by Ken Hissner
“As a kid of 6, I jumped into the pool at 26th & Master’s not realizing it was well over my head when all of a sudden this hand reached in and pulled me out saving my life,” said Fred Jenkins. Adding, “I won my pro debut in November of 1974. In February of 1976 in my 2nd fight, who do you think is in the opposite corner?” “You got it. Tyrone Freeman (3-6-4), the guy who saved my life,” said Jenkins. Adding “how do I hit this guy?”
Two months after losing to Freeman by a 6 round decision Jenkins would defeat Archie Andrews (5-4) in 6 rounds. Welcome to the game of boxing! This is when Jenkins made the decision to learn the art of becoming a trainer from the best Philly had to offer. His trainer was Stan Williams and Al Bennett was the assistant.
“I was blessed to teach guys after learning the business from Milt Bailey (also one of top cut men in boxing), Quenzell McCall, Duke Dugent (trained Joe Frazier, Bennie Briscoe and “Gypsy” Joe Harris as amateurs), George James and Wesley Mouzon.
Fred started training fighters in 1973 and now runs the boxing gym at the ABC recreation center at 26th & Masters where he once jumped into their pool. Probably the most famous boxer among the many he has worked with was former Olympic gold medalist and world champion David Reid. “He thought he was invincible until several fights before beating the Cuban in Atlanta and even several fights into the pro’s,” said Jenkins. “I think they (Dan Goossen, promoter) rushed him,” said Jenkins. “He fought too many guys with good records (272-43 in 11 fights) right from the start,” added Jenkins.
Prior to winning the title in his 12th fight Reid beat two former world champions in Simon Brown 47-7 and Jorge Vaca 57-18-1 along with three unbeaten fighters in James Coker 19-0, Geoff Yalenezian 11-0 and Sam Calderon 10-0. “They took him to Denver instead of leaving him where he learned to fight,” said Jenkins. Mitchell was available and went with Reid. Today Reid is at the U.S. Olympic Education Center helping Jenkins former assistant trainer Al Mitchell on the Northern Michigan University campus. Most feel n putting him in with Felix Trinidad was the mistake that cost him his career.
“I had too many amateur fighters taken from me because I only taught a pro style and pro’s taken because I spent too much time with the amateurs,” said Jenkins. “You can’t have it both ways, but I always kept an open door for their return,” he added. “It all depended upon who was giving my fighters outside advice,” said Jenkins.
His first pro was Jerome “Silky” Jackson (11-5-1) who was unbeaten in Philly (8-0-1) rings. “He had one of the best jabs and was one of my best fighters but had too much street life,” said Jenkins. Several other Jackson’s he trained were Lonnie (3-0, 3 KO) who moved onto Joe Frazier’s gym and never had another pro fight but is back with Jenkins today.
His son Lonnie, Jr. is one of the better amateur boxers at the gym. Ernest (12-9-1) who is Jerome’s brother was 6-1-1 drawing with future IBF junior welterweight champion from Philly Gary Hinton. Then he was moved into a 10 round bout losing to Kevin Rooney (16-1) and 3 more losses after that. “”He turned pro too young. They would see the other guys turning pro and they wanted the same thing,” said Jenkins.
The other world champion out of Jenkins gym was Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown who won the newly created IBF lightweight title in 1984 defeating Melvin Paul (17-2). “He knew he had to defend his title within 90 days but not know against whom. When we finally did get our notice we only had 3 days to prepare for Harry Arroyo (23-0) and he wasn’t in the kind of shape he should have been in,” said Jenkins. Brown would lose in the 14th round. The following year Jenkins took Brown to Australia and defeated Pat Leglise (24-1-1), their light welterweight champion who was a top prospect. “I saw them in the corner motioning watch out for the left hook. I told Brown to throw the right hand,” said Jenkins. “That’s what happened,” said Brown. Then 3 months later when they were asked to come back, Jenkins could not make the trip. “He was never the same after he came back from there,” said Jenkins. Brown lost 11 straight fights and retired in 1993. Jenkins retired him after 3 of those losses in 1987. From 1988 to 1993 Brown fought without Jenkins in his corner.
One of those trainers mentioned earlier who helped develop Jenkins training ability was well respected George James. I talked to James about Jenkins recently. “Fred was a very good amateur fighter. He has always done a lot for kids. We used to do work out shows together,” said James.
