“Expectations and loud cheers fill the boxing arena—manifestations of excitement, pride, hope and victory. Yet, behind the festive atmosphere, viewers are unmindful that in one corner, there lies death creeping, waiting for the next soul to claim.” —Anonymous
The late Jack Newfield, in his book Only in America: the Life and Crimes of Don King, terms the 1980s, “the Lost Generation of Heavyweights.” During these years, Newfield argued that a fighter couldn’t get a chance at a title held by a King fighter unless he abandoned his current management and signed with King. Interestingly, Greg Page’s most significant fights were during this period and to many, he (along with rival Tim Witherspoon) is a poster boy for those who were caught up with promotional and resultant legal issues that distracted them from the work at hand.
As Douglas Martin writes in an April 2009 piece titled, “Greg Page, Heavyweight Champion, Dies at 50” in the New York Times:
“Page was the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion for five months in 1984 and 1985 but fell short of the golden future experts had predicted. He constantly battled extra pounds; was ensnarled in disputes between promoters; was startlingly injury prone; fought questionable opponents; threw away money on a large entourage; and experienced a sequence of other problems not unfamiliar to the fight game.”
Kentucky has given us great Basketball teams, great horse races and, of course, Ali. It has also given us Greg Page
After a great amateur career in which he toted up a record of 94-11 and won a great number of prestigious titles, the highly touted Kentucky native won his first 18 pro dukes including a TKO of Stan Ward for the U.S. Boxing Association heavyweight title in 1981. In 1984, Page, fighting at a heavy 239½ pounds, lost the WBC title fight by a decision to Tim Witherspoon in Las Vegas. He also lost to David Bey in 1984 after which he vowed, “I will get it (a world title), Don King or no Don King…I will return.”
And that’s exactly what he did three months later when he became the WBA Heavyweight Champion in 1984 as he pulled off a monstrous upset by knocking out Gerrie Coetzee in Sun City, South Africa (then considered Bophuthatswana) where apartheid was still in vogue.
In one of the great images of athletic celebration, the cameras caught a joyous Greg leaping high off the canvas with his legs striding in midair. Despite the joy of the moment, the win was somewhat tainted by a timekeeper’s error that allowed the knockout punch to land at the end of a round that lasted almost four minutes. And to add to the controversy, Page had to endure the sanctimonious backlash of anti-apartheid groups for the “sin” of fighting in South Africa. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mA-XHurm0A
However, the celebration, controversy, and championship reign didn’t last long, for Page lost to Tony Tubbs in his first defense on April 29, 1985. Curiously, the affable Page had beaten Tubbs an amazingly six out of seven times in the amateurs.
After his defeat to Tubbs, Page’s career went downhill fast as he lost to journeymen and was KO’d by Razor Ruddock in 1992. He did, however, have his moments. One was when he scored a 10-round decision over former WBA Heavyweight Champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith, but when he lost to future WBA Heavyweight Champion Bruce Seldon in 1993, he temporarily retired and began training other fighters (including Oliver McCall when “The Atomic Bull” waxed Lennox Lewis). Greg, however, soon realized he could beat many of the fighters he was training others to beat.
“It was a fight Greg Page never should have fought, in a broken-down nightclub somebody probably should have closed. The hot air stank. Blood smears stained the floor of the ring.”—Jim Adams, the Louisville Courier-Journal
Greg resumed fighting in 1996 and went undefeated in 17 straight (including nine first round KOs), but the level of his opposition was abysmal. However, in 1999, he KO’d Tim Witherspoon (46-9 at the time) in an upset of some note. Page decked Witherspoon in the first round. “The Spoon” later tore a back muscle and did not answer the bell for the eighth round. Tim would go undefeated in 10 of his next 11 outings validating the significance of the upset. After two more bouts, of minimal significance, Greg was signed up for his fateful fight against heavily tattooed former Toughman champion Dale Crowe (21-4) in the seedy environs of Peel’s Palace, a nightclub in Erlanger, Kentucky on March 9, 2001.
Remembering Greg and Patricia Page: Part Two will follow soon