Tag Archives: boxing

West Texas Middleweight by Frank Sikes

WEST TEXAS MIDDLEWEIGHT
The Story of LaVern Roach
(Sport in the American West Series)
by
Frank Sikes
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
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LaVern Roach, a skinny kid from the small town of Plainview, Texas, rose from obscurity to become one of boxing’s most popular figures during the 1940s. Roach’s rise to prominence occurred during an era when boxing shared the spotlight with baseball as the nation’s top two professional sports. As a result of Roach’s death—which marked the first nationally televised fight during which a boxer died from injuries received in the ring—the sport of boxing came under closer scrutiny by the general public than ever before.
West Texas Middleweight is the story of Roach’s all too brief journey from a West Texas amateur, to enlistment in the US Marines, where he captained the nation’s most successful military boxing team, to becoming a Madison Square Garden main eventer. He received the distinction of being named The Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” for 1947 and was considered a top ten contender for the middleweight championship of the world. This book chronicles Roach’s road to his final fight—and it explains why, as noted by legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, “boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
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email: ttup@ttu.edu
phone: 800.742.2982
GuestPost
Sikes guest post pic 2

GUEST POST #2

By Frank Sikes

 

The Muhammad Ali-Angelo Dundee partnership created a boxing legend which lasted for over half a century. Ali, arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, recently died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74. His partner in fame, Angelo Dundee, arguably the best boxing trainer who ever lived, passed away on February 1, 2012 at the age of 90.

 

What does this have to do with West Texas Middleweight, the Story of LaVern Roach?

 

Angelo was a seasoned trainer, who had already produced his first world boxing champ in Carmen Basilio, when he first met 18 year old Cassius Marcellus Clay. The relationship got off to a rocky start. After Clay won his gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, all of the trainers were trying to sign him to a professional contract. All with the exception of Dundee, who didn’t want to take the time and trouble in helping turn an amateur into a professional fighter. Fate eventually brought the two together, forming boxing’s most successful boxer/trainer relationship and the rest is history.

 

Go back in time to 1945. World War II was over and the soldiers were coming home. Among them was twenty five year old Angelo Dundee, who in his own words, said “I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” His older brother Chris had put together one of the largest boxing teams in the country, called Dundee’s Dandies. He offered Angelo a job, which Angelo best described as a “gopher” – running errands and doing whatever Chris wanted done. Chris discovered that Angelo had a talent for writing and soon had him writing publicity material to send to the young boxer’s hometown newspapers.

 

There was one boxer that he was really impressed with and had no problem in producing sporting clips to send back home. His name was LaVern Roach. LaVern, a twenty year old Texan, had gotten out of the Marine Corps, where he won a national Golden Glove championship, the best fighter to come out of the Marines in World War II, and was named the Amateur Boxer of the Year by Look Magazine. Just like Clay years later, LaVern’s ambition was to become a world champion boxer. Instead of going back to Texas, he decided to stay in New York City, which was the heart of the boxing world. He soon became the star of the Dundee Dandees, forming a friendship with Angelo. In Angelo’s own words, “I had the pleasure and honor to meet LaVern Roach as a person and a human being – great on both accounts – He would have been a fistic star at ‘any time’ – championship material. Walked like a champ in and out of the ring.”

 

Angelo’s skills working with the young boxers were soon recognized by bother Chris, and his duties expanded to where Angie began his training in the boxing ring as a bucket-man, then a cut-man for LaVern and the other boxers.   So before there was an Angelo Dundee, there was a LaVern Roach.

 

Angelo Dundee reached the summit of boxing with Muhammad Ali but received some of his earliest training with LaVern Roach.

 

Angelo’s first words to me were “Boxing Changed because of LaVern Roach.” His parting words were “Good luck with the book. Boxing is in need of a good story.” Angelo died six month later, but not before he attended Ali’s 70th birthday party.

 

Angelo (age 90) and Ali were reunited for the last time at Ali’s 70th birthday party. Angelo Dundee died about two weeks later.

 

Frank Sikes, a third-generation West Texan, grew up in Plainview, where LaVern Roach, along with Jimmy Dean, were hometown heroes.  Sikes graduated from Texas Tech in 1967, then was a US Navy Officer proudly serving aboard the USS Little Rock stationed in Gaeta, Italy from 1968-1970.  He attended the University of Houston School of Business, from 1973 to 1975, and got his master’s degree in religion from Wayland Baptist University in 2011.

Frank and his wife Nancy have been married for 50 years and have two grown children out of the house, and two Boston Terriers, Molly and Maggie (or as some suggest Boston terrorists) who rule the house. Lubbock has been home for the past 30 years with stops in Newport, RI; San Francisco, CA; Gaeta, Italy; Houston, TX; and Albuquerque, NM.  West Texas Middleweight is his first book.
Connect with the author on FACEBOOK.

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7/4       Margie’s Must Reads Review

 

 

7/6       StoreyBook Reviews  – Author Interview #2

 

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North Beach by Miles Arceneaux

NORTH BEACH 
 
by 
 
Miles 
Arceneaux
It’s 1962 on the Texas Gulf Coast, and 15-year-old Charlie Sweetwater and his brother, Johnny, are happily oblivious to the world’s problems. Charlie’s main concerns are qualifying for an upcoming Golden Gloves boxing tournament, ducking a local bully and, with any luck, stealing a kiss from Carmen Delfín, the prettiest girl he’s ever laid eyes on.
 
Charlie’s last innocent summer ends abruptly when his boxing coach is murdered and his friend, a black Cuban boxer named Jesse Martel, is accused of the crime.
 
