Sunday, August 8, 2004

Billy Joiner embodies city's boxing legacy



By John Erardi
Enquirer staff writer

There is nobody with deeper boxing roots in Cincinnati than Billy Joiner.

OLYMPICS COVERAGE
Siler
Olympian Ron Siler
In for the fight of his life
Lords of the ring
Billy Joiner embodies city's boxing legacy
Olympics special section
Photo gallery: A look at local Olympians
Editorial: Congratulations to our local Olympians
2004 Summer Olympics schedule
Olympics guide, multimedia

His uncle, Herschel, in 1940 knocked out Cincinnati's first world champion, featherweight Freddie Miller. His father, John, coached Cincinnati's second world champion - lightweight Bud Smith - in the late 1940s.

Billy Joiner twice fought Cassius Clay - who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali - in the days leading up to Clay's gold-medal winning performance at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Joiner nearly beat Clay, losing by only a point each time.

Smith was Cincinnati's first Olympic boxer, in London in 1948. He didn't medal, but he made a name for himself - and for Cincinnati.

"He was a great puncher," Joiner recalls. "I'd see him working in the gym, and I wanted to be just like him. I remember when I was 10 years old, attending a summer camp out at Lake Allyn (in Batavia) and some older kids were knocking me around. Bud just happened to be out there one day, and he let one of those older boys have it. That kid never messed with me again.

"That kid never even made eye contact with me again," said Joiner, his eyes twinkling at the memory.

"It was something here in the 1950s. ... It was just a short walk for me to the gym, and within a block of that gym were two other gyms. And that was just in my neighborhood.

"There were gyms all over the place (in the inner city). That was the days of Bud and Ezzard Charles fighting all those great fights. I remember the Cincinnati Golden Gloves tournament in 1962, and there were 10,000 people at Cincinnati Gardens! Ten thousand people! Can you imagine?"




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