headed contender turned trainer

Thursday, 09 April 2009 | 0 comments
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Boxing News online | Mickey Goodwin
MICKEY GOODWIN was the exciting Kronk middleweight in the early-1980s who was supposed to challenge Marvin Hagler for the world middleweight title.


But Goodwin busted his left hand – his best fist – while training for that fight and had to pull out. He never got his chance again.


Nearly 27 years later and Goodwin is still in boxing, training fighters at the River Rouge Boxing Club on the outskirts of Detroit.


The gym is large, like a sports hall, but bare – part of the Recreation Center where as an outstanding amateur Goodwin used to compete.


It's in a depressed area, but Goodwin says he's no closer to finding the star fighter he's been searching for.
“On a good night I get 10 kids coming in and a bad night about two or three,” he says.


Goodwin helps these hopefuls in the afternoon Monday-Friday and on Saturdays. He has a young girl he says has potential. Mickey's also got two fighters ready to go professional, with his guidance.


It's certainly not all doom and gloom. Goodwin recalls the time he emerged on the scene, when Detroit was hit by depression. The (American) football teams were struggling, as they are now, and the Kronk Gym offered some much-needed inspiration.


When Goodwin made his pro start as a 19-year-old in November 1977, Tommy Hearns made his debut on the undercard!


Goodwin knocked out Willie Williams in the first at the Olympia and won his next 17 in succession until Ted Sanders outpointed him over 10 in Las Vegas (May 1979).


But Goodwin, blond-haired and blue-eyed – the only white member of the Kronk team when he started – won his next 12 to put himself in a position to take on the formidable Hagler.


Bad luck struck, just as it did in 1976, when he was trying out for an Olympic team that included Sugar Ray Leonard, the Spinks brothers, Michael and Leon, and John Tate.


Goodwin fought in the trials, but got cut and wasn't able to go further.


There's no anger or resentment on Goodwin's part. He's a matter-of-fact sort of guy, accepting his fate.


He said at the time the Hagler fight was offered he was having a contractual dispute with trainer Emanuel Steward. He never boxed for Kronk again.


“Maybe it [the fight being cancelled] was a blessing,” he now says.


“I moved to New York and became a better fighter. I got to train against lots of different styles. At Kronk there was just one type of fighter, the Hearns type – tall, lean, long jabbers with big right hands.”


Goodwin stands only 5ft 9in, about Hagler's size. He was aggressive and exciting. His left hook, particularly to the body, was his most damaging shot.


He said Matthew Saad Muhammad, who he sparred in Philadelphia, was the toughest man he got into a ring with and reckons Mike McCallum was better than Hearns.


However, after leaving Kronk his form dipped. From his next six fights, he won four, drew against Arthel Lawhorne over 10 for the Michigan State light-heavyweight title and, in his next bout, lost by stoppage in 10 to Darryl Spain (April 1985).


Weight was also a problem for Goodwin, who quit after the Spain loss but would later make a comeback.


At Kronk he boxed as a middle, but says, “Super-middle [12st] wasn't around back then, but would have been perfect for me.”
In his college days, when he played football, Goodwin weighed over 14st. He always wanted to be a professional athlete. He was naturally competitive.


He knew he wanted to fight when his father and grandfather took him as a kid to watch a closed circuit broadcast of Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay I.


An ex-pro, who lived nearby, taught him the basics and then advised Mickey to join a thriving Kronk squad.


Goodwin stood out, not just because of his complexion, but also the way he performed. Crowds turned out to see him score a succession of knockouts.


“They wanted to see this white guy get knocked out, but then realised I could fight,” he says.


He sparred regularly with Hearns, Lindell Holmes and William “Caveman” Lee, who replaced him in the Hagler fight only to lose in the first.


“I fought a bit like Vito Antuofermo and could punch much harder,” reasons Goodwin. “Antuofermo gave Hagler trouble – got a draw [first meeting].”


Goodwin made a comeback in 1993, after a near-eight-year layoff that included three years in jail in Arizona for drink-driving.
His first fight back, aged 34, saw him outpoint Juan Ramon Perez over four. Goodwin won another six times, twice against men he had already beaten, but while outpointing Jamie Stevenson over eight in November 1994 he suffered a damaged left eye (double vision). He had to quit. The injury never healed. He said he'd still be trying to fight today, aged 50, if he could.


In all, Goodwin had 43 fights, winning 40, 28 inside, losing two and drawing one.


He now works evenings at a local boat house, running the restaurant and security. He has some friends in high places, like the Michigan mayor, who doesn't charge him rent to run the boxing gym.


The gym walls are adorned with clippings and photos of the young Goodwin. He was a working class hero who made a name for himself, but not much money.


Mickey's got a good philosophy, though. “I take it a day at a time,” he says. “That keeps me sane.”


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