Two years ago, there were funny stories going around about George Haywood. People saw him jumping around his living room slapping happily at his friends. Others swear that George persisted in trying to entice them up to his Holworthy living room for a private, how shall we say it, tete-a-tete. The truth of these rumors is uncertain, but it is well known (among those who know) that George is one of the most enthusiastic of Harvard's small band of boxing enthusiasts.
Up until this last Wednesday, however, George's brief career had been characterized by frustration. As a stylish, 145 lb. freshman, he won by default and was denied the chance to put coach Henry Lamar's hard learned lessons to practice.
Coming back as a 155 lb. sophomore, George lost to Ken Otto (also of Leverett House) in what was generally considered the classiest match on the afternoon's card. George took the first round moving and jabbing with All-esque case but he faded badly in the third round to lose the decision.
This year, with Otto moved up to 165 lb. weight class, Haywood downed Kirk Panneton and Terry Brennan to clinch his second title.
George emphasized the difference conditioning made in his two performances. "This year I really intended to get in shape. Last year when I fought Ken, I had a cold and it kept me from being at full strength," he said. "Also, I had no idea how tired you can get after boxing three rounds. You watch those guys on TV and they seem to get a little tired after ten rounds.
"Well, you just don't know, you have to go through it to know what its like." George caught another cold this year, missing a crucial week and a half of training, but a timely recovery and extra running seemed to make the difference.
"I didn't really mind not getting to fight Ken again this year. For one thing we're both from Leverett, so it's good that way. Kenny's tough, he was a good straight punch. A straight punch jars you, it can cut you too.
"Terry (Brennan) was surprisingly fast...he kept ducking under my jab and coming in. He likes to bull you on the ropes, work on the body. But he got me mostly with hooks, hooks don't hurt that much, they mostly get you on that rubber head thing you wear."
Over the past two years, George's own crowd-pleasing style has changed somewhat. At 6 ft. 2in. he is consistently taller than most of his opponents, and he uses his quickness and long left jab to stay out of trouble.
"The Ali style is cool, but you have to be Ali to make it work. I used to keep my left down low, like he does, you know, but now I keep both my hands up higher, Its more classic, more like Henry Lamar teaches you. Even Ali, when he gets in close, brings his hands up high. If he had kept his right up against Frazier, he wouldn't have taken as many hooks."
Don't get the idea, though, that George Haywood is a unbeliever. "All will beat Frazier in the rematch," he added. "He's probably the greatest boxer that ever lived."
Right on, George.