May 14, 2013

Steve Solloway: Requiem for a Maine boxer's ally

(Continued from page 1)

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Johan Bosdal, far better known as Johnny Bos, was instrumental in the success of Lewiston’s Joey Gamache.

Courtesy Terry Gamache

Bos was a contradiction. He was Brooklyn brash but could switch from a growl to a purr quickly.

A truant as a schoolboy, he had boxes of his books shipped to his room at the Ramada in Lewiston where he stayed for weeks at a time. "What did you think of Walter Winchell," he asked one day. He was reading a biography of the controversial gossip columnist who hung out with New York City mobsters.

He could walk down any street in Manhattan at any hour without fear, but wouldn't fly or drive a car.

He accused me of trying to kill him when I gave him rides through some of Lewiston's more interesting intersections.

He was an avid New York Mets fan. He loved Syracuse basketball. But his life was boxing. That the sport was changing hurt him.

"I've been shedding tears the past two days for Johnny and for our industry," said Lou DiBella, the Tufts and Harvard Law School graduate who is a boxing promoter and film producer.

He was the promoter the night Gatti knocked out Gamache in 2000. Oscar de la Hoya fought in the main event on HBO that night.

"Johnny was a character in the best sense of the word. He was huge physically. He was Hulk Hogan and he was all heart. He was incredibly generous and had his own street sense of justice.

"Boxing is so much colder and meaner than it once was. Every year there's less compassion. Johnny had that compassion. He was a symbol of an era gone by."

Before Bos left his apartment in the shadow of the Empire State Building for Florida, he was nearly broke. He wouldn't accept handouts, said DiBella.

"He'd sell me boxing memorabilia. I've got drawers full. Autographs he got from famous fighters. Bos knew everybody in the sport. And they knew him.

"Johnny and my brother got along so well," said Terry Gamache, "because they're both simple, down-to-earth guys who lived in a complicated world."

Many people, she said, only knew Bos by his fur coats, bling and hair. She knew him as Johan Bosdal, his real name. Like her brother and DiBella and so many others, she knew the man who could walk away from the hype.

On his Facebook page amid many photos was this: "People cry, not because they're weak, but because they've been strong for too long."

Steve Solloway can be reached at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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