Bring magic back to Magic City Boxing

Published 9:03 am Friday, August 22, 2014

The days of Magic City Boxing Club are long past. Perhaps it’s time for Bogalusa to take another shot at fielding a team.

Boxing is a passion of mine. My father got me interested in the sport many, many years ago, and we’d travel to many of the casinos and arenas throughout Louisiana and Mississippi to catch a good card.

There’s nothing like the atmosphere surrounding a big fight. I was lucky enough to see Baton Rouge’s Clifford Etienne take on former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in 2003 at the Pyramid in Memphis. It lasted a grand total of 49 seconds before Tyson stopped Etienne with a head shot. There were some exciting undercard bouts that made the trip worthwhile.

To make it to Las Vegas for big fights was always a dream of mine. I attended fights on a Friday night at a small venue then hop over to the MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay casinos the next night for the main event, if you will. In 1999, I saw Oscar de la Hoya meet Felix Trinidad, just to mention one big fight in particular.

It’s almost a given that professional boxing world champions are made by having good trainers as amateurs.

Bogalusa’s Jimbo Stevenson has been involved in boxing since 1985. He has trained boxers, and his Bayou Promotions has sponsored professional cards. Stevenson is a former trainer at Bogalusa’s YMCA. He said boxing — amateur and pro — has all but died out on the Northshore.

“There is not any in Washington Parish, and I don’t think there’s much in St. Tammany,” Stevenson said. “Amateur boxing left here in 2006 or 2007. Jimmy Wilson handled the amateurs for me, and I had the pros.”

Former professional heavyweight Lionel “The Train” Butler was born in Bogalusa. He fought and lost to Brian Nielson for the International Boxing Organization title in 1998.

Stevenson said his father, James Stevenson, was also big into the sport.

“Bogalusa had a long history of boxing. When my dad was in high school at Bogalusa High School, the school had a boxing team,” Stevenson said. “My dad promoted a few shows in Bogalusa during the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

Stevenson also recalled the time current Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal got the prison boxing program started at what is now Rayburn Correctional Center.

“The mystique was going inside a prison to watch inmates fight,” Stevenson said. “Security was difficult. The fights there didn’t draw as well as places with larger seating.”

It doesn’t require a huge arena to train a successful fighter, amateur or pro.

“No, it doesn’t take a big place,” Stevenson said. “The Kronk Gym in Detroit was no bigger than (Bogalusa’s) YMCA gym. Kronk had all those champions who came out of there.”

The Bogalusa YMCA still has its equipment, including the ring, available should someone take an interest in leading the program.

“We’ve been trying to find somebody to start back promoting it,” YMCA Board President Stuart Parker said. “We don’t have anybody who is a trainer willing to take it on.”

Wilson said amateur boxing suffers when professional boxing champions don’t have popular support.

“We don’t have any world champions that people can look up to,” Wilson said. “When you have no world champions to look up to, amateur boxing dies off.”

We’re always talking about the lack of things to do in Bogalusa. Boxing is an avenue.

Here’s hoping somebody will soon take the lead to bring the magic back to the Magic City.

Randy Hammons is staff writer for the Daily News. Contact him at 732-2565 or email at