Fighting Dickie Cole
This feature was originally posted on www.TruBoxingHeadz.com on Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Recently I sat down with a man in Texas boxing that so much is said about, yet so very little is truly known—the infamous Mr. Richard “Dickie” Cole. Having held the position of Head of Combat Sports Regulation for over twenty-one years, Mr. Cole just recently stepped down from his post on April 30 of this year. And now that the end of the Cole era is finally upon us, I – like everyone else – thought “OK. Now what?”
Being a proud Texan, it’s always deeply bothered me to hear the comments and jokes that are associated with boxing and Texas. People using words like “corruption,” “crooked” and worse. No one would ever come out and speak-out on behalf of my state and several times when these disparaging words were uttered, the name Dickie Cole was always included.
But who was Dickie Cole? Word among the boxing crowds was that he’s a reclusive, hot tempered, good ole boy who ruled the Texas boxing scene with an iron fist. And since so much was unknown about him, Texan fans like myself soon found it easy to make him the villain when it came to the flaws in the state’s boxing. Anytime something negative would rock the Texas boxing landscape, you could hear several sources curse his name, as if they we’re complaining about the President of the United States or the weather. I actually got to the point where the name Dickie Cole didn’t even conjure the image of an actual person, but instead a frustrating, faceless problem.
That is, until Dickie contacted me over Facebook.
After getting over the initial shock that Dickie Cole was not only on social media, but wanted to speak to us at TRU Boxing Headz, I realized that this was the perfect chance to clear the air and get some much needed answers to questions and curses that Texas boxing fans have had for years. So, after talking to his personal assistant, I found myself with a date with the person many Texans thought was the devil of boxing.
As the interview drew nearer I became really anxious. My mouth was dry and my tongue stuck to my teeth like I was cutting weight before a weigh-in. A fight was expected, and I was ready to go all 12 rounds. (Even 15 if needed.) But when the moment finally arrived and the phone rang to announce the start of what I assumed would be a pitched battle, not only was Dickie surprisingly pleasant, but completely open and honest with information. I was more confused than a straight-forward slugger facing the Mayweather shoulder roll.
What happened to the grumpy, corrupt huckster I was warned about?
From the start of the conversation, it was obvious that boxing has always been apart of Dickie’s life. Born in Dallas, Texas in 1931 at Saint Sacred Heart Hospital in downtown Dallas at corner of Ross Street & Pearl Street, (since closed and turned into a church), Dickie grew up with a strong appreciation for boxing thanks to his father. Originally from Mexico, Dickie's father shared his deep love of boxing with his entire family, taking them to see the fights on weekend at the legendary Sportatorium in Dallas and the Will Rodgers Coliseum in Fort Worth. In fact it was there, at the Dallas Sportatorium on May 26th 1939, that Dickie witnessed his first-ever boxing match. Lew “Sweet-water Swatter” Jenkins was set to defend his lightweight title against Jim Hatcher. Jenkins won by a vicious fourth round knockout and little Dickie was hooked ever since.
Consumed by the sweet science, Dickie originally looked to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Buddy. An amateur boxer, Buddy unfortunately never got to realize his full potential in the sport, as he joined the Navy and soon found himself at Pearl Harbor during the infamous attack. Buddy thankfully survived the initial assault, but succumbed years later due to complications.
Dickie went on to high school at North Dallas High and after graduation, attended North Texas University in Denton, Texas on a boxing scholarship. (Yes, high schools had boxing teams back then. My, how times have changed!)
In 1960 he made the decision to become an amateur referee. And four years later he found himself going pro, and becoming the third man in the professional ring. Back then the referee didn’t just have today’s normal responsibilities, but they also served as one of the three judges. Two judges sat outside the ring and the referee, a person who actually had influence in how the fight plays out, was the third judge. If you think that sounds bad, well, so did Dickie and he was glad to see it change. Dickie refereed for 29 years Even with all of his years as a referee he only refereed one major championship bout.
