Love In the Time of Bobo Olson



Love In the Time of Bobo Olson

The late sportscaster Les Keiter thought of Bobo Olson as “the warmest human being I’ve ever known.” He wanted to be clear, though, that Bobo “was mean and tough in his early youth…a very tough guy who came off the streets.”

Bobo’s parents separated when he was twelve years old, not long before he left school at age 13 to begin fighting grown men for money. The men he fought were mostly GIs stationed on Oahu, and they fought in chicken coops – literally cockfighting for human beings – where San Francisco boxing manager Sid Flaherty saw that Bobo was a “tough and tireless” competitor with a solid chin.

Flaherty, a sergeant in the army during WWII, had been assigned the duty of arranging boxing shows for the military personnel at Hickam Field. On a scouting mission in Honolulu when he first noticed Bobo, it was, in Flaherty’s own words, “love at first sight.”

Carl Elmer Ferdinand Olson got the nickname “Bobo” as a boy when his younger sister had trouble pronouncing the word “brother.”

He would become known as “The Hawaiian Swede” for having been born in Honolulu to a Swedish father who was known as a “pretty tough guy” and had reportedly fought professionally in Oklahoma, and a Portuguese mother whose 6’8” father was always assumed to be the source of Bobo’s great strength.

He was also called “The Kalihi Kid,” a tribute to the rough Kalihi neighborhood where he grew up, not far from the shipyards.

Promoter Don Chargin would talk about Bobo being one of very few boxers who had developed “man” strength while still a teenager.

Pipino Cuevas is a more modern example of this phenomenon. Cuevas became a world champion at age 18, having begun fighting professionally when only 14, but was, for all practical purposes, washed up at 23.

Flaherty saw a future world champion when looking at a 15-year old Bobo. “What I liked most about the kid was his eye,” Flaherty said. “He had the wonderful alertness to see a punch coming his way and to avoid it.” Bobo got a tattoo on each shoulder and would shave the hair on his chest with the hope it would grow back more thickly and he would appear older, and began officially fighting as a professional in Honolulu at age 16.

Bobo sure was a fan favorite, even when he started to get a bit chinny.

The following year, 1945, Bobo moved to San Francisco to take Flaherty up on the offer he made to manage Bobo in Northern California after the war, but the state athletic commission soon discovered Bobo’s true age and revoked his boxing license.

Bobo returned to Hawaii which, being a territory and not yet a state, was less regulated, and allowed him to fight. He was homesick, anyway. In Hawaii, he could swim in the surf at Makapuu, spearfish, and ride horses. He missed the way his mother made poi, with cream and sugar. And he missed Helen Dolores Cavaco, whom he had known since grade school.

Helen had been an aerial artist for the E.K. Fernandez circus as a girl, and would help keep Bobo flush between fights. After they married – at age 17 – and Bobo became champion, a reporter asked her, possibly insinuating that she was riding the Olson gravy train, if she had known Bobo when he was in rags and not riches. “I knew him when he was very poor,” Helen answered. “I used to give him spending money when I was working as an acrobat in a circus.”

Described as “a 100-pound brunette of Portuguese extraction,” Helen idolized Bobo. When a case was being made for Bobo, as middleweight champion, to fight Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight title, Helen thought Bobo was tough enough to take anything Rocky had. “It doesn’t matter how big they are,” she said. “Bobo can beat them all.”

Bobo signed a managerial contract with Herbert Campos and fought not only in Hawaii, but in Australia and the Philippines, as well. When he and Helen married in 1946, they had their first child, Carl, shortly after.

But Bobo was frustrated with his earnings, and went back to San Francisco to fight for Flaherty, with the approval of Campos. This would become a problem a few years later when Bobo’s earnings reflected the prominent middleweight he had become, and Campos realized he didn’t approve of Bobo going to California as much as he first had. He wanted some of Bobo’s money in order to provide more approval.

