The first year on earth for Jimmy Glenn was 1930 and the whole way through, he was soft spoken, a thoroughly decent soul in a sport that actually does future more of those than outsiders assume.
Now, the sport is a siren for all types of characters. The barrier to entry is slim, so lovable rogues and mildly devious rascals often slither their way into the sphere. This reduction of life won't go overboard and nominate Jimmy for saint hood, c'mon, this is boxing….but Jimmy can look down and deservedly give himself a gentle pat on the back–he didn't have enemies in a sport that is set up to insure everyone has at least one.
The virus, though.
It isn't at all a stretch to liken the COVID-19 which Jimmy tried to fend off as being the worst sort of foe. Nasty, with miles of stamina. Family and scores of friends knew Jimmy was in the hospital, since mid April, and waited for that inevitable message, that his system had counter-punched and his lungs were drawing in ample air, and he'd be back at the bar when this noxious dust settled.
The comeback didn't come, though. The virus grabbed another one, the morning of May 7th. This victim, an oldie/goody who will be remembered for sleepy eyes that didn't properly hint at the street savvy he possessed, or the excess of decency that the people who talked to NY Fights about the passing of a man who repped pugilism and NYC at a Hall of Fame level.
Jimmy was an only child to mama Susie. The intrepid duo went from South Carolina, to Baltimore, to Washington DC, then New York City. WWII had people shifting back to be near more family, so Jimmy went back to South Carolina. He then returned back to NYC in 1944, and stuck in the city.
According to the NY Times–yes, that esteemed publication noted with reverence his death–in addition to his son Adam, Mr. Glenn is survived by six other children: Denise Mercado; Cheryl Mitchell; Delana Glenn; Anita Costa; James Glenn Jr.; Tanya Glenn; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
The teacher had some amateur bouts and then started teaching in the 1950s. As an amateur, he had a record of 14-2 or 14-3, depending upn the source. A loss to Floyd Patterson, at middleweight, helped convince him that his path would maybe involve more steering than driving.
So, into the 1960s, he was there to give aid and comfort to Floyd Patterson, Bobby Cassidy, Howard Davis Jr., and Jameel McCline, among many others. You'd still see Jimmy in corners, in his 70s, his 80s, and we all hoped, his 90s. August 18th, that would have been the big one.
Glenn first trained amateur boxers at the Third Moravian Church (127th and Lex) in East Harlem, and he dispensed smart street wisdom to kids and grownups alike. He worked at a men's store by day, and by night, he'd give the kids tips on how to land the left hook, and steer clear of heroin, maybe. Pros like Puerto Rican welterweight Ralph Correa, they maybe weren't title grade material back in the late 60s and early 70s, but they revered Jimmy. Ralph's mom and dad still lived in Puerto Rico in the City, so he used to call Jimmy “Father.”
In 1977, Glenn opened the Times Square Boxing Club in Manhattan. “The gym, on the third floor, has 100 lockers, with 32 already occupied by New York boxers,” wrote Bill Gallo in the Daily News. Mike Lupica called Jimmy “a gentle, slow-talking black man” as he talked up the West 42nd St. fight factory, also in the News.
All along the way, he'd offer his wisdom. To a “rival,” another gym owner, even. Jimmy Glenn was a special person,” Gleason's Gym bossman Bruce Silverglade told me. “I first met him when I bought into Gleason’s and we were in Manhattan on 30th Street. Jimmy owed the Time Square Gym on 42nd Street. He gave me a lot of pointers on what to expect from the gym and how to run it. I still use a lot of his suggestions today. I will miss his friendly smile and his knowledge.
Jimmy would have a deft way with a newbie who debuted as a pro, and got walloped and finished off quick, he gently admonished that you don't wanna touch gloves before the bout, pros and amateurs are different animals. He'd point out to the kids who did the Golden Gloves route, how they'd wear a GG pendant around their neck. And that would tell everyone on the street about them, that they didn't have to carry a knife or gun. Yeah, Jimmy kept the murder rate down a tick.
Jimmy’s Corner patrons loved him tool the joint opened in 1971, its walls adorned with boxing memorabilia. You could stare for hours, interpret the photos, maybe get lucky and see a Sammy Davis Jr., Robert DeNiro, Michael Jordan and Frank Sinatra getting a libation. If it was around 1982, Jimmy would maybe be on site, and tell you that Howard Davis Jr would be making some noise, after he won his 16th bout as a pro, and split off from managers Dennis Rappaport and Mike Jones. Or maybe about how hard Mark Gastineau could wack the bag, now we just have to see if the Jet defender can take a punch.
