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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back: Bruce Strauss

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will offer monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

Bruce "The Mouse" Strauss was never a world champion. "I never aspired to be a world champion or even a contender for that matter. I just wanted to be an opponent. See the world, make some money, and have a good time," he once said. Strauss will be remembered as one of the all time characters in the sport of boxing.

Born on February 6, 1952, Bruce Strauss grew up in New Milford, New Jersey. He earned a wrestling scholarship to the University of Nebraska, but dropped out of school following his sophomore year. He then became a truck driver for Allied Van Lines.

The origin myth of Strauss's boxing career is that one June evening in 1976, an inebriated Strauss filled in for a boxer who had cancelled at the last minute and Bruce actually won his first pro bout without any experience. Incidentally, Strauss fought in Kansas the next night and won that one too.

In reality, Strauss had 15 amateur fights and won silver at the Maccabiah Games. Tired of getting hit in the head without pay, Strauss turned professional. His dream was to be a professional opponent; the guy who takes on the hometown fighter. He knew he lacked experience, so he traveled the country collecting losses under fake names while he learned how to fight a bit. "In order to even get to be an opponent, you have to start out with a good record," Strauss explained. "If I had had a 2-30 record I could never have become an opponent. It wasn't until I was good enough to win preliminary fights that I started fighting under my own name."

Strauss has won plenty of fights under his own name, but he's far more famous for his numerous losses. The Mouse has bragged that he's been knocked out on every continent except for Antarctica, forgoing that continent because he doesn't like the cold. He fought over 200 times, was knocked out three times in one week, and twice in a night. After being knocked out in a preliminary bout, Strauss begged the promoter to let him replace a last-minute cancellation in the main event. Strauss fought under a pseudonym and was stopped in the third round.

Strauss perfected a formula to make a nice living as an opponent. "I have a little bit of a trick. I punch as hard as I can for as long as I can." Strauss contends that his opponents would pace themselves for ten rounds while Strauss had enough to go about three. After three rounds, Strauss says, "I run out of gas and look for a soft spot on the canvas." Not a mere punchline, the Mouse would actually investigate the ring before the evening's fights commenced looking for that elusive soft spot. Strauss had another shrewd ploy. "I don't train... If I train, I'm going to be in shape to go more rounds. If I go more rounds, I'm going to have to sustain more punishment," he said tongue-in-cheek.

The Mouse is a great storyteller and has the quick wit of a man who has been knocked unconscious only half as much. He was knocked out by contender Bobby Czyz in 1980 on a televised card. He fought the next night and, as he was making his way to the ring, someone in the crowd yelled out, "Is that the bum I saw get knocked out last night on TV?" Bruce shouted his response, "No, that was the Moose. I'm the Mouse!"

At about 5'6", Strauss was a natural 154 pounder, but to get more fights, he fought in many different weight classes. Whenever he fought someone larger, he utilized a pair of trick pants and hid weights in them to help him reach the minimum weight. During one weigh in, Strauss waited in vain for his opponent to arrive. It was only later that Strauss realized the opponent's name was one of his own pseudonyms.

During a 1981 bout against Jimmy Baker, Strauss perched himself in one spot on the ropes over commentator Al Bernstein for the entire six rounds. He won a decision victory. Bernstein later asked Strauss about his motivation for staying on the ropes the entire fight. Bruce answered back, "To be honest, I didn't want to miss any of your commentary. I could hear it from that spot."

Among the many aliases Bruce used were the names of people he disliked. He'd fight under their name, get knocked out, and mail the despised person the newspaper clipping.

Things often got rough for the Mouse in the ring. During one bout, a hometown referee blatantly favored Bruce's opponent to the point where he would dig his nails into Strauss's chest when breaking the two fighters. The ref drew blood with the maneuver. Strauss knew under the circumstances that he had to go for the knockout. He loaded up with a big right and landed the punch.. The unconscious referee hadn't seen the punch coming.

During a fight against a prolific middleweight in Africa, Strauss dropped to a knee in order to take an eight count and recover from some punishment he had just received. "While I was on one knee," Strauss explains, "he pushes the referee away, winds up, and the last thing I remember thinking was: This is really gonna hurt." He woke up a half hour later in the locker room.

