Letterlough puts past behind him

Cruiserweight looks ahead, eyes 10th straight knockout

November 18, 1999|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Like so many professional boxers before him, unbeaten Harrisburg cruiserweight Julian Letterlough has a troubled past, with a police record dating to his early teens. Repeated cases of aggravated assault resulted in more than a dozen years imprisonment as he graduated from reform school to the state penitentiary system in Pennsylvania.

"The streets used to be my hustle; now it's boxing," said Letterlough, who will be seeking his 10th straight knockout when he battles Darryl Hallowell, of New Carrollton, Md., in tonight's main event at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

To his credit, Letterlough, built along the lines of a miniature Mike Tyson, has neither offered alibis nor tried to hide his past.

"I'm not ashamed of it," he said. "I know I can't undo that part of my life, but it's behind me now.

"I used the hard time to do a lot of thinking and rehabilitate myself. I'm making certain that I no longer have to look over my shoulder to see if a cop or parole officer is on my tail."

Letterlough drew his longest sentence -- seven years -- in 1991 after getting in a fight with several policemen in York who had requested he take a sobriety test. He broke free and led them on a wild chase up the expressway to Harrisburg before being collared.

It was during his lengthy incarceration at the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh that Letterlough learned to box like a pro.

"There were two former boxers there doing life -- Billy Hines, a light heavyweight, and Teddy Brown, a heavyweight," he recalled. "They knew they weren't going anywhere and took an interest in me. Brown taught me the basics of boxing, and Hines showed me the slick stuff. It was a great combination."

When he was released in February 1998, Letterlough was still considered "violent and dangerous" and assigned to a halfway house in Reading. This time, he averted trouble, and a tip from a friend put him in contact with area boxing promoter and manager Alfredo Marchio, who also owned a restaurant.

"As soon as I walked in the door," Letterlough recalled, "Marchio asked me if I knew how to make pizza. I told him no, but I was a quick learner."

Letterlough was hired, and, after a few weeks of proving his work ethic, Marchio said he was also willing to handle his boxing affairs.

Said Marchio, "I told him I'd keep him as busy as possible, and he'd have to prove himself. And he's passed every test so far, especially since he's been fighting on the road almost all the time."

With nine fights crammed into 11 months, Letterlough is obviously a man in a hurry to become nationally recognized.

He made a sensational impression in his first appearance in Baltimore last March, stopping previously unbeaten Dana Rucker in three rounds. Blessed with natural punching ability, he is now learning from veteran trainer Slim Robinson.

"I'm learning to improve my power by rolling and turning my punch," said Letterlough, who has been christened "Mr. KO" by his manager. "If I keep winning, I know both the rankings and big money fights will come. Right now, I'm just counting my blessings and chasing a dream."

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