He went too damn early, of that there can be no doubt.
The older you get, the younger that is…
Howard Davis, the 1976 Olympic gold medallist, a proud Long Island resident, wasn't able to counterpunch a vicious cancer as well as he was able to in amassing a 125-5 amateur mark, and a 36-6-1 professional mark.
Obits are supposed to be all the sunny stuff, and darn right, Davis led his life in classy fashion, and the outpourings following his passing, in Florida, were heart-felt and widespread.
Looking back, you maybe wished that decency was rewarded with a title or two. After just 13 fights as a pro, he looked to get a bounce from the Olympic electricity, and he met up with Jim Watt, a rugged Brit, for Watt's lightweight crown. He lost by decision. Seven years passed, and opportunities came and more so went, and he kept on trying to find his style, his niche. Sugar Ray Leonard got magazine covers and obscene checks, and him, he kept plugging.
In 1984, he met Edwin Rosario, for Rosario's lightweight strap, and again, he lost, this time in a split decision. Just his luck, he hit the deck in the waning seconds of the 12th and final round with a mere four seconds on the clock.
One more try came in 1988; this time, fellow Islander Buddy McGirt dropped and stopped him, in a junior welter tangle in NYC. This was the last match to be set for 15 rounds, for the record. And just as the color man mentioned Davis' chin woes, bang, McGirt slammed him with a home run right, in round one.
So, many obit will harken back to the amateur days. Davis–get this–was named most outstanding boxer at the '76 Games, beating out Sugar Ray Leonard and the Brothers Spinks, among others. Those hands, damn were they fast. But the speed, it didn't necessarily translate to to power. There is a monster inside of me, he'd sometimes say, trying to psych himself up, get into slayer mode. “Track-meet combat,” some naysayers branded his fighting style, and sometimes he'd try on a different hat, try to sit down on his shots, give the people what they want. He so wanted to snag that title, for himself, loved ones, the folks back in Glen Cove, but the dream died in 1996, when he got stopped by Dana Rosenblatt in Boston. He was 40. He soldiered on as long as he could, quite valiantly, to get over that hump.
Same deal in fighting the cancer. He fought 15 rounds against the invader in his lungs. Nah, he didn't get the W. He died on December 30, didn't make the New Year, but those who knew him, know this: Howard Davis was a skilled pugilist, pro titles or not, and even more importantly, a good human being.