Devoted Flint Boxer and Muhammad Ali’s Sparring Partner Dies at 82
We have all heard the phrase 'A picture paints a thousand words.' But when you have a picture of yourself with your fist on Muhammad Ali's chin, correct me if I'm wrong but, that ups the word count considerably.
Flint Boxing Legend Leon "Bumper" Lawson Dies at 82
It was a sad day for Flint Michigan residents as they learned of the passing of local legend Leon "Bumper" Lawson on Monday, June 12th, 2023. But what happened throughout his younger years that led him to be known as the 'Godfather of Flint boxing?' The story is amazing.
Lawson's Rough Teen Years Were a Blessing in Disguise
According to MLive, Lawson moved to Louisville after getting into some trouble in his hometown of Flint, Michigan in his teens. For many, that would be a tough experience. But, for Lawson, it was an extremely unexpected gift. Because, had this not happened, Lawson would have never met one of his best friends, who would become a huge part of his, and his family's, lives from that day forward. You may have heard of this friend. His name (at that time) was Cassius Clay. But, would eventually become known as 'The Greatest' Muhammad Ali.
How Did Leon "Bumper" Lawson Become the 'Godfather of Flint Boxing?'
Anyone who new Lawson personally would tell you, failure was never an option. So, upon returning to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, after he was honorably discharged from the Army at the age of 20, he began building his boxing empire.
Lawson began by infusing his work ethic into both his son, Leon Lawson Jr., and his grandson, Andre Dirrell. Who both, coincidently, went on to pursue boxing, too.
Much like Lawson Sr. himself, the Dirrell brothers - Andre and Anthony - began getting into trouble around the ages of 13 and 14 years old. With the boy's biological father out of the picture, both began acting out and were caught stealing, just hanging out, and developing bad habits. But that all changed when Lawson Sr. took the boys in to his home. Looking back, Andre credits that moment with changing his life for the better.
Not only did Lawson Sr. instill confidence in his family but, he taught the importance of work ethic, discipline, loyalty and leadership. Lawson Sr. had the Dirrell brothers on a strict training schedule that included a three-mile run to school, track practice after school and the boxing gym at night.
Lawson Sr.’s straightforward, disciplined demeanor earned him a lot of respect. Not only with friends and family but, in the boxing community. Lawson Sr. went on to work alongside some of boxing’s finest -- Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Clarissa Shields.
Was Leon "Bumper' Lawson a Good Trainer
While many felt he should have won silver, Lawson Sr.'s grandson Andre took home a bronze medal in the middleweight division at the 2004 Olympics. The first thing he did after the fight was visit Lawson Sr. Andre was quoted as saying,
“'When I saw him in the room, I just burst into tears because I know he wanted gold bad, but at the end of the day he just reassured me. He said, ‘I’m proud of you, man. You did a good job. I love you and you should be proud of yourself. We are going home with a bronze medal.’”
Prayers to the Lawson family as well as everyone who was touched in some way, shape, or form by Leon "Bumper" Lawson.
He, and his incredibly positive way of living life here in the Flint area, will certainly be missed.