Jimmy knew Mark McPherson could give and take it; the kid was 18-0 by 1983, and he was with Jimmy from fight one.
Jimmy had a nice little stable, and cable TV was giving more dates to his kids, like Terrence Alli. There were a few more boxing gyms, then, and Times Square wasn't Disneyfied yet. Look out the gym window and you'd see that “Les Girls Live Revue” could be your next stop if you so desired. But Jimmy was a fixture of decency and dignity, within a gritty city and a sometimes slimy sport.
He will be missed, much more than most people when their time here is over. Mark McPherson felt it like a rib shot from a nasty hooker.
“It's heartbreaking,” the 20-3 ex fighter told me. February of 1978, that's when he met Jimmy. “The gym in Times Square. I was 13,” he said. Bobby Cassidy, the Long Island light heavyweight, had seen Mark fight and told him to reach out to Jimmy, knowing he'd be looked after right. Cassidy wasn't wrong. McPherson bonded hard with Jimmy. I asked him, I was curious, did he ever see Glenn get mad?
“I was fighting Duane Thomas for the USBA middleweight title,” the Brooklyn born ex fighter said. “He hit with what he had and I dropped my hands to show he couldn’t hurt me. When I came back to the corner – it was the maddest I’d ever seen him. Other than that, no.”
Thursday was a rough one for McPherson. “He always called me son, and would introduce me as such. I had great partners but he was a second dad to me.”
In homages like this, it's mostly the “name” fighters who get the ink; but I think it's fair to say it's the mid-rank BoxRec types who benefitted maybe even more from a Jimmy. That's because he was helping solidify traits that came in handy if you didn't get those couple of purses tnat set up your “pension” plan. Patrick Dolan, NYC area fight folk know of him, but he was pre YouTube era.
The 18-5-1 Long Islander is “Paddy” Dolan on Boxrec, and was, duh, “Irish” Paddy Dolan when he was putting butts on chairs at Long Island Arena, Sunnyside Garden and the Felt Forum, supporting the Cassidys, Walter Seelys, Ralphie Racines, Cooneys and McNeeces supporting the support.
“I was trained by Jimmy starting in February, 1976 at the Gramercy Gym on 14th St.,” Paddy told me. “Here's the story of how I met Jimmy, who was basically retired from boxing when I lost a fight to Larry Stanton in January of 1976. My promoter Jimmy Winters bought my fight contract after the Stanton loss, then turned me over to Jimmy Glenn. I would travel from Northport on Long Island to meet Jimmy every day at 4 PM at the Gramercy Gym. He would leave Jimmy’s Corner to meet and train me, and as time went on he starting to train additional fighters, like Justice Ortiz, Rocky Orengo and I believe Mark McPherson. Then Jimmy had the idea to build, and open the gym on 42nd Street, Times Square Boxing, which we all moved to with Jimmy. We would all meet there at like 2 PM every day to train, work, and spar with each other. From that, the gym just kept growing with talented boxers.”
Dolan recalls getting and giving work to Aaron Pryor and Sean O’Grady, who were in NY to sign contracts at different times. “They stopped by Times Square to train for about a week or two, just real good fighters and really nice people, like most boxers are,” he continued. “I stopped boxing in 1979, somehow I felt that I was losing my desire to fight. Being 24 years old at the time of my quitting, I felt that I was young enough to take some time off from boxing, and if the desire for boxing returned, I could go back, which Jimmy fully supported. Whenever I was in NYC, Jimmy’s Corner was always on my schedule to stop by! All the best in your research about my former trainer, manager and blessed friend Jimmy Glenn!”
Solid and stable was Jimmy, but of course, boxing threw some spitters at him. There was the guy who offered to put up money, help the gym refurbish. The dude was signing fighters, apparently did well in business. Specifics of his line of work were vague until word dropped that the DEA had paid the fella visit. $5.6 million in cash, 13 pounds of heroin, 14 pounds of cocaine, plenty of weapons. “He seemed like a real nice guy,” Jimmy told the press. Oh, Jimmy was that, but he is a half point off for saint hood status. C'mon now, it's boxing.
Hall of Famer matchmaker Bruce Trampler knows full well we lost an ace on Thursday. “Teddy Brenner hired me as assistant matchmaker at MSG late in 1977,” Trampler shared. “Soon after, Jimmy came into my office, welcomed me to NYC, introduced himself, gave me a list of fighters he managed, invited me to his gym. After he left, Brenner told me that I’d just met one of the real good guys in boxing. A stand up SOB, a man of character and integrity. And he was right.”
