“This is the biggest fight of my life and I’m gonna win.” - Boris Powell on ALS diagnosis.
My uncle, Boris Powell, once turned down close to $1 million to fight Mike Tyson. People thought he was crazy to walk away from a near seven-figure payday to box one of the greatest knockout artists of all time.
Soon after, I asked Boris why did he decline the Tyson fight - Iron Mike’s first after his release from prison for a rape conviction. The purse was only $750,000, Boris told me. After taxes, expenses, and fees for management and training, his take-home pay would have been about $100,000. My Aunt Phyllis and the three kids the couple shared would have rightfully gotten half of that.
“Ain’t no way I’m getting in the ring with Mike Tyson for 50K,” Boris told me.
It’s a conversation I’ve never forgotten.
The former Golden Glove National Champion in the heavyweight division is the father of three of my younger cousins. I have known Boris since I was a child. He was a hulking 6-foot-4 inch, 230-pound athlete without an ounce of fat on him. He ran often and trained more than the average fighter. He was 30-2 as a professional and once held the WBO Heavyweight title.
As a youngster, Boris was Superman to me. Always jovial. Never disrespectful or mean. We spoke last about three years ago when he inquired about my oldest son, General.
“Man, what’s the Young General up to these days?” he would often say.
Boris was known as the Reluctant Heavyweight, a rather disparaging name given to him by former St. Louis Post-Dispatch boxing writer Tom Wheatley. Boris, you see, did not like to be hit so he trained not to. Who can blame him, though? Boxing is a brutal sport and not for the faint of heart. I called him wise and crafty.
My grandad once watched one of Boris’ televised fights on cable back in the 1990s, one of only two losses. He came away with the impression that Boris was a solid fighter with a bright future.
Raymond Porter, Sr., my grandad, died of natural causes Sunday, one day before I learned of the fight Boris with ALS.
I’ve cried all day.