Exposure half the battle for Rucker Baltimore's unbeaten super middleweight headlines Waldorf show

October 30, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Everyone knows about the Mike Tysons, Evander Holyfields, and gold-medal winners like Oscar De La Hoya who can demand multimillion-dollar ring purses, fill arenas and attract worldwide audiences on pay-per-view.

But what about the hundreds of boxers minus Olympic jewelry who scuffle in small fight clubs for purses that barely pay the rent?

Take Dana Rucker, the Baltimore super middleweight who passed up a chance to go to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The converted kick-boxer was all but guaranteed a place on the U.S. boxing team after winning the National Golden Gloves in 1994 and the National Festival tournament a year later.

Unhappy with the politics of amateur boxing, Rucker chose to turn pro and made his debut without fanfare in a four-round fight in Glen Burnie a year ago.

He has won his four subsequent fights and tonight will headline a show at the Waldorf Community Center in an eight-round bout with Timmy Knight of Norfolk, Va.

Rucker, 25, figured he could parlay his outstanding amateur background into a sponsorship that would permit him to concentrate solely on his ring career.

Aided by his trainer-adviser, Alvin Anderson, a ranking junior-middleweight in the 1970s, he spent a year seeking prospective backers and even made a visit to renowned trainer Angelo Dundee in Miami.

"He's a nice kid, and I like the way he handled himself in the ring. He's got good balance and talent," said Dundee. "But I've never asked any of my friends to back a boxer. You can lose a lot of friends that way."

Rucker has not become disillusioned by the futile search, and, in fact, recently began working as a clerk for the Federal Reserve Board in Baltimore.

"I made a hard bed for myself, and now I have to lay in it," he said. "Like Mr. Anderson always says, 'If it's meant to happen, it happens.' I'm not going to stand still. I have to keep taking care of business."

Business in the ring has been fitful, at best. Mention Rucker's name to area matchmakers, and they say would-be opponents immediately raise their asking price. In addition, local promoters would prefer signing Rucker to a multi-bout contract, viewing him as a future contender.

"It's all about money," said Rucker. "Sure, I'd like to have a sponsor. But if I have to work, I'm going to stay a free agent, not get hooked up with any one promoter. On the other hand, I wish I could fight once a month. That's the best way to improve."

Meanwhile, Anderson continues to fine-tune Rucker's ring skills at Champs Gym off North Avenue.

"He is really punishing me every night in the gym," said Rucker, "but I know all the hard work will help my performance on fight night.

"When I was in the Olympic training camp, Al Mitchell taught me to fight like an amateur -- box and move, pile up points. But Mr. Anderson is training me to fight like a pro. If I get in close now, I know how to handle myself. I know I can box, but I also know I can drop somebody when the opening's there."

Said Anderson: "That's what happened in his last fight in Atlantic City. He caught this guy [Mike Bonislawski] in the third round, and, I mean, he knocked him out cold."

If Rucker continues to win in impressive fashion, boxing's top money men will be bidding for his services. Right now, he is practicing patience.

"When I get up every morning and do roadwork in the freezing cold, I'm doing it for Dana Rucker, nobody else," he said. "It just takes time."

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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