A True Story About A Dream Never Realized and the Enemies, Tragedies and Mistakes that Stood in the Way
This is dedicated to Bill Cummings Jr., one of the greatest influences in my life.
Some of my friends have been posting an on my Facebook Wall telling me that I should keep writing stories on my website. Well, this story that you are about to read is a real doozy chalk full of well known names and events. Unfortunately, it is also certain to upset some high caliber people out there including some very good friends of mine. Nonetheless, I would be doing myself and my audience a grave disservice if I were to never share what I went through and what I became while preparing to make the ’88 Olympic Boxing team. Besides it’s sports history with an ending ordained by God.
1985 U.S. Middleweight Champion Video
Now let’s turn back the calendar to shortly after I won the 1986 World Amateur Boxing Middleweight Championship:
I was on top of the world after beating East German boxer Henry Maske (who eventually went on to become one of the greatest amateur and professional boxers in history)in the finals to win the ‘86 amateur world title. I remember thinking to myself, I proved my former trainer “Will” Gary Cummings wrong! I made it by myself. I had big time managers and trainers like Shelly Finkel and Lou Duva coming after me, quotes I made featured in Jet Magazine, pictures and stories of me in USA TODAY and I even had income coming in on a weekly bases to support my quality time with Jack. Wait. Don’t let your mind go there; Jack was a friend of mines and he also contributed to me being where I am now. You might know Jack? Jack Daniels–does it ring a bell? So as you can see the party was on! My wife was satisfied and working everyday to help pay the bills, while I ran the streets hitting every night club in sight. I even took about a month off from boxing because Jack was calling for me to spend more quality time with him. I always listened to my man Jack! Me and Jack were getting’ it on even more now because My wife worked the 3rd shift—at night—so after dropping her off at work Jack and I would get even more acquainted.
A couple of cocky quotes I made along the way:
Allen sounded a brave challenge after his win over Berroa. Some might say cocky. In fact, we might have another Muhammad Ali in bloom here. “As far as anyone beating me in this tournament, that’s impossible–not the Cubans, not the Russians, not nobody,” he proclaimed. Link: Los Angeles Times article during the 86 World Championships.
Middleweight Darin Allen became the first of two Americans to reach the semifinals and to clinch a medal. He decisioned Yugoslavia’s Nusret Redzepi, 4-1. Allen, a 21-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, found himself in a slugfest with a shorter foe and landed the higher volume of punches. Said Allen afterward: “If I don’t beat this Cuban (Julio Quintana, his semifinals opponent), I’ll go to Cuba and live for 30 days.” Link: Los Angeles Times article during the ’86 World Championships.
I drank and partied every night and before you knew it I would lose everything that I worked so hard for, and I would have to prove all my doubters—all those people who had given up on me–wrong again. You see, even before Jack and I really started hanging out on a daily basis, I had this reputation for not having any heart, lack of discipline and being a womanizer. Now something new and even more tragic was being added to the mix—I was becoming an alcoholic. But it was not until ’87 that my new friend Jack really started getting the better of me.
OK. Before I move on, I need to address the reputation I had about not having any heart in the ring: that was (or is) the only perception of me that I will debunk and defend against and here is why: The first time I was ever knocked out was in 1985—before I won the world title. I was–knocked out cold–in Reno Nevada by a Russian boxer during at an USA vs. USSR duel meet. I dusted myself off from that embarrassment–seen on national television–and came back to win the ’86 World Championships. Guys with no heart don’t come back like that. Now back to my story where you’ll see other examples of how a guy with a reputation of supposedly having no heart faces even more devastation, humiliation and tragic losses inside and outside the ring but still keeps getting up to fight.
87 PAN AM Games: Angel Espinosa KO
It’s 1987 and I’m still living high on the hog with my world title, fame and my new best friend Jack; I also had just won the US Pan AM Game Trials to land a spot on the US boxing team for the World Pan AM to be held in Cuba. I went into those games as a favorite to win, but by that time marital woes and Jack held the top spots in my mind and body.
I made it to the quarterfinals where I met up with Cuban boxer Angel Espinosa. The worldwide televised showdown didn’t last long: 1: 35 seconds into the fight I attempted to throw an undisciplined right hand that exposed my left jaw; Espinosa immediately seized on the opportunity and stepped in to land a vicious right hook that sent me crashing to the canvas in a quivering blackout. They say I was down for about two minutes and did not crawl out of the ring until five minute later. See it below for yourself:
Espinosa KO’s Allen
It was the second time in my career that I had been knocked out cold and Mr. Jack Daniels had taken control of my life. My reputation was completely destroyed. No coaches or trainers wanted to come near me and my best friend ’84 Olympic gold medal winner Jerry Page was too busy with building his pro boxing career to help me get back on track. I’ll never forget the day that I woke up out of my drunkenness and realized all the damage I had done to my career. In less than a year-and-a-half I gone from being the No. 1 ranked amateur middleweight in the world in 1986 to being only the No. 9 ranked middleweight in the USA by early 1988. A huge decline brought on by my serious addiction to alcohol.
