The freelance sport of boxing was the only professional sport, I dare say, that would have let an inveterate truth-teller like Johnny Bos, the legendary agent/matchmaker extraordinaire who died Saturday in Clearwater, Fla., be part of the club for any length of time.
Bos, age 61, suffered from congestive heart failure for many years. No cause of death has been released as yet.
He grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and learned to love the sport while sitting on dad's lap, watching the Friday Night Fights on the TV.
Bos saw holes that needed patching whenever he ruminated on the game, which was almost every waking moment. His inclination to ponder the negatives in the sport meant that he was on the other wide of the suits who ran things and profited off the status quo; and thus, his place in the grand scheme of the sweet science diminished over the decades. In the past decade-plus, his weariness at the state of the game, and his place within it, ate at him.
Bos, born "Bosdal," hawked mimeographed newsletters in front of arenas starting in the late '60s and was a gym rat who found out pretty quickly that he'd get further with his mind than his body. "I remember my first fight in New York, I didn't go in," he told me a few years back. "It was Feb. 12, 1965, Hurricane Carter against Luis Rodriguez. I was 12. I'd stand outside the arena, get autographs. I didn't have money to get in."
He got his first matchmaking gig in 1977 or 1978 with Tiffany Promotions, run by Long Island attorney Sam Glass. Bos found many of Gerry Cooney's victims early on, and did his thing for other mid-level promoters like Frank and Nancy Sciacca, who ran many shows in Queens.
Europe became Bos' go-to zone, and he offered his wisdom to promoters like Mickey Duff, the Polish-born British mainstay, and also made matches for top dog Main Events from 1982-92.
"Between me and Lou Duva, we were the most powerful one-two matchmakers that ever lived," Bos told me, with characteristic ego, followed by his patented candor. "A matchmaker is a con man. He has to con both sides, so they think they can win the fight."
His high-water mark was 1992: Joey Gamache, Tracy Harris Patterson and Tyrone Booze, guys he advised, all won crowns. Bos moved to Florida, a move he came to regret, as he removed himself from the mainstream. He knew he'd become fringe, he realized, so he came back to NYC. He and Gamache were a two-man crew, and the Maine resident looked to make some noise against Arturo Gatti in 2000. That fight hastened Bos' slide out of the big time, however. Bos accused the NY commission of botching the weigh-in, allowing Gamache to be in over his head. Lawsuits were filed, and Bos never again set his foot inside the walls of the castle.
Check back for some reminiscences from friends, colleagues and family members of the fight-game lifer who were touched by this complex character who stood out as a character in a sport filled with them.