Despite his notoriety and constant travel, things were rough out of the ring too. He often hitchhiked to fights and would sleep on park benches or in homeless shelters to save some money.

Not everyone found Strauss's antics amusing. In a congressional hearing edited by Senator John McCain, sportswriter Jim Brady argued, "Bruce Strauss profanes the prize ring. He is a diver." Strauss has claimed on many occasions that he never took a dive. "If I could beat a guy, then his manager and promoter should know about it. Then they can stop putting money into him as a prospect."

But, Bruce admitted, "I don't go down from a shitty punch. I go down from the right punch. If the crowd buys it, I stay down. If the crowd doesn't buy it, I get up and keep fighting. I never disappoint a crowd. They never boo when I lose."

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Strauss earned a record of 77-53-6 with 55 KOs under his own name. His overall record- regardless of the name he used- is unknown. Strauss gave up the sport of boxing in 1989 when boxing commissions turned to computerized methods of keeping track of fighters. A movie called The Mouse based on  Bruce's life was released to mixed reviews in the mid 1990s.

Bernstein, Al. 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths about Boxing, Sports, and TV. 2013.
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Late Night with David Letterman. 1986.
United States Senate. "Oversight of the Professional Boxing Industry: hearing before the Committee on Commerce , Science, and Transportation." 1997.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Michael Brooks vs. Karl Dargan

November 16, 2013
Turning Stone Resort and Casino
Verona, New York

Brooks: camouflage trunks, yellow trim
Dargan: black trunks, gold trim

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Danny Ahrens vs. Duane Green

November 18, 2013
Park Plaza Hotel
London, England

Ahrens: black trunks, white trim
Green: black trunks, green trim

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ahrens Moves to 5-0

Danny Ahrens remained undefeated with a points victory over Duane Green last month. The fight took place at Park Plaza Hotel in London, England.

Ahrens started the first round by landing his jab before adding combinations. He was on the attack early as the crowd chanted his name. Reports claim that Ahrens hurt his right hand in the first round, but he continued to use that hand throughout the bout.

Ahrens, a 20 year old from Tel Aviv, won the second round on the strength of his body punching. Green hit Ahrens with a solid low blow in that round and it clearly took something out of Ahrens. Danny spent too much of the third round with his back to the ropes. Green was still not very accurate even with Ahrens in such a vulnerable state. Ahrens boxed effectively in the fourth.

Referee Robert Williams scored the bout 40-37 in favor of Ahrens. In Britain, only the referee scores non-title fights.

The impressive thing about Ahrens is he improves every fight. His punches were straighter, his aggression was more controlled and effective, and he was off balance less compared to previous outings. But Ahrens has an annoying habit of switching to southpaw with limited results. In the first round, when Ahrens turned lefty, it allowed Green to have his only success of the round. When Ahrens did land with overhand lefts, they had far less steam that his punches have from the orthodox stance.

After the fight, Ahrens improved to 5-0 with one KO and Green moved to 1-4-1 with zero KOs.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tony Milch vs. Bheki Moyo

September 27, 2013
Camden Centre
London, England

Milch: white trunks
Moyo: gold trunks, black trim

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Carolina Duer vs. Estrella Valverde

December 13, 2013
Polideportivo Municipal La Patriada
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Duer Defends Bantamweight Title

Carolina Duer defended her WBO bantamweight belt with a unanimous decision victory over Estrella Valverde at Polideportivo Municipal La Patriada in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Duer outboxed Valverde throughout the fight.

During the first two rounds, both Duer and Valverde both were content to counter, making for a slow fight. Valverde was rarely on the attack throughout. Duer found her rhythm in the third round and boxed in and out beautifully. She was taller than her opponent and her hands were faster.

Valverde's right hand was quite competent and she landed it against Duer's face numerous times. But her left hook was a wide slapping punch and she virtually never jabbed. She showed good upperbody movement and controlled the middle of the ring. But Duer simply was too swift of foot for Valverde.