My Olympic Dream
I could have turned pro after I won the world title in 1986, but my dream ever since I began boxing at age ten was to one day win an Olympic gold medal. Now look at me: it was 1988—the year of the Olympics and I was a drunk and everyone that mattered knew it. I had so screwed up my career that I did not even get an at large invitation to the ’88 Olympic Trials. It was time for me to get my life back so I started to train myself. I was going to make this Olympic team even though my friend Jack and I were still hanging out, I was able to temporarily leave him on shelf at times in order to realize my dream of Olympic gold. A few months after the Pan Am Games disaster, I got myself into a little bit of shape and took a trip down to Detroit, Michigan to fight in the regional tournament. I fight a guy by the name of Fabian Williams. Damn–I lose. A month or so later, I travel to Buffalo, New York to fight in the very important USA Amateur Boxing Federation (ABF) Championships. If I win this thing they have to invite me to the Olympic trials! But I fight and lose again.
I was now getting beat by chumps. I wasn’t even a shadow of my former self in the ring. No. This was now the new Darin Allen—an alcoholic. After the failure in Buffalo I didn’t even bother to look at the rankings because I knew what time it was. I had hit rock bottom. My sponsor Shelly Finkel stopped sending the checks and once Finkel decided to do that all I could give my mind to was how much harder it would be to entertain my buddy Jack Daniels without that money. That’s just how alcoholics roll.
Talking About My Olympic Dream Video:
Got Robbed by Crowed Favorite John Scully
My only shot left at making the ’88 Olympic team was to drive to North Carolina for the Eastern Regional Olympic Trials. Wayne Pruitt, a coach who stepped in to help salvage my dream, drove me down to North Carolina. This time I make it all the way to the finals where I fight against John Scully, a white kid out of Connecticut. Scully was a fan favorite who brought a big entourage of folks when we met up in the finals. This joker could fight too, but luckily for him he was fighting Darin “Jack Daniels” Allen. Even so it was a very competitive fight that I thought I had won but Scully got the decision. Fotunatel, I had so impressed the ABF officials with my performance and attitude during the tournament that they gave me and at large entry to the Olympic Trials. The dream was still alive!
More Tradgedy Outside the Ring
Things were looking up for me in the ring, but not so much back home with the wife. About a month after the ABF Regional’s, my wife tells me that she ran into an ex-girlfriend of mine at a club who told her that I had called her on the phone. Apparently my wife had enough of my foolishness so she ups and files for a divorce. Life is funny, I thought to myself: “How could my wife forgive me when she actually caught me with someone when I was a champ, but now when I am no longer a champion a simple phone call I make to an ex-girlfriend was a reason enough for her to divorce me?
Knowing our marriage is over; I fly down to Texas to finish my training for the Olympic Trials. A couple days after I had arrived, I receive a call at 6 o’ clock in the morning from my dad who said, “Deak (his nick name for me) your mom just died–had a heart attack.” I fell to my knees and wept like a baby. While still on the floor sobing, two Mexican boxers neither of whom I knew comforted me throughmy intense pain and grief.
I loved my mom she was such a sweet woman and never to see her again was hard to digest. She was gone and divorce was knocking at the door. I was all alone now: my image and reputation tarnished and no one to look after me. I am 23 and my mom is 47 we’re both too young for this—she’s dead! I might as well be dead too, I thought to myself. I mean my mom is dead, my wife is divorcing me, I’m still getting called by Jack, and I’m already a drunk has-been trying to hold onto my dream of wearing an Olympic gold medal around my neck. Who said “life ain’t fair?”
While still on the floor sobing, two Mexican boxers who I didn’t know comforted me during my greiving.
I leave my training sessions in Texas to go back home to Columbus so I can help my family bury my mom. Two weeks later, I flew out of Columbus to Concord, California for the 1988 Amateur Olympic Trials Boxing Tournament.
1988 US Olympic Boxing Trials: Concord, California
Now remember even though I put on a pretty good showing at Regionals in North Carolina No one at the National Olympic trials thinks I have a chance in hell to make this Olympic team. My reputation was shot and they knew I had a drinking problem and and the only reason I’m there is because of the fact I had won the Word title in ’86 and I looked like I had started to get my act back with my performance at the regional. The man to beat now was US Army boxer Anthony Hembrick is the man to beat.
I was in Concord, California by myself— to compete for a spot on the 1988 Olympic team. No coach, No wife no one but me! My competitors Anthony Hembrick had an entourage and John Scully had the Ray Leonard camp; William Guthrie, who I fight later as a pro, had his camp with him, but I was there by myself.
The night of the drawing to see who we would fight first, I draw Jerome James, a guy who had once knocked out the Olympic team favorite Antony Hembrick. It became apparent to me that the drawings were not random—I didn’t think the ABF officials really wanted me on that Olympic team.
The next night, I step into the ring with Harris, the #1 boxer in the USA and I literally box circles around him–winning every round. It was a total mismatch. I had shaken the establishment—I was not supposed to win this fight. So the fix was in.
I Avenge my Loss to John Scully
A guy by the name of Bobby Harris from Syracuse, New York befriended me and told me that he realized that I was out here at the Olympic Trials without a personal coach so he would look after me. The very next day I have rematch with John Scully who I just lost to 6 weeks earlier. Sugar Ray Leonardand his entourage were there at ringside to cheer for Scully. John won the 1st round but the next 2 belonged totally to me. I dominated Scully and the judges had no choice but to award me the decision.
I had avenged my loss to John Scully and had beaten Jerome James–the No. 1 ranked middleweight in the country. I was back in the main stream media again–USA Today. With Scully and James out the way I only had their favorite son, Anthony Hembrick, to beat. No problem I thought because my record against Hembrick was 4-1. In 1986 I had to beat Hembrick twice to make the ’86 World Amateur Championship team—I won both matches. In ’87 I had also beaten Hembrick twice to make the Pan American team—I succeed again. The ABF officials knew all of this history and they were worried! Their man was Hembrick!
’87 U.S. PAN AM Game Trials: Darin Allen vs. Anthony Hembrick Highlight Video:
The Fix is In
It was the night before the finals with Hembrick when someone came knocking on my hotel room door. I open the door and there stood my only supporter, Bobby Harris, with a big grin on his face. He tells me that he wants to look after me, get me ready for the fight tomorrow. Now check this out: Harris rubs me down with alcohol and convinces me to jump into a bath tub of hot water and alcohol and soak for about an hour. Those of you who understand boxing conditioning probably jumped out of your seat when you read that. Yep, the fix was in, but at the time I didn’t know that being rubbed down in alcohol and then soaking in a hot alcohol bath would zap all of the strength and energy from your body.
The next afternoon it’s time for the fight—time for me to beat Anthony Hembrick and make this Olympic team. ABC’s Wide World of Sports is their covering the boxing trials. I’m in the dressing room warming up hitting on the hand pads of some stranger assigned to work my corner when I noticed my body felt like Jell-O. I had no intensity, no strength, no energy, nothing. What was going on? I never felt like this before a fight. It was that damn hot alcohol bath I took the night before! My body was completely drained. The fix was in!
I had Hembrick’s number and all his people and the ABF officials knew it. I believe to this day that Hembrick’s USA Army coaches Hank Johnson and Ken Adams and/or certain ABF officials got to Bobby Harris and told him to give me that hot alcohol bath. I believe Bubbly Harris was paid off by those Army coaches and my theory of the people involved goes all the way up to Colonel Don Hull—then head of the ABF boxing program.
Hembrick manages to beat me but even with my body completely drained–it still was not an easy win for him. However, even though I lost in the Olympic Trial finals, there is still one more chance for me to make the team. That’s because the ABF picks the most worthy opponent in every weight class for a final Box-off to determine the Olympic Team. Yet even though I had made it to the Trials finals, made the Pan AM team in ’87 and won the world title in ’86–they do not pick me to box-off against Hembrick. Instead they chose William Guthrie. Hembrick had met Guthrie four times before and had beaten him all four times—go figure!
Uproar in Columbus
Once my hometown local news station in Columbus, Ohio became aware of this obvious slight, they started pressuring the ABF officials for a legitimate as to why I was not chosen for the box-off. The ABF could not give them a good reason. But I knew. Amazingly, after all the pressure from the Columbus news media, the ABF announced that William Guthrie had failed a drug test and was ineligible to fight in the box-off.So they then have the nerve to pick up the phone and call me–two daysbefore the OlympicTrials box off–to ask me to fly down to fight Hembrick. “ABC television wanted this fight,” they told me. I told them I needed two weeks to get ready not two days.
Aftermath: Hembrick wins the box off by a walk over. Hembrick makes the ’88 Olympic team and goes to Seoul Korea where he gets disqualified because he missed the team bus from the hotel to the arena for his fight. Hey listen, I know that by revealing all of this I may jeopardize my friendship with my good friend Anthony Hembrick, but I owe it to myself to let the truth be known.
After all that drama no one represents AMERICA in the 1988 Olympics middleweight division in boxing. Ken Adams, Hank Johnson and Bobby Harris–God hates ugly! He had the final say so on this matter and it was–if Darin ALLEN is not going to represent America in the 1988 Olympics–then nobody is.