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Epilogue | John S. Bosdal

Colorful boxing matchmaker Johnny Bos dies at 61

CLEARWATER — John Bosdal worshipped boxing, and treated major bouts like Hollywood weddings.

Even among the flamboyant types, "the wizard of Bos" — a bear-like man with bleached blond hair topping his 6-foot-4 frame — was hard to miss sitting ringside in a pink suit, faux fur coat and dripping gold.

For a while, Mr. Bosdal, known to everyone as Johnny Bos, had reason to celebrate. Peers saw him as a matchmaking whiz whose selection of opponents shaped the careers of Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Gerry Cooney, Paul Malignaggi and Mike Tyson.

During a six-week stretch in 1992, four of his fighters fought for world championships. Three of them won.

Mr. Bosdal also fought to stay afloat emotionally and financially in a boxing world that didn't return his loyalty. Fighters he had discovered didn't honor his old-school handshake agreements and abandoned him before their big paydays.

Mr. Bosdal died Saturday in his Clearwater condominium of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 61.

"He just had an uncanny knack for finding talent, remembering people and putting a fight together," said Butch Flansburg, who is president of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame and the National Boxing Association. "If a promoter was in dire straights, they could contact Johnny Bos. They would call him and say, 'Do you know anybody we could get at 147 pounds?' Johnny would come up with three or four names and get the guy there."

A matchmaker's job varies by what the promoter demands of each fight, said writer Thomas Hauser, who has penned at least 20 books on boxing.

For a potential world-class fighter, he said, "the matchmaker finds an opponent who is a learning experience for a young fighter, who has a style to make for a really good fight but isn't good enough to beat him."

While companies like Top Rank and Star Boxing have in-house matchmakers, Mr. Bosdal worked for himself.

"Johnny did not fit well with boxing's corporate structure, which is sort of a nice thing," said Hauser.

In the 1980s, Hauser said, Mr. Bosdal was sought by managers Bill Cayton and Jim Jacobs, who were managing Tyson when he turned pro in 1984.

"They said, 'Who is somebody who is going to make Mike look good?' In those days, that was not hard. But you didn't want a tall, rangy left-hander."

Mr. Bosdal set up the 1985 fight between Holyfield, then a cruiserweight, and Tyrone Booze. "He knew that if Holyfield beats me he's on his way," said Booze, of Clearwater.

In 1992, in another fight arranged by Mr. Bosdal, Booze won a world cruiserweight championship as a 30-1 underdog over Derek Angol.

John S. Bosdal was born in Brooklyn in 1952, the son of a shipyard worker who had his sons watch boxing on television. As a teen, he set up fights between 5- and 6-year olds.

"It was old-time Brooklyn back then," said Jeffrey Bosdal, his brother, 52. "Parents thought that boys should be boys."

Too restless for high school, he dropped out. He trained as a boxer and won his only amateur fight — but said he didn't remember it well because he was drunk. He hung out at Jack Dempsey's restaurant and anywhere else he could find fighters, all the while absorbing boxing's past and present. In his 20s, tired of handing out advice for others to use, he went pro.

Along the way to becoming respected for his savvy and encyclopedic recall, he battled his own demons and stopped drinking in the late 1980s.

His biggest disappointment resulted from a 2000 fight in which Joey Gamache, his fighter and best friend, suffered a career-ending knockout at the hands of Arturo Gatti. Gamache sued the boxing commission, saying it had mishandled the weigh-in by allowing Gatti to pack on as much as 20 pounds.

Mr. Bosdal moved to Clearwater five years ago. He lived in a condo stuffed with boxing memorabilia, some of which he sold on eBay. In 2009, he was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.

Since his death, Hauser said, "There has really been an outpouring of emotion. I don't think it's for Johnny per se as for boxing. The new breed in boxing is a loveless businessman who doesn't really care about the traditions of the sport. Johnny just loved boxing. And for those who loved the sport, his passing means something."


John S. "Johnny Bos" Bosdal

Born: Feb. 14, 1952

Died: May 11, 2013

Survivors: brother, Jeffrey Bosdal.

Service: 3 p.m. Saturday (visitation 1 to 3 p.m.); Dobies Funeral Home, 9944 Hudson Ave., Hudson.

Colorful boxing matchmaker Johnny Bos dies at 61 05/13/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 10:22pm]
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