Helen and hubby before the bust up. She proved herself to be admirably loyal, offering sympathy to the fighter even after it was discovered he had two families.

Under Flaherty’s guidance, Bobo developed into a more sophisticated boxer than he had been in Hawaii, where he depended upon his quick, agile feet and resilient aggressiveness for success. Formerly, he would often simply paw with his left hand, trying to draw his opponent toward him. But in San Francisco, Bobo learned to be more strategic with his aggressiveness, becoming a skilled infighter and world class body puncher. When he went 15 rounds with Ray Robinson in 1952, it was obvious that if he had not been on the middleweight map before he would be in the center of it then.

Bobo Olson was an emotional man, but also a man who kept those emotions contained. The container faulted on the night Bobo decisioned Randy Turpin for the world middleweight championship, when he cried upon being announced the victor. “We all cried when we saw Bobo break into tears,” Helen said.

Helen said that Bobo winning the title was “like a dream come true for us,” that their lives changed overnight and were no longer private. They had to repeatedly change their unlisted phone number.

Bobo did not speak much when young – embarrassed by a lack of formal education and his Hawaiian patois – he knew he didn’t “talk too good.” He often let Flaherty answer reporters’ questions for him. Red McQueen of the Honolulu Advertiser remembered when for Bobo “two words and a shrug of his mighty shoulders constituted a speech.”

But he was handsome and proud and lustful, qualities the world found attractive. The attraction was sometimes reciprocal, and one of the attractions was a finalist in the 1949 Miss Waikiki Beauty Pageant. Judith Kalama Crabbe gave birth, in 1951, to Bobo’s child in Honolulu.

Bobo came out of his shell after winning the championship, and was more comfortable speaking with reporters, answering their questions in complete sentences. He was more open about himself in interviews, too, saying that although it was too late for him to go to school, he wanted “to give my children an education and things I didn’t get when I was younger.”

Helen joked about the reporters beginning to call him “Gabby Olson.”

She was proud of Bobo, someone who had always enjoyed the freedom of the night, but had finally learned to restrain himself enough to become world champion.

“At the beginning,” Helen said, “Sid used to call me in the daytime to find out what time Bobo was coming in at night. I never lied to Sid, and he’d really sit on Bobo when he was keeping late hours.”

Flaherty had a sizable stable, sometimes up to 50 boxers, and had established a corporation, Sid Flaherty Enterprises, which controlled their finances. He took 30 percent of his fighters’ purses, a standard cut, allowing them immediate access to 20 percent. The remaining 50 percent was secured in an “investment fund” allocated to the purchase of stocks and bonds and real estate. The boxers would be able to draw on this fund upon retirement from boxing, either in monthly payments or as a lump sum.

Flaherty’s expenses included a boarding house near the Golden Gate Bridge where many of the boxers in his stable lived, dormitory style. They were all required to have jobs, to run in the morning on the beach, and to train after work. The jobs provided most of the boxers’ spending money. It was a tightly run ship, with the boxers completing all the household chores save cooking, for which Flaherty was responsible.

Reporters were generally supportive of Flaherty’s operation, calling Flaherty “a sincere, fatherly man with a new idea,” who “has set himself up as a general over a group of young men who hope to be champion prize fighters.”

Flaherty gives off a fatherly vibe as he consoles Bobo following a loss.

Flaherty’s plan was that by living together in a communal environment the fighters would have reduced and shared expenses during their boxing lives, and that the principal and returns from the investment fund would provide a financial stake with which to begin the post-boxing portion of their lives.

Those plans did not work out as well as the boxers were led to believe they might. Beside Bobo, Flaherty also managed top heavyweight contender Eddie Machen, as well as Archie Whitewater and Baby Vasquez. None of these guys, Bobo included, would have much to show for themselves when they were done fighting. There were several reasons this was not a healthy arrangement, only one of them being that most men don’t care to be housed in a dormitory with a large group of other men during the prime of their lives. Some of them want to begin families, or at least scout around to see with whom they might want to start a family.

