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Czyz underwent a bone graft to repair his right hand and was in a cast for 10 weeks. As Smith wrote, Bobby and his father had worked hard together over the years, and a strong bond existed between the two. Bobby’s father, seated at ringside, was one of the first people to enter the ring after his fights and they almost always embraced. Yet Bobby also saw boxing as the key to asserting his independence and get away from his father’s negative traits. But as Bobby became more prominent and his purses grew larger, his father sought more control over the relationship.
“The bottom line is that my father was a vicious disciplinarian,” Bobby said. “I was afraid of heights as a kid. He wanted me to climb a tree that was 35-40 feet tall. I was afraid. He said, ‘Climb that tree or I’ll break your ass.’ I climbed the tree to the top. He asked, ‘Who won, you or the tree?’ I said, ‘I did Dad.’ He said, ‘You know why? You’re more afraid of me than the tree. Now climb out of that tree.’
“You know what? I built a tree house in that tree. I jump out of planes now. Fear was the only motivator.”
The senior Czyz had self educated himself since his turbulent youth, and had become a District Sales Manager for the National Telephone Directory. He had worked with Bobby through his amateur years to his early professional success. Yet Bobby was conflicted about their relationship - there was love, but also repressed anger. Bobby saw his father as both a genius and an alcoholic sociopath.
“I know my father was an alcoholic,” Bobby said. “He never drank before five o’clock but he drank everyday after five o’clock. He was a functioning alcoholic.”
In those months of the first half of 1983, it was all coming to a head - Robert Sr. saw Bobby making his own decisions and becoming his own man.
Then one day Bobby’s father told him that he had thrown one of his brothers out of the house. Bobby challenged Senior and it escalated into a full scale heated verbal confrontation. Senior told Bobby that he was nothing without him and without him he would fall flat on his face. Bobby retorted that, although he had benefited from his father’s efforts, he would go forward without him.
Smith quotes Bobby as saying, “Tell you what. Keep all the money…Keep everything. Tomorrow you’re dead to me…I have no father.”
Bobby left the house. His father ignored him when he returned, staring blankly at the TV. Bobby tried to apologize but his father refused to acknowledge him.
Bobby went to bed and Robert Czyz Sr. shot himself to death. Bobby discovered the body the next morning, and suffered with nightmares of the horrific sight for years.
Bobby, only 21 himself, had to answer his five year old sister, Maria, when she asked, “Was Daddy a bad man?”
Bobby told her no, and not to discuss it out of the house. He practically raised her after that.
Today Bobby thinks that he has come to understand the event.
“I’ll tell you what I came up with many, many years after the fact,” he explained. “I think at that time my father was losing control of himself and he was afraid of hurting me or someone in the family. Rather than hurt us, he took himself out. Instead of the ultimate cop-out, it was the ultimate gesture of love.”
His right hand healed and his psyche still wounded, Bobby made his comeback in September 1983 against Bert Lee. Prior to the fight, a reporter asked him what he would miss most about his father.
“I said… excuse me,” Bobby paused a moment, still emotional to this day. “After the fight I got hit with that wicked hug. And my very next fight I fought Bert Lee and knocked him out in the second round. The bell sounded, I turned around, and my mother hit me with the very same thing, the hug. And the thing is, before my father died my mother was never allowed to go to my fights.”
Bobby’s manager, Lou Duva wanted Bobby to resign a long-term contract but Bobby was mistrustful and began working on a fight to fight basis.
“Lou Duva was a master of deception,” Bobby recalled. “He was a great manager, phenomenal matchmaker, second to none. They called him the trainer of champions. He couldn’t train a dog to bark. His expertise was in managing and promoting, but not training.”
(Tommy Parks, a guard at Jamesburg Reformatory when Bobby’s father was there, was Bobby’s trainer. Parks had trained Rubin Carter and Bobby’s father liked him. Parks and Czyz worked on a handshake agreement and Tommy served as friend and trainer throughout Bobby’s career.)