Does he have a signature Glenn memory? “Funniest story: a few years later at a weigh-in in Atlantic City, a manager was talking shit about Brenner. Someone came and got me and I walked over to the obnoxious loudmouth and threw one punch. Lucky for me, it flattened the guy out cold. For more than 35 years, Jimmy loved to tell people that story, always acting out both me and the asshole and our confrontation. Sometimes he had me throwing a right (true), sometimes it was a left hook, but it always ended with Jimmy giggling and laughing and happy because he despised that creep. And then everyone would get back to their beers. That was Jimmy Lee Glenn, was who always called me son and I called him daddy. Rest in peace, Jimmy!”
While we are in that neck of the woods, the matchmaker space, here is a remembrance from Ron Katz, now with Star Boxing, another boxing lifer who dealt with Glenn over the decades.
“There is no shortage of tales to tell about how good a man Jimmy was,” Katz said. “My favorite times were when Jimmy would come up to the Top Rank office to visit Teddy Brenner. The rest of Teddy's crew, as I like to call them would also be there, Robbie Margolies, “Wazel,” and a couple others whose names I can't remember. The banter between all of them was priceless.” Katz then offers some welcomed insight into Glenn's heart. “I'm going to tell you something I never told anyone about Jimmy, I was struggling financially for a few years back in like 2006-2007, Jimmy knew this as did others, we were at a fight together at Westbury Music Fair, he came up to hug me because we hadn't seen each other in awhile. I felt something in my pants pocket. When I walked away I reached and there were three $100 bills in there Jimmy put there. That was Jimmy Glenn and he refused to be paid back when I got back financially.”
Mike Marley is a Masshole, who did boxing journalism in Las Vegas, then NYC. We wish his archive from the NY Post were readily available. Man has forgotten more anecdotes than I will ever collect. I asked “Brighton Mike” to weigh in on Jimmy the Gent.
“Jimmy was a great coach and his boxing “alumni” remained loyal to the end,” Marley told me. “Jimmy was never afraid to simply express his affection for all his warriors. He had seven kids of his own but also hundreds of “adopted sons” from his gym. Every single one was treated like a champ and never like a tramp. Abe Lincoln would have appreciated Jimmy because he had ‘malice towards none: and love and good cheer for all.' Jimmy was a pugilistic prince who worked 16 hours a day. He sent son Adam through Harvard Law. ‘Nuff said!”
Bobby Cassidy Jr felt the pain in his dad's heart when dad learned Jimmy had died. Cass, a fixture at Newsday, shared some on what made Jimmy so special. “This is how much my father loved Jimmy Glenn,” the son of the prizefighter recalled. “In 1980 when he retired from boxing I was probably around 16 and we went into Jimmy’s bar. I had met Jimmy a bunch of times at my dad's fights, I’d been to the Times Square gym. We sat down at the bar and my dad said, ‘If anything ever happens to me you come can you find Jimmy and he’ll be the one to help you, you can trust Jimmy with your life.' And that’s saying something in the sport of boxing.”
Bobby Junior understands why his dad was so sad today. “Jimmy used to call a lot of people son but whenever he called me son it felt really special.” More, please. “He went with my dad to Sweden, my dad fought on a Sonny Liston card in Sweden and they both hung out with Sonny Liston and had a great time, there were like the only five Americans there.” Bobby is talking about April 28, 1967, when Liston (38-3) beat Elmer Rush, and Cassidy, then 27-5-1, drew with Swede Bo Hogberg.
“Around that same time my father Fought in South Africa and Jimmy wouldn’t go,” the son continued, speaking of a Feb. 6, 1967 gig, Cassidy versus Johnny Wood. “My father understood. He went, he had to take a fight to feed his family, but he understood that Jimmy wasn’t going to go, it was that it was the height of apartheid.”
In and around 1967, Cassidy was a top 10 middleweight contender. In the mid 70s, he went with different management and had a different trainer but the crafty lefty from Levittown finished with Jimmy in 1980. “He was in Jimmy’s gym in Time Square and they talked about retirement,” Cassidy Junior said. “My Dad was 35 – they agreed it was time – he said, ‘OK Jimmy.. if anyone calls for a fight tell them you lost my number.”'
Men of principle…men you pick when you are asked to choose just one to tuck your kid under his arm if things get too rugged…Boxing has more of these than critics would have you think, zero doubt, but Glenn was high on the list.
