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The Dundee offer

Manoj Kumar
Friday, February 08, 2013

I CAN'T believe that former "Golden Boy of Fiji" Sakaraia Ve turned down the chance to train in the United States under the late Angelo Dundee.

Legendary trainer Dundee, who died late last year aged 90, shaped the lives of 15 former world champions, including Muhammad "The Greatest" Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman.

World Boxing Council referee Jay Edson, an American, came to Fiji to control the return fight between Ve and Canadian Clyde Gray in November, 1978. This was for the Commonwealth welterweight title.

Ve had earlier challenged champion Gray three months earlier in Suva and lost on 8th round TKO.

US offer

Edson was so overwhelmed by Ve's performance that he was ready to set the Lovoni man up at Dundee's camp.

Former world welterweight champion Jose Napoles, who had beaten Gray on an unanimous points decision over 15 rounds to retain his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight titles in 1973, was also trained by Dundee.

The Napoles-Gray showdown was refereed by Edson.

Edson, who refereed fights for ring stars like Foreman (versus Pedro Aqosto, 1977), Ray Leonard (Fernand Marcotte, 1979), and Larry Holmes (versus Tom Prater, 1977), was impressed with Ve.

Describing him as "a very heavy puncher and an excellent counter puncher" said he was ready to talk to Dundee, take Ve over and get him bigger fights in the US.

Shocking reaction

Ve's manager John Marimuttu Ramos said "it was up to Ve to decide" but added that he doubted that the local ace would like to get tied down to "a long-term contract".

But more surprising is what Ve had to say about the offer: "No, there's no way. I doubt if I will learn anything new by going overseas."

Gray's manager Irving Ungerman was of the same view as Edson.

"He is a world class material, but he must fight in Canada or the US and against different fighters and be prepared to face different systems of training," he said.

The fight

Ve, 23, did better than his previous fight but again, he could not claim the Commonwealth welterweight crown against his more experienced 31-year-old opponent.

Gray looked to be ahead on points when Edson stopped the fight two minutes 47 seconds into round nine of a scheduled 15-rounder.

Ve looked to have taken out rounds three and eight with some good body blows and left hooks to the head and a straight right to the jaw.

Two rounds were even while Gray had an upper hand in the others. Before Ve went down he claimed to have been hit by a low blow.

He took the count and continued, but after a barrage of body blows went down again and was counted out.

Low blow

"The refereeing was good, but he did not see the punch (low blow claim)," Ve said afterwards.

"I had expected him (Edson) to warn Gray but when he didn't I was rather angry and fought back hard.

"But I could not continue as the pain was too much." Gray, like in the first fight, had good words for Ve.

"He is a damn good fighter, He was throwing more punches on Saturday than the last time," said the Canadian and Commonwealth welterweight champion.

"He has got some pretty good hooks. One really hurt me in the fourth round."

But despite all the praises, well wishes and offers for him to go abroad and become bigger and better on the world stage, Ve, perhaps the finest Fijian boxer of all-time, decided to stay back in Fiji.

A few questions flood my mind — whether he rues the decision he made back then, or was there someone else's brain behind that call of his?

Only Ve can answer them.

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