Griffin, Haarhoff, Butler to give it their best shots

April 12, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

A familiar lament among boxing fans is the relative absence of exciting, young fighters, resulting in the likes of former champions George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Roberto Duran still being showcased.

Dwindling neighborhood gyms coupled with the reluctance of promoters to stage small club shows has restricted the flow of new ring talent. But there are always exceptions, and three examples from the Baltimore area will be on display in preliminary bouts on tomorrow night's fight card at Martin's West featuring cruiserweights Jason Waller and Vincent Boulware.

The three fighters worth tracking: junior welterweight Ed Griffin, super middleweight Bobby Haarhoff and light heavyweight Courtney Butler.

Even more encouraging is that they are products of three different gyms. Griffin (8-0) represents veteran Mack Lewis' Broadway gym. Haarhoff (4-0) trains at Jeff Novotny's new Crofton gym, and Butler (3-0-1) is being groomed at Champ's gym off North Avenue, managed by Andrew Singletary.

Of the three, Griffin, who meets Julio Marino (6-4) of Plainfield, N.J., in a six-round bout, is the most seasoned.

Unusually poised for his limited pro experience, Griffin, 23, is a no-nonsense boxer with knockout power in both hands. He seldom wastes a punch and overpowers his rivals with three- and four-punch combinations.

"Outside the ring, Ed is real quiet, hardly talks," said Lewis, who has managed and trained fighters for more than 50 years. "But he becomes a devil once he steps inside the ring. He's got a real mean streak.

"If he sticks with it, he can become as good a fighter as I've had," added Lewis, who has trained four world-ranked fighters."

Haarhoff, 23, who battles Steve Gurley (2-4) of Philadelphia in a four-rounder, first caught Novotny's attention as a 15-year-old street fighter.

"Guys would tell me about this neighborhood kid who was real tough," said Novotny.

But it was five years later before Haarhoff became a regular in the Crofton gym.

"Bobby is a natural puncher and stopped a lot of his amateur rivals. When he showed me he could hold his own against a seasoned pro like Victor Davis, I knew he was kind of special."

When Haarhoff graduated from the amateur ranks, Marvin Simms became his trainer, helping to develop his boxing skills. He made an impressive pro debut last May, knocking out veteran Cecil Sims in one round.

"Give Bobby another 18 months, and he'll be ranked right up there with the top 168-pounder in the world," Novotny said.

Butler, 26, who meets Gessis Messina (3-1) of Ethiopia in another four-rounder, got a late start in boxing.

"Courtney was already 21 when he first showed up," said Singletary, who has been searching for a big-time fighter since he opened his Westside gym in 1976. "But right off, you could see he had boxing skills."

Butler proved an instant crowd-pleaser with his ferocious demeanor and nonstop punching style. His pro debut at Martin's West last September against Washington's Roy Payne resulted in a controversial draw.

"Everyone in the crowd thought Courtney won big," said Singletary. "Since then, he's been determined to knock out everybody and take it out of the judges' hands."

Butler, who spars mainly with veteran heavyweight Chico Thompson, is being trained by Tony Mercer, a kick boxer. In his most recent fight at Teamsters Hall three weeks ago, he defeated Jesse Brown in two rounds.

"After Courtney hit him with six straight rights, I don't know what the referee was waiting for," said Singletary. "He should have stopped it a lot sooner."

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