I met Frank Dunlap 6 months ago when he first wrote to me after reading through my website, ExpertBoxing. He was a fan of the website and a former boxer himself, a multiple-time Golden Glove regional and state boxing champion in the welterweight division back in the 50’s.
He was also a very successful boxing coach, leading his amateur boxing team to winning every regional boxing tournament for 3 years during the 70’s, amassing an impressive win percentage of 70.6% in nearly 1,000 fights!
I figured this was a man with a wealth of information (in everything, not only boxing) and boy was I right. I spoke with him on the phone for several hours and learned all about his inspiring life. He had served in the military during the Korean War. He was a schoolteacher, a principal, a Frito-Lay delivery man, a business-owner and a school bus driver, and also a Golden Glove boxing coach. And at one time, became the local medicine man for a small village in Alaska.
He shared his boxing stories about competing in the Golden Gloves and also having trained great fighters. He once trained the Norris brothers when they were about 10 years old— (Terry Norris and Orlin Norris, boxing champions in the 90’s). He talked about meeting his childhood idol, the legendary Rocky Marciano. There were bits and pieces of practical old school boxing knowledge in every memory and of course…an amazing life story.
It is with great honor and admiration that I share Frank’s personal life story.
Frank Dunlap’s childhood
Frank had grown up poor and skinny and with anemia. Anemia is a health condition of having a low red blood cell count, known for causing fatigue, shortness of breath, heart problems, and pale skin. His family lived on a farm near Ralls, Texas. His father was a World War I veteran and wrestling champion in college. His mother, a talented musician and artist.
I’ve always been tough, I was raised on the farm. When you get my book, you’ll see, there’s a picture of our family and you can see just how poor we were by the clothes we are wearing. I mailed your book yesterday and you should get it.
I got my strength and toughness when I was growing up. My dad pushed us into the field, sometimes we had to wait till the dew dried on the cotton before we could start and we worked till dark, or sundown and then we would have chores to do when we got home. I grew up that way.
Dad was a wrestling champion in college, but he wanted me to be a boxer. He got me some gloves, somebody gave him some gloves. I was 10 years old when he put the gloves on me. Seems like I was getting beat up a lot, but I had a problem. My family didn’t know it, I didn’t even know it. Of course, it was Anemia, a blood disease. I was weak and frail and bullied. I don’t think my dad understood that. I start growing out of that my junior year in high school, and I noticed that I was gaining some muscles and some weight. I was eating like a pig. And I was getting stronger and stronger.
This is another thing that god knows it’s true. Because god knows I did it. My senior year in college, I picked up 105 pounds of barbell and put it over my head and held it for 4 seconds. There was only one other guy in the college, he was a guard on the football team, weighed about 200 pounds, 5’10, he worked out around with the weights a lot, I didn’t, I worked out some, not much. He could get it up, but he couldn’t hold it.
Frank became very strong
Frank fought at 147lbs, was strong for his size and also very fast. He still has it even today at 80-something years of age.
I weighed 147; that’s what my fighting weight was. I know, that’s what I weighed. Sometimes I’d get to 148 and I would have to lose a pound. I had to do that a couple of times on fights where you weren’t allowed to eat anything! I mean, if you weighed 147 and 2 ounces, you had to burn it off, as they were really strict then. They are not that strict now. In fact, when I got towards the end of my career, they even allowed a pound. Because I fought sometimes at 148, but most of the time, I stayed at 147.
Guys around the college would make bets, they would say “see Frank, this guy here, I bet you, he can pick that barbell and put it over his head.” And the guys would go over, pick it up and say “are you kidding, no way! Look at him. He wouldn’t even lift 50 pounds probably.” Anyway, when I did it, they couldn’t believe it. But I was very strong.
Burt was partly responsible for that journey because he told me, he said “I want speed with your left jab, with your left” and he said “I don’t want you picking up any weights over 5 pounds with your left. You can work out with 5 pound weights, but with your right hand you can pick up 25 pounds and do curls and stuff and I did that. So, that was part of the strengths and I just had some bottom natural strength. So, that made a great combination. I had an extremely fast left jab and I still do today.
You wouldn’t believe it. And I throw my left jab down the gym to this… well, there’s these 3 professionals, now in here in one of the gyms and the coach said “Frank, show Joe your left jab.” and I said “No, I don’t do that.” and he said “Yes, show him, he won’t believe it.” So, I did and he said “My god! Why weren’t you a professional?” He said, “I can’t throw a left jab that fast.” And this was like when I was 79 or something. I can still throw it.
Frank’s amateur boxing accomplishments
Frank was a former Golden Glove State and Regional Champion. 30 wins, 3 losses, never knocked down or out. Most of what he learned was taught to him by Burt Khan, and international boxing champion from back in the 40’s. he was once preparing to box to try out for the Olympics but got stabbed in the head in a streetfight and couldn’t go because of the stitches.
I had 30 fights, I lost 3.God knows it’s true,I was never put on the canvas, not once. One time I was knocked into the ropes and if the referee had been on his toes, he could have given me a mayhem, but I got off there quick. Cause I know the rules, I knew the rules and I didn’t want that to happen to me, because that’s the same as being –decked–; if you get in the ropes and get and 8 count. So, I didn’t want that, cause that was towards the end of my career and I had this good career, I have never been knocked down.
First state Golden Gloves Tournament that I went to, my coach Burt Khan who was Olympic world champion. He couldn’t go. We had to go to Fruitvale, Texas to boxing coliseum that holds about 10,000 people. Honestly, I was a lone farm kid. I never been in front of a crowd like that. That’s the only time I was kind of nervous.
Anyway, he could not go and he sent two football players from Texas Tech, who did not know crap about boxing and why he picked those two. They have been down at the gym a few times, they worked out but they did not know anything and to top that off, I knew he may have beaten me at first round. Not much, I went to the corner, I said “John, what advice do you have for me?” and I smelled liquor and I thought “oh my god, this ain’t gonna work!” and you know what he said? Here’s his reply “I think you lost that first round.” “oh, that’s the advice you’re gonna give me?” I said, “You know what? You and Charlie, why don’t you just go back to the bar?” I said, “well, you can hand me water and towel, but I don’t need your advice.” I said.
Well, when I got back. Well, anyway, he was catching me with the left hook and I didn’t catch on to it until the third round. He won first two rounds, barely, but he did. I knew he had beaten me and he was tough. He could really take a punch and I could hit hard. Cause I hit him hard enough, some guys that I hit that hard they went down and stayed. Well, I used this combination on him and he went down. I thought, it was the third round, I thought “stay down, stay down”. But this sucker was tough, he got up on the count of 7. I won that round, but he won the first two rounds, so I lost.
But, they told me: “you need to go to the first aid room”and I said “why?” (and he said) “well, you look in the mirror and you’ll see”. Cause it didn’t hurt. I never felt the punches, I mean, of course I… I knew he hit me, but… I went into the first aid and then I looked in the mirror and my ear was cauliflower.
It was hanging down and it was twice as thick as it shoulder been. I thought “Wow! Man… I can’t believe he did that.” But, it didn’t stay that way. We got some ice on it and took care of it.
Frank’s Old School Boxing Advice
Boxing Tips for Beginners
I asked Frank if he had any tips for beginners and also first day beginners. He stressed the importance of developing the jab before learning any other techniques. And to appreciate boxing over brawling. “Boxing is not a streetfight!”
Yes, one thing that’s important. First couple of 3 weeks they don’t use their right hand AT ALL. I even had them put their right hand in their shorts. I said “I don’t want you using it. You are going to learn to use the left jab cause that’s your weapon.” I said, ”That’s the one that will win majority of your fights, it’s your left jab.” I said, “Especially, you boys there that have long arms and good reach. You have to utilize that reach.”
I went to a tournament here and the coach’s boy was doing pretty good. He was following his footwork pretty good and he was throwing his left and bringing it back quickly and then the boy he was fighting was not a boxer. He was a slugger. And the coach’s boy started copying this roundhouse stuff and I told Eli (the coach), I said “When your boy gets over him tell him to stop that. This is boxing. Don’t try to be a street fighter.”
Cause that’s the way the other guy boxes, you don’t want to box his fight. You make him fight your fight. And he doesn’t know what you know and you’re going to beat him. Because a boxer can beat a street-fighter. I’ve done it. I’ve beaten guys 6’1″, 195lbs.
Weightlifting and punching power
I asked Frank, “How do you feel about lifting weights for boxing training? There are many people nowadays who believe in lifting weights for more punching power.”
