By Gary “Digital” Williams
The Washington DC/Baltimore boxing community has been hit with a number of deaths in recent weeks. Three of the passings were legendary figures in the Beltway Boxing area. The other two were also tragic but for a different reason.
On Tuesday, March 12th, two Long-time trainers — Frank Gilbert and Eugene “Thunder” Hughes — passed away after illnesses. Mr. Gilbert was the head trainer at the Loch Raven Boxing Club in Baltimore for many years, training popular local boxers like Eddie Van Kirk, Tony Cygan, Chuck Sturm and Jed Phipps. Gilbert was also a past president of the South Atlantic Association of USA Boxing and of Ring 101. Mr. Hughes was a fixture in DC through his work at the Midtown Youth Academy. Hughes trained the likes of Jasper “Baby Ray” Goddard and Lisa Foster Cohen, who became a three-time world champion.
On that same day, former Beltway Boxer “Magic” Michael Ward was shot and killed after he was a suspect in a road rage incident in Great Neck, Long Island, NY. According to The Island Now who quotes an NYPD spokesman, Nassau County police shot and killed Mr. Ward after he had been on a crime spree that allegedly began in Bordentown, New Jersey, where he allegedly robbed an individual of a vehicle. He later allegedly robbed a 77-year-old man and fled in that man’s car, before striking and killing a 50-year-old man in Brooklyn two days later. Mr. Ward then allegedly attacked two men with a baseball bat in a road rage incident near the Equinox gym and then refused to drop the weapon when confronted by the officer, the police said. Police opened fire on the suspect and killed him.
Mr. Ward was a promising super welterweight from Fort Washington, MD who was probably best known for, as a 19-year-old, knocking down hall of famer and Beltway legend Sugar Ray Leonard during a sparring session as Leonard was preparing to face Terry Norris. According to published reports, Mr. Ward would also knock down another future champion, Meldrick Taylor, during a sparring session in Phoenix., AZ.
Mr. Ward (24-4, 19 KO’s) had a solid career whose biggest victories came against Joe Gatti, the older brother of the late Arturo Gatti (a six round unanimous decision in 1990 in Atlantic City, NJ) and a first-round TKO of Beltway legend Robert “Boo Boo” Sawyer in 1991. Ward was 46 years old.
On Monday, March 19, former Maryland amateur standout Aujee “Quick” Tyler was shot and killed in an incident in Washington, DC. Mr. Tyler was 22 years old. Mr. Tyler, who boxed out of Temple Hills, MD, was a two-time National Silver Gloves champion, a five-time Ringside Champion and won titles at the Junior Olympics and the National PAL Tournament. In 2015 at the age of 16, Mr. Tyler signed a professional promotional contract with ProBox Management of Florida. Because he could not fight in the United States because of his age, Mr. Tyler started his pro career in Mexico where he had a record of 3-1, three KO’s. Mr. Tyler last fought in November of 2016.
Then on Friday, March 23, the area lost yet another legendary trainer in Dave Jacobs, who passed away at the age of 84 after an illness. Mr. Jacobs was the first trainer of a 14-year-old boxer by the name of Sugar Ray Leonard. Mr. Jacobs trained Leonard throughout his Olympic Gold Medal amateur days and was an assistant to Angelo Dundee (right) throughout the early years of Leonard’s pro career including Leonard’s first championship when he knocked out Wilfredo Benitez in the 15th round on November 30th, 1979 in Las Vegas, NV. Mr. Jacobs would be in Leonard’s corner for his first title defense when he scored a crushing fourth-round knockout over Davey “Boy” Green on March 31, 1980 in the fourth round in front of 12,000 partisan fans at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD.
Mr. Jacobs would leave Leonard’s corner after Leonard lost the title to Roberto Duran on June 20th, 1980 in Montreal, Canada by 15-round unanimous decision. However, Mr. Jacobs would return when Leonard defeated Marvelous Marvin Hagler by 12-round split decision on April 6, 1987 in Las Vegas. He would leave the Leonard camp for good after Leonard fought to a draw in the rematch against Thomas Hearns in Las Vegas on June 12, 1989.
Later in his career, Mr. Jacobs would work with a returning Mike Tyson and was in the corner for his first bouts after being released from prison, including his championship wins over Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon as well as his first loss to Evander Holyfield.
All of these gentlemen leave behind wonderful families and many boxers, trainers and fans who will cherish his memory. Fightnews sends its deepest condolences to all.