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USA Boxing Alumni’s 1988 USA Trials Virtual Reunion Review

by Bob Trieger

USA Boxing and the USA Boxing Alumni Association recently held a virtual reunion via Zoom for competitors at the 1988 USA Boxing Trials.

Among the 25 boxers who participated were 1988 Olympic gold and silver medalist, respectively, light heavyweight Andrew Maynard and light flyweight Michael Carbajal.

The group was comprised of fighters who competed at the 1988 USA Olympic Trials, plus a few administrators, many of whom hadn’t seen nor spoken to most of the others for more than 30 years. They updated each other on what they’ve done since the 1988 USA Trials, remembered fighting each other, and looked forward to remaining in touch.

In addition to Maynard and Carbajal, taking part in this virtual reunion were “Iceman” John Scully, who recruited the others and served as Master of Ceremonies, Darren Allen, Donald “Tiger” Stokes, Nathaniel Fitch, Frankie Liles, Thomas Tate, Ronald Simms, Jesse James Leija, Eddie Cook, Merle Thornton, Lionel Odom, Jr., Michael Bentt, Ronald Manley, Skipper Kelp, Arthur Johnson, Robert Salters, Stanley Lee, Charles Murray, William Guthrie, Al Cole, Lou Savarese, Nick Kakouris, and Paul Vaden.

“It’s good to see Skipper Kelp and Ronald Simms who were on our last reunion call,” said call host Mike McAtee, Executive Director of USA Boxing.  “It’s so good to see all of you from the 1988 Olympic Trials.  Scully knows everybody, so it made things easier.”

“Thanks to everyone for being on this zoom,” added Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director.  “We started the USA Boxing Alumni Association in 2017.  We’ve had gatherings across the country, but this year and last have been different. We did a reunion with boxers who competed at the 1992 USA Olympic Trials back in early November. USA Boxing is stronger with alumni involved.  We hope to see you at tournaments this year.  Thanks again to John Scully who knows everybody in boxing.”


John Scully: “I’m in Connecticut and still at it.  I’m at the gym helping fighters.  I help train Artur Beterbiev, the IBF and WBC world light heavyweight champion.  It’s good to keep track of you guys. Some of you haven’t seen each other since the 1980’s.  The majority of you guys won world championships (as professionals) and those who didn’t fought on television.”

Michael Carbajal: “I’m a trainer at my gym and I have a few fighters.  A bunch of amateurs I’m helping to become world champions.  I’m still in Phoenix, Arizona, in the same neighborhood.  My gym is here.  My favorite memory is winning the National Championships for the first time and then I kept it going from there.”

Ronald Simms: “I’ve never been with so many guys who beat me.  I’m a coach in India now.  You guys gave me a lot and made me who I am today.”

Jesse James Leija: “I only had about 29-30 fights going into the USA Trials.  I started boxing in 1985. I got lucky fighting Kelsey Banks in the first round.  I started fighting so late at 19.  I knew all of your names.  I look up to you from amateur boxing. For me to put your names with faces is great.”

Darren Allen: “I can imitate (USA Boxing Alumni HOF trainer) Roosevelt Sanders.”  (he went on to do just that.)

Donald Stokes: “At Kronk, Arthur Johnson was so polished you almost killed me.  I think you were a robot.  Do you remember going to Cuba, Frankie?  We’re in Mississippi.”

Frankie Liles: “At the club I went to Thomas Tate became my big brother when I came to Detroit.  Competition and camaraderie bring out the best in everyone.  When one guy did good, all the others had to be great.”

Thomas Tate: “Sparring (at Kronk Gym) was good, but it was one of the hottest gyms to train in. The heat wouldn’t bother you when you got in the ring.  We had a good set of guys like Frankie Liles.”

Andrew Maynard: “I’m looking around and I’m the oldest man in this group.  I’m 57.  Got a lot of grey hair now.”

Lou Savarese: “I still have good hair and good abs.  It’s so good to see all of you.”

Nick Kakouris: “It’s good to see all you guys.  I disappeared (after boxing).  I got into construction and 30 years later I got out.  Now, I’m trying to find out what to do when I grow up.”

Paul Vaden: “It’s good to see you all.  I’m blessed to be here and see you all.  All’s good.  I love being among us brothers.  What we achieved and endured, I’m happy to be part of this.  In 1988, I was 147 (lbs.), but then I moved up to 156.  Chris Byrd came to my fight in New York City.  Lou (Savarese) fought Michael Grant on that card.”

Charles Murray: “What I remember most is winning.  Winning the 1987 Nationals.  All I can say is win.  I’m teaching now.  A few fighters are coming up, I promise.  I’m still in Rochester (NY) and I’m feeling good.”

William Guthrie: “How’s everybody? I’m blessed; I’m a free man.  I’m happy to be alive.  When we were kids, I had a lot of fun.  I love competition.  In St. Louis, I fought the top guys because it meant something.”

Al Cole: “Everybody from St. Louis was good.  I was surprised the second time I fought you (Guthrie).  It was in your hometown and I thought I’d be cheated.  I was surprised to win.  It’s good to see everybody.  I didn’t know where everybody was.”

Arthur Johnson: “I’m in the St. Louis area, on the Illinois side.  Sorry I’m late, I’ve been shoveling.  I’ve been doing a lot of everything.  I’m busy.”

Nathaniel Fitch: “Lou Savarese, I didn’t bite him.  I’m not mad.  I’m glad to be here.  I’m happy you’re still cooking.  I was a pastor in church and did time in the military.  I worked for myself 24 years in construction.  I built a ring in my backyard and work with a few kids.  My favorite memory was winning the Golden Gloves in 1987.”

Robert Salters: “In Las Vegas, Paul Vaden helped me.  I trained to make the team.  Me, Guthrie and Vaden came out of the West.  I was around a lot of good guys…Eddie Cook, Andrew Maynard, Ray Mercer.  (Riddick) Bowe made it was easy for me.  At the weigh in, he told Sugar Ray that he wanted a big contract after he knocked me out.   I knocked him out and went on to win The Nationals.”

Stacy Lee:  I fought William Guthrie in St. Louis.  I’m in St. Louis now.  I was in the Marine Corps. I lost to a good champion.  I’m a trucker and all over the place.  We just lost a great champion and Marine, Leon Spinks.”

Eddie Cook: “It’s a pleasure to see all you guys and to be part of this.  I look forward to doing it again.  I have mad respect for the Tates.  I remember seeing you (Thomas) and your brother (Frank) in Las Vegas.”