He felt the jabbing arm should never hold anything heavier than 5lbs to help you maintain maximum speed with that arm. And the back arm could take heavier weights. Regardless of the weight, he feels you should never lift heavy. He shares his secret “wall exercise” (an isometric exercise) which is feels is far superior than lifting weights for building maximum strength.
You know, a little with the right hand, well, not just a little, some weight lifting with the right hand (if they’re right-handed) is okay, because it really doesn’t slow you down very much. But a good way to build your strength is to stand up next to a wall and stretch yourself out, double your fist up and put your fist against the wall and go back as far as you can, without falling forward and put all that weight on your arm and keep it there until it starts burning a little bit and then don’t do it anymore.
“So, you are in like a Superman position?”
Yeah, right. And then for the left hook, go to a wall, if you can imagine a wall, and you are facing the end of the wall and what you do is you spread your feet out and you put your left hook into the wall and put all the pressure you can and lean into it. If I can draw you the picture, your arm is bent and it is bent into the side of the wall and you put all your weight into it.
“Like you’re throwing your left hook at the wall, but the wall is holding it there in place.”
Exactly, but you got your body back and you’re putting a lot of weight on that arm. And that strengthens the right muscles that will give you a good left hook. And you do that until you get tired, I mean starts burning a little bit and then just stop.
Why not to lift heavy weights
Unless you were a big fighter above 175lbs, Frank felt lifting real heavy slows you down. I asked him, “But Frank, how do you feel about lifting HEAVY weights, cause so many guys are trying to bench press 200 pounds.”
Oh, I’m sorry I got away from that. I’m sorry. No, no, that’s not… for a heavy weight or a light-heavyweight, I don’t see… it probably wouldn’t hurt, but for a lighter weight, no. If they want to lift heavier weights with the right hand, that’s fine, but don’t be lifting heavy weights with your left.
Do the thing on the wall, that’s enough to strengthen your left. Cause if you did that enough times, you’d build up some strength, punching power, I should put it that way. Of course, I had my boys do it with both hands and then the left hook; we had the wall where they could do that.
“So, don’t do like a full weight training routine and weights and curls and all that is unnecessary?”
I would not recommend it to lighter boxers. Middleweights and up, maybe middleweights, but not real heavy stuff. But, I think you can get enough strength by doing the wall and doing pushups, and actually running, jogging strengthens your entire body. I learnt that from Burt, him being an Olympic and a world champion, he knew everything I guess there is to know about boxing, so he taught me a lot.
Training for punching power and speed
Frank was a big proponent for interval training. I asked him, “What would you recommend for developing punching power and speed?” He was real adamant about the “wall exercise”.
Okay, it’s okay to use weights. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. It’s okay to use them, but not heavy heavy, like 50-75 pounds, don’t work with weights that are very heavy. It depends on who you are talking to, flyweight or a heavyweight. Flyweight, he can use lighter weights, but do lots of reps and do the wall thing, cause that builds up the right muscles for punching power. Burt taught me that and I felt myself getting stronger.
Frank was big on interval training or as we might call today “tabata drills”…which refers to exercises done in intervals.
I have in that report, I sent to you, I tried to include everything that we did. I’m not sure I put push-ups and sit-ups in there and I should have, because those are good exercises, also they are good strength builders.
Doing push-ups, I used to do 80 push-ups and it was hard to do. Sometimes I would do 40 and then I’d rest a little bit and then do 40 more. I seldom ever tried to do 80 straight, because I just felt like it was not doing me as much good as 40 and then 40 more. Or if you are going to do 100, then do 50 and then do 50 more after rest.
The thing about resting in between things that you do, if you’re lifting weights or jogging, or running, that rest, what that does is it lets your body catch up with what you are trying to accomplish. Cause your body is built to, not for, unless you’re going to be a long distance runner, like 27 miles, yeah you got to do a lot of running. In boxing it’s more a 3-minute stuff. Cause that’s the time you going to be fighting. It’s 3 minutes, rest a minute, do 3 minutes, rest a minute, to do exactly what you can do on the ring.
Importance of developing the right kind of muscle
Frank preferred smooth elongated muscles or knotty bunched up muscles. He felt that lifting heavy weights gave a fighter the less-preferred “knotty muscles”. He also stressed not to worry about how your opponent looks (physically).
Actually I built up my right arm, but I did not lift real heavy weights, it was more reps involved than more heavy stuff. Cause he told me, I just remembered, he said “That the heavy weights, lifting real heavy, actually will slow you down. It might strengthen you, but it will also slow you down.” And he said “Do lots of reps, pick a light weight and do lots of reps with it.” And he said that will, actually he called it “elongating your muscle”, make long muscles and not knotty-typed muscles.
And I told my boys, when they were boxing, when I was coaching them I said “When we go to a tournament and you go in a ring and you look at this guy and he’s all muscles up, he’s got hair on his chest”, I said, “Don’t even think about it. It doesn’t matter.” I said, “he’s no different than a guy that is skinny and the guy, skinny, may be couple of inches taller than you, he looks like “what the hell is he doing in boxing?”. Well I got surprised at this one guy, cause he looked like he couldn’t lift 50 pounds, and he was fast and he was quick. He had quick hands, but he had a glass jaw. You’ve heard of glass jaws?
I hit him and I swear I didn’t hit him hard and he went down. And I was glad, cause he was FAST, he was thin. And then I fought this guy that, just as I described, he was muscled up, about 5’6, same weight – 147, he had hair on his chest and I thought “Man, this is going to be a tough fight.” Nah, it wasn’t, especially for somebody who was built like me. I mean I have muscles, I still have muscles, but they are not like a weight-lifter’s muscles.
Not to run too much
Frank felt some boxing trainers made their fighters run too long of a distance instead of focusing on different types of runs. He preferred mixing in days with longer jogs of 2-3 miles and days with short distance interval sprints of 50 yards.
One thing that I’ve learnt in teaching coaches is that they tend to overdo lot of things, like running. This one coach Jose Barrera that called me “tough man”. Gosh he was running his boxers 5 nights a week and he was running them 5 miles. And I said “Jose, that’s too much, no wonder you are losing some of your boys, that’s because you are burning them out. They don’t have to. They don’t have to run that far.”
I said “a good 2 mile jog, jog hard for 2 miles, 3 times a week and then on the weekend if the guy wants to really get in a good shape, then he should do it on his own and go out and jog 3-4-5 miles, that’s fine, but on his own. Don’t push him.
Another thing, I put that in my instructions I mailed to you about sprinting 50 yards. This just develops your speed. The speed jog doesn’t. It might help a little bit. It helps timing more than it does speed. But here is what builds speed, sprinting, sprint 50 yards, and I mean as hard as you can run, stop, walk 50 yards, turn around and sprint back to that point 50 yards and then walk back to where you started. Do that twice a week.
I mean, these things that I wrote in these 3 pages that I sent to you, I know that it’s effective, because we won everything for 3 years as a team. We won every team trophy, we won all over west and north Texas and eastern New Mexico.
How long and how often should a fighter train?
Frank believes fighters should train 5 days a week in the gym and rest on the weekends. If a fighter really wants, but isn’t necessary, he or she can do a job on the weekend. I asked him, “How long is a good training session? Like how often should a fighter train and how many days a week?”
5 days a week and encourage them that on the weekends if you feel like it, if you feel good, get out and run, jog, jog until you’re tired. And then on Sunday don’t do anything. That’s on Saturdays, that you’re laying and laying around, not doing anything, get out and run, do push-ups, do sit-ups, do the wall thing. You got all kinds of corners in your house. You can find the wall and do your left hook thing and you can find the wall to do your right hand and your left hand to build strength. It won’t fix your timing, but it will increase your strength.
He stressed good habits on the heavy bag, such as moving with the bag (using footwork) when it moved away instead of waiting for it all the time. And also that all good fighters could jump rope well.
Well, my method was, they would do 3 minutes on each apparatus, 3 minutes on the rope and then rest and do that 3 times. 3 rounds of 3-minutes on the heavy bag, 3 rounds of 3-minutes jumping the ropes. Just the same time as the time you are spending in the ring.
And when you are jumping the rope, do it as fast as you can, I mean, don’t be lazy about it. Cause jumping rope, every boxer that’s ever been good could jump the rope very good, you know, cross it and double jump it and that’s what they should do. And each, just do one of those like you do in the ring: 3 minutes, rest a minute, then do 3 minutes.
