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Fists of a Physician : Surgeon, 39, Is 3-0--All by Knockouts--in His Return to Ring

February 23, 1990|From Associated Press

PLANTATION, Fla. — Heavyweight boxer Harold Reitman opens his right fist, the one that knocked an opponent unconscious for nearly four minutes in a recent fight.

"Feel my hand," Reitman says. "Smooth as a baby's tush."

The same hand can also slide a camera lens the size of a pinhead into a knee before arthroscopic surgery or replace a useless hip joint with an artificial one.

Reitman, 3-0 as a professional boxer, makes his living as an orthopedic surgeon.

"I can't do either one halfway," he said. "The stakes are too high."

Reitman, who will turn 40 next month, has drawn national attention by knocking out all three opponents in less than two rounds. His fourth fight will be a black-tie affair Saturday night against 200-pound Vale Payton, 28, who will make his pro debut at St. Andrew's Country Club in Boca Raton.

"Have you seen the doctor fight?" asked Allie Ridgway of Miami, who has trained boxers for 52 years. "He's vicious. The way he's been taking care of his opponents, they should be ringing his doorbell for free consultations."

The 5-foot-11, 212-pound Reitman, who lives in the Ft. Lauderdale suburb of Plantation, is married and the father of a 7-year-old girl. Because of his age, Reitman needed special permission from the Florida State Athletic Commission to get his professional boxing license last November.

"He's an unusual case, an excellent physical specimen who obviously has some talent," said Harry Brennan, assistant executive director for the commission.

"I understand he's a very successful surgeon. Why he would want to get in a ring is beyond my comprehension. This is America, I guess, as Don King would say."

Reitman acknowledges that the American Medical Assn. has taken a stance against boxing, but he said he weighed the pros and cons of that opinion. His conclusion: "Boxing isn't for everyone, but it's for me."

Reitman began boxing as a 13-year-old in Jersey City, N.J. He won the New England Golden Gloves championship during medical school at Boston University in 1971, then stopped boxing to pursue his medical career.

Daughter Rebecca's fight for life in 1985 spurred Reitman's return to the ring. Rebecca, now fully recovered, had two vascular brain tumors removed during two operations.

"In my prayers," Reitman said, "I told God if my daughter could be OK, I'd box the biggest fighter I could find."

He did just that, losing a split decision to 6-5, 315-pound Steven Elmore in the 1985 Sunshine State Games in Tampa.

Then when boxing trainer Tommy Torino became a patient of Reitman's in late 1988, the doctor started to talk seriously about fighting professionally.

Torino is now his trainer and manager.

"The deal is, I box for as long as I can compete or until Tommy pulls the plug," Reitman said. "If he thinks I can't handle it anymore, it's over. Period."

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