New Story In Narratively Magazine

Check out my newest article this Thursday in Narrative Magazine on Brooke Luu, a Vietnamese refugee who fought for respect and acceptance in America.

I found it amazing when she told me that she didn’t even think she had an interesting story to tell, despite the fact that she escaped Vietnam past armed guards. She told me once that her husband (who is also Vietnamese) had a similar story, but they never even discussed it, because “if you are Vietnamese, then you escaped. We all have that story.”


Check it out on Narratively Magazine  on April 10. was named one of Time Magazine’s fifty best websites of 2013. No celebrity trash, just good ol’ fashioned long form storytelling.


Here’s a teaser:

Five year-old Brooke Luu shivered as she kept her eyes on her mother. There were forty bodies crammed in that fishing boat, each trying to remain silent in hopes that the guards armed with AK-47s would allow them to pass into the night and leave the shores of Vietnam forever.

She watched intently as her mother repeatedly tried to slip a sleeping pill into her infant brother’s mouth so he wouldn’t cry and alert the border patrol. If caught, the women would be sent home, maybe to jail. As for the men, a worse fate likely awaited them.

Brooke’s mother mishandled the cup of water as she forced the medicine down the child’s throat and the water splashed on him. He wailed as the rest of the passengers grew restless. All she could do was cup her hand over the child’s mouth to muffle the shrieks.

“There was no way around the guards. We would have to go straight through them,” Brooke recalls. “All we could do was pray that they would let us keep sailing.”

To reach their first destination—a relocation camp in Malaysia—the Luu family would have to escape Vietnam and battle the South Chinese River without a compass. Rumors of Thai pirates and their savagery loomed.

All to reach America.

She can’t determine what was real and what her memory has pieced together. The recollections fade and reappear when she recalls that night in 1980 when her family attempted to bribe and fight their way to a new life without Communism, without control and without fear. She would eventually find it, yet later struggle for acceptance in her new country—and in her old one.

“The children of the Vietnam War that fled have been stripped of an identity,” she says. “All because we didn’t stay behind.”

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Early Black Fighters Laced The Gloves Up In Jersey

In lieu of BLack History Month, I thought this section from my upcoming boxing book was important and a fun read. Sadly, many great fighters were denied fights in certain states due to their race. It makes me proud to say that New Jersey was not one of states.

In Jersey, it doesn’t matter what color you are. Everyone here is encouraged to fight…



"The Black Prince" Peter Jackson
“The Black Prince” Peter Jackson

It was not uncommon, and more importantly at the time not illegal, for black contestants to step into a boxing ring in New Jersey. The World Colored Heavyweight Champion, Peter Jackson of Australia, nicknamed “The Black Prince,” was one of the most feared and controversial fighters of his day, and he made a quick stop in New Jersey in 1889. Born in the Virgin Islands, Jackson was a dangerous heavyweight who was kept from fighting for the heavyweight crown because he was black. John L. Sullivan refused to fight him, but James J. Corbett, the man who dethroned Sullivan, brawled with Jackson to a 61 round draw in California. Jackson smashed his two opponents in New Jersey at Cronheim’s Theatre in Hoboken, Billy Baker and James Ginger McCormick, in three rounds and two rounds, respectively.

The man Jackson beat for that title, “Old Chocolate” George Godfrey, also fought in one of the most barbaric battles in New Jersey boxing history, which is more of a reflection of the conditions of the fight game at the time. The Canadian fighter squared off against white British fighter Denver Ed Smith, also a respected heavyweight of his day. The two battled ferociously for in Hoboken’s Cronheim Theatre, as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported both men were “badly bruised and bleeding.” Yet oddly, the ring construction was poorly laid out, and one side of the ring pressed against a brick wall. The newspaper’s account of how Godfrey won the fight due to some assistance from the brick and mortar:

“Godfrey landed a straight left hander that sent the Western man reeling across the ring. His head came in violent contact with the brick wall and the fight was virtually over. Smith staggered to the center of the ring and Godfrey swung for his jaw. Before another blow could be struck the referee interfered and declared Godfrey the winner.”

George Dixon, known was Little Chocolate, was the first black fighter to ever win a world championship. He won the World Bantamweight Championship in 1890, and won the World Featherweight championship twice, owning for most of the decade between 1891 and 1900. He is considered one of, if not the greatest, bantamweights ever. On Dec. 15, 1893, he fought in the People’s Theater in Paterson, defeating Torpedo Billy Murphy by disqualification. Dixon was winning the fight easily, The Boston Globe Reported, before Murphy threw a bunch at the referee James Stoddard, who was separating the fighters in the third round. Stoddard threw two punches back, and Murphy clinched Stoddard and “rained blows on the old man’s face.

Barbados Joe Walcott, an eventual idol of “Jersey” Joe Walcott, was a fighter from Guyana and is considered one of the greatest welterweights of all-time. He won the title in 1901 by knocking out James “Rube” Ferns . Before he was a top boxing draw,  “The Barbados Demon” defeated Paddy McGuigan in a 10 round decision at the Caledonian Park in Newark on June 5, 1893.

Bobby Dobbs, the lightweight that claimed to have fought in over 1,000 fights, fought multiple times in New Jersey in Trenton and at the Past Time AC in Sea Isle City. He lost a decision to Austin Gibbons in Paterson in 1896.

Boardwalk Empire Fans…

So here is a post I was working on for The History Of New Jersey Boxing book. …

MICKEY BLAIR (1908 – Nov. 4, 1941) was a super featherweight and lightweight boxer who was murdered in his tavern, The Pleasure Bay Inn, in Atlantic City. The story made national headlines. Known for having several scrapes with the law, Blair was shot to death at 2 a.m. at the Missouri Avenue establishment. Indicted for the murder, and later acquitted, was notorious bootlegger and crime figure Sammy “Cappy” Hoffman. He was born Mickey Tenerelli in Camden and retired with a record of 25-11-2 with 33 no decisions. He was the older brother of N.J. Boxing Hall Of Fame member Frankie Blair.

…and Sammy “Cappy” Hoffman was an enforcer for Nucky Thompson. Along with Jimmy Boyd, he is said to be some of the inspiration for everyone’s favorite character, Jimmy Darmody.