A Boxing Memory: Greg Page

A Boxing Memory: Greg Page

The boxing wastelands take many victims. Old champions go there as their careers suffer that irreversible decline. Sadly, some, go there and life effectively ends.

Greg Page, the former heavyweight champion of the world and the once heir apparent to Muhammad Ali paid a heavy for the continued search for something that was long since gone. Page knew it. We all knew it. He was 42, and in 2001 he was still fighting and he had somehow found himself somewhere near Cincinnati, fighting for loose change against one Dale Crowe.

Page earned $1,500 for a fight that was akin to Rocky Balboa and Spider Rico. A depressing fight in many ways. Page was fighting from memory. Page went down after 10 rounds. He never got up.

Page suffered a brain injury. One last dance in the boxing equivalent of a greasy spoon effectively killed him. Dead rats littered the changing room of the former heavyweight champion of the world. Dignity had long left town. Hope had left with it.

That sad regrettable and avoidable final fight left Page in a coma for a week, paralysed on one side, wheelchair-bound and needing extensive physical therapy for the rest of his life.

The former champion received a million-dollar settlement in 2007 for the lack of medical personnel at the fight. A pittance and it couldn’t bring back what was lost.

There was no ambulance or oxygen on site. The ringside doctor was unlicensed in the state and had to be brought back to the venue. A reported 22 minutes had elapsed before an ambulance arrived on the scene.

The life of Page ended eight years later from complications of the injuries he received in the fight against Crowe. In truth, it had ended the moment he suffered the final knockdown of his career in 2001. Page was just 50 when all the fight left his body.

Crowe found life hard after the tragic win over Page. He found drugs to try and hide the pain and guilt, and his life also slipped away from him.

“I felt guilty; I felt like I took a person’s life from him,” Crowe once said.

In 2006, he was found guilty of manslaughter and robbery. He got 20 years. In different ways, the fight for the Kentucky heavyweight title claimed two victims.

The fight against Crowe was the latest for Page on his comeback. Hard times, a familiar repetitive story, drove him back to the ring. In 1998, Page was declared bankrupt. Before it all went wrong, Page had seemingly everything going for him.

Like Ali, Page had the Louisville connection. At 15, Page sparred Ali. The young fighter impressed.

“That boy hit me so hard it jarred my kinfolks in Africa,” Ali said.

There were many similarities to Ali. Labelled by some as the second coming of Ali, but Page lacked the dedication to his craft to maximise his obvious natural talent. Another tale of what could have been.

But there were still flickers of greatness. A National Golden Gloves heavyweight champion when he was just 20. Page turned pro in 1979, 19 straight wins got him ranked. But the signs were there it wouldn’t end the way it should have.

Even before he won the world heavyweight title, his motivation was waning. Contractual issues with Don King sucked away much of his ambition. Trevor Berbick took away his unbeaten record in 1982. The comparisons to Ali were fading fast.

A good win over Renaldo Snipes reignited interest. After an uninspiring loss to Tim Witherspoon in a fight for the vacant WBC world heavyweight title, an unhappy Page let loose on his behind-the-scenes woes. He threatened retirement, but a new team and encouraging words offered hope. But when David Bey inflicted a second successive defeat. All hope looked lost. But boxing moves in mysterious ways.

A surprise offer to go to South Africa at the height of apartheid to fight Gerrie Coetzee in 1984 and Page finally delivered on all the plaudits and promise. He knocked out Coetzee to win the WBA world heavyweight title. But it didn’t last.

Tony Tubbs relived him of his title soon after, and James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocked him further down the heavyweight pecking order. Only a win over Funso Banjo in 1986, stopped the rot. Page was already just an opponent. Even an ancient Joe Bugner beat him. The losses mounted up.

But when he knocked down Mike Tyson in sparring, as Tyson was preparing for Douglas, he was back in the limelight again. But when Mark Wills beat him for the second time any remaining hope had ended.

Page plodded on, literally, in comparison to his former self. There were wins and more losses, each fight, every punch taken, made his future a little more certain. Then one fight too many sealed it.

Photo Credit: The Ring Magazine

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