A Boxing Memory: Floyd ‘Jumbo’ Cummings
The contribution to boxing was short-lived, but like his life, it was most certainly eventful.
Floyd ‘Jumbo’ Cummings retired Joe Frazier, yes we can say that, although Father Time did it better. He bit Renaldo Snipes on the shoulder and knocked out Frank Bruno out on his feet. Both Snipes and Bruno recovered to beat Cummings. A case of what could have been. Very much the story of his life.
Cummings was born in 1949 in Mississippi and was raised by his grandmother. First arrested when he was just 8, the pattern was already set.
The life of professional boxing started in 1979. Cummings was 29 when he began punching for pay. The heavyweight hopeful had only recently been paroled after serving 12 years in Stateville Correctional Center for murder stemming from an armed robbery at a grocery store. Cummings was only 17 when he was given a 50-75 year sentence for his part in the robbery in Chicago.
Alongside his weightlifting regime, where he earned the ‘Jumbo’ moniker, Cummings began learning his new trade in prison. He was transported to fights outside of his place of residence in chains, somehow he was forging a new life from his life behind bars. Despite his home of many restrictions, Cummings was a decent enough amateur and hoped to make the American team at the 1976 Olympics. But the Olympic dreams soon fizzled out, a dream, in reality, was all it was.
But once he was granted a reprieve, Cummings turned professional and compiled a 15-1 record, the loss to Snipes in 1981 was his only career reversal. But later the same year, Cummings was chosen as the comeback opponent for Joe Frazier. The former heavyweight champion was chasing something that was long out of sight, fighting more in delusion than any real hope. But Frazier was another old fighter in denial and had hopes of relaunching his career and fighting Mike Weaver for the WBA heavyweight title. Frazier hadn’t fought since 1976, and was coming off two defeats to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. But Frazier wasn’t ‘smokin’ anymore, and in truth, hadn’t been long before his retirement in 1976. Cummings had his moments against the almost shot to pieces Frazier, and looked on the verge of stopping the former heavyweight champion of the world, but had to settle for a draw. Reports of Cummings being robbed of a famous victory weren’t far off the mark. Frazier initially wanted more, but wisely and finally called time.
Cummings did carry on but he never won another fight. Settling into life as the opponent for those deemed to have life and ambition in their careers, he fought five more times without success. Defeats to fringe contenders Jeff Sims and Mitch Green relegated his career further, and a loss to the future two-time world heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon put him firmly in the hired hand mode.
But Cummings came over to England in 1983 when he was 33 and still on parole and very nearly knocked out Britain’s new great heavyweight hope. Bruno was unbeaten in eighteen fights and appeared set to end Britain’s near century of misery on the world heavyweight scene. But if that big right hand had landed a few seconds earlier, Bruno would not have survived that opening round. Cummings detonated probably the best punch he ever threw, and the then unbeaten British heavyweight hope was frozen in time, stood motionless ready to topple over in full timber fashion. Bruno literally fell into the arms of Terry Lawless. The catch of the year. Make no mistake, the bell saved Bruno that night.
The American unleashed everything on Bruno in that edge of your seat 2nd round. But Bruno somehow survived, and Cummings was eventually stopped in the 7th round and he never fought again. He left the sport with a 15-6-1 record, five of those defeats came in his last five fights. Only Bruno and Sims stopped him.
Life after boxing found Cummings reverting to his previous lifestyle. Struggles with drug addiction and two more convictions for armed robbery saw Cummings spending most of his adult life in prison. The three strikes and you’re out state law, nearly meant exactly that. But Cummings got one final chance and was released in 2016.