McPherson was asked for his signature Jimmy story. It's not flashy, doesn't lend itself to the bio flick…but it fits Jimmy like a tailored suit.
“A press conference for a fight in the Garden was postponed so we decided to have lunch in this cafe by Madison Square Garden,” said McPherson. “We ate lunch and talked about everything we never talked about in the gym… his kids, my brothers and sisters… I don’t know I got to glimpse another aspect of this great man. I lost both my parents in the last seven years – but I would comfort myself by saying I’ve still got Jimmy.”
Jimmy had saintly patience. He needed it, with Gastineau, who decided in 1989 that he'd always wanted to be a fighter. In 1988, he'd ditched football, was 35 years old, and needed something to do. Why not prize-fighting?
One morning, Jimmy got a call, it was Gastineau. Can't come in to work out today coach, I'm otherwise detained. Gentle Jimmy said OK, when you get sorted, circle back. Detained, indeed. Gastineau had been partying in Long Beach, and got into a scuffle. The 6-5 280 pounder decked a 5-9 dude, and got arrested for the effort, after he'd slipped away in a speedboat. (The joint was on the water.) Follow that ex Jet, the cops said, and picked up the mulleted maniac. (Side note: In my wilder days, I swear, the tail end of them, I got into a scuffle too. I asked around, for someone who could recommend counsel. A good friend told me to call a good attorney, a lady. She had a good handle on such cases, I used her, she was solid. She'd been the lawyer who handled this Gastineau fracas fallout.)
Glenn was good for “careers” like Gastineau's. He didn't get over eager, didn't over promise the press that he had the next Ali in the gym, and his patience tolerance was the right fit for a fighter with a bountiful ego. Ed “Too Tall” Jones also used Jimmy's gym when he was thinking that he'd like to be a pugilist, in the late 70s. He decided football was gentler and hung up the mitts, as Gastineau did in 1996, with a tainted 15-2 record.
No, I won't say here that this is Saint Jimmy who I see is trending on Twitter. He was human after all. After one of his guys he'd invested time and money in for almost 15 years got a dream gig, a purse of maybe $300,000, the guy jetted from Jimmy, so he could keep more of the pie. It would be understandable, fully human, if Jimmy wanted his ex fighter to take the L, and a few hooks to the right ribs. (Note: That he did, wonder if the money was worth it for the beating he took and way he made hurt Jimmy's feelings with that lack of loyalty.)
But he did what the best pros do, he adapted. To jackass fighters who let money rule their emotions, and to landlords who didn't care that his gym kept kids off the streets, they wanted the max dollar per square foot. By the fall of 1993, he'd need to look for a new gym space. Thing is, you get to a certain age, and you usually pick and choose as to what you adapt to, and what you accept.
Finding new spots where landlords were reasonable is not easy even for the super patient types. Even the patient ones can get a wee bit ground down by the steady flow of insults boxing throws at you. Ludicrous rent asks.
Gastineau, he flamed out in '94, had one final fling in '96, when Alonzo Highsmith smacked enough sense in him to leave the premises. But being in boxing means you have to be able to look on the bright side, for possibilities, for the next big thing–or welterweight big thing–to walk in the door, or email you.
Glenn Robinson, Jimmy had high hopes for the kid who hit the snooze button too many times, overslept and missed the fight that could have put him on the US Olympic team in 1996. A win over 30-1 Kenny Bowman was a step plus in that direction in 1999, but then light heavyweight Robinson lost the next outing, on May 23, 1999 to Greg Wright (15-5-2), and his momentum sputtered and stalled. In boxing, in life, you soldier on, try to learn from the losses, do better next time. Jimmy didn't become one of the bitter ones, whine about how the good old days (which were often actually just as bad, but in different ways) were preferable to the now.
Some young guns worked with Jimmy. Paul Malignaggi early on, but Paulie needed variety, he'd move from Jimmy to Billy Giles to Buddy McGirt to Sherif Younan to Eric Brown, etc, etc. But like any lifer trainer/manager, the door was always open, for a young gun, or a late-starting hyper-achiever, like Jameel McCline. He was a Harlem kid, went into a group home when he was seven, and stood out athletically. But the lure of the streets and darkside commerce snagged him. In 1989, he got popped for a weapons charge. He did five years, plenty of it in solitary.
At age 25, he turned pro, and by 2000, was being guided by Mister Jimmy. Don Turner, Tommy Brooks, Yoel Judah and Diego Rosario had cornered McCline–but it was with Glenn that Jameel learned more patience, tricks of the trade, and some basics, too.