And I put it up in that report, I saw this guy and I said “wait, wait a minute, you keep standing there and hitting that heavy bag”, and I said “ you move with that bag. Just like it’s an opponent. And use proper footwork, just like there’s an opponent. Don’t just stand there and punch on that bag and stand there.” I said, “I want you to move, when that bag moves you move.” I saw the bigger guys who didn’t hit the bag, but moved it. You know, right or left, if you hit it and it goes forward you go forward and you hit it before it starts coming back and I said, “remember your footwork as you’re doing this, cause the footwork is, not the most important thing, but it is very important.
A lot of coaches just don’t stress it enough. Because, if you are cross-footers, what we call it, you can’t use your weight. You’ll get off your balance, you’ll get all messed up and you’ll probably wind up on the floor.
Frank said a typical boxing workout usually varied from 2 to 3 hours, but no less than 2 hours.
We probably spent… when I got up to 42 I had to stood my team , my guys. And I had really smart guy. He was junior in a high school and he had a hell of a punch and he was smart. He was good. You’d tell him something and he did it. He worked until he perfected it. I had him take boys, 10 to 14 for an hour and it worked up fine that way.
Then I would go down to the gym and older ones would come in, when I did an hour after. And when they finished, if they were not completely finished when we got there, maybe Dennis had them do something extra. We would wait until they cleared up and we’d go to the gym. And we might have stayed 2 or 3 hours.
You know, I never paid much attention to the time. Because I wanted them to spend 3 minutes on each apparatus and that includes sparring. When I saw somebody trying to use heavy punches I’d stop him, “hey, you’re sparring, you’re not boxing, you’re not in the ring, fighting.” I said, “your punches are too hard, you don’t need them to throw them that hard.” I said, “if you want to hit their arm or shoulder, that’s okay, for the hard punch, but don’t go for their jaw with a hard left hook or a right cross.” It varied from 2 to 3 hours, I don’t think we were ever there for less than 2 hours.
How often should fighters spar?
Frank believed in sparring everyday, 3 rounds a day or more depending on your level.
And sparring everyday. Well, some boys, when they were beginning, yes, 5 days a week, 3 rounds. Now the younger ones, I told Denis “these younger ones, they don’t go 3 minute rounds, they go 2 minute rounds.” That’s how it was then. So, you work them that way and the older ones, of course, we went 3 minutes each time and I told them “don’t spar them, these young kids every night, they’ll get burned out.”
I said, “if they have a pair of gloves at home and they will feel like sparring on the weekend with somebody, that’s fine.” But the older ones, yeah we spared, sometimes we couldn’t get around to it.
What size gloves to spar with
Frank believed in training with lighter gloves, the same weight that you compete with. (For example, training with 10oz gloves over 16oz gloves if you are a lightweight.) Sparring should be fast to keep the fighters adjusted to the timing but with the power and intensity turned down to avoid hurting each other.
One thing I noticed this Eli was, this coach that I’ve been helping. He was working his kids out with 16 ounce gloves and I said “you know what, Eli, my boys worked out with the same gloves that they used in the ring.” We used 10 ounce gloves. That’s what Golden Gloves rule was, 10 ounce.
I said “they worked out, we spared with 10 ounce gloves. We never put those pillows on” I said, “it really is bad for them, because it messes up with their timing, having 16 ounce gloves instead of 10 ounce”. I said “ I’d throw those things in the garbage. I’d get you 10 ounce gloves and have them work with those.”
He said, “well, don’t you think it’s going to hurt when sparring?” and I said, “You’re not supposed to go all out when sparring, you’re supposed to be learning techniques and defense and offense moves and not trying to knock somebody out.”
So, I said “use those 10 ounce gloves.” I know some other coaches, that I talked to in past about the same thing, they used 16 ounces gloves and thought it gives them strength. It doesn’t. it just defeats, that extra 6 ounces just defeats the purpose of boxing.
So, you want to use the same thing that you’re going to use in the ring. If you think about it, it makes sense. Because of the timing aspect of it. I was trying to think on an analogy to compare it to another sport. Well, like football, if guy works out with pads that are twice as heavy as the ones that he uses in the game. I’m not sure that’s a good analogy, but it seems to me that it would affect them somehow. It’s not the same as the real thing. It changes the timing.
The importance of having a system in the gym
Frank stressed having a structured training routine for everybody in the gym. There are usually never enough equipment and trainers for every fighter in the gym, so it’s important to have a system in place where every fighter gets his chance at all the equipment and always knows what to do next. This way you don’t have people standing around doing nothing, or doing random exercises, until they are told what to do next.
The thing is I stood them up and they knew when they came in cause I had a schedule on the board, “This is your schedule, I’m going to number you guys from 15 through 42, or 20 through 42, and 20 through 24 and you’re going to be hitting heavy bags.”
Cause I had 2 heavy bags, I had 2 speed bags, I had lots of ropes, I had ropes for everybody. And I would have more jumping rope, because I had more ropes. I didn’t have enough heavy bags for all of them to be hitting, or even half of them to be hitting the bags. It just would not have been enough time.
You have to organize what you can do there, split them up and this section – would do this and then they moved to rope and then moved to the shadowboxing and then move to sparring then they moved to the wall exercise. And that way you have a method, you have a system and when they come in the gym they know what they’re going to do, cause it’s outlined.
You go this group will do this and this and this… they’ll go from this to this and this… and this group will go from this to this to this… and it makes it easier on the coach. And it makes it easier for them. Because they know what they going to do.
These guys here (referring to a gym he visited recently), man, I met 3 coaches here and I walked in the gym and I couldn’t believe it, they were just standing around and boys were just all doing something, I mean, he didn’t know what they were doing. You know, they were doing something, but he did have a bell, it went off every 3 minutes and it stayed off for, this electric bell, it stayed off for a minute and then go 3 minutes and ring again. But outside of that, none of them were organized.
Frank starts to share his streetfighting stories.
Well, you know, my granddaughter, got her iPad and she said “grandpa, I want you to box for me” and I said “why?”, she said “because I want to take a picture of you doing it.” She was amazed at how fast my hands were and she showed it to everybody. Her boyfriend came over a while back and I had met him.
He said “man, I sure will treat your granddaughter right” cause he said “I saw how quick you are, I wouldn’t mess with you for anything.” And I said “well, good” because I don’t really like to fight. He said “you were a boxer?” I said “hey, it’s different. Boxing is different than fighting.”
I never started a fight, I just wasn’t that kind of a person. And I learned something that a street fighter, and I think you recognize this, that what he’s going to do is that he’s going to throw his right. 99% of the time a street fighter will throw his right.
I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. So, what you do is you fake your left jab and throw your left up cause you know it’s coming and then you go straight for his nose cause you hit a guy that always, his coming in. I broke a couple of noses on guys lot bigger than me. And that was the end of the fight, one punch.
I told my boxers, one day, one night, I said “I’m going to teach you”, that’s why I had 42 boxers, I had them all sit down and I said “I’m going to show you some things about street fighting, but if I hear of you starting a fight, you going to be suspended, I don’t know how long, but it depends on what happens, but don’t be starting a fight.”
I said, “I will show you how to protect yourself.” I said, “first of all, we are going to talk about the rules of the street fighting” I said “do you know what they are?” they said, “no”. I said “there are none”. There are no rules in the street fighting, so you have to be prepared.
And when I told them about blocking that right, they said “what if the guy is left-handed?” I said “well, if you think you are going to be in a fight look at his feet, if he’ left-handed his left foot won’t be forward, his right foot will be somewhat forward. Cause if this guy’s feet cross, what we call cross-feet, you know perpendicular to each other, if he hits he can hurt you, cause he’s not using anything, but his arm. So, just glance down his feet and see how he is standing.
Cause if his left-handed, his right foot is going to be a bit forward. That’s just the way that street fighters are. I said “the most of the time, they don’t throw anything, but those what we call haymaker, roundhouses, they probably hurt their fist worse than if they were personally hit.
Frank shares even more of his streetfighting stories.
Because a boxer can beat a street-fighter. I’ve done it. I’ve beaten guy 6’1, 195 pounds. Because they were going to kick my ass. I said, ”well, okay.” I was principle of this village. I had to go over to meeting. And I went to, I used to drink a little beer from time to time, play pool. That’s what I was doing that night. I got tired I said “I’m going to the car. I’m tired.”
I went out there and I didn’t know that man’s wife was in the car. She was a good-looking woman and I was just sitting there talking to her. And he comes out, he’s been drinking probably too much. But he was a big guy, worked in the oil field, tough, big tough guy. He comes to the car and he jerks that car door open and he says “I’m going to kick your ass for flirting with my wife.” I said “I’m not flirting with your wife. We’re just having a conversation.” He said “no, I’m not going to buy this little shit.” I’m sorry about the language, but that’s the way he told me.
