Boxing: Dark tales from another corner: The challenger's life can be unfair and unrewarding, as Lindell Holmes, who fights Chris Eubank tonight, knows only too well. Jonathan Rendall hears a boxer's story

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The Independent Online
BILLY GUTZ of Detroit was not happy as he perched in the coffee shop of a modest West London hotel that sits in the shadow of a far taller and far more expensive hostelry. But neither was he complaining.

It was not that the food was, in his opinion, 'blah'. It was not that the sparring that he says had been promised for Lindell Holmes, the 35-year-old 12st fighter from Toledo, whom he manages, had not materialised. It was not even that Holmes is expected to be handily beaten by Chris Eubank of Brighton in their fight for a verion of the world middleweight title at Olympia tonight, and probably will be, for a purse of pounds 17,500 compared to Eubank's estimated pounds 200,000.

Gutz also had to sign away three promotional options on Holmes's services to Eubank's promoter, Barry Hearn. But it's not those either. 'I'm grateful,' he said unhappily. No, it was a more general and philosophical unhappiness aimed at the tide of time that boxing managers throughout history have observed engulfing their King Canutes-in-gloves. 'If this were five years ago you could bet your house,' Gutz said, the aural incarnation of a 60-year-old Joe Pesci. 'Five years ago Lindell would've bleeping killed this kid. The only thing now is getting them off - he's got the guns but sometimes you get to a certain age and lose that split second.'

The diminutions in prestige, dollars and comfort that accompany the manager of a challenger to a champion's backyard: those Gutz can take. 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, bleep. I been through all this before, I don't expect nobody to do me no favours. We're not in a position to put up a big bleeping squark.'

The stern flicker of qualification crossed Gutz's face. 'Only, if we beat Eubank - and you can print this - when we come back I'm staying next door, huh? And I'm having my own driver. It'll be a little bit different. Little things, you know. But that's boxing. Feast or famine. Always has been. And, hey, we got everthing to gain and nothing to lose. If we lose, so bleeping what. He becomes an opponent and we fight somebody else. And I'd rather be fighting somebody else than this kid Eubank because this kid is a stinker. He don't get in range. And if Lindell does get beat it'll be because he's that half bleeping second behind.'

Indeed, it is time alone that really grates Gutz, that is the undertow beneath a swirl of names that bubble out; the names of fighters and managers and promoters who have avoided Lindell Holmes since he turned pro in 1979 and became a fearsomely equipped but unrecognised middleweight.

'Michael Nunn has pulled out of four fights with us. Now Nunn is with Angelo Dundee. When Don King's people called Angelo and said you're fighting Lindell Holmes, Angelo said, 'Why don't you fight Lindell Holmes.' Duran wouldn't fight us, Leonard wouldn't fight us. Hearns won't go in the same building as us because when he was at the Kronk Lindell was beating the bleep out of him every day. They don't give you a shot at the world title unless they think they can beat you. Lindell used to get in his car, drive 60 miles from Toledo to Detroit, beat the bleep out of Mickey Goodwin, Caveman Lee and Tommy Hearns, then get in his car and drive home.

'We've always had to travel. We've always been the opponent. But I'm not complaining. After we beat the bleep out of Lottie Mwale in Dusseldorf we went to this big party. Beautiful party. Everybody had Mercedes and Rolexes and there was wine and beer and these guys smoking these big hashish cigars. Incidentally, that was the first time Lindell got drunk.'

Gutz told an interesting story about a monkey, a lady and a room full of mobsters in Philadelphia in 1954. Gutz was there because he was partners with 'Sam', who got him into boxing. Gutz held the manager's licence because Sam was barred because of his criminal record. 'Sam was the guy accused of shooting William Buckley, the journalist, in the Hotel Detroita. A couple of guys walked in and boom, boom, boom. Sam was the guy they got for it but after about seven months he was found innocent because no one would testify.'

Gutz has many tales from those days when boxing in the United States, thanks to the patronage of the wealthy philanthropist, James J Norris, who had a fascination with gangsters, was virtually run by the Mob in the form of 'The Grey Man', Frankie Carbo, and his sidekick, Blinky Palermo.

These included being investigated for conspiracy to fix an athletic event. After that Gutz decided to manage one fighter at a time. This enabled him to delve deep into each signing's psychological make-up. They were all good fighters, but all, according to Gutz, had their own problems.

Holmes's, he says, are an attraction to the opposite sex and increasing scepticism and worry about his chances just before fights. Undeterred, Gutz has devised a plan for Eubank tonight. Holmes will throw right hands to Eubank's stomach and heart. That morning Holmes had been aiming rights at the mid-portion of the heavy bag. Gutz enthused: 'If he hits him like he was hitting the heavy bag today, it should be goodnight.' Unfortunately a sweating Holmes was sceptical. 'I don't know,' he said. 'One thing about Eubank is he carries his hands in a position where he blocks a lot of shots. And he takes a good shot. And another thing I'm worried about is he has his trunks pulled too high. They could take points away from me.'

When Holmes joined us in the coffee bar Gutz bore up stoically to Time. 'You can fight as long as you want to,' he told Lindell Holmes. 'You're Archie Moore] You're Charlie Burley]'

Holmes was not convinced. 'I'm not going to bet on this fight,' he said. 'I'm worried about the judges.'

(Photographs omitted)