Joey Bishop has been on the top of his game for many years as a comedian, talkshow host and 1/5th of the legendary Rat Pack that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and yours truly, Joey Bishop. I thought it would be really intersting to bring a new idea of interviewing celebrity's who love the sport of boxing. I am here to tell you, they come no bigger than Joey who knows his stuff about the sport and was a true pleasure to interview for my very first column with a celebrity boxing fan.
Interview by: Brad Berkwitt Brad: Tell me about the different fighters you have met and how you were involved with them? Joey: You better sit down so I can tell you this or otherwise your gonna faint. I did Rocky Marciano's eulogy. Sparred with Jack Dempsey back in 1938 when I did a show with him. These are the some of the guys I put the gloves on for my talk show, George Foreman, Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. A few years ago, I did a benefit show for handicapped children at a nearby hotel with Sugar Ray Robinson. I won a Senior Welterweight Title, which they now call Junior Middleweight, when I was in the Army. I also sparred with Barney Ross, Tony Canzoneri and Joe Louis. Brad: How long have you followed boxing? Joey: Since the age of 15 (68 years ago) when I ushered at the fights in Philadelphia. I was paid a dollar to show people to their seats. Brad: Whom have you seen in your lifetime that you consider the greatest fighter who ever lived? Joey: Well you have to go by records. They do everything by records such as when the guy wins the Homerun Hitting Championship they say he is the greatest hitter. Rocky Marciano has the greatest record. Brad: Do you feel that boxing is more corrupt now or back in the old days? Joey: No. I think it's more divided today. If a guy is pronounced World Champion he better be of all the boxing organization's. Brad: Than you like back in the day when you had only one belt? Joey: I don't mind more than one belt, but if your proclaimed World champion it better be one belt. (I agree with this answer) Brad: What is the nicest venue you have ever watched a fight in? Joey: It's not so much the nicest place but a place that was laid out best for a fight and that was Madison Square Garden. Brad: What era do you feel had the best fighters and why? Joey: Well first of all do you know who my coach was? "Fritzie Zivic." Joey than asked me who did he beat for the title? I had no clue and he told me Henry Armstrong. He than asked, What was his claim to fame? I replied he was the first one to win four different titles in three different weight classes. Joey being the boxing fan he is, corrected me and said three. Fritzie and I go back to 1938 and served in the service together. Joey felt the fighters of old were the best fighters. Brad: How long did you serve in the Army? Joey: 3 years, 9 months and 17 days. (I laughed at his response because he remembered all these years later that exact time down to the days.) Brad: Who are your top three favorite fighters of all-time? Joey: Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis. Brad: Since you are in the entertainment business and have been for many years, do you have any funny stories about any of the fighters you ever met? Joey: I boxed Danny "Little Red" Lopez a few years back for a local handicapped children's benefit. We got three of the LA Rams cheerleaders to escort Danny into the ring and then I got three women wearing the same outfits to escort me into the ring with the youngest one being 78 years old. We had to help them up the stairs to escort me in the ring. My cornerman was the late Archie Moore. We asked Jerry Quarry who was the referee if we could at the end of the fight both hit him and knock him out. Jerry Quarry turned to me and said, "I have never been knocked out and will not even do it in fun." Jerry's mom was my number one fan and I sat with her when he faced Muhammad Ali. I am gonna tell you another very funny story of something Jerry Quarry did on my live talkshow. Jerry and I laced up the gloves and he was going to show me how he was going to knock Muhammad Ali out. Jerry said, "I am gonna feint him and hit him with a hook." Well, as I said we had the gloves on Brad and we were on LIVE TV for my talkshow. As he went to feint with the hook I caught him, not hard but I caught him. You know what he said? Jerry said, "Nobody hits me in the fucking face, not even in fun." Brad can you imagine LIVE TV? I ran out of the ring with the camera following me running down Sunset Boulevard. (I cracked up hearing Joey tell me this story.) Brad: In today's boxing, are there any fighters that remind you of fighters from the old days? Joey: Oscar Delahoya. The only thing I don't like is that recently he changed his style which I don't appreciate because he seems to be more careful. Brad: Do you prefer 15 rounds vice 12? Joey: I don't think it's necessary because if a fighter is gonna show what he needs to do it doesn't have to take 15 rounds. Brad: What is the greatest fight you have ever seen and why? Joey: Well the biggest disappointment was Max Schmeling beating Joe Louis. The greatest fight to me is when a guy goes down in the first round and than in the 13th round, knocks his opponent out. He also could hardly see because his opponent was using some type of sab that got into his eyes and they almost stopped the fight. Do you know who that was Joey asked? He than told me Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott. Rocky knocked Walcott out stiff and Walcott's arm was over the rope. They had a hard time bending it back to his body. This is the greatest fight I have ever seen. Joey than went on to tell me that Rocky used to duckwalk thirty flights of stairs and then would get in the pool at the low end and punch under water for an hour and a half. I used to workout with him in those days. Brad: Finally, in all you're as a boxing fan what was the most brutal knockout you have ever seen in the ring? Joey: To me a knockout that kills the opponent like Ray Robinson did against Jimmy Doyle in their fight that took place in Cleveland back in 1947. That is the most brutal. Do you know that back in the old days when a fighter killed an opponent the fighter gave his purse to the wife. Sugar Ray Robinson did that. Joey closed with telling me one more very funny story of when he and Frank Sinatra were at the first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden. The old ring announcer for the Garden Teddy Brenner announced, "Ladies and gentlemen in our audience tonight is a former amateur boxer, Joey Bishop who had 13 fights with 13 knockouts. Who ever fought him, knocked him out. As always fight fans, reach for the stars and all your dreams can be fulfilled.