Some of the other fighters in 1983 winning Pennsylvania Golden Glove titles were Marvin Garris who had also won in 1981. Garris (15-10-1) won his first 5 pro fights before losing a split decision in 8 rounds to future world champion Fred Pendleton, also from Philly. Then 3 fights later he won the Pennsylvania state lightweight title in 12 rounds over Victor Flores (14-5-1). After losing his next fight, Garris went with Brown to Australia losing to former IBF super featherweight champion Lester Ellis (17-1). Upon his return he would post a 7-7-1 record in his last 15 fights. “He was one of the best guys to follow instructions,” said Jenkins. “Working at the Rec Center I couldn’t just up and leave 3 months later to take him and Brown to Australia,” added Jenkins.
The other two fighters he had in 1983 were possible Olympic team boxers in Bryan “Boogaloo” Jones and Andre Sharp Richardson. One of the members of that 1983 Pennsylvania Golden Gloves champions was former title contender Vincent Boulware. “They were all very good, but Jones was a national champion and the best of them,’ said Boulware. Jones and Richardson would both lose their amateur status being accused of a crime and turn pro while fighting their accusers and fight on the same cards for their first 5 bouts, all wins. This was from March of 1984 thru July. Jones won his first 8 fights before losing to Philly’s Troy Fletcher (8-0-1) over 12 rounds for the state bantamweight title by one point on two of the scorecards. “I don’t like making excuses but he had the flu and refused not to fight,” said Jenkins. “He listened so well I gave him instructions to go to the Nationals and he won without me being there,” added Jenkins. He felt they both got a bad rap when being told by their attorney to plead guilty and they wouldn’t go to prison. That not being the case, Richardson got 6 years and Jones 8 years. Jones last fight was October of 1985 ending his career at 10-2. He would be released in 1993 but never fight again. Richardson ended his in September of 1985 unbeaten in 11 fights. Upon getting out early in 1989 he won 2 fights and retired with a 13-0 record. “The problem with Richardson was he didn’t like following orders from the promoters,” said Jenkins.
In 1983 Jenkins turned “Rockin” Rodney Moore as he turned pro. Winning state titles at lightweight and junior welterweight, Moore became known as “King of the Blue Horizon” by all fight fans. From August of 1987 to June of 1992 he posted an 18-0-2 record including 14-0-1 at the Blue until losing his only bout there in 1992. In an earlier interview I did on Moore he said “I had 29 fights at the Blue Horizon only losing once”.
He would also fight for 3 world titles against Charles Murray (28-1), Frankie Randall (50-3-1) and Felix Trinidad (27-0) all in losing efforts. “He was the most unpredictable. They underestimated him,” said Jenkins. I recently saw Moore at a Philly awards show and asked him about Jenkins. “I personally know that he is a really good and gifted boxing trainer (amateur/professional). I also feel that he does not get the national recognition he deserves,” said Moore. Moore is in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s hall of fame.
Current world middleweight contender Randy Griffin (24-2-3) was another who got his start with Jenkins. He was a state 1997 and 1999 champion and won the national championship in 1999. “One day the real Randy Griffin will stand up. He took the wrong direction several times,” said Jenkins. “Too many of these guys would listen to others telling them how good they could have it elsewhere,” said Jenkins. “They still come around and I still listen to them,” he added.
“I trained Vaughn Bean (45-6) when he came in from Chicago for about 10 fights,” said Jenkins. “During that period he only lost to Michael Moorer by majority decision for his IBF title. Then he fought Evander Holyfield,” he added. “Butch (Lewis) wouldn’t let us work the corner that night” said Jenkins. He added “how could you let someone train your fighter and then put in new people the night he was fighting for the championship?”
I told him Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson (23-3) said “if I ever hit the big time I will take care of Fred Jenkins. I owe him everything.” Jenkins was surprised to hear him say that. Thompson was a national champion in 2000. “He was another one who was invincible as an amateur. He sparred with the professionals when he was 14 or 15 and they couldn’t touch him,” said Jenkins. “He was the #132 novice champ and had enough ability to go open class. Since there wasn’t an open class champion, I sent him to the Nationals. It was 1998 and he was 16 years old and won 5 matches before losing to Ebo Elder,” added Jenkins.
“Zahir Raheem (29-3) was another invincible one,” said Jenkins. Raheem was a member of the 1996 Olympic team in Atlanta. “The last time I worked with him as a professional was in July of 2004 when he lost to Rocky Juarez in a featherweight title eliminator,” said Jenkins. It was one of the worst performances by a referee (Robert Gonzalez) being partial toward another fighter (Raheem). He would defeat Erik Morales (48-2) at lightweight looking great, but lose to Acelino Freitas (37-1) for the vacant WBO lightweight title in April of 2006. “He still comes around when he is in Philly (living in Oklahoma) though I haven’t seen him in a couple of years,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins had James “The House” Stanton who was the Pennsylvania 1991 Golden Gloves super heavyweight champion before turning pro that year winning his first 16 fights over a 4 year period before losing to Darroll Wilson (14-0-2) and former WBC champion Oliver McCall (27-6). He lost 4 of his next 5 fights ending his career at 17-6. I asked Jenkins what happened. “The streets,” said Jenkins. Michael Rhodes was the 1995 Pennsylvania Golden Gloves super heavyweight champion. “He weighed about 212 as an amateur,” said Jenkins. By the time he turned pro in 2004 he was 312. “I wanted to turn pro in 1995 but Fred made me go to school for my degree. I only turned pro to pay off my loans,” said Rhodes.
