The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 7, 1997 · Page 48
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 48

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 7, 1997
Page 48
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c THE PALM BEACH POST SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1997 13B t Miami Heat .11 A J Jamal Mashburn 's father, a former heavyweight prizefighter, wants to be back in his son's corner. 0 . fry1 A;, f ! Robert Mashburn, father of Heat forward Jamal Mashburn, had a career boxing record of only 7-9-2. He was more well-known as the sparring partner of Muhammad Ali whenever Ali prepared for a bout in New York. Courtesy of Robert Mashburn 1 By Tom D'Angelo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer The punches came in flurries and from every possible angle. A jab. An uppercut. Hooks. Soon Robert Mashburn was on the canvas, bloodied and beaten. Mashburn's 5-year-old son, Jamal, watched from his arena seat with tears in his eyes. Why was his father being punished while people cheered in their top hats and fancy clothes? "I didn't really understand boxing," said Jamal, the Miami Heat's small forward who's enjoying a season on the basketball court far better than any year his dad had as a professional in the boxing ring. "I remember him getting knocked down. I don't remember if he won or lost, but I remember sitting in the crowd with my mother, being upset. After, we went into the locker room and he was beat up pretty bad. He was cut up, his face was swollen and he didn't really look like my dad. I got in the car and told my mom I don't like it. "I didn't want anybody to hurt my father. You always think your father is invincible." The fight was at the end of Robert's career, which included bouts against Ken Norton and Larry Holmes, and a memorable encounter in the ring with Muhammad Ali. Robert was out of shape, the family was struggling and Christmas was coming. "I wanted my son to have a good Christmas," Robert Mashburn said. Robert remembers clearing about $1,000 for the beating. Jamal doesn't remember much about Christmas. Robert Mashburn's story is typical of a fighter with big dreams. The goal was a heavyweight title match in Madison Square Garden. The reality was hundreds of blows taken during 18 professional fights and countless amateur, club, exhibition and practice rounds. There were long drives to gymnasiums in upstate New York, Maine, and Pennsylvania. Mashburn never made it to the Garden, but he did retire in 1974 with memories for a lifetime fights against some of the biggest names in the game. Ali. Holmes. Norton. Oscar Bonavena. While Mashburn fought, his wife, Helen, and Jamal, endured in the family's New York City apartment. Robert was often on the road, and Helen and Jamal anxiously awaited for him to return unharmed. "I didn't want my son to be a fighter because I knew what the game was like," Robert, 53, said. "They would throw you to the dogs." Robert's career record was 7-9-2. Five of his victories and five of his losses were by knockouts. Three of those knockouts were by Norton (fourth round), Holmes (a technical knockout in the seventh round) and Bonavena (his final fight in the second round). The one match Robert, Helen and Jamal can actually smile about had no record, no money and no titles on the line. It was a benefit fight in the mid-'70s against Ali at the Morris Senior Community Center in the Bronx. As Mashburn recalls, the match was far less physical than the half dozen or so sparring dates he had with Ali throughout the early 70s. "When I started doing some things against him they were booing," Robert said. "I hit him with a couple of good punches, but nothing that hurt him." After the fight, Ali picked up Jamal and carried him around the ring. Jamal only recalls the moment through a photograph that the family has misplaced. But Robert remembers beaming as Ali praised his son. "He kept saying, 'This kid is something, he is strong,' " Robert said. "I said, 'He is going to be the next champ.' " Robert Mashburn was a rock-solid, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. He describes himself as a savvy fighter, athletic with quick hands . . . perfect to help Ali train. One day, Robert was running through Central Park when he was stopped by Ali, who also was training. "He said, 'Who are you?' When I told him he said, "Yeah, I heard of you, you're coming up.' We started running together." Soon, whenever he was in town preparing for a fight, Ali would call Mashburn to serve as a sparring partner. The two became friends, often dining at Ali's favorite New York restaurant, Frank's on 125th Street. Robert got to know Ali's moves and would try to play mind games with him. "We never knocked each other down," he said. "But I outsmarted him. When he would try to do the 'Ali Shuffle' I would catch him and hit him. I was a very tricky fighter. When you fight him you have to be ready for the jab." Working with Ali, however, didn't change Mashburn's luck in the ring. Soon after Robert's retirement, he and Helen split. They stayed legally married for about 10 years so Jamal would not have to say his parents were divorced. Jamal suffered most during the hard years, listening to his parents argue, rebelling, watching his grades drop. Robert tried to keep his son disciplined. "I was talking back to my mother and my mother told my father," Jamal said. "He said, 'You want to talk back to your mother, you've got to fight me.' He got out the boxing gloves' and we were in the living room. He started doing some things and I couldn't punch my dad. So I started crying. He hit me real light. He taught me a lesson." Jamal's relationship with his father eroded after Robert left home. These days, they don't talk much and Jamal considers Robert more of a friend than a father. Robert never pushed Jamal into sports, and as far as both parents were concerned, boxing was out of the question. llpiA f f. &m y )) "A Ml-. -,. N S " 1 v. , SCOTT WISEMANStaff Photographer ; I-1 .i i : L , 3 Heat forward Jamal Mashburn (24) hasn't spoken with his father since being traded from Dallas to Miami in February. Mashburn, however, remains close to his mother, Helen. He bought her a townhouse in Fort Lee, N.J., and he told her he would send her on as many vacations as she wanted. As for his father, Mashburn said: 'I know he's there. I haven't felt comfortable at any point to speak to him. We will talk in time.' E.A. KENNEDY IllStaff Photographer "It was exciting but it was a life I didn't want Jamal to have," Helen said. "You can only take so many blows." Robert, though, could not help but wonder what kind of boxer his son would have been. "He would have been more like Ezzard Charles or Joe Louis," said Robert, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster and works as a correctional officer at the Jesse Dawson state jail. "He had a lot of finesse. He was smart. He was a thinker." Robert, who became a police officer after he left the ring, said he watched his son grow up, never living more than 10 blocks away during the separation. Jamal became a New York City High School basketball legend, Kentucky All-America and NBA star. One trait Jamal said he didn't inherit from his father was a craving for the spotlight. "I'm not the type of person who likes walking in a room and everybody knows me," Jamal said. "He's the opposite. He likes the attention. When I go into a restaurant I'd rather wait in line. He'd say, 'I'm so and J. so.' I'm a low-key personality. My mother knows what is best for me." Jamal has not spoken to Robert since he was traded from Dallas to Miami in February. For now, Helen is Jamal's joy. They talk frequently. Jamal bought her a townhouse in Fort Lee, N.J., and he told her he'd send her on as many vacations as she can handle. "I think everybody needs a father figure, but there are certain decisions he can't make in my life," Jamal said. "I'd rather make my own mistakes. "I know he's there. I haven't felt comfortable at any point to speak to him. We will talk in time." Robert Mashburn understands his son's feelings, but he looks forward to the day when they can strengthen their relationship. "I had the potential of being great, but it didn't happen," Robert said of his boxing career. "I kind of look at Jamal as being my second chance. And I told him, 'When you have a son one day and he makes you happy, you will be very proud of him, too.' " ) 't i Tom i D'Angelo ' Causwell i moving onj from angst Life as a 12th man on an NBA bench can be lonely. Hard days pn the practice floor with little Reward. For Duane Causwell, a onetime starter in Sacramento, cheering from the bench has been difficult. But doing so with a heayy heart has been worse. j Causwell was having difficulty adjusting to playing in Miami when he learned, in the lobby 'of an Orlando hotel, that his oldest brother, Julius, had died. The news came during the pre-seaspn and devastated Causwell, especially considering Julius, a 40- year-old alcoholic, seemed to be making progress toward recovery. Duane started thinking about last summer, and his decision to be harder on Julius. "You think about all the things you say to a person to try and get him back on his fet and all of a sudden he is gone unexpectedly," Causwell said. j'T was just trying to give him. a chance. Since I was always giving him stuff, I decided maybe I'd go about it the other way. . . . 'I'm not going to do this, I'm not going to give you that.' And then we was gone." ; The autopsy report showed Julius died from choking on a hot dog. But even Duane wondered before hearing the official report. Too many coincidences had Duane asking if Julius succumbed to his disease. ! During a church service bn the Sunday before he died, Julius stood up, renounced his sins, started praying and broke down crying. The week he died he was with friends and his last words ;to them were: "I'll see you hv a higher place." He then got a haircut. 1 Duane was relieved to find out no foul play was suspected. But soon he found his game slipping further and his chances of playing disappearing. "Duane was carrying quite a bit of baggage," said his wife, Leslie. "For him, his family is very important. It was devastating to him." Causwell had a bad month before Julius died. His fur' niture was damaged during move from Sacramento, his game was in worse shape after lingering on the Kings bench the last yejar and he found himself intimidated by Pat Riley. j "I went into it nervous and scared," Causwell said. "Coath Riley is a perfectionist. I was intimidated." j Said Leslie: "He thought he wouldn't meet up to coach Riley's expectations." Riley even talked to Causwpll before the season. j "I don't know why any professional player should ever feel that," Riley said. "Maybe it's borne out of respect. I just wanted him to relax and play. Don't worfrr about any mistakes. Listen to me, don't pay any attention to me."1 Causwell's respect for Riley is immense. He carries a letter, in his wallet that Riley wrote this summer and sent each of his players. The intent was to mpti-. vate his players. J "That letter made you feel like something," Leslie said. "When I read it, I wanted to play for coach Riley." ',' Causwell was prepared to sit after that conversation with Riley. "I could not get used to the plays and then after my brother died everything came down on me at once," Causwell said. "At one time, I didn't even know wher I was on the floor." , Causwell's future depends on his ability to grasp the system. "At 7-feet he is the Heat's tallest player and Riley, who puts a premium on big men, will give him every opportunity, especially since he is in the first year of a five-year, $8.5 million contract. Causwell, though, will have a tougher time finding minutes with Alonzo Mourning ready to return. He's played just 17 minutes this season without Mourning ,in the lineup. "I'm just waiting to play," Causwell said. "Things are starting to come easier. I'm hoping coach Riley feels the same confidence in me as I'm starting jto feel." ' f A - j- - - j . ; & J Causwell the

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