I said “if you back away from the car, I will get out.” He said “sure, I’ll back away.” I said “just get away from the car.” Cause, I knew that if I had some room to maneuver, I knew what I was going to do. And I knew what he was going to do. And I knew more. If you know what your enemies going to do, cause I was in the service between the career work. If you know what your enemies going to do, man, you have an advantage.
Anyway, this guy, he was going to kick my… you know… So, I got out of the car and I faked a left jab and boy, here it comes. I was already ready for the it. I blocked his right and I went for his nose and broke it. That was the end of the fight. And he was at least 40 pounds heavier than me, 6 foot tall. But when I broke his nose, that was it.
And I saw that man, 2 or 3 months later in the grocery store and he said “god, man, why didn’t you tell me you were a boxer?” I said, “why didn’t you ask me? you were just interested in beating the heck out of me because you thought I was flirting with your wife, and I said I didn’t touch her.” He apologized. I said “well, I’m sorry I broke your nose, but what’s a little guy like me gonna do?” I had to defend myself.
There’s some other occasions. I was in a bar once. And this guy said don’t dance with that woman. She had flown her plane down from Anchorage down to where we lived. And a good looking woman, had her own plane. Cessna 180. and I danced with her. I was a good dancer, she was good-looking. Here he comes. He comes over and he says “hey, that’s my woman tonight, you don’t dance with her.”
He didn’t know I was a boxer. He said “don’t you dance with her anymore.” He said “ I saw how you were getting little close” and this and that, you know… I just looked at him and said “whatever.” He said “I MEAN IT!” And I thought “boy I just can’t wait till the next song, because I’m going to go dance with her.” And I did and I danced with her and I sat down and he came over, boy he came flying right to the table, where I was and he said “what did I tell you?! Didn’t I tell you not to dance with her, that’s my woman.” I said “that’s not your woman.”
I said “I know you and I know that your wife and your 3 kids have gone to Oklahoma. He said “how do you know that?” I said “I just know. I know a little about you.” Cause I think my wife once told me that she knew his wife.
But I said “that’s not your woman. your woman is in Oklahoma.” but anyway, he said “you want it here or outside?“ Boy, that was an opening for me! I said “oh let’s go outside. We don’t want to get thrown in jail for fighting in here and messing up and breaking stuff. that could happen.” He said “only thing I’m going to break is your damn nose.”
Well, we went outside and it didn’t last long. I’ll make it short. He was in the dirt, it was summertime and it actually gets warm, there’s no snow or ice all the time. I hit him and knocked him under the sign and it does kind of feel ugly, when he slid under my punch. I let him hit me first. I didn’t think he was going to do it. I thought he was just bluffing. He hit me and busted my lip, not real bad, but it didn’t hurt me. And when he did, then I tore into him with two left jabs, right cross, left hook and then I hit him again with a right cross and that’s when I knocked him under that sign. And his friends said “you’vekilled the SOB.” I said “nah, he’s been drinking enough that he’ll be alright.” He said “man, I can’t believe that you beat him that quick.”
“Well, I learned the hard way” that’s what I told him. Then I met him later on and he said “man, that’s worst ass kicking I ever got.” So that was a small town with a lot of roughnecks and roustabouts and oilfield workers and big truck drivers and stuff.I was a teacher. I was teaching math and science in the 7th and 8th grade.
He said “man, for a teacher you sure surprised the hell out of me. Cause I thought I’d go out, kick your butt and that’d be the end of it.” He said “man, you hit hard.” I said “well, I didn’t ask for it, did I?” he said “no, no, you didn’t. I deserved what I got.” I said “well, I’m glad you feel like that.”
I said “we could be friends.” He said “I want to be. I want to have you around, just in case I get in trouble somewhere.” I said “I’m not going to fight your fights for you.” Sometimes I think, the only way I got to be 80 years old was with the help of the God. God wanted me to be here for some reason.
Maybe it’s to work with the boys. I send emails out occasionally. As soon as I write up. I didn’t go to Bible School, but I was in church most of my life. I paid attention in classes that I was in.
Old School boxing coaching
How he built a championship boxing team
Frank tells me how he built an incredible boxing club out of a small town in Texas. He basically did his own version of PR back in the days and was clever to put boxing in front of everyone in the town.
This is not a fight town to start with. There’s never been a good fighter to come out of here, well except Jose’s son. He was good, he won the state golden gloves 2-3 times and a guy named Kerl Ellington, he won state. There was another one. I only knew of 3 that were state champions.
I am sure there might have been some more, but it’s just not a fight town. The newspaper does have them in the paper occasionally, and I told the coach, I said “you need to go down to this newspaper and talk to this sports writer.” I said, “get him to come down to the gym and take pictures, especially when you are having these smokers”, and we call them smokers, you know, when you invite another club to come and fight your club. “Tell the reporter to come down, take pictures and put it in the papers.” I said, “that way you are going to get the city behind you.
Especially, like when we started winning, I wish you could see my album, I kept records. The records in 76 and 77 was lost in a flood. It washed our gym away and everything in it, all of the materials I had there. And we had been winning so often that the city was behind us, the city of 30,000, Plainview, Texas. We had plumbers, we had electricians, we had carpenters, they all came down and rebuilt and repainted. I mean it was a better gym than what we had.
But I lost records, because I left them down there. In about 78 and 79, I made sure that these records were with me. I kept them at my house. But I have a photo album, that is full of really good pictures and write-ups that we had in the newspaper, like “Plainview wins his thirtieth straight tournament”. And people paid attention to that “gosh, what’s going on? They must be doing something right.”
Frank starts telling me about his team but then gets caught up in talking about a middleweight, the only famous boxer to come out of Plainview.
I started with 4 boxers. See, one reason it wasn’t a fight town… it was one time, but 1948 Laverne Roach was a middleweight there in Plainview. He worked his way up the ladder to about 3rd or 4th in the world. And he went to New York, Madison Square Garden and met Marcel Cerdan (105wins-2 losses at the time) and Marcel Cerdan beat the crap out of him badly.
So bad that the doctor said “no more, you can’t box anymore, because you have a slight brain injury.” And Laverne didn’t. He didn’t box for 3 months, he sold insurance, but he just couldn’t, he had that aim to box and he went to a doctor that okayed him to fight. And he was good, I mean, it didn’t take him long. He was fighting back up there and in the top 5 in the world and in fact, I’ll make it short, what happened was that at Chicago he met Georgie Small, who caught him with some hard punches.
In his last fight, I still have video of that quarter he hit him and knocked him down and he was gone, he killed him. So, that killed boxing in Plainview from 50 until 1976.
Frank tells me how he started the “Plainview Ruffians”, the amateur boxing team that he started and coached. He tells me how he quickly amassed 42 boys into his team in only a few months.
Maybe in late 75, I went to a tournament, I took my son, he was pretty young then, my youngest son, cause he wanted to box and I took him to a tournament and I saw these 4 boys, they were relatives, brothers and cousins, and they were from Plainview.
And after the fights, I saw a lot of good talent in them and I said “whose coaching you boys?” I got them and called them over. I said, “I’d like to talk to you guys, I’m a former Golden Gloves champion and I’m getting into boxing some more. I said, “I coached in college”, I said, “I coached a lot of talent”. I got them and I told them, I said “whose coaching you?” and he said “ohhh, it’s my uncle and he doesn’t know anything”. They knew it. They knew that he didn’t know what he was doing.
I said, “well, I know how to coach and I know what boxing is.” I said, “how would you like for me to be your coach?” “awwww mannnn, we’d love that”. Cause I told them, I’d do that myself. So, I started with those 4 boys and I said, “I’ll tell you what I want you to do”, I said, “I want to build a team and I want to build a team that is the best in the state and that’s my goal.”
When you’re out about school, anywhere and you see somebody that you think might be a boxer or might want to box ask them. You say, “we got a good coach down there, he can teach you how to fight.” That’s what they’d say and I said tell them to come down to the gym and they’ll see and so they were my advocates sort of, so to speak.
They brought in a lot of guys, just word of mouth. And then as we got better, the boys came to the gym, no one had to encourage them, cause they saw what we were doing. And before I knew it, I had 42 boys. I mean not overnight or a month, but 2-3 months. I think one time I had a little over that number, but that was pretty close to the number that I had most of the time.
Frank felt the better fighters typically came from the more impoverished neighborhoods.
