Bunce on boxing: Why Frank Bruno and other champs owe ring’s Huggy Bear, Johnny Bos

“I need them to have a pulse, not much of a pulse” Bos said of his men

Johnny Bos was the undisputed boxing “King of New York” with a unique role in the careers of hundreds of fighters during decades of devotion to the ignoble art.

He finally died last Saturday after years as an outcast in Florida, which he called “solitary confinement”, from heart disease. He was 61 and was still spitting out riddles of boxing truth, lies, conspiracy theories and, most importantly, brilliant analysis.

Bos was a fixer in the brutal game, a man who made fights happen for decades by finding the right opponents for the right fighters. He was the matchmaker to dozens of protected boxers, playing the most crucial role in their development and making sure that nobody ruined the script. It was all legal and that is why Bos was a giant.

He stood 6ft 4in in either his boots or his pimp pumps and at his peak of influence he topped the scales at about 19st. His hair was blond at one point but was gloriously dyed gold for the last decade or more; his wrists jangled with watches, his neck held in place ropes of gold and silver with boxing gloves of all sizes attached. If times were high, and he was making the fights for a big boxer, the gold gloves glistened with diamonds. To complete the look, which was clearly an influence on Huggy Bear and all the other stereotypical street guys in New York’s films and fictions, Bos fell in love with a white fur coat and wore it all the time. Johnny was not a shy guy.

He made the matches that built the career of Gerry Cooney, arguably one of the best heavyweights not to win a world title in recent years, and his acquisition of the right man, on the night, helped Cooney develop perfectly. It is claimed that on one particular cold evening an opponent Bos hired for a Cooney fight was unable to get to the venue, and that Bos stripped down and fought the man that he was making. “That’s dedication,” said Mike Marley, a veteran boxing writer at the New York Post.

“I need them to have a pulse, not much of a pulse,” Bos once famously said of the men he found. The declaration was comforting enough for Mickey Duff to turn to Bos when Frank Bruno needed building. It was Bos who found the bodies that allowed Bruno to learn his trade, develop survival instincts and eventually, after a few hiccups, win the world title. Make no mistake that without the Bos touch at the start of his career there would not have been the glory at the end for Bruno. Duff, who is arguably the greatest brain in British boxing, insisted that when Bos was sober he was the best analyst in the fight game and that is praise.

There was, obviously, more to Bos than a fur coat and quote; since Saturday the dwindling members of the old-school fight fraternity have been talking with the type of reverence that seldom accompanies a modern boxing death. Bos was a throwback in so many ways, a man who would join you at a New York gym to tip you off about a kid who was just about to spar. He knew and understood the way boxers and boxing people worked, and that often meant that he had battles to fight outside the ring. He fell out of favour in New York during the last decade and that led to exile, but it was not the end of his influence.

Bos was a legend in a business and a fight city that once ruled the boxing waves. He did belong in the rich fiction of Damon Runyon had the Broadway stories been set in the Seventies and Eighties and Nineties. Bos leaves a polished boxing business, one where the beautiful fixers and dwellers from the lost gyms of history are becoming rare.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment