Tommy Gallagher Talks “The Contender,” John Gotti, Why Sugar Ray Robinson Disappointed Him, More

Boxing lifer Tommy Gallagher came to Everlast studio and it became clear, if you didn’t know, there aren’t many folks in the fight game who’ve had more time in this sphere.

Tommy G, as he is (mostly) affectionately known, got into boxing because his “grandfather was a Jewish mobster,” and he had boxing interests. “I used to drive around with him as he made his collections,” Gallagher told me, and that included a gym or two. He marveled at the power generated by people like Rocky Marciano on the heavy bag, and the people, too, entranced him. Larger than life characters, like Rocky Graziano, had him knowing, because he knew he was no “intellectual giant,” that he was all in on boxing.

Note: I asked him point blank if he himself entered into the mob life and nah. Listen to the whole pod and hear his response.

You will hear some other golden anecdotes, including Gallagher’s theory on why Catholics were told not to eat meat on Fridays.

As one would assume, being he has six decades within the sphere, we bounced around on topics and subjects. That includes his stint on “The Contender.” Is he in the re-boot? Nah, he told us. “The buried me,” he said. “Hollywood is the worst,” he said. He is no fan of Mark Burnett and Jeff Wald, let’s leave it at that.

More gold: Gallagher said it’s not OK to rob your friends, but robbing others is OK. “Because they wanna be robbed,” he explained. Humans are animals, but only are separated by the fact that they make love face to face, he stated. “Everyone’s trying to fuck ya,” he states.

He ran his own gym, starting in 1965. And around that time, boxing flourished, and in his mind, one of the best aspects was the place Madison Square Garden had in the boxing hemisphere. All that time, he was around “bad guys,” and “mobsters,” and “they were all kind gentlemen,” he told me, who took good care of the boxers. His grand-dad was cool with Albert Anastasia, so that helped Gallagher out, having friends in “high” places.

Gallagher himself was a superb boxer. He was headed to the Army, and he boxed while in uniform, he told us on Talkbox. He didn’t get to go to the Olympic trials, but kept on scrapping. That included “fighting a gorilla in the carnival,” in 1961. “He beat me to fuckin’ death,” he said, and to this day isn’t sure if it was a real gorilla or a guy in a suit.

Then, he had some medical hardship. Gallagher had a heart incident, and he started seeing doctors, who had trouble figuring out what was wrong. In 2011, he finally had a surgery to remedy the condition, a racing heart. “They thought I was crazy, they were feeding me Thorazine,” he said.

He went through electro-shock, as well, and saw shrinks, and then got help from a VA shrink, who knew him from the Golden Gloves. The doc told him to do deep breathing when he had heart racing episodes.

We spoke of the golden days of NYC boxing, when Stillman’s Gym was humming. Gallagher had his own gym starting in 1965, in Brownsville. Along the way, he came across the best and brightest of the era. Hear Gallagher’s story on why Sugar Ray Robinson bummed him out.

More Tommy-isms…Tommy G said that really, managers should get more credit, because many if not most fighters are prone to not acting right by people who have done right by them.

He was known for taking in some of the crudest and broken kids, trying to instill into them self confidence. He’d bust their chops, use coarse language sometimes, and the kids would be thrown off if one day he wasn’t swearing at them copiously. “I had the greatest gym, put Kronk to shame,” he said of Gallagher’s Gym, which flourished around 1974 and thereafter. David Sears, Riddick Bowe, Doug DeWitt, Vito Antuofermo, Mark Breland, Michael Bentt, they were all in that space. It closed in 1995, he said, because “the Feds were there.” By now on 101st Ave, and with rumors that John Gotti had bought the gym for him, he got tired of the drama.

More chapters..Gallagher was a cop, from 1969 to 1974, he said. “I was never on the other side of the line, I just knew them,” he said, and said that the mobsters had more honor than many of the supposed good guys. He said that he found out that a DA was a pedophile but that was swept under the rug due to corruption, and that situation helped end his term in law enforcement.

Old timers know Gallagher was there with Donny Lalonde, who made a pile of cash fighting Sugar Ray Leonard, and TG shared deets about how that promotion came together. He told the kid, who he said was basically good, but prone to womanizing and some self doubt issues, to make it a six round fight, come out guns a blazing, and then there’d be a fight with Tommy Hearns next. “I made him five million dollars and then he had the balls to say I over-trained him,” Gallagher told me. “He had a great right hand.” Then Lalonde turned down an offer to do a TV series and instead bought real estate, “and got crushed,” the trainer said.

Gallagher shared stories of his affiliation with heavyweight Lou Savarese, and no, Tommy isn’t a Savarese fan to this day. He describes the ex heavyweight in very harsh terms, in fact. “he has to live with that,” he said.

After Savarese, Gallagher worked with Tokunbo Olajide. “He shoulda never gone into boxing. Tokunbo could have been President of the United States. Bright..brilliant…anything that kid could put his mind to he could’ve been.”

Today, he works with Gabe Bracero, and was involved in a John Gotti documentary. Every day, he’s workin it, juggling projects and a lengthy to do list. His enthusiasm can dim a bit but he perseveres in such stubborn and admirable fashion. The entusiasm, it can go over board, as when he peppered the air with expletives on the night Felix Verdejo was stopped out in the final round of his last fight, and Gallagher took issue with that. He’s been fined and suspended and is planning to fight the charges. Fight, it’s what he does, it’s who he is. It’s a good interview, check out the pod.

Michael Woods
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Michael Woods. Host, TALKBOX podcast, powered by EVERLAST; 1st VP, Boxing Writers Association of America; is my site