Here, it’s a shame, I mean the boxing, this sport, it would make you throw up. It’s just different, these boys are not… they’re not like the boys I had. You know, a lot of my boys came from what we call the barrio, I don’t know if you’ve heard that expression, the barrio. (“Barrio” is a Spanish word meaning “neighborhood” but typically used in English to refer to poor and lower-class neighborhoods.)
Kids that lived in houses with dirt floors. Cause I went to their house, I met every parent. When the guy started I went to his house and I discussed this with them. I said “ you sure you want your boy down there doing this?” and you know, I’d just have a meeting with them.
I went in this house, and this kid lived in the house, with about 4-5 kids. It’s a dirt floor, and not very neat and I was like “oh gosh, no wonder this guy wants to fight.” He doesn’t get much attention here, except beat up, abused. I saw that in his dad. That night, I felt like saying “sir, would you step outside with me.” Because he had mentioned about how his dad strapped him around and when I saw the man, he was bigger than me, but that didn’t make or mean any difference.
But I didn’t do that, I felt like saying that. But this kid, his dad really toughened up, and after he got going and he was winning fights, his dad would come to the gym and sit and watch him work out and he’d come talk to me and it just did him some good, because that abuse stopped. When he saw what was going on with his boy. And his boy was getting better and better and better and winning every fight and boy that made his dad proud. And it was a twofold thing there. Taught him how to box and I got him away from home abuse. I couldn’t build him a new house.
That’s kind of the boys I had though. A lot of them were Chicano’s from the barrio. I had a few black boys, I had a quite few white kids, just a pretty good mixture.
I asked Frank, “What would you say the problem is with most gyms today, with their technique or the way they train or the way they run the gym or even the fighters or the coaches, what’s missing from today’s boxing gym?”
Frank felt the problem with most gyms was that they didn’t have a system for training. Everybody for the most part was doing their own thing. Another problem was lack of family support. Frank felt it was important for fighters to have their family’s support in their boxing. Having family support lead to more success in the ring and also a better environment at home.
Well, what I found here was, they didn’t have a system, they didn’t have a method. They just, the boys came in and they told them ”go jump the rope, go hit the bags”. They didn’t show them the proper way to do it.
I would get my boys and sit them down on the floor and we would go from one apparatus to another and I’d show them footwork, I’d show them how to hit the heavy bag, I’d show them how to hit the speed bag. That’s what they weren’t doing here. The boys came in and they did whatever they wanted to. He said, ”I’ll jump the rope” and they jump the rope.
You have to have a system, that’s what’s missing in lots of them. And boys nowadays, lot of them going into gangs, and they make good money out selling drugs and they’re not interested in boxing. Some of them could probably be good boxers.
But, the home environment has a lot to do with boxing today, because these homes that I visited here, I didn’t visit very many of them, I visited a few, just curiosity, and they couldn’t care less if their boy boxed or not. Some of them thought it’s a good idea, but they don’t really push it until they start seeing his pictures in the newspaper and he started telling how he wont a fight or something. So, it’s the home life. The family doesn’t get behind him and then the coaches most of it is their fault, they don’t organize.
They need to organize, they need a method, they need a system, and do it, put it on the bulletin board, whatever. I would write–up things like I sent to you and I would make my boys read it. I said, “I want you not to just only read it, I want you to digest it.” You mean eat it?! I said, “don’t get smart, digest means that you read it until you know it by heart.”
I said “you can’t do it by reading it once or twice, read it over and over until it’s solidified your brain and you know that it comes out when you’re working out.” You feel it, you feel “I read it this is a way to do it, so I’m going to do it this way.” So, the coach telling them and them reading it makes a difference.
I asked Frank, “How do you feel about today’s boxing technique?” He felt that the coaches nowadays don’t really understand the sport of boxing. And this makes it easy for them to commit common mistakes such as over-training their fighters (burning them out) or allowing their fighters to develop bad habits (because the fighters and even the coaches don’t know better).
Well, lot of that is kind of what I mentioned, I don’t think the coaches, that are coaching, the ones that I felt was I don’t know why they are coaching, because they really don’t know, they don’t know enough about the game. They are just like me trying to coach football. I couldn’t coach football. I played a little bit, but I couldn’t coach it. I don’t know that much about how to coach it.
They need to learn how to do it. And that’s what I tried to do to these coaches here. I’ve given them the same thing that I gave you, basically. I wrote up something for them to study. I said, “Do it this way, it works. I’ve got proof of it.” I said, “I’ll bring my photo album down here and show you.” And they were amazed at the pictures the write ups.
I said, “Well, when you do it right, you get a system and follow it then you’re going to be a good coach. But you’re going to have to learn all these things yourself. You’re going to have to learn exactly how to do footwork, exactly how to throw a left jab, how to throw this combination, that combination, how long you should do this, how long you should run. Jose was on his boys 5 miles, 5 days a week. Then going to gym and working out and he was losing his boxers and didn’t know why.
So, I told him, I said “Jose, you’ve been burning your boys out. It’s too much.” I said, “run them 3 times a week, run them hard” and I said I ran with mine most the time. These coaches here would say “alright, you guys go run.” They didn’t supervise them at all. They may have run around the corner, a few blocks and sit around and talk to each other, who knows what they did.
I said, “you have to know what your boys are doing. If he’s not doing something right, don’t let him do it very long, cause if he does something wrong enough times it will be very hard to break him of that habit.” I said, “what I’m teaching you is to do things by habit and if you do it right enough times, you can do it instinctively, automatically. You don’t have to think – what combination do I use here in this situation?” It’s there, you learned that in sparring. And that’s your job, when they’re sparring, you watch both, you look between the boxers. Don’t watch one and then the other, look between them. You can see what’s going on with both boys and make corrections, stop it.
Don’t let kids spar too young. Their brains don’t solidify until 9 years old. Also the importance of training in a gym.
It’s like, I walked in this gym and this one guy Eli, and I walked in and this larger kid, was boxing this kid that wasn’t even 9 years old. And I said “stop that fight!”, he said “what?!”. I said, “stop that fight, right now or I’m going to stop it!” he said, “what’s wrong?” I said “two things: that boy is not 9 years old, is he?”, “well, he’s almost.” I said “you know, you’re setting yourself up for big liable suit, because there’s a spot in your head that didn’t solidify the rest of your brain until you’re a good 9 years old. I wouldn’t let my 9-year-old, I would let him come to the gym and work out, but I wouldn’t put him in a tournament.
When they turn 10, I knew it was okay, if they were good enough when they boxed. He said “I didn’t know that.” The other thing is don’t box, don’t spar boys so much bigger than the other one, cause it doesn’t do either one of them any good. Cause the little guy is going to get his heck beat out of him and the big guy thinks he’s really something and he’s not really proving anything. He’s proving that he can beat a smaller kid. I said “that’s what!”
I started to say “why did you even want to coach boxing?” he didn’t have that many boys and they have a hard time keeping them. Jose coached for 32 years, 20 of those years about, I can’t remember when he called me, we moved here in 88 and I think it was 90 or 91. We had that tough man contest and I was refereeing and he saw me moving and I think my son told him, cause he knew he was, he had the only gym here and it was a small gym, too small. The gym was too small.
Don’t try to develop a team in a garage. Just can’t do it. Even if it’s a big garage, you need a gym. Anyway, Jose, he worked hard with the boys, but he was running them too much. That was one thing and they were lifting heavy weights, even those kids that weighed 105 pounds, were trying to bench 150 pound, whatever. I told him , I said “it will be better to get a lighter weight and do reps with it.”
So many things, go through my mind. And I think have I said that or not?! There’s a lot to this game and I don’t know what causes some of this guys to want to coach when they haven’t even boxed. Why do they want to coach? They just want the name or? They want to be able to say, “I’m a boxing coach here.”
Old School boxing tips for competition
Knowing what to say to fighters
Frank shares how he coached his fighters for a fight. The importance of being relaxed. And how to tell them little things to keep their confidence high. (Listening to his voice, there was an eery similarity to how I remember Cus D’amato coaching Mike Tyson’s psyche.)
Well, relaxation is one of the things they have to do. They have to be relaxed. Some guys can warm up and really get after, throw a lot of punches, move around, jump around. And some, they are not ready. They’re not in good enough condition for that, but that’s, you see boxers, if you watch it on TV, watch the you see these boxers. You see these boxers on TV, they throw punches, they know what they’re doing. They’re relaxing themselves. And that’s what they got to do. To think “relax, relax.” And use your mouth, open your mouth wide and relax your jaw. I think if you watch very much boxing, you’ve seen Holyfield and some of them do that. They’d walk towards the ring and they’d be opening their mouth.