He was 3-0-3 before losing his last 3 fights with the last one in December 2008 at 345. It was the first time he was stopped. “He simply got too heavy,” said Jenkins. “I had Sidney Outlaw (10-10-1) who thought he could work 2 jobs and be a fighter. He could have been good if he only had one job, “said Jenkins. 10 of the 21 opponents had never lost a fight including future champion John David Jackson. He also lost a decision to future champion Reggie Johnson (11-1-1). “I had Kenny Butts, a flyweight and good amateur. He was unbeaten (5-0-1) in his first 6 fights. He fought Robert “Pop” Robinson twice for the Pennsylvania title. Robinson came in overweight in the second one but he beat him anyway for the title,” said Jenkins.
In 1998 Jenkins started assisting Sloan Anderson with Calvin “Strictly Business” Davis (22-1) a good lightweight prospect whose career ended 2 years after being arrested in a drug bust. “He turned his whole life around in those 2 years but didn’t have the money to continue fighting so they sentenced him ending his boxing career,” said Jenkins. The second fight Jenkins was with him was against Troy Fletcher who had beaten his fighter Bryan Jones. Davis stopped Fletcher in the 7th round. Davis would only lose once in those 10 fights and that was to Brian Adams (11-2-1), a house fighter, in Madison Square Garden.
The final fighter we talked about was unbeaten heavyweight Malik Scott (31-0). He was the National AAU champion in 1999 defeating Michael Bennett and Jason Estrada. In 2000 he defeated DaVarryl Williamson and Malcolm Tann but lost to Estrada at the trials and Bennett in the Olympic box-offs. He had a 70-3 amateur record. “Best heavyweight in the world but no one knows how to train him to fight but me,” said Jenkins. Scott was signed by Shelly Finkle as a pro and Jenkins never worked with him since.
“Fred is a very good trainer and he knows how to work with kids very well,” said Wade Hinnant. Hinnant had trained with Fred as an amateur fighter.
I asked Jenkins about Tyrone Brunson (19-0-1, 19 KO) whom he had in the amateurs. “I raised him from a kid since he was 12. He has great potential if you can get it out of him. He had about 20-25 amateur fights,” said Jenkins. After Don Elbaum put him in his first pro bout in April of 2005 at the legendary Blue Horizon, he hasn’t been seen in these parts since. Don King signed him last June and he has had one fight (draw) since. “I have always had a good relationship with Fred. He’s a good guy who has honored every deal we’ve done barring injuries,” said Elbaum.
While interviewing Jenkins, Jerome McIntyre walked in. He was in the 1992 Olympic trials losing in the semi finals to “Rambo” Patterson from the Kronk gym. “Eric Griffin who would win the trials wanted to fight me because he beat everyone but me,” said McIntyre. “Earlier I was the first Philly fighter to go to Northern Michigan in August of 1990. I fought Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson in 1989 along with his brother James Harris. Then later before the 1996 Olympics I fought Floyd Mayweather. I blew my arm out before the trials ending my career,” McIntyre said.
Before I left, Bryant Jennings was called into the office. He is 24 and 230 pounds getting ready for his first amateur bout. “I played football at Ben Franklin High School and have been coming here since I was 12. I asked if I could box and Fred said alright,” added Jennings. “I am going to take it slow with him because I don’t believe in just throwing these guys in the ring without being able to know what they are doing,” said Jenkins. It’s too bad some other trainers don’t feel that way. Its sink or swim with many of them.”
Jenkins is one of the most well liked people in the business. You can see he knows how to relate to these young men and people in general. Over the years he has worked with and now for on fight nights for local promoter J. Russell Peltz. “Few people have got to know Peltz like I do. There is another side of him that he rarely reveals. He’s a good guy,” said Jenkins. The 26th & Masters gym is in a rough area of North Philly and it is easy to see how some of the tougher kids in the city would walk through those doors into the gym. In regards to Jenkins being able to fight he said “I was also a good street fighter. You had to be in that neighborhood.” Jenkins has had two world champions in Reid and Brown. You just never know when the next one is going to walk in.
Remember, the door is always open per Fred “Herk” Jenkins!
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org