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Biofile Joe Dobrian Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former boxing writer for The Ring, Boxing Illustrated from 1983-1993; author of “Ambitions”, “Willie Wilden”, “Hard-Wired” and “Feldy’s Girl.”

First memory of boxing: I was four or five years old, and I saw an illustration of a boxing match in The Golden Encyclopedia. 

Inspirations as a writer: I could mention any number of books and authors, but I have to admit what really got me started, as a kid, were comic books. Especially Disney, and Tarzan of the Apes. 

First famous boxer you met or encountered: Muhammad Ali, in the basement of St. Thomas More Church, in Iowa City, Iowa. This was during his exile period, sometime in 1967. He was on the lecture circuit, and he was a friend of one of the priests there.

Favorite boxing movies: Rocky (the first one, not the sequels); When We Were Kings.

Favorite boxing books: The Fireside Book of Boxing (edited by W.C. Heinz); My Life Story by Joe Louis; The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling.

Greatest moment of your career: When I was told that for the last few days of my ex-father-in-law’s life, when he was confined to bed and getting ready to cash in, all he wanted to read were my novels. 

Most painful career moment: When I said something stupid about a guy in print and it looked like I was going to have the shit sued out of me. I guess he was told he didn’t have a case, though, so thank God nothing came of it except that I learned not to be such a piss-ant. 

Why do you love boxing: Simply the concept of it got me hooked for life. 

Favorite boxers to watch: Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Joe Louis, Archie Moore, Iran Barkley, Emile Griffith.

Favorite fights: Leonard-Hearns I, Quarry-Bodell (comedy gold!), Moore-Durelle I.

Funniest boxers you encountered: “Irish” Teddy Mann. Had a great sense of humor about the profession, also authored a comic book called The Vicious Bishop. Jake LaMotta, who was funny in the sense of “not at all what I had expected.” 

Strangest fight: Robert Adams vs. Michael de la Rue, second fight, summer of fall of 1983. Adams was a trial horse, de la Rue was a hot prospect. In their first fight, de la Rue was overconfident. Adams cut him up and stopped him. In the rematch a couple months later, de la Rue took Adams much more seriously and was well ahead on points after nine rounds. He just had to survive the tenth. But at the start of that last round, when they went to touch up, de la Rue tried to sucker-punch Adams. I guess he wasn’t to be satisfied with a mere win. But Adams saw it coming and nailed de la Rue with a perfect counter. De la Rue went down like he’d been shot and went into an epileptic seizure right there in the ring. The medics were on the ball—they had him on a stretcher and on his way to the hospital in seconds—but we all thought he was going to die. He didn’t. He recovered—but he never fought again. This was the most horrifying example of “instant karma” that I’ve ever seen. 

Funny boxing memory: Sitting next to Jeff Jowett in the press section of the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden was always a trip. He didn’t give a darn for “press etiquette.” He’d root, and cheer, deliberately mispronouncing the fighters’ names, and heckle the referee. If one guy landed a solid punch, he’d scream, “OOOO, stop this fight!” and so on. 

Favorite writers: A.J. Liebling, George Orwell, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Herman Wouk, Mark Twain, Richard Yates. 

People qualities most admired: Integrity. Without integrity, nothing else matters much.

Education: University of Iowa, 1977.

Joseph Dobrian has lived most of his adult life in New York City, where he ran for Mayor in 2009. He now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where he’s become a well-recognized figure on the streets – usually wearing one of the 1930s-style suits that he designs himself.

Mr. Dobrian has been writing for his living for almost 40 years. He’s best known as a business journalist. He writes about real estate, finance, management, and other topics, for clients such as Dow Jones, J.D. Power and Associates, PricewaterhouseCoopers, American Express, American Airlines, Prudential, Ernst & Young, the Institute of Real Estate Management, and many others. He has helped several noted businesspeople to write their personal memoirs. He also writes poetry, plays, and essays, and is a noted historian of boxing. Several of his Ring Magazine boxing articles are included in the Best Articles of the last century in The Ring.

When he’s not writing, researching, or looking for new clients, he’s attending classical music concerts and recitals, political meetings, or Iowa Hawkeyes football games.

About Scoop Malinowski

Author of six books including "Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion" and "Heavyweight Armageddon: The Lewis versus Tyson Championship Battle" available at amazon