That relaxes their jaw and face. It’s a good thing. If they get in the ring and they’re not relaxed, that’s not good. Because tension will defeat them. They’ll give out too quick. So, you do things to make’em relax. You know, I’ve seen this guy, I know his record, you know, tell little lies. Don’t tell big lies. Tell them “you’re not going to have a problem with this guy. Listen to me, you’re not.”
I’ll give you this example and I’m not going to tell you anymore about that. But if you ask me, I’ll tell you how I prepared this one boy. He was a novice. He was a black kid, but he was a natural. I mean you’d tell him something once and he did it. Anyway, he was pretty good.
Well, we went to regional in Alamo, Texas and this kid’s name was Bobo Navarette. He had never lost a fight and he had 40, they told me 40 fights. This my kid had 9. He had won all of them. And he came up to me and he said “coach, you know who I’m fighting in the finals?” I said “yeah, sure I do. So, what?” He said “Bobo! Bobo has never lost.” I said “listen to me, he’s gonna to lose tonight.” he said “yeah?” I said “yeah. I’m going to help you. We’re going to beat him. I’m going to tell you how to do it, okay?” “okay.”
Then you know, the last night they have the trophies out and you see the big trophies for the winners. I said “look over there. Which one of those trophies would you wish you had, that little one or the bigger one?” “that big one.” I said“ we’re going to get that.” “really?!” he was all excited and I said “just relax and listen to me I said we’re going to beat Booboo. I know how to beat him.”
I said “he’s a set up boxer.” I said “ if you let him set up and start boxing you, you are going to have a hard time.” I said “ you can take punch.” And I said “you can give a punch and you’re fast. Here’s what we are going to do.” I said “when that bell rings, I want you to get him almost the time he gets off of his stool. I mean run at him, like you’re going to run over him and just start throwing punches. I mean throw’em, throw’em, throw’em. You’re in good shape.”
See, I’m putting it in his brain. “you’re in good condition, you’re not going to get tired. You are going to go after him with everything you’ve got.” And I said “we’re going to beat him.” And by god, he won a split decision. And that was the first fight that Bobo ever lost. And that was in his hometown!
Staying positive and conditioning/hypnotizing your fighter to say and think and feel whatever you want him to feel. Preparing his mind before the fight.
So, that’s the way to prepare him. Get him relaxed. Give him confidence. Tell him “hey, you can do this. You can do this.” I learned that from teaching in school, too. The repetition and telling the kids “hey, why are you having a problem with math? I mean, math is easy.” Well, it is not to some people, but you tell them it is anyway. And for some it becomes easy, because you told them over and over that it’s easy. See? It’s easy, isn’t it?
“Math is done in steps”, I said “just learn the steps. Don’t go from step 1 to step 3. I said you are going upstairs, you are not going to skip 2 steps, are you? ” “no.” “well, you don’t do that in math.” I said. That’s what my boxers answered. “We’re gonna to do things the right way and you’re going to do em because you know HOW to do em, don’t you? ”
So, you put that in their brain. You work on their brain. Get em relaxed, work on their brain “you can do this, there’s no doubt in my mind that you can do it. I know you can, can’t you?” make him answer “yes”. If he says no, then i said “well, you’re not boxing then. ” “oh, no, I didn’t really mean that.” And I’ve had that happen. I said “well, you shouldn’t say no. don’t ever tell me no! or I can’t.” I said “I don’t ever want to hear that. ever. I told you that in the gym, didn’t I?” I said that that just didn’t work with me. I said, “you can.”
Cause do you remember the saying about the little train? “I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” That’s something I learnt in the elementary school. The little choo choo train that thought he could.
That’s the way to prepare him. Everything’s positive, everything. I like the way you’re walking. I like the way you’re warming up. You look good. That’s a good left you’re throwing. That’s a good combination you’re throwing. That’s good. That’s gonna confuse him. Shifting on your foot, left, right, and then go forward and backward. Confuse him, by your movements. And tell him these things that you told him in the gym and say “remember this? remember that? Yeah, okay, cool. That’s what you’re gonna do! And you put that in your mind right now and you do it. If you do this, you are going to beat this guy. I don’t care about his record. I don’t care what he looks like.” And that’s what you do and it works. I have the record to prove it.
Being psychological and conditioning the fighter’s mind for success.
Yeah, lots of it is psychological. My minor was in psychology and I had some post-graduate work in psychology. So, that helped in my coaching, too. I coached baseball and I coached basketball and I coached boxing. And this psychology, you can use it in any of those sports, but boxing especially. A lot of coaches don’t know that and they don’t even know how to use it anyway. I mean, they could mess them up, by telling them the wrong thing.
Be positive. Relaxation, be positive, you can, I know you can, can’t you? And make them answer you – yes, yes I can. Okay, remember how to throw this combination? If I say 2 or if I yell out 2. Well we couldn’t really say anything to the boxers, so I would just say “twooooo” and then “threeeeee”. And sometimes the judges would look at me and they didn’t know “what’s he’s saying? What’s he’s talking about?” cause then you couldn’t; now you can. These coaches can talk to the boxers while they’re boxing, we couldn’t. We had to keep our mouths shut.
“I didn’t know that. You had to be quiet back then?”
Oh, you better believe it. You could not say anything to your boxer when he was out there in that 3 minutes or 2 minutes, whatever that was. No sir, you’d get disqualified. They’d give you a warning, a caution. They called it a caution. So, like a referee gives a boxer 2 cautions and when he gives him the third caution, that’s a warning. And then if he has to give him another one then the fight is over. That’s what they would do to coaches that didn’t know that you were supposed to keep quiet. When that bell rings, then that boxer is on his own.
“What was the common thing you told your boxers in the corner?”
It depended on, oh gosh, that’s a tough question because it depends on the age, it depends on what they were doing, what they were not doing. But what I concentrated on was that I’d look between the boxers. I didn’t just concentrate on my boxer. I saw what he was doing and I saw what my boxer was doing by doing that. And if he was dragging his left back and getting hit with the right cross, I’d say “you remember? I told you in the gym, when you throw that left, you jerk it back as fast as you threw it, cause a right cross is coming at you.”
You just look for the mistakes and you look for the opportunities. If you see this guy, he’s got long arms, he’s got the reach on your boxer, okay, then you compensate. You move in and you stay in and you stay in. You don’t fight him at a distance. And vice versa, if your boy has the reach then use it. Keep that boxer away from you.
If they’re not relaxing, then when you throw a punch are you exhaling through your nose? and keeping your teeth together slightly? Cause that relaxes you by making that sound with your nose. Every time you throw a punch, blow out your nose, not your mouth, because that will work reverse. So, that’s some of the things that you’re going to look for, is the positives and the negatives and you tell them. And if you’re a good corner man, you can tell him how to correct it. And some coaches are not good corner men. I saw that in some of them.
How important it was for coaches to know what to say in the corner.
They really weren’t paying attention to what was causing his boxer to lose, basically. I mean, why is he losing? Why is he getting hit? Well, it’s because that guy has reach on him and he’s trying to fight his fight, instead of going in inside, tying him up inside fighting, inside punches. Or vice versa, I don’t think they communicate the right way.
I’ve heard them say “you’re not doing your footwork.” Well, hey they should learn that in the gym and if they are not doing the footwork, well, yeah, tell them. You just look for things that are awkward and you also look for positive things. Say “Look, every time you throw that one-two punch, the left-right, you’re connecting and you’re at the right distance.”
Sometimes I would say “look, why are you throwing punches when you are not in range?” I said, “you don’t throw a punch until you’re in range.” I said, “It’s like shooting the riffle. If your riffle will only shoot 200 yards, you don’t try to kill something at 300 yards.” I said, so that’s the same thing in boxing. You don’t throw a punch until your feet are in range and you learn that, you learn that instinctively. You know it. You FEEL IT! You know EXACTLY when that moment is there and you do your thing. You either move in and fight your in-fighting or use your left jab, left jab, like Ali. Left jab, move, left jab, move, because he had a good reach.
Coaching a team of champions
Frank tells about his team’s achievements and speaks of his best fighters. His small-town boxing team of 40 boys won every regional boxing tournament in 3 years racking up a win percentage of 70.6% over staggering 1000 fights. The percentage is even more impressive when you discover that many of his boys had to fight each other in the semi-finals and finals, forcing a 50% win rate for the team.
