When Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in Manilla, Ali looked across the ring, shook his head and said that, not only did he have to fight Joe’s devastating tenacity and his punching power, but that he’d have to go toe-to-toe with trainer Eddie Futch’s brain power.
That’s how much respect opposing fighters, even greats like Muhammad Ali, had for Hall of Trainer Eddie Futch, who died last week at his Las Vegas home.
Gene Kilroy remembers the Manilla fight well. At the time he was Ali’s business manager. He’s currently a senior account executive at the MGM Grand.
“For that fight, Joe Frazier was unstoppable,” Kilroy recalls. “Joe had such heart and determination, you couldn’t stop him with a gun. But after the 14th round, when Joe’s eye was swollen shut, Eddie stopped the fight over Joe’s protests. For a while Joe resented his stopping the fight, but he finally realized Eddie was only looking out for his interests.”
Kilroy said Futch was unlike many trainers, who would train their fighter only to the extent of qualifying for their money or bonuses. “Eddie wasn’t like that. He was the epitome of a trainer, and would walk away from a fighter if he wasn’t paying attention.
“It was always Eddie’s goal, especially with the younger fighters on the way up, to advise them properly, help them with their mistakes and make them a credit to themselves and their community,” Kilroy continued. “You see, Eddie was a Hall of Fame trainer in and out of the ring.”
Some trainers work with their fighters and cow tow to them, but Eddie solidified the epitome of a trainer. He would walk away if the fighter was not paying attention. He didn’t care about the money or bonuses, he wanted to help the fighter. If the fighter didn’t want the help, he would hit the exit sign.
As an example of his caring dedication to young fighters, Kilroy recalled the story of Futch training a Detroit fighter, who showed tremendous heart and desire.
“Eddie brought him to California, but it was soon apparent that the fighter just didn’t have the ability to be a great champion,” he said. “So, Eddie advised him to forget about boxing and find another profession. The young man heeded his advice and eventually accomplished great things in the record and motion picture business. His name was Barry Gordy.”
Futch is survived by his wife, Eva. “She was truly good to Eddie and looked out for his best interests,” Kilroy said. “They were a great combination and complimented each other beautifully.”
Over the course of his illustrious career, Futch trained hundreds of fighters, including 21 world champions including Joe Frazier, Riddick Bowe, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton and Michael Spinks.
“At a party at the MGM Grand, before the Mayweather-Corralles fight, Eddie hugged me and said how great it was to be there with all of the real gladiators,” Kilroy said. “I recall Eddie’s heart, wallet and checkbook was always open to his gladiators when they were having a tough time.”
In boxing there’s a lot of back stabbing and cut-throating. Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn’t like. I never met a man who didn’t like Eddie Futch.
Finally, Kilroy said we shouldn’t mourn the passing of Eddie Futch. “Let’s thank God for his gift to boxing ”” Eddie,” he said. “I’m sure he’s there in the great ring, sitting with Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Ike Williams and Johnny Bratten, probably reminiscing about all the money they’re making. It’s not a good-bye, but so long until we meet again.”