The Warriors

Combine a martial artist from Miami, a boxing trainer from Detroit, a mild-mannered Guyanese heavyweight, a dreadlocked ex-contender, and some Seminole money, and you get South Florida's hottest new boxing gym

So a Purlett-Donald fight would have been bigtime. All things considered, that could have been Purlett's break. But Donald is a violent fighter. For a fight like that -- let alone a contract for spinoff fights to follow -- a basic requirement should be a contract for one and a half years with a $100,000-per-fight, three-fight minimum and a $500,000 signing bonus, Caicedo says. This is, after all, a small price to pay considering that a maniac like Tyson could be your next fight. And Purlett would be the underdog. He's ranked by the WBA, but tenth -- and as a cruiserweight.

Don King's people approached Purlett with an offer: a five-year contract with a $35,000-per-fight minimum and a $150,000 signing bonus. In boxing parlance, that deal ain't shit.

"King thinks I'm going to stick an athlete like Purlett, 30-0, in the ring against a Holyfield or a Lewis for $35,000?" Caicedo growls. "I give Don King a lot of credit, because he's done a lot for boxing. Some of it ain't pretty, but you can't deny his influence. But come on, now, let's be serious. That contract. What am I, fucking nuts?"

Though Warriors Boxing Gym is still under construction Andre Purlett (left) and Shannon Briggs have already started training there
Michael McElroy
Though Warriors Boxing Gym is still under construction Andre Purlett (left) and Shannon Briggs have already started training there

Is he crazy enough to want Purlett to fight Mike Tyson? Absolutely. In fact both Caicedo and Robinson want Tyson to bring his camp to Hollywood to train, and both Purlett and Briggs want a piece of the 35-year-old brawler. A Purlett-Tyson match could be fascinating. The ex-champ clearly has a power advantage, but Purlett has catlike speed and reflexes. He can dodge a punch and, before you know it, slip a jab up in your face.

"I think I could take Tyson," Purlett says with his slow, heavily accented diction. A native of Guyana, he's been stateside now for almost a decade but still hasn't kicked that Caribbean cadence. "People say this and that about Tyson, about his strength and heart. But let them talk. They've got the right to say what they feel. They don't get into my head. I'm into my training, and I do my talking in the ring."

That's the only place Purlett shows any sign of life, let alone action. On the street he's eerily calm and reserved. He moves slowly -- if you didn't know better, you'd describe his manner as lazy. He's a family man (three kids and a wife) who shakes your hand if you tell him you're married. He offers no tattoo, no trash talk, just hard work. Caicedo says he's a pleasure to train.

Robinson certainly seems to be enjoying today's session. "Chin down. Body shot," he shouts. Purlett, now dripping with sweat, responds by pounding the stuffing out of Robinson's new mitts. "Body shot, up top, now take him out!" Caicedo turns and addresses everyone watching the spectacle.

"He's exceptional," Caicedo declares, pointing at Purlett. "He's above-average," he says, now pointing at Ismael Kone, who's skipping rope in the next ring. "You've got to be honest with the fighters. You've got to tell him if he's gonna make it. Kone will be great, no doubt about it. But this," he gestures at Purlett again, "this is gonna be huge."

Before Cassius Clay became a Muslim, South Florida was a boxing mecca. Before Clay could shake up the world, he had to make a pilgrimage to the rat-infested and roach-ridden holy of holies on the corner of Washington Avenue and Fifth Street in Miami Beach.

Angelo Dundee's Fifth Street Gym had only one entrance: a splintering door frame next to a drugstore, behind which an iron staircase led to the second floor. At the threshold sat Emmett "The Great" Sullivan, a slump-shouldered old man who wore clothes too big for his feeble frame and who always had a slimy, unlit Cuban cigar sticking out of his toothless puss.

A day's workout cost 50 cents; those who managed to sneak in under The Great's radar had to endure his wrath. He'd badger freeloaders all day long, shadowing their movements while lambasting them with calls of "mud turtle."

The gym itself was pretty bare-bones. It had one sparring ring, a couple of heavy bags and speed bags, and two bare light bulbs that illuminated the place with an eerie lighting scheme usually reserved for airports and horror films. (The two windows were overlaid with years of grime, mostly obscuring the fierce subtropical sun.)

With the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight approaching in 1964, not a single sportswriter in the country picked Clay to pull off the upset. But the show he put on at Miami Beach's Convention Hall was nothing short of humbling for all the naysayers. And he let them know it, too. When Liston refused to answer the bell in the seventh, Clay turned to all the sportswriters sitting ringside, raised his arms above his head, and let them know who he was.

"I am the king!" he shouted. "I am the king! King of the World! Eat your words! Eat! Eat your words!"

At the time Miami was still a sensible place to hold a fight. It had all kinds of secondary entertainment for the kids, a major airport accessible from anywhere in the country, and best of all, perfect winter weather. Las Vegas, in contrast, was still a barren desert; despite the handful of hotels that had sprung up, there wasn't much of an audience out there for a title bout. But the coming of the grander hotels to Nevada soon spelled the end of professional boxing as a worldwide spectacle in Miami.

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