Their problems are compounded when Jesse becomes a political pawn in a high-stakes contest between Cuba and the CIA—a contest that intensifies when the Cuban Missile Crises begins, and the world’s two superpowers come within an eye blink of mutual destruction.
 
Through it all, Charlie and his brother are convinced that Jesse is innocent, and they are determined to find the real murderer—a remorseless killer who is stalking more victims—and clear Jesse’s name before time runs out. Suddenly the Sweetwater boys find themselves navigating through a world that is much bigger, more complicated, and scarier than they ever imagined.


 
EXCERPT FROM NORTH BEACH
 
As we drove over the tall hump of the Harbor Bridge, I gazed down at the North Beach neighborhood below. It looked gloomy and pitiful and dark. . . . Once it had been a popular tourist destination, full of boisterous crowds of vacationers, stevedores, and sailors, along with local well-to-do families. Billboards promoted it as Texas’s own Coney Island, “the Playground of the South.” I had vivid childhood memories of the long fishing pier, the saltwater swimming pool with its high-diving board, and next to it, the Surf Bath House, where you could rinse off in a fresh-water shower after swimming, and then order an ice cream float from the soda fountain. . . . You could see clear to Mustang Island from the top of the Ferris wheel. . . .
 
But North Beach had changed since then. The carnival and amusement park went broke after the causeway was constructed, and a few years later, when the pivoting Bascule Bridge was replaced by the high-arch Harbor Bridge, people and cars began to hurry past the area as if it were a drunk passed out on the street. You could stare as you went by, but you sure didn’t want to stop. . . . Now only a few greasy spoons, pawn shops, dollar-a-day-flophouses, and a handful of windowless bars remained—bars off the beaten path, bars that people went to when they didn’t want to be seen, or found.
 
“Johnny?”
 
“What, brother man?”
 
“Do you think Rachel would’ve been crazy enough to duck into one of those North Beach joints?”
 
He eased his foot off the accelerator, thinking about it, and then zipped over to catch the last North Beach exit before the Nueces Bay Causeway. “It’s worth a shot,” he answered. “And, yeah, I think she’s crazy enough.”
 
 
Praise for Miles Arceneaux:
“Miles Arceneaux named among the top five Texas authors of 2014.”
Mystery People, Top Five Texas Authors of 2014, December 23, 2014
 
Praise for Ransom Island:
“A seamless, atmospheric and sardonic comic thriller.”
The Dallas Morning News, Book review: Four mysteries with Texas ties, December 26, 2014
 
Praise for La Salle’s Ghost:
“Arceneaux keeps the story moving and the suspense building, working in plenty of
humor along the way.”
Glenn Dromgoole, Texas Reads, September 7, 2013
 
Praise for Thin Slice of Life:
“An engaging crime caper. This book hits the mark.”
    — Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2012
 
Blurbs for Ransom Island:
“Like Carl Hiaasen and John D. MacDonald, Miles Arceneaux sets his dark doings by blue water, and has a ball doing it. He makes me want to run away to the islands—Galveston, Mustang or Padre—and sip a tall, cold glass of gin-and-something while I read his latest tale. RANSOM ISLAND may be his best one yet.”
Sarah Bird, Best Selling Author of Above the East Sea China, September 2014
 
Blurbs for La Salle’s Ghost:
“The story would make a good film . . . Seamlessly plotted and beautifully told.”
Lubbock Avalanche Journal
 
Blurbs for Thin Slice of Life:
“Miles Arceneaux has written a classic . . . steeped in salt-air atmosphere that just can’t be faked . . . It’s as if Dashiell Hammett had grown up on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Stephen Harrigan, Best Selling Author of The Gates of the Alamo
 
“The best suspense novel I’ve read since Cormac What’s-His-Name.
Kinky Friedman, Governor of the Heart of Texas
Review
So this is book 4 of the Charlie Sweetwater series, but Arceneaux makes it feel like you’re not missing out on anything (although I do kinda want to read the other 3 books now). The beginning is a little rough to me – too much description or something – but you can tell the author (or rather, authors) know boxing and fishing, because that’s where the story starts to flow great. I got a little squirmy at the teenage hormonal parts for some reason, but the murder and assault mystery kept me on my toes. I was impressed that Arceneaux took the time to learn his ballet terminology for a few scenes too. However, if you’ve ever seen the movie Million Dollar Baby, I’m sure you will find some pretty big similarities: gruff old boxing gym owner who doesn’t want to push his fighters along too quickly (arguably holding them back some), mentally disabled teenager who bothers everyone, black fighter who’s being courted by promoters who promise big money. Overall, great read and I look forward to checking out the rest of the series.
The author of four funny, fast-paced novels of intrigue set on the Texas Gulf Coast, Miles Arceneaux is a one-of-a-kind writer. Or, to be precise, he is three-of-a-kind. The irreverent persona of “Miles” is the product of three friends, lifelong Texans, and Gulf Coast aficionados.

 

Brent Douglass’ inspiration for Miles’ tales stems from his family’s deep Texas coastal roots, and the iconoclastic characters he crossed paths with growing up there. James R. Dennis’ intimate knowledge of both sides of the law (he’s one of the good guys, it should be mentioned) and his deep appreciation for Texas Rangers lore helps keep Miles’ protagonists on the side of the angels. As a longtime journalist covering Texas and Texans, John T. Davis has sometimes been accused of writing fiction, but this is the first time he has set out to do it on purpose. Together, Douglass, Dennis and Davis make “Miles Arceneaux” truly more than the sum of his parts.
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