He speaks highly of his favorite fighters, Joe Barrera, and goes over some other names. Two names that stood out in particular were the famous Norris brothers from the 90’s. I was surprised to learn that Frank had coached them for a short period when they were young boys about 10 years old.
Terry Norris was the pound-4-pound welterweight champion, having battled with the likes of Julian Jackson, John Mugabi, Sugar Ray Leonard, Donald Curry, Meldrick Taylor. His older brother Orlin Norris was the former world cruiserweight champion and heavyweight contender, having fought the likes of Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, Oliver McCall, Tony Tucker, Mike Tyson, Andrew Golota, Vitali Klitschko, Vassiliy Jirov, and Ola Afolabi.
Because that’s the things you do. That’s the things I did. And I was successful and I have the record to prove it. Our win percentage was 70.6. I mean, that’s high, but I had some boys, like 4 in the same weight class, same age, and they’d wind up fighting each other in the finals!
That’s 50% any way you look at it. That’s why my win percentage got unbelievably 70.6. cause I have the record book in my bedroom to prove it. Cause I kept the record of each boy’s fight, who he fought, where he fought, if he won or lost.
And I decided one day, you know I’ve never thought about it, how many boxers did we fight in those 3 years? So, I kind of have to guess, because the flood washed away the records that I had in 76-77. I knew we did more, but it was close to 1000 fights in those 3 years.
“So, you fought every weekend and you had 20 boys fighting every weekend or 40 boys.”
Oh, yes, at least. Sometimes we’d go to a tournament, where it was a 3-day tournament. And when it was a big tournament, they’d fight and then they’d go to the semi-finals and then the finals. And I got the points that way.
I think it was… “Plainview Ruffians”… I think, or something like. They were all ages. 10 through 20. Like a local boxing club team…Yeah… the football team was called bulldogs. I remember that real easy now. It’s just, we didn’t use our name much. Actually, the paper named us. “The Plainview boys’ club.” Yeah, that’s what they put in the paper. “The Plainview Boys’ Club wins 6 straight”. I called them RUFFIANS. “You’re a bunch of Ruffians!” Bulldogs or bulls or devils. Toros! *laughs*
“And this was in Texas you said. What has happened to that area since then?”
Oh God…they just went…well, I emailed, just recently, a few months ago, it’s kind of a long story. One of my boxers, one of my better boxers, maybe best boxers Joe Barrera, I learned his email address so I sent him an email and, boy, he fired back in. I learned that he was a preacher. And I wasn’t surprised because he was a good kid. He was a good but boy!
He was that 118 pounds and had that overhand right that I FELT! Man, we were sparring and I said “Joe, you trying to knock me out?” Joe Barrera! gosh, he’s quite a guy. He was 118, I believe he could beat most welterweights. Yeah. He could take a punch and he could give a punch. And he was fast. And that’s boxing. Take a punch, give a punch, speed. That sums it up pretty much.
The importance of going back to the basics again and again.
One thing that, I don’t know if I mentioned in my write-up to you: if a guy has been boxing for a few months and he’s not making any progress, then he needs to go back to basics, cause that’s what’s wrong. Just say “wait a minute. Let’s forget all this fancy stuff, these combinations and stuff. Let’s go back to 1-2’s, the left jab and start all over, because you’re not progressing.
So, you need to go back to the basics and let’s go through that again and I want you to do this. I want you to learn.” I said “I know it’s repetitious and it’s old stuff, but you need to do it, because you’re not progressing, like you should be.”
I ask him about how to develop high level defensive skills and we get side-tracked into talking about the Norris brothers.
A lot of it is… I had some boys that were just naturally good. Orlin Norris won the 1986 The National Golden Gloves and he became the NABF Cruiserweight champion of the world. Orlin is the lesser known older brother of former champion Terry Norris. Orlin Norris was a former cruiserweight world champion and heavyweight contender. He fought Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, Bert Cooper, Oliver McCall, Tony Tucker, Anthony Hembrick, Art Jimmerson, Arthur Williams, Adolpho Washington, Mike Tyson, Andrew Golota, Vitali Klitschko, Brian Nielsen, Vassiliy Jirov, and Ola Afolabi.)
Orlin Norris Jr. He had the best defense, I didn’t even have to teach him anything. He just was natural. Most of it, most of the defense is to be able to move at the proper time. know when to move, which direction to move, when to pivot, and how to move backward, how to move forward, etc. And keep your hands up. Like Floyd Patterson’s pick-a-boo, if you remember.
And then you remember how Ali beat Foreman? Because he wore Foreman out. He let him punch, punch, punch, punch, punch. I think it was Foreman, was it Foreman? Anyway, he used defense. He just kept his hands up and he didn’t let him hit. He didn’t let that other guy hit him. And he intentionally did this and wore the guy out. So, in the latter rounds, he started pouring it on him, cause he had a lot of energy. He was relaxed and he had his hands up. He was protecting his mid section. And these guys down here, one of them didn’t even know what a medicine ball was.
I said, “You get one.” I said “if you can’t afford it, I’ll buy you one.” I said “get your boxer on the floor and drop this on his belly, several times, not a lot of times to start with, and not real high to start with. Just use common sense! And then have them throw the ball to one other that weighs 20 pounds. I said “throw it to one another”. There’s another exercise that you can do that’s good. but drop that medicine ball on there and get a little bit higher and a little bit higher and you get their solar plexis and stomach muscles in condition where they can take a pretty damn good mid-section punch.
“So, Frank you trained Orlin Norris in the amateurs.”
One year. And his brother, Terry.
Ohhhhhhhh, the welterweight?! (It just hit me that he trained the Norris brothers as kids.)
Yeah, the super-welterweight champion of the world. In fact he was named, some years ago the best fighter p4p in the world. Yes, yes. He was 10 years old then, when he was boxing in my gym. Just didn’t spend a lot of time. But I told his dad “Orlin, your boys are really good.” I said “they’re going to go a long ways in this if they want to.” And I said, “I think they do.” And I said “I think they will.”
And they did. They lived in Lubbock, Texas, which was few miles from where we were.They would come up, but they moved… well, you see, Orlin won in 86, the National Golden Gloves and went pro, okay?! Terry did not. He went to college on a baseball scholarship. He had quit boxing, but he played shortstop and the ball was hit to him and this guy, possibly bigger than him, cause he was at that time a lightweight. He was a 136-137 pounds probably. This guy, intentionally, knocked him about halfway down and Terry went after him, and beat the crap out of him and in fact, knocked him out. Here comes this big third baseman over, he’s going to take it for his buddy. As soon as he knocked that guy out, the third baseman jumped on him and he knocked him out.
Stefiano, oh God, what’s his name, his promoter. Of course, he got kicked out of college for that, but…god… I can’t think of his name. I said it a dozen of times, but he was from San Diego. He was a boxing promoter. He was in the stands, watching the baseball game and saw Terry do this and he cornered him after the game or after he was thrown off the field, cause they pulled him. And he said “hey, you got a future in something besides baseball.”
And Terry was ready, so he had a place from to work out in the gym, told him what it was. He said “come down, let’s get started. We’re gonna go to the top.” I can’t think of his name. when you get 80 years old, you’re brain is as old as your body. Stefiano, or something like that. I’ll think about it for a while after we finish this conversation. But, he’s probably still in San Diego, I don’t know.
“What other boxers have you worked with that turned pro or became champion later or, you know, got big later?”
Well, only Dennis, the one I was telling you about, that coached my little guys. Dennis Cravy. He won pro, he fought a guy, I can’t think of his name, he was light-heavyweight in Houston and they say it was a really good fight. The guy that he fought became a world champion. Dennis Cravy. Yeah, I don’t even know where he is.
He just had that one fight. He was smart and he had an academic scholarship. He was very smart. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t know what happened to him. I know he finished college and did something. He wasn’t living in Plainview anymore.
“Did you have a handful of guys go to the Olympics or nationals or anything like that?”
No, some of them did, after I left, but I don’t know. I didn’t keep in touch with them. Joe told me a few names, but Gosh, I can’t remember. But they went to state and did pretty good. Orlin’s the only one that I know of that went on and won national. There was a kid. Peewee Parker, he was a little guy, but he became one of the top 10 fighters in his class. That’s what I was told. Joe Barrera was the one who told me.
But other than that, I just kind of lost track when we moved. Because I thought “well, I’ve done my bit. And I just kind of lost track of boxing. They called me here and I got back into it.”
“What city was this gym in Texas?”