Then, in 1993, Dickie was approached with an interesting opportunity— to become Head of Combat Sports Regulation in Texas.
“When starting the position no one was in my department. It was just me, putting out a million fires all over the state.” Dickie says “I had to make things happen! I had to hustle!”
And hustle he did, helping sell the state of Texas to major promoters including Don King, Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya. He’d remind them that the Lone Star State required no state sales tax, and that meant more revenue from ticket sales at the gate closed circuit events televised out of Texas. It was a simple, and powerfully convincing equation: saving more on the front end in Texas equals more profits.
Dickie also touted the demographic and geographic layout of Texas. The state has a huge Mexican-American population and shares one of the nation’s longest borders with the country. Plus, as everyone who follows boxing knows, Mexican and Mexican-Americans are one of the largest and enthusiastic fan bases in the entire world. Add in large metropolitan cities with world-class venues and Dickie was able to make the state of Texas very attractive to promoters hosting major events.
“I tried to get along with all the promoters,” says Dickie.
And during his twenty-one years, Texas has landed some amazing events. San Antonio is known around the country as an amazing place to catch a fight. With the help of Jesse James Leija of Leija Battah Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya, Dickie was able to take San Antonio, and all of Texas, to the next level. Thanks to Dickie, San Antonio is one the greatest boxing towns in America today.
But having Dickie in power wasn’t all positives, as any boxing fan knows, and Dickie himself admits it. When asked what was his biggest surprise in his new role as Head of Combat Sports Regulation in Texas. There was no hesitation.
“It was way more political then I ever anticipated and I'm admittedly am not a good politician. I am a boxing man.”
And this wasn’t the only negative subject we discussed about his long career as Head of Combat Sports Regulation in Texas. With this open and honest admittance, I saw my opening, and like any good boxer, I tried to take advantage of it by mentioning some of the other complaints of boxing fans and critics. Dickie, for his part, didn't shy away from any of the controversial things said about him or his son Lawrence, who is a well known, and sometime ridiculed referee in Texas.
First, we discussed the rumors of Dickie awarding his son Lawrence Cole big fights in Texas, to which he adamantly replied:
“I never appointed my son Laurence Cole to referee any fights. I didn’t have that authority. It was up to the WBO, WBC, WBA to decide. End of story. People don't know what they are talking about.”
Dickie also had some choice words for those in Texas who use the “C” word when it comes to him and his son. He suggested that the corruption, and thus the degradation, of boxing came from another, more powerful position in the sport:
“HBO and Showtime are truly hurting boxing by monopolizing the sport,” declared Dickie, “They are preventing the better match ups from happening with their corporate “Cold War.” The broadcast are extremely biased and can take away from the fan experience.“
He continued by claiming that HBO was a “dictator” of the sport of boxing, and that they were “brain-washing” the consumer. He mentioned that Harold Letterman, who appears on the HBO broadcast, “used to be an excellent judge” but has since been reduced to nothing more than “a corporate puppet for HBO” only sharing their biased opinions. Instead of listening to him, Dickie suggested watching fights with the volume off.
And what of commentator Jim Lampley?
“That Jim Lampley with HBO is a joke!”
And that’s just a taste of what Cole had to say about himself, and his critics, (and we’ll dive into that more in part two), but when asked about all of the negative press and events that have gone wrong under his watch, Dickie simply referenced an encounter he’d had with the original founder of Ring Magazine, Nathaniel Stanley Fleischer who told him:
”Don't ever worry about negative press; just be glad that they’re talking about you and make sure they spell your name right. “
This concludes part one of our two-part TRU interview of Mr. Richard “Dickie” Cole. In part two we explore his thoughts on more corruption accusations, bad judging, open scoring and his (interim) successor Mr. Greg Alvarez. Plus we’ll reveal his hopes for the future in boxing in Texas and his plans for retirement as we try to answer the question: What is the legacy of Dickie Cole?