Monday, April 27, 2009

From the champ...

Saw a sad note on the sports wire this afternoon, when word came that Greg Page died at the age of 50. He's the only heavyweight boxing champion who ever sent me an e-mail. That's an intriguing way of doing a Paul Harvey impression and giving you "the rest of the story."

Page was a boxer who hit his prime in the 1980's, mostly noted for having all the potential in the world but not using a great deal of it for a variety of reasons. He did win the heavyweight boxing championship, or at least one of the two dozen such titles floating around, when he defeated Gerry Coetzee in Sun City, South Africa, in 1984.

Five months later, Page defended his title against Tony Tubbs in Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo. Page put on a rather dreary showing, doing very little against the mediocre Tubbs. After the fight, my friend Dave Kerner overheard promoter Don King going up to Page and saying, "You blew it." King was right; Page lost the decision.

And if losing a title wasn't enough, Page got back to his hotel room and discovered that a break-in had cost him his championship belt, a $13,000 watch and a $10,000 black mink coat belonging to his road cook. He didn't do any ads for the Chamber of Commerce after his visit.

Page kept boxing on and off from there, hanging on until 2001. Then he was injured in a fight in which he suffered brain damage. He was in a coma for a week, suffered a stroke, and had some paralysis.

At some point, a writer -- I think it was from the Boston Globe -- mentioned that Page was trying to overcome all of those disabilities. It also said he was accepting e-mails from fans, and gave the address. So, for whatever reason, I sent a quick note saying that I had seen him fight in Buffalo and that I was hoping he'd recover. Page actually wrote back. I'm not sure if you'd call it a form letter, as the English was a little choppy, but he wrote that he appreciated the support and was hopeful he'd bounce all the way back.

I'm not sure if Page is the most famous person ever to send me an e-mail; he's probably below Roger Ebert on the fame list. Still, it's a little sad to hear his last fight ended this way.

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