He elevated in the ranks, and signed on for a title crack, against 39-1 Wladimir Klitschko on Dec. 7, 2002. A win here, that would have the 28-2-3 McCline in line for a step up from that step up fight. Wlad had the WBO belt, and a win over him would mean the next one would be for the kind of money that would give Jimmy a big-bite taste of that good life money. That money got made, but by others; McCline had made over $2 million on the run up, but he got stopped when he wasn't able to come out for round 11. On Thursday, Jameel, living in Florida, having last fought in 2012, thought about the trainer, taken by coronavirus. How was he feeling? “I mean, that was my guy,” McCline said, simply summing up what Glenn meant to him.
Jim Lampley adored Glenn. “Beyond all description,” Lampley told me on Thursday evening. He'd been getting updates nightly from Jimmy's son Adam. “We lost an unusually soulful brother. He put up a helluva fight these past three weeks. He had me convinced he was going to win. But the virus is a cruel opponent. It's there to hurt you.”
I wondered how and why Lampley and Glenn formed a union. Lampley graciously explained. “We are from the same part of the country,” the Hall of Fame ringside chronicler told me. “Our forebears grew up as neighbors in a different world. But we had a lot in common. Early on getting to know him, I somehow got the sense he came from a family where men show affection by kissing, even your father or your brother or your uncle. Southern thing, and I grew up that way. One night, saying goodbye at the bar, I tested the perception, and I was right. His son Adam told me one of the things his dad liked about me was I didn’t mind if he kissed my cheek hello and goodbye. And vice versa. I will miss him a lot. I will miss the bar. And I will miss our Carolina kiss connection, and the legitimate deep affection I felt for him. They call it the sweet science……..”
We in the fight game saw a bit less of Jimmy in recent years. All were pleased to see him receive the Boxing Writers Association of America‘s Long and Meritorious Service award in 2004. By 2005, Jimmy was 75, and it seems he pretty much accepted the new New York. He ran his bar, on 44th between Sixth and Seventh, nothin' fancy, no menu.
“I'd rather run a gym than a bar, but you can't make a living running a gym,” he told Tom Hauser.
The bar got more press than did boxing for Jimmy, it's a pretty solid low key must visit for tourists of a certain ilk. The place reflected Jimmy's sensibility that his fighters spoke of. The sign that recommended/commanded “Let's not discuss politics here” probably headed off the odd lawsuit or two, because it made it more likely patrons got along. More sensibility–you could order like four drinks and keep some change off your twenty. That's not new New York, where everyone pays for the ultra wealth enjoyed by the whale real estate holders.
By 2016, Jimmy was 85. We missed seeing that Fu Manchu ‘stache, that long Q Tip (or three, if he thought his guy had a good chance of losing) in his mouth at fights so much, but patrons at the bar were happy to get those cheap drinks.
“It's my museum,” he'd say, looking at the pics on the walls, Ali in his prime, plenty of forgotten pros proudly posing, when optimism still buoyed them.
Son Adam has been a chip off that block, giving updates to Jimmy's boxing buddies. He was at his father’s bedside, he informed the Daily News, around 5:30 a.m. Thursday his dad died in NYU Langone Health in Manhattan.
“I fought my way in and they weren’t going to get rid of me,” said Adam, showing the heart of prize-winning pugilist.
Money, that subject would come up more than now and again. It's a given, for most of us in NYC, you can't escape it. Nope, I will never be a billionaire, Jimmy would say, so I sell cheap beers. Word is that Adam will keep the biz running, after the toxic dust of the virus settles in the City.
And jeeze, I do hope Jimmy and son Adam knew it, Jimmy left a stronger legacy, by far, than any money man who owns those fancy buildings and has that fat stocks and bonds portfolio that supposedly make him a big shot. Ask his kids if they'd rather dad worked to get the extra Beemer, or drove a Chevy, and was around to watch the Little League games.
Those dudes aren't taking their holdings into the ground and those guys didn't have so many people shedding tears today. The message is hammered into you, it's money that matters, but please, let Jimmy's passing repudiate that sad myth.
Man was rich….In decency, in kindness and character.
–Michael Woods publishes NY Fights. Before that, he worked at ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.
Follow “Woodsy” on Twitter, @Woodsy1069.
Born in Massachusetts, Woods moved to NYC in 1999, and started out full-time in media working sports and then hard news at NY Newsday.
Since 2016, the BWAA VP has done the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast. The Brooklyn resident does blow by blow for the Facebook Fightnight Live series, gearing up to start season four.