Page's right KO'd Cold War

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

This week's death of former World Boxing Association heavyweight champ Greg Page triggered memories of his lone appearance in Edmonton, in the fall of 1989.

During a closed sparring session with Mike Tyson at Daryl Duke's Panther Gym, Page threw a picture-perfect counter right that for all intents and purposes KO'd Tyson's Cold War title defence against Razor Ruddock, which had been scheduled for Nov. 18 at Northlands Coliseum (now Rexall Place).

Cops were on hand to bar the public and most media from attending the workout, but promoter Don King arranged for me, radio guy (now Sun columnist) John Short and Sun photographer Paul Wodehouse to be there because, as co-promoter Garry Stevenson predicted, "it might be something special."

And it was.

HOMICIDAL HATRED

Page and Tyson didn't pull any punches through two torrid rounds, and when Duke signalled the start of the third, Tyson came storming out with a look of homicidal hatred.

Thirty seconds in, he threw a double jab which Page stepped underneath - at the same time shooting a short right that caught Iron Mike square on the jaw. The champ dropped like he'd been hit by a truck.

Tyson got up almost immediately, but a minute later the scene was repeated when Page caught him with an uppercut that dumped him flat on his back.

The Cold War was cancelled a few days later because Tyson allegedly contracted pleurisy, but for those of us who witnessed it, there was never any doubt that it was Page's punch that pulled the plug on what would've been the biggest sporting event ever held in Edmonton.

"The man can hit, so I have to be quick," the soft-spoken Page told me afterwards. "Mike's all business in there, and he don't want anybody to take it easy.

"He's paying me good money, but if I see a chance to nail him, I'll do it."

In Tokyo four months later, Page knocked Tyson cold during a sparring session prior to Tyson's ill-fated bout with Buster Douglas. A 43-1 underdog, Douglas subsequently took the title in the biggest upset in boxing history.

In a lot of ways, the brilliance Page flashed in those sparring sessions was a microcosm of his entire career.

A native of Louisville, Ky., at 15 he was sparring with Muhammad Ali. At 20, he won the U.S. Gold Gloves championship and was fast-tracked into the pro ranks, where he went 19-0 with 15 KOs before dropping a decision to Trevor Berbick in 1982.

Over the next few years Page was arguably the best heavyweight on the planet - so dangerous that nobody wanted to fight him.

In 1984, undisputed champ Larry Holmes sidestepped a proposed showdown by relinquishing the World Boxing Council title in favour of the IBF belt, but Page then lost a decision to Tim Witherspoon for the vacant WBC crown.

Page finally got another shot on Dec. 1, 1984, knocking out heavily favoured Gerrie Coetzee in Sun City, South Africa, to claim the World Boxing Association title.

The victory over Coetzee was the pinnacle of Page's career.

He lost a decision to Tony Tubbs in his first defence four months later, then fought on with mixed success until retiring after a TKO loss to Bruce Seldon in 1993.

Page returned to the ring in 1996 and reeled off 17 straight wins before losing to Monte Barrett. His last significant win was a TKO over Tim Witherspoon in their 1999 rematch.

Like too many fighters, Page never knew when to quit. He was 42 years old and had a 58-16-1 record when he accepted a $1,500 payday to fight journeyman Dale Crowe for the vacant Kentucky state championship on March 9, 2001.

HARD COMBINATION

In Round 10, Crowe dropped the old champ with a hard combination along the ropes, and Page never got up.

Hospitalized with severe brain trauma after that fight, he slipped into a coma for a week then had a stroke during surgery that left him paralyzed on his left side.

In 2005 and 2006, he was treated for pneumonia, acute respiratory failure and seizures.

In 2007, Page took a $1.2 million US settlement from the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority, and as part of the deal the state passed The Greg Page Boxing and Safety Initiative to ensure better ringside safety precautions.

But for the man once hailed as the post-Ali "saviour of boxing," it was too little, too late.

Page died at his home this past Monday.

He was 50 years old.


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