Where Are They Now??

By Tom Donelson
Updated: March 29, 2009

IOWA CITY — James “Bonecrusher” Smith was a heavyweight in an era in which great fighters still reign in the heavyweights and even top ten fighters were legitimate contenders.

It was an era not far ago, but it does seem so.

Smith began his career during the peak of the Holmes era, and lost his first fight to James Broad, then considered a genuine prospect for a title.

Smith found himself fighting a six round fight on ESPN and proved to be a sacrificial lamb as he lost to Broad on a fourth round TKO.

The irony was that it would be Bonecrusher who win a portion of the Heavyweight title and Broad never fulfilled his potential as a prospect.

After losing his first bout, Smith won fourteen fights in a row including winning twelve by knockout. Among those wins included an upset stoppage over Frank Bruno in London.

This led to a heavyweight title bout against Larry Holmes but Smith fell short as the fight was stopped in the twelve round with Larry Holmes defending his title.

He would lose three of the next four fights as he lost unanimous decision to Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tubbs and Marvis Frazier with only a split decision win over Jose Ribalta his bright sopt.

He turned his career around with a first round knock out against former heavyweight titlist Mike Weaver and followed up with subsequent victories over Jess Ferguson and prospect David Bey.

This led to his high point as he gained a second title shot against Tim Witherspoon. With only seven days notice, Smith went into the fight as the underdog against a fighter who had beaten him once before.

Smith came out fast throwing power punches from all angles against the champion. Smith overwhelmed his opponent and Witherspoon hit the canvas three times with the last knockdown ending the fight.

Smith now faced Mike Tyson, with a chance to unify the WBA and WBC title. In a fight that was suppose to provide explosion turned out to be an dull affair as Smith fought defensively and he never let loose his power shots as he did against Witherspoon.

In a interview on the Jerry Butler show, Smith noted, “My trainer told me to hit Tyson with everything in the opening round but I fought defensively. In hindsight, I would have fought differently.”

Smith became the first fighter to go 12 rounds with Tyson but he never took advantage of his strength.

From this point, Smith would win his share of future bouts but he never got a another shot at a title. As he told Jerry Butler, “We never got a second change at Tyson and we wanted a rematch.”

His career ended with a stoppage lost to Larry Holmes in 1999 before he started a new career.

Unlike most fighters, Smith obtained a college degree and spent time in the United States Army where he learned to fight.

Smith didn’t begin his heavyweight until he was 28 and while it could be argued that he started his career late, he also started his career as a mature man.

As he joked with Jerry Butler and journalist Matt Anderson, “I made sure to count my own money.” He retired with a nest egg and preparation for a second career.

As he noted, “You have to be prepared for a second career.”

He started his own travel agency plus he represented local companies as he returned back to his native North Carolina.

Along the way, he became an ordained minister and led the way to establish the North Carolina boxing commission.

Now he is anxious to fight a five round exhibition with Mike Tyson but in the meantime, he is enjoying life in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Bonecrusher Smith had his moment of glory but his post fight career showed success as well as he proved to be an effective entrepreneur but just as important; he gave back to his community.

Since 2002, he began Champion for Kids, a organization that provides scholarships for high school students.

We often judge a athlete career by the titles that he wins but sometimes the true legacy is not what he leaves in the ring but outside the ring.