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Another Rocky movie comes out this month, some 30 years after the first and a decade-and-a-half since the last. Most critics will probably mention how much disbelief has to be suspended to buy that the guy is still fighting.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Boone Pultz will also be getting back in the ring. At 47, the D.C. native and one-time World Cruiserweight champion will fight as a heavyweight deep on the undercard of a Patriot Center bill headed by Jimmy Lange (a pretty-boy pug from NBC’s reality boxing show The Contender).
Pultz has been boxing since 1976, too. He started fighting, he says, because of the original Rocky. Pultz himself hasn’t been in a fight in 11 years.
“Nobody thinks it’s a good idea,” says Pultz, who now lives in Odenton, Md. “Not my family. Not my friends. But this is for me. Boxing at first was a hobby for me, then it became a dream, then it became a way of life. It’s something I love to do.”
The idea to make a comeback came to Pultz while watching Hasim Rahman and James Toney fight for the WBC heavyweight title in Atlantic City in March. He says he really believed that night he could whup either of them. And, though both common sense and history say he’s crazy, Pultz still wants to go for the belt.
“The heavyweight division is really wide open right now,” he says. “There’s no fighter out there that’s dominant. On any given night, you know?”
Among those who’ve told Pultz to stay in the stands and out of the ring is Truman Tuttle. He’s sort of the Burgess Meredith character in the Pultz story. Tuttle headed the boxing program at the Hillcrest Heights Boys Club and was there the day a teenage Pultz, fresh off seeing Sly Stallone’s first film fight, came into the gym wanting to learn how to box.
Tuttle helped guide Pultz through Golden Gloves and AAU championships as an amateur, and he stuck with the boxer during a professional career in which Pultz posted a 23–1 record. Like everybody in Pultz’s circle except the man in the middle, Tuttle isn’t gung-ho about his protégé’s decision to fight again.
“I think he oughta call it a good career and let it go,” says Tuttle. “Hell, he’s 47! You don’t have many fighters come back and win at 47. He came and told me about it, and I certainly didn’t say ‘Boone, I think you should fight again.’ I said, ‘Boone, you’re 47! Your mind doesn’t go, but your body does!’ He’s a hard worker and a real nice guy. It’s just been so long since he fought. But he wants to do it, and it’s his decision.”
Tuttle is 80 years old now and in poor health, crippled in the last year by kidney, prostate, and bladder ailments and circulatory problems. Yet despite the infirmities and all his misgivings, when Pultz asked Tuttle to help make the comeback happen, the old guy said sure.
Tuttle has been going to Pultz’s workouts, usually held in a fight club in Laurel, and he’s giving out the same sort of advice he’s been giving since Day One.
“I watch him and tell him what he’s doing right and what he’s not,” says Tuttle. “And, to tell you the truth, he looks as good as I remember him. He’s taken care of his body and he’s serious about this thing.”
The record books indicate Pultz was very well-managed the first time around. He built up his ring reputation early on by taking out tomato can after tomato can. For example, he pounded some putz with a 1–6 record named John Roger Flavin in Lancaster, Pa., in October 1982, and then three months later he KO’d Flavin again at Ice World in Totowa, N.J. Flavin, known in ring parlance as an “opponent,” had managed to lose another fight between the pulverizations by Pultz.
Four other fighters on Pultz’s hit list ended their careers with a combined record of 0–29. The only early blemish came in 1985, when a Philly fighter and supposed easy mark named Stanley Ross (career mark: 9–15) won a 12-round decision in a bout held at the D.C. Convention Center. But a week after the fight, the D.C. Boxing Commission ruled Ross had marijuana in his system on Fight Night and tossed the result.
That reversal helped set up the biggest night of Pultz’s boxing life, which came in December 1989. Pultz was given a shot at the vacant WBO cruiserweight belt, taking on Norway’s Magne Havnaa in Copenhagen. Pultz showed he could match up against real fighters by winning a split decision and the title.
Within the year, however, Pultz lost the belt to Havnaa in a rematch, also held in Denmark. He was knocked out in the fifth round, which remains his only loss.
“He wasn’t serious enough that night,” says Tuttle. “It’s the worst night I ever saw him.”
The loss of the cruiserweight belt, however, almost earned Pultz the biggest payday of his career. He agreed to move up to the heavyweight ranks after signing a deal to fight George Foreman, the beloved tub of goo who’s among the biggest box office draws in boxing history. The Foreman camp made several attempts to get the offer to Pultz rescinded, but Pultz wanted the fight to go on. Then Foreman backed out at the last minute, citing a training injury.
No makeup date was ever offered.
“He thought he was signed to an easy fight,” says Pultz. “Before they signed the contract, they didn’t do their homework. When they found out I was in great shape, they wanted out. If George had followed through, it would have been a difficult fight for him.”
Tuttle seconds those thoughts.
“He really worked hard for that fight and was in the best shape of his life,” says Tuttle. “I really think he would have beat George. I do. That would have been a big fight, and I know when it didn’t happen, Boone really got down.”
Pultz took three years off after the cancellation of the Foreman fight but didn’t try to get back on a title path. In 1995, after five small-time wins against losers, he called it quits.
Now that he’s trying to give it one more try, Pultz is using the guy who ducked him as his role model.
“I remember what Big George did,” says Pultz of then 46-year-old Foreman’s 1994 win over Michael Moorer, giving him the heavyweight title. “I could tell you what I’m doing, it’s not about the titles, the championships, because I’ve done that already. I could tell you that. But…it is about the championships. What George Foreman did makes me think, Why not? I want to see what I’ve got left.”