The plight of Frankie Randall is all too common in the land of the ex-boxer, writes Matt Christie
ALL around us are boxers who used to be somebody. Too often they’re pushed to the side because their broken bodies do not suit the narrative we’re trying to promote. We must not forget them. Frankie Randall, the former world champion who died at the age of just 59 two days before Christmas, was among the sport’s final casualties of 2020. The man who shocked the world when he became the first to beat the great Julio Cesar Chavez in 1994 was getting beaten up time and again by the turn of the century. Antonio Margarito stopped him in the year 2000 before fighters like Peter Manfredo and Marco Antonio Rubio used the old man’s name to pad their records and his body to sharpen their weapons. By the time he retired in 2005, aged 44, his record read 58-18-1 (42). Thirteen of those losses occurred after 1999, with 10 of them coming inside schedule.
At his peak, “The Surgeon” was a sublime and tenacious technician. Chavez was slowly slipping from his peak when Randall went to work on him. The 89-0-1 Mexican was dropped in the 11th, the first time he’d been put down in his career, before Frankie – a 15/1 underdog – won a tight split decision. It should have been clear and unanimous.
In the rematch, promoted by Don King, Randall lost the WBC super-lightweight title in exceptionally controversial circumstances. The fight was stopped in the eighth round and went to the cards due to a cut over the Mexican’s right eye. Under absurd WBC rules, Randall lost a point despite the head-clash that caused the wound being confirmed as accidental. The deduction resulted in Chavez, one of King’s cash cows, winning a technical split decision. Randall would bounce back to twice win the WBA championship. But several drugs like cocaine and theophylline were found in his system after he beat Juan Martin Coggi for the second time in three bouts.
Randall’s relationship with drugs blighted his career. He was released from prison in 1990 after serving 17 months on drug charges. Chavez himself would tumble into addiction as his own career dwindled. They would fight one last time.
In 2004, two deteriorating old men with marketable names creaked their way through 10 slow motion rounds in Mexico City. Chavez, the less damaged of the two, won the decision. Randall should not have been anywhere near a ring by then. Old and eroded boxers often need saving from themselves. But the Morristown, Tennessee resident loved to fight.
“One thing we can remember is the great times,” his trainer Aaron Snowell told BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan. “He was in a lot of great fights and won a lot of great fights. Edwin Rosario [whom Randall split two bouts with], Julio Cesar Chavez, Juan Martin Coggi. He will be recognised for those accomplishments. Everybody loved Frankie.
“We had fond memories in training camp. He was a mechanic and liked to work on cars. He loved to work with his hands. His favorite saying was, ‘I love my job! I train because I love to do it.’ Even when he was in training camp for some of his biggest fights he still wanted to work and just be around people. It’s just what he did, and he loved it.”
Randall, like so many, was addicted to fighting. In the end, as he passed away in care home, there was not an ounce of fight left in him. Brain damaged and ravaged by Parkinson’s, the fog thickened until there was no way out.
But Randall, with his adoring family close by, was one of the lucky ones. Too many end up alone and forgotten. As we enter a new year, we must of course focus on the future. Rebuilding the sport after arguably the most difficult year in its history remains a huge task.
But think, too, of those fighters of the past who still need our help and who gave so much. Look at the long, long list of fallen heroes in this week’s issue of the magazine and raise a glass to them all.