Plainview. It was just the Plainview Boys’ Club. I think they’ve moved from where we were and it’s actually a “boys and girls club” now. It’s in a new building. That’s what I heard a few years ago. I don’t know. I know that the coach that took my place, he learned quite a bit from me. He had twins, that were pretty good boxers.
I think he did pretty good according to what Joe told me. but Joe said that he didn’t win tournaments like we did. He won few here and there, but a lot of guys quit boxing when I left. Probably 50% of the team quit after I left.
Frank was once a referee for some time as well.
I enjoy, Johnny, helping people with boxing. I have never gotten away from it. I just all these years, they had a gym here. We moved here in 88 and they had a place here where they had tough men contest and my son did some plumbing for the guy that owned that place. My son told him all about me and the guy gives me a call and says “hey, I’m starting this thing, tough men thing in couple of days, couple of nights and he said “I’d like you to come down as a referee”.
I said “who told you I could referee?”. He said “haha, your son, he knows all about you.” My son knew I had gone to the referee school after I quit coaching boxing. I did some refereeing and I thought about doing it professionally, but it would have been kind of hard for me. There is not that much money in it till you get up to, well, like Lane, what’s his name. He died few years ago, that guy was a perfect excellent referee, Mills Lane.
He was in the Marines, really tough guy and really good referee. I was surprised when I heard he had died. I was kind of shocked. It looked like he was in really good shape and the way he moved around in the ring. Something happened and I don’t know what It was.
Meeting his childhood idol, Rocky Marciano
He talked about meeting Rocky when he was retired from boxing and refereeing for fights.
You either move in and fight your in-fighting or use your left jab, left jab, like Ali. Left jab, move, left jab, move, because he had a good reach. Foreman was powerful. He depended on power and he could hit. His power punch was around 900 and that’s high, because a 45 slug is only 420. And Rocky Marciano, who I met and had dinner with in Anchorage, I think I told you that, but he depended on his power punch. His arms were 2 inches shorter than mine! And he was a heavy weight!
And he knew how to use that. I’ve heard this, that the other heavyweight would say “man, by the 4th or 5th round my arms were already hurting from him hitting me in the arms. He hits so hard and that’s why he was 49-0. The only undefeated heavyweight ever, because he had so much power and he used it properly. He was unorthodox, you’d watch him and that’s when I was my best in the 50’s. That’s when he was world champion. That’s how I met him. When I went to those fights that he was refereeing. I got a seat at the isle.
That was the greatest moment. I’ll never forget it. And I’ll won’t forget when I heard that he got killed. It’s like losing a brother. He was my hero and then when he asked me to go dinner with, oh man! here I am, an old school teacher and I’m going to dinner with undefeated world champion. A guy that i idolized! OH mannn! He was such a nice guy, oh man!
It was such a pleasure. And when I shook hands with him, hehehe, did he have a grip? Oh boy, even though he’d been out of the ring for quite some time, this was in 1966. He still had a lot of strength! but I was ready for that. I knew, I hate to shake hands with somebody that stick their hands out and they don’t squeeze your hand. It’s like handling a fish. I can tell a man’s personality; when he shakes my hand like that, I want to say “what kind of a wimp are you?” Oh boy, woo. well, I hope I covered that, what you asked me.
Frank’s life outside of boxing
Frank sent me a book that he wrote about his life a few years back and I have to say it was one of the most heart-touching things I had ever seen. What he did outside the ring was far more meaningful than what he could have ever done for boxing, and that’s saying a lot. His life reads like a movie.
He grew up poor on a 160-acre farm with 4 other siblings. His parents were both loving, strong, and talented. The kids worked the farm and had chores everyday, going to church every Sunday. His grandparents were killed in a tornado as they ate dinner. His mother passed at the tender age of 43, when he was only 19. This would change his life, causing him to get a little wild for some time. He would drop out of college and join the military service. (He did later go back to college and get a Bachelor’s degree in education, which opened the door for teaching jobs.)
He served in the military during the Korean War. He was a schoolteacher, a principal, a Frito-Lay delivery man, a business-owner and a school bus driver, and also a Golden Glove boxing coach. And at one time, became the local medicine man for a small village in Alaska (only accessible by plane), saving lives using only the medical knowledge he had learned from his own self-study and from speaking with visiting doctors. The Governor of Alaska and Senator Ted Stevens would later congratulate him for his medical work.
Frank Dunlap is today, finally retired, and visits the local boxing gym on his free time where he currently lives in New Mexico.
I think I put this in my email, that my cardiologist wrote me a personal letter. I got a letter from him “Gosh, why do I get a letter from him?” I opened it and he just congratulated me for writing the book. He said “This is actually one of the best books I’ve ever read. Fairly short, but very well written and very interesting.” He said in the last paragraph “What you did in that remote village in Alaska, clinically or medically, was a phenomenon. It’s just incredible; you didn’t have any medical experience, other than first aid.” There was a doctor who would fly over to the village there for three months and hold a week’s clinic.
And he would stay in my house. I picked his brain when he was at my house and then when school was out everyday, I’d run down to the clinic and I’d help him if he closed at night. This was a week-long and then he left me the PDR, you know what a PDR is? Position’s District. He left me lots of medical journals and books. I studied the cardiovascular system, the circulatory system and you know, just the whole anatomy of the body.
I learned to suture and I gave injections, I drew blood. I did everything that they do in the ER, just about. It’s in the book. I am not gonna tell you anymore; you’ll be like “oh, you already told me this”; it’s in the book. I’m glad I did it, I wrote it two years ago and I have a retired doctor, he lives two doors down from me, he and I have become friends and he said “Frank, why don’t you write another book?” And I said “No, I’m too old.” I don’t know how I did that; I just did it.” He said “you’re not too old”, he says, “Gosh, it’s very interesting”.
I made a little bit money, I did charge $12 for it, but I got like 20, and 15, and my doctor sent me 30, he also said “this book is worth more than $12, Frank.” But, I did not write it to make money. I wrote it because… I just felt like doing it. Anyway, those last 50 that I had made, I gave away half of those. They gave me a pretty good price on them. They charged me little over $7 per copy. I sold enough of em to pay for that and then I just gave the rest of them away. I didn’t write it to make money. I paid for the publishing, that was the price as far as I was concerned.
Why he left boxing
Frank ultimately left boxing when he met his wife and moved away for work-related reasons.
Probably 50% of the team quit after I left. When we first moved back to Pagosa springs, where I met my wife, 53 years ago and then she went to work for the US postal system while I was in Plainview and then she was transferred over here to Farmington, New Mexico. That’s how we got here. We’ve been together for 52 years and I was retired.
I was still teaching then [when he was coaching the boxing team]. I didn’t retire from teaching until 84. And I left. So, I got a job teaching. I finished 29 years and I retired and just the way it was. It wouldn’t make difference if it was 29 or 30 I’d still get the same benefits.
“Frank, I think I’m going to take a break and drink some water and relax.”
You know what?! That’s not a bad idea. We’ve been talking for at least an hour.
“I’ve got 4 hours and 13 minutes.”
Oh my God! That’s what happens when you get into something that you love. My wife would tell me “Frank, do you have to tell them all the details?!”, I said “well, I get into it and they ask me questions and well, I answer them!” “So, you don’t have to spend an hour telling me about your boxing”, she said, “they’re probably get tired of it.” I said “well, they should not ask me questions then.” I don’t initiate the boxing thing. I try not to, because if I do then “ohhhhh, yeah, this, and that…” So…yeah… I try to “okay, yeah, I did that.” I don’t really get into details.
This is so great. This is so helpful. Thank you so much. You’ve said many helpful things for the young guys today.
I’m glad. I kind of wondered if things were going as well as they had. And seems like they had gone pretty well. And I’m glad I sent you the email with all that information. And I think we’ve covered few things that I didn’t put in there. And I knew that would happen because I just sat down that night and wrote that up. And I, you know, I didn’t do it real quickly, but if I had taken little bit more time, I probably would have gotten tired and a bit discouraged.
But, anyway, I’m glad that I’ve been of some benefit to you. I appreciate you calling me. I won’t forget this conversation. It’ll go with me to my grave. And umm, I just uh…I don’t know how to thank you but I’ll say that. I think you for taking interest in me. It makes me feel good that I know something that I can pass on to somebody that really wants it and can use it.
“You know, this is what I love to do.”
I know that. I can tell that. Oh Gosh, nobody has kept me this long on the phone. Cause you’ll get 80 years old and you’ll remember “Gosh, how did he last that long?”. Ahhhh…Just because I enjoy it, that’s why. Great part of my life.