A tailor by trade, Alfred Felix Certissimo is also boxing’s toughest trainer.
Now 82 years old, the suitmaker from Seacaucus, whose friends (I said friends, not associates) over the decades have included Frank Sinatra, heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott and many other big names in sports and entertainment, has just taken over the reins of former WBA junior middleweight champion Yuri Foreman.
Foreman’s on the comeback trail after a previously injured knee caused him to stumble around a Yankee Stadium ring last June against rugged Miguel Cotto. Foreman, the aspiring rabbi from Brooklyn by way of Belarus and then Israel, hopes to bounce back on the March 12 Bob Arum-Don King co-promotion at the MGM Grand which features Cotto against provacateur Ricardo Mayorga.
Mayorga-Cotto is, by Arum’s design, a precursor to a possible July 16 “revenge bout” in which Cotto will take on his conqueror, Antonio Margarito. Margarito was a massacred Mexican in the ring with Manny Pacquiao but suspicions linger as to whether “Margacheato” used illegal handwraps in that TKO victory.
Foreman had workmanlike Joe Grier as his chief second but now comes in Certo. Usually, I dissfavor fighters changing trainers after a loss because it’s often a mental crutch but, sometimes change is good for change’s sake.
Top Rank’s ubqiquitous VP Carl Moretti concurs.
“Sometimes, a fighter just needs to hear a different voice from the corner. Al is an oldtimer who sees things and I don’t think he will try to change Yuri too much. Having a different voice in his ear can beenfit the fighter in these cases,” Moretti said.
Certo calls it like he sees it.
He’s labeled Manny Steward “a legend in his own mind” and described Coach Freddie Roach “as a poor soul who should’ve been a catcher rather than a fighter.”
But Certo says such things with a glint in his eye, without malice aforethought.
In the case of Mob rat extraordinaire and admitted killer of 19 people, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Certo had plenty of malice.
And it all came out, under oath, when Certo testified before the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on April Fool’s Day, 1993.
Gravano, who tied both Certo and his Buddy McGirt co-manager Stuart Weiner to the Gambino Crime Family, painted with a broad brush.
But then Certo got the microphone and he neutered Sammy “The Buller” completely.
TESTIMONY OF ALFRED CERTISSIMO AND JAMES “BUDDY” MCGIRT, FORMER WBC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION, ACCOMPANIED BY MICHAEL DCHIARA AND DINO D’BLIABLIAS, COUNSEL; AND STUART WEINER, ACCOMPANIED BY EDWIN SCHULMAN, COUNSEL
Mr. Certissimo. How do you do? First of all, this is the very first time that we heard a statement from Mr. Gravano. I didn’t even know what he was going to say.
Senator Roth. Would you pull the microphone closer to you, please?
Mr. Certissimo. Yes, sure. And we weren’t actually prepared, but anyhow, despite that fact that we didn’t know, I am here and prepared to answer all the questions that you have to put forth to me.
Senator Roth. Is that your complete statement, Mr. Certo?
Mr. Certissimo. Well, I don’t know. You know I’d like to give my views on his testimonial over here.
Senator Roth. Well, you are free to make a statement now if you wish.
Mr. Certissimo. Do you want me to say it now? OK. Well, first of all, you know I have been involved in boxing for 45, maybe 50 years, ever since I was a young boy. And Mr. Gravano made a statement that he was involved in boxing in the forties and fifties — I don’t know if he mentioned the forties, but even in the fifties — how old was Mr. Gravano in the fifties? Nine years old? Eight years old? Or in the sixties, too.
The statement that he made, taking money off fighters, I mean, here is a man who has admitted to killing 19 people. It is so easy to put a gun to anyone’s head — Donald Trump or Don King — and say give me $5 million, give me $50 million, or I’ll blow your brains out, instead of taking nickels and dimes off boxers. It doesn’t make sense. He’s the gangster here. He’s the guy who knows everything.
I’ve never seen this guy in boxing in my life.I’ve been around in boxing, in every gym — Buddy McGirt trainsin Jersey City, New Jersey. He said that his organization has a gym. Why didn’t we train there, then, if I was associated with his so-called friends? Tell me why. And why did it take us 11 years to get to the position that we’re in now?
If anybody ever tried to come to us, or muscle me, or tried to take anything from me, the first thing I would do is run to the law. Nobody ever asked me, even during the other investigations they had, nobody ever asked, “Is anybody bothering you guys? Is there anything we could do?” What they did was they threw a lot of names around, a lot of Italian names. And it just gets me sick and tired of hearing it.
You guys look at me, with the dark glasses, I look mysterious, and I talk through the side of my mouth — well, he must be a bad guy; he must be organized crime. I would like Mr. Gravano — I don’t even like to call the guy “Mr. Gravano” — to take a lie detector right now, in front of me, and I’ll take the lie detector, and we’ll see who is lying, in front of you guys, in front of all these people.
I never met the guy in my life. He is full of shit when he says I know him. I don’t even know this guy. This is the very first time. And I am under oath now, right? My daughter is dead, and I’d rather swear on her grave to tell the truth— I never met this guy in my life. This is the very first time I ever laid eyes on him. He talked about boxing. This guy don’t even know what boxing is. I’m an expert at it. I have been in every phase of the game.
Senator McCain. Mr. Certo, you don’t have to shout.
Mr. Certissimo. I know. That’s my nature. I can’t help it. I’m sorry, sir.
Senator McCain. No problem.
Mr. Certissimo. And another thing — everything looks so mysterious that picture up there, and this and that — I mean, I look like a criminal here. What are you guys doing here?
Senator Roth. Let me intervene
Mr. Certissimo. Well, I’d like to finish my statement.
Senator Roth. You can talk.
Mr. D’Chiara. You gave him the right, Senator.
Senator Roth. Counsel has no right to intervene, I would remind him. We are giving him the opportunity to speak, but we’ll ask you to be as brief as possible.
Mr. Certissimo. OK. I mean, these gentleman that just got off the table, these are grown, educated men. Everything we done was aboveboard. Every dime that was spent was — the checks that they are referring to, if they couldn’t find it, then shame on them; these are grown, educated men. And you guys come over here, and you paint a picture like we done something wrong.
I’ve dealt with Madison Square Garden for 11 years. These are reputable people, and we’ve done everything aboveboard.
Senator Roth. All right. Thank you, Mr. Certo.
Footnote from NY Times report, April 2, 1993, by Richard Sandomir:
During his testimony, Gravano dropped the names of numerous boxing people, including those of Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo, promoter Don King and trainer Lou Duva, whom Gravano said was “close to the Genovese family.”
Duva’s son, Dan, said by telephone: “My father knows tens of thousadnds of people, and meets people all the time. He’s met presidents and probably ax murderers. But this is idiotic.”