In the third round, Duer was spun around after a clinch and her back was turned to Valverde. Valverde unleashed three punches to the back of Duer's head and lost a point for the effort. She immediately felt contrition and touched Duer's glove after the offense. In the eighth, Valverde lost a point for casting her head toward Duer as Estrella rushed in. In the tenth, Duer landed a right and then subtly pushed Valverde to the ground. Valverde vehemently argued against the knockdown call.

Duer, who switched southpaw on occasion with limited success, dictated the pace of the fight. In the ninth round, Valverde became frustrated that Duer took the round off and motioned for Duer to fight. But by the tenth, Valverde was tired and her punches seemed slow. Duer was clearly in better condition and coasted to the victory.

The judges' scores were 97-90, 99-88, and 96-91. Duer improves her record to 16-3-1 with 5 KOs. Valverde is now 7-4-1 with one KO.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Duer to Defend Title on Friday

Carolina Duer, the WBO bantamweight champion, is slated to defend her title against Estrella Valverde on Friday at Polideportivo Municipal La Patriada in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Duer is coming off a decision victory over Mayra Alejandra Gomez in July.

Duer (15-3-1, 5 KOs) is 13-0-1 in her last 14 fights, all of which have taken place in her home country of Argentina. This is her first defense of the WBO bantamweight crown.

Valverde (7-3-1, 1 KO) is from Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl Mexico. She won her last fight, but the three before that were less successful. All three were against undefeated fighters and Valverde came away with two losses and one draw.

Duer and Valverde have a common opponent. Duer fought to a draw against Sabrina Maribel Perez by unanimous decision in May while Valverde lost by unanimous decision to Perez in May of 2012.

The title bout is scheduled for ten two-minute rounds.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Melson Outboxes King

Boyd Melson outboxed Gundrick King to win a unanimous decision at BB King Blues Club. Melson's hand speed and accuracy were impressive in the win.

Melson controlled every round. Midway through, the fight had to be stopped due to a ring malfunction, but when the fight resumed, Melson continued to dominate. He won with three scores of 80-72. Melson climbs to 13-1 with 4 KOs while King falls to 18-11 with 11 KOs following his second straight shutout defeat to a Jewish boxer.

Boxing writer Ryan Bicvins had a harsh critique of Melson before the fight, tweeting, "Boyd Melson will probably win this fight clearly. But his career has no upside." After the fight Melson, tweeted to his fans, "Wanted a knockout bad, but dude had a hard head!"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Melson to Face King

Junior middleweight will face Gundrick King at a catchweight tomorrow at BB King Blues Club in New York, New York. Both southpaws weighed in at 158 pounds.

Melson (12-1-1, 4 KOs) is coming off of a rematch victory over Jason Thompson in August. Boyd, who donates his purses to fund stem cell research for spinal cord injuries is an aggressive fighter who can also box from the outside. He'll want to do the latter against King.

King (18-10, 11 KOs) is coming off of a loss to Yuri Foreman in April. King is a short southpaw who prefers to fight from the outside. The straight left is King's best punch and he prefers to counter punch.

The Melson-King bout is scheduled for eight rounds.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tony Milch Moves to 3-0

Welterweight Tony Milch is now 3-0 after a fourth round stoppage against Gareth Shove on November 21 at the Savoy Hotel in London, England. Milch, a 32-year old from Bushey, England, has been boxing since he was 13 years old.

As an amateur, Milch said of himself, "I wasn't great, but was pretty good," to JewishNews.co.uk. While in his mid 20s, Milch had a chance to go pro, but decided to move to Canada and become a trainer instead. In 2011, Milch felt he was ready to begin the steps necessary to turn professional.

Thus far, Milch has been successful against limited competition. In his debut, the lean and lanky righthander with the shaved head won on points against Danny Donchev in July. In September, Milch was busier against his defensive-minded opponent, Bheki Moyo, who hadn't won a fight in 63 tries when the two met. Milch cruised to another points win.

Milch is scheduled to fight in January and February. Nicknamed "Two Guns Tony," Milch hopes to fight for a British or Commonwealth title by the time he hangs up the gloves.