Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Boxer Greg Page...Talented and Tragic

By Peter Silkov

Greg Page was one of the most talented heavyweights of the 1980s, but like most of the heavyweights of that era, mismanagement and a slew of legal problems hindered his career. Don King, who had a knack for leaving his fighters disillusioned and broke, controlled the heavyweight division in the 1980s. King’s treatment of his heavyweights (and his fighters from other weights) during at this time is notorious.  He used his heavyweights in particular, like pawns, and the result was that many of these talented fighters became disillusioned with boxing, and self-destructed. One of those heavyweights was Greg Page, who went from being a brilliant amateur, to one of the most promising heavyweights of his generation. Although he would win the World heavyweight title, his talent would be largely unrealized, and his career eventually ended in tragedy.

Greg Page was born on October 25, 1958, in Louisville, Kentucky, the birthplace of Muhammad Ali. The fact that he was born in the hometown of ‘The Greatest’ meant that Page was constantly compared to Ali.  Unsurprisingly, Ali would prove to be a hard act to follow for Page. 

Page turned professional in 1979, after compiling an amateur record of 94-11. 
Almost from the moment that he turned professional, Page was hailed by some as the ‘New Ali’ and he fought in a similar fashion, being very mobile, with fast hands, and a penchant for throwing eye-catching combinations. Soon, Page drew criticism from the media when his performances did not live up to expectations. Although a talented and entertaining fighter when he was on form, Page was prone to giving erratic and lazy performances at times, and his weight would fluctuate, drawing more criticism from the media. Much of the criticism Page received was unfair for a fighter who was just beginning his career. Page was sensitive to criticism and soon became suspicious of the media.

After winning his first 19 contests, Page was out-pointed by Trevor Berbick on June 11, 1982.  Ironically, he had come into this fight at his lightest weight ever, but found himself out-muscled by the bull-like Berbick. Page came back with 4 wins, including victories over James Tillis and Renaldo Snipes.  Then on March 9, 1984, Page fought Tim Witherspoon for the vacant WBC world heavyweight title, but was beaten on points. Five months later, in a challenge for the USBA Heavyweight title, David Bey beat Page on points. Yet, just when his career seemed to be on the slide, Page produced the performance of his life on December 1, 1984, when he traveled to South Africa and won the WBA world heavyweight championship from big-punching Gerrie Coetzee, knocking him out in the 8th round of a thrilling fight.

Unfortunately, Page’s world title reign lasted only 4 months. In his first defence on April 29 1985, Page was out-pointed by Tony Tubbs, after producing a listless display.

Although Page was only 27 years old, this would prove to be the final time that he would fight for the World heavyweight title.  Over the next 7 years he went 14-8 in 22 fights, remaining at world level, but no longer a genuine contender for the world title.

He seemed to have retired in 1993, and turned his hand at training, where he found success in guiding Oliver McCall to victory over Lennox Lewis in 1994, to win the WBC world heavyweight title. But, when McCall’s career spiraled off the rails, due to his drug addiction, and he lost the world title, Page returned to the ring himself in 1996. Page put together a string of victories over a number of mediocre opponents, but he was no longer was the sparkling boxer he had been in his prime. With his speed and reflexes dulled by age and inactivity, Page had to take a lot more punches than he did in his youth. Once he moved up a level and started taking on younger prospects, Page started losing. He lost 5 of his last 9 contests, but it was his final contest on Match 9, 2001, that proved to be the tragic finale of Greg Page’s boxing career.  

Fighting in a night club called Peels Palace in Erlanger, Kentucky, against Dale Crowe, who was 24 years of age and 18 years younger than Page, tragedy struck in the 10th round when Page was knocked down, and suffered severe brain damage. There was no ambulance or oxygen at the venue, and the so-called doctor was completely inadequate. Incredibly, there was no stretcher at ringside, and it was 45 minutes before the stricken Page was removed from the ring. Page eventually was taken to a hospital where he underwent brain surgery, and suffered a stroke while on the operating table. Although he would survive his terrible injuries, Page was left paralyzed on his left side, and confined to a wheelchair. He later won damages of 1.2 million dollars from the state of Kentucky for the negligent medical facilities provided for his contest against Crowe. Ironically, Page and Crowe became good friends, and Crowe helped at fundraisers for his ex-opponent.

New safety regulations called ‘The Greg Page Initiative’ were put into place in Kentucky after his injury. Yet, it is debatable whether they have been taken on board totally. Greg Page’s legacy was to show just what could happen when shortcuts are taken regarding boxer’s safety.  It is also a prime example of why boxers should have some form of pension plan and medical insurance provided for them. Had Greg Page had some kind of pension plan he would probably not have been boxing Dale Crowe that night for a purse of just $1500.00.

Greg Page died on April 27, 2009, when he slipped out of his bed and died of positional asphyxia. Greg Page’s story is not one of boxing’s happy stories. It is a story of a great talent that was only realized in brief flashes.

Greg Pages final record was 58(48koes)-17-1.

We have not confirmed if the Greg Page Foundation is still operating, but we found this article written by his wife, Patricia Page, for the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

 Patricia Page's Letter About Her Experience and Change

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com
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