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Boxing / Earl Gustkey : Andrade Also Was a Winner With Tough Kids

February 11, 1989|Earl Gustkey

He was a tough, troubled kid, but only one of hundreds at the Nelles School for Boys in Whittier.

He was 16, and suspicious. He had just confronted former boxer Cisco Andrade, then 40, when I walked into the Nelles gym.

The boy looked at Andrade and said: "Man, you mean you never tried bennies or reds? Not even pot? Man, you haven't lived yet."

Andrade put his arm around the boy's shoulders and said: "Step into my office, my friend, and let's have a little talk."

That was April, 1970. Andrade had just been hired as a gym instructor at Nelles, a school for some of the toughest juvenile offenders in Southern California. At Nelles, the fences are 12 feet high.

Andrade had been out of the news for about a decade. In the 1950s, he could fill the Olympic Auditorium. Once, he and Art Aragon filled Wrigley Field. In his prime, some called Andrade the best fighter, pound for pound, in America.

For a while, his manager was Frank Sinatra.

But he was a fighter in an era when there was a surplus of good fighters. Andrade never caught a big break.

He beat three world champions--Bud Smith, Jimmy Carter and Lauro Salas--but at times when none had a title. He finally got a title shot, in 1960, against Joe Brown.

"I was 30 then, had trouble making weight, but even at that I thought I beat him," Andrade said that day in 1970.

"When they gave (a split decision) to Brown, the crowd nearly tore down the Olympic."

The tough kids at Nelles loved Cisco Andrade. For one thing, they loved him because he looked a little like them. They liked to kid him about his bent nose and the scars over his eyes. He had an easy rapport with the boys, because they could sense that once he, too, had been a tough little street kid.

Those were the post-World War II years, when Andrade rode his bicycle from his home in Cudahy to Los Angeles' Main Street Gym to watch his idol, Enrique Bolanos, train.

Andrade worked at Nelles for nearly 20 years. No one kept a box score, but he did recycle some lives. He reached kids who needed help. He made a difference.

Robert (Cisco) Andrade died last week. He was 59.

In the aftermath of the poor showing by South Korean Lee Seung-Soon against Mark Breland last weekend in Las Vegas, the subject of professional boxing's ratings came up.

In case you blinked, Breland knocked Lee down in 40 seconds, and the bout was stopped after 54 seconds.

Afterward, some boxing folks were trying to recall a situation in which a South Korean boxer had come to the United States and actually won a main event.

South Korean fighters have a way of suddenly, and inexplicably, attaining high ratings, most often in the World Boxing Assn., then somehow getting championship bouts.

Lee was the WBA's No. 2-ranked welterweight when he was tabbed to meet the top-ranked Breland when WBA champion Tomas Molinares of Colombia withdrew from the Breland bout.

In the most recent ratings, the WBA rated 19 South Koreans, the World Boxing Council 14 and the International Boxing Federation 1.

Year after year, South Korean boxers come to the U.S. carrying lofty ratings, and most often they lose, frequently decisively.

Southland promoter Don Fraser, involved with boxing since the 1940s, could remember only one occasion when a South Korean won a main event in Southern California. It was a 1967 bout, he said, when Kang Suh-Il upset Mando Ramos early in his career.

Lee himself, in his only bout outside of South Korea before last Saturday, scored a TKO win in Los Angeles in 1984.

Dean Lohuis, a boxing statistician who attends nearly every Southland boxing show, was asked how many South Korean boxers he could remember who had won bouts here.

"I've seen Koreans in maybe 30 bouts here, and I can remember no more than three or four of them actually winning," he said. Point is, too many South Korean boxers have been falsely passed off as world-class boxers in the United States, Lee being only the most recent example.

Kevin Monahan, who buys boxing shows for NBC, says boxing's ratings are so suspect he largely ignores them.

"If I see that a fighter I've never heard of is ranked high, usually a South American or an Asian, I just ignore it," he said. "I know then it's fraudulent. I know someone has been paid off.

"Those organizations (WBA, WBC, IBF) are international organizations, and a lot of money changes hands."

Opinion: The ratings by the WBA, WBC and IBF are yet another reason for Congress to establish a federal boxing commission.

James Binns, a Philadelphia lawyer who is the WBA's legal counsel, was asked why South Koreans seem to get such high WBA rankings.

"I don't have anything to do with the ratings," he said. "The ratings are put together by Alberto Sarmiento, in Caracas. You can call him, but he doesn't speak English."

In a Times story last Sunday about the Jack Dempsey-Tommy Gibbons fight in Shelby, Mont., in 1923, it was pointed out that the purse split was $300,000 for Dempsey, $7,500 for Gibbons.

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