By Mitch Abramson
Johnny Bos, the gifted, colorful boxing matchmaker who developed the early careers of Mike Tyson and Gerry Cooney but had fallen on hard times as he feuded with the New York State Athletic Commission in recent years, died in his home in Clearwater, Fla., on Saturday. Bos, 61, was found by his brother Jeffrey and Jeffrey’s fiancé Suzanne McBee around 10:30 p.m., she told the Daily News on Sunday. Bos had been suffering from congestive heart failure.
A towering figure with bleach-blond hair and faux fur coats, Bos, whose birth name was “Bosdal,” was a popular, colorful matchmaker who was responsible for finding opponents for many of the area’s top young fighters.
A product of Brooklyn, Bos had the unique ability to ferret out the right opponent for a fighter he was developing, allowing his boxer to learn and gain experience while also winning. But Bos, trustful to a fault, didn’t believe in signing his boxers to contracts and relied on handshake agreements instead. As a result, many of the fighters he helped nurture soon left him after winning a title, according to the Manhattan-based promoter Lou DiBella, who worked with Bos for years. Bos was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.
“It’s the passing of an era,” DiBella said of Bos’ death. “He was a Damon Runyonesque character. Johnny Bos touched a lot of guys. You can go through a laundry list of fighters who have ties to Johnny Bos, a lot of whom also forgot about him and left him in the rearview mirror once they made it.
“But Johnny was a legend. He was like one of the giant characters of the sport. He loved the fighters and he loved boxing and for a time, he was the biggest character and ambassador of the sport in New York.”
It was Bos who suggested to DiBella that he sign a little-known fighter from Brooklyn with modest punching power named Paulie Malignaggi in 2001. DiBella did and watched as Bos helped make Malignaggi into a top contender and later a world champion. Bos did the same with former middleweight champion Yuri Foreman, also of Brooklyn. But Bos counted his work with Long Island heavyweight Jameel (Big Time) McCline as his proudest moment since McCline took up boxing at 25 and had no amateur experience. Yet, working with DiBella, Bos turned the 6-6 McCline into one of the top heavyweight attractions of the last decade.
Bos’ career stalled, however, after Joey Gamache, a fighter he once managed, initiated a lawsuit against the New York State Athletic Commission in 2006 for negligence of its handling of a weigh-in involving Gamache and Arturo Gatti when they fought in 2000.
“The commission hurt Joey and destroyed me physically and mentally,” Bos said after testifying on behalf of Gamache in 2009 in one of many times he bad-mouthed the commission. Struggling financially, Bos moved to Florida in 2008, leaving his Manhattan studio apartment and all but disappearing from the business. The court ruled the state had been negligent in its handling of the weigh-in but that the negligence hadn’t determined the outcome of the fight. Gamache, who sued for $5.5 million, didn’t get a dime, depriving Bos of the large sum he hoped to win. That was one of the few failures he had in boxing.
“His world was boxing,” said McBee. “He loved it. That was his genius.”
Bos is survived by his brother Jeffrey and a niece and nephew, McBee said.
Article courtesy of The New York Daily News. Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.