One reporter wrote that Flaherty “…never takes his eyes off his boys because they all live under the same roof.”

“It was like living in a concentration camp,” welterweight Maurice Harper said of the experience. Another boxer spoke of hitting his knees to shine Flaherty’s shoes.

Despondent over financial matters, Machen nearly committed suicide while he was still world-ranked. When retired from boxing, Machen would die from falling out the window of a San Francisco apartment building.

Bobo would draw upon more of his earnings than other boxers were allowed. The official limit was 25 percent, a figure that was, from Bobo’s perspective, negotiable. He enjoyed his money. He maintained a nice wardrobe, and liked expensive cars. Bobo would pick up a Cadillac El Dorado and tell Sid to pay for it.

When not in training, Bobo lived with Helen and their four children in the “millionaire’s” enclave of Hillsborough, where they kept horses and Bobo slept ten hours a day. The Olson household looked like a dream come true.

Bay Area reporters were constantly writing about the Olsons during the championship years, wanting to be close to the couple. Helen told them how Bobo would often sing at home, that he was such a good singer she thought he should consider it as a profession once he was done boxing. “You shouldn’t listen to Helen,” Bobo said. “She’s loved me since I was a kid.”

He fought seven times in 1954, three of those fights title defenses. Bobo enjoyed his success, and wanted more of it, the kind of success that would come from earning bigger purses for fighting bigger men. So, he fought twice early in 1955, including a decision over Ralph “Tiger” Jones, before meeting former light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim in April.

The Maxim fight was both a way for Bobo to measure himself against a world-class opponent in the weight class above his, and a way to show the public he was a worthy challenger to Archie Moore’s 175-pound title. It was good matchmaking on Bobo’s behalf, as Maxim was a slick boxer but not much of a puncher, so it was a safe first step against larger competition.

Boxing media were enthralled with the possibility of Bobo fighting Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight championship. Even Ring Magazine discussed the possibility of a match between the two.

But Moore wanted to fight Marciano, too, and felt he was the rightful heir to an opportunity. He expressed his frustration that he was forced to fight a smaller guy in what was effectively an elimination bout to determine Marciano’s challenger. Racial forces were certainly in play, as the boxing establishment would undoubtedly have been more comfortable with Olson as heavyweight champion – the “Hawaiian Swede” was at least half northern-European – than the African-American Moore.

This fight might not have so much been the case of Moore being forced to fight Olson, however, as much as Moore’s manager Jack Kearns seeing a chance to make a good payday for fighting a smaller man who proved to be made to order for his guy.

Moore rendered all the talk about Bobo’s chances at heavyweight moot with his third round knockout of Bobo, thus earning his opportunity with Marciano. The loss to Moore was interpreted by many as the end of Bobo’s world-class days as a boxer and, from the perspective of the record book, it is difficult to argue with that position. Bobo endured a steep, rapid decline in his ability to fight, especially regarding his durability, his ability to take a punch.

The fighter retained plenty of rooters even after he declined following the loss to Max.

Bobo was 25 years old when he won the middleweight title, and some of those who had followed him for all of his boxing life thought his best days were behind him even before he achieved the fame and fortune he had spent his life fighting for.

But this abrupt change of course in the direction of Bobo’s boxing career was a more complex matter than fifteen years of taking punches to the head finally making a claim on him, although that is certainly a part of the truth.

Manager Flaherty said Bobo “had a lot of early fights.” Tough fights. Bobo admitted that many of his Hawaii area fights were not recorded, so he had fought much more often when young than given credit for.

“It took me a few years to build a fire under Olson, you know,” continued Flaherty’s lament. “He finally got to where he was unbeatable for a couple of years and then the bottom suddenly fell out.”

The bottom might have suddenly fallen out, but it had been rotting for some time. Bobo had moved Judy to San Francisco so she would be closer to him while he lived with Helen and trained with Flaherty. She lived with their children – they would eventually have five – in a house of Bobo’s, in the Sunset District of the city, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. Not far from Flaherty’s dormitory.

