Local boxing fans have been yearning for the return of the notorious Max Kisner dinner and boxing shows at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.
Over the years the pugilistic zealots, a rare bunch, always have found a way to satisfy their cravings and breathe again the smells of leather gloves and Everlast gear.
Many of these fanatics have been known to go to great lengths to get their boxing fix, but Severna Park's Dominic Baccala tops them all.
Baccala, a 69-year-old former pro boxer turned trainer, is a local die-hard of the one-on-one sport, who had perfect attendance at the Kisner shows.
Kisner has experienced more than a rightful share of financial problems caused by fighters who took their advance money and ran, leaving the promoter holding the bag.
As a result, Kisner leads the league in canceled boxing shows although he is still out there battling to bring the fight-and-feast extravaganzas back. Baccala got tired of waiting, so last weekend he took off for a dinner and boxing show.
It wasn't in Glen Burnie or even Anne Arundel County. The show he attended as a trainer for Baltimore's Chico Thompson was in London. That's London like in England, across the seas where Maggie Thatcher lives.
"We were in London for two days, but it wasn't time enough to prepare properly with the jet lag and all that," said Baccala, after his return home on Tuesday.
Thompson's Baltimore manager and agent set up a main event for his heavyweight in a plush London ballroom that seated about 600. The local boxing faithful who attended the Kisner shows will remember the hefty Chico with the powerful punch and Muhammed Ali facial resemblance.
Thompson frequently has worked out at the Harding-Lowry gym in Pasadena where Baccala and Maryland Boxing Hall of Famer Charlie Holloway spend hours teaching the art of boxing. So, when the heavyweight needed a trainer to go along to London, Holloway, a 1955 Baltimore City champ, suggested that Baccala go.
"It was great. Everything was first class. Everything was taken care of," said Baccala, who was reared in the Little Italy section of Baltimore, later moving to Brooklyn Park to raise a family with his wife, Audrey. Some 20 years ago, he settled in Severna Park.
"What a classy show," said Baccala . It was a black-tie affair with tuxedos, and the fans, all men, paid $200 a ticket. The local cricket clubs sponsor the shows and donate the proceeds to charity."
Unlike Maryland and U.S. rules, Baccala was able to perch himself on the ring apron and coach Thompson. His fighter lost a close decision to London native Andrew Forigity, who is ranked 12th in England.
"Chico fought a good fight, and I think if we had a few more days over there, he would have done better," said Baccala. "It was tough getting used to the time change, and Chico had hardly gotten over the jet lag when he was in the ring with Forigity.
"The guy (Forigity) is a pretty good fighter, but Chico did well."
Apparently, Thompson did a lot better this trip with Baccala as a sidekick than a previous trip over there three months ago with no trainer.
"Chico's agent demanded they pay the expenses to have a man in his corner this time, so I got to go. We left on Saturday, and he was fighting Monday," Baccala said.
His moral support and boxing savvy provided Thompson with the confidence he needed to make a good showing.
With an extensive background in dealing with people from all walks of life, Baccala was the right man for the job. As a hard-working master of the masonry business, from which he retired three years ago, Baccala has helped raise a son, Jim, who was altar boy to the first Mass offered by Bishop Francis Murphy of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn.
One daughter, Donna, is an actress in California who was in the "General Hospital" cast for two years and also appeared in the TV show "Big Valley."
Another daughter, Jody, the youngest at 30, was married to the lead drummer in the heavy-metal group, Iron Maiden.
Baccala's self-esteem comes from boxing, and he has spent a lifetime trying to impart the virtues of individualism and believing in yourself to young boxers as well as to his children.
Chico Thompson is one of his latest proteges from that Pasadena gym where Baccala says "we've got a lot of good kids, clean-living kids."
Baccala says four bouts were on the card with the main event, featuring Thompson going three-minute rounds and the others two minutes. Baccala was impressed with the officiating and the demeanor of the fans.
The veteran trainer, who was a Baltimore City and Gold Gloves champ back in the 1930s and turned pro in 1941 for a brief career, says the English fight doctors "are very strict."
"They take every precaution," he said. "The fighters get a test for AIDS and other diseases, plus the usual physicals, and the referee has full control during the fight.
"If things get out of hand, they step in and stop the fight. They cover everything."