Up Close and Personal with legendary Finley's Gym Owner: Jim Finley

As you enter the legendary Finley's Gym located at 518 10 ST. 
NE Washington, DC you instantly take a nostalgic trip that 
starts on your walk up the steep staircase that all patrons 
know.  The closer you get to the top, you instantly hear those 
familiar sounds of boxing gloves hitting the bag, trainers 
telling their prospects to work everything off the jab and in 
the middle of it all, Mr. Jim Finley.

Mr. Finley as many know him, has a part of a boxing shrine that 
is seen  throughout the United States, in small boxing gyms 
such as his own.  In his gym, you have the many fight posters 
and autographed pictures from champions that have come and went.  
Most importantly though, a magic that only a true boxer or 
boxing enthusiast would understand.

Finley, a legendary character among Washington, DC boxing and 
more importantly, a positive willing force in the many young 
life's he touches.  Sitting talking as we did, Finley who will 
tell you with much pride that he now is 72 years old and been 
around boxing for some 60 years.  He has owned Finley's Gym 
since 1960 and seen some great talent come and go. 

Also, he is very deeply involved in his community and derives 
much pleasure from seeing our youth succeed in boxing and more 
importantly, life.  These two facts alone among many, are reasons 
I have immense respect for, Mr. Jim Finley.

The following is our interview:

Interview by: Brad Berkwitt 

Brad:  What inspired you to get into boxing?

Mr. Finley: Well, I have always loved the boxing game.  Being born in the 
            South in the 1920s there was not a black face in any of the major 
            sports around except for boxing.  So growing up I could root for 
            the guys in boxing and you start to identify with these guys.  

Brad:  In all your years of being around boxing, what fighter would you say 
       had the complete package and why?

Mr. Finley: Well, lets talk about present day.  I think Oscar Delahoya has 
            it.  He can box as well as punch.  I was a little surprised that he 
            lost to Sugar Shane Mosley.  I think in a return bout Oscar would 
            take him.  Not taking anything away from Shane, who did win the 
            fight fair and square. However, Oscar did fight hard but, I think  
            he could have fought a little better.

Brad:  Who are your three favorite fighters of all-time and why?

Mr. Finley: First of all, I will start with, Jack Johnson.  Even though he 
            was not a contemporary of mine I do read and he fought the 
            legendary, Stanley Ketchel.  They really gave the public a good 
            show because they ran out of opponents for Ketchel's Middleweight 
            belt and Johnson's Heavyweight belt.

            In that fight, Ketchel decked Johnson and Jack got off the floor 
            and pointed at his Ketchel's face.  He told him you should not have 
            done that and knocked him out with one punch. For that alone, you 
            got to respect him.  Muhammad Ali.  He brought the moving around  
            heavyweight era and that really impressed me.  Last but not least,
            Sugar Ray Robinson.  He is the most complete fighter of all-time.

Brad:  What do you think the state of boxing is in today?

Mr. Finley: The media knocks it but it's at an all-time great from an 
            attendance standpoint.  There are so many fights going on 
            throughout the United States today and club fights are truly 
            alive.  Back in the day, you had pockets of areas where they showed 
            club fights, but today, you have them all throughout the US as I 
            said earlier.

Brad:  What accomplishment in boxing are you most proud of?

Mr. Finley: Guiding these young men in the right direction.  I have seen many 
            come through the gym.  Many of them have succeeded from the 
            discipline they learned from boxing.

Brad: In all your years of seeing local talent in the Washington, DC area 
      progress who do you feel shined the most?

Mr. Finley: Sugar Ray Leonard.

Brad:  Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all boxers and if so, 
       what are your thoughts on how it should be done?

Mr. Finley: Well, I think they do need a retirement fund sort of like social 
            security. It should be taken out of the purse within reason.  
            Bottom line: I agree with you whole heartily that the bigger 
            promoters should pay into as well as the boxers from day one.

Brad:  What do you think of the ranking systems and what personal changes 
       would you make if you had control of them:

Mr. Finley: If I had control of them you would not have more than two so 
           called sanctioning bodies.  I would go back to the old days of 
           boxing.  Today you have probably over thirty sanctioning bodies and  
           it gets to be ridiculous. 

Brad:  Would you like to see boxing go back to 15 round championship fights 
       vice the 12 rounds today?

Mr. Finley: Yes I would.  I think it would bring the true grit out of some 
            the fighters. 15 rounds are very hard to go but, if you trained 
            like you were supposed too, it would not be a problem. (I totally 
            agree with this answer.)  
Brad:  When you finally retire from boxing, what do you want the many people 
       who enjoy you so much to remember you for?

Mr. Finley: For all my contribution's to boxing.  Especially in the many 
            young men's life's who come through my gym and I am able to help.  
            For instance, young men who come in here and can't even throw a 
            punch.  Within a year or two, they are fighting for an amateur 
            championship.  That's the GLORY!

Brad:  Finally, what is the saying you live your life by?

Mr. Finley:  "Win with Pride, and lose with Dignity".

Writers final comments: When I do interviews and doing so many as of late.  I 
always find something in each one that impresses me with my interviewee.  In 
Mr. Finley's case, it was his true sincerity in his love for our youth and 
boxing.  If you're in the Washington, DC area, take a trip to Finley's Gym and 
I promise you, a visit you will not soon forget.  

As always fight fans, keep reaching for the stars and all your dreams can be fulfilled.

Brad Berkwitt