Bobo had spent his life trying to grab as much of this world for himself as his arms could hold, pleased by much of what he held being public knowledge, but wanting some to remain private, and hoping for the public and the private to remain separate.

This revelation was too darn juicy, Bobo couldn't keep his juggling act secret.

There was no secret about Bobo’s impoverished youth, his struggles as a young man to make his mark, or the fame and money that came with his success in boxing. Bobo celebrated that history. What he wanted to remain private was his usurping, not so much the laws of society, as the laws of Mother Nature. He wanted to share his intimacy with those in his dominion without repercussion, without question, and did not understand that the objects of his intimacy were not emotionally inanimate. That they wanted some of the world for themselves, too. They wanted him.

Bobo would later admit he had worried that the “two-family business would come out eventually.” But he had no idea of the damage he would suffer when the wall between the private and public parts of his life was torn down.

Helen knew of Judy and Bobo’s other family. She was complicit in the secret, although for possibly more understandable reasons than Bobo’s. “It started in Honolulu before we came here,” she said. “I tried to cover it up… I haven’t done anything about it because I didn’t want to hurt the children.”

At other times Helen would say her Catholicism did not allow for divorce. “Many times I have tried to talk him out of it. He always told me he loved me and this and that, but he was too involved to break away. It never stopped.”

Judy was either biding her time, or less troubled by the arrangement than was Helen, but Helen wanted Bobo to commit himself to her and their family. To finally end the relationship with Judy. She was forcing Bobo to choose which family he would keep and which he would leave, and when he could not make a decision Helen made it for him. “I finally gave up, I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, and filed for divorce on November 21, 1955, two and a half weeks before Bobo was to defend his title against Ray Robinson, 18 days before Robinson knocked Bobo out in the second round to regain the championship.

Bobo fought Ray Robinson in 1950, '52, '55 and '56. SRR won every year.

This was the atmosphere of the Olson household in 1955, the end of Bobo’s championship years, the year when Bobo’s greatest ambitions, and greatest failures – both personal and professional – would collide.

The wreckage of that collision was Bobo’s life. His private world had encroached upon and adversely affected his public world, and Bobo didn’t appreciate it. “My married problems hurt me before those big fights,” Bobo said. “My first wife would start hollering and it got in the headlines. It disturbed me.”

But Bobo was also entering into a struggle with the IRS which would prove to be much more damaging than a thousand Ray Robinsons would have been. The tax trouble stemmed from Flaherty reporting income, and paying taxes, on the portion of earnings Bobo was contracted to receive, but not the portion that was invested, nor the extra-curricular withdrawals Bobo had made to maintain his luxury life, which included the two families.

Flaherty considered the investment to be what today is known as an IRA or 401-K, with taxes on this deferred income not paid until the funds were withdrawn. But Flaherty failed to clear this with the IRS in advance or even, apparently, to discuss the matter with a tax attorney. With the IRS then considering all of Bobo’s earnings as taxable income, he owed the government not only taxes on the income he had invested, but penalties and interest on the delinquent taxes that had accrued and continued to accrue. Unlike criminal court, in tax court the defendant is considered guilty until proven otherwise, and Bobo was a wanted man.

“He’ll never get even,” Flaherty said.

As champion, Bobo once said that when he was young he loved to fight, but with his success he was “a little tired of it.” That he was only fighting for money. His hope was that, “By the time I lose the title…I’ll have the money I need to live and get into some kind of business in San Francisco.”

This would not be in the cards for Bobo, who would fight long after the celebrity of his championship was gone. Boxing was the only way he knew how to feed both his children and the government.

The look of a man doing battle in the ring versus a slugger, and out of the ring with ruthless kayo artist the Internal Revenue Service.