In 1984, the super middleweight division was created. It was made to order for Czyz, who was having trouble making the 160 pound limit, and was physically limited with a 68” reach. The veteran Murray Sutherland was also a Duva fighter and gained the newly created IBF super middleweight belt over journeyman Ernie Singletary with a 15 round decision. Sutherland was signed to fight Korean Chong Pal Park, and Bobby was under the impression that he would get his shot against the winner.
Park knocked out Sutherland and the Duvas didn’t have options on him, and the prospect of a Czyz title fight vanished.
“He [Duva] told me that Murray Sutherland was fighting Park and I had the winner,” Bobby said. “I was upset that he lied to me. He said he wanted a contract on me or he wasn’t promoting me. So I went to [New Jersey promoter] Carlo Dee.
Along with his new promoter, Bobby also became self managed, as he would remain for the rest of his career, (although he did hire Arnie Rosenthal to be his managerial agent in 1992). He also made the move to the light heavyweight division where the talent was greater but so were the opportunities.
After eight straight wins since the loss to Hamsho, finally, at the age of 24, Bobby stopped Slobodan Kacar in five to win the IBF light heavyweight title in September 1986 at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Kacar, an Olympic Gold Medallist in the 1980 Moscow Games for Yugoslavia entered the fight 21-0 but it was Bobby’s time and he was not to be denied.
Czyz defended the title three times in less than 14 months, all by knockout. Seemingly at the top of his game, he appeared on the cover of KO Magazine two months before he met Prince Charles Williams, his mandatory challenger, on October 29, 1987.
Bobby hurt Williams early in the fight, but apparently punched himself out. William, meanwhile got his second wind and landed a variety of accurate punches that caused Bobby’s right eye to swell progressively throughout the rest of the fight to the point that the fight was stopped after round nine. Almost 20 years later Bobby is still bitter that referee Carlos Padilla gave Williams a standing eight count after a Czyz right hand drove Williams sagging into the ropes in the third round, giving him the chance to shake the cobwebs before Bobby could follow up.
The writer Greg Smith says that Bobby’s mother was crying in the corner after the stoppage, wanting reassurance that he wasn’t seriously hurt.
The loss to Williams began an unexplained rough patch in which Czyz lost four of six fights. He lost a majority decision to former titlist Dennis Andries, won a split decision over former belt holder Leslie Stewart, scored a TKO over unheralded Mike Devito, then lost a convincing decision to WBA titlist Virgil Hill.
In June 1989, he got another shot against IBF titlist Williams and was stopped in 10 rounds in the rematch. Czyz , as always, showed heart and resolve but Williams was fast and just had Bobby’s number, the only man to stop him in the 1980’s.
Czyz announced his retirement shortly after the second Williams fight.
By March, 1990, he was back in the ring, winning three straight solid victories. Unable to get another shot at the light heavyweight title, he moved up to cruiserweight to challenge Robert Daniels for the WBA belt on March 8, 1991.
According to Bobby, Bob Arum signed him to fight Daniels for $225,000. Arum told Bobby that he would have to cut his purse to $185,000 but would give him $40,000 in tickets.
“So do you know what [Arum] does? He calls the newspapers and tells them he gave me tickets. I didn’t know that until I went to sell them and they say, ‘Well you got them for free.’ I had to tell them that I made a deal with the casinos to sell them the tickets at half price for the high rollers. So at least I got half.”
Boxing smartly, Czyz took a split decision from Daniels for his second world title. Bobby was back on top again. He defended the title twice and began doing some ringside commentary for Showtime in 1992 and all was well until Bobby was hit by a car.
The injury kept him out of action until 1994 and he was forced to give up his title.
Six months after his return, Bobby challenged David Izequire for the IBO cruiserweight title. After performing well in the first three rounds, Bobby’s back went out and the dangerous Izequire took over, flooring Czyz in the fourth. Bobby was unable to come out for the fifth round, and again retired after the fight.
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