At one point, the IRS would demand a lump sum payment of over $100,000, which Bobo would pay, along with a third of his boxing earnings in the future. But he would walk away from one fight eight days before the scheduled date upon discovering the IRS had attached two-thirds of his purse. He owed more than a few thousand dollars for money he had received in advance, and would have received no compensation following the fight.

Bobo and the government would eventually reach a settlement, in which their differences would be    resolved, but Bobo would box until he was 38 years old.

He didn’t make the money he once did, as “an over-sized shadow of his former self,” but he was still an attraction. People would still pay money to watch him fight.

“Bo” was Flaherty’s pet name for Bobo. “Bo is both sentimental and emotional,” Flaherty said as the fourth Robinson fight approached. “That suit [former manager Campos was suing for several hundred thousand dollars, an action that would eventually be dismissed] and his troubles at home were more than he could take. They were what beat him in Chicago.”

Flaherty, therefore, had wanted to wait until the domestic situation quieted down before exercising the rematch clause. But Bobo’s world was becoming louder by the day, and possibly the Olson camp  decided to cash in as they could. The looming cost of divorce was difficult to ignore, and the IRS had begun applying serious pressure to Bobo’s finances. It quickly cut in line to register its claim upon Bobo’s purse once the rematch was made.

This was surely what led Helen to ask that the interlocutory divorce decree granted in November be rescinded. In its place, Helen filed papers asking that only spousal and child support matters be considered, along with the distribution of community property. The question of maintenance was to be heard in court separately from the divorce.

No one knew of Bobo’s financial excesses better than Helen, and with Bobo now residing with Judy and their family, the IRS pressure, and the possible fallout of the Campos lawsuit, Helen said, “I hope to get what is fairly coming to me and the children. I don’t want to be unreasonable. Bobo has worked hard for everything he has made and with that other family to support I know he has his troubles.”

Helen took a job selling hot dogs in San Mateo to help make ends meet. “Bills have been piling up here at home,” she said, “and I’ve got to get what rightfully belongs to the children and myself before it slips away and is all gone.”

The papers went into a frenzy once the scandal magazine Confidential broke the story of Bobo’s two families. Where once reporters would wait on the doorstep of the Olson household to write about the “perfect family,” they were now looking for salacious details of how that family was being torn apart.

Flaherty took Bobo to Clear Lake, a summer resort northeast of San Francisco that is empty in the winter to train in solitude for the rematch with Robinson. “I’ll keep him around Clear Lake until just before the fight and he’ll get straightened out alright.” Before heavy training began, however, Bobo and Judy would lose a child who was born prematurely and died in January.

But the remoteness of a hundred miles would not provide near enough protection from what was happening in San Francisco. “Bobo had the world in his grasp and he threw it away because he couldn’t behave himself,” Helen said.

Upon hearing Bobo was secluded at Clear Lake, she was honest with her feelings. “I’ve read in the papers that they are keeping a close watch on him. They lock the doors at night so he can’t get out. That’s a good idea. Too bad they didn’t think of that before.”

Even with the divorce and acrimony of a love triangle, though, Helen still supported Bobo, wishing him well against Robinson. She was pulling for Bobo “heart and soul,” and said she would “always be in his corner.” Keeping with tradition, she planned to pray and light candles for him as the fight neared.

The media were at Judy’s door, too, upon discovering where she lived. Unlike Helen, however, Judy would not play into the hands of reporters. She seemed non-plussed by all the concern, explaining that “it was sort of a status symbol in the islands to be married and have another family on the side.”

When asked about Bobo being the father of her children, Judy said, “I don’t care to discuss it.”

What the reporters did discuss, then, was the “pretty, dark-haired…Hawaiian” who answered the door at her “comfortable” Chester Avenue home in “a leopard spot blouse and tight fitting, dark velvet pedal pushers.”

When the San Francisco Examiner’s Herb Caen brokered catty comments between Helen and Judy’s mother on matters of physical beauty and how the other woman dressed, Bobo felt compelled to interrupt his training to chastise Helen for informing the media of Judy’s residence, and for being so open about their marital problems.

Helen said that she wasn’t mad at Bobo. “He’s done a lot of nice things, too, and, in his way, he is a good father. He adores the kids.”

But, she added, “I don’t think Bobo will ever really change enough to settle down and be as good a husband as he is a father. He means well but he just can’t help being like he is.”

Helen was less understanding when it came to Judy, “that other woman” who was the reason “I had to leave [Bobo].”

“This girl has caused me a lot of trouble, “Helen said. “She has told me, ‘I love him and I will take him away from you.’”

California did not have no-fault divorce in the 1950s, and a judge would apportion community assets based upon the determination of degrees of responsibility for the failure of the marriage. But Helen confided she did not use Bobo’s second family against him when she filed for divorce because she felt sorry for her husband. “…I have no intention of going back,” she said, but “I didn’t want to hurt Bobo – he’s been hurt enough.”

A Superior Court judge issued a restraining order on Helen’s behalf the day of the fight. An order that prohibited Bobo from disposing of (i.e., spending) any funds derived from the fight until the maintenance suit regarding support for Helen and her children had been settled. Flaherty’s access to the money was also denied.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Flaherty said in response.

Helen’s children cried when their father was knocked out by Robinson, but Helen did not. “…I didn’t cry,” she said. “After all I’ve been through, there aren’t any tears left. But I feel sorry for Bobo, real sorry.”

With the fourth round loss to Robinson, Bobo had suffered three serious knockouts to future Hall-of- Fame boxers within a year. Helen said she could not understand why Bobo was “getting knocked out so often,” but thought he could continue boxing, saying that “fighting is the only thing he knows. It is the only way he has of making money.” She thought Bobo could come back and succeed because, and she humored herself as she said this, “After all, Robinson won’t always be around. He’ll have to retire sometime.”

But Bobo was advised by doctors not to box anymore. They were fearful that, having suffered several concussions already, he would be extremely vulnerable to further concussions with continued fighting.

The doctors informed Flaherty first.   When he broke the news to Bobo, the fighter broke down in tears. Flaherty cried, too, when he said, “You can’t trade your body for temporary luxury.” It turned out, however, that you can.

That fall, Bobo received another medical opinion, one that saw him as still being able to box. Flaherty’s perspective changed, as well. “I wouldn’t let him fight again if Dr. Sam Sherman hadn’t said he was in perfect physical condition.”

Bobo planned to continue as a light-heavyweight, claiming he weakened himself trying the make the 160-pound middleweight limit. But there is a difference between a boxer  growing into a larger weight-class and someone gaining so many pounds between fights that the reduction to an optimal fighting weight becomes too draining an effort.  A fight was scheduled against Sammy Walker in Oregon but, 48 hours before the match, Bobo would again retire.

According to Flaherty, Bobo had “failed to perform well in workouts,” which became the public explanation for the private reality that Bobo had been knocked out in the gym by one of his lighter-hitting sparring partners.

Flaherty relocated to Portland, Oregon – with Bobo following him – when he was “asked” by the state athletic commission to leave California. The name of the corporation that controlled the boxers’ financial matters had changed with the move, becoming known as Professional Boxers, Inc.

This would become a pattern with Sid Flaherty, setting up his dormitory-style boxing operation and then having to relocate. After Portland would come Vancouver, before a return to California. This time in San Diego, close to the streets of Tijuana. For a while he considered setting up shop in the Mission District of San Francisco, “which would afford him the opportunity of interesting youngsters in that neighborhood in the manly art.”

Bobo managed a bar that Flaherty had set him up with, but he eventually returned to boxing, earning another decision over Joey Maxim before being knocked out in two rounds by Pat McMurtry.

One of the stipulations Flaherty had in the contracts with his fighters was that he had the right to retire them when he thought it was in their best interests. Flaherty retired Bobo, and was sadly vocal about him not boxing again.

“Here he was a few years a world champion, and here he is, broke and helpless,” Flaherty said. “Bobo came to Portland a while back. Brought his wife, four kids, and household goods – he had $12 in his pocket.”

Flaherty bought Bobo a house. “He’s been pretty good to me, has Bobo. Made me a lot of money. Of course, he’s cost me a lot, too.”

But the tax problems had driven a wedge between Bobo and Flaherty. When Flaherty’s managerial contract with Bobo expired, they went their separate ways. Bobo would remain bitter about his financial losses and the two would not speak for years when their relationship ended.

In financial ruin, Bobo would un-retire and return to boxing. At one point, according to his new manager Billy Newman, in whose gym Flaherty had once maintained an office, Bobo owed Helen $4,700 in back alimony. “I hear she’s getting a warrant for his arrest,” Newman said.

Eric Whitehead, of Vancouver, British Columbia’s The Province, wrote that Bobo “…is a poor advertisement for the fatherly instincts of his old manager and father-confessor Flaherty.”

Interestingly, once Bobo’s domestic affairs had calmed – divorced from Helen and married to Judy – Bobo became a more durable fighter. No longer fodder for public humor, Bobo regained some of the swagger that had made him the fighter he once was. He could take a punch again. True, he was stopped by light-heavyweight champion Jose Torres in the first round of their title fight, but Bobo was an old, worn 36-year old by then, fighting a naturally larger future Hall-of-Famer at the peak of his game.

Bobo went ten rounds with heavyweight Pete Rademacher, though, and twice beat Wayne Thornton.

I’ve always seen a strong parallel between Bobo’s experience and what Tiger Woods went through once the veneer of Woods’ perfect family life was peeled back to reveal the unseemly turmoil of reality. Woods was, for a long while, not only the best golfer in the world, he had no competition for that ranking. All the other golfers were struggling amongst themselves to prove who was second best, and they knew it.

Woods was a force of nature on the golf course, but only one among many of Mother Nature’s mortal children in the course of life, and once the illusion that he was different in this way was stripped bare for the world to see, the essence that made Tiger Woods one of the greatest golfers to ever live would leave him, never to return. Just as with Bobo, Woods would discover the gods are not to be trifled with.

He would eventually regain enough equilibrium to once more become a good golfer, and would remain the top attraction on the tour even when he not playing well, but never again would Tiger Woods be the dominating presence he had once been.

Bobo’s story is very similar. His vainglorious struggle to conquer the world and make it his, and the pride-induced downfall that followed, can be seen, with the clarity of time, as inevitable as anything found in Greek tragedy.

How much better would the 1954 RING fighter of the year have been if he hadn't allocated so much time and energy to complicated romantic unions?

Boxing takes a greater physical toll on the athlete than does golf, or any other sport, due to the nature of the competition. And it might be true that the hour glass of Bobo’s athletic prime was running low on sand even before he accomplished what he had long struggled for, but the abrupt fall Bobo suffered was at least as much psychological as it was physical.

Flaherty was a rather solitary figure, except for his dormitory life, and I don’t think ever really ever understood the conflicts Bobo, or any of his other boxers, endured. “I got two passions,” Flaherty said. “Running race horses and managing fighters. Horses are easier to manage. They don’t get married.”

Asked if he thought the Archie Moore knockout was the beginning of the end for Bobo, Flaherty would say, “No it was before that,” waving off any further discussion, as though it was too painful to talk about.  Flaherty would regularly tell reporters that he didn’t want to talk about Bobo’s wives.

The Vancouver Sun’s Dick Beddoes understood, however. “Olson’s tangled domestic affairs went fist in fist with his boxing failure,” he wrote.

Bobo worked a series of jobs in Northern California following his last fight, including recreational counseling for troubled youth, and public relations work for unions. “We’re doing all right,” he said long after retirement from boxing, “but if we had all that money the government still has we’d be able to help out the kids more.”

Bobo and Judy eventually returned to Honolulu where, suffering from Alzheimer